The cosmos is ours to describe. So let us celebrate it as we describe it.
The process of creation never ends. Little in the cosmos stays the same for long. That’s how my first book’s title The Becoming came about. The word represents the creation, the kneading together of what was, and how that evolved to what is now. ‘The Becoming’ tells the tale of our cosmic and organic origins, our coming to be. It writes clear-text accounts of the science, and then adds my verse. The British edition (1998) attracted a foreword by novelist John Fowles:
‘Robert Fripp’s ingenious idea—to resurrect Genesis in the light of our present knowledge of evolutionary process—must, I suppose, count as literary curiosity; but I have long been in favour of literary curiosities. They have a perverse habit, very often, of provoking more thought than the orthodox approach. By simplifying the complex and broadening the narrow, they spark the imagination … Our past remains our now; I pray the reader will not forget that, as he or she goes down the vast vistas of these pages.’ ~ John Fowles
John Fowles’ foreword survives in North America’s edition, but the British title yielded to the American editor at Paulist Press. ‘The Becoming’, rewritten and illustrated, emerged in North America as Let there be Life (2001). Under both titles the book celebrates our being in a marriage of science and verse.
The force that endows the material world with function and perfection also brings health to its living creatures. Long ago, aboriginal societies learned to use spiritual power in healing techniques for minds and bodies. My book Spirit in Health explores shamans’ powers in ancient Animist societies. Shamans all over the world have used their powers in attempts to heal both minds and bodies. Medicine alone is not the sole source of healing.
Speaking of health and medicine, my father in law, the designer Will Burtin, earned a lasting reputation by using design to visualize science. Much of his talent as a designer went into illustrating the properties of drugs. His large 3D models carried the art and the crafts of display to new heights; and he pioneered the ‘clean’, uncluttered use of sans-serif type. Will Burtin is known as the pioneer of product branding; and he shares the reputation for ‘fathering’ corporate branding with Lester Beall. Will Burtin needed a book, not to prove his points, but to brand them firmly in the history of design. Design and Science: the life and work of Will Burtin is jointly published in London and New York.
Meanwhile, my career in current affairs television and as a business and technology writer for corporate clients kept me describing scientific information in many fields. Several themes and titles from those areas inform these pages. IBM commissioned me to create, write and manage a magazine series, IBM Visions, about the roles of high performance computing in engineering and scientific research.
John Fowles would have styled my Dark Sovereign as a ‘literary curiosity’. For the first time in four centuries a modern writer challenges William Shakespeare by writing a full-length play in the Bard’s Renaissance English, fluently. Shakespeare wrote ‘The Tragedy of Richard the Third’ as Tudor propaganda for the Court of Queen Elizabeth I, portraying King Richard III as a sociopath and a killer. As the series producer of CBC-TV’s long-running investigative program, ‘the fifth estate’, I felt it was time to right a journalistic wrong.
It took four years to pen ‘Dark Sovereign’, a precise counter-attack on Shakespeare’s play. ‘Dark Sovereign’ tells a more accurate tale of Richard’s troubled reign. Among other comments, its readers have written that ‘Dark Sovereign’ is ‘An amazing adventure’ and ‘A cultural accomplishment of the highest order’. It is the longest single-part play ever crafted in Renaissance English. Now, if I could find a theatrical producer with the same degree of courage it took to write this …’
From Richard III we segue to Eleanor of Aquitaine, among the toughest, most resilient women in medieval Europe. In my Power of a Woman Eleanor dictates her memoirs to a young woman in her service. The former queen, first of France, then England, was the widow of two kings: the monkish Louis VII; and the hot-tempered, law-giving warrior, Henry II. With Louis, Eleanor went on Crusade. With Henry, she rebuilt England and their Angevin empire. Then, having cut both husbands adrift, she returned to Poitiers to set up her Court of Ladies. Suffice to say she survived to the age of 82 beating back a sea of troubles. ‘Power of a Woman’ gives her a voice that captures her mind.
Just released: 40 new stories under the title Wessex Tales, Volumes 1 and 2. Thomas Hardy coined that title in the 1880s for his tales set in England’s county of Dorset—and it’s time to use that title once again. My ‘Wessex Tales’ relate stories through ‘Eight thousand years in the life of an English village’, from the time a tsunami cut the British islands off from Europe to the aftermath of the First World War. These books are dedicated to the men from my home village, Shillingstone, who gave their lives in that war.
Readers, thank you for coming this far. May something here reward you, and may your Fates be kind.