In our last installment of Golden Threads, our heroine and her entourage had escaped her uncle’s clutches and landed safely in 1810 AD, to find the cave full of witches. What adventures await our young sixteenth century witch? How will she adapt as she moves through time? If you’ve been following along, find the next chapter here, or click the Golden Threads link to find earlier chapters.
Why are so many authors drawn to time travel?
You, like me, could probably reel off a list of dozens of books and movies containing some form of time travel. There’s The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells, with its creepy Morlocks, there’s Back to the Future, with the knotty problems caused by meeting one’s parents when they’re your own age, there’s the entire Diana Gabaldon Outlander series, in which people step through a stone circle on the right day of the year and travel backward or forward 200 years, and so on (you can find extensive lists on various internet sites). More recently, there’s Steven King’s novel 11/22/63 about JFK’s murder and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which isn’t strictly time travel, but has some of its aspects. There are comedies, tragedies, social commentaries, adventures, mysteries, love stories, and scary thrillers. What they all have in common is a fascination with other times and places.
These pieces of fiction ask all kinds of questions:
- What was it really like then?
- What will it really be like in the future?
- If you plunk a person or people down in (fill in the blanks) how will they survive?
- Will they or can they change the course of history?
- If someone from another time ends up in our time, how do they fit in?
- How will they react?
- If someone comes from the future, will they be evil? Will they have powers we can’t imagine and overpower us?
- Have people from the future already been here, and, if so, did they affect us (bring medicines, knowledge, etc that we wouldn’t have had)?
I used to lie awake at night and make up stories in which I would go back in time, perhaps as part of a science experiment to gather data, and have all sorts of adventures. I’d pick a time period, perhaps something we’d been studying in school, and imagine going there. Maybe I’d have the right clothes made, and find a little money from the period before going, but I’d always end up in trouble. I’d have to fight with a sword, or I’d come back and organize a rescue operation to save a member of our team who’d been captured, etc. Or I’d fantasize about going to the future, and make up some world where things were really different.
Obviously, the idea of time travel is just one step away from historical or futuristic fiction: instead of just setting something in the past, it adds someone from another time period. But what why do we find it fascinating to imagine ourselves in another time? This fascination isn’t limited to authors. Little kids play games in which they’re Native Americans trying to sneak up on game in the woods, or cowboys battling those Natives, or they’re pirates on the open seas, or grand ladies going to some seventeenth century ball. We like to imagine ourselves in different settings. Perhaps, we’d be better and stronger then than we seem to be now. Perhaps, we could be heroes and prevent a catastrophe or cause one.
I have no answer for the question I’ve raised, only more questions. What do you think? I searched briefly on the internet and found no satisfactory speculation. Maybe it’s fascinating because it’s so very impossible (though physicists keep trying to figure out how to do it, or if it could ever be possible).
- Week 6 – Time Traveling? (xuyan1991.wordpress.com)
I met Keka (aka Cynthia M. Dagnal-Myron) in an online writing course. We were a couple of weeks into the course when her mentor, the film critic, Roger Ebert died. Keka wrote a wonderful tribute, and I not only loved her piece: I discovered her writing. She had me in tears. When she published this collection, I rushed to read it.
However, I couldn’t rush through this book. I savored each very personal essay about growing up black in the Chicago area, starting out at the Chicago Sun Times, living with the Hopi, raising her daughter, going through early retirement, and all her other topics (I can’t possibly leave out the essay on her one date with Arnold, can I?). Although she sticks to her own experiences, she lightly touches on their larger significance, and relates them to contemporary culture. She’s interesting and thoughtful.
Keka was and is a wild woman (she claims that she’s calmed down, but who believes her?) who ‘went for the gusto’ without ever losing sight of who she was down inside. I think that’s one reason her essays are so much fun to read. She also knows how to wrangle words and sentences into beauty. Hers is one of Open Salon’s most popular blogs, and no wonder. I loved this collection.
Because these are blogs, they appear unedited, so there are some (not many) typos and grammatical errors, which she warns the reader about in advance. Towards the end, a couple of the essays rambled a little too much for my taste, but that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of her prose. I can’t wait for Volume 2.
