Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Slowly Ripening Apples

As the days grow golden and the nights deepen, many things are quietly fermenting in the back of my mind. I’m thinking of autumnal cultures, such as Vulcans and Elves; I’m thinking of language as a uniter and a divider; I’m thinking of the travails of stem cell research.

The most urgently bubbling vat is a long-suspended story close to my heart. Those who watched me create the Embers/Spider Silk universe have seen an early draft of its beginning. For those who read Planetfall, its hero — and I use the male form on purpose — is the nameless first-person narrator in Night Whispers, the last section of that story.

When I write about that world I live in it: it fills my head, it haunts my dreams. So all else will have to wait, in the cricket-filled hush of early fall, until The Wind Harp sings.

Image: Rest at Journey’s End by Heather D. Oliver, depicting the end of Night Whispers.

8 Responses to “Slowly Ripening Apples”

  1. Asakiyume says:

    Of course the elves are an autumnal culture, but I had never thought of expressing it that way: perfect. They know they are; they’re moving west. But do societies here on earth know that? I guess sometimes they do: they think, “We’re nothing like we once were.”

    I know what you mean about the story world filling your head. I’ve sometimes felt possessed by a character. I miss it when they leave.

  2. Athena says:

    I think most societies sense when their high moment has passed — but few can take it gracefully and continue diminished but true to themselves (to paraphrase Galadriel).

    I think that the Spider Silk universe will be my permanent abode for SF writing. It’s very large and has six distinct cultures. This creates a very large playing ground. There’s an additional reason why these characters never leave me: Heather and Kathryn’s drawings and paintings of them fill the walls of my hallway.

  3. Caliban says:

    We’re all looking forward to a new story!

  4. Athena says:

    Thank you! It has been too long — I hope I haven’t lost the storyteller’s voice.

  5. Caliban says:

    Slightly relevant is this interview with the auteur du jour, Jonathan Franzen. He comes across as actually quite human and struggling with the same issues all writers do.

  6. Athena says:

    After reading the interview, I wonder how Franzen (or anyone producing novels at this rate) survived — unless he has inherited wealth to burn. I read Ruth Franklin’s review of his latest book at The New Republic, and it sounds like another case of the emperor’s new clothes. Not as abysmal as The da Vinci Code, but not The Great American Novel either.

  7. Caliban says:

    Yes, I wondered about how he made a living, too, although certainly from the last two books he probably makes enough to live comfortably now.

    I have no more desire to read Franzen than I do Henry James; I suppose one ought to read, or want to read, such novels. It’s not that I think either is a bad writer. And one is never going to find a novel, no matter how good, without its detractors, and the bigger the ambition of the novel the easier for a detractor to find a target. Consider some of the claimants to the title Great American Novel– Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye–none are free from criticism.

    But the book aside, I though it interesting that Franzen struggled with the same self-doubt and long dry periods that many writers struggle with. That’s what I took away from the interview, aside from the question of how he financed his day-to-day living.

  8. Athena says:

    I concur — it’s good to be reminded that everyone has those agonizing dry spells. However, one reason why some people don’t write much (you and I, for example) is that we have full-time day jobs. Franzen does not seem to have labored under this constraint.

    You’re also right about disagreements over Great American Novels. However, the blow-by-blow account in TNR made me as certain as you that I don’t want to read Freedom at all. It sounds like warmed-over Updike or Roth. I started Franzen’s Corrections and never got past the first few pages (same for The da Vinci Code, which is why I used it as a comparison). Also, although he publicly decries the lionization of white male authors, his statement about readership during the Oprah Winfrey flap indicates that he’s either a misogynist and/or has a tin ear. I got a whiff of both in The Corrections, and my impressions are echoed in the TNR review.