Thursday, May 21, 2015

Torpedo in the Water! INKBLOTS: Read what we read last night

I'm writing about Lewis as a WW I teen atheist
[Planning to include more of what we actually read together in these posts, starting with this one] Five gentlemen sitting around my living room, good conversation, good wine (French, Swiss, CA), and ink and paper, well, actually, sand and chips (computer kind not the fish-n kind). We talked about our inspiration, Inklings, Lewis and Tolkien's gang meeting in Oxford back in the 30s and beyond, hence, our name Inkblots, 'Blots for short. John is reading a book on how to read Dante and the benefit of doing so.

Patrick has been reading Tolkien, looking for inspiration and searching for clarity, the open door, the jolt that awakens the epic feel. Not like X-files where it gets gimmicky, taking advantage of the audience's emotions. How to achieve the episodic feel, like Bob's Sindbad, which definitely had the big feel. He has gotten criticism that his characters are hollow and incomplete, distant, alienated people. But nothing like that in Tolkien, but studying particular excerpts that seem to particularly capture the episodic feel. I'm reminded of how imitation is the truest form of flattery. Tolkien put people in a hierarchy where they were content, good leaders, submissive subject, whereas most stories do not have a trustworthy hierarchy, yet Tolkien does. Peter Weir as director of Master Commander, fully fleshed out characters, round, flesh and blood.

I suggested Patrick pull out Milton's Paradise Lost and observe the way he plays off the celestial and the demonic voices and styles, each made stylistically richer by the other.

Thoughts, whither have ye led me, with what sweet
Compulsion thus transported to forget
What hither brought us, hate, not love, nor hope [ 475 ]
Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste
Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy,
Save what is in destroying, other joy
To me is lost.

Challenges of writing redemptively. Patrick's zombie yarns are explorations or pictures of depravity, but he is moving to redemption. We discussed the merits of point of view, first person and third person, and the relative advantages of each, what each does well, and where their strengths lie. Star-crossed lovers, zombie falling in love with a human, unequal yoking, as Shakespeare explores in Romeo and Juliet. 

I wish you could sit in and listen to this. Patrick finished reading a compelling, fluid passage, and then we jumped in. Jeff is new tonight (and big welcome to you, Jeff!) and appreciated hearing Patrick explain how speculative fiction works (omnivores, the zombie term for humans). Bob asked how it got to be this way, how the world morphed into this kind of world, one with zombies, where they are normal and appear to the reader to be normal, disturbing though they be.

Bob says there is narrative (descriptive material), dialogue, plot, character, but it is difficult to do all of them well. Dorothy Sayers, amazing crime fiction writer, who does such nuanced dialogue, with little repartee between speakers, subtle nuanced character development through the fragmented breakaways of her speakers. I wish I could write like Dorothy S!

John reads his grandson's book. John Jr had spoken to me Sunday at church about the book he is writing, wanted to know how I did my editing after writing my books, serious, intense question, wanting a genuine answer. John is about eight. John Jr's writing has the feel of Calvin and Hobbes crossed with ET, but a delightful eight year old foray into writing fiction, complete with a desire for the redemptive, for finding God and peace. Thanks for sharing this with us John. There is a definitely story line and he follows it. Well done, John.

I read from chapter 3 of War in the Wasteland, this shift to Fiona Fleming's perspective, crossing U-boat infested Channel on her way to France and the war as a WAAC. 

Two weeks later, from the quarterdeck of the same troopship RMS Amazon, Fiona Fleming watched waves crash on the outer breakwater of the port of Dover, growing rapidly smaller behind the ship’s wake. Gray-on-white seagulls cavorted behind the ship, muscular wings arched, screeching at each other as if it were all a frolic. With a quick tilt and nod of her head, Fiona chose to imagine that, instead of scrounging for garbage jettisoned from the ship’s galley, they were her own personal feathered escorts wishing her farewell, a speedy war, and a happy return. She tried to smile, but her lips refused to cooperate.
Though her father had tried to warn her, Fiona was unprepared for the intensity of the emotions she felt as she watched the jagged coastline diminish, the white-cliffs rising precipitously above the gray-green of the English Channel. Shrinking in size and becoming more opaque with every turn of the troopship’s screw.
Exhilarated with the adventurous prospects of war, Fiona had barely been able to contain herself when she had read the newspaper report in January, 1917. The War Department had established a new corps, the Women’s Axillary Army Corps, called the WAAC for convenience. But ten months later, November 18, 1917, on board a troopship, in convoy with destroyers and armored cruisers, heading into the U-boat-infested waters of the English Channel, she found that a good deal of her exhilaration had given way to giddy uneasiness.
Fiona was grateful for the sea breeze and mist tugging at her hair and bringing the water to her eyes. It helped conceal the tears of another kind she knew were there. It had been different ten months earlier; she had been all enthusiasm, begging her father to let her enlist.
“Aye, lass, that’s all good and well, I’m sure, but you have but eighteen years to your name,” he had observed. “And the WAAC requires, and most properly does it do so, a young woman to have not a day fewer than one and twenty years. Now I know that you’ve never fancied yourself good at mathematics, but even you can work it out, my dear, that eighteen is nae the same thing as twenty-one.”
“There’s only a wee difference, really. And I’m tall for my age.” She had tried every argument she could think of to persuade him. “The Germans are planning another big offensive—everyone says they’ll be doing it. And the War Department...
Lots of helpful push back from these dudes. Here's notes on some of their comments: [more spray and feel of seas… smells at sea… heeling and losing her footing, why no sea sickness… go below will make us sick… terrific speed too much… is the seeing of the u-boats realistic? Maybe I need to lay the notion that the u-boat almost always surfaced to shoot torpedoes… is it realistic for her to see the torpedo coming at them… no battleships escorting according].

Here's from Patrick's pen: 
“What? You read the tales of Umyitz?”
         “Every child reads those. They are our favorite fairytales.”
         I was shocked by her comment, knowing instinctively that when she said “every child” she really meant “every cerebivore child”. I had never heard this before and objected, “But they are stories about cure of your condition.”
         “Well, of course, silly. All cerebivores wish to be free of our condition. Why would we not want to be able to eat anything?”
I was downright floored by her confession—perplexed and undone. I could muster nothing more than stammering verbal hiccups in response. Aza laughed with golden humor.
         “Oh, Padel, have you dreamed that our love might cure this wretched curse?”
          I had. In the story of Yacob the tailor, he had fallen in love with a zombie woman and cured her. Their children were also pure, and soon the health of their union was communicated to the wider population. “I must admit,” I said at last, “the thought had crossed my mind. It has been, perhaps, a catalyst for my infatuation.”
          She laughed again, “Oh, the way you speak is so adorable. Alas, my sweet, it is but a fairytale. Many times a mixed marriage has produced omni children, but they have always been infertile. It appears that while my disease can spread, your health cannot.”
         “Is that always the law of nature?” She ignored my question.
          “Don't be sad though, you will have actual children, and those offspring will be members of the dominant species, able to experience all the wealth and freedom available to that group. You don't have to worry about the well being of your family any longer.”
         “That's a good point. I never thought of that,” but something troubled me. “What about my Pa? What about the others.”
         “Well, as soon as you come out of hiding people will know that your Pa is a human. The secret will be impossible to keep. They will have to be taken in.”
         “What? No! We will warn them and they can escape. There is no reason to take them captive.”
           “The life of a free human is too dangerous. It would be better if my family took ownership. You and I could keep them safe and give them a good life. If they run and then get caught we can't protect them.”

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