Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I did a panel at MarsCon on inspiration? Where do I get my ideas? What drives me to write?

Since I haven't been writing much in the past few years, it's a good question to think about. Maybe if I can track down the sources of my urge to write, I will begin to write more.

Thinking about it, I realized that my ideas come from the fiction and nonfiction I read, sometimes from music and sometimes from the visual arts. I've written poems after seeing operas -- pretty good poems, taken all and all, and one story which is a description of an imaginary 19th century Italian opera about the invention of double-entry bookkeeping. The opera is set in 14th century Florence and is about a young man who has inherited the family business. The records are such a mess that he doesn't know if he is rich or poor, and therefore he cannot marry his love. Fortunately, a corrupt monk who understands the Venetian Method (double-entry bookkeeping) arrives on the scene; and before he repents and dies, he tells the young man how to straighten out the family books.

I took the monk's aria straight out of Fra Luca Pacioli's 14th century book on arithmatic, geometry and proportion, which contains the first description of double-entry bookkeeping. (Check Fra Luca's entry in Wikipedia, if you want to know more. And no, I did not read Fra Luca's book. I read a description of it, when I was doing research on the history of accounting.)

Anyway, it is a story that combines my love of opera with my love of accounting.

I've also written stories about actors and theater and stories about poets. The fiction that isn't about the arts is often written in response to other fiction. In many ways, I write meta-science fiction. I think that's the right word. My art is about art, especially about science fiction.

This is something I've known for years, but it's interesting to think about it. If art is so important to me -- so key to how I experience my life -- then maybe my art is worth doing. Maybe I can contribute to this huge, millenias-old, human discussion.

Right after 9/11 Candas Dorsay, the wonderful Canadian SF writer, wrote an essay asking, what is the importance of art in this world where terrible things happen? I guess I am still thinking about her question. 9/11 did not shock me the way it shocked many Americans. I never thought we were safe from the violence that consumes to much of the planet. But I am deeply disturbed by the destruction of Iraq and the further destruction of Afghanistan, a country that has suffered way too much, and the potential destruction of Iran. I have never gone to Iraq, though I was grew up knowing about -- and seeing -- the ancient art found there. I have been to Afghanistan and Iran. What I remember about Iran is the blue mosques in Isfahan. I have a fragment of a tile, picked up from a rubbish heap in an area where one of the mosques was being repaired. I remember the Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan, carved into a cliff wall in the 4th century and destroyed by the Taliban. I remember the museum in Kabul, wrecked and looted by the Taliban. Afghanistan is on the cross-roads of Eurasia, where caravan routes coming up from India joined the Great Silk Road; and the museum was full of Buddhist art, Greco-Roman art, art from India.

How can humans destroy these ancient places full of human history and art? I guess I should ask how humans can destroy other humans, though that seems a logical continuation of neglecting and ignoring other humans. Maybe art will never be safe until people are safe; and people will never be safe until we all care for one another.


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