Gimme Fiction!!


(Douglas Duff) #1

Don’t want to distract you for too long or get all literary here (which may lead us into another void)…just a friendly Delillo recommended starting point.
I need some fiction in my life right now…I want to tackle Underworld in the near future (my personal favorite author David Mitchell’s Number9Dream was given the Underworld comparison in a back cover praise blurb)…but, y’know, the heft thing is deterring me for now. White Noise ? Point Omega ? Zero K ? All are awaiting me on my library check-out shelf… what mustard seed shall you offer me, oh Cosmos Christ?


Cosmos Café: Plenum Meeting [3/27]
Finding inspiration in, but also being critical of, Teilhard de Chardin's thought
(Marco V Morelli) #2

A man after my own heart!

Point Omega would be a wonderful book to read, and I would love to talk about it; in many ways, it is a meditation upon space and the ‘strong relationship’ that is analogous to Sloterdijk’s Globes. It also deals incredibly with time in the book’s triptych structure, where the middle content, which takes place in the desert, is bracketed by urban vignettes focused on a strange film art installation called ‘24-Hour Psycho. ‘

I would also recommend White Noise—I love this book—but it is also a fine personal read, and may not be needful of a public event.

It is on my bucket list for sure to read Underworld. I had started it back in 2014, then got ‘sidetracked’ by War and Peace, which I believe was worth it—but I certainly would want to read Underworld in a group with anyone passionate enough to do so! I have just been waiting for the time…

I’m glad you messaged me because I had been thinking of proposing that we work some fiction into our shchedule. I had thought of suggesting a monthly science fiction night for the year, where each month would be dedicated to a relatively short (< 300 pages) book from the among the classics and cult gems. For example, I would like to read VALIS, by Philip K. Dick. I’d like to re-read The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin. I believe something by Octavia Butler, and perhaps Samuel Delany, should be on the menu. I’m sure others would make great suggestions as well. (Zero K would also be an interesting ‘sci-fi’ read. I didn’t quite know what to make of it, but wouldn’t mind bouncing some ideas around.)

I was thinking we might alternate, every other couple weeks, betweeen philosophy and fiction, and then dedicate the remaining weeks of the month to poetry and maybe a writing workshop or open mic type night. However, I have grown to be wary of my master plans! My eyes can often be bigger than my stomach when it comes to reading commitments. But, I am encouraged by your enthusiasm. What do you feel most drawn to?


(Douglas Duff) #3

As one who has gone from zero—>infinity in less than a year, I am beginning to be a master at menu drooling as well…and this is great of course. Taking on another reading group would be nice and manageable, but who could attend.? You John and I seem to have most weeknights available; I know Geoffrey is an avid Sci-fi fan …just getting at, who could attend? Who would attend?

It seems, at least upon this site, you have things under control. Adding four new groups (fiction, poetry, open-mic, writing) or four new meetings would be a challenge. Maybe start with two ideas: the fiction one would fill a void that is missing…it is also how this project began, as a fiction reading group (if I read the archives correctly); this may invite old friends to return. Setting up a second slot for the cafe to entice others seems achievable (have the early one for select readings as we have been doing; have a later one for poetry, writing etc.)… I personally love the Cafes. I also love your free jazz rantings and even the interrupted jazz session with you and Ed, the unexpectedness of it, the vulnerability was quite entertaining and enlightening. I wouldn’t mind seeing something completely unplanned with guidelines stating that it is intended towards creativity; spontaneity.


(Marco V Morelli) #4

This is a fallacy! I definitely DON’T have things under control. There’s a lot I feel could happen, manifest, and be supported that’s just waiting for a ripening of engagement.

I think that with something like a monthly fiction group we could really open up some creative, spontaneous directions to go in. Meanwhile, @ZacharyFeder is down for a writing group. I would love that because it relates directly to the purpose of all this, for me. I want to write glorious 7-dimensional poetry.

I definitely could use help—but I’m also aware that I need better define the help that’s needed; roles, functions, objectives, etc. These could be set within the symbiopoetic meta-narrative.

We should add Haruki Murakami to the list, too!


