Communion Of Dreams


“What’s it about?”
January 21, 2011, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Science, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

I finished my shower, still thinking intently about the creative breakthrough I had just had. I toweled off, looked at my face in the bathroom mirror. Almost by habit, I reached over with my left hand and flushed the toilet – only noticing as I did so that I had done that previously, and there was nothing in there needing to be flushed away.

“Heh,” I thought. “Perfect.”

* * * * * * *

One of the most difficult questions I ever get about my writing is “What’s it about?” It seems like a simple question, but it isn’t.

Here’s a bit from the current homepage for Communion of Dreams:

At its surface level it is classic science fiction, in that a new discovery leads to a reevaluation of what it means to be human. Beyond that are levels of human psychological development and religious allegory, giving the text a depth which will appeal to a wide range of readers. Or so I hope.

* * * * * * *

An excerpt from an interesting article from the BBC:

“Dr O’Connor said ‘Karen what are you doing? Your hand’s undressing you’. Until he said that I had no idea that my left hand was opening up the buttons of my shirt.

“So I start rebuttoning with the right hand and, as soon as I stopped, the left hand started unbuttoning them. So he put an emergency call through to one of the other doctors and said, ‘Mike you’ve got to get here right away, we’ve got a problem’.”

The story is about a woman suffering from “Alien Hand Syndrome” – a medical condition which can occur from a number of different brain injuries or surgery. She had her corpus callosum severed in order to help cure epileptic seizures, and this worked, but it also resulted in this independent behavior of her left hand – a classic example of how the two hemispheres of the brain can operate separately under certain conditions.

* * * * * * *

There’s still almost nothing in the file I opened last week. But as I noted the other day, the weekend trip to Iowa gave me a chance to sort some things out. Since then, I have been working hard on the conceptual groundwork of the book. Well, a part of me has, anyway.

This is why it is hard to explain “What’s it about?” – only parts of my writing are conscious constructs.

To a certain extent, I play a game of tennis with myself, batting an idea back and forth between conscious thought and unconscious processing. Or between “sides” of my brain, if you will (though the left-right dichotomy of popular culture is not as simple as most people think). Part of the time I am thinking logically, working through problems. But part of the time I am processing emotion and insight below a conscious level. Last weekend I sorted out some ideas. This week I chewed over those ideas further, but in a way which I can’t really explain. And this morning once again they emerged into conscious thought.

It’s a breakthrough, an organizational insight. One of the basic levels of the book has now fallen into place. I’ve gone from the essential metaphor I mentioned previously to an understanding of how that structure plays out. Critical scenes are now starting to write themselves.

This is only another step, and in some ways a small one – I still haven’t written a word of text. But I have a deeper understanding of what I want to accomplish. I understand why my left hand is unbuttoning my shirt, or flushing the toilet, if you will.

Jim Downey


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