Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fun With Physics

I can hear you now.  “Um, Gwyn?  Isn’t this blog supposed to be about things medieval?”

Yep, it is.

“Did they even have physics in the medieval period?”

Not as a recognized science, perhaps, but let’s face it, nobody fell (or was flung by centrifugal force) off the planet for lack of gravity, rainshowers resulted in rainbows, and a body in motion tended to stay in motion (think horse stops dead, knight keeps going), so it’s safe to say physics was a part of their world.  In fact, in 214 BC (well before the medieval era), it is believed Archimedes, perhaps the greatest scientist and mathematician in all antiquity, helped defend the kingdom of Syracuse using solar reflectors to set the enemy’s sails aflame, creating what was, in effect, the first ray gun!

How’s that for archaic physics?

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m mathematically challenged.  I can do the basics, even some advanced stuff (as long as you don’t ask how I reached my conclusion), but the application of theorums, postulates, axioms, and all that other gobblety-gook is just too confusing.  Yet I find physics fascinating.  Go figure.

A number of years ago, my sweetie and I were watching a movie about King Arthur’s Merlin.  Predicated by his, and other wizards’ of the age, preoccupation with alchemy, we discussed the probability that sorcerers were, in truth, engineers and scientists with a fundamental grasp of laws and principles not yet documented or fully understood.  It seemed probable given that magic, as we know it, is all about the illusion.  Add the technological aspect, like turning on a radio for isolated Amazonian tribesmen, and you have the foundation for deification.Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku: Book Cover

  Thus, in keeping with the outlandish but intellectually stimulating subject of my previous blog, at the suggestion of a friend and fellow writer, Ruby-Slippered Sister Tamara Hogan (www.tamarahogan.com),  I have begun reading  Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku.  Now, I’ve seen Dr. Kaku on numerous cable programs dealing with science and found him entertaining and informative in that context, but a book on physics?  I approached it with caution, but soon found I couldn’t put it down.  The man has a knack for making the subject come alive.  No calculus, differential equations, or gobblety-gook clutter the pages, just explanations of how it all works reduced to terms any layperson, mathematically challenged or not, can understand.
 
So, Celtic mythology has taken on a new layer of possibility, a layer that may or may not consist of alien technology but that brings a vibrant new hue to an already colorful subject.
 
Yes, the research is still leading the way, but the discoveries are mind boggling.
 
What fun!
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Does Your Reasearch Open New Doors? Or Lead You Astray?

I didn’t post last week because I got lost in the research.  Bad habit, that.  But, like a sailor chasing a Siren’s call, I always want to know more, understand better, have a complete picture.

Yeah, I know; good luck with that last one.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of TV.  HOWEVER (and there’s always a caveat, isn’t there?), there is the History Channel.  Now, some of what is shown there can be taken with a grain (or, in my case, a dune) of salt.  Still, it’s like a virgin What If?  forest; a vast, untapped source of ideas, new perspectives, and, to be honest, in my opinion, some of the most cringe-worthy asininity you’ll ever see outside of prime-time reality series.

My sweetie knows what I’m studying, and when he saw an interesting clip on a History Channel program called Ancient Aliens, he recorded it for me for two reasons:  One, he remembered the incident depicted—his team got the incident report only to have it suddenly, and without explanation, rescinded; it simply disappeared.  Two, it dealt with a sunken island off the coast of Ireland that, according to Celtic legend, was home to the Fomorians (sea giants), a race of gods said to have preceded the Tuatha de Danaan.

Supposedly, when the Tuatha de Danaan defeated the Fomorians, the Fomorian Island, identified by Ancient Aliens as Hy Brasil, sank into the sea.  Thus, it is often referred to as The Other Atlantis.

Cool, huh?

But here’s the kicker; according to Ancient Aliens, this island might have been home to aliens who the unsophisticated people of the time considered gods because of their technology and “magical” powers.

Okay.  I agree.  This could easily fall into the asininity category if you aren’t inclined to embrace the concept of aliens.  However, again in my opinion, I believe it would be arrogant to assume, in a universe as vast as ours, we are the only sentient life forms.  Therefore, if other sentient beings exist, is it not possible they have visited here? 

The StarGate series approached this idea strictly using Egyptian gods, but could it not, in fact, be the foundation of the mythological structure of all early societies?  Considering the numerous parallels, it’s a possibility, and I do so love possibilities.

In case you don’t know, my alter ego writes science fiction romance, a genre diametrically opposed to historical romance—or so I thought.  But what if it’s not?  How would that change our perception of history?  Of ourselves?  What if there is a perfectly logical union between history and science fiction? 

Most of my science fiction deals with genetic engineering, and according to some of the Celtic Myths I’ve read, the Fomorians were ugly, grotesque (by our standards) creatures, some half-human, half-beast.  Can anyone say Centaur?  Satyr?  Minotaur?  Anubis?  Horus?  Sekhmet?  (And that’s an extremely abbreviated sampling from only two cultures.)  In one book, the Fomorians are described as having one leg, one hand, an eye in the middle of their foreheads, and three rows of knife-like teeth.