(Douglas Duff) #5

My mind just let out a “hell yeah!” That doesn’t happen much! I’ve read all of his stuff, including non-fictional memoir he wrote…it’s been a few years…might as well begin with the lengthiest of the bunch _The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles _ …oh forgot about 1Q84.(…has it really been 7 years since that came out?!). If you haven’t read David Mitchell, then I know you will need to check him out soon enough after referencing Murakami and loving Delillo.


(Marco V Morelli) #6

Perphaps we should make this thread public, @Douggins? Johnny has an author to add to the list, and I bet others would toss in a few authors and titles as well. Good to have all the suggestions in one place, so our brains don’t explode!


(Douglas Duff) #7

A chapter away from finishing this little gem…I think I like this guy, and this particular one, as you say, ties in with our discussions here.

Post-reading post: space and deep, deep time…becoming stone. A book that asks to be examined: short, concise, loosely cryptic, hints of missed threads that would be woven with a re-read.
…or easily forgotten/misunderstood: vast space, nearly nothingness characters; descent silence.

I think we are ready for fiction. The answer is yes.


(Marco V Morelli) #8

(Geoffrey Edwards) #9

Count me in. Even though I have a full plate for reading! I have just started with a reading group here in Quebec City focused on religion and science fiction… we are reading (in my case rereading) Walter Miller’s « A Canticle for Leibowitz » to begin with. In my own reading, I am making my way through Ada Palmer’s « Too Like the Lightning », an extraordinarily well written book that plays around with gender in remarkable ways. I don’t know « Point Omega » or « Underworld », but I’m game for making a stab at these. « Left Hand of Darkness » is on my reread list - I just reread « A Wizard of Eathsea ». Delany is always on my list, both for rereading or for one of the few books I missed, and I also love Octavia Butler. So game on!


(Douglas Duff) #10

As one with no Le Guin experience, wouldn’t mind being introduced to her work by the respectable Co-op clan.
—-
Point Omega is a short read and may be a good starting “point” for us busy souls.


(Douglas Duff) #11

I’ve been having a bit of non-fiction Globular type depression. Literally, I am surrounded in an upright crate-like (singular sarde-) compactment formed by book stacks of book recommendations and alternal-language thought formations.

Can we do Left Hand of Darkness (or group survey choice of a few of the above mentioned) when we find a fitting monthly/weekly/3-day succession time designation?

Alterno-suggestion:

If Geoffrey @Geoffrey_Edwards willing and the time is right, could we perhaps start with (more of) the Ido Compendium…?

A bold statement maybe, borderline demanding, yet never hurts to check :wink:


(Geoffrey Edwards) #12

I would be honored, @Douggins. I am just trying to work out logistics. I am finishing up a final revision of Plenum : The First Book of Deo , although I have to admit this has more the character of « tinkering » than « rewriting », and one can tinker forever, so it’s probably time to stop. I was planning to find a professional editor to help me get the book into shape for publishing. The book is 50K words, so a long novella if you like. Several possibilities present themselves :
a) I email you each the pdf file and we organize the readings around a non public version of the text ;
b) I post the text under a protected, non public format, such as our own Writer’s Underground channel ;
c) I publish the text as is under MetaPsychosis (assuming people are happy with this), leaving open the possibility of revising the text at a later date ;
d) I submit the text formally to Metapsychosis, and we use the reading as a « process » for revision, and I submit the results to an editor, then we publish under Metapsychosis.

(a) and (b) are similar, as are (c ) and (d). Depending on what is possible via Metapsychosis, I favor (a), possibly (b), or (d). I have a penchant for (d) though. I want my text to be the « best possible » before it goes to the public, hence the interest in a professional level edit.

Note that I was hoping to monetize the text, not offer it for free, and I’m not sure how Marco @madrush is planning on handling that issue for Metapsychosis. I don’t expect to make much off it, but if I could at least recover the costs of editing, commissioning the cover art (already under way), book layout and publishing, I’d be happy. With 19 manuscripts in the works, and publishing costs estimated at about 5000$ each, that’s a lot of dough to come up with if costs are not recovered. It would also be nice to eventually supplement my pension, but I am expecting this will only happen later on, as more of the series gets published and each book’s market starts to reinforce the others - assuming they are appreciated, of course.

