CHALLENGE old stereotypes and unexamined, conventional beliefs about what it means to be a man in today's society.
FORTH-COMING PUBLICATIONS Click for info on all
By Daniel Racicot
"Going Home," University of Toronto, Astronomy 100, 1972
Supergiant began as an undergraduate essay for my Astronomy 100 course at the University of Toronto in the autumn of 1972. It was actually not an essay but a fictitious narrative, for which I had to obtain special permission from the lecturer because science fiction was not deemed an acceptable mode for a research project. My narrative, however, was based on a series of calculations not only of the apparent brightness of Betelgeuse as seen from a space craft that was capable of making a 500-lightyear journey from Earth, but also of all the celestial objects as they would appear in the sky on a tiny, inhabited moon orbiting one of the planets in a hypothetical solar system which I proposed to create as a mathematically correct model based on the Fibonacci Series. The completed project was submitted in the spring of 1973, under the title, "Going Home."
The narrative arose from a strange impression that had come to me earlier in my life, and which now took the form of a kind of envisioning of myself returning to the star of my birth, Betelgeuse. This was, of course, a personal fantasy, but it held for me a great deal of power. That 'power,' as I now understand it more fully (but by no means completely), was related to a series of impressions of myself as remembering fragments of former recurrences of my life. The subject of eternal recurrence, as discussed in P. D. Ouspensky's writings at some length, is not to be confused with conventional concepts of reincarnation, but it is not my intention to expound upon it here. Suffice to say that the details of the concept on which Supergiant is based remain in the realm of fiction, but that the psychological and spiritual aspects of such a remembering are within the realm of actuality.
The 'essay' made an impact, not only on the lecturer of my course, but on the Head of the Astronomy Department, Dr. Tom Clark, who extended his personal congratulations to me for having earned a perfect mark, and asked permission to have my work read at universities in the United States. He was astonished to learn, moreover, that the hundreds of figures in my calculations had been arrived at, not by means of a computer or even a calculator, but by means of long division and pencil sketches using Cartesian geometry for he had processed them all in the University's computer and had come up with less than a .03 percent margin of error in any single one of them. Having failed Grade 13 Analytical Geometry with a dismal mark of 23 percent, I was certainly no mathematician, but I had done very well in certain areas of grade 12 math, and that, coupled with my love for astronomy and architecture, had enabled me to get by without the electronic aids that were still in their infancy in those days. I was asked to give a reading to the class, and Dr. Clark, certain that it had marketable value, encouraged me to develop it as a publishable story, which I did.
Envisioning a Superior Civilization
In this period of my life, I was an avid moviegoer, gladly counting myself in with the crowds that flocked to the new super-spectacles appearing on the silver screen in a stupendous, never-ending pageant of special effects . . . The Black Hole, Superman, Star Wars, Close Encounters . . . . And it was Close Encounters that finally 'got to me.' My frustration must have been back-logged for quite some time, for after enduring three hours of the self-conscious panegyrics of Roy Neary, only to be given a brief glimpse of the aliens superior beings from another world as they disappeared back into the bright glare of their spacecraft's interior was 'the last straw' for me. It was then that I decided that if I were going to do anything with "Going Home," it would be to treat the movie-goer to a real visit with real aliens in a real world which is my way of saying that a truly superior society would be peopled by . . . people.
In many respects, the 1956 film version of War of the Worlds, with its hostile invasion theme, set the tone in science fiction for the decades that followed, and I am of course aware that over the years, writers and film-makers have made attempts to 'humanify' aliens from other planets, and have painstakingly developed entire civilizations such as that which appears in Dune; nevertheless, I had not encountered anything that my wife (my chief critic) refers to as 'believability in the reality of the culture' in which they lived. There was no 'everyday life;' it was always cast in the mode of fantasy and myth, or gratuitously serving the needs of the plot. But what if I, an ordinary Earthman, found myself living with such people? What would my experience be? And what kind of people would they be?
I was certainly not convinced that a society or civilization that was in possession of technology sufficient to make inter-stellar space travel possible would necessarily be war-like, and I deplored the popular invasion themes in the innocent belief that something else would be the more likely scenario. On a planet such as our own, which is crazed with the violence of war and monsters, obsessed with the fear of annihilation, and addicted to the upward ratchet effect of spectacle and violence, I decided that my 'superior beings' would be superior, not because of their technology or scientific knowledge, but because of their wisdom and the level of their Being.
What I ended up with is contained within the pages of Supergiant, and I'll leave it to the reader to discover that except to say one thing: in a truly superior civilization, for moral, ethical, scientific, and many other reasons, there can be no dependency upon fossil fuels and electrical power, and so there can be no climactic explosions in which everything blows up in the 'biggest-ever' pyrotechnical display. In this highly advanced civilization even the wheel is obsolete.