Sounds like a genetic experiment gone terribly wrong to me.

Of course, it’s hard to be heroic battling normal folk, so making foes demonic in aspect and character could have served merely to elevate a hero’s awe-value.  Still, can you deny the  potential for epic storytelling?  What if Homer’s Odyssey is a tale of man versus alien rather than man versus gods?  Could this explain why the gods of myth had so many human failings?  Why some played with the lives of men for spite, jealousy, or myriad other amoral reasons?

Yes, research led me astray, and the What If question, that necessary tool in any writer’s toolbox, aided and abetted the detour.   I’m not sorry.  Questions require answers, and a fiction writer can answer in whatever way works for him or her.  As masters of our own creations, we become god-like, deciding the direction our characters take, the trials they will face, the obstacles in their paths, and in the end, their final destination within the story’s context.

Given that thought, perhaps one can see more easily how our ancestors might have been willing to proclaim those who seemed to control destiny gods.

Has your research ever led you astray?  Started your mind down a path it might not have considered otherwise?  Or reshaped your thinking about a particular subject?

Personally, I like the idea of opening new doors, but sometimes the timing really screws with productivity.  This week has been one of those times, but who knows?  Perhaps, in the end, it will be worthwhile.

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Magic, Myth, and Legend

While still in school, I discovered the powerful pull of magic, myth, and legend.  

Each is distinct, yet they tend to intertwine and tangle until finding the individual threads is all but impossible.  King Arthur is the perfect example.  It’s still debated whether he and/or Camelot existed, but everything from his conception to his disappearance into the mists of Avalon is shrouded in magic, myth, and legend.

All three of these components can be found somewhere in the past of  every culture, and the parallels, despite things that would have forbidden cultural exchanges, are amazing.

As my Ruby Sis, Rita, likes to say, it all comes back to our lizard brain.

Like most students, I learned about the Greek, Roman, and Norse gods and goddesses.  I bought Thor comic books (since I had the biggest crush on the flaxen-haired, yummy-muscled version of the god), and watched Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, and myriad campy movies about anything remotely associated with Asgaard or Mt. Olympus.

Mythology became my obsession.

Later, we named our one Siberian Husky Loki (the name fit like a glove.  Despite that, we still miss him) because once a fangirl, always a fangirl, but life allowed little time for the fantasies of youth; the stuff of magic, myth and legend had no place in a world full of children, bills, and 9-5 jobs.

Loki 1986

Loki

When I started my Seers series, I had no idea it would take me back beyond the mythology I once loved to a mythology that I had yet to explore.  In fact, until I began contemplating book three, I had no idea what, other than the psychic gifts and the primary villain, united the series.

Then I met Kendra O’Neil

Kendra introduced herself to me over lunch at IHOP.  No, I’m not kidding.  One minute my sweetie and I are discussing his visit with the doctor and eating stuffed french toast, the next I have a blind seer (yeah, I know.  Sounds like the mother of oxymorons, doesn’t it?) parked in my brain telling me about herself and the prophecy that, while I knew it existed, had yet to be revealed to me.  Kendra recited it, explained what the cryptic words meant, and told me how she knew what had happened.

“‘Tis The Morrigan,” she whispered, her Irish lilt gone flat with dread. 

The who-again?

“Heed me, I pray you.  ‘Tis The Morrigan, and she must be stopped.”

Now, I have numerous books on mythology, and one of them covers myths pervasive in every known civilization from the dawn of time.  Of course, it includes Celtic mythology, so odds are I read about The Morrigan at one time or another but had forgotten about it.  With Kendra’s help, my psyche pulled bits and pieces from its vault until I had a picture.  Not a complete picture, mind you, but something with which I could work; Kendra’s story had begun to take shape.

My synapses were popping.  Excitement banished hunger.  I scribbled notes until my sweetie finished eating.  Since I can’t write and drive, he played secretary, recording my babbling, during the entire 100+ mile-drive home. 

Then, I sat down and wrote the opening of the third book. 

I sent those pages to my CP, and as is her wont, she started asking questions.  To my surprise, I didn’t stumble even once, the answers ready on my tongue.  

The bones were set, but the flesh remained sparse.  Three more books on Celtic Mythology joined the other myth books on my shelves.  And the story became clearer.  As did an unwelcome truth; I had no choice but to revisit the first two books in the series and make a few tweaks (that’s no exaggeration.  The tweaks have been few and easily accommodated.  My psyche must have been in on Kendra’s plan from the first without me being aware of it) so all three would work seamlessly together.

So, for the next few weeks (at least), this blog will celebrate Celtic Magic, Myth, and Legend.  There will be comparisons to those components in other cultures, highlighting the differences as well as the similarities, and comparisons of the same myths told differently within the same culture.

It’s fascinating stuff.  Like I said, once a fangirl . . .

I hope you’ll join me and share your knowledge.

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