Wednesday, May the 4th, 2016
Lehigh Valley Presbyterian Church, 31 S. 13th Street, Allentown
If you are into creative writing, literature, the arts, and faith, then you are the sort of person who would love courses at Signum University! They are lively, engaging, highly-intelligent courses that combine rigorous academics with serious fun and love of literature. They often interact with popular culture in the smartest possible ways, as if Shakespeare were Game of Thrones. Which, really, if you think about it, he kind of was.
This summer (starting next week!), we’re offering three fantastic classes–fantastic in at least two senses. They’re awesome, and they’re about fantasy literature, speculative fiction, mythology, and classical languages.
And there are three different levels of participation you can choose from, so these aren’t just for those who want to pursue an M.A. with Signum (although of course if you are interested, talk to me!!). You can:
1. Take a course for credit towards a Master’s degree;
2. Enroll as a discussion auditor and participate in the live, small-group discussion sessions but not write papers or take exams; or
3. Audit the class, listening to the lectures (live or recorded), just for your own personal enrichment.
Whichever you choose, you’ll get world-class lectures on life-changing topics!
This summer’s three classes are:
Taught by the famous Douglas A. Anderson, author of The History of the Hobbit.
Of the various men in the writer’s group the Inklings who met in Oxford primarily during the 1930s and 1940s, two achieved world renown with their writings: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both had a strong interest in the developing field of science fiction. This course covers the Inklings’ creative and personal encounters with science fiction.
Taught by the brilliant newcomer Brenton D. G. Dickieson, scholar who discovered a fascinating new connection between The Screwtape Letters and the Ransom Trilogy, author of the popular blog A Pilgrim in Narnia.
This course explores some of the great mythologies of love that provide a background to today’s culture, sketched out along the twin paths of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves and a chronological development of the ideas of love.
The second semester of “Elementary Latin” will complete your introduction to the basic elements of the Latin language. It will emphasize the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. The course is open to all students who have completed Signum University’s Elementary Latin I or a comparable introductory course in Introductory Latin at another institution.
I wrote a ten-minute play. Here’s the first bit. Enjoy!
a one-act play
by Sørina Higgins
PYGMALION A sculptor
ONESIMUS His assistant
GALATEA A statue
Pygmalion’s studio. Maybe on Cyprus, maybe anyplace.
At the height of the Greek Empire. Or anytime, really.
(PYGMALION is working away at the statue of GALATEA, polishing it with a cloth.)
Here comes my comic relief. Now I won’t get any more work done today.
Good morning, boss! Isn’t it a lovely—
Is she finished?!
Not quite. It’s nearly complete, though. I’ll finish today.
(He stands back from the statue. They admire it from a distance, walking around as they talk.)
She’s… she’s unearthly. No, that’s not the right word. Maybe if I stand on my head I can think of it.
As long as you’re out of the way when you stand on your head, I don’t care what you do. I have to polish it, and then it’s done. It’s good, isn’t it?
Good!?! It’s divine! No, that’s not the right word either. Curse my memory; I can barely remember my own name. At least I don’t forget what life is for: food, drink, girls…. You seem to have forgotten those exist, boss. Now, what’s the word for her?
‘Perfect’? Is that it?
No… I mean, oops, sorry. Sure, it’s a perfect work of art, no question there. You’ve outdone yourself. You’ll go down in history for this masterpiece! Can I get your autograph? Can I have a lock of your hair, or the finger-bone of your left pinky? I’ll sell it in my old age and retire rich.
(tries to grab PYGMALION’s hand; he slaps it away)
Or I’ll steal your statue and sell that. It’s sheer genius. But the girl herself? She is…hm. I don’t know.
Well, she is a looker, I’ll give you that.
(he moves towards the statue, dreamily, hand outstretched)
Stop! Don’t touch it! You know you’re not allowed to touch the sculptures!
I… I forgot for a moment that she was a sculpture. I’m sorry, boss.
