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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, August 22, 2005

why page-counts don't advance

Morning notes: From Eden to Exile, A History of Technology.

The sky had clouded over; it felt warm and damp under the puffy, low overcast.

"I've gotta water out here," said Kimmie as she walked past the flower-bed under our holly-tree. "Bye." She waved and was off down the sidewalk: another day, another week.

I made my own way to my office, and picked up the trail with chapter 17. Where was I? I opened my Notes document. I reviewed my notes from Friday, which ended with these sentences:

Hm. So if Cleopatra regarded herself as Isis incarnate, and Caesarion perhaps as her Horus, that would make Caesar Osiris.

Why the marker for the Age of Pisces in the temple of Hathor?

Ah yes. I'd typed that material on Hathor from Oriental Mythology. I still need to synthesize it, come up with the character motivations and actions it leads to. I typed today's dateline, then just started in with the first things that came to mind:

Where does this leave me? If the temple of Hathor at Dendera (Tentyris) really was a marker of the Age of Pisces, then what? When was it built, in the main? When were its ceiling zodiacs designed and added? What was Cleopatra's role in its construction?

The heavy, not particularlly well-oiled cogs of my mind lurched slowly into motion. I started piecing together what I knew, summarizing, putting facts together that I hadn't laid side by side before...

Ptolemy XV was grown (somewhat) by the time his image was added with Cleopatra's to the south wall of the temple. So that may not have happened till near her death, in early 30s BC. Thus the temple was still being worked on at that point.

So what does that imply?

Depending on how long it would take to build, then maybe it isn't started by story time in 48 BC. Sosigenes could be commissioned to design its astronomical setup, so that architects can build it in the coming years as a monument to Cleopatra (and Caesar?) as rulers of the Age of Pisces, in the ancient Egyptian tradition. Egypt is the map of heaven, and its rulers are also heavenly rulers--always were.

Thus I typed. I liked what I was typing. I felt I was cutting through to the characters' own time and attitude. The trick is to get inside the period and look at it the way people at the time would have seen it--without the benefit of hindsight. Hindsight deadens history and makes it banal. When Cleopatra was seducing Caesar and trying as hard as she could, I feel sure, to conceive a child by him, she did not know what the future would bring. She had feelings, hopes, ambitions--all of which are lost to history. The main task of the historical storyteller, I think, is to free his characters from the roboticism of seeming to execute a history that has already happened. "History," the series of outcomes of people's actions, has been pretty much a surprise to everyone. I have to capture that sense of surprise for my own characters, some of whom are historical characters.

My method: to give them desires and goals, and then surprise them. Everyone is responding to a situation out of control--just as in life.

Having worked out some motivation for Cleopatra, I need something more specific: her objectives for the scene I'm doing. What is she trying to make happen right now? Hm. More thinking.

More digging. If the temple of Hathor was built overtop a dismantled previous temple, what was that temple? I hypothesize that it represented the Age of Aries. So maybe not the temple of Hathor--but of whom? Hm, Egyptian ram-god...what's-his-name.... There's Amon, I think, but also another one...

Back to the bookshelves. Eventually I found myself absorbed in Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate by Isha Schwaller de Lubicz. Argh, guess I'll set up a Word document for this. More librarian-clerical work. It's easy and fairly pleasant--but is it merely an escape from writing?

I decided just to go with what I felt like doing. I read and typed some material on ram-symbolism in Egypt (interesting), and then more material on Egyptian astrology. How helpful was it, how necessary? I don't know. I felt like doing it, so I did it.


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