research


On the nature of nature spirits, where the idea might have come from of tiny invisible beings responsible for the growth of plants, et al.

W. Y. Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries:

In the positive doctrines of mediaeval alchemists and mystics, e.g. Paracelsus and the Rosicrucians, as well as their modern followers, the ancient metaphysical ideas of Egypt, Greece, and Rome find a new expression; and these doctrines raise the final problem—if there are any scientific grounds for believing in such pygmy nature-spirits as these remarkable thinkers of the Middle Ages claim to have studied as being actually existing in nature….

These mediaeval metaphysicians, inheritors of pre-Platonic, Platonic, and neo-Platonic teachings, purposely obscured their doctrines under a covering of alchemical terms, so as to safeguard themselves against persecution, open discussion of occultism not being safe during the Middle Ages, as it was among the ancients and happily is now again in our own generation….

All these Elementals, who procreate after the manner of men, are said to have bodies of an elastic half-material essence, which is sufficiently ethereal not to be visible to the physical sight, and probably comparable to matter in the form of invisible gases. Mr. W. B. Yeats has given this explanation:—’Many poets, and all mystic and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are not of heaven but of earth, who have no inherent form, but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them. You cannot lift your hand without influencing and being influenced by hordes. The visible world is merely their skin….’ [From Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales and Folk-Tales]

Wentz again three paragraphs on:

And independently of the Celtic peoples there is available very much testimony of the most reliable character from modern disciples of the mediaeval occultists, e.g. the Rosicrucians, and the Theosophists, that there exist in nature invisible spiritual beings of pygmy stature and of various forms and characters, comparable in all respects to the little people of Celtic folk-lore.

Yeats’s words do somewhat remind me of the famous opening of the Reverend Robert Kirk’s Secret Commonwealth, wherein he says these beings

are said to be of a midle Nature betuixt Man and Angel, as were Dæmons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidious Spirits, and light changable Bodies, (lyke those called Astral,) somewhat of the Nature of a condensed Cloud, and best seen in Twilight. Thes Bodies be so plyable thorough the Subtilty of the Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear att Pleasure. Some have Bodies or Vehicles so spungious, thin, and delecat, that they are fed by only sucking into some fine spirituous Liquors, that peirce lyke pure Air and Oyl…

Random quote of the day:


“Research is formalized curiosity.  It is poking and prying with a purpose.  It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.”

—Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks On the Road

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Lately I’ve only been taking half-hour lunches at work because I need to get on the road home earlier than I used to. A half hour doesn’t seem sufficient to get any writing done once I’ve gone down to buy lunch and come back upstairs. But I’ve managed to squeeze in some “research reading,” which makes me feel as if I’m keeping my hand in as a writer. Between caregiving, a full time job, and exhaustion there is no other time slot for actual writing. I realize my research-reading-as-extension-of-writing is something of an illusion, but it’s been quite a creative illusion for all that.

Currently, I’m reading a fascinating book called Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar by Robert W. Lebling. It’s sparked all kinds of ideas. Curiously, most of them have been for existing stories rather than new ones, fleshing them out, solving plot issues, broadening character. None of these stories are about djinn, but the book brings up many wonderful cross-cultural themes. Anytime I read mythology of any sort it sparks loads of ideas for me, and the fact is, most Western mythology has roots in the Middle East. We share a profound cultural connection, an archetypal basis, with that part of the world, whether we care to acknowledge it or not.

This week the book sparked a ton of ideas for the Annia Sabina book I mentioned the other day. Last week it pumped out goodies for a novel I’ve been playing with for several years. Before that, I was reading The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture by Walter L. Williams specifically to do research/get ideas for my historical fantasy, The Numberless Stars. That book did its job well and I got plenty of ideas. Before that, it was yet another something that had my mind clicking away at yet another novel.

Which is all well and very good, but it does mean I’m bouncing around a lot. That’s not an unfamiliar pattern for me when I’m between projects. I tend to bounce until something takes a firm hold and I commit a substantial amount of writing to the page. Then momentum takes over and I work through the idea, generally, until it’s finished.

But, as I said, I’ve got maybe a half-hour a day to dedicate to anything me-related, to my writing, and research reading, and cozening the muse. Unless I’m stealing time from something else I should be doing to do…this. Or something like it.

