Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's in the character's DNA

Some characters claim our hearts from the very start.  Wherever a story steadily heaps challenges and sordid abuses on our main character, but we detect a tenacious quality in her personality and expect she may find her way to fight clear of any victimhood, we're better able to follow her down some dark alleys as the story tension progresses to its resolution.

Such thoughts came to mind as I reflected on two recent books, both good reads, but each quite different in intensity and tension levels.

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, has a wonderful young girl character, Johanna, whose Texas pioneer family had been ravaged and slain by a Kiowa war party before her eyes when she was only six years-old.   The Kiowa carried her off as a captive, and perhaps as only a resourceful young child might do in such circumstances, came to think of herself as a Kiowa over the next four years she was with them.  She forgot her own English language, as well as the German of her immigrant family.  The U.S. Army eventually wrested her back from the Kiowa when she was ten, another huge disruption in her life, and offered to pay $50 to have Johanna escorted back to her relatives in south Texas.  It was a reasonable sum back then, and Captain Jefferson Kidd, late of the Confederate forces defeated in the Civil War and now a solitary wanderer in the southwest, decides to take the job.  He has otherwise earned his living charging admission to public readings of national newspapers he carries to isolated towns along his travel way.

During the initial journey south, Johanna rarely tries to speak and stays hidden in the wagon whenever they meet with army patrols, or stop near rough towns.  He tries to help her recall English words, and she teaches him Kiowa words.  Their relationship grows steadily.  Gradually in the isolated towns, Johanna begins monitoring admission and collecting the dime fee for the Captain's readings.  In one of the towns, a sleazy businessman tries to buy Johanna from the Captain, to place her in his brothel.  However, they slip out of town that evening.  Later, the man and his cronies follow after them and ambush them on the trail.  The assailants remain out of range of the Captain's pistol and light, 20-gauge bird-hunting shotgun.  However, Johanna has learned how to improvise for warfare from her Kiowa days.  While the Captain keeps the assailants at bay with his pistol, she hand-loads shotgun shells with stacks of dimes from the readings, and adds double powder charges.  When the Captain topples the remaining assailant with his supercharged shotgun, Johanna gives a war cry, grabs a knife, and leaps up to go scalp the enemy.  The Captain has to call back his impetuous warrior.

There is a dilemma awaiting them in south Texas, where it becomes obvious the uncle and aunt are not too keen about taking on the responsibility of an uncivilized young niece.  Johanna doesn't want the Captain to leave her with them, but shall the honorable Captain Kidd now become the child's third kidnapper?

Read this enjoyable, recommended story.  Our girl Johanna possesses great DNA.  I will give it 5 out of 5 stars.

News of the World is probably not going to disturb readers anywhere near as much as My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent, although there was arguably as much violence and moral turpitude implied in the former as is explicitly described in the latter.  The savagery of the rape and mutilation of the pioneer family by the Kiowa was terrible in its brief detail, but the reader might be reminded, too, of the brutal destruction by the army of entire Indian villages, women and children included, contained in other historical sources.  News did not pause to weigh-in on either of those earlier-in-time calamities.  Instead, its story focused on a more recent story time, and the courage, loyalties, and honor of the two admirable main characters: the Captain and Johanna.

The situation is quite different and significantly more complex in Darling, however.  Turtle, a nickname for Julia, is the fourteen year-old daughter of a survivalist, libertarian, hippie, physically powerful, gun culture, somewhat learned philosopher, cynic, and social Neanderthal, named Martin.  They live in a dilapidated, unfinished house in the woods, with plenty of weapons and ammunition at hand, constantly on guard against some indeterminate catastrophe that is presumably expected by Martin in an uncertain future.  He has trained Turtle to carry out a 'house-clearing' tactic on arrival home from school each day when he isn't at home.  This involves her grabbing a weapon and maneuvering from room to room in the house while clearing each room with bursts of actual gunfire.  The ammunition expenses must be horrendous.  It seems a little over the top, but there are probably more than a few unusual folks scattered around the forests and mountains of our rather sparsely settled county.  It's otherwise shockingly abundant in marine and animal wildlife, birds, native plants, and spectacular coastal vistas.  I've lived here more than forty years and treasure it.  The author, Gabriel Tallent, is, I believe, from New Mexico, but describes our Mendocino environment with a knowing familiarity, part of which must owe to one of our college professors of ecology, Teresa Sholars, whom he credits.  Tallents descriptions are quite wonderful.

