How The White Princess is a Girl-Powered Game of Thrones: short version: the real Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin borrowed heavily from the Wars of the Roses but the history doesn’t need much embroidering: woman has to marry man who just killed her uncle – the uncle who may have killed her brothers to take the crown for himself. Throw in conniving relatives and shifting alliances for spice and I’ll be watching.
I’m not talking about the subjectivity of reality or how much subjective experiences do/do not matter, but something far more mundane: generalized anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed until my twenties but it’s been a problem all my life. All these stupid things everything does from time to time are my system defaults. Short version: I can’t trust my intuition because it’s a paranoid idiot.
Not that it’s not fixable. With treatment I no longer jump at every damn thing but risk assessment isn’t a gut thing so I have to consciously overwrite my bad mental habits.
This is on my mind because I’m on several learning curves and the constant forebrain check of the stuff my lizard brain can’t handle has been exhausting. Doesn’t stop me fervently overthinking everything though, and the writing is falling into a spiral perfectionism paralysis. I’m digging out, but it’s taking time so I just listen to my internal Lying Cat hissing lying, lying, lying.
Well it is, sorta. As an American I can’t help but be aware of the current political situation. As a liberal/progressive I can’t help but be horrified. I’m not going to go into details or debate – if you agree with me you probably share my concerns and if you don’t I’m not going to convince you of anything.
Far better writers than I have discussed the value of writing in fractious times and how to persist. Incredibly I’ve managed to keep my creative momentum and am still on track to finish my second draft by June. So this isn’t a “writing while stressed” post either.
No, this is about how not to let the current situation eat you.
Or eat me, at least. I have a great talent for getting so caught in worry that I freeze. True to form I spent the first few weeks after the inauguration beating myself up for not doing enough and chasing my tail trying to find something–anything–I could do so I wouldn’t feel so useless. I didn’t go to the women’s march (cold weather + my lungs = sinus infection until spring). I missed out on bystander training. I hate cold calling with a passion I reserve for lima beans and sauerkraut.
I now cold call my representatives once a day on issues that matter most to me. I’m looking for future training and warm-weather protests. I try to remember that I should do what’s effective, not what makes me feel better. As it happens I’m more effective at a constant crawl than a sudden sprint (kind of like writing. Or fencing. But I digress).
Growing up in a family where such inquiry was commonplace and getting the requisite pat on the head for my childhood faked Bigfoot plaster casts etc. it wasn’t until college that I started getting blank silence, laughter, even hostility. So I learned to shut up if I didn’t want to get into long-winded explanations of why I wasn’t a conspiracy theorist, UFO cultist, or what have you.
Alternative religion historian Mitch Horowitz’s discusses the hazards of discussing the occult in the media and many apply to discussing in company as well: the unknown is acceptable as long as you’re flip about it but any hint of serious interest gets conflated with blind belief, and hence, ridicule. This scares off intelligent inquirers and the truly off-the-wall rush in with their pet theories, perpetuating the association with crackpots.
Which is a damn shame because underneath the silliness and hysteria are some genuine questions like what really happened? and why do they keep on happening? and how do experiencers integrate their experiences into their daily lives?
Though I’m in the business of speculating I try to be aware that I am doing just that – speculating. I’m no scientist (or trained in rigorous scientific method) so I can’t make authoritative statements about the objective reality of strange phenomena. Nor can I discount or ridicule other people’s experiences – I don’t walk in their shoes.
But I can say: it’s ok to engage the weird. It can be done without sacrificing critical thought, though it is difficult. Investigate without assumptions and be ready to accept that you don’t know and may never know. Most of all, anyone who insists they’ve got The Answer(TM) doesn’t.
Because you can’t write about John Dee for very long without addressing the Voynich Manuscript, the “book nobody can read”.
In an early draft of the novel I had Edward Kelley stumble across this strange tome in Mortlake’s library, but I ended up cutting that scene because Dee likely never owned it. Bursting further myths, he didn’t create it either – it’s carbon dated to the early 15th century, well over a hundred years before Dee’s time. Nonetheless as a mathematician and steganographer he certainly would have found it interesting. Hell, I find it interesting and I’m just an ordinary schlub.
The manuscript got its popular name from Wilfred Voynich, the bookseller who purchased it in 1912. Before that it passed through many hands and it’s origin is unclear. It currently resides in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, and is available for viewing by appointment only (though they did loan it for an exhibit in DC, see below).
As such, speculation on what the text might be and by extension what the book is about runs rampant. CipherMysteries.com provides a rundown of the most popular theories, which include everything from blatant hoaxing to alien tech. Certainly it seems to have elements of astrology, herbals, and possibly alchemical recipe books (all those pipes), but doesn’t resemble any of these exclusively.
I was fortunate enough to see the real deal when it was on display in the Folger Library’s Decoding the Renaissance exhibit. Somehow I thought the fuel for so much speculation would be bigger – it’s about the size of a modern hardcover novel. The vellum shows few erasures, so someone understood the strange text well enough to write it with few mistakes. The colors are still vivid even after ~600 years, but the illustrations seem hasty and awkward, particularly the human figures.
My own take is… I don’t know what to think. I’m no cryptographer so I’m not competent to judge the plausibility of the various theories (though I’m pretty sure aliens didn’t write it). If it’s a hoax it’s a good one to fascinate so many for so long. If it’s a code I have to wonder what the author(s) were hiding. In any case, someone went to a lot of time and trouble to create it. Again, the real story is about people and their motives and perceptions.
Bafflin’ Island: The Mystery of Frobisher’s Ore – English privateer Martin Frobisher commanded three mining voyages to what is now Canada in the 1570s. His personal assayers found such persuasive evidence of gold that his ships hauled tons of ore back to England only to discover it was worthless. Were Frobisher’s assayers incompetent or frauds?
Never thought I’d be a fan of a horror film but “The Witch” (or “VVitch”, as it’s appearing in most promo materials) is special: it is fantastically historically accurate (they even speak Shakespearean English throughout) and the horror is slow and subtle. Spoilers abound:
Well, nothing you can see yet, anyway. Let me explain.
Edits and rewrites continue. Got good feedback on a rewritten chapter from my critique group. I can honestly say I look at the book every day. Nonetheless, progress is slow.
I can draft in fits and starts because it’s ok if the words suck. Butt in seat, type type type, and there you are. Unfortunately it takes me at least 15 minutes to get into “edit mode”: find my place, review what I’ve already done, and get back into the scene/character’s head…
Long story short, I’ve discovered that early morning stolen moments aren’t working. If I can get 2 uninterrupted hours I can usually complete a scene, but given day job, life, etc. I only have this luxury on weekends.
Hence this abbreviated blog post – what time I can steal goes into the book.
Once I’m published I can never work this way again. Fellow writers, how do you edit when on a deadline? Is it possible in short spurts? Any mental exercises for slipping into one’s story world easily so I can pick back up fast?