inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #26 of 93: Lara Owen (lara) Mon 24 Oct 16 15:29
    
Hi Mary! I was going to ask a very similar question to Pamela's, and
I look forward to your answer. Thank you for this discussion and for
your brilliant writing and your vision of a lost world that has so
much to offer us in this current one. I was struck when I read
through your responses so far by this comment, which related to a
longterm interest I have in how cultures enhance and repress
different mind-states: "I sometimes think of the many songs and
stories that must have been lost before the invention of writing. We
humans were hunters and gatherers for 70,000 years before most of us
settled down to become agriculturists about 10,000 years ago. That's
60,000 years of songs sung and stories told around campfires." 

Of course losing/letting go of this oral tradition has affected how
our memories and therefore our minds work now, and clearly we are in
the midst of a further significant rewiring of the human brain with
the advent of the screen and the internet, perhaps changing us more
extensively and more rapidly than in any other time in human
history. I sit on the metro in the morning and always feel a little
sick looking at everyone hunched over their phones. I get a bad
feeling about where we are headed, and as a hardwired optimist I
struggle with that. 

Apart from the abandonment of eye contact and community in favour of
the screen, we are literally changing the ways we think and process
information, and what kind of access we have to the feeling states
that accompany different modes of thinking. From what you have
written and the depth with which you have felt into the lives of
ancient people I assume you have at least an inkling of what it was
like to have the kind of brain that existed before pre-written
language, and many of us in this conversation are old enough to
remember our brains before the internet. So I am wondering what you
think about the contemporary brain and where it is headed especially
with regard to what remains in us of our ancient neurology and its
abilities.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #27 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:01
    

Phil asked: "In "The Village of Bones," one of the characters
reveals a prophecy saying that at some indeterminate, far-off point
in the future, humans "will want to love the Goddess Earth again and
nurse Her back to health"...  Are we those humans"

Yes, we are. The Earth as humans have known her is changing
radically. In human terms, she is dying--that is to say, she is
becoming less and less hospitable to the long-term survival of homo
sapiens. Of course, if cockroaches could talk, they might have
another opinion on the matter. I see us facing a choice right now:
either we can keep doing what we are doing or we can re-sanctify the
earth, treat her as a holy trust, and do our best to heal her. It's
a stark choice, with stark consequences; and it's a shame we don't
actually have the Mother Book to guide us.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #28 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:51
    
Pamela said: 'I wonder if Mary would also ponder the
place of her novels in a time when the patriarchy seems to be
breaking down, or at least changing dramatically."

I'd be happy to. First, let me say that I don’t think patriarchy is
breaking down or changing dramatically all over the world. At this
moment, there are places where the oppression of women and girls is
as bad as it has ever been. But here in the United States, things do
seem to be changing for the better. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #29 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:52
    

So what is the place of my novels in this time of change? Well,
their place has been changing too.

For over 30 years--ever since I wrote "The Last Warrior Queen," I
have been carrying on a literary critique of patriarchy and its
discontents and abuses.  Actually, if you count my first novel
“Immersion,” which involves a woman looking for sexual and physical
independence in the rainforests of Costa Rica, You could say it’s
been closer to 40 years. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #30 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:53
    

When I first started out, only a few people were interested
exploring the abuses of patriarchy. In fact, most people didn’t even
like the term, which they felt was anti-male.  So I was a voice
crying in the Wilderness. Now there are so many people crying in
that same Wilderness that our voices can probably be heard on
Arcturus. 

In other words, the four novels in my Earthsong Series are more
relevant at this moment than they have ever been not just because
they look at a nomad invasion that brought patriarchy to Neolithic
Europe, but because they show an alternative to patriarchy that may
well have existed for thousands of years and they show this
alternative in human terms.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #31 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:53
    

Archaeological evidence suggests that in Old Europe in the Fifth
Millennium BCE, there were people who worshipped the Earth as a
living creature who brought forth all life. Since all living things
came out of the Earth, She was necessarily seen as female. This
meant that every being—from an eighty-year-old human to a newborn
sparrow—was a child of the Goddess and thus was, as the Catholic
mystic St. Francis of Assisi put it, our brother or sister.

This is a radically different view of the Earth than we now have.
Instead of being real estate or property, it was a sacred trust.
This is also a radically different view of plants and animals.
Instead of being created for human use, plants and animals and
humans (who are also, animals) were all in this together. In
patriarchal societies, women and children are customarily treated as
property and even legally designated as such. But if we are all
equal as children of the Earth, then men, women, and children are
not property. They are members of a family of equals.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #32 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:54
    

In “The Village of Bones” and the other novels in the Earthsong
Series, I recreate Earth-worshipping cultures that were neither
patriarchal nor matriarchal. Women and men existed as equals. No
gender ruled the other. The people in my novels live by Six
Commandments: 
1. Live together in love and harmony.
2. Cherish children.
3. Honor women
4. Respect old people
5. Remember that the Earth and everyone on it is part of the living
body of your Divine Mother
6. Enjoy yourselves, for your joy is pleasing to Her.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #33 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 17:54
    

I think these six principles have never been more relevant than they
are at present. What we can’t imagine, we can’t do. What we can’t
dream, we can’t make real. My hope is that my novels will recreate
in our imaginations an ancient world that is not lost, but which has
been waiting for us to rediscover it. I want us to say to ourselves:
“If human beings once lived for thousands of years like this,
perhaps we, who live in the midst of so much uncertainty, anxiety,
and turmoil, can put aside our patriarchal heritage and try another,
gentler way.” 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #34 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 18:07
    

As to how technology is changing our brains: I wish I knew. The
problem with changing your brain is that you don't know when it's
changing. For example, I used to know the multiplication tables--a
requirement for getting out of 3rd grade. About 20 years ago, I
realized that my habit of using calculators had erased the times
tables from my mind. Not all of them, of course. I still know that 3
x 6 = 18, but that knowledge has been parked in some dusty bin at
the back of my brain and is hard to call up. 

So what are we losing? What are we gaining? Research indicates that
people who do not have a written language have better memories. Will
future generations be able to read maps or will robotic directions
cause map reading abilities to atrophy? 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #35 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 25 Oct 16 18:08
    

In "The Village of Bones," my challenge has been to imagine people
who have very different technologies from ours. They don't have
iPhones, but they know how to do things we can no longer do. Try
chipping a flint arrowhead some time. It's famously hard, but it's
estimated that Neolithic people could make a perfect one in about 10
minutes. Part of the pleasure or writing about the past and reading
about it is seeing the world with new eyes, perhaps with a new
brain. A vivid imagination coupled with empathy is the best
substitute we have for time travel.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #36 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 26 Oct 16 00:43
    
That's great, Mary, thanks!

Can we discuss your writing process a bit? I'm thinking of several
aspects of what I imagine your process was--at least, aspects I'm
curious about, and that I'm hoping you can elaborate on for us:

--how you visited Eastern Europe to do your own research after
encountering Marija Gimbutas's research--and how you translated what
you learned from that research (both hers and your own) into a
narrative, characters, and a very exacting plot.

--how you took the artifacts of those ancient cultures and peoples
of neolithic Europe and, for instance, fashioned the Six
Commandments you detailed above, and the excerpted songs and tales
that appear as epigrams in the novels.

--how you posited a central character's odyssey as the narrative
driver of a novel (Sabalah's in "The Village of Bones," Marrah's in
"The Year the Horses Came").

I presume that things like the Six Commandments and the songs and
folk tales are your inventions, but they sure seem authentic! At
least, authentic to the characters and customs we read about in the
novels--but also congruent with what can be said about the peoples
who actually lived in those places at those times. But how did you
transition from the scientific inquiry/study to the creative act of
composing fiction? What did you have to do to produce stories that
were both plausible in terms of extant research, and coherent and
readable (and enjoyable!) as fiction? 

Here's another one: We know that there were non-human people who
were still around in Europe (and even interbred with humans) when
humans were establishing themselves there, but the Mordai, the
non-human race you introduce us to in "The Village of Bones," are SO
different from humans that I have to ask you specifically about
them. Why did you choose to create a race that was unlike anything
we have any archeological record of (as far as I know--and of
course, I'm no expert)? What was the purpose of having your human
characters encounter them?

And lastly (for now!), I have to say that the whole storyline of the
Mordai (and Sabalah's interaction with them) really took me by
surprise. Did it surprise you, too? Or was that something you had
planned early on in your work on the novel? I guess part of what I'm
asking here is that thing where novelists often say things like, "I
tried to _____, but the character wouldn't let me"--in other words,
where the novel seems to reveal itself to her/him rather than
emerging methodically from the writer's imagination. Sometimes
novelists talk about the act of writing as "channeling" or "dreaming
the dream." Was that your experience with this novel, with this
series? And if so, how did you balance (or *juggle*) the imperatives
of that approach with the above mentioned imperative of remaining
true (to some extent) with the archeological record?

Thanks for indulging me, and I can't wait to read your answers!
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #37 of 93: Helen Donlon (hdonlon) Wed 26 Oct 16 02:32
    
Hi Mary! One thing I've been wondering about is whether your own
daily routines are affected by the world of The Village of Bones. I
assume when you're writing that you switch off from TV and/or other
distractions that are rooted in a culture of 'today', but are there
any particular daily rituals you observe that bring you closer to
what you're writing about? 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #38 of 93: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Oct 16 05:21
    <scribbled by jonl Wed 26 Oct 16 05:21>
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #39 of 93: Administrivia (jonl) Wed 26 Oct 16 05:22
    
Chiming in with some administrivia:

If you want to share this conversation on social media, you can use
this short link: http://bit.ly/marymackey

If you're not a member of the WELL, but you're reading this and
would like to add a comment or question, you can send it to the
hosts of Inkwell at this email address: inkwell at well.com.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #40 of 93: Paris in PDX (paris) Wed 26 Oct 16 08:34
    
Mary, I wonder if it has been difficult to create interesting and
positive male characters in these books.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #41 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 26 Oct 16 12:59
    

Thanks for all the fascinating questions. I'm going to answer them
in reverse. 

Positive male characters were easy for me to create. The
archaeological evidence suggests that men and women were equals and
that children were raised in a warm, loving fashion. My take on this
is that such a society would have produced men who were kind,
compassionate, nurturing, and who loved and appreciated women.
People, whether male or female, would not have been rewarded for
violence. Thus there would have been almost no domestic abuse or
rape and very few murders (although I suspect there would have been
some killings since no human society is perfect). That said, men
would not have been trained as warriors since there was no organized
warfare. In addition, in my Earthsong Series, I have written that
"no man is considered to really be a man until he had helped raise a
child."

Put all of this together and you come up with decent, kind, men who
love and respect women as well as other men, take care of children,
and would rather have great sex with a woman who is completely
enjoying the experience than fight. I've known many men like this.
Sometimes in our culture they are called Beta Males, but in my book
the Beta stands for "Best." 

The nomads, of course, are another matter entirely. 



 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #42 of 93: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 26 Oct 16 15:21
    
(I just want to say that I'm missing the "Like" button that one
finds on Facebook, because I am *so* liking all the posts here!)
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #43 of 93: Joe Flower (bbear) Wed 26 Oct 16 21:53
    
Interesting concept, equating "beta" with "best." I have always
found "alpha males" to a rather repulsive breed. I realize more and
more that the men I really want to be friends with are men I think
of as "sweet" — like your husband Angus.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #44 of 93: Paris in PDX (paris) Thu 27 Oct 16 09:25
    
Joe, you are so right! 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #45 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 10:54
    

Angus is a great guy. I've been happy with him for over 30 years.
In my experience, Beta Males make the best mates and best friends.
If I were a man, I'd be looking for male friends who didn't compete
with me for dominance. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #46 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 10:55
    

Now onward to some of the other questions. In post #37, Helen asked
if my daily routines are affected by the world of "The Village of
Bones." 

The answer is: "yes and no." "No" in that my daily writing routines
have been the same since I got out of graduate school: I get up,
have breakfast, and write for about 5 hours. Then I take the rest of
the day off. My aim is to write when I am closest to my dreams, but
also to make sure I balance work and life. I'm not tempted by
electronic distractions. I don't answer the phone, surf the web, or
answer the door when I'm writing. 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #47 of 93: Paris in PDX (paris) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:11
    
Wow. There is no way I could ever be that disciplined.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #48 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:23
    
Five or six days a week, I'm completely focused on my work. You
might even say I’m lost in it. In fact, it’s so much fun that I am
almost reluctant to call it work, and my great temptation is to just
keep going until I’m cranky and exhausted. If one of my characters
starts looking for something to eat, I know it’s time for lunch. 

That said, writing "The Village of Bones" did have an effect on my
daily routine. I liked being immersed in the world I was creating so
much that I was more than usually tempted to keep on writing. It was
always something of a shock to come back to present after hours of
walking through the vast primal forests of northern France with
Sabalah or floating down the Danube with Marrah. I get to know my
characters like real people and I tend to miss them when I have to
leave. As I recall, I worked for 8 hours without taking a break when
I was writing the scene where the Great Python gives Sabalah the
Mother Book. There were all sorts of subtle things I had to plant in
that section—clues that would prove to be very important later in
the novel—and I just couldn’t bring myself to stop.
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #49 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:49
    

In Post #36, Phil asked a number of questions. I’ll answer them over
the next few days one by one. His first question was about how I
translated my research into narrative, characters and a “very
exacting plot.” 

The answer is, I had a lot of help, particularly from Professor
Gimbutas both in personal conversation and via her decades of
research on Old Europe. If I had not had access to her work it would
have taken me ten, perhaps twenty, years to write “The Year the
Horses Came,” and a lifetime might not have been long enough to
write “The Village of Bones, The Horses at the Gate, and “The Fires
of Spring.” 
  
inkwell.vue.493 : Mary Mackey, The Village of Bones
permalink #50 of 93: Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 27 Oct 16 11:52
    

I read and reread Professor Gimbutas’s work, did a great deal of
additional research into things like Neolithic sea levels and fossil
pollens (to learn what kinds of trees were actually growing in
Europe in this era). One of the great things about getting a PhD is
that it teaches you how to do research, and besides, I enjoy it.

After the bulk of my research was complete, I traveled to most of
the places I describe in the novels taking photographs of the
landscape and visiting museums. I had already been to France,
Brittany, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, and Greece and had excellent
notes, plus I had already researched birds, plants, soil types,
rivers, etc. However, I had never been to the eastern coast of the
Black Sea where a lot of the action was going to take place and
where I was planning to put the City of Shara. 
  

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