The eight hundred pound gorilla in the redwoods, though, is the shock revelation that Martin is perpetuating a sexual relationship with Turtle.  It is a consensual thing, but this is a fourteen year-old intellect navigating a vastly uneven power balance, and transgresses one of society's dark taboos.  We're angry with Martin for exploiting her but we endure the tension, waiting for Turtle to recognize him for what he is, and to somehow bring him down.  Turtle has one confidant, Martin's dad, who lives in a nearby trailer.  Grandpa knows his son is bringing Turtle up all wrong with the primitive living paranoia, and may even suspect the worse, but he's an old man and just being critical doesn't do the job.

Angry with life as she sometimes gets, Turtle goes on a long, overnight hike in the woods.  She encounters two lost youths her age, and helps them find their way out.  Though she does attend school, this begins Turtle's first normal association with anyone her age, and she begins to care about one of the boys, Jacob.  Martin eventually finds out about her new interest.  He knows the families of the boys and moves to thwart any further contact, throwing away letters, monitoring telephone calls, and carrying out other contemptuous actions.  About this time Martin also comes home with a new, ten year-old girl, Cayenne, to live with them.  This arouses a jealousy in Turtle, despite her growing confusion about her own relationship with Martin.  Things become increasingly paranoid with Martin, and Turtle fears for Cayenne going through the same history she has had with Martin.  She later flees the house with Cayenne in tow, and instinctively knows Martin will come looking for her at Jacob/s house.  She plans her strategy, and the epic of all shootouts takes place at Jacob's house and along the rocky beach, between the two firearms experts engaged in search and destroy tactics.

This was a stunning read.  It had only been out about a month and I was surprised to note that so many at Goodreads had already read it and written reviews.  Considering the controversial material, it was also interesting to note that the great majority of ratings were quite good.  I would have to agree it was well written and I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

cultural appropriation

Pomo Eagle Dancer,     oil pastel
Let’s discuss the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ as applied to fiction writing.  There are some who frown on, or even censor the rights of any author to create characters and speak in the voices of people ethnically or culturally different from themselves.  I had been surprised years ago to encounter such a view from an author who lectured at my writing classes in graduate school, but it seems such a view might may have become more strident in our current era of political correctness.

Such a climate of pc didn’t give any pause to Lionel Shriver, best known for her 2003 bestseller (and movie), We Need to Talk about Kevin.  She gave a keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival in Australia in 2016, that treated fiction and identity politics, and criticized contemporary forms of political correctness.  A cogent article discussing the lecture and its aftermath was written by Jonathan Foreman in the Journal, COMMENTARY, Nov. 16, 2016.  It appears Shriver’s lecture drew widespread criticism from identity politics activists, but Foreman was generally supportive of Shriver: 

“She (Shriver) excoriated contemporary forms of politically correct censorship with typically astringent fearlessness and rubbished the whole notion of identity politics: “Membership of a larger group is not an identity.  Being Asian is not an identity.  Being gay is not an identity.  Being deaf, blind, or wheelchair-bound is not an identity, nor is being economically deprived.” 

Points Foreman made that I think are germane to the discussion include the following arguments opposing the ideas of identity politics:

At the beginning of October, at Britain’s Bristol University, a production of the musical Aida (an adaptation of Verdi by Elton John and Tim Rice) was cancelled because student protesters claimed that having white actors play Ethiopian and Egyptian characters would be “cultural appropriation.”

By their logic, black actors should not be allowed to play Lear, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, or other “white” roles in Shakespeare, and nonwhite performers should be completely excluded from taking part in any opera or classical ballet given that both are “white” European art forms, in the same way that jazz or blues music could be said to belong exclusively to black people.