(snapping out of his daydream and stepping away)
But you know how I am with the ladies! They can’t resist me; I can’t resist them! Why, just today in the market, this flower-seller, she says to me—
It’s just a lump of marble, Onesimus, no matter how it’s shaped. No need to get worked up over it.
I know. But somehow…. Pygmalion? Why do you call her ‘it’?
Why do you call your beautiful statue ‘it’? Why don’t you call her ‘her’? After all, I remember your sculpture of the young Achilles; you always called that ‘him.’ Remember those early days? You were always mooning about the studio—I mean, oops, sorry. I’m sure you were thinking deep artistic thoughts—but you were talking about ‘him’ or ‘he’ all the time like a girl cooing over her lover.
Ha ha. Very funny. Well, that was long ago. I am grown up now. No mooning over a piece of stone, or a girl, or a lover.
We plan to move in the middle of July. I’m traveling in June, so the May Ekphrasis will be the last one (with me, anyway). Here is a survey to choose the date of that last meeting. Please REPLY with your preferred dates:
Monday, May 2nd
Wednesday, May 4th (May the Fourth be with you!)
Thursday, May 5th
Friday, May 6th
I recently served on a jury. It was a powerful, intense, positive, transformational experience. Interestingly, since I’ve just read Diana Glyer’s Bandersnatch and am thinking about my upcoming keynote speech about Charles Williams and collaboration, the trial was about artistic collaboration and what happens when it breaks down. I won’t give any specifics, so as to protect the privacy of the parties, but here’s a generalized summary.
Several years ago, two creative guys got together and shared a great idea. It was snappy, original, imaginative, catchy, and cool. And it worked, for a while. But then personality conflicts arose. They had arguments over who owned the idea. Finally, one sued the other.
It was a complicated case. Each claimed he had invented the particular creative idea that was contested. But, under oath and under pressure from the lawyer’s questions, each finally admitted that he had invented exactly HALF of the idea. But both had been using the idea since then, so who owned it? Must one of them stop using it, even though that would break his heart?
Along the way, a few things struck me, hard.
I. The idea originally belonged to both of them 100%. Not to one guy 50% and the other guy 50%, but to both men 100%. The idea would not have emerged except in collaboration. They both got the idea while on the phone together. Neither man would have had it without the other. The thing couldn’t live if it were cut in two. Either they had to learn to work together, or one of them had to give up all of it and hand it over to the other. Art made in community has to stay in community in order to thrive.
II. The trial itself was a work of dramatic art created by all the parties present. It followed a definite narrative trajectory, with a clear arc of increasing tension. What started as a boring, technical discussion over the rights to use a specific idea escalated into serious accusations—of inappropriate sexual language, of threatened violence. The temperature in the courtroom rose. Voices were raised, tempers flared, fists were pounded. And each person played his or her given role: the lawyers, in particular, were Dickensian caricatures of themselves: one extremely tall and bone-skinny, with a skeletal face and a cruel, hard, bullying manner; the other short, quiet, grandfatherly, with a round, beaming red face and long white curls, soft-spoken, forgetful, disorganized. The drama fell into discernible scenes and acts, divided by breaks and behind-the-scenes drama in the jury room.
III. Art and Law, when they meet and clash, do not mix. The lawyer for the plaintiff knew how to break a man, and he did: he broke down his witness in the box with relentless, repetitive questioning, all about how many pieces the artistic idea could be broken down into and who created which little piece and who owned it. That’s not how art works. I left that scene of the drama in tears, saying over and over in my mind: “That’s not how art works. You can’t break it into those bits. They all have to work together, to live.” But when collaborative partners become enemies, that’s what happens.
IV. Powerful collaboration among perfect strangers is possible, and community can be created in the most unlikely places between extremely dissimilar people. At the start of the jury selection process, there were 70 strangers in a room. Over the next day and a half, we were whittled down until a jury was selected. By the end of the trial, that little group of humans felt like close friends—and most of us didn’t even know each other’s names. We worked together remarkably well, using our differences as an advantage.
