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Blue Hill, Maine.
3 August, 1903.
From the moment Emmylou heard the song of the Oceanides, she recognized something godly in the tune. As it resounded all across the desolate shoreline of Blue Hill Bay, she recalled the terrible chorus mysticus ringing all throughout that extinct Martian volcano the day her father went missing down in the magma chamber.
Aunt Belphœbe followed along, guiding Maygene through the sands. “Why don’t you go play in that shipwreck over there?” Aunt Belphœbe pointed toward a fishing schooner run aground some fifty yards to the south.
When Maygene raced off, Emmylou refused to follow. By now the chorus of song tormented her so much that an ache had awoken all throughout her clubfoot. Before long she dropped her walking stick and fell to the earth. Closing her eyes, she dug both her hands into the sands and lost herself in memories of the volcano. How could Father be gone? Though he had often alluded to the perils of Martian vulcanology, she never imagined that someone so good and so wise could go missing.
The song of the Oceanides grew a little bit louder and increasingly dissonant.
Opening her eyes, Emmylou listened very closely. The song sounded like the stuff of incantation, witchcraft. And even though she could not comprehend every word, nevertheless she felt certain that the Oceanides meant to cast a spell upon some unfortunate soul.
About the author:
The author is happy to answer some question about his book:
Have you ever had an imaginary friend?
No. I was always very introverted and always had my head in the clouds and was always staring out the schoolroom window daydreaming, but I’ve always been the boring self-conscious version of that sort of person. For me, an imaginary friend would’ve been something of an embarrassment. Ideas must be constructive and used in a meaningful real-world way—i.e. storytelling.
Do you have any phobias?
Spiders. They’re prominent too in Song of the Oceanides. Part of the tale takes place in New Mexico where there are plenty of big freaky crab spiders fiddling about. Anyway that’s where my Martian characters end up, and the spiders regularly unnerve them. It’s all quite harrowing because I poured my own fear of spiders into my fragile Martian girl character, Emmylou.
Do you listen to music when you're writing?
No. I prefer white noise—usually a fan in the summer or a sleep mate in the winter. The only time I listen to music while working is when I’m tearing apart a notebook or idea book and rearranging notes and ideas so as to construct a story or upcoming chapter. That seems like a good time to have music playing. I prefer Ravi Shankar in those moments or sometimes Japanese koto music or Satie’s soothing early piano music. I also like Chinese-dulcimer music. Thanks to You Tube, it’s easy to find whatever sort of music you want.
Do you ever read your stories out loud?
No, I’m too quiet and introverted. Also I write in a way that is lucid and easy to understand; as such there is no need to read out loud. There are books like Ulysses which must be read out loud (at least in certain passages) in order for the meaning to be made clear. But I don’t write in that high-falutin’ way. I prefer absolute simplicity, and simplicity does not require reading aloud.
Tell us about your main character and who inspired him/her.
Song of the Oceanides is a triple narrative, and there is a great deal of me in the two male point-of-view characters, Rory and Giacomo. I poured my own fragile childhood (and my own experiences with school bullying) into young Rory, and I poured my own adult misadventures and failed romances into Giacomo, the comic-book artist. The real question for me is where did my Martian girl point-of-view character, Emmylou, come from. In some sense, she’s a tribute to the sort of quirky characters that often populate science fiction and fantasy. She’s my Alice, and my Wonderland is turn-of-the-century steampunk America.
J.G. Źymbalist began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house.
The author returned to the piece while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005. He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.
For more information, please see http://jgzymbalist.com
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