I’m itching to write. I have moments when I speak with such confidence about what the next project will be! But in truth, I’m bouncing. I may bounce until I splatter myself unless I can figure a way to steal or carve out what I need and still meet my honorable commitments.

Writing requires sacrifice. Art requires it. We’re always stealing from something else in order to do that thing which makes us feel whole. Generally from time with family and friends, from our social lives, etc. There is no easy way to do this and do it well. Even if you manage to achieve full-time artist/writer status, there will always be something you have to give up in order to do that which makes you feel whole. The question of what and how much is an individual thing. No one can make that decision for you, and sometimes the circumstances are very hard indeed.

For me, I can’t go forever with my creative channels choked off. Something has to give, but it’s impossible for me to say what at this point. In the meantime, I’ll continue to bounce and steal and hope that something anchors me before I splatter. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “Just do it, for God’s sake!”

Just do it. Sometimes it’s as simple and as hard as that.

1. Under the heading of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” I was asked to do a favor for someone I don’t work for. I agreed and set about the proofreading, formatting, etc., of a long document. I spent five hours at this task and sent it back to the author only to discover that I had been given the wrong version. I was unhappy, but not so unhappy as the author who had to do a compare/contrast of my changes/his changes over the weekend. Then I got it back to finish cleaning up.

2. I got a robo-call last week to remind me that I had an appointment at UCLA Med for Monday, October 31. I knew I did—it was my semi-annual thyroid check up. Yet somehow, between now and then, I dropped off the computer. They had no record of my appointment and the doctor was booked solid with other people. I’m glad I took a half vacation day to go to this appointment and that I made special arrangements for a friend to take my mom to dialysis so I didn’t have to reschedule and wait and additional 2-3 months for a new appointment. I’ll be seeing the doctor in mid-December. At least I got to go home for a couple of hours and put my sore knee up with a heating pad (crone!) before picking Mom up at dialysis.

3. Since we usually get home from dialysis between 7-7:30 p.m. (sometimes later), I knew that I would miss most of the cute little trick or treaters that I love giving out candy to. Plus, after a dialysis day, we’re usually trashed and I was so not in the mood this year. So I left the porch light out when I drove to pick up Mom. They had a Haunted House at Westchester Park, about a block from our house, right where Georgetown deadends. As I made the turn from Manchester to Georgetown, I saw hordes and hordes and hordes of older thugs pouring out of the Haunted House, and more parents driving onto our street and disgorging their vans and cars of screaming invaders. I knew we were in trouble. So Mom and I sneaked like felons into our house to avoid the hordes. Even so, as we were letting ourselves into our darkened front door some particularly ambitious candy extortionists followed us up the driveway. “We don’t have any candy here!” I yelled. “Sorry!” and quickly slammed the door. Later, as I was making dinner I was forced to turn on the kitchen light (though the porch light was still out) and as soon as I did kids streamed to our front door yelling, “Trick or treat!” I quickly turned the light out, ignored them, and they departed. Thankfully, it was a school night and everyone had pretty much departed the neighborhood by 10 p.m. Or so I think. I fell asleep in my chair by 8:30. When I woke at 9 they were still traipsing about, and when I awoke again around 10 things had quieted considerably. So I went to bed.

4. This morning while I was showering I noticed the water lapping around my ankles. Sure enough, it was refusing to go down the drain. Simultaneous to this, my mother’s toilet refused to flush and threatened to o’er top its containment vessel. I thought fleetingly, “This must be the trick for refusing to give the treats.” Eventually they both drained, but it took close to a half hour and there was much gurgling and scary sewer sounds. You may remember that we had the entire sewer pipe replaced about a year ago? The plumber who came out today (a different plumber) said that pipe was just fine…but there was this other pipe underneath the house…He’s coming tomorrow morning to replace it. The good news is, we must be getting close to having all new plumbing for this old place. It’s gotten so absurd at this point I just have to laugh. What the hell else am I going to do?

5. Mom seems to be doing better and we have no new doctor’s appointments until Thursday the 10th. I’m hoping we continue in this undramatic fashion for awhile.

6. One more than five! I continue to poke at research for The Numberless Stars, and even did some creative thinking about the plot. There still remains little to no time for actual writing, but you can’t have everything. Some day, however, I may write the Great Crone Epic. I’m wondering if anyone in this youth-obsessed market will even want to read about kick-ass crones?

