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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Fain would I be / in my ain countrie

It's nearly October and I'm not in New England. I hate that. So I'm listening to Connecticut's own brilliant Hugh Blumenfeld as a cure for homesickness.

I know what happens in the next scene, down to chunks of dialogue. But I don't know how to start the damned scene. Time for more of that thrashing, I think.


At the beginning of a book, everything is very fluid, and there are myriad choices to be made. It's a process of exploration. When I start getting up on the ending, however, I find that all the choices I've made before predetermine and prefigure the choices I have to make now, so the feild, in some ways, narrows as I progress. And then there's the process where I know there's only one 'right' way for me to do a scene, but I haven't found it yet.

I have a lot of sympathy for Donna Tartt, who talks about writing three or five version of a scene and then going after them with scissors.

What I find really interesting in reading other fictional treatments both of Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe is the choices other writers have made. For example, nobody other than myself seems to have fastened on what, to me, is the most interesting detail about Marlowe: that here's a man who was very nearly a priest, whose work--from Tamburlaine to Faustus--is deeply concerned with questions of religion, God, and morality--and who by the end of his unfortunately short life seems to have been wrestling very deeply with an intellectualization or a rejection of faith. Whatever that faith meant to him, I don't think the easy and common answer--Marlowe was an atheist--works. And yet, unequivocally, every fictional treatment I've read of him has him as firmly atheistic and mocking the whole idea of God.

What an amazing source of conflict for so many fiction writers to duck it. Why wouldn't you go after that, pen blazing? That's--fascinating. And a wonderful fortuitous internal reflection of the external conflict and wrangling over religion that England was undergoing during that time period.

Meanwhile, there's Will Shakespeare. Who, other than coming across in his work as a bit of a secular humanist, is utterly frictionless on matters of God and Faith and judgement and--well, Shakespeare is just frictionless. Period. We know almost nothing about him, and his work is as enigmatic as his history. If we want to fictionalize Shakespeare we first must invent him. Marlowe, at least, has handles. Shakespeare might as well be nothing but his glorious poetry.

Oh, and a tax evader. *g* But really, that's all we can say.


Interesting question that

Yes, he is rather a blank slate on which any idea can be pondered, isn't he? Too bad most choose to write nothing of worth on him. Pun intended.

It's nearly October and I'm not in New England. I hate that. So I'm listening to Connecticut's own brilliant Hugh Blumenfeld as a cure for homesickness.

Sorry about that... I've spent time in Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and etc., and I do miss the change of seasons when I'm away... and in February, I'll be wishing I were back in one of those other places... ;-)

Marlowe's atheism

Re Marlowe and faith -- or lack of it. You're absolutely right. If other authors have not considered this issue or have ducked it, then I'm sure your book has a much sounder grasp of the character. He must have started out as a serious believer to have been heading for the priesthood, by which I mean he was more than just a token Christian. Then something must have shaken his faith. Not an uncommon thing, though I know much more about Victorians who lost their faith than people in Shakespeare's time. Some wobble and then renew their faith, some wobble and then abandon it. The latter takes a lot of courage, even nowadays. When you've been brought up to believe in God as a constant presence, helper and comforter, to then decide that you're all on your lonesome is a big thing. Even if Marlowe appeared to others as a hardened atheist and mocker of God, then inside there would be lots of personal turmoil. And novels are all about the insides of characters, which is where all the interesting stuff happens.

Re: Marlowe's atheism

Well, and 'atheist' meant something different to an Elizabethan than it meant to a Victorian. Or to us. Essentially, it meant somebody who did subscribe to one of the organized dogmas of the time.

But yeah, it's--precisely--very interesting to me that so many writers have chosen to take the 'safe' route rather than committing to something that could give a deeper conflict.

Because it's all about conflict.
Marlowe-as-atheist is such a kewl modern figure. That is the weakness of most of the fiction I've read about him, none of which has engaged me long.

The Marlowe you mention is the Marlowe I see in his work, and is much more complex and interesting.

There's a real depth to his character--a sense of real religious *crisis*--that, I dunno. May not be trendy or something? Maybe most SFF writers see it as a chance to provide a modern outlook in a premodern time?

Fiction writers are supposed to be trained to ferret out conflict, though. I guess it just boggles me why anybody would avoid something that seems to me so rich as a source of conflict and characterization.
Judging from what I have seen, writers want to exploit the gay and amoral (if not immoral) Kit, and have him snap out anti-religous aphorisms that really aren't shocking any more, or even particularly new territory any more.

