writing “Mn̥téys wall”

I just finished writing a new short story, Mn̥téys wall.  It’s up on DeviantArt if you would like to read it.

My original concept with this piece was to imagine life 10,000 years ago, in the region of  Çatalhöyük.  Over a period of about 1000 years (a short time, when looking at that part of history) humanity underwent a huge transition. They were already very advanced in some ways. They had a complex and detailed spoken language. They built homes wall-to-wall, with entrances in the ceiling, forming sprawling dense cities. They painted walls and carved statues, and used basic tools for hunting and gathering.

But around that time, they also advanced very quickly. They went from drawings to basic writing.  They went from being purely hunters to domesticating animals. The very oldest map ever found was created 10,000 years ago in Çatalhöyük. It seems as though the very notion of “symbols” came into focus during this period.

I wanted to illustrate some of these changes in a personal way, by illustrating the ideas within a particular family. My concept was that these members would be seeing just a glimmer, just a glimpse, of the beginnings of these advancements. Maybe they wouldn’t all understand the value of it. Maybe the idea would die with a member of the family and have to be re-invented by someone else later.  I wanted to have a story that showed how fragile discovery really is.

We all imagine that counting and writing are so obviously useful that the moment a society invents the idea, it would take off and immediately be used for all of the purposes that we use it today. But that’s not necessarily true. New technology is rarely understood immediately in the culture in which it is invented.  When the telephone was first invented, most people thought of it as a weird carnival act. Some people thought it could be used to transmit messages from a central authority to people’s homes.  The whole idea of using the telephone for person-to-person communication only came later.

Maybe it was like that with writing and counting as well? Maybe not everyone saw what it was for?  I also thought it would be interesting to have a slightly dysfunctional family dynamic: to show how fragile true discovery really is. A brilliant discovery crushed by a bad personal life can set back a culture for years… without the culture ever knowing it.

My writing style in this piece is very simple, and I tried to make it very visceral and “earthy”.  It is a completely different style of writing than my previous short story, Joshua, where the idea was to convey the tone of a slightly pretentious philosophy major college student at a New England University.  In this piece, I wanted the language to be very neutral, but to capture a lot of raw physicality. I made a point of emphasizing the physical sensations of body that went along with emotions and actions.

Anyway, please give it a read and let me know what you think.

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