1. When I heard that WFC would be in San Diego in 2011 I thought, “Oh hell, for sure I can go, even if it’s just to drive down for a day.” Life had other plans, unfortunately. And, truth told, I might not have gone, despite my optimism. Every year I plan to go to Loscon, which takes place about 10 miles from my house on Thanksgiving weekend, aaaaaaaand…I don’t go. I should never underestimate the power of my own sloth.

2. Mom had some scary issues this week, but the doctors think they were due to water retention (always a hazard with dialysis). Since they’ve up the Lasix, the problems have improved.

3. I have injured my knee. My good knee. I pulled a muscle along the side of the knee, which has happened before, but now the joint is stiff and swollen as well. The bad knee, ironically, is doing much, much better. *sigh*

4. I’ve been studying Native American gender identity issues for some time now, but my interest has revived over the last couple of weeks as I’ve worked on the research for The Numberless Stars. I’ve been poking at the cultural mores of different tribes regarding attitudes towards the third sex, the berdache, as anthropologists have labeled them. In the kind of synchronicity that often occurs when I start seriously poking at some research, this popped up on LJ’s little_details. Very helpful indeed. I’ve already ordered the Williams book and one other. Both cheap used copies, of course.

5. TGIF. Putting a hundred extra miles (or more) on the car per week is rather draining, but today all that is required of me is to be at work. Tomorrow I actually get three hours to myself while Mom is at dialysis, and Sunday, the blessed day, I don’t have to go anywhere at all. Chores, sure, but I don’t have to drive anywhere. I try to keep that sacrosanct about Sundays.

1. There has not been much to report except the same old same old so I haven’t reported.

2. I continue to poke at The Numberless Stars, my Old California fantasy. Not really writing. I’m poking online research, specifically about the El Camino Real and the Los Angeles River and stuff. I’m obsessed with learning as much as I can. Considering that the bulk of the novel has nothing to do with these things, it seems a bit excessive, BUT I maintain that knowing that stuff, whether I use it or not, enriches the story.

3. I’m the girl who once read three books and countless partials on Robert Clive’s India for what wound up being one paragraph in my novel, Blood Geek. BUT, I do think all that informed the character of Jeremy Jones, the hero, so it wasn’t a waste.

4. I did a trip count Monday on the miles I drive on Monday and Wednesday when I come to work, go home at lunch, pick up Mom, take her to dialysis, come back to work, finish my shift, go home to feed the cat, go to pick Mom up at dialysis and thence back home. 52.4 miles on these days. I knew it had to be significant because I really notice the difference in my gas tank. Thank the gods it’s only twice a week.

5. I really must stop waking up at 4 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m usually a champion sleeper, but things have been screwy this week.

Apologies for having so many tweet posts this week.  It’s been a busy/distracted time and I seem to only have to brain for short infoburps.

And….scene.  21 Jan

My quest for chocolate chocolate chip muffin foiled again this AM. Had to settle for a cranberry scone. As a second, it was right up there. 21 Jan

Done that RT @literaticat:When should authors on submission keep their traps shut? Well, almost always, actually. http://tinyurl.com/4cxthyh 21 Jan

I think the clock is standing still. I am really convinced of it. 20 Jan

We’re even. 20 Jan

Earlier last eve she scared the bejabbers out of me by making me think she’d gotten out of the house, hiding, & not answering when I called. 20 Jan

I think Min was trying to tell me something last night: she kept slapping the Droid as I was reading email. 20 Jan

Ha! My friend, Artur, tells me I got spammed in Russian for “high quality porn”! Someone will be getting acquainted with the banning club. 20 Jan

if I can’t picture the place I’m writing it seriously messes up my pantsing. And research shows the image template I had isn’t correct. 20 Jan

I’ve really jacked myself up with the research. Part of me just wants to write and worry about making right later, but… 20 Jan

That last statement has many parallels to “I can see your house from here” or “My sister used date the roommate of FamousGuy’s cousin.” 20 Jan

Huh. I just learned I went to high school with someone who lived on the same street as the famous “The Entity” haunting house. 20 Jan

Anyone speak Russian? I just got Cyrillicized in a comment over on LJ. 20 Jan

What is Microsoft’s problem? Instead of improving their product they reinvent Word each and every version. Idiots. 19 Jan

Now that I’m halfway through the read-through of Venus in Transit I’m beginning to get that thrill of anticipation at the thought of finally being able to work on something new. There are some stories I want to get to for rewrites and for first writes, but the big subterranean beasts that have been swimming in the deeps for ages now have also made their break for the surface. Two novels seem to be vying for the attention of my forebrain, feeding me bits and pieces of themselves at odd times of day or night. My research reading seems to swing back and forth between the two subject matters, too.

