Prime Time: An unsavory character from a daymare
"The Language of the Night", by Ursula LeGuin, (Putnam, 1979), unlike her novels and short stories, comprises essays about writing science fiction and fantasy. In it, LeGuin notes that authors often encounter a character in their minds, perhaps in a dream, whom they then feel compelled to write about. She first ran into Shevek that way, and he turned out to be the "temporal physicist" who was protagonist of her masterpiece, "The Dispossessed."
Well, I met somebody like that, after 12:45 on a March afternoon, when I lay down for a nap. I don't nap every day, nor do I succeed in falling asleep quickly or maybe at all if I do lie down. But that Friday, I was probably asleep within minutes, knowing I would not sleep past the 3 p.m. start of MPR's "Friday Favorites," with Melissa Ousley substituting for Steve Staruch.
As often with dreams, I've no idea how we got to the events I remember. (We? There were others around, but I don't know who they were, or if I knew in the dream).
Anyway, there's this youngish man, younger than 30, tall but not gigantic, apparently Caucasian, dark hair, not thin but not seriously overweight, business attire, assertive and quite comfortable being assertive, sort of good-looking and self-satisfied about his looks. Somehow our subject is mountains, high ones like the Rockies to start with, and the value of maintaining them, rather than, for instance, leveling them to mine coal.
He has made some statement about mountains in general and his interest in them, and I have a feeling his major interest is not in their preservation. Then he mentions actually owning some, 11 in fact. It is clear they are not major peaks, and I expect they are mostly in the Appalachians or maybe Ozarks. He is expounding on them, but I remember nothing he said, and, strange as it may seem, am not sure if I understood precisely what he was saying at the time.
What I do remember is that I really dislike this guy. Not rage or blind hate or jealousy, though he obviously is wealthier than I, since he owns mountains. He is a bit overbearing, but not impolitely so. He is not too loud, but neither is he soft-spoken. But obviously, to borrow an image from Madonna, he is a Material Boy. He is probably single, but there's no indication that he is not attracted to women.
I wake up from my nap, sort of, or maybe I first dream that I am waking up, because he is still on board as I awake, and I am realizing I have to write about him. I slept an hour or so, and don't know what dreams if any occurred before Material Boy showed up.
What do I know about him? He is not an academic, though he probably has a bachelor's degree. His major was not in the natural sciences, math, or the arts, but that may matter little, since his wealth may be primarily family wealth. Don't know whether he went to a public or private college. He is sort of urbane, and probably was not a farm boy, or from a small town. I remember no pronounced regional accent, but maybe I was not attuned to that.
Ethnicity? Not clear. Not fair-haired, no pronounced mannerisms to betray cultural background. Name? Not Solomon Ginsburg, Tony Esposito, David Evans Thomas or Michel DuPont to suggest ethnicity. No name emerged from the dream, so we'll give him a non-committal one: Manfred T. Diamond. Nobody by that name is prominent enough to show up in a web search I did. Psychotherapists are interested in dreams. Maybe Manfred came from some trauma in my past. If I remember from an honors course maybe four decades ago, Freud even claimed that the dream you remember is not actually the dream you had, and, perhaps after analysis, was happy to tell you the dream you "really" had, which reveals why you hate your father. Manfred bears no resemblance to my dad.
You may remember my character problem with my five-part 2005 series on "Raki," the introverted female Anatolian stargazer that gave us "our eight-day week." But the idea for that story came first: What if somebody 10,000 years ago detected the barely visible planet Uranus and that made eight visible planets, as the ancients defined planets: Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus? I needed a protagonist, and, as I consciously mulled it over, Raki showed up.
This time, Manfred showed up unbidden in a dream. I don't like him, and have little desire to know him better.
EVAN HAZARD, a retired BSU biology professor, also writes "Northland Stargazing" the fourth Friday of each month.