These are people who seem more interested in finding historical people they can clothe in period clothing but be written as modern figures. There is a readership for that. I just don't find it engaging--those stories are predictable.

My favorite genre historicals are the ones in which someone really understands the period enough to give it a twist that renders the time not quite now as well as not quite then, but a new and interesting blend of both. Iain Pearson's Fingerpost and John M. Ford's Dragon Waiting come to mind.


I think Kit's much more interesting if you consider the intellectual revolutionary he was than the Gothboy that a lot of modern writers seem to want him to have been.
the most interesting detail about Marlowe: that here's a man who was very nearly a priest

Yes and no.
When every scholarship is for the priesthood, every scholarship student is nearly a priest. That could've been out of out of a true intent and he lost his way. Or, it could've been the only avenue up out of his father's business, and he put on a good show of interest until he could get what he wanted out of the education.

[Part of my money's on the latter, but then the reason I gave up fiction-writing was because I felt that all my characters were too close reflections of myself, so I'm likely projecting to something more comprehensible]

I'd love to see more statistics for schooling of the period, how many of his contemporaries who started that course of study actually went into the priesthood, and more on the other scholarship students of the time.

I'm rereading Faustus right now--close reading--immediately after rereading Tamburlaine--and bringing what I have learned in the last three years about how writers work to the forefront, and what I know about Marlowe's life--I would say these plays were written by somebody who was deeply concerned with matters of faith.

Deeply enough to consider them a strong internal conflict.

Unlike Shakespeare, by comparison, who maybe nods to God in passing and moves on, or dismisses him as an active principle out of hand.

There's also so much else that Marlowe was involved in--such as Raleigh's 'School of Night'--that was deeply concerned with exploring matters of faith--and he lived in a society utterly obsessed with the topic. I think the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of my conviction that it was more than a intellectual interest.

(Disclaimer: not Christian myself, and I came to my research for this book with the conventional preconception of Kit-as-Atheist)
Hello. I've been reading your journal for a while. I hope you don't mind me jumping into this conversation.

Have you seen or read David Allen's play, Cheapside? It briefly touches on Marlowe's loss of faith, though the main focus (on him, at least) is on his espionage activities.


Jump in!

And no, I haven't read that one. In fact, have never even heard of it. So you educated me today! I'll have to look for it....

Re: Please!

I saw the show years ago in Ireland. I loved it. I don't know if it's ever been put on in the States. The show is presents a look at the politics, society, and art of Elizabethan England, as seen through the eyes of Robert Greene, a minor playwright. It's currently out of print, but you may be able to find a used copy somewhere.

Re: Please!

Oh, dear sweet Robert Green. I'm actually rather sad that he's dead by the time Stratford Man starts. He'd be such a good foil, the vile-mouthed little whoremonger.... *g*

And yet I say that with great fondness.

Re: Please!

If you can't turn up a copy of the play and want to read it, let me know. I could lend you my copy.

Re: Please!

Ooo. Very tempting, but I think I will scour the used book marketplace.

I would be terrified to hurt something out of print that wasn't mine.

Warning: Projection Imminent

I'm a dyed in the wool atheist. In the literal sense.

Ever since I can remember, I've never felt a need for God. In fact, I felt more comforted by the randomness of the universe than the fact that everything I experienced was someone's *plan*.

Perhaps this is the natural result of being the offspring of a Jewish-Catholic marriage in which we were encouraged to discover everything about all religion and choose our own. I find it telling that three of us are atheists and the fourth agnostic.

However, I always shone in Religious Studies and Ethics. My teachers really wanted me to go the route of studying these further with a view to university.

And the monster novel, Suffer the Innocent, is largely what I would term a theological fantasy, concerning itself with many themes of faith, divine predestination, etc.

Although I don't personally believe, and never have, I find faith fascinating. The whys and wherefores.

::Same thing, dearest::

So...::shrugs::...I dunno. I'm probably way too detached to be a Kit ;)

Although, I have to say, your Kit makes a deal of sense to me.

Re: Warning: Projection Imminent

I personally am not an agressive atheist in the Feynman sense, because that's too much like religious commitment for me.

I suspect that if there is a Truth, we're unlikely to have figured it out yet. And if there is a God (or many) they're unlikely to want lots of petting and praising like an insecure spouse.

And if there isn't, well. Like Feynman, I'm cool with that, too.

But I do find religion and faith very interesting, and I'm glad I live in a time where the grip of the state religion isn't as strong as it has been in some others *g*

Re: Warning: Projection Imminent

Some others like 1597? she said innocently