As Shriver pointed out, literature would be impossible if writers were forbidden from imagining and creating characters of different gender, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation to their own

I’m with Shriver in this; writers should be free to imagine whatever fictional character they wish for their story, and there ought to be no realm of ethnicity, race, religion, or whatever, reserved only to writers bearing the same genesis.  I think fiction writing has always been and will continue to be the richer for it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

difficult themes in writing cloaked in metaphor

Metaphor/Sketch for difficulty in aging

Occasionally one pauses early on when reading a new novel to reflect on whether there seems to be a compelling story arc, or whether some difficult thematic material will somehow enrich one's imagination or life experience.  Such questions arose for me when reading The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (as well as in A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride, discussed in my post of Dec. 28, 2014).  Those considerations can be very subjective for different readers, and following is my take on The Vegetarian.

The Vegetarian was translated from the Korean (by Deborah Smith), and won the prestigious English Man Booker International Prize.  It's a short, compact novel at 188 pages, and one of the qualities that captured this somewhat hesitant reader was the good writing.  In broad brush outline, the story concerns a Korean housewife, Yeong-hye, her sudden plunge into a haunted, vegetarian eating obsession, and the tumult it causes in her own life and the lives of her husband, sister, brother-in-law, and parents.  

Perhaps the vegetarian obsession was brought on by an onset of mental instability--Yeong-hye has begun to suffer dark, violent, carnivorous related thoughts--and her new eating practice is, in various degrees, distasteful or repugnant to her extended family.  Some book critics say it may reflect a broader, Korean attitude toward vegetarianism.  At a family dinner the father tries to force a piece of meat into his protesting daughter's mouth, and ends up slapping her, whereupon she slashes her own wrists.  

Yeong-hye's husband divorces her, and the husband of her sister, In-hye, becomes attracted to Yeong-hye.  He's an artist and filmmaker (oddly unnamed as a character throughout), and clandestinely arranges for Yeong-hye to help him make a film.  He paints her body overall with botanical art, and films her making love with a similarly painted young man.  In a subsequent filming, he paints his own body as well as hers with the botanical theme, and films them making love together.  Sometime later, they repeat the same performance in Yeong-hye's apartment, and are discovered there by the sister, In-hye.  In-hye is so shocked she telephones a municipal Emergency Services number, and the authorities bundle the assumed deranged couple off for an examination.  Yeong-hye is committed to a mental hospital, where she is visited by her morose sister.

At this point, Yeong-hye's mental condition has deteriorated to where she imagines she is becoming a tree, and no longer needs to eat any food. I'll stop short of giving a complete, 'spoiler' description, in hopes blog readers will try Kang's worthy book.

One  critic, Diane Johnson, in the NY Review of Books (Crazy in Korea, 8/18/2016), presenting a review of this novel, writes: 

a short, absorbing novel that readers and reviewers have declared to be about--besides meat-eating--marriage, obedience, care-giving, adultery, art, human violence, post-human fantasy, taboos, the resolution of the desperate, "the crushing pressure of Korean etiquette," and much more.  One of the glories of novels is that their complexity allows for different interpretations, and perhaps this partly explains the Vegetarian's appeal for judges specialized in literature and translation from various language traditions and with, no doubt, different preoccupations.

There are metaphorical constructs so flexible and capacious as to allow for all of these meanings: generally, the more terse and minimalist a narrative, the more adaptable its metaphorical repertory to a wide range.
I agree with Johnson's suggestions that there are many metaphors folded into this novel, and I'll probably muse over interpretive possibilities for some time to come.  So, in spite of my pauses for consideration I described earlier on, I continued reading The Vegetarian, and concluded it was indeed a worthwhile book.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

