Archive for January, 2011

January 20, 2011

let the world-changing games begin

Kind of an interesting theory that coming together to game for real-life could create an urgent optimism to solve the world’s problems. Jane McGonigal references the ancient historian Herodotus who says that games, particularly dice games were invented in the kingdom of Lydia, a region on the eastern coast of ancient Turkey, during a time of famine. So, the famine was so severe that the leader of Lydia decreed that they needed an extreme solution. They invented dice games and they set up a kingdom-wide policy. One one day, everybody would eat. And on the next day, everybody would play games. And they would be so immersed in playing the dice games because games are so engaging, and immerse us in such satisfying blissful productivity, they would ignore the fact that they had no food to eat. And then on the next day, they would play games. And on the next day they would eat. And they passed 18 years this way. Eventually, as the famine continued, they divided the kingdom in half and played one final dice game, whereby the winners got to go on an epic adventure. They would leave Lydia, And they would go out in search of a new place to live, leaving behind just enough people to survive on the resources that were available, and hopefully to take the civilization somewhere else where they could thrive. And the cool thing is that recent DNA findings have shown that the Etruscans of Lydia may have migrated to Italy from the Near East, a theory long disputed by most archaelogists. So Herodotus’s story could actually be true.
Some of the alternative reality games she’s developed that are designed to improve real lives or solve real problems are evoke, world without oil, and superstruct.

January 18, 2011

the partnership concept

I’m reading Rianne Eisler’s Tomorrow’s Children, and really love her ideas on partner vs. dominator roles in education. She has outlined this concept with her books on economics, relationships, history. The first of her books I read (and that changed my life) was The Chalice and the Blade, that shows how some ancient societies functioned well in an egalitarian, partnership system. Further, that much of what we consider our history, is really an interpretation put forth to serve the agenda of dominator societies. Then the brilliant Real Wealth of Nations that really delivers a blueprint for a better, more equitable world by developing a “caring economics” that transcends traditional categories like capitalist and socialist, offering enormous economic and social benefits. And now, with Tomorrow’s Children, Eisler shows that a flourishing society can really begin with our children, by teaching them partnership, respect and global understanding.
It’s a scholarly, humanistic approach to addressing the issues of our times.

January 10, 2011

character, flaws

Do the best characters have the best “flaws”? My favorite characters have deep emotional and/or physical flaws balanced with extraordinary skills or traits. Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games, whose father was killed in the mines and mother basically checked out, has to take care of far more than any sixteen year old should. She has a wall around her heart, but the soul of a warrior, almost reminding me of the goddesses and gods from ancient Greece. Lisbeth Salander of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is truly damaged by her past as a victim of violent crime, but she’s gifted in her amazing ability to research, think differently and her f-you attitude. Or Little Bee, also so damaged by a past of being chased by evil men (the baddies), yet, by teaching herself “Queen’s English” she communicates in this fantastic, completely enchanting way. Lyra, of The Golden Compass, is wily, clever and bold, with a distant father and unknown mother. And what of the physical flaws? Speaking of Little Bee, the other protagonist in the story, Sarah, is missing her middle digit, yet tries to rise above her ordinariness to bravely save a life. And twelve-year-old Ren, of The Good Thief, is missing his left hand. Ren somehow keeps his goodness in the face of doing the bad things he needs to survive. Edgar Sawtelle, deaf, has a unique gift for communicating with the dogs they breed and train. And then there’s Harry Potter. Lightning bolt scar, extraordinary wizard.

How about parents? Do any great characters even have two parents? Of the ones mentioned above, Katniss and Lisbeth have only a mentally disconnected mother; Little Bee was orphaned; Lyra, distant father; (Little Bee’s Sarah, ordinary upbringing, but her normalcy is part of the issue); Edgar’s father died and mother went mad; Ren and Harry, orphaned. Can a great character have a happy childhood? Most of these characters have some truly transportive, joyful moments, despite hardship, like life. It can be hard to make your characters hurt, though. You want them to make the journey whole and happy, even if it will make for a boring read :). But sometimes your book has other ideas.

January 5, 2011

year of the cat

I loved the close connection I felt to the big cats in South Africa. This year I am going to be guided by the absoluteness of cats. Power, awareness, decisiveness, curiosity, connection to the tribe, the power of yes…… Yebo!
And this African proverb, more than anything, even inspires my book:

Until the lion has her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.