Back to the Word Factory

If you’ve been paying any attention to what’s going on here on this blog (and why would you be, it’s been quiet quiet enough here you could hear a gnat fart…so to speak), you’ll have figured out I’ve been struggling with what should be the last book of my Stealing the Sun series. It’s been difficult partly because of the raw number of storylines I’ve wound through the previous books. I’m not really used to twining these things together at this scope, so I’ve been doing a lot of “plotty” storyboard shuffling. But the truth of the matter is that it’s been hard due to a series of much more complex reasons, some I’m sure have to do with events of the day.

The story is, a big ole mess of politics and power and class and individual passions and families and what it means—or doesn’t mean—to be a part of a big universe. And this is the final book, the piece that brings it all to a head.

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A few nights ago, Lisa and I watched two older films.

The first was an 83-minute version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the second was the documentary The Weather Underground. Given things going on these days, it was an interesting pairing.

Metropolis was made in 1927, and in Germany–just before the Hitler period began. It’s a silent film, but quite watchable. A quite-lovely love story with a strong (for her time) female lead, set against a SFnal/Mad-scientist populated oligarchy in which labor and capital struggle for power. One of the starker images in the front third of the film is that of thick columns of workers lined up to go into a dark, grime-covered factory full of surreal machines where they toiled away to a 10 hour clock. On their way in, they passed equally thick columns of workers checking out.

The Weathermen were, of course, a group of radical young protestors of the Vietnam War era. At least I assume people know that. Given the period (late 1960s), though, it’s likely that “kids” today don’t know about them. [If you do not know who the Weathermen were, please go immediately to Google…go not pass Go…do not collect $200]

Both films have a sense of revolution embedded in them. Both touch on what it means that violence is in the toolbox of said revolution.

Metropolis, being a piece of fiction, requires a final resolution, and it gets one. In this case one wherein labor and capital come together for a final handshake and suggests that violence may not, perhaps, be the right way to get what workers want (though to be honest, my view here is that the relationship still will not end well for the workers). Weatherman Underground, however, is about real people dealing with real violence (both by the government and by themselves) and the real consequences of that violence. It does not resolve so much as it looks what happened, juxtaposes that against people’s lives today, and asks as many questions as it answers.

It is interesting to note that Metropolis is about workers and labor, whereas The Weather Underground is about the government and its people.

Human dynamics, and those in power, it seems will always be at odds with each other.

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Watching these two films together allowed them to settle into me in ways that are hard to explain. That each touch on class, equality, and power structures in ways that seem relevant to our world today is a strong part of it, of course. That one was made 90 years ago and the other describes events about half way between then and now has a horological element that made seeing them together feel like they were one single stone, skipping its way across the surface of time to arrive freshly at today. I already am pretty familiar with the Weathermen, but the next day I set aside a little time to learn more about Fritz Lang and his eventual interaction with Nazism.

This is part of my problem with this book, too, I think.

Watching Donald Trump rip up our world makes me angsty. Seeing him cage kids and rip families apart in my name, watching him use the government for his own gain, and actively work to estrange people who are not like him, seeing him rip up global partnerships and strip our system of its ability to actually govern, well…it all gives me great discomfort. And, to be honest, it’s messing with my mind as I write this fiction of mine predicated on a fairly intricate set of power structures that cause no ends of problems for the people who are trying to live in them.

Lang made a piece of art that made direct commentary on its time. The Weathermen did the same through action. In their own ways, both hoped to change the world in a way that would make it better to live in. Yet here we are—in a world that’s edging its way to being a lot more Weathermen than Metropolis. Or is it the other way around? I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that, amid this stuff running through my mind, I’m trying to put together a story that gathers up all my thoughts on these things into one tidy little bow.

This is a piece of art, right? (if I can be so pretentious as to say that)

It has needs.

Or does it? (he says as he closes his lunch pail and gets into the line that leads to the Word Factory)

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Posted in Daily Writing, Life.

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