themes of mortality

Evergreen pioneer cemetery in Manchester, CA
There seems to have been a steady flow of profound books touching on a theme of mortality in recent years; from my own reading I'm thinking of: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and just lately, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  The first is fiction, about an old preacher nearing death and writing a long letter to his young son.  He wants to explain to the boy before he dies his views on life, and God, and how he came to marry the boy's much younger mother.  The second book is really creative non-fiction, being the selected experiences of a practicing physician, which serve to illustrate the attitudes of patients, and their families facing serious health issues: perhaps hopeful, or unrealistic, sometimes angry, often frightened, and how little time is frequently left, regardless of attitude.  The third book is by a doctor over the course of his internship as a neurosurgeon, covering similar ground to that in Being Mortal, but which takes a dramatic twist when the 38 years old neurosurgeon is discovered to have major lung cancer.  Now it is he chronicling his own stunned responses to the increasingly dim prospects, as he tries to carry on with his marriage and his work.  He didn't quite finish the book in his last year; his wife had to write the last chapter for him.  A good read.

When one reflects on past reading, much of literature deals in some degree with mortality, either as a major theme or as a hidden or secondary theme.  The failing marriage, for example, may be the major theme, but it may be an expression of the midlife crisis, or lack of success in a career "growing long in the tooth," both tensions being heightened by fears of impending mortality.

As the demographics of the country trend toward an aging population, the interest in reading about how others face issues of mortality, whether in fiction or creative non-fiction, seems likely to grow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

starting the story in medias res--into the midst of things

A stream of consciousness flows on into
an ocean of imagination
(a site near my home)
A Happy New Year to all, and I may wish to take a sabbatical from blogging next year to devote more time to my fiction writing.  But for now:

Sometimes an author has written substantial sections of vivid, suspenseful, engaging material, but such sections lie buried somewhere in the middle, or perhaps closer to the end of the story.  The author has chosen to first introduce his cast of characters, perhaps fixes them somewhere in the social hierarchy of a place, and dramatizes a few of their strengths and weaknesses, before revealing the main tension(s) they must attempt to resolve.

It may be that if the introductory material has characters of unique personalities, and the special quality of 'voice' so often stressed in Creative Writing 101, or in countless writers' conferences, the reader may stick around long enough to reach the really compelling sections of the book.

Alternately, perhaps the better strategy for structuring the book is to consider the technique of in medias res (into the midst of things), and find a way to bring the best material forward to the beginning.  Capture the reader early on, and fill in details as needed for the progression of the story toward a final resolution.

"A Manual for Cleaning Women," by Lucia Berlin, is a collection of short stories that mostly begin in medias res.  The stories are first person narration, but since the action starts almost immediately we don't get to learn much about who our narrator is, or her relationship to other named characters, until Berlin drops the appropriate links which tie the characters and events together without interrupting the trajectory of her story.  Berlin often writes in an abbreviated, urgent syntax, sometimes inserting independent observational clauses that surprise us but increase our interest, and she uses stream of consciousness thoughts on the unfolding action.

Taking a few excerpts from the first two pages of her story, "Emergency Room Notebook, 1977:
You never hear sirens in the emergency room--the drivers turn them off on Webster Street...If it is Code Three, where life is in critical danger, the doctor and nurses wait outside, chatting in anticipation.  Inside, in room 6, the trauma room, is the Code Blue team.  EKG, X-ray technicians respiratory therapists, cardiac nurses.  In most Code Blues, though, the EMT drivers or firemen are too busy to call in.  Piedmont Fire Department never does, and they have the worst.  Rich massive coronaries, matronly phenobarbital suicides, children in swimming pools...

Madame Y is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  She looks dead, actually, her skin translucent blue-white, her exquisitely boned Oriental face serene and ageless.  She wears black slacks and boots, mandarin-collared jackets cut and trimmed in Asia?  France?  The Vatican, maybe--they have the weight of a bishop's cassock--or an X-ray robe.  The piping has been done by hand in rich fuchcias, magentas, oranges.  Her Bentley drives up at nine, driven by a flippant Filipino who chain-smokes Shermans in the parking lot.  Her two sons, tall, in suits made in Hong Kong, escort her from the car to the entrance of radiation therapy...

