Sunday, December 6, 2009


I can see it, sparkling and perfect in my head. It's got best-selling series written all over it. You take the premise that we all belong to networks of souls who interact from lifetime to lifetime until we've learned all we need to learn to achieve Nirvana or whatever (that bit's always been a little hazy to me), and you follow one such network throughout history in a series of blockbuster historical novels.

You start way back in prehistory; maybe in the late Pleistocene, maybe 150,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens first became an identifiable species, and you establish a set of characters and some basic relationships and issues. In each novel you resolve some issues and create others, mixing up the relationships, so that brothers and sisters in one life are parents and children in another, the uncle becomes the niece, and a romantic love which seems destined in Babylon would be inappropriate in pioneer Texas. People accumulate scars that recur over lifetimes, let their evil propensities triumph in one lifetime and overcome them in the next. The audience learns to recognize the same soul in different relationships and roots for them to make the right choices this time: "No, no, don't marry him - he's betrayed you in three different lifetimes already!"

You can't tell me this wouldn't rock, if done properly.

And there's the rub. To do this properly would be a lifelong commitment. Mountains of research, intricate planning, plots that tied up neatly over a single book interacting with giant overarching metaplots - I'd never be able to do anything else! And I'm really not the kind of person who writes family sagas. All that soap opera stuff would make me tired. But I'll read it if you'll write it.

To be fair, after I had this idea I ran across something very like it in the library. Suzanne Weyn did this premise in a single book, Reincarnation. I enjoyed it well enough, but - it's one book. And she didn't research hard enough! It's okay that she uses cave paintings in a way I don't think is accurate (there's plenty of room for honest disagreement on that topic), but, c'mon, none of the Salem witches burned and it happened in Salem Village not Salem Town for crying out loud! I mean, geez, how basic can you get?

Why, yes, I do nitpick and I'm not ashamed of it. I think it's more fun, and more moving, if fiction works with the available facts rather than ignoring them. It's not as if plenty of witch hunts with burning weren't available - it happened all over Europe. So what I want is not Ms. Weyn's book, though you should certainly read it if this idea intrigues you. After all, her take on the premise is superior to mine in that it exists, which trumps any nit I can pick.

What I want is the same idea on a vastly larger scale, vaster than I personally have the skills and energy to undertake, a masterpiece of planning and researching, with just the littlest bit of mysticism in it, not enough to make readers who aren't interested in reincarnation per se uncomfortable, but enough to make the premise feel organic. I can't do this. I doubt anybody can.

But isn't it a great idea?

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