Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: fiction

Yet More Conversation About “Serious Writing” . . .

This particular discussion began a week ago with, Blog Conversation ~ “Serious Writing”, and progressed this past Monday with, Our Conversation About “Serious Writing” Continues…Serious writing

For those who are new here, our blog conversations are only on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, with valuable re-blogs on all other days of the week except Friday, when I publish new short Tales

However, 7 weeks from now, the Tales will end and our Conversations will be on three days of the week :-)

Here’s a comment from Monday’s post:

“Just to keep things going – can fiction ever be called ‘serious writing’? A story doesn’t have to be amusing to involve the reader but my fear is that if it is truly serious it becomes too self-absorbed and the reader is disenchanted. However, dissertations and articles ( and in my case, items for recording) can be serious and can inform as well as influence the audience’s thinking. I include historical articles, medical articles and philosophical articles. These are by nature what I would call serious. As for personal writing, such as biographies, they can be serious or entertaining and the latest fashion for victim writing is just one example.”

That particular reader, who happens to be an author from the U.K., certainly seems to believe that it would be nearly impossible for fiction to be “serious”; and, I must acknowledge her assigning that meaning to “serious”…

Yet, for the sake of further discussion, I’ll reproduce a bit of the first post in this series:

What’s your conception of serious writing?

Writing done with focus and determination?

Writing done for reasons you deem significant or weighty?

Writing aimed toward instilling memorable ideas in your reader’s mind?

Some other type of writing…?

To further aid our discussion (and, not for the first time…), here’s the word history of “serious:

mid-15c., “expressing earnest purpose or thought” (of persons), from Middle French sérieux “grave, earnest” (14c.), from Late Latin seriosus, from Latin serius “weighty, important, grave,” probably from a PIE root *sehro- “slow, heavy” (source also of Lithuanian sveriu, sverti “to weigh, lift,” svarus“heavy, weighty;” Old English swær “heavy,” German schwer “heavy,” Gothic swers “honored, esteemed,” literally “weighty”). As opposite of jesting, from 1712; as opposite of light (of music, theater, etc.), from 1762. Meaning “attended with danger” is from 1800.

And, I’ll bring this segment of our conversation to a close with a very “serious” thought of my own:

Our society is in dire need of “serious writing”; something deeper than political wrangling, something higher than glorified ranting…

A type of writing (fiction or not) that can raise hopes and inspire actions that are productively Thrilling

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“Eat Pray Love” Author Writes Amazing Fictional Tale. . .

Have you heard of Elizabeth GilbertThe Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

Perhaps you read the book, Eat Pray Love; or, saw the movie?

Well, Ms Gilbert wrote a few fiction titles and did some journalism before Eat Pray Love.

In fact, here’s a bibliography of her work

The specific work of fiction I want to talk about is her 2013 release, The Signature of All Things.

Wikipedia’s “overview” does not do the book any justice, at all:

“The story follows Alma Whittaker, daughter of a botanical explorer, as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she starts a spiritual journey which spans the 19th Century.”

Actually, if I hadn’t already read Eat Pray Love and known Ms Gilbert was an accomplished writer, I would never have read The Signature of All Things based on Wikipedia’s description

But, I have read The Signature of All Things…

Literary explosions happened…

Tears often fell…

My authorial spirit was enlightened…

I was shocked to my core approximately six times…

And, the story’s events may have happened in the 18th and 19th Centuries; but, the writing was extremely accessible

Since I’m not a real book reviewer, I’ll share a few excerpts of others’ reviews that say things I can agree with…

From GoodReads:

“Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, ‘The Signature of All Things’ soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad.”

From The New York Times:

“The novel is frontloaded with its most hair-raising exploits as back story on Alma’s father, a plant thief whose boyhood punishment was to be packed off on the madcap voyages of Captain Cook. Real events provide ample substrate for a novel that entwines the historic and the imagined so subtly as to read like good nonfiction for most of its first half. It crosses over to page turner after the introduction of the author’s most beguiling invention, the deliciously named Ambrose Pike.”

From The Guardian:

“Each passage of this sprawling novel is written with an astonishing eye for just the right amount of period or environmental detail. The character of Alma Whittaker is so believable, so deeply drawn and so likable for its complexity and open spirit, that it is impossible not to be engrossed by every twist and turn of her thoughts and imaginings. In fact, one of Gilbert’s most impressive achievements is making Alma’s journey a universal one, despite anchoring her protagonist’s life in a different time and sending her to the furthest corners of the unexplored earth.”

And, from The Washington Post:

“Gilbert has been a journalist, a biographer, short-story writer, novelist, memoirist and, perhaps most famously, a celebrated ‘Oprah author’, but she continues to set higher goals for herself. Like Victor Hugo or Émile Zola, she captures something important about the wider world in ‘The Signature of All Things’: a pivotal moment in history when progress defined us in concrete ways.”

Still, this book may not be suitable for every reader…

I suppose that’s true of all books………
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Using Science in Fiction ~ Tread Carefully . . .

I used the words “Science in Fiction” not “Science Fiction” in the title of this post… 

Cat's Eye Nebula

Image Courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope Image Site

Most fiction that isn’t science fiction doesn’t use much science.

And, much science fiction doesn’t use real science.