She is dead now.  Not sure when it happened, on one of my days off.  She always seemed dead anyway, but nicely so, like an illustration or advertisement.

So we're two pages in and we know almost nothing about our narrator but we see lots of activity through her eyes,  and the style of writing and quirky observational detail promise interesting reading ahead.  A writer might learn some useful structuring and elements of style from Berlin.

Monday, November 30, 2015

taking the hatchet to a draft

Writers' conferences can provide good venues for learning from featured speakers and fellow writers which techniques had worked best for them in producing good, publishable fiction.  However, what works well for one writer might not yield good results for another.  Perhaps rules for a sort of terse, active, and staccato delivery suits the range of fictional dreams at work in the mind of one writer, but may be entirely out of synch for the fictional dream flows of another writer.  The point arose when scanning notes I'd taken at several Mendocino Coast Writers Conferences in past years.  We've probably all heard of the need to go over our first drafts, to take out all the flab, exposition, discursive wanderings, and such, to better focus our stories.  A lot of this is absolutely necessary, but the subtractive process might also become destructive of an otherwise beautifully written, fictional dream.   Let's look at an excerpt from a piece by James Joyce, from his short story, The Dead:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window.  It had begun to snow again.  He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight.  The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.  Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland.  It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.  It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.  It lay thickly drafted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.  His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
I've always loved the imagery, the sense of hushed sound, and sense of timelessness in the arc of our lives.  I wondered if the same feeling could be maintained if the more severe draft editing rules were to be followed.  Here are a few typical, random notes taken from lectures given at the conferences by two accomplished writers.

John Lescroart (crime fiction)
Get rid of your 'to be' verbs, like 'when' and 'as.'  Don't use 'thought' to convey a character's thinking.   When reviewing draft, do a search for 'had,' which usually signals some sort of exposition.  Get rid of it, or replace.  Don't use any '-ly' adverbs.

John Dufresne (general fiction)
Eliminate progressive form of syntax; i.e., 'I was brewing coffee.'  Say I brewed coffee.  Don't use adverbs--you just haven't got the right verb yet.
 In the following, I've applied such rules to Joyce's piece as closely as I was able, while trying to maintain his complete thoughts and sentences:

A few taps on the pane made him turn to the window.  It snowed again.  He watched the flakes, silver and dark, fall against the lamplight.  It was time for his journey.  The newspapers had it right: snow all over Ireland.  Snow fell on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, upon the Bog of Allen, and fell on the dark mutinous Shannon waves.  It fell, too, on every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.  It lay in drafted heaps on crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.  His soul swooned at the sound of the snow that fell through the universe and fell, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

I think it lost some of its beauty and whispered softness. There are undoubtedly other ways to edit the piece with the same rules that might yield better versions, but it is hard to imagine anything that could approach Joyce's offering.  So, while I think the lecturers have given useful advice, it need not be considered rigidly in every case.

Friday, October 30, 2015

metaphysics in literary fiction

Celtic celebration of Samhain,
or Halloween, where a door opens
briefly to the other world.
Perhaps one of the most profound mysteries we are confronted with might be simply stated as "why is there something instead of nothing?"  Countless philosophers, theologians, and scientists have addressed this question, some from the seemingly unprovable first cause principle--a prime mover, or God.  Others, most often the scientists, are apt to point out we just are not there yet, but look how far we've already come in understanding our universe.  We can even demonstrate all that exists today, starting from a distant Big Bang event, which happened some 14 billion years ago, and the complete, scientific answer is just around the corner.

Well, since this is a fiction writer's blog we are hesitant to delve too deeply into the philosophical or rhetorical arguments that support either camp.  However,  might we sometimes ponder about what view of God's existence was held by certain characters in our reading?  If the author had had an opportunity to seamlessly integrate a spiritual viewpoint in the fiction, might it have given even greater depth, some flesh and bones, to the character, and the choices he makes in the story?

