sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Life's Distractions

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; 
out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” 
--WB Yeats

Sometimes when I am under stress (which means that my "circle of influence/circle of concern" filter on things is no longer working) and I'm letting it get to me, I turn to writing. 

Those of you who write know that the process of creation in the 100K word range requires deft attention to story arcs and a general 'beat score' to the momentum of the story. People have come to expect that. There is a lot of good science fiction out there. There is still more mediocre SciFi that floats around where people have copied popular art and put their own spin on it.

The novel, Half Life is still in progress, and by word count, it's well over half way to completion. However, there is more than word count to a good story. 

In this story a young man on Earth is strangely linked to a young woman on a colonized planet over seventy light years away. They share each other's dreams --- and nightmares, as he and others from Earth journey outward to the stars to wipe out life from her planet, and begin again.

The girl is a freak on her world. The boy is a pawn on his.


In most of my work, you won't find 'good people' and 'bad people' because ultimately we find that in life (even in the distant worlds of Half Life) that people are doing good and bad continually. There is a sliding scale --- fifty shades of gray --- between good and bad. The government on Earth has slipped darker in the scale, influenced by human avarice and cowardice. Independent actors who constitute organized crime serve to move events to serve their own needs. Through it all, the principal characters are swept up by events beyond their control, but they have each other and through that become one in heart and mind though two distinct persons.

Without knowing it, mankind has stumbled on the first sentient beings beside themselves as they have cast out to the stars, and those beings are subtly making themselves known.

There is a prophet, who serves to explain both himself and what is happening, in an oblique sense --- as prophets are want to do. I included the character to provide some insight to the reader. Naturally, the prophet is at odds with the constituted church, as prophets are want to be. I snipped a few paragraphs from page 100 in the saga.

In this clip, priests from the constituted religion of the distant planet are listening to the prophet speak and are taking down his words in the hopes of using them later in an ecclesiastical court.
After a brief pause, he spoke. "Always abide by these basic principles: Refrain from outrageous action, and develop patience. 
“I am guilty of breaking both of those rules and will teach by example why you should not do as you have seen me do. 
“When you live as long as I have you come to realize that you shouldn't have any consideration for yourself; therefore, you try to act in a self-sacrificing manner. My past attempts to manifest selflessness became exhibitionism. I allowed myself to be thrown in jail and publically scourged. I did this and realized that the imprisonment and public scorn and punishment were forms of vanity. Are the sacred teachers able to write as fast as I am speaking? If you would like, I would be happy to slow down.” 
The priests nervously nodded their heads for Mikna to continue. One had the two black chevrons of a deacon and the other had four gray chevrons and one black chevron indicating the rank of junior inquisitor, second class. 
“Usually, there is extreme confusion about patience. That is to say, you can be patient with your friends but not with your enemies; you can be patient with people whom you are trying to cultivate or your particular protégés, but you cannot be patient with people who are outside of your coterie. That kind of extreme is actually a form of personality cult. It can be the cult of yourself, which always a bad idea. 
“The People generally believe in that which is graduated, classifiable, and hierarchical. They believe in taxonomy. Our entire corpus of mythology is expressed that way. It has been handed down to us from our human ancestors. They wrote stories that we still teach our children. You all know them as well as I do. If you climb the beanstalk, you will see a naughty giant. If you slay a dragon, you will win a beautiful princess.  Our entire system of education is contrived just that way. If you attend classes, and pass tests, you will be awarded a degree and perhaps you will become an island-city administrator or a chief mining engineer on a space station. Maybe you will ascend to stations in The Church or you will sit with the Council of Libria. 
“Absent the direct appreciation of wonder, and genuine love of knowledge, do you see how we have become conditioned to expect that we are ascending ladders, or following paths? Do you see how we become conditioned to expect that ladders and paths lead somewhere? It’s not your fault if you hold these truths as valid. 
“The hidden question behind the spoken question presupposes that you can classify a religious path to salvation. The priests behind you who would indict me for a faith crime are on this path. If they do thus and such, they will become thus and such. The chevrons on their cassocks provide instruction to us in this matter. 
“This worldview is like a big ball of string. You don't know how many pieces of string are in there. You don't know where those pieces begin and end. 
“The path to spiritual salvation is not about securing, gaining, or achieving status in a social order, or institutional hierarchy. It is not about pleasing teachers. It is not about employing rote memory to achieve technical proficiency, nor repetition to achieve craft or guild proficiency, nor is it the province of intellectual erudition. 
“Bootlicking the visiting priests with their expensive clothing and chevrons of rank is contrived and ugly. Scheming about advancing your position in a devised system is disgusting.” 
Mikna focused his gaze on the priests. “Repeating what you've heard me say today measures neither understanding nor intention. Adding cultural nuances or literary flourish does not improve anything. The hunting birds of Procyon mimic the cries of other birds in order to trap and kill them. You have all heard these stories.” 
The crowd nodded and so did the priests, who had stopped writing to listen. 
“By recognizing needless suffering and immediately desiring to alleviate that pain is good. Providing relief in whatever form that may take at the moment will bring you spiritual rest.”
Thus the story goes and the run toward completion of the work continues in long hours of the night. When I'm alone with my thoughts and am not badgered by the demands of travel or the constantly ringing phone and chiming of incoming e-mail and texts.

I have an executive administrative assistant to run interference for me (photo right). Yes, I hired my daughter, Emilie, to do that. The job requires trust and if I can't trust my own flesh and blood, I'm in a lot deeper trouble than I think that I am.