Note also that, if you agreed, I could use comments made about the text as part of the promotional material I will need to develop. Perhaps it would be best to check each quotation individually with its author just to be sure that no one feels uneasy with the process.


(Marco V Morelli) #13

Let’s split out this topic—it’s a good one. I would love to explore @Geoffrey_Edwards’ publication options, and see what we can develop for the Playbook out of it. Shall I create a new topic in the E-Zone?

Regarding a reading group for fiction—since Geoffrey might still be tinkering with his own—how about we pick an open Thursday night (same place, same time as Spheres), say in a month, to talk about a published work?

My feeling about The Left Hand of Darkness is that, with its theme of the bitter cold on an alien planet, it may not go with the change in season and coming of spring, at this time. Personally, I feel I am emerging out of a deep, dark inner coldness (happens every winter) and seeking lighter, warmer literary climes, as iridescent flowers bloom.

Elsewhere, @Dona (who participated in some of our Bubbles conversations) has suggested the novel Soul Mountain by Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian. I picked up a copy from the library and started, and feel quite drawn in after a few pages.

Chapter 1

The old bus is a city reject. After shaking in it for twelve hours on the potholed highway since early morning, you arrive in this mountain county town in the South.

In the bus station, which is littered with ice-block wrappers and sugar cane scraps, you stand with your backpack and a bag and look around for a while. People are getting off the bus or walking past, men humping sacks and women carrying babies. A crowd of youths, unhampered by sacks or baskets, have their hands free. They take sunflower seeds out of their pockets, toss them one at a time into their mouths and spit out the shells. With a loud crack the kernels are expertly eaten. To be leisurely and carefree is endemic to the place.

They are locals and life has made them like this, they have been here for many generations and you wouldn’t need to go looking anywhere else for them. The earliest to leave the place travelled by river in black canopy boats and overland in hired carts, or by foot if they didn’t have the money. Of course at that time there were no buses and no bus stations. Nowadays, as long as they are still able to travel, they flock back home, even from the other side of the Pacific, arriving in cars or big air-conditioned coaches. The rich, the famous and the nothing in particular all hurry back because they are getting old. After all, who doesn’t love the home of their ancestors? They don’t intend to stay so they walk around looking relaxed, talking and laughing loudly, and effusing fondness and affection for the place.

When friends meet they don’t just give a nod or a handshake in the meaningless ritual of city people, but rather they shout the person’s name or thump him on the back. Hugging is also common, but not for women. By the cement trough where the buses are washed, two young women hold hands as they chat. The women here have lovely voices and you can’t help taking a second look. The one with her back to you is wearing an indigo-print headscarf. This type of scarf, and how it’s tied, dates back many generations but is seldom seen these days. You find yourself walking towards them. The scarf is knotted under her chin and the two ends point up. She has a beautiful face. Her features are delicate, so is her slim body.

You pass close by them. They have been holding hands all this time, both have red coarse hands and strong fingers. Both are probably recent brides back seeing relatives and friends, or visiting parents. Here, the word xifu means one’s own daughter-in-law and using it like rustic Northerners to refer to any young married woman will immediately incur angry abuse. On the other hand, a married woman calls her own husband laogong, yet your laogong and my laogong are both used. People here speak with a unique intonation even though they are descendants of the same legendary emperor and are of the same culture and race.

You can’t explain why you’re here. It happened that you were on a train and this person mentioned a place called Lingshan. He was sitting opposite and your cup was next to his. As the train moved, the lids on the cups clattered against one another. If the lids kept on clattering or clattered and then stopped, that would have been the end of it. However, whenever you and he were about to separate the cups, the clattering would stop, and as soon as you and he looked away the clattering would start again. He and you reached out, but again the clattering stopped. The two of you laughed at the same instant, put the cups well apart, and started a conversation. You asked him where he was going.

“Lingshan.”

“What?”

“Lingshan, ling meaning spirit or soul, and shan meaning mountain.”

You’d been to lots of places, visited lots of famous mountains, but had never heard of this place.