Some of this thought process springs from the reading of The March, by E. L. Doctorow.  The historical fiction covers the devastating Civil War march through the southern heartland, by General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Sherman's army of about 60,000 Union soldiers carried out a scorched earth campaign through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, as the war neared a close and a collapse of the Confederacy.  Like many, if not most, soldiers in either army, it seems safe to assume from writings of that era that the existential view of the combatants was Christian, fundamental Protestantism.  However, most of the officers of that conflict were trained at West Point Academy, which would have had a tradition from the Founding Fathers of the U.S. for a belief in God, but not necessarily in a dogma of any established religion.  And so the concepts of sin, resurrection, and eternal life in heaven, may not have been the uniform view of officers from the Academy.  It was rewarding to read the following, given as internal dialogue of Gen. Sherman before the battle of Savannah:
But these troops, too, who have battled and eaten and drunk and fallen asleep with some justifiable self-satisfaction: what is their imagination of death who can lie down with it?  They are no more appreciative of its meaning than I...

In this war among the states, why should the reason for the fighting count for anything?  For if death doesn't matter, why should life matter?
But of course I can't believe this or I will lose my mind.  Willie, my son Willie, oh my son, my son, shall I say his life didn't matter to me?  And the thought of his body lying in its grave terrifies me no less to think he is not imprisoned in his dreams as he is in his coffin.  It is insupportable, in any event.
It is in fear of my own death, whatever it is, that I would wrest immortality from the killing war I wage.  I would live forever down the generations.
And so the world in its beliefs snaps back into place.  Yes.  There is now Savannah to see to.  I will invest it and call for its surrender.  I have a cause.  I have a command.  And what I do I do well.  And, God help me, but I am thrilled to be praised by my peers and revered by my countrymen.  There are men and nations, there is right and wrong.  There is this Union.  And it must not fall.
Sherman drank off his wine and flung the cup over the entrenchment.  He lurched to his feet and peered every which way in the moonlight.  But where is my drummer boy? he said.
 And where else might a writer also go to study a moving portrayal of the metaphysical views of a major literary character in American literature: perhaps Moby Dick, by Herman Melville:

"What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea! Look! see yon Albicore! who put it into him to chase and fang that flying-fish? Where do murderers go, man! Who's to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness; as last year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swaths—Starbuck!"
But blanched to a corpse's hue with despair, the Mate had stolen away.
Ahab, too, is of an earlier era when fundamental Protestantism was the rule of the land, though his First Mate, Starbuck, finds Ahab to be of a frighteningly blasphemous nature.  Note the ornate dialect, almost as if reading from the King James bible, and which makes the passage doubly dramatic.

So far, the discussion relates only to how a central character struggles to express some understanding of a God-based meaning of life, usually falling somewhere within the tenets of written Scriptures of three major monotheistic religions, and on reflections of the character's own life experiences.  A big hurdle is that, however inspired the Scriptures may have been, they were written about two thousand years ago and by men of uncertain erudition.  Since then, vast amounts of human learning and experience has occurred, but religious dogma, once established, changes only at glacial speed.  It might be refreshing to have a few characters express new visions of what a God-based vision of life is for them, where some rational account is taken of the exponential growth of experience and knowledge gained in that two millenniums.

The strange perplexities of quantum mechanics comes to mind as a potential backdrop for new, innovative fiction.  A recent NY Times article discusses ongoing confirmations for a proof of entanglement theory in subatomic physics.  In essence, subatomic particles, like electrons and photons, have an infinite but measurable range of properties, such as velocity, location, and spin.  However, as soon as a measurement is made of a property in one particle of any entangled pair,  the entire range of potential properties collapses into finite, correlated values in each of the particles.  Experiments demonstrate that this happens no matter the distance  introduced between the particles, presumably happening for a distance even  to the far side of our universe.  Einstein did not like the idea, and he and other major scientists fought it.  There was 'the finger of God' aspect in it for them.  Nevertheless, the theoretical underpinnings and the experimental data have continued to hold up through today.

What new kind of characterization of God might this prompt in literary fiction writing?  Perhaps it might lead to concepts far more sophisticated than the anthropomorphic characterization we presently are constrained with in our stories.  

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