Surreality

The term derives from two separate words, “Super” and “Reality,” thus meaning above or beyond normal reality.  Dreams are often described as surreal, or surreal experiences as “dreamlike.”  In the novel, especially in the early expositional chapters, but also throughout, I have relied not only on dreams, but memories, visions, hallucinations, and alternate POVs to attempt to approach this psychological realm.  Not usually without flagging the reader, however.

The idea here is that our everyday reliance on our five senses fails to yield a full experience of all that is “out there,” or more importantly, “in there.”  A dream, for example, no matter what its overt images and sounds, gives us access to a deeper level of our fears and desires than we will even admit to ourselves.

In the screenshot here from the film Seraphim Falls, a man confronts his own dark self, or (unkillable) doppelganger, in the stark landscape of the American desert.  What he hates in his enemy are those things that, deep down, he despises about himself.  Is this real, or “only” a dream–because if a dream, does that make it any less real?

Image

Entanglement and Entrapment

One parallel between my female and male protagonists that will be easily discerned, even in Chapters 1 and 2, is the state of being entrapped: that is, of being drawn into circumstances over which one has little or no control.  In fact, Will’s most basic conflict occurs when he is drafted–the condition that he’s 39 years old at the time is an added complication–and neither of these is within his power to change.  Similarly, Nexus gets noticed at her law office, and thence impressed into service outside of her own life-plan, without meaning or wanting to.

This is why Fate / Moira (Gr.) is sometimes envisioned as involving “weaving,” and “lines,” or “nets.”  One can’t get out!  The old noir films of the 1940s liked to express this mood with visual symbolism, like the use of Venetian blinds, or aural techniques, such as a fatalistic narrator who describes events that have already happened–thus, imbuing them with the quality of inevitability.

Military nomenclature, acronyms, and slang

Image

This novel relies occasionally but considerably on military jargon which, while certainly familiar to veterans of either the U.S. service or reading enough Tom Clancy, is not always decipherable from context.  I have added explanations where not too awkward, but to do more than that, I feel, would compromise the realism.  Luckily, Will has been out of the Marines for nearly twenty years, and so he needs frequent reminders himself.

So, as I do the final editing, I will compile a running list (in roughly order of appearance) of terms here, with brief explanations as I understand them myself.  Please add a comment if you want to correct, clarify, or elaborate something, and of course questions are welcome.

the Gulf: the first, so-called “Gulf War,” in summer 1990 through early 1991, officially a U.S.-led reprisal against the Iraqis for their invasion of Kuwait. Will lead a squad of men there, and also participated in a secret weapons program involving electronic upgrades to the .50 caliber sniper rifle.  Also known as Operation: Desert Storm

the ‘Nam, or Vietnam: the Vietnam War (1965-1975).  Highly debatable on nearly every point.  Officially, the United States attempted to repel the invasion of North Vietnamese Communists, led by Ho Chi Minh, from South Vietnam.  Tens of thousands of American men were drafted, 57,000+ killed in action.  Will’s father had an unclear history there in the early 1960s, during the French occupation and before the U.S. escalation following the Gulf of Tonkin incident

in-country: within the borders of a country where a war is actually being fought.  This term would thus not apply to U.S. soil

fast movers: jet aircraft as seen from the ground, especially bombers or fighters that pose an immediate threat or help to troops

chopper: helicopter of any design or class

OCS: Officer Candidate School–the equivalent of enlisted men’s boot camp for college graduates

CO: Commanding Officer.  The ultimate authority of a unit or base

Lieutenant: a low-level officer, O1 or O2, answerable to all higher-ranking officers, but above all enlisted personnel

Colonel: a high-ranking officer, O6 or O7, second only to the various Generals

BOOM: Bombing-operation mop-up (invented grunt slang)

sandbagger: a waste of time, or a person who wastes time from a position of concealment

NCO: non-commissioned officer.  An enlisted man above the rank of E3.  Typically, a corporal or sergeant, or a petty officer in the Navy.  They range from very inexperienced, to much more experienced than the officers who lead them

S2 or G2: intelligence staff at the battalion or larger-unit level

the theater: entire geographical scope of the war zone

MP: Military Police Officer

KIA: Killed in Action, usually applied to military personnel, not civilian casualties

grunt: a marine generally, but especially an infantryman who operates on the ground

klick: one kilometer (1000 meters).  There are roughly three klicks in two miles

Chance: Brave the Boneyard

We human beings like Order.  Everyone wants to think that our rewards in life have some correlation to what we deserve, what we’ve earned.  Yet a latent metaphysical debate among us, as we examine our own lives and those of others, can be summed up in these two positions: Free Will: “There’s always a choice,” versus Fate: “There are no accidents,” ; “We’ve all got it coming.”

And yet, aren’t there any happenings that we neither choose willingly, nor that occur because they have to?  Is there not an element in existence of pure chaos, randomness, things that have no connection to either personal destiny or detached prearrangement by the gods?  Melville, in Moby-Dick, pointedly insisted, that, not only did it exist, but that it dominated human life: “Chance by turn rules either [Fate or Free Will].”

A disturbing idea, if applied.  That lightning strike that burned down the barn.  The blowout on the highway.  The drawing of lottery ticket.  We crave control so much that we constantly try to arrange the cards into suits, by number, desirability, or even color.

This novel, modestly and in the background, tries to explore this question of the unquantifiable.

Time and Balance

Imagine that you experience life in a much different way from others around you.  For example, your journey through time is quite not the linear progression of events that others describe.  You “live in the moment,” but which moment is dictated more by feelings than by logic.

Image

Further imagine that you have permanently allied yourself with another person, on whose daily existence you depend, but who doesn’t share your point of  view.  How would that work?  I see this relationship as two children on a rotating teeter-totter: both are needed for balance, yet perhaps one likes to go up-and-down, but the other enjoys spinning.  Both could use a little of the other’s perspective.

Yet, anyone who has done this activity knows, if you want to change places, there’s only one way to avoid a big fall on someone’s part: careful communication. When one just makes a snap decision and acts on it. . .

This is why I recommend the novel be read in pairs of chapters, as with the samples I provide: 1 with 2, 3 with 4, and so on.  You’ll discover many convergences between the two protagonists, but many divergences, too.

Image

Near the grave of Will’s father

This image of Arlington is close to what I had in mind for my protagonist’s final scene in Chapter 1.  Of course, there would be fewer graves in a local cemetery.  For those who have read the sample chapters, you’ll recall that Will broke his routine of visiting on Memorial day, going early on a rain-soaked Easter, possibly to seek advice.  So the novel opens at the same time of year we’re currently in, but during a particularly wet Spring.  As in most Romantic works, the summer will be hotter than average, the Fall more bittersweet, and the winter colder.

A moment for all those departed, who served the cause of right, as it is given any of us to see it. 

Image

A detail from the law offices of Domino & Wright

Another architectural detail from the six-story edifice (where Nexus works) is the large, central spiral staircase extending from the lobby up through the second floor.  If you are a fan of TV’s The Big Bang Theory, you have noticed that in most episodes the characters must ascend/descend several staircases around the broken elevator of their apartment building.  This three-dimensional shape echoes the double-helix DNA molecule model in the boys’ apartment, indicating some symbolic meaning–but what?

Critic Roger Ebert, in his commentary on the Sci-Fi classic Dark City, states that the form is fundamental to chaos theory, and is found everywhere in nature, from the tiny nautilus snail to telescopic views of spiral galaxies.

Image

Image

Image

Image