30 November 2010

Thanksgiving and Beyond

Now that the annual homage to the American bird has passed--and homage to any and all presumptions of historical fact versus convenient fiction and those who would mock it and protest against them--it is time to get down to business.

This is final papers and final exam prep week. Those who return from the holiday festivities are often overwhelmed by the return to what should be natural yet usually is not. Nothing we instructors can do can undo the sloth of previous weeks. Yet we must try to review 14 weeks of instruction in 2 class periods.

Hence, there is so little time to write the really important memos that keep life organized. Nor is it possible at this time to dive into any new writing. And just as the final exams are slipped silently into the lower drawers of many desks on campus, here comes the Christmas thing to again take away our precious writing time!

19 November 2010

Time Flies . . . often with a broken wing

Time. Usually that's enough said. Everybody follows it--grammatically time then happens before we react to it. Many people curse it. Some love it. Only the truly narcissistic among us worship it. Time is measured in the accumulation of gray hairs or loss of hairs--such minute items representing such a mighty entity! Time is measured in wrinkles formed and anti-wrinkle cream purchased. Time is measured by sunrises and sunsets, as the Fiddler on the Roof so blithely intoned. Time is the one constant in a swirling fiction plot.

The Dream Land series has some time-shifting aspects to it. It did not start out that way. Yet our hero, Sebastian Talbot (a.k.a. Set-d'Elous) and his long-lost love, Gina (a.k.a. Queen Jinetta of Fenula) find themselves in different time periods with each adventure. In the second volume, the time traveling goes viral, as they say. Wanting to prevent a war that has already happened, Sebastian/Set returns deliberately at an earlier time--intending merely to spend more years with the love of his life, Ghoupalle wife Zaura-Matousz, then serendipitously encountering the evil Empress Basura-Kanoun as she appears in her innocent youth. The opportunity presents itself and he acts.

In many time-stream tales, the repercussions of "changing history" are profound. The same is true in the Dream Land. At first, everything seems streangely serene, apparently unchanged. Only gradually do the changes present themselves, multiplying and rising to a horrible crescendo that causes our hero to realize that the changes are worse than the original. There are a few twists in time shifting--e.g., can someone who fought in the war still remember it after history was changed to prevent the war? These events lead him to send a team of mercenaries to undo what he has done, with mixed results.

In the Dream Land series, the time travel is accomplished by entering/reentering different tangents, each leading to not only different physical locations but also different temporal "time zones." Marvelous machines are not needed for the transformation. The same conundrums exist, however, regardless of the vehicle.

Time shifting in fiction is necessarily complicated--more so in reality. Even the Author is sometimes confused. Writers typically (or so I've heard) write out far more information than gets into the book. The author needs to understand deeper layers, perpendicular storylines, and unconscious motivations in order to create a compelling, plausible story. That does not mean the reader needs to see all of the bars and braces beneath the facade, of course. The same with time. The Author of the Dream Land series tries desperately to cheat. He has created a detailed timeline across several papers--with many cross-outs and arrows indicating changes in that timeline. Going through the manuscript as editor, the time shifting becomes even more problematic: the Author wishes readers to be able to follow the story yet does not want to hit readers over their heads with a calendar on every page. Appropriate time cues are thus given in characters' dialog, the expository passages, and, if absolutely impossible to avoid, as numerals denoting years.

The rebellion, revolution, annexation, and wars occur between the Ghoupalle years 1481 and 1556. Soreg College students Basura-Kanoun and Diert-Gangus marry in 1548, but Set-d'Elous arrives to intervene. After acting, Set returns to 1570 to wait for Gina, who is supposed to be passing through town in 1574. The mercenaries, however, must go to 1457 to stop Set. One scene in Dream Land II "recalls" an adventure he undertakes in 1602, spoken as though it has already passed. Imagine: "I remember, on this night in 1493, that trip I took in 1650," and so on.

And so it goes. I am continually engaged in the counting and recounting of years in the manuscripts. The only thing more tricky, more disconcerting, more potentially dangerous, I suspect, would be duplicating the actual time shifting that these fictional characters do so easily!

04 November 2010

Political Questions

Given the mid-term elections a couple of days ago, readers might expect a rant about politics on this blog. However, because this blog is about the Dream Land series, I cannot comment on American politics. (I may have nothing of value to say, anyway, though I tend to lean conservative in many issues and consider myself a moderate overall.)

On Ghoupallesz, in the dominant Ghoupalle society, the kingdom of Sekuate has a monarchy with a parlement that represents the people. The parlement is divided between a house for those elected by the citizens of each district and a house for those appointed by the Mexas/king. It is an imperfect system, naturally, which is why some young college graduates felt compelled to start a revolution. Once the Gangus "Council of Five" gained power, the system because closer to the communist ideal in post-revolution Russia, with some empirical ambitiousness of Napoleonic France thrown in. There is no "natural" view of democracy on Ghoupallesz because, like many societies of similar sophistication, they have the assumption that order needs to be maintained for the common good.

Other societies on the planet follow generally authoritarian regimes. The only theocracy, perhaps strangely, is that of the Zetin, whose warrior society (loosely based on Klingon culture from the Star Trek series) is nevertheless formed around spiritual rituals and traditions. There are many references to ancient wisemen, prophets, and priests. The head of the government is the high priest. Other offices are filled by those who have been approved by the priests. Even military ranks equate to theocratic ranks.

The Roue culture is tribal and perhaps the closest to a democratic system on the planet, yet when they act in the society of Aivana, for example, they follow the monarchy system imposed by Sekuate. Of course, we also understand that the foreign sovereigns in Aivana (Tammy and Jason) enjoy the priveledge of rank that a monarchy brings, yet uneasy rests the crown when the people become restless and unsatisfied! This conflict erupts in violence at the end of the second volume of the Dream Land series.

As we see, simply locating on another planet will not introduce weird new governing systems. Humans everywhere will strive for similar guarantees of the freedom to exercise their own personal agency. Small groups join together for mutual support, sharing values and customs, then join with other larger groups which likewise assert common goals and manners. Those coming to reside among such groups are expected to adapt to the majority. Shared governance is then based on shared goals and traditions; outsiders who do not typically share those have no say in the laws. This follows a natural pattern of development from primitive tribal units to small city-states. Once the entity grows large enough to include people who are not of the same culture, traditions, or views, more pressure is required to maintain order and preserve homogeneity over diversity. The natural trend is to maintain similarity rather than invite diversity. This is the pattern seen on Ghoupallesz. One exception that is described is the conflict between the ruling Ghoupalle people and the minority Danid people, which is highlighted in the second volume of the Dream Land series.

03 November 2010

Map of Sekuate (circa 1481)

This map covers the majority of the empire of Sekuate, divided into northern and southern states. The angle is a bit skewed for purposes of fitting it onto the paper upon which it was drawn and later scanned, so the direction of true north is slanted to the right (following the grid lines). Near the top left corner is the city of Selaue. Down along the coast is the large metropolis of Seas. South of Seas are the two small nations of Forivor and Ere (with the marshes). The large political unit south of the marshes is the southern part of Sekuate, wherein lies Lyas. South of this region is Aivana, the site of much action in the second volume of the Dream Land series.

You can click on the map to enlarge it for closer viewing.

Map of Gotanka (Northern Zissekap)

This is a portion of the larger map, constructed by the author, of locations important in the Dream Land series. The "beak" shaped peninsula to the left and the land extending from it across to the right are collectively called Gotanka. It is also the northern region of the continent of Zissekap. Much of the action occurs in the city of Selaue, which is south along the coast from the "eagle's beak".

You can click on the map to enlarge it for closer viewing.