Black Hole or Space Donut?

 

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Hilton Ratcliffe is Skeptical

 
Muse Harbor author Hilton Ratcliffe doesn’t shy away from controversy. In fact, the South African astrophysicist is quite certain that little of what we perceive about the cosmos is, in reality, reality. “Do black holes actually exist?” Ratcliffe wonders. “Let us not concern ourselves with what black holes are in the minds of cosmologists and theoretical physicists. Suffice it to say that black holes are theoretical constructs—monstrous objects presumed by some to exist in deep space—that possibly and ominously portend our extinction as a species and portray the eventual, inevitable doom of the entire universe…And which [Stephen Hawking], in January 2014, finally admitted might not be real after all.”

Which is our way of saying, What the heck’s out there? Is speculation better than a blatant species-wide shoulder shrug? Is there any problem in admitting we don’t know what lies within the infinite playground surrounding our own ‘little blue dot’?

Mr. Ratcliffe adds, “It is profoundly important that I state up front what this book is about: the power and influence of belief over data-driven science in creating our opinions, and the eternal, polarising conflict between belief and instinct in the development of our mindset…Please bear in mind that I am not proposing an alternative model of anything; I am merely tendering a method that favours objectivity in the development of all theories and philosophies, whatever they might be.”

Whatever those philosophies, we here at Muse Harbor believe Hilton’s thoughts to be heretically fabulous, filled with personal insights and brilliant speculations—with the caveat that, far out there—as well as deep in here—we often don’t really know what we’re talking about. Are the world’s great scientists, at a loss for certain knowledge, simply “smoking our socks?”

 

 

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Remembering Barbara Marx Hubbard

Dear Friends,

I am sorry to share that my dear friend and the “mother” of the human conscious evolution movement, Barbara Marx Hubbard, has departed from this material plane of existence. Godspeed to you, dearest Barbara…and may the love of all those who are grieving your loss lift your wings and carry you home.

Before she departed, Muse Harbor Publishing had the distinct honor and privilege of publishing The Evolutionary Testament of Co-Creation: The Promise Will Be Kept. Now, as I think back on all Barbara offered to the world through her many books and her entire life’s work, I am left to wonder…is the God that Barbara communed with keeping that promise?

The promise that Barbara Marx Hubbard foresaw—and what she shared throughout her long and illustrious life—refers to an emergent, unstoppable evolution in the nature and the focus of human consciousness. She talked often about how she was feeling a potent expansion of her own, ego-based perspective. She experienced within herself the emergence of this deeper, more powerful capacity for self-awareness and viewed it as the antidote to the challenges created by human self-consciousness. Barbara frequently experienced profound visions that involved all of humanity joyfully participating in a single, unified, living and self-aware system, containing a multitude of utterly precious human parts.

Barbara sensed that this rapid change in self-awareness was giving birth to a new humanity that would become more creative, intentional, and benevolent in its choices than has been homo sapiens. She even considered it to be creating a new species of human that she classified as homo universalis. Barbara realized that those who are presently undergoing this internal shift in consciousness were only beginning to learn and master their innate capacities, and she nurtured that process so that others would learn how to trust themselves to use their own gifts more gratefully, wisely and lovingly. Barbara further sensed that this new form of human beingness that is arising will soon inspire a secondary wave of more masterful human doingness. She therefore urged us all to join our geniuses as well as our genes, and to do our part so that humanity as a whole can overcome the many challenges we face.

The Barbara I knew inerrantly followed her heart’s inner compass of joy. Because she always focused on placing her grandest version of herself in loving, trusting service to her God—the Source of all life—Barbara lived an authentic life that was filled with joy, and purpose, and countless wonderful friends. She believed, quite strongly, that once any of us sets ourselves free to live our own authentic purpose, the loving abundance of the life force—which is our natural birthright—will be ours. That is the promise that Barbara believed God has made to humanity. And she made it clear before her death that this promise has been kept, and that the wave of change she once foresaw has already begun making its brilliant, flowing movement around this Earth. Of course, the global flood of greater awareness that Barbara Marx Hubbard predicted is not a material tempest of actual waters, but a tsunami-like wave of a powerful, unstoppable flow of good will, compassion, interconnectivity, and love for all that is, has been, and has yet to be.

Beloveds, as we collectively experience this massive, cresting wave of awareness moving toward us all like a brilliant flash of wondrous inner light, we need not be afraid of the power it carries. The light that rushes toward us now is no more fearsome than was the darkness out of which we now emerge. It will not swamp or destroy us with its radiance or its essence; rather, it will illuminate what we most need to see so that we can thrive in the joy of our shared aliveness.

