To see the world…
This novel conglomerates and focuses several fascinations of mine:
Multi-dimensionality: Our physical lives unfold linearly through time and space (like pages in a paper book to be read from front to back). Birth, life, death. Preface, chapters, epilogue. But, our minds think in multiple dimensions (like applications on a computer or posts on a website, to be accessed at random). Present experience, past memories, future aspirations. Reality, perception, imagination. The lines blur.
Truth in the eyes of the writer and reader: All writing is biased because it is written from one individual’s perspective and read from another’s. What experiences did the writer choose to include, to omit, to spin? How did the reader choose to interpret them, based on their own experiences? Autobiographical fiction; fictional autobiography. In life, as in a work of fiction, where does reality end and the story begin?
Intertextuality: Any written work reflects and culminates every story, every word, the writer has ever read. We cannot separate our own experiences from those we have experienced through the words and images of others. Subtle references to other works of literature or popular culture add layers of meaning.
The Internet as a new multimodal compositional medium: As a compositional medium, a website enables the addition of images, music and video to enhance the reader’s experience. It also allows for the inclusion of contextual details in an ever-expanding web of information.
The novel, and this website, explores these concepts.
The sub-title of this post “To see the world…” references the poem “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake, which speaks to multi-dimensionality. It begins:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
The Internet as a New Multimodal Compositional Medium
In 1998, as a culmination to earning a Master’s Degree in “English, Language & Professional Writing” from the University of Waterloo, I completed an online essay entitled “New Medium, New World: A Discussion of the Internet as a New Compositional Medium”. (I found it in an old backup file, and uploaded it here. It still works: the beauty of static html.)
In the essay, I forecast that “The Internet promises to revolutionize document storage and access. And hypertext, the kind of text within online documents, promises to revolutionize the way we write and read them.” I envisioned entire libraries of fully searchable electronic documents existing “unobtrusively in a small server room in a university building” to be read using an electronic “slate”. The essay discussed the advent of self-publishing and serial-publishing.
This novel website (pun intended) tests my vision for the Internet as a new compositional medium in several ways:
- Departure from Linearity—a web, not a Line: A book unfolds linearly from chapter to chapter, page to page; a website expands outwardly link by link, creating a web of content.
- Self-Publishing—no authoritarian overseer: In traditional publishing, an authoritative publisher judges a literary work, dictates changes, and deems it worthy of publication. Self-publishing removes the overseer and depends on individual readers to judge a work worthy of their time.
- Serial-Publishing—a work in progress: Most novels today are published upon completion, not in serial form as the story progresses. In this forum, quickly must the story unfold to maintain attention?
- Contextuality Revealed—an archive of contextual elements: On the About the Book section of this website, I will write about the process of writing the book as I write it, including research associated with historical details, creating a web of information associated with the novel itself.
- Feedback Welcome—a collaborative environment: The Comments section associated with each post or book segment empowers you, the reader, to become critic, editor, or even contributor.
Stay with me as it unfolds and please use the comments sections to let me know what you think about it!
Write once. Edit repeatedly.
Lance Armstrong’s Motto: Every second counts.
My Motto: Every word counts.
Accuracy—choosing every word carefully and omitting unnecessary embellishment—creates good non-fiction and fiction. Today, enthrall or be deleted. Every word counts.
As part of the protocol surrounding my first full-time job offer out of university, the president of a local high-tech company interviewed me for a technical writing position. He asked me: “What is most important aspect of technical writing?” I answered: “Saying as much as possible in as few words as possible.” He replied pointedly, “No. Accuracy!” I sat silently.
In hindsight, I disagreed. In technical writing, accurate information buried deeply in too many poorly presented words helps no one. Architecting accurate information for optimal ease of use requires understanding and accommodating the user’s needs and preferences. Presentation counts too.
Can a novel, presented in short clips over time like a mini-series, on a website like a blog, in multiple dimensions like one’s thoughts, accommodate and enthrall today’s reader?
Since the writers’ website Medium.com now calculates post length based on average “reading time” rather than “word count”, Lance’s motto also applies: Every second counts.
The book post entitled “Phoenix Slouching” introduces the novel’s first reference to an extraordinary event, occurring in an otherwise mundane existence and places it within the genre of Magic Realism.
From Wikipedia: “Magic realism or magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic (often mundane) environment. Although it is most commonly used as a literary genre, magic realism also applies to film and the visual arts.”
