Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters & Papers From Prison; it’s an intense collection of correspondence exchanged between Bonhoeffer, his family, and his best friend Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was imprisoned during the last two years of his life. It was perfect for Lent, and I’ll finish it as the Easter season winds down, leaving me not only with much food for thought, but ideas to explore when I’m finally able to work on The Earthen Chronicles.
Of course, that’s once I complete The Hawk, ahem. But I can’t help ponder a very different tale, and the more I consider that draft, the more the Carpathians figure into the story. When alone, I find myself speaking dialogue between Reid and Brook; he’s a hybrid, but she’s Dorlinian, although she was raised on Carpathia during the war, repatriated to that planet by her parents, who felt it was safer than keeping her at home. Smart on their part; Dorlinia was blown apart, and Brook watched it happen, thousands of miles away while being cared for by Carpathian nuns. But what I’m finding as I talk out the plot is that Carpathian society is wholly religious, if faith in God is considered religion. There are no churches; no need, for every single Carpathian believes. The nuns are actually rebels, eschewing the traditional call of marriage and family to devote themselves solely to prayer and meditation.
As I come to the end of Letters & Papers From Prison, I’m struck by a similar notion, which Bonhoeffer seems only to note to Bethge. Now, perhaps he mentioned it to his parents, but few letters to them are included once Bonhoeffer and Bethge are able to write to one another, letters smuggled out of, then into, Tegal Prison. The book reads in part like a novel, for once the illicit correspondence begins, the thoughts between these two friends become the meat of the story, Bonhoeffer stuck in jail while Bethge serves in the German military. Yet their minds aren’t merely focused upon the war; God is always present, and how to live in a secular world, especially one so torn apart by violence and hatred, weighs heavily on Bonhoeffer’s mind. Right after the failure of the plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer writes a poem about the four stations of freedom: discipline, action, suffering, and death. This coupled with his belief that by fully living in this world and participating in all its joys and sorrows is how one learns to have faith has altered not only how I consider my own spiritual life, but those Carpathians as well. In the first draft, they are bit players, the Dorlinians and Taapsychs the main stars. However, another purpose to this novel is brewing, and eventually (hopefully!) I’ll see how it comes together.
In the meantime, when I have a moment alone, I’ll continue to hash out the Carpathians’ backstory, conversations between Reid and Brook bubbling in my head, then murmured when no one is looking. Sometimes I wish I was dictating those lines, a few of them quite clever. But that’s not the only reason I talk to myself, ha ha. In those snatches of dialogue, I’m laying the foundation of a story more than sci-fi, also not merely a take on organized religion. I don’t quite know what The Earthen Chronicles is going to be, heck, at the rate I’m going with The Hawk, it might not be more than a rough draft. It could simply be one way for me to explore my faith; how many finished drafts do I have on flash drives, their sole purpose mere practice for later novels. Yet, I can’t seem to escape this storyline, not even in my Lenten readings.
If I can find fictional inspiration in Letters & Papers From Prison, there must be a good reason for it. Now to work my way back to The Hawk, so another story can take flight, hehehe.