I received a free copy of this book from StoryCartel in exchange for my honest review.
In Chapter nine, almost-witch Laura finally started climbing the web of time and space into the future, with her boyfriend Matthew holding on to her foot, and her little brother David holding onto a witch from the twenty-first century. Laura and David’s evil uncle has escaped his bindings, and is climbing the web in pursuit. Read the next chapter to find out if he catches them: Chapter 10: Discovered . If you haven’t been following along, read the entire novel from the beginning: Golden Threads. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Witches and other creatures in Golden Threads
While, as I’ve talked about in previous posts, I’m doing some internet research on the past and places in Golden Threads, so that the England of the novel resembles the real one, and witches truly were persecuted in the past, the time travel I’m using is invented. Likewise, the creatures in it are only based very lightly on things that I’ve read or heard. I’ve given my witches all kinds of potential powers: time and space travel, cloaking, materializing objects out of thin air, healing, shape-shifting, speaking with plants and animals. You name it, they can do it. Likewise, I’ve taken fables about trolls and fairies to come up with their powers and personalities. The writings of various far-out-there people gave me the idea for aliens: reptilians and wolves. I figured, why not? Let’s have a little fun. Perhaps other creatures will enter the novel as we go along; I don’t know yet.
I have, however, as stated in other posts, left vampires out of the mix. There are heaps of stories and movies these days with vampires, and I don’t want this to be another. I am not interested in creatures who literally suck the blood out of their victims and turn them into more vampires. Instead, I want a more human-scale drama, where the question isn’t “are you a vampire?” or “what will you do about loving a human?” Come along with me and see where this vampire-less world takes us.
All of my creatures so far have human ancestry. What traits are expressed: human or other? How do their genetics affect them? In witches, it’s already clear, human personalities win, and in reptiles they lose. But this isn’t always the case for reptiles. We shall see about fairies, trolls and wolves.
For the curious, here’s a thorough article on witches in history, with lots of references. But why let myself be bound to all these facts?
- Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness **Giveaway and News** (bookwishes.wordpress.com)
When I was a child, we had a collection of Edgar Allan Poe‘s works, which had belonged to my father when he was young. I read those stories over and over, fascinated, by their language and structure, and the horrors described or implied. When I heard that Birgitte Rasine‘s style has been compared to his, I was eager to read this novella. I was not disappointed.
Verse in Arabic, which Rasine says is based upon a true incident, takes us back into Spain in the 1960s. It is a story within a story, since the narrator, an American journalist working for a Spanish paper, is assigned to interview a famous doctor, who was imprisoned for the murder 21 years previously of the daughter of an important family. The setting is Franco’s Spain, with all of its darkness and intrigue. The story begins as the journalist is driven through the city to a mysterious house, where he meets the doctor, and hears his version of events.
Her language, and the style of having a story told by one of the participants, reminds me of that old volume. I loved the way Rasine sets up the mystery, from the unmarked house where the narrator meets the doctor, to the dark corridor he walks down to meet the doctor, and even the out-of place mint tea brought by the housekeeper. Rasine’s language is lush and perfect for the time period. Just read a quote like this
Spain had forged her reputation with the blood of her own sons and daughters, and dragged her honor through the mud of political convenience and moral hypocrisy. And as any persona carrying an excess of her own importance, she was bloated with a blind and incompetent bureaucracy— its clerks and administrators made Don Quixote look like a professor of nuclear physics.
Rasine does a beautiful job of using the doctor’s formal manner of speech to bring us into a time when educated people spoke formally.
The story drew me in as it built, layering one strange fact after another. I read this novella twice. The first time, I felt disappointed by the ending, but now I am not so sure that I need to know everything. Just as Poe left so much to one’s imagination, so Rasine leaves me wanting to read it yet again, to search for the little clues dropped here and there about who the murdered girl was, and what happened to her.
Only two tiny details bothered me a little. At the beginning, she used a narrative device: the journalist says he was too absorbed in his thoughts to notice the scenery as the driver takes him to his destination. But, if he’s so absorbed, how can he describe this scene? And later, the journalists comments that he’s very observant. The other tiny detail is that way too many characters have ‘olive skin.’