Your friend opposite had closed his eyes and was dozing. Like anyone else, you couldn’t help being curious and naturally wanted to know which famous places you’d missed on your travels. Also, you liked doing things properly and it was annoying that there was a place you’ve never even heard of You asked him about the location of Lingshan.

“At the source of the You River,” he said, opening his eyes.

You didn’t know this You River either, but was embarrassed about asking and gave an ambiguous nod which could have meant either “I see, thanks” or “Oh, I know the place”. This satisfied your desire for superiority, but not your curiosity. After a while you asked how to get there and the route up the mountain.

“Take the train to Wuyizhen, then go upstream by boat on the You River.”

“What’s there? Scenery? Temples? Historic sites?” you asked, trying to be casual.

“It’s all virgin wilderness.”

“Ancient forests?”

“Of course, but not just ancient forests.”

“What about Wild Men?” you said, joking.

He laughed without any sarcasm, and didn’t seem to be making fun of himself which intrigued you even more. You had to find out more about him.

“Are you an ecologist? A biologist? An anthropologist? An archaeologist?”

He shook his head each time then said, “I’m more interested in living people.”

“So you’re doing research on folk customs? You’re a sociologist? An ethnographer? An ethnologist? A journalist, perhaps? An adventurer?”

“I’m an amateur in all of these.”

The two of you started laughing.

“I’m an expert amateur in all of these!”

The laughing made you and him cheerful. He lit a cigarette and couldn’t stop talking as he told you about the wonders of Lingshan.


I also feel there might be a relation between Lingshan and Cosmos Café: Gebser’s “Grammatical Mirror” [3/13], for reasons we could discuss soon. It would also be nice to read a text rooted in China (written in the author’s exile, however), and also to read with Dona and perhaps a few other new readers.

Nova by Samuel Delany might also be a good choice, as it would accentuate & deepen the afrofuturist theme of @ZacharyFeder’s talk with Mythos Collective on Black Panther. At the center of the book is the quest for a rare, super-element called Illyrion (sort of like Vibranium.) The novel is short but dense with brilliant writing and world-building. I feel it relates to our “Syndicate of Inception” as well.

Of course, we can take a poll, too! We probably need a charter for the Readers Underground, or some templates for deciding how we decide these things. So far, I’ve been happy to go with instinct and inspiration—but I hope to enable others to initiate and organize things, too.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #14

You are so right, @madrush. After writing this up, I got off my a** and submitted a brief to Reedsy to solicit an editor. The process of editing will likely take a couple of months - I am going to work through what they call a “Developmental Edit”, that is, an edit in depth. It would be better to read the version post-edit than pre-edit, I’m pretty certain.

This is a great idea. I bought La Montagne de l’âme when it first came out, and read the first few chapters, which I loved. But then I got sidetracked, as one does, and never followed through on the rest. I would love to read it in a group. And I agree with you about the The Left Hand of Darkness, maybe it’s not the right time for it.

Nova is great also - I read it so long ago I can barely remember it, so it would be great to refresh my mind. Delany writes in a highly poetic manner, and usually includes snippets of poetry as well, and I do feel that his writing would help us think through the relationship between poetry and prose, whether fictional prose or non-fiction prose.

Another SF writer who is also highly poetic, is Cordwainer Smith - his themes are resistance to authoritarianism in diverse forms. I haven’t seen his name come up here, so I thought I would mention it. Much of Smith’s writing is in short story format - there are novels, and they are worth reading, but his short stories offer an interesting entry point into his writing. It might be fun at some time to read one of his short stories, for example, “The Dead Lady of Clown Town”.


(Douglas Duff) #15

Looking like a bright SF read is in order. All suggestions thus far seem appetizing. There is potential for a Chi-Sci-Fi book club with Soul Mountain and the Rememberance of Earth’s Past series by Liu Cixin that I have been back-burning for a few years now. We (at least the three or four showing interest here, now) would love to dig deeper into the afrofuturism theme, I would assume.

I personally have not read any of these proposed novels/stories and am up for any of the selections. Wondering if others (though @achronon would likely have temporal issues with a Mountain time Thursday night, @patanswer and @johnnydavis54 might have some input). I can set-up a poll here tomorrow and see if others chime in.

