Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Chauvet Horses, 30,000 years old

An individual human life can range from moments to a century.  Yet even a century is a heartbeat when the entire span of human history is imagined.  I am reading a book on the Siege of Malta and the Battle of Lepanto, two events that spanned decades, but in hindsight can be analyzed and discussed in an evening.  It made me think about the complexity of existence and how limited a single lifetime can be, even one that is long and filled with adventure.  It still can represent only a fraction of what is possible, or what has been.

If we imagine that every human life is a book, and that each book is kept in a library, then the magnitude of human experience can be visualized.  This library is too big to explore.  Even condensed into a single volume titled “The History of Civilization” would be too limited.  An individual could not read all those books in his or her lifetime.  In order to get a full understanding of what it means to be human, there must be Art.

Art is a form of communication that can condense human experience into a flash of comprehension and even “experience”.  This is the big “Art” that includes music and dance and architecture and all forms of human expression.  Without these elements of culture, each human life would just be a brief replay of eating and sleeping.

When you look at art (or listen) your brain is encouraged to Grok Fully a message from one mind to another.  Time becomes meaningless.  The images of the horses in the Chauvet cave speak to us now.  The spoken language of the artist is as dead as he is, yet this language of beauty and truth will never disapear.  30,000 years is nothing.  And everything.  It is now.  You can see it.  Now.

Concepts can be communicated as well.  Here is something remarkable that needs no words in any language to communicate in mere moments the entire history of human war:

Picasso 1937 Guernica

This is not just one war, but all wars.

And this is not just one man, but the idea of man:

Michaelangelo's David

And woman

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

And music.  Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is an audible representation of being human.  In one short hour you can be infused with every human emotion there is.  You want to know what sadness sounds like?  Joy? Love?  Tenderness? Hatred and anger? For $1.29 you can listen to centuries of collected human emotion on your portable listening device.  What does Hope look like?  Fear?  Love? Museums are filled with sculpture that will show you.  Here is something we all can understand:

Rodin "The Kiss"

And this is a tomb.  We can understand in one eyeblink the brief breath of one woman’s life and the eternity of this monument and see the love of a man for his wife:

And not to forget film and theatre and literature too.  Can’t forget fiction!  Exploring what being fully human means has been a common theme since The Metamorphoses of Apuleius.

Why are we here?  What does it all mean? We want to know.  We have to know.

A life without Art is a life lived alone.


Bladerunner. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Art is forever.  Life is brief.

Read Full Post »

Yeah...it could happen

Magical Realism.

Sounds like an oxymoron.  How can anything magical be real?  Did the idea of magic come from the wishful thinking thousands of years ago?  Was it born of coincidence, as when a hungry Neanderthal wished that charging mammoth would just drop dead…and then watched as lightning struck it?

Perhaps the concept of magic grew from enthusiastic explanations for the unexplainable.  Lightning was a mystery until just a few hundred years ago.  Thunder had various explanations in every culture before science made it less fun with diagrams of super-heated air and sound waves.  I prefer the bowling trolls, myself.

Other common events like illness and decay have been blamed on sorcery for as long as they have existed, and still do in cultures that have not embraced the scientific method of explaining the world around us.

Aleister Crowley defined magic as the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity of will.” (He spelled his magick with a k).

There you have it.

Is it possible to cause change to occur in conformity with your will-power?  If you cannot do it, the answer is “no”.  If you can do it, the answer is, “of course”.

How does one learn to use magick to get what they want in the real world?  Crowley has written many step-by-step guides.  What I have found is that he teases the reader with allegory. At the dawn of the twentieth century when he was writing about magick, there was no good vocabulary in English for what he wanted to describe.  He was a student of yoga, yet even the Sanskrit words he uses to describe what he means are difficult for Westerners to really understand.  He turns to classical metaphors and allusions to mythology to try to convey what is essentially impossible to do with words.  If the reader does not know Greek and Latin, and is not familiar with all the literature Crowley absorbed while at Cambridge, it is easy to get lost.

There are other, more accessible teachers, but the aspirant must eventually make his own path.  All paths will eventually lead to enlightenment, and there is a teacher on each one.  It is the realization that you must abandon them all and move toward the Abyss on your own that brings the magic to you.