1979 The Original Filmscript
In 1979, Supergiant came into being as a 180-page filmscript that had taken several years to complete and in November of that year, Ron Miller, then Director of The Black Hole, (Walt Disney Productions) expressed interest in it, asking me to send it to him along with a signed waiver guaranteeing that I would not sue Disney for more than $1000 if the script were plagiarized. On the advice of my entertainment lawyer, in order to protect my rights to the story, I decided to waive the waiver, and get to work at the enormous task of turning it into a novel.
High school teachers with growing families, 1200 lessons to prepare, 380 exams, 760 essays, and 1320 tests to mark each year do not have much time to write block-buster novels, but BUT, after many futile attempts to make headway with Supergiant, I committed one of those 'teachers-only-work-nine-months-a-year' summer vacations to the task, and in June, 1984, as soon as the last staff meeting was over, went into seclusion to begin a fresh attempt to transform my filmscript into a novel. By Labour Day, more than two months later, Supergiant had swelled into a 750-page handwritten manuscript.
1986 Supergiant, The Novel
It was not until the following summer, however, that I began typing it on an electric typewriter. Woefully bogged down in the pre-computer morass of white corrector-tape and carbon copies, I despaired of ever finishing, but in February of 1986, the window of electronic type opened to me, and by December Supergiant had been converted into a 900-page, digital document on my first computer.
And nobody wanted it. Five publishers turned it down.
The rejection slips all came with due appreciation, encouragement, and even praise only one publisher came down hard on the narrative viewpoint, but the overall message was not that it was no good, but that it was far too long.
By 1987, after many excruciating and agonizing excisions, Supergiant was ready for the public again, and this version was, technically speaking, a publication, for it was distributed amongst friends and relatives in a limited number of copies. I also gave private readings from it to various groups. From this exposure, especially from the readings, I gained enthusiastic encouragement and gathered enough data on which to base further editings which took place over the next few years in my 'spare' time.
This brings me to the greatest heartbreak I've suffered with respect to Supergiant over the past three decades, for, as newer and bigger, loftier and glitzier sci-fi creations poured out of Hollywood, so did much of the technical wizardry and many of the special effects that I had imagined and created as part of the fabric of Supergiant. As every new season brought to the screen yet another 'sci-fi invention' that until then was original to Supergiant, my heart sank. It was that sinking feeling (added to the enormity of the editing problems) that was largely responsible for the heaviness I felt whenever the idea of finishing my novel came to me.
It would not be purposeful to catalogue the heartbreaks I've just mentioned, but to give an idea, I'll mention two. One was the concept of 'Carousel' in Logan's Run which came out in 1976. In this film, as sci-fi buffs will recall, 'renewal' was the selling ploy behind the mass hypnosis on which compulsory death at the age of 30 was accepted in the 'brave new world' of William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Though the function of this ritual is very different from what is described in Supergiant, the actualization of it is strikingly similar, and when I witnessed the 'Carousel' scene in the movie theatre, I of course could not believe my eyes. The exact same sort of shock went through me when the 'hot rod speeders' took off through the forests in Star Wars, Episode II, for I had 'invented' machines almost exactly like this years several years earlier for Supergiant.
At the risk of sounding as if I 'protest too much,' (remember Gertrude's line in Hamlet?), I hasten to state that none of the sci-fi creations in Supergiant is plagiarized, though except for one, all have been actualized in other people's works. The novel has undergone much editing since it first took shape, but nothing has been 'borrowed' from any book or movie at a later date. If any do appear to have been 'borrowed,' there is evidence in copies that I sent to myself by registered mail of the veracity of my present statements. I make these statements not out of paranoia, but as a matter of interest to the reader, for reading Supergiant today in some respects will be like reading a lost manuscript and a trip backwards in time. Which is the next point I wish to dwell on briefly . . . .
Between 1973 and the year of this publication technology has advanced at such a rate that a complete revision of Supergiant is out of the question, for it was written long before the computer established itself as a prime communications device, long before Internet, long before cell phones, and long before digital technology 'replaced' film and tape. Nevertheless, I tackled these 'problems' with as much gusto as possible, and, without disturbing the general atmosphere of the original novel too greatly, managed to update the otherwise archaic technological setting of the story. Problems resulting from this 'face lift' may be disturbing to the literary elite or to the 'technogentsia,' but they do not interfere with the progress of the story and have been deemed 'seamless' by my proofreaders.
