Seeking an avenue to express my admiration of women, in October of 2013 I laid it all out in 140 pages.
One of the more culturally sophisticated commentators decided that I was the “Thomas Pynchon” at my current place of employment. I didn’t mean for the book to be inscrutable. I meant for it to be about the deep creative emotions that become our passions. But in exposing myself in that regard, all the complexity of my concerns for the future were mashed together in a narrative that is probably impenetrable to understanding.
I hope that you read it with your heart open.
There’s several aspects to the impenetrability of Ma. First is the complexity of the social forces that propel the characters across time and space. The principle male protagonist, Corin, summarizes the history of human nature and its current condition in four pages. On the planet of Trialle, his father, Erendur/Random, surveys his collaboration with Zenica (the “Ma” of the title) in empowering spiritual maturation using mystical technologies. This is all set against the backdrop of an interstellar competition between two communities – Random’s “Order” and Corin’s “Friendship” – to spread peace throughout the galaxy. The process is endangered by a predatory cabal within the former.
As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, the characters are entrained deeply in mystical experience. This means that internal and external worlds mesh. Those transitions aren’t always clearly defined in the narrative. We can be sitting in a shrine in Guandong one paragraph, and then in the next shift 200 million years into the mind of a saurian raptor. We do have Leelay, a woman of the Congo who represents Life, to lead us into that aspect of experience as she developers her strength. But, as a neophyte, she doesn’t have the terminology to explain the process, so much is left to inference by the reader.
I was conscious of this complexity, but believed that it didn’t really matter. Most of us struggle through life against forces beyond our control and understanding. We seek and cling to relationships that provide us assurance of mutual support. I find incredible beauty and surprising power in those human emotions and loyalties. While it is indeed possible to make sense of Ma’s back story (it’s all based upon the model of physics that I laid out in the generative orders research proposal), I hoped that people would realize that they weren’t supposed to understand it all, and focus on the relationships.
The key to the relationships is in the first chapter. The opening scene relates Corin’s traumatic separation from his mother, and I tried to manifest its consequences in the hotel room when Corin wakes up next to Leelay, the stranger that will become his soul-mate. The choices made by Zenica – choices driven by her immersion in the process of trying to love worlds full of people – left deep wounds in the intimates that she was trying to protect. They struggle against transferring that pain to others, and fail. Inspired by her service to others, they deny their own needs, and simply compound their loss.
I say that the book is a celebration of women, and it is in the hidden workings of the title character, a woman that until the final pages does not appear explicitly in the book except in memory, that I indulge my amazement in them. Zenica appears incongruously in the thoughts of her men throughout the book, reflecting her intervention, from her place of mystical sanctuary, in guiding them to healing and love.
Recognizing that in Ma I impose on the endurance of the reader’s compassion (I did try to put some bright moments in before the end!), I’m now working on a sequel that makes explicit, in reflection, many of the hidden forces that propel the characters. Then again, that exploration requires an elaboration of detail that has blossomed into a host of new characters and experiences. I’m having a lot of fun with it.