I could easily read this over and over, it’s so beautiful and interesting. This story should appeal to anyone over the age of six or seven. I can’ t wait to read more of Birgitte Rasine’s fiction.
I received a free copy of this novella from Storycartel in exchange for my honest opinion and review.
Someone asked me recently why I set Golden Threads in England. My immediate answer was that it seemed like a good choice at the time. There’s more to it, though. I’m American and, although I have been to England and Scotland, why wouldn’t I set my novel somewhere more familiar? Wouldn’t it make sense to set it somewhere I’ve lived?
That’s a great question. Even better, since I’m making up all kinds of things about magic and aliens, why not simply set it on another planet, or make up a country? I had to think about my answer for a good long while. Authors do often set novels in imagined cities/countries, etc. It can make everything a lot easier. You don’t have to get the details correct; in a made-up land the writer’s details are by definition correct. And authors also set novels in places they’ve only visited, or even ones they haven’t. If you don’t know a place very well, then you might have to do a lot of research to get it right. I can’t afford to fly over to England and tool around, but I’m arrogant to believe I can use the internet and google earth to envision enough of the area to write a novel which isn’t terribly place-specific. Anyway, we’re not going to stay in northern England for long.
However, all of this begs the question: why even start there? I had a couple of criteria for my setting. One, it needed to be somewhere witches probably were burned at the stake about 500 years ago. Five hundred years ago, Columbus had barely sailed the ocean blue, and I doubt the people in what became the US were burning witches. It just isn’t consistent with what little is known about their culture. Two, I wanted the cave, so I needed an area where caves would reasonably exist. Three, I didn’t want to deal with a bunch of foreign phrases, and that seems obligatory when setting something in non-English speaking areas. I suspect that I had some subconscious reasons for choosing this land – the crazy mix of people from all over the world that I saw in my travels, for example.
These incredibly gorgeous photographs by Darby Sawchuck show exactly why one can imagine someone hiding out in a cave in a hillside in northern England.
Anyway, here we are, inside a cave in Northumberland. I hope you’re ready for the next installment. Chapter 9: Rest Stops
- Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt (fictionfanblog.wordpress.com)
I picked up Incendiary at Powell’s Books in Portland because I loved Chris Cleave‘s other novel, Little Bee. Our local library didn’t have a copy of Incendiary, so I was really excited to find a used copy.
In Incendiary, like Little Bee, Cleave goes into the mind of a woman. He writes in first person. Both women’s minds are a bit unusual and perhaps not quite sane, and both women experience extreme trauma, which explains much of their insanity.
Incendiary, which won many literary prizes, and which was made into a movie, is written as a lengthy letter from a young mother to Osama Bin Laden. She appears to write the letter as events unfold. Her style is that of a poorly educated woman, who develops into a fairly deep thinker as the story progresses. She starts out as a fairly happily married woman who begins an affair right before her husband and son are blown up at a soccer game. She is home, shagging her new lover while watching the game, when the explosion rocks the field. Insisting upon leaving immediately to find her son, the lover, Jasper, drives her close to the field, where she runs against the crowd into the stadium, and ends up injured, in the hospital. Her guilt and anger, along with her terrible loss, propel the rest of the story, as she alternately tries to put her life back together, and deals with Jasper and others.
One of the stranger things about this novel is that we never know this woman’s name, which makes her any woman. This made up tragedy, so nearly possible, could happen to any of us. How would we deal? Like in Little Bee, Cleave gets deep into the narrator’s head and manages to use the same tone of voice throughout. He’s an amazing writer. On the other hand, I disliked the story. I kept thinking that I would put it down, but then I would read a little more, and I eventually finished it. It’s uncomfortable. He’s exploring crowd dynamics, police betrayal, a mother’s inability to come to terms with her loss, and many other very difficult topics. I never felt connected with the protagonist, though there were fleeting moments when I could relate to her and understand her behavior. For example, I didn’t care for the way she appeared very one-dimensional at the beginning, almost the caricature of a working-class housewife, and I’m not sure anyone is ever this simplistic.
Despite all of its awards, I can’t bring myself to recommend Incendiary, unless you enjoy the exploration of hopelessness and growing madness. I freely admit to preferring more interesting and likeable protagonists.