Writing Style and Theme
The literary style of Supergiant posed certain difficulties that to the best of my ability were solved over a long period of many editings. My intention in 'novelizing' the original film script was to transpose it from one genre to the other in such a way that it could easily be converted back into a screenplay; in other words, I began by merely fleshing out the camera and stage directions, in much the same way that Steinbeck had done with his play, Of Mice and Men. With each successive editing, however, the concept of John Morrow's spiritual evolution seemed to demand more and more explanation, and in many cases, rather than alternating chapters between narrative and 'documentary,' as Melville had done in Moby Dick, I made every effort to integrate these passages of varying lengths into the narrative in such a way as to reveal more about the quality of life of the 'aliens' in a natural flow of prose. As this process evolved over the years, I began to see more clearly that the 're-expansion' of the original text was a good thing, for the book became one of those reading experiences in which one can become engrossed to the point of not wanting it to end too soon. In spite of this, however, the original plot development is embedded in the novel, scene for scene, according to the earliest drafts.
If Supergiant is about anything important, then it is about spiritual evolution. The hero's earthly success as television journalist is nothing compared with what he ultimately achieves on the faraway world which was his home a small, Earth-sized moon in the solar system of the Red Supergiant, Betelgeuse. The epic scale of this story is 'big galoshes,' but the vision is intact, and the spiritual transformation is complete. In the overcoming of obstacles, the focus is not so much on the climactic moment of conflict resolution as it is on the processes involved in arriving at that resolution and what takes place after success is achieved. So much of our literature 'dotes on' the achievement, and leaves it there, as if that were the end of the story. I wanted to raise the question, "If I am successful, what then?" To where has my success led me, and where do I go from here? Is it 'happily ever after,' with radiant clouds in the distance and a dubious feeling of 'hope' as THE END appears on the screen and the credits roll?" Supergiant dares to inquire into the psychological complexities of the difficult 'passages' that a hero must make not in the simplistic terms of allegory which would cast them as outer, physical conflicts such as one-to-one battles with ogres or full scale wars with the forces of evil , but in terms of what needs to be known, and what needs to be done, as a real individual in real life. Struggle with negative emotions, transforming book learning into experience what really takes place when the effort to raise the level of one's own Being beyond these states becomes the chief aim of one's life? And then, what is the significance of such attainment? How does one live at that level?
As a setting for this, I wanted to create a visual image, even if imaginary, of a truly 'brave new world' in which the horrors and terrors of civilizations on Earth could be shown to be not only surpassable but non-existent. It was my firm resolve to resist those 'automatic thinkings' that lead us to believe that 'interesting' literature depends upon sex, technology, and violence for its success. Conflict is necessary, however, and there is conflict in Supergiant:' There is also sex, for human sexuality is not an unimportant aspect of human life. But gratuitous sex and violence are absent. There is something inherently good in us that does respond to goodness, wisdom, and right effort. My experience in the classroom has demonstrated to me over and over again, that the 'ho-hum' of my students could be converted into curiosity, interest, and even a driving sense of wonder about life; nearly anyone can be led to be interested in exactly those things which are normally considered dull or boring or 'too deep.' There can be awesome spectacle without destruction; there can be conflict and intrigue without monsters and murder. And a good book or movie can have the power to elevate us, without burning up our attention in massive explosions.
The 'theological' or metaphysical system on which the alien civilization in Supergiant is based is not a fiction that I 'dreamed up' independently of other sources. The ideas, however, are my own formulation of G. I. Gurdjieff's integrated system of cosmology and psychology as I have understood and worked with it for over forty years. Both the screenplay and large portions of the novel have been read by members of the Gurdjieff tradition, and from them, I have received nothing but approval of my work and exhortations to have it published. That support has been an invaluable encouragement.
Characters in the Story
Supergiant is in some respects autobiographical, and most of the characters are completely fictitious, but some of them blur the boundaries between real life and fiction. It is conventional for authors to post disclaimers regarding characters in their novels, and I would do so, but I'd take this a step further with the following notes.
John Morrow. As any reader might guess, the main character is a reflection of my own aspirations in life, and many events depicted in the novel come from my own past some of them directly and some of them altered to suit the depiction of John Morrow as a fictitious character.
Charmaine. John's wife, I would stress, is not a portrayal of my wife, Kathleen. I made every effort to create a fictitious wife for John Morrow, although, admittedly, there are a few details in which this stricture was not followed to the letter.
The Children. The children in the story are not 'my real life' children although, again, it must be admitted that some of the family events in the novel are borrowed from reality, and my daughters might tend to see themselves in Nancy and Barbara. Little Jimmy is a completely invented character.
Professor Newberry. The name of Professor Newberry is a slightly different spelling of the name of a real life person who had a very strong influence on me in my undergraduate years at Huntington University, and whom I saw in my mind's eye as he wove his way through the plot of Supergiant. At his memorial service in the autumn of 2004, the real life Reverend Doctor J. W. E. Newbery was eulogized as a saint. Though there is nothing of his public or private life whatsoever in Supergiant, it was his demeanour and wisdom, his grace and gentleness that I wished to emulate in the 'Professor' who becomes John Morrow's mentor in the novel, and who is the catalyst for many of the events of the plot.
Ted Whiteside. Another character based directly on a real life person is Ted Whiteside. As with Newberry, nothing from his public or private life appears in the novel, except his speech patterns which have been, and still are, an enormous fascination for me. So . . . if you're 'out there,' Ted, and if you chance to look into this mirror, knowing you as I do, I trust you will be amused and perhaps honoured by this 'immortalization' of your most very unique personality.
Tom. Charmaine's father is a third character taken directly from real life. 'Tom' was my father-in-law, Jim Earley. He was a man who impressed me deeply. I know from spending the last year of his life with him in intimate conversation and 'just being there' as he awaited his end, that he would be most pleased to see himself 'doing his own thing' at his own 'camp' on Long Lake. He plays a small role in the outer events of the story, but he was a father to me for more than three decades, and that is more than likely a subliminal theme which underlies many of the events of the novel.
One Last Word
This story was composed when the cold war between the USSR and the USA was still 'not so cold,' and when the threat of nuclear disaster was still great. But the cold war ended, the Berlin Wall fell, and the rise of terrorism became the new threat to humankind. Supergiant 'slept' through it all. Though some of the technology in it has been updated, I have left the political scene far in the background, primarily because I had no intention of writing a 'thematic piece' on the world situation. That theme does appear in Supergiant, but the novel is more concerned with the process of 'self-actualization,' and what it takes to become, as Gurdjieff has said, a 'man not in quotation marks.' The conclusion to Supergiant, therefore, raises questions of a literary as well as a political nature, but the real question, at least for me, is this: How can I live my life more abundantly in the situation that I now find myself? It is not easy. It is not a life of 'fun' that is to be looked for. If I choose to go against the current of commonplace attitudes and behaviours, my life takes on a different meaning, and it would do so, no matter what the external circumstances might be. For the 'family man,' for the monk in a monastery, for a great historical figure, for a politician, for a movie star, for a social worker no matter of which gender the beginning task will be the same, the specific path will be different, but the ultimate goals and what is to be achieved will be the same.
Back to top of page
A JOURNAL OF MALE PERSPECTIVES
Articles, stories, photos, biographies, by men, about men, for men and women
ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!
Click here for info
"As a new addition to Canadian literature on men, [CHALLENGE] is important because of the paucity of the material in this time. Various efforts have been made in Canada and the United States to publish periodicals on men, but this is a difficult undertaking. . . . So it is with pleasure and hope that I introduce this appealing publication to Everyman readers." - Robert Grantier, Everyman: A Men's Journal
CHALLENGE, Volume 1, is the beginning of a new dialogue between the Northern community and those men who wish to give voice to their changing place in it. DANIEL RACICOT is editor and publisher of CHALLENGE. A graduate of Huntington University (1963), he taught English, Theatre Arts, History, and International Studies in Toronto from 1965 - 1997, when he retired and moved back to his hometown, Sudbury, Ontario, where he lives with his wife Kathleen. They have two daughters and two grandchildren. His vision for CHALLENGE is reflected in the wide spectrum of interests, talents, and activities which are outlined on this website.
CONVERSATIONS with . . . Jack
JACK is the Executive Director of Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph and Wellington County. Born, raised, and educated in Sudbury, he is the first recipient of the Huntington Paddle, and a proud member of the first graduating class of Huntington University (1963). He has worked in children's aid and family services across Canada, first in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, moving from there to Belleville and Kingston, and then to Fredericton and Moncton. Along the way, he became a father and grandfather, devoting much of his spare time to men's issues. That interest, and his fifty-year friendship with the publisher, have made made him a strong supporter of Mountaintop Enterprises and CHALLENGE.
In this article, he enters into dialogue with Mountaintop Enterprises, modelling the kind of sharing men need to learn. "Conversations with . . ." is not intended to be an exhaustive interview with the 'experts'; rather, it attempts to give expression to the many aspects of being male and the need for public awareness of what that is about.
BEING with ADRIEN
Dan Racicot ponders on the roots of friendship in a mountaintop experience with his friend, Adrien Gravelle. Why do men climb mountains? The cliche answer isn't good enough. Being up high has something to do with seeing. Seeing farther, seeing deeper, seeing more. It has to do with new perspectives. When men want to be together, a mountaintop is a good place for them to go. It is good both in the going and in the being there.
MOOSE MAN: Hero or Heretic?
Freelance journalist for Northern Ontario newspapers and periodicals, Marek Krasuski recounts the mystifying tale of Gogama's famous 'Moose Man', Joe Laflamme.
Some men blazed trails through endless miles of wilderness, and left their mark. The trails remain, but the men are long