This intense experience (staying in a hotel far from home for several days, living in this strange bubble so different from my ordinary life) taught me a lot about justice, society, law, and personalities. It was a really positive, enriching time. I admired the judge greatly, and I am confident that the right decision was made, from a legal point of view. But I was saddened to see that the creative people couldn’t work it out without the intervention of law.
Was Charles Williams a Bandersnatch?
Throughout, of course, I thought about the Inklings and their creative collaborations. I’m working on my keynote speech for the Colloquium at Taylor this coming June (where the great Diana Glyer herself is giving another keynote). My talk will be called “Charles Williams and Friendship sub specie Arthuriana.” I’ll be talking about the ways in which his love of the Grail and Logres intersected with his friendships. I’ll be asking: When did Williams work with other people on his retellings of the King Arthur materials? What did that collaboration look like? How did it work? How did working together affect what he wrote, how or where or when it was presented or published? How did working together influence the reception of his writings? What influence did his particular take on the Arthurian legends have on his friends, his family life, and his workplace? So the talk will be all about various kinds of collaboration.
Collaboration was important to Williams, because community was important to him. You already know about his doctrines of Co-Inherence, Substitution, and Exchange. He believed that people live in, through, and for one another. So it was natural, then, even for someone with his loner’s temperament, to involve others in his work. And these literary exchanges were usually fruitful. I’ll have to explore, of course, the times that it went sour: when he used his Arthurian mythos as a cover story for emotional abuse. But more often, I think, his Arthurian myth was among the healthier parts of his psychology. I’ll see as I go along. And I’ll also be looking at whether any theory of friendship or theology of collaboration emerges from his work. I’m looking forward to it!
And YOU can collaborate with me by leaving questions, comments, thoughts, suggestions on this blog and elsewhere on social media, and I’ll take them into consideration as I write my speech. But don’t let’s argue, split up, and sue one another, OK?
The other day, I overheard someone talking about soap operas and suspended animation in the same conversation. So I said soap operas would be a lot better if they included SF elements. I tweeted out this story yesterday on @SorinaHiggins. Here it is in full.
If Soap Operas Met Science Fiction
“Darling!” He exclaimed, on his knees. “I’ll do anything for you! What do you want me to do? Leave my wife and kids? Run off with you to the Riviera? Buy you a yacht?”
“Hold out your arm,” she said.
She put out one hand, and purple suction cups blossomed from each fingertip. Schlook! They squelched onto his forearm, sucking little bubbles of flesh up into their moist interiors. He hollered in shock, then the yell turned into a gurgle as he felt what was being vacuumed through his veins, out through his skin, into her body.
It was energy. Pure energy. She was converting his caloric intake, his body’s electrical impulses, and every ounce of stored-up fat into a stream of vivid energy, melting him, draining him.
As he went limp and oozed slowly to the floor, she turned to the wall of her penthouse—his first gift to her when their fling had begun. She pressed her suction-cup fingertips to the wall and exhaled, long and slow. The marble wall changed to silver metal. The windows flickered as banks of control panels blinked into life. Her sequined designer dress slid from her body, which was scaly and sinuous.
The last thing he saw as he dissolved into oblivion was her spaceship detaching itself from the top of the apartment building and soaring off over Manhattan, and the last words he heard were:
“Never mind the Riviera, darling. You’ve given me the stars.”
Here is Sharon’s “Works in Progress” blog post about her novel “Chrysalis.”
During March the fabulous Bethany Jennings ran a twitter party called #WIPJoy. She created a question for us to answer about our current work-in-progress each day. It was a blast answering the questions and getting to know more about other novels. Here is the compilation of all of my answers.
Page 2. For the Chrysalis project. India Ink. 2016
1. Details about the WIP: Chrysalis is a NA SFF novel that follows Joyel, a woman who is kidnapped as a child and trained to kill her family.
2. How long have I been working on it? Where am I at ? I put pen to paper in ’13. The MS is complete but needs revisions. I’m using a structure workbook to figure out what to change.
3. Mood and Atmosphere in 5 words: Dark. Brutal. Hopeful. Cutting-edge. Medieval.
4. You might enjoy my book, CHRYSALIS, if you like psychological drama…
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