I became fascinated with the genre of magic realism after living in Brazil for a year as an exchange student, in 1990-1991. In university, I completed a course in Latin American Writer’s and delved further into the intricacies of this writing style. Highly politically motivated, modern magic realism often focuses upon the marginalization of various groups, due to race, religion, or gender.
The magic realism took root in the 1940’s – 1950’s in visual arts and then literature—an era that will be explored later in the novel, Life By Fire.
Read a short story example of writing typical to the genre of magic realism in the related post below, entitled “Homecoming”.
For weeks (months, actually, if I dare to admit it), I have been contemplating a bridge for my novel. I need to write a chapter that unites the narrator with Gisa in the 1990’s. Bridges are structurally complicated—a good bridge combines elegance with strength and structural integrity. I believe I have formulated the bridge in my mind, I just need to get it onto paper.
Have you ever constructed a bridge? I constructed a popsicle stick bridge once with surprising ease and success. Grade 10 Physics class. Every year our enthusiastic physics teacher ran a bridge-building contest. The person or team who constructed the popsicle stick bridge, within the regulations, that held the most weight would win a coveted prize (I have no idea of what that prize consisted since I had no aspirations of winning it). As part of our physics class, he required us to participate.
Based on my complete lack of interest in the project, I procrastinated until the day before the deadline. Then, I very unenthusiastically collected my popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue. As I watched TV, I sat cross-legged on our apartment’s parquet wood floor and began to lackadaisically glue together sticks with the goal of accomplishing no more than meeting the bare minimum criteria of producing a bridge…a bridge that I assumed would break when the first brick was carefully placed upon it. I didn’t care. I believed that I was “not good at physics”.
Have you ever completed a task automatically, with unconscious ease, as if on auto-pilot—as if the information is being fed to you rather than formulated by you? Without hesitation, I glued together a bridge—not a jumble of half-hazard sticks but a bridge. A flat, sturdy bridge with geometrically organized cross-crossed supports and popsicle beams. I briefly examined it and then put it aside to dry. Assignment accomplished—I put it out of my mind. Until….
Until I arrived at physics class the next day and observed a number of extraordinarily complex popsicle-stick bridges with ornate trusses and felt ashamed of my own simple, flat bridge. I anticipated embarrassment. But, as the class drew to a close and my bridge had not yet been chosen for the big test, I internally rejoiced at having postponed my shame. Until my teacher approached me and my bridge. He picked it up from the desk behind me and examined it, which was far easier with my simple contraption than most of the other bridges in the room. He looked slightly perplexed. He said, “let’s finish with this one.”
Ugh. Really? When I had almost managed to get through the entire class…. And so, he set my simple bridge across the supporting pillars and the students began carefully loading it with bricks. And bricks. And more bricks. And it didn’t break. More bricks. It didn’t break. Finally, with more bricks than any other bridges had held, it gave way—not because it snapped in half, but because I had neglected to bother to measure it to ensure it was actually long enough! As it bent slightly under the weight of the bricks, it eventually became too short for the expanse between the pillars and one end fell off.
My teacher lamented that it was too short, declaring that if it had been constructed one popsicle-stick-length longer, it would have won the contest. He asked me what I referenced to construct it. I stuttered meekly that I had just looked at a few pictures—I don’t lie well and I imagine he knew it. In reality, I hadn’t looked at a single picture. (Besides, this was pre-Internet—I would have had to go to the library for that.) I just made it. How? I don’t know. Where did that knowledge come from? I don’t know. Was I a bridge engineer in a past life? (You’d think I would have had more propensity and enthusiasm for physics if that were the case.) Had I somehow channeled the spirit of an accomplished engineer eager for the opportunity to build something physical again? Had I tapped into the universal database of knowing that we all have access to but don’t know it? I wonder.
The latest science indicates that what we think far more influences what we observe than what we observe influences what we think. I suspect that extraordinary phenomena like that I experienced building a bridge occur regularly in life but most people simply ignore or even “rewrite” those experiences in their minds in order to fit them into their preconceived notions of the world. Had I had the awareness to consciously analyze my experience and attempt to repeat it, goodness knows what I could have accomplished! But, instead, I simply ignored it, defying analysis completely and subverting the extraordinary experience entirely.
Perhaps I should try building a popsicle-stick bridge again. Perhaps I should consciously attempt to tap into that universal database of knowing on a regular basis. Who knows what’s waiting for me and all of us when we awaken to the infinite possibilities!
Have you ever experienced the sensation that information is being streamed to you through your subconscious? Tell us about it by leaving a comment!