There’s a breed of “science fiction” that goes into imaginary worlds that have no support or anchor in true science—many of these stories are fun to read.

There’s also a substantial amount of what folks like to call “hard” sci-fi that stays as close as it can to what is thought to be true science.

But, there’s a problem here

Much of the science (especially astrophysics) that is used to create science fiction is purely imaginary and has little to do with knowledge generated through the scientific method.

I’ve probably lost many of my readers by now; but, if you’re still there, I may have something yet to say that might benefit anyone—even those who don’t care much about science.

Let’s talk about fiction itself.

Should fiction be based on truth?

I have two past posts that approach the issue:

Does Fiction Always Tell The Truth?

How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

A few excerpts:

“Truth” can be a slippery topic—it can have “layers”—it can change over time…

Then, there’s the word “fiction”—sometimes used to mean, “an untruth”; sometimes to mean, “an invented statement or narrative”.

And, being “invented” doesn’t automatically make something untrue…

Certainly, any story that resonates with most readers must have a heap of truth in the fiction…

Many fiction writers expend great effort in their research to learn “facts” that will lend some “truth” to the “lies” they tell.

One particular genre (among many) where this can be important is Science Fiction.

What I say next can easily be applied to many other genres…

Imagine a science fiction writer who wants to add science facts to their story.

They conduct research and, usually, adapt whatever they find that is given by “experts”.

One problem with this method:

“Experts” are not necessarily Experts.

That last excerpt is from the post, How Much Truth Should Be in Fiction Stories?, and that post has two fascinating videos from a scientist who talks about “unscientific” science

But, the writer of any genre of fiction must still balance the “truth” they want to convey with the “facts” that are true

There’s another past post that I feel any writer could profit from reading (it also has a profound video)—Setting A Few Things Straight About The Universe . . .

Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Ultimately, because psychology shows that the deepest, not-conscious information and motivation have profound effects on conscious action, the closer I can get to the Truth about the Universe and my place in it, the better I should be able to write works that relate well with my readers.

Naturally, there are writers who skim the surface of life, write about it, and sell thousands of books to readers who gobble up the result…

So, I’ve been loudly hinting that much of science is bogus.

But, even though I’ve spent many years doing the research, no one should believe me without checking things out on their own

Perhaps I can help you begin that trek by sharing a few brief excerpts from an article from New Scientist, “In Science, is Honesty Really Always the Best Policy”?

“…one-third of scientists confessed to ‘questionable research practices’ such as cooking data…”

“…researchers see plagiarism as more heinous than making results up. They are more likely to report a colleague they catch in an act of plagiarism than one fabricating or falsifying data.”

And, if those don’t make you start wondering about the “truth” of “science”, this one should:

“…teaching research ethics made students more likely, not less, to misbehave.”

Also, in case you’ve seen the hoopla about scientists finally detecting gravity waves (from two merging black holes), you might want to perform a reality check by visiting the Thunderbolts Project Forum

The following video, with a real scientist (which was banned by TED), could also help you begin a search for truth in science; and, if you can find a way to judge truth in science, you’re well on your way to finding truth anywhere

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Writers, The Pain of Existence, and Self-Publishing

Two videos today—angst and publishing—the issues of life are barbs to consciousness…

Part One

Part Two

Go here for more Henri videos :-)

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How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

“What I say next may or may not be believed but, either way, this story is true—true as fact or true in the way fiction can rise to heights unattainable by mere facts.”

That statement is from one of the characters in my most recent book—Notes from An Alien.

It’s fiction but, to the best of my ability, the story is True

The word history of “True”: Old English trēowe, trȳwe ‘steadfast, loyal’; related to Dutch getrouw, German treu, also to truce.

And, to create a meaning-circle, “Truce”: Middle English trewes, trues (plural), from Old English trēowa, plural of trēow ‘belief, trust’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch trouw and German Treue, also to true.

So, basically, to be “True” means to have steadfastness, loyalty, belief, and trust

Four words that any “self-respecting” fiction story should attempt to live up to.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with this saying: “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

Stephen King: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Albert Camus: “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”


Many fiction writers expend great effort in their research to learn “facts” that will lend some “truth” to the “lies” they tell.

One particular genre (among many) where this can be important is Science Fiction.

What I say next can easily be applied to many other genres

Imagine a science fiction writer who wants to add science facts to their story.

They conduct research and, usually, adapt whatever they find that is given by “experts”.

One problem with this method:

“Experts” are not necessarily Experts.

Especially if that writer is using MainStream scientists—most of whom have lost the ability to use the Scientific Method and are sprinkling around a bunch of “farie dust”; Fictional Ad hoc Inventions Repeatedly Invoked in Efforts to Defend Untenable Scientific Theories. {credit to Donald Scott}

To avoid passing on false truths in fiction, Dig Deep—Look Far—Add “Controversy” To Your Google Search

To drive home the point about scientists who don’t do Science, I’ll share a two-part video of Rupert Sheldrake, author of The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Memory of Nature, explaining how so many scientists are getting it wrong

I do hope a few authors of other genres (like Crime or Historical) will share their experience in the Comments of looking for the Truth to add Steadfastness, Loyalty, Belief, and Trust to their Fiction



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