It’s been a hot minute since I last posted an article and I apologize for that. Life kicks people in the teeth and the last few months its been kicking mine. I’m back though, with an early resolution for 2020 not to miss posting here. I forgot how much I love doing these until this topic jumped up and bit me with sharp, plot bunny teeth.
Caves. As a Pagan, caves are a tumultuous gateway into the the dark, hiding knowledge and secrets like the precious stones found within, the descent into the Underworld ripe with all kinds of things to find, just as profound as the world above. As a scientist in my own small way, caves are literal storehouses of ancient things waiting to come to the light.
But the storyteller in me didn’t think much about actual caves. Sure, the metaphorical cave dwelling in a story is always in use, whether it’s climbing out of the bad choices a character makes or the terrible plotline I’ve stumbled into. Then I rediscovered our ancient ancestors’ stories found in red paint or charcoal on the walls. A record of their stories. It made me think.
I won’t go into the profound insights I had while digging into this topic because those won’t be the same for everyone and I don’t want to taint the epiphanies others might have. What I will share are those ideas I had related strictly to our craft as storytellers.
What came to mind was species construction. What better way to get a handle on the general feel of the species than what their ancient ancestors painted on the stone? Was it ancient astronomy disguised as everyday life, like some think our ancestors did? Or maybe observations of the world around them, of things and creatures that don’t exist on their world anymore.
The scientists who find these cave paintings, what would their reactions and thoughts be on the subject? Would they be able to perceive the almost pervasive sense of self-mockery? The sheer scale of how the world felt to a newly aware species? Surprised at the possibly complex ideas presented by the art?
It’s a fascinating addition to the culture of a species and the details that become available to include are rich. Play around with it, see what interesting tidbits your characters’ ancestors surprise you with.
Or the enterprising author can go whole hog and write a prehistoric story of an alien or mythical species. I’d love to read that.
Science in the pursuit of fiction.