This is what Nadira discovers in the sequel to The Hermetica of Elysium.   The Necromancer’s Grimoire explores the next step in her journey to understand the nature of reality: controlling it.

Read Full Post »

What makes a man appealing?  I am sure this question has many different answers, but in Western Culture there are a few qualities that stand out as givens.  While looking at my website statistics, I discovered one lonely search term for Baron Montrose.  All the other terms are for my name or Nadira’s.  Someone somewhere remembered Montrose and was looking for my website with his name.  He must have touched them.

I thought about how I created his character so many years ago.  I started with an idea.  I wanted an interesting man.  A sexy man.  Of course I did.  All novelists do.

Extreme self-confidence is the most sexy trait there is.

I am reminded of this while listening to the radio in the car yesterday.  The new holiday Dos Equis commercial played, you know the one…with “the most interesting man in the world”…and I laughed so hard I almost missed a traffic light.  A dangerous commercial, indeed.

This is the line that got me: “He is the reason the Nine Ladies are Dancing.”

I think the success of the Dos Equis media campaign is due to inspiration by the many amusing Chuck Norris jokes.  He is another man who is neither young nor handsome, and yet he is admired for his fictitious super-powers:  “His tears could cure cancer…but he never cries” etc.

When I create a character I want readers to admire I remember all the characters I have admired over the years, real people and imaginary ones.  When I wanted Nadira to have a counterpoint in this story, I needed to create a person who was opposite her in thinking and behavior, yet had a hidden core I planned to reveal slowly over several books.

I first went to Mr Darcy (of course…the most interesting man in literature…) but he was too dignified.  I then thought of Rochester…but he was too cruel.  I imagined Aragorn…but he was too…ok folks, admit it.  He is not the sharpest tack…right?  And who can forget Heathcliff?  The King of Angst.  The beauty of being a novelist is the ability to create a character by borrowing traits from everywhere.

I imagined a man strong and capable, with a fierce sense of self…who harbored secret doubts about what he had been taught as a child, what his father had taught him about what it means to be a fine man.  But admiration changes based on who is doing the admiring.  Is the admirable man a chameleon?  Does he change to suit his environment and his purpose?  How can one be admired by all unless this is done?

If so, then who are you?  You would have to define yourself by how others see you.  You would be relying on their admiration to determine your own self worth.

This is my hero’s journey.  He was told that he needed to be strong, to be stoic, to be skilled.  He was punished for showing any signs of weakness or emotion.  His duties were set before him, and failure was not tolerated.  When a child is given these directives, what kind of man is produced?

My hero, Montrose, must struggle with opposing forces between the contents of his own heart and mind and the directives of his society.  Long-held beliefs are not easily jettisoned.  Yet extraordinary circumstances can often be the catalyst for amazing self-discovery.  Amazing to Montrose, that is.  The adventure I have created forces the characters to examine everything they have known to be true…and realize how wrong they have been.  This is a difficult process for anyone.  No one likes to admit they are wrong.

But such an admission is admirable in every case.  Mr. Darcy realizes he has been wound a bit too tightly.  Do you remember his smile at the end of the BBC production (the one with Colin Firth)?  Do you realize that for 5 hours you had not seen him smile?  Not once.  What a shock that was, what an emotional release!  And Rochester…his novelist treated him with the most cruelty of all.  I would not have punished him so, but perhaps Bronte felt his cruelty needed to be met with equal retribution to bring him to his knees.  How your heart breaks, seeing this proud man humbled.  And Aragorn…thank goodness for Arwen.  She will keep him in line if he just lets her run the kingdom.

Which brings me back to The Most Interesting Man In the World.  He is many men, and one man.  We know him when we meet him.  The combination of confidence and vulnerability is his strength.  He has the courage to root out his own flaws and amend them.  He may want to be admired by other men for his abilities, but more importantly, he wants to be worthy of his woman’s love.  He wants her admiration more than anyone else’s and will strive for it, overcome all obstacles for it, go to the ends of the earth for it.  Darcy does it, Rochester does it, Aragorn finally picks up that heavy sword.  The hero will persevere until he achieves his goal.  Montrose does it.

He is the reason his lady is dancing.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: