Planetary Fiction

What is Planetary Fiction?

Planetary Fiction is an anthology on or about the the planets, and the them associated with them. Thus:

Mercury: journeys and messengers

Venus: love and romance

Mars: conflict and war

Jupiter: power, authority and leadership

Saturn: time, age and endings

Such stories could be science fiction, fantasy, horror or weird fiction. Tales could feature science fiction as diamond hard as the unfiltered light of the stars in space, to flights of fancy. Star-ships that rigidly obey the limits of known physics, to fantastic gravity drives to chariots pulled though the starry ether by swans. It has room for the airless deserts of Mars and the crushing pressures of Venus; and for Warlords of Mars and Princesses of Venus.

If the story fits a planetary concept, and evokes awe and wonder, it could be a good fit for ″Planetary Fiction″…

The first in the series will be ″Mercury″; edited by David Hallquist

Why Mercury? Why tales of a small, barren rock circling the Sun, almost invisible in its glare?

The question might be: why not Mercury?

This oddball world races about in a highly eccentric ellipse, instead of the more proper, nearly circular orbits of other planets. It is tidally locked in a 3:2 resonance with the Sun, with one Mercury day for every two Mercury years. This cratered little world is far more dense than it would seem, and is believed to have a larger iron core than in proportion to other worlds. Then there is the odd phenomenon of a powerful magnetic field on a world that is barely rotating at all. Truly, a strange little world.

Mythic Mercury, or Hermes was the swift messenger of the gods, and famous for his brilliance and trickery. The wand of Hermes, the Caduceus, is still the symbol for medical learning around the world. Speed, brilliance and knowledge are all associated with the messenger.

Mercury the metal, is known as ″quicksilver″ and has been associated with transmutation and arcane processes since the time of the earliest alchemists. Chinese Emperors believes that an amalgam of mercury would bestow immortality. Useful in early photography, industry and scientific studies, the deadly poisonous nature of the metal quickly limited the usefulness of quicksilver.

For all of that, Mercury has been a bit overlooked in Science Fiction. There are notable great stories though the tiny world is often overlooked for the glories of Mars, the majesty of Jupiter or the splendor of Saturn.

These then, are the tales of Mercury: messages about the Messenger.

Superversive SF is now soliciting submissions for ″Planetary Fiction: Mercury″. Submissions should be sent to: planetaryantho@superversivesf.com. Please place the name of the planet and the story title in the subject line. Try to avoid excessive formatting, and do include a author’s contact information and word count, as well as which planet it is connected to at the first paragraph. If you agree to have us publish your story, Superversive SF may elect to publish though Superversive Fiction or other publishers and formats, as deemed appropriate by Superversive SF.

″Venus″ is next in the series, edited by Jagi L. Wright and A.M. Freeman, and is now receiving submissions.

Superversive Blog: If You Had Introverted Intuition, My Dinosaur

Subversive Literary Movement

Third in our ongoing series of articles of Speculative Fiction meets Jung as remodeled through the work of Ruth Johnston in her new book: Re-modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance. In these posts, she applies her theories on personality in an effort to help us understand the widening rift between various groups of sf/fantasy fans.

 

remodelingcover

 

SF Culture Posts

Part One: What Forces Drive the SF Culture War?

Part Two: Optimistic in the Night Land

Part Three: If You Had Introverted Intuition, My Dinosaur

Q: Welcome back, everyone. Ruth, can you give our readers a quick reminder of where we are?

In the last two articles, we talked about a way that Sensing and Intuition can be paired in personality, and for ease of discussion in the interview, I called them A and B. Let’s look now at the B pairing and how it might influence the worldview presented in someone’s fiction.

Q: In our last installment we spoke about John’s Night Land stories, and the type of ideas and images produced by what you have dubbed the A combination. Now let’s look at a story that shows the B combination: ” If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,”  by Rachel Swirsky. How do you see it as an example of the personality patterns you’re talking about?

A: I think this story is a wonderful example of the hardest to explain, most mysterious mental function we can observe in personality: Introverted Intuition. Both kinds of Intuition are involved in a search for meaning, but Introverted Intuition is particularly intent on finding cloaked, disguised, suppressed truth.

I think that’s what this story is about. Of course, it isn’t really a story; it’s a scene that poses questions about meaning. There isn’t any movement in plot, rather the motion consists of a gradual revealing of the speaker’s state of mind. The scene: A woman sits by a hospital bed, where her fiancé, an archeologist, is in a coma. He was beaten by five drunken men for unknown reasons. The only dinosaur in the story is in her imagination, of course, as she envisions what would have been different if he had been even a small carnivore. The title poses the question: what if, instead of being who you are, you had been something else?

I think the key to the story is that she feels a small Tyrannosaurus Rex would have been a truer form for the soul of the man she loves. It would reveal his true nature, whereas his powerless natural appearance forms a kind of mask that makes him look like he ought to be a victim. The exercise in imagining is pointless if being a dinosaur wasn’t somehow a truer truth than the natural one; otherwise we could ask what if he were a Mack truck or an onion. By emphasizing that the dinosaur would be the same size as the human, she is making it clear that she sees the transformation as revelation, not random change. “If you actually looked like your true inner nature, my love, then people would see that you are strong and this would be a deterrent to getting hurt.”

When you posit that the appearance of a human being might be a disguise, a false archetype that covers truth, you are deep into Introverted Intuition’s territory.

Q: There are many fascinating ideas in your new book, but the one that I found the most revolutionary of all was your redefining of Jung’s terns Introverted and Extroverted. Could you tell us a little more about this?

“Introverted” is so often used to mean shy or unsociable, but when I use it, I mean that it’s connected to an inborn knowledge that’s much like animal instinct. I often compare it to a rabbit’s inborn sense of what the sky should look like, sort of a template for normal safety. The template includes clouds, trees, and fluttery songbirds. Anything that moves like a hawk is not in the template, and the rabbit should not give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it turns out to be just the neighbor kid’s RC airplane. Introverted parts of personality are idealistic, inflexible, and usually a bit negative.

Part of each personality is rooted in this inborn instinct, while the other part is flexible, exploring, pragmatic, optimistic and open to new ideas. That’s why I mean by “Extroverted,” and I probably annoy half your readers by capitalizing the word, but it’s to remind of the novel meaning. I don’t mean liking to go to parties, I mean the opposite of the rabbit scanning the sky. Things are going to be okay, change is fine, learn as you go, take things as they come.

These new meanings for Introverted and Extroverted are of key importance because they explain why everyone has certain things that they simply cannot accept as true or real, even when the evidence is staring right at them. Their inner Introverted template excludes those possibilities, and the template is actually stronger than the facts. People can be rigid and idealistic about appearances, relationships, logic, and–this is the weird one I’ll try to explain–a sense of meaning.

Q:  A sense of meaning? That sounds quite interesting but hard to put into words. Please do continue.

In the last article, we talked about how Introverted Sensing is idealistic about human social roles, thinking strongly in archetypes like mother, father, child, knight, or villain. By contrast, Introverted Intuition actually suspects archetypal roles of being nothing but masks or Potemkin villages to fool us, concealing true meaning from our searching eyes. This doesn’t mean that everyone whose personality includes Introverted Intuition dislikes stories about knights! But there’s a pervasive sense of suspicion about appearances. When they see a row of presidential candidates, they suspect that the ones who look “out of central casting” may be quite different from what they seem.

Introverted Intuition gets balanced by Extroverted Sensing, which is carefree about appearances, willing to take them as they come. Depending on the role it plays in personality, it can really make an “anything goes” attitude. A strong sense of Extroverted Sensing finds it easier to accept things and people that don’t fit inborn notions. This might mean less discomfort around people from foreign places who look, smell and behave really differently. It usually means more ability to keep up with changing visuals and sounds in real time, perhaps in sports. Most science fiction geeks who have Extroverted Sensing use it in the background, as a subroutine of their neural networks. They might be better at athletics than other geeks, or perhaps not even that. But they often have superior powers of real-time observation; Sherlock Holmes used Extroverted Sensing.

So for the pairing I’ve called B, what you look like isn’t very important, and it can be changed and even twisted a lot. What matters is what you mean.

Q. As Spock would say, Fascinating. Moving from the theoretical to the specific, is that where the dinosaur comes in? Changing appearances?

A: Yes, the key is that if he could look like a dinosaur, appearances might change, but meaning would be truer. The writing looks at different aspects of how she’d relate to him as a dinosaur, and it goes into fanciful ideas, like touring Broadway, but underneath the silliness is the sense that if appearances could be shifted to match truth, good things would happen. When the man is a dinosaur, she realizes that she could not marry him, but then human knowledge and skill would move forward and they would both find other kinds of happiness. The emerging truth–that he is powerful and can fight back–would cause loss, but its emergence would also bring gain. Whereas when he looks like a mere man, limited to his body’s form, bad things happen.

Here we see the fundamental fear of Introverted Intuition: that a covered, disguised truth will remain unseen. Its Introverted idealism and negativity are directed to this end: that no buried truth will escape discovery.

Q: Lol  “That no buried truth will escape discovery.” That sounds like it should be the personal motto of nearly every main character I’ve ever invented. What an excellent phrase!

A: It’s certain true of Rachel Griffin!  Her personality is hard to pin down because she’s also gifted with perfect visual memory, which for good or ill the rest of us just don’t have.

Q:  How does this drive to uncover truth apply in this situation?

A:  When Intuition is Extroverted, as in the A pairing discussed last time, it’s like a stargazer exploring all the ways stars can be connected as constellations. Extroverted Intuition has unbounded enthusiasm for drawing all possible lines, seeing no connections as meaningless and only concerned lest any be left out. It’s confident that some apparently trivial connections will turn out to form very important new shapes.

But when Intuition is Introverted, it’s more like an AI robot mapping a vast prairie dog town. On the surface, little is visible, but that appearance is misleading. When the robot starts out, it doesn’t know where the tunnels will lead, but it does know that they will lead to certain expected places: sleeping burrows, escape tunnels, and winter food storage rooms. Could we find literally anything? No. But could we find something hidden? Oh yes.

At each point when the robot pauses, it has a choice to turn in any direction and go forward at any speed, but not all choices are equal. Some choices will slam it into a dirt wall, and other choices will rush into a short dead-end. As the robot explores, it learns to ping tunnels and determine whether they’re worth going down. It maps as it goes, and eventually it can pause at a tunnel mouth and guess–nay, know–that this new tunnel connects to another well-explored section. After some time, the robot probe feels free mark some tunnels briefly but not explore them. It already skips the option of ramming into dirt walls, and now it skips some tunnels and rooms as well.

So the mood and attitude of this type of Intuition is more restricted, less expansive and optimistic, than the Extroverted kind in “A.” It feels like it’s tracking down something that’s already somehow known in a gut-feeling way. It’s much more like a detective than like a stargazer.

Q: You mentioned that you had taken the time to read some of Rachel Swirsky’s other works. Do you see similiar traits in them?Q: Do you see the same traits in Rachel Swirsky’s other work?

In “All That Fairy Tale Crap,” her Cinderella narrator explicitly states that “we are all escaping from archetypes.” The prince is a drag queen, the glass slipper is part of a kinky fetish, and the stepsisters may be ugly but they’re as sympathetic as anyone else presented in the sketch. The story’s main (and perhaps only) point is to show how every folk-story image is a false front.

In the poem “Black, White, Red,” another fairy-tale girl is a bride in white, but soon everything turns ugly as the best man drugs and rapes her. “Her prince was a mirage/ dreamed between bloodthirsty men.” But it’s not just the prince archetype the poem is debunking; “huntsman, dwarf, neglectful father” are also (archetypal) images involved in hurting this girl. In the last lines, literature is posed as a deceitful escape, a kind of death, that the girl can run into: where maybe colors will be less stark and bad things won’t happen. She seems to suggest that stories themselves are a kind of archetypal disguise. Further, the poem’s violence suggests that discovering truth in its gore (red, black, white) is better than hiding behind a story concept (pink, gray, beige). This message is the core of the B polarity (of Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Sensing). Use vivid observation to strip away false appearances and discover truth: the only important archetype.

Q: I can see from your examples that Ms. Swirsky and I are on opposite pages when it comes to our philosophy of writing. I am guessing that these personality qualities you are identifying probably tie into the distance between our world views. How confident are you in the ability to make a direct connection between someone’s personality and writing?

A: Reading someone’s mind is always pretty dicey. What I can say with confidence is that written work definitely presents a worldview that can be described in my personality terms, and that in the cases where I can check, usually the actual personality matches. I’m sure there are super examples within science fiction, but I’ll have to step outside of SFF. Take George Orwell. We have a large body of material about him: essays, books, and personal letters, as well as descriptions by people who knew him well. It’s not hard to get a sense of who he was, and I’m confident in tagging his personality type as INFJ, which is one with Introverted Intuition—with the whole “B” polarity in fact. His works do tend to project various aspects of the B combination.

Orwell’s 1984 is a great example of Introverted Intuition at work. He posits an idealized society in which every apparent archetypal appearance is covering something completely opposite. Not only that, but part of uncovering truth is to exercise Extroverted Sensing through sights, sounds, tastes and the sensual pleasure of sex. In Re-Modeling the Mind, I used a passage from one of Orwell’s other works to illustrate the observational powers of Extroverted Sensing. He really does seem to have a close match of human personality and Perceiving worldview in his writing. This may not always be the case, but so far I keep finding it. We already talked about John’s match between personality and work, and I think we can say the same for you, that you also have the “A” combination of flexible Intuition with strong preference for archetypal human images.

Q:  What about readers? Do reader preferences always match their own personalities?

A: That’s a really tough question, and I think the answer is no, but with a qualification. When we find a work of fiction that presents a world we recognize as somehow ours, we’re probably feeling the resonance of writing that does harmonize with our Perceiving worldview. These may be the books we go back to or continue to think about. Like John with the Night Land world. We can also fall in love with aspects of the artistry used in works that don’t have the same resonance. My personality has the “A” combination like yours and John’s, and not at all like George Orwell’s, but I love his writing very much. I’ve read all of his novels, many of his letters and essays. I admire him profoundly. However, the message and world of 1984 don’t resonate with me in the way that the message and world of Eliot’s Middlemarch do. Eliot’s personality was very similar to mine.

It’s an important distinction because it would be too simplistic to see this series of articles as pinning down the personalities of readers. I am absolutely sure that there are people with both Perceiving polarities on both sides of the controversy. I still see a way that the issues line up, but it’s not in a direct one-to-one correspondence way.

Q: When we were first discussing these ideas, we touched upon Eric S. Raymond’s idea of literary status envy. His article had suggested that some folks in the speculative fiction field wished for the same kind of respect that literary writers received from the intelligentsia? Can you tell us what you make of his theory and whether it ties into your take on the B polarity?

A: Yes, I think this is a critically important piece that can only be understood by first understanding the fundamental goal of Introverted Intuition: using language to carry out the revelation of hidden truth. First let’s stipulate that all good writing uses language to reveal truth.

Now I’ll draw from Annie Dillar’s 1981 work Living by Fiction, which distinguishes between “plain” and “fancy” writing. Plain writing is what Orwell meant when he said, “Good writing is like a windowpane.” It doesn’t distract the eye from its object. Fancy writing, on the other hand, creates a beautiful surface; if it were a window, it would be wavy or colored glass.

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” uses what Dillard would call fancy language, and there’s a philosophical purpose. When we’re writing about plain things, we use plain language. The same hospital room (in the story) could be described so that the words didn’t call attention to themselves. Like a clear window, it would show us the bed with its coarse sheets and shiny rails, and the squeak of a nurse’s shoes as she walks past. In plain language, the story would tell more of the story. It might end with the idea, “I wish you had been a dinosaur so that you’d have killed the men.” But the story, written this way, would not explore the hidden true meaning of who the man was. It would present what Extroverted Sensing sees as an accurately-modeled appearance, but that wasn’t the writer’s purpose. The purpose was to meditate on the reality of identity and unreality of appearances. In order to present the inner-identity truth as primary, the story had to use “fancy” language.

There’s a close link between abstract ideas and figurative language. When we present ideas, we can’t describe them as if they were things. We convey them by making the surface of our art depict the ideas, so that the surface calls attention to itself instead of moving the “eye” directly to the things. Here’s what Dillard said in her book:

” We have seen in twentieth-century painting that the art of mind and the art of surface go together. When painters abandoned narrative deep space, their canvases became abstract and intellectualized. With its multiple metaphors and colliding images, and embellished language actually abstracts the world’s objects. Such language wrests objects from their familiar contexts. We do not enter deep space; we do not enter rounded characters; we contemplate them as objects.”

Introverted Intuition is deeply interested in wresting objects from their familiar contexts so that we’re not fooled into regarding the familiar appearances as their whole truth. Writers who have Introverted Intuition in their personalities may use plain, direct language: George Orwell is a great example of one who did. But when their purpose is to create verbal art that “wrests objects from their familiar contexts,” they will be strongly drawn toward language that directs the eye away from the thing, and toward the new way it’s being presented.

Q: That is an interesting and somewhat subtle concept.  Can you give us another example to help us grasp it more completely?

A: Yes, here’s another good example of the same phenomenon, Eugie Foster’s 2009 Nebula-winning story, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast.” In this story, a utopian/dystopian city ruled by a queen has one main law: every morning, you have to put on one of the masks that will control your identity for that day. The story’s events first establish how this works, then depict the narrator’s bitter discovery of truth. First, the concept of the story is a perfect fit with the B polarity: Introverted Intuition has two anti-mask revelations at once. The narrator learns the truth of how the techno-masks control them, but the story itself also suggests the extent to which roles we play are masks that control us. Second, the story’s language is very sophisticated and beautiful, even as it describes at times ugly things. In drawing the reader’s attention to the masks, it also draws attention to the words as they mask or reveal ideas.

Q: In the next article, we’ll talk about how these ideas may explain some of the current controversy. Can you give us just a brief preview of what is to come?
A: I think that the gradual introduction of a different set of standards, and perhaps a different kind of “speculation” in “speculative fiction,” is creating some identity crisis in science fiction. Both of the personality combinations I’ve described have always been part of the SF world, both in its writers and in its readers. But I think that Introverted Intuition has previously been caught up in logical questions about science and technology. It’s been hunting down the hidden meaning of how we relate to rapidly-developing new abilities. Extroverted Intuition (in the “A” polarity) has generally used a what-if scenario to set in motion a wild adventure, while Introverted Intuition has most often presented scenarios of withheld truth that must be diligent sought, layer by layer. In exploring how human archetypes may be masks, it often showed corruption in government or a reversal of expectations: the ugly alien turns out to be morally good. Much of the interest in “transhumanism” may come from Introverted Intuition too, as it explores the ways an individual can cross over boundaries of appearance-archetypes, like how a robot may become somewhat human. Gradually, “speculation” about “identity” is moving away from this narrow vein of technology and logic, and this shift is materially aided by the introduction of new literary standards, ones that directly support the goals of the “B” worldview. Together, they support a shift away from technology and toward questions of persons. And then political identities invade and the Galactic War is on.

Thank you, Ruth! Another great installment in our ongoing series!

Comments

For more of Ruth’s work:

Re-modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance

Ruth’s extremely interesting site on the Middle Ages: All Things Medieval

Ruth’s excellent book on Beowulf

 

Overheard at the Wright Household

Growing up as the children of two sf/fantasy writers gives children a slightly different lease on life than the average littl;e tyke, as can be seen in this snippit from March of 2002, back when Orville was not yet four:

This morning, I’m laying in bed trying to get a few last minutes of sleep before I have to get ready for church and Orville comes in.

“Mommy, you have to draw!” (he probably said daw, but I’ll edit the Orville speech for clarity of readability.)

Me: “Mommy doesn’t draw, Sweetie, you have to ask Daddy.”

Orville: “Daddy, you have to draw!”

So John takes the magnidoodle pad from him and says: “What should I draw, Orville?”

Orville: “Thululu!” by which, of course, he means the green plush Cthulhu that the
Elder Spawn left on our door one day. He was playing with Thululu all last night, during which time, Thululu defeated a dragon, a plane, and a large butterfly. (This makes me laugh every time I read it. But in its defense the red paper butterfly was almost as large as the plushy Cthulhu. 😉

So, John starts drawing Cthulhu and Orville goes running off to get his Thululu doll. He comes back with Thululu and the dragon (from Dragontails).

So, I’m laying there, half a sleep and I hear:

“They have to fight!” declares Orville, holding up the Cthulhu doll and the dragon.

John in a dry voice, “This will require him to rise and destroy all life on earth.”

Orville: “Thululu has to get him!”

John: “He will have to arise from Bikini Atoll and drive us all mad.”

Orville: “Thululu got him!”

John, in a sad dry voice, “At a great price, but perhaps it was worth it.”

John C. Wright on the Last 4 Things in SF

John C. Wright has a fascintaing essay up, called The Last Four Things In Science Fiction. I think I read something similar to it in Transhuman and Subhuman that he published and it is well worth the time to read. I think he captures some of the idea of superversion in this essay, that future we aim for and why the four secular visions he points to miss the mark.

Most futures in most SF stories are monocultures, much in the same way, and for the same reason, most worlds visited by the starship Enterprise have but one culture. There is not enough room in a single novel, or a single movie, to do more than hint at complexity.

Indeed, complexity would destroy the mood and theme of the story. Imagine someone writing a realistic version of Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR or Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD. In both cases, the totalitarian dystopia cannot project an air of suffocating omnipotence if it is hinted anywhere that they will pass away in less than sixty years. The absurdly over-regulated world state in Huxley, realistically, would last even less time. Imagine if every baby born had to be decanted and birthed by the same bureaucracy that runs the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Post Office. The idea that they would produce the correct number of the different intellectual castes, Alpha to Epsilon, as conditions changed from year to year is absurd. Recall that one of the Epsilons is an elevator operator. When the book was written, every elevator had an operator the same way, now, every automobile has a driver. Science fiction writers have been predicting in vain for years now cars that would drive themselves, or fly, but Huxley did not anticipate elevators operated by a pushbutton. Realistically, the world-bureaucracy of the Ford world-state would have no more ability to predict the actions of the market place, or the needs of its wards, than Huxley himself. In the real world, the utter incompetence even of public servants who are not venal is legendary.

Obviously, the police state in Orwell would go broke the same way the Soviet Union did and communist China is (despite our heroic efforts to prop them up) going to. Perhaps it could last one hundred years, or two. But the whole theme of Orwell was that the state was like a boot that would trample a human face forever. The hopelessness is the core of the book’s message. Even Goldstein, the rebel against the system, is manufactured by Big Brother as part of the totalitarian control process.

As with Orwell and Huxley, most science fiction writers do not have the space on the page to invent a future as complex as the future will be. To introduce the reader to more than one idea takes more than one story.

This is one reason the Future History stories of Robert Heinlein were monumental in science fiction history: aside from Olaf Stapledon, no writer before had worked out over a number of tales placed in a number of eras the complexity realism requires.

Like his mentor Olaf Stapledon, Heinlein anticipated a future that was fairly complex, with ups and downs, its advances and its setbacks. After the theocracy of Nehemiah Scudder, a libertarian style Covenant government would become supreme in the world, ushering in the golden age called ‘The Maturity of Man.’

Read the Rest

Six word SF

An interesting idea from the folks at Tor, write a story SF/Fantasy/Anything in 6 words. An interesting idea, I quite liked their two suggestions.

Conclusion: Humans come pre-farmed. Begin harvest.

and

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, ironically.

Go over there or make a suggestion here. I’m not sure how you get more than a title in six words but it is an interesting challenge.