One is a story involving an 18th century cunning man and the 21st century fallout from his old magic. That one even has most of a chapter one done, plus the 17k novella on which it’s based. For this I’ve been reading some fascinating stuff on JSTOR and also a book called, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History by Owen Davies. I have about three more books on cunning folk lined up on my shelves, too.

The other is a very fractured and weird sort of fairy story in which Faerie hardly appears at all, and whatever fairies show themselves are neither flittery little beings of light, nor dark and sinister monsters. Or, as recently portrayed, sex mad stud muffins. Although, because I’m writing it, I imagine there will be sex. Is there not air?

These fairies are more like I imagine fairies would be if fairies do be: neither fundamentally good nor bad, just profoundly uninterested in the well-being of humanity, unless some poor hapless fool intrudes upon their space by accident or intent. Then it’s watch out mortal, you’ll pay for your trespass.

I have scads of books on fairies and fairylore. My current reading includes Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland by Eddie Lenihan and Carolyn Eve Green which informed a lot of my current thinking on the subject. I’ve also been playing with The Heart of Faerie Oracle by Wendy and Brian Froud, which is an absolutely gorgeous work of art. I can stare and stare at each one of those cards. There is so much rich detail in them—and gorgeous, as I say.

I ask myself if the world needs another novel of Faerie and I’m inclined to think not, there’s such a glut. But I also know that when the leviathans make a break for open waters, I’d better follow whichever is the strongest swimmer, hitch my darling coracle to their flukes and hang on for dear life, or get left adrift far out to sea. The leviathans choose me, not the other way around.

I hope to return to real blogging soon, but it’s been hella busy. In the meantime, here’s another one of those numbered thingies:

1. Listening to the graduate students around here make excuses to their professors as to why they haven’t completed their coursework, it strikes me that not much has changed since elementary school. They’ve just found more sophisticated, elaborate, and convoluted ways of saying, “The dog ate my homework.”

2. I’m on chapter eleven of the read-through of Venus in Transit. I should be much further along as I hadn’t intended to do any restructuring or heavy editing, but you know how it goes. A couple (or more) scenes that just had to be rewritten, language desperately needed de-clunkifying, things had to be looked up and pondered… There’s still plenty more that needs fixing, no worries, but it’s amazing to me how many of the smaller threads of plot and characterization got left untied. I’ll definitely deal with those in the next draft.

3. I’ve acquired a sudden re-fascination with cunning folk, witchery, and folk medicine, et al. lately. I’ve been reading books and scouring JSTOR for articles. (I love JSTOR. Thank goodness for institutional subscriptions.) If research interest is an indicator of which novel my right brain next wants to write, things are looking good for my proto-novel, Time in a Bottle, the idea based in part on my novella, “Sealed with a Curse.” That novella involved an 18th century cunning man, infidelity, wastrelism, and a witch’s bottle. The novel version carries forward to the 21st century descendants of some of the folks involved in that affair. And maybe time travel. Or maybe not.

4. I’m wondering if a subscription to Netflix would be worth it to me since I rarely am in the mood to watch a movie at home more than once or twice a month? I used to devour movies at a massive rate, but I lost the love somewhere along the way. The $8.99 one would definitely be sufficient, but I’m not sure I’d get my money’s worth even then.

5. Come the Singularity, I suspect I will not be allowed on the lifeboat. I suspect I will be okay with that. Utopian visions rarely turn out well for humanity at large. I have zero confidence that techo-utopians will be any better at it than every other millennial movement that has wrecked humanity in the past. I am not a Luddite. I really do enjoy living in the bright, shiny techno-age—but sweeping mass social engineering never works. That’s the lesson of history. That’s the lesson of any close study of human nature. Power corrupts, even utopian techno power—and besides, these yahoos aren’t even trying to be egalitarian. This is all about ego and rich mostly whitefolk trying to escape the filthy masses.