© 2016 by Jared Kane

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Theme, Inspiration, and Boat Repair

November 13, 2016


It’s important to me as I write to have several regular themes that repeat, or can be seen to repeat, throughout the text. It might not always be apparent in the initial reading—in that regard, perhaps I do it mostly for me, to keep me to a certain path, a certain mindset.


For instance, in my upcoming follow-up novel, Mya, fire is an agent of change, and a recurring theme is various situational comparisons to volcanic ash—like perhaps raining ash, dust clouds, or even specific comparisons to real-life events directly preceding historical volcanic eruptions. This sort of thematic repetition provides some counterbalance for each section of my book. In a more general sense, it’s a product of inspiration, as the themes (more so even than the story) in my books are things I deeply feel or am deeply interested in, and thus, like to weave into the story.


Stay tuned for that, as I’m only about half way through a proper first draft of Mya. For a completed example from my post-apocalyptic novel, Decline (hey look, it’s a link! http://amzn.to/2fHXGv1), there’s a passage about a quarter of the way through the book that reads:


“Fundamentally, the body is in constant flux. Similar to our hair or fingernails, we shed cells that are then replaced by a new set of cells. For instance, we lose our entire skin every four weeks, and our liver is renewed, cell by cell, in up to five hundred days. Even our skeleton regenerates every ten years or so. To me, this meant that the person you were when you were born, when you were at your first day of school, had your first triumph, experienced your first kiss, shed your first tear—that person is completely gone, dissolved and replaced. Though we are completely unaware of it, we endure through constant physical upheaval.” (pg. 53).


To me, this is a fascinating concept. In Decline, the theme of change is central for the protagonist and narrator, and this passage is a scientific echo of that. But more so, it suggests the much more interesting question that is my primary inspiration in this regard: are you still the same person you were 10 or 20 years prior? Some of you may recognize this as the Ship of Theseus thought experiment. This paradox appears in Plutarch’s Lives where he describes it thus: 


“The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”


So, like yourself, whose cells are shed and renewed throughout your life to the point where perhaps no part of you, as you currently are, existed when you were younger, if Theseus’ ship has been continually repaired and each part replaced over the years, is it still the same ship? If not, when did it cease being the original ship?


This paradox was inspirational in my creation of Decline. For me, my themes are the spit on which the meat hangs.


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