Ideas For Novels in 2007
From Dostoyevsky and Balzac, unlike Charles Dickens work, we see the narrative verve of the plays stripped down to, in Balzac, pure plotting on the scale of Iago himself; and, in Dostoyevsky, the pure psychologism of Hamlet. Dostoyevsky's protagonists live closer to the edge of survival, skepticism and spiritual death than Shakespeare's, but invariably they reflect the self-awareness so unique to Hamlet himself. Balzac's protagonists, on the other hand, have the same self-will and manipulative brilliance of Iago and Richard the III. Neither emphasises the soft side of Shakespeare's work particularly, so the hard-edged, hard-nosed Russian and Frenchman are more interesting to me as a source of instruction than the Englishman.
I like to daydream of Balzac as Iago and Dostoyevsky as Hamlet - of these characters sort of as emanations of these guys writing personae.
Balzac definitely has some ill-will against his readers at times (a feature he shares with Stephen King's early work); as Balzac works to manipulate the readers into the most complicated embroglio of plotlines imaginable, commonly the book ends with a crash as the plotlines collapse into disaster and tragedy around him. I can imagine Iago like a guardian spirit on Balzac's shoulder while he writes, chuckling at the plot twists.
Dostoyevsky clearly has very Russian concerns with religious faith and doubt, political power and its misuse, and the role of the hero in the context of a disintegrated and dysfunctional family and social structure. In this he is very similar in his central concerns to Koontz, whose central themes could be said to be the various dysfunctions of family, state, and religion.
My main interest at present is eastward: an apprehension of the unity of nature and science forms the essence of Gaia; while the inevitable conflict between technology and spirituality, on the other hand, forms the substance of Pureland, my next novel. These two themes are so important to me, so compelling and fascinating, that I suppose that the traditional notion of the hero for me is really not sufficient to these themes. Shakespeare is not enough. Instead, Gaia shows how the role of hero is in fact an illusion and a presumption in the consistent failures of Allan and Valery and Cutter to win control over nature, and Pureland simply replaced the Western hero with the Eastern version of the hero: the Bodhisattva.
Dean Koontz's biography is instructive in that he began writings science fiction and moved into suspense, then mainstream and literary success, only over many decades of writing. The takeaway lesson here is not, as Dean suggests early on in his career, to write in many genres, at least not for their own sake; but rather to find the form and genre that best suits what is closest to your heart and essential concerns. I do not know what this form or genre will be for myself, but I have a few interesting ideas.
This year I am writing Gaia, Pureland, and a third, a novelization of the life of the musician George Frederick Handel. If the Handel piece is fun and effective I might consider - assuming no such piece is in print already - a novelisation of key moments of Rembradt's life, which I see as a companion story to Handel's in the medium of art.
But the year after I have a few ideas for new directions which I would like to share here.
Firstly, the destructive role of the media in the world at present, and a recent news story have inspired together the concept for a novel. First the news story: a 96 year old woman was repeatedly raped in a nursing home by one of her so-called carers. This shocking story shows a despicable action by a criminal pervert that mars a lady's final years.
But what about the media coverage of these bare facts? The media was as sleazy as it could get away with being about it - which, here in Australia, is not quite as bad as it might be in the US or UK. So what if the case dragged on... and on... and on? What if the story became a media feeding frenzy? What if the poor old lady was beseiged night and day with requests for interview, commentary, and opinion?
And finally, what if the old lady were a woman of great integrity, blessed with the strength to forgive, transcend, and let go of things that would crush an ordinary person? What would she say and do in her healing process after the rapes, and how would she deal with the added trauma of the media wolf pack? This is the seed of my first novel project for 2007.
The second is an enchanting alternative history idea. Have you heard the cliche that the winners write the histories? Well I got wondering one silly day what would happen if that were reversed. What if the losers wrote the history.
Hold on, I thought, what if the losers WON the battles?
So I went through recorded history reversing the victories and giving comeuppance to the losers. And I combined this with an idea I have had for a few years (since I heard an English pop song entitled "Beautiful"): What if the faery realm of Britain was real, and had never left the company of humans, and what if magic were real only in the British Isles and helped them repel the Roman and Norman invaders?
The results, an alternative history complete with travelling celtic magicians, druids and bards, is pretty bizarre. But the project, which I think of as "Prydain" (the old name for the UK) is kind of compelling to me precisely because it is so weird and humorous. Ideally such a story would trigger a kind of meltdown in the readers' mind between the arbitrary perceptual categories of winning and losing, creating the way for a clear and humorous view of history as the simply unfolding of potential from unmanifest to manifest, nothing more or less. I also hope it might help clear away some historical baggege in my own mind I suppose.
The third idea I have for a novel is also a bit strange. I feel I might like to write a novel about cancer.
My aims in this are complex and partly beyond consciousness. I just have the sense that in the collective consciousness of humankind the fear of cancer is something that warrants compassionate investigation and loving recontextualization. In the context of science I am interested in clarifying and presenting the current knowledge on the subject. In the context of spirituality, I am a little averse to presenting "cures" and "healings" and "miracles", when I know full well that, in the collective consciousness, there is a great deal of negativity and fear around the topic; and I would like to speak to that directly somehow rather than seem to promise solutions.
Particularly of interest is the emerging marketplace in genetic interventions in cancer treatments. The day is only years or months away when the cancers that afflict the majority of people will have effective cures. As to the rarer cancers, for which there do not exist adequate time or funding to create cures in the immediate future, they too eventually will have cures as the technology speeds up and public interest evokes funding.
We are looking at a time, I guess, when cancer ceases to be a major illness!
That in itself is remarkable and moving, so even being able to portray that would be a great thing.
My understanding is that, aside from cancers of the immune system, marrow and endocrine system, the main condition for the emergence of the disease is cell toxicity. I also believe that persistent negative attitudes and attachments play a role in the emergence of cancers. So examining the role of environmental toxins, on the one hand, and familial toxicity on the other, may be the best way to proceed. And setting it close to the action on the US East Coast would also be the best perhaps.