Barbara knew this wave existed because she lived within it. Like a prophet of human consciousness, she proclaimed the coming of this great flood of higher awareness to all who were willing to listen: “Christ Consciousness is coming, so please open yourself and go meet it!” We have all been invited to open the inner floodgates that are holding back love’s healing energy, and to let it flow through us. Today, as we enter Easter’s Holy Week and humanity’s ancient stories of death and rebirth take shape in our collective consciousness, we will be well served to remind ourselves that Barbara’s most cherished vision was for each of us to hear the knock of Christ Consciousness at the inner door in our own hearts, and then rise to go meet it.

Eileen Workman,
Muse Harbor Publishing

 

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Dialogue (Part 3)

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rules-header-fullA notebook for fiction writers and aspiring novelists. One editor’s perspective.

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Writing Great Dialogue (Part 3):
The best works of fiction aren’t about
plotting. They’re about people.

Why do we write? Or, more specifically, for what purpose do we write? (Okay, and let’s forget about that Pulitzer for a moment.) But what is it that we hope to convey to our readers? What do we assume will move or excite or enrich an audience? How do we create characters or ideas that might remain in a reader’s thoughts for a month or a year or a lifetime?

The simple answer is, of course, to tell a good story. But let’s dig more deeply. What exactly defines a Great American Novel? (Or a Great Nigerian Novel, for that matter.) As fiction writers, are we attempting to reveal the truth about…what? The truth about truth? About deceit? About pride or prejudice, war or peace? About fate or luck? About zombies or ghosts, aliens or evil step-mothers? About falling in love or coping with death? About fitting in or dropping out? In a real sense, whatever our genre, or topic, whatever our slam-dunk story line, there’s a deeper importance—one that infiltrates all plots and genres and fictive rationale. One that connects author and reader.

Because, for me, the key isn’t about writing “What Happens.” It’s about “What Happens to People.” No matter our story, whatever our genre, whatever our goal, we’re ultimately writing about characters who are important to us. Who feel real to us. But when a writer truly cares about his characters (the good, the bad and the ugly), readers have no choice but to also care deeply for them. And one of the most cogent ways to reveal a character? Through dialogue. Through internal monologue. A paragraph or two of primo dialogue can be worth a chapter or two of banal omniscient narration.

For instance:

.….They strolled in the cool sand for several minutes without speaking, neither of them pushing it, Bobby’s thoughts somewhere on the horizon. Maybe their entire walk destined to silence, but Nikki wanted this conversation—needing it for both their sakes—and she looked at him finally. “Were you in love with her?”
…..“Erica? No. It never—I don’t—it wasn’t ever about love. I’m not even sure she was capable.”
…..“What about you? Have you ever been in love?”
…..“I don’t think so.”
…..“Love’s like a migraine,” she said softly. “You know it when you feel it.”
…..“Maybe just a slight headache, once or twice,” he said with a smile.
…..“It’s a complicated process, Bobby.”
…..“Yeah. Too complicated.”
…..“Oh?”
…..“Too many expectations,” he amended. “Of becoming something you’re not. The spontaneity dies and suddenly being yourself isn’t good enough any more. You feel yourself being molded—crammed into an uncomfortable box. Somewhere you know you don’t belong. Do you know what I mean?” he asked.
…..“Yes,” she said. “I do.”
…..“Maybe somewhere out there—” He shook his head, almost didn’t finish, but then shrugged away the inane incoherence of his own thoughts and said, “—there’s a woman willing to let me be me. Willing to accept the flaws, you know?”
…..They walked for a long moment, her silence this time, before she said, “You know what? You’re like a blind perfectionist, Bobby. You know what you want but I’m not sure you could see it right in front of your face.”

Note that the above dialogue may not be furthering the plot, but it is adding to our understanding of two main characters (development)—and thus, it’s important information to the reader. Allow yourself to truly feel your actors, to expose your characters—warts and all. Remember, in life, there are no 100% heroes and no 100% villains. Even Adolf Hitler painted pretty pictures. Gandhi threw tantrums. So permit your characters to fully inhabit themselves—allow them to speak freely about who they are and what they want, both to you and to your readers. And when you feel moved by what you’ve written, that’s when you know you have a the workings of a great novel. To reit:

Rule #41. Great fiction isn’t about ‘what happens’. It’s about ‘what happens to people.’

The above rule isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from concocting an amazing, consistently dramatic, plot-twisty magnum opus. If you’ve discovered the mother-lode of great plots, and believe you have a logical and rational reason to frontload that information, go for it! However, one word of advice. While you’re plotting your epic masterpiece, don’t allow your characters so sit there like lumps, watching reruns and eating bonbons until the plot comes knocking at their door. Give them substance and give them purpose that excites the reader…even before the plot reveals itself. Once we’ve established our characters—either partially or fully—once we’ve given them flesh and bone, hopes and dreams, courage and fear, imperfections and eccentricities, now we can let loose the proverbial Hounds Of Hell.

Or think of Rule #41 this way. Put an eclectic cast of chatty characters on a luxury liner slowly sinking in the icy Atlantic and you’ve likely got a page turner. Put that same boat in the same predicament—but with nobody aboard—and what do you have? A scholastic essay on buoyancy, I suspect.

One issue I’ve encountered when reading manuscripts concerns character classism: characters—especially protagonists—who are destined to live through the novel (and typically loved by the author) are largely well conceived and fully formed, full of life and joy, witty and urbane—sometimes real as real can be. And then there are the story’s second class citizens, background characters who sometimes seem to be barely breathing, roughly sketched, often dull and lifeless. These are minor characters that I realize (as a reader) are going to die, or else drift off the page sooner or later. Even if these characters have only a modicum of stage time, they need authorial love too. They need your full attention and development. If these characters aren’t fully honed, when they leave the story, or die, readers won’t really care. But a reader should care. If a reader isn’t made to care about a character—either one we’re supposed to love or we’re supposed to hate—there’s probably no reason for that character brought to life in the first place.

So, back to the basics. Let’s return for a moment (see Dialogue Part 2) to our aforementioned sci-fi thriller, The Great Big Giant Meteor. Remember our beleaguered hero, Charlie? Let’s say, early still in Act I, Charlie and his former girlfriend, Andrea, are walking on a moonless night, staring up at the heavens. Maybe that long extinguished spark between them has ignited again. The meteor is still a distant, undiscovered speck in the sky.

Q. How do we fill all those pages before the meteor’s presence is known?

A. With astute, meaningful character development.

For instance, let’s reveal Charlie re-examining all his long, lost feelings, testing those emotions he’d abandoned years ago. Do they oh-so-coincidentally talk about some billion-in-one chance that some as-of-yet undiscovered meteor might hit Earth? Of course not. (That would be telegraphing, and that’s taboo.) Besides, if you’re going to show the collision 100 or 200 pages hence, you certainly don’t want to talk about it now. Why ruin the suspense? Instead, Charlie and Andrea ingratiate themselves to the reader by talking about themselves in a multitude of seemingly incidental, gradually revealing and ultimately intriguing ways. And, as they begin to rediscover each other, the reader begins to discover them too. And no, they’re not talking about favorite laundry detergents either. That’s also taboo. (Because it’s boring.) But what about:

…..“Look at those stars,” Charlie said, staring upward into the cloudless night. “My God, it’s breathtaking. You know, I’ve always assumed only two types of people inhabit this world—those who look up and see irrelevant pinpricks of light, and those who see infinite potential, who ponder the very nature of existence.”

Or what about:

…..“I got married, Charlie,” Andrea said. “After you left Hawai’i, I met a man at Hickam, and we fell in love. It was all rather rushed and impromptu.”
…..Aware of the somber tone in her voice, sensing her sadness, he said, “Didn’t work out, huh?”
…..“It never had the chance,” she said, shaking her head. “He was an astronaut. His name was Paul McPhearson.”
…..Charlie’s
mouth formed a surprised oval. “You mean Major McPhearson? The Orion-4 Mission commander?”
…..She nodded. “Paul’s mission died somewhere on the dark side of Jupiter. They never found the spacecraft. He’s still out there, somewhere. Whenever I look up, Charlie, I think a big part of me is looking for him. Silly, I know, but he’s up there, and every night, over and over, I replay those ten thousand potential reasons why he never came home to me. I can’t help myself. I can’t just let it be.”
…..“I’m so sorry,” Charlie said, his voice shaking.

Such personal revelation not only contributes to the reader’s comprehension of our characters, but (in this case) keeps the reader subliminally aware of what’s out there—the meteor, of course—the universe being an infinite, largely unknown and often lethal place. It’s wise to seldom allow our readers to drift too far from the undulating drama that, sooner or later, will show itself.

Or think of character-building this way: Create characters interesting enough—in this case Charlie and Andrea—that even if an impending world-ending meteor doesn’t exist in your story line, your characters are complete and stimulating enough to keep the reader riveted. Keep us glued, even if your book is simple story between two space nerds looking for love.

That’s what great dialogue can provide.

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