In conversing or commenting in Xenonlit's "Everything Must Change" I touched on how I got started writing.  I wanted to expand on that a little bit as a "by way of introduction" to what drives me to write and photograph and post in the first place.  Consider this a bit of a biographical history lesson.

     In that post I mentioned that I started writing poetry at the age of twelve.  Even as I look back on it, this seems kind of crazy.  First that I would be motivated to begin my writing with poetry; and secondly that I started at twelve.  I mean, here I was: this crazy wild-thoughted kid who loved horror, science fiction and war movies of all kinds (because I was a military history fan) and I started by writing poetry?

     Stranger still, this poetry wasn't an attempt to please a girl or to show my sensitive side to attract a girl I liked (and I liked plenty of them at that age.)  I had this dream.  It was a repeating dream that, like a nightmare, I couldn't seem to wake from each time I had it.

     I would start the dream innocently enough by seeing a forest all around me.  I was in a heavily wooded, fern and moss covered forest of tall conifers, growing everywhere.  The light shafted in beams through the high canopy of pine and redwood branches.  Some of the trees were immense, reminding me of Darby O'Gillis and the Little People, or of those old Errol Flynn "Robin Hood" movies of the late forties and fifties.

     I would be walking through this forest and I would see all manner of creatures.  They didn't run from me.  In fact, often as not, they came running to me and started talking!  In a dream, most of the time, you know you're dreaming and this was no exception.  Even so, talking animals was pretty amazing to me, even owing for my youth and knowing I was dreaming.

     They'd say things like, "Hurry!  You must help us!  Save us!  There is no time!"  Then they would scamper, scurry and slither away -- only to be replaced by others who would encourage and entreat me to save them from some unspoken fate.  Their words made my travel seem more urgent and, like in any nightmare, the faster I tried to hurry, the slower and harder my way seemed.

     The first four or five times I had this dream, I never made it to wherever it was I thought the animals were urging me towards.  I had to learn to calm my self in the dream state and, like I learned in nightmares (of which I had many, remember, I loved scary horror movies too) I would still my anxiety, fear and dread and tell myself, "Move slowly, don't hurry, you'll get there."  It still took me three or four more dreams that I repeated this before I made my way through the forest and came upon a wooded hillside where many animals awaited me.

     Now, before I continue, I must make clear, the year was 1972 and it was late in the year.  I had literally just turned twelve a few weeks earlier and Halloween was right around the corner.  Each time I awoke from this dream I was hearing music.  The music, even then I supposed, came from some song playing on the stereo in the living room, even though I knew my mom and dad watched, "Bonanza," then the Ten'O'Clock News with Walter Cronkite and after that, if I was still awake, I'd hear the "Johnny Carson Show," start up.

     By that time of the evening, I would have finally fallen asleep and my parents were sure to be in bed, so where was the music coming from?  I had no idea.  This music was like a ballad from Peter, Paul and Mary and I never really heard all the words, just this sad sounding refrain that sang:

Oh Valley,

Oh Valley,Valley Blue

A Valley Blue.

     It was always a woman's voice and, as I said, it was reminiscent of Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary.  Each time I awoke, I had tears streaming down my face and I couldn't understand why.  I mean, the places I saw in my dreams were just breathtakingly beautiful, magically lit and all the creatures of the forest knew me, didn't fear me, and seemed to be looking to me for help.  From what?

     The last two times I had this dream, I made it over the hill.  As I crested this hill, the ferns grew extra high and the tree boles were so close together in most places, it seemed to form a wall.  Except in the one place where I could pass, which was wide enough to allow maybe three people walking side by side to enter this valley.

     The Valley was just incredible.  You couldn't ask Peter Jackson to do as good a job as this valley.  It stretched out into a wide vista.  There was a lake off in the distance and it glinted blue under a golden sun, sparkling even from the heights of the foothills where I stood.  The grasses and flowers in meadows of light, copses of trees and willow, ash, beech and elm were growing along the two streams I could see flowing from the wooded hillsides nearby that fed the lake.

     This place was like a magical place out of time.  A secret valley where magic still had its sway and man could speak with and be friends with the animals.  I stood there, marveling.  The first time I reached this point in the dream, I awoke once again with tears running down my face -- I had actually been crying in my sleep.  My breath came in sobbing gasps and I woke up one of my brothers in the bunk bed above me from my crying.

     The next time I had the dream and made it into this valley, I walked down the hillside and entered the valley proper.  I can describe this all I wish and there still would be no way I could convey to you the ethereal beauty and glory of this place.  The whole time, though, the animals, and this last time, even the wind in the leaves of trees, were saying I had to hurry, I must save them and that there was so little time as to be none left.

     As a child just turned twelve, I could not get that song's refrain out of my head.  I listened to all the records my mom and dad had to see if that song or the tune was in any of them.  Nope.  I listened to my brothers' music (my two oldest brothers had their own record player and some 45's and a few LPs.)  Nothing there, either.  Where did that music come from?  It must have been only from the dream.

     So I wrote that refrain down.  The first time I did, it made me cry while I was awake.  I was actually sort of embarrassed by that, but I became determined to not let that stop me.  I tried, again and again, to write the lyrics to this song, always just beyond my audible hearing and always this sense of urgency, that if I didn't act now, it would be forever too late.  I never figured it out.

     What that dream did, though, was spark in me an intense way of listening to what people said, to music and the lyrics, to the sounds of the world around me and to pay attention to even the body language of the animals I did see while awake and aware.  It filled me with a longing and a love to be outdoors, in the woods and to observe everything in a state of wonder, awe and joy.

     It also kept me writing.  I learned to perform your standard Iambic Pentameter poetry without so much as a lesson in class.  By the time I was fourteen and we were studying poetry and Shakespeare in English classes, I had already felt I had earned my "chops" as a budding poet.  I would never show those poems to anyone until after I turned seventeen.  I was too embarrassed to be called a poet in the period from 1972 to 1977.

     During this same period, as I was really an avid science fiction reader, I began to also write science fiction stories and draw all sorts of pictures of strange planets, aliens, spaceships and interactions of people with technology and alien species.  I wasn't very good at the human form or, living forms of any kind, for that matter, but I also didn't let that stop me.  I'm still not what I could call a good artist, but I would go so far as to say I have managed to make of myself an average one.

     When I was twenty-three and in the U. S. Air Force, I had this epiphanic moment of absolute clarity, brought on by a near fatal dose of psilocybin mushrooms.  I will relate that event for another time, but suffice to say, it changed me and my outlook on the world.  More accurately, it reshaped and reforged my then quashed love of nature and poetry.  I began writing poetry in earnest again.

     No matter what I've done since then, I have been writing.  I have since turned to philosophical musings, ideas about the future of mankind and how we owe it to our species, as well as the rest of the planet, to preserve and protect our home, our environment.  I have made it my mission to find ways to promote conservation, nature, to appreciate the beauty and majesty of nature as well as our role in that by learning more holistic ways to grow our food, build our cities, conduct our business and deal with each other.

     This is my mission; my calling.  If, someday, I manage to write a science fiction novel in the process, I would have also fulfilled another dream -- to be a novelist.  I think now, though, that I understand the dream and the urgency of the animals.

     I was placed on this path.  I was given a choice to live in the world, going through the motions of culture, civility and commerce and make a path for myself that was vested in the material well-being of myself only and to promote me and me only; or to accept my other choice, my destiny, to communicate this joy, this love of the world, in all it's variety and to work to promote the ideals of man as responsible steward of his home, to encourage a compassionate life and culture of caring.  It is our home

     So I have not completely given up on writing that amazing and well crafted science fiction novel.  Even so, I now recognize and accept completely my role as a Shaman, a Spirit Communicator and Animal Advocate for the world.  As I write this, the same sensation of urgency and the tears try to flow once again from my eyes of knowing the beauty of a world that could be, if only we learned that we are not masters of this reality.  Instead, we are supposed to be the caregivers and caretakers of our home, our world, .

     Only this time I am awake.  This time I am living the dream.  This time I am not afraid to share my vision.  This time, I know this is what the dream was all about.  I only hope that I am in time to make it happen.

Views: 116

Comment by Skypixiezero on June 30, 2012 at 6:36am

This is fantastic!!

As an avid Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction reader (for over 60 years), I very much look forward to reading your book when you get it out. 

Best to ya..... ᴼᴥƪ

Comment by Christopher S. Dunn on June 30, 2012 at 7:25am

Thanks, Sky.  The suspense is killing me at this point as to whether or not our erstwhile hero will ever succeed in his Sisyphean task?

Comment by Skypixiezero on June 30, 2012 at 9:04am

Kenny,

If you're referring to "The Storyteller", it's a great tale awfully well told, but it's NOT Science Fiction. It is either Fantasy Fiction, Horror, or (as some call it these days), a "Spine Chiller" - your choice. 

In order for a story to qualify as SciFi, it must contain some element of science. When the "space race" began Science Fiction gained enormously in popularity. To take advantage of that popularity, publishers/editors began referring to a lot of Fantasy, Horror, and other stuff, as Science Fiction. 

Those of us who grew up on Wells, Verne, Burroughs, Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Henderson, Pohl, Kornbluth, Norton, etc., shuddered in disgust when they did that; we're still shuddering today. 

;-)

Comment by Skypixiezero on June 30, 2012 at 10:20am

Kenny,

Oh. You had mentioned that you had a SciFi story on your blog. Since that's the only one here on Our Salon, I thought you were referring to it. Oooooopsie! ;-)

You should get Tink to come and visit ya. He, all by himself, is a SciFi story just begging to be written!! (~snerkle, snerk~)!

 

Comment by Christopher S. Dunn on June 30, 2012 at 8:21pm

Wow, all those authors I have also read.  Add Philip K. Dick, Andre Norton, C. J. Cherryh, Vernor Vinge, James Blish, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip Jose Farmer, John Brunner, Poul Anderson, and oh so many others.

Oddly enough, I got started reading science fiction in the 3rd Grade when I came across a book titled, "Danny Dunn and the Dinosaur."  Being as how my last name is Dunn, it caught my eye.  I've been hooked ever since.

I also like very much, though, Poe, King, Streiber and Koontz, amongst others.  And, at times, I think the borders between science fiction, horror or fantasy gets blurred.  Especially if we're dealing with the "softer" sciences, like psychology, social science, cultural anthropology, or when we're dealing with the lines being crossed with "science" based explanations of things like werewolves, vampires, ghosts, etc.  For that reason, even though I hate the purposely melanged mix for sales by tossing in fantasy, horror and thriller type stories into the pan with science fiction.  My biggest gripe came when they started calling it Sci-Fi.  I prefer science fiction and if it has to be abbreviated, then let it simply be SF.

I'll now have to post (in serialized form) one of my sort of science fiction short stories (I suppose it might be more accurately called a novella.)  The Cycle of Man.

Thanks again, guys!

Comment by Skypixiezero on July 1, 2012 at 5:05am

Chris,

The only name you mentioned that I don't recognize is Vernor Vinge. And I'm sure that there are more that we've both forgotten to mention.

Like you, I preferred the abbreviation SF to SciFi..... UNTIL I read a letter by a SciFi author (Was it Heinlein?) to his publishing company's new, young editor. In that letter he pointed out that SF could just as easily stand for Speculative Fiction which need not contain any science at all - tiz just speculation. He contended, and I agree, that this sort of writing should not be lumped in with Science Fiction.

The idea is/was that Science Fiction needs some "hard" science in it. SciFi needs science in it but it need not be "hard" science. It's could also be psychological, social, and even some degree of ESP if handled in a non-fantasy manner.

Then comes SF - Speculative Fiction. Speculation about future possible societies would be well represented by such writers as HG Wells, Edward Bellamy, George Orwell, C. M. Kornbluth and Fredrick Pohl, Heinlein, etc,

Speculation about past possible societies would be well represented by such writers as Jean Auel with her "Clan of The Cave Bear" series. (And, of course, by our own Kenneth Sibbett's "The Battle For Mez'nita" here on Our Salon).

Fantasy Fiction is that in which non-scientific kinds of ESP, and magic, play a major role.

Granted, there are those stories or writers who seem able to blend different genre very well. Zenna Henderson's series about "The People" comes to mind.

My love for the genre began with my aunt giving me a copy of a brand new comic book's first issue. Yup, you guessed it..... it was DC Comic's first issue of Superman! (Can you believe that I'm really that old?)

;-)

Comment by Christopher S. Dunn on July 1, 2012 at 6:27am

Sky, I appreciate the distinctions, yet am not averse to lumping them in when it comes to the classifications.  I suppose we could use a taxonomy, wherein it all starts inside of the Phylum of Fiction, the Order of Speculation, then the Genus of: Past, Future, Present and further down into the Species of: Horror, Fantasy, Science, Social or even Mystery, Thriller and Romance.

Perhaps that's something that should have been done some time back -- create a taxonomy of Writing, such that we can break down the classifications like we do animal and plant species to provide us with more accurate genre breakdowns?  Where would Fable, Myth, Legend and Folklore fit in, I wonder?

Oh, and comic books.  I used to sit there, in my Grand Dad's basement riffling through a fiber barrel (one of those old feed barrels, about 40 gallons in size or so) filled to the brim with comic books from my Uncle Johnny's collection (I was the ring bearer at his wedding when I was six.)

I came back and visited my Grand Dad when I was twenty two or so, on a holiday from my duty in the Air Force.  After dinner, tlaking and catching up, I asked him if those old comics were down in the basement still?  Alas, no.  Only a couple years earlier, he'd cleaned out the basement and had just given away that barrel of comics to some young kid down the street.

Superman, Batman, Iron Man, the Hulk, Aquaman, Jonah Hex, Judge Dredd, Sgt. Rock, Archie and Veronica, The Crypt Keeper, Astonishing Tales, the Fantastic Four, Hawkman, the Justice League, and so many more!  I never got a chance to read them all.  Once I discovered those in the basement, every rainy weekend we'd spend at Grand Dad's was always at least half spent down there, the bare bulb just below the rafters illuminating the dirt floor with me sitting there, surrounded by comics as far as I could stretch my hands, reading, sorting and combining them so I could follow entiire story arcs in a single sitting.  And that, along with science fiction was the basis for my love of writing -- coming from my amazement at the stories and imagination that produced them.

Thanks for jogging that one loose, Sky!

Comment by Christopher S. Dunn on May 30, 2015 at 1:05am

Thanks for the Feature!  Haven't been writing active online, lately -- at least not like this.  Since a few years back, my life mission has become this endpoint on this article.  The last year I have really been wracking my brain to sort of 'reconfigure' my efforts in writing in general.  This feature of my personal Mission Statement couldn't have come at a better time for me as I am just getting ready to re-enter into posting my efforts on a variety of things including my Mission Statement concepts.  So look forward to stuff on the latest technologies and how we can use them to make the world a better place, articles on the potential for us to change the world with nothing more than changing the way we look at it and regard it and our role in it, metaphysical musings that attempt to relate the idea of our spiritual/cosmological existence in a material universe with a conscious intent to also exhibit conscientious behavior and other such wacked out ideas.  I'm hoping that once you start reading them, you'll start wondering things.

More than likely the first thing you'll wonder is, "Where can I get what *you're* smoking/taking."  Hopefully, though, later you'll start wondering if I might be on to something and maybe it's worth a good old college attempt to see what happens.

Thanks once again for the feature!  I am truly honored.

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