Also, we could think about a fictional account that may mesh well with Aurobindo. I am sure if we search deep enough, we would find a SF writer that has Aurobindo as a cameo character, astrally preventing cosmic wars.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #16

As luck would have it, Cordwainer Smith wrote a story called “The Fife of Bodhidharma” (see the pdf file here). It is not about Aurobindo, but it is maybe close in an odd and interesting way. The story is only 8 pages, it will take only a few minutes to read. It is not in Smith"s main future history, but will give you a flavour of his writing style.


(Douglas Duff) #17

This one is quite a fun morsel…clocked it at 20 minutes. There are aspects in this story of what I have termed “forced enlightenment” and also hints that resonate with our next Globes reading on messengers and telecommunication, which I began tonight also. Thanks Geoffrey.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #18

Let’s do this @madrush… The fact that I’ve submitted my story for editing does not stop us from going forward to talk about possible publication venues. I had initially thought about Metapsychosis for the non-fiction book I told you about, Marco. I hadn’t really considered Metapsychosis for my fiction, but in theory, there is no reason not to at least explore the possibilities. And given that we do have a writers group going on the site now, maybe this will open up possibilities for other members. If one of the perks of being a member of the Cosmos Coop is a kind of privileged access to a process for publishing under the imprimatur of, is it, Untimely Books…? That could represent a significant pull to attract new members.


(Zachary Feder) #19

I’d love to read your work too @Geoffrey_Edwards. Nice prodding @Douggins

And do let me know what you all decide on in terms of fiction. I’d love to try and catch one of these waves one of these days as I missed Infinite Jest completely, then Gebser by a whisker then finally started paddling with the Caravan but then never made it to the shore of one of the calls.

Incidentally I did just finish Giovanni’s Room by James Bladwin and was really taken by his restraint and vulnerable beauty.

And if anyone is ever interested in beautifully dramatized, and insightful tales of psychotherapy no one does it better that Irvin Yalom.


(john davis) #20

Giovanni’s Room saved my life. I read that novel my first year of college when lost in the labyrinth. Baldwin put on the map, the lives of persons who we had never been mapped before. Baldwin liberates and in other novels he continues to evolve out of a new kind of Eros, and a vision of who we were, who we might become. It is not about me, it is about We.

I want to express a concern. I want us to get clear about the difference between process and product. Writing that is trying to get published is very different writing from that which is therapeutic or visionary. The process becomes the focus and the product is on the back burner.

Too much product orientation, I have noticed, reduces the experimental and open focus. Soon, there is an increase in what can be published, rather than what is honest and true. And a boring sameness creeps in. Competition for market share shapes much of current fiction, why it is probably along with our shrinking attention spans, an art form in decline. Competitive performances, like poetry slams, get very predictable.

So it helps to know when you are sharing in a process rather than making an assessment about what will sell, and how to pitch it. These are subtle differences but I want to preserve the very fragile network of writing that is at the edge, rather than writing that makes for a splash or is seeking some kind of reward beyond the actual writing.

Certainly we can be critics who evaluate but that is very different from nurturing the authentic voice, which is usually hiding due to its not being listened to.

Baldwin was told not to publish Giovanni’s Room. It was not marketable, it would ruin his career. He was black and he wrote a novel without a black character in it. Also the characters were dealing with same sex relationships, secrets and lies, murder, etc, very unsavory stuff. Baldwin, when he was told his career would be ruined said he didn’t care. He took the risk. It became an international best seller.

I like to think of the writing group as a lab to develop and experiment with the uncanny and the weird stuff. Write, not about what you know, but about what obsesses you.

The reading circles, on the other hand, are a place for honing critical skills, and working with the finished product. We can assess the work, evaluate it. This is not what we are doing when we are creating imaginal worlds, which is a high risk move, not to be confused with paying the rent or being popular.

Its not my book your holding, its my heart. And there may be someone ready to jump off a bridge. As Stanislavsky asked," Do you love the art in your self, or your self in the art?"

Vanity saith the preacher, all is vanity, and I am in danger of becoming a windy Jeremiah. Baldwin spoke eloquently about his early fame as child preacher. He broke through the consensus trance, however, and found his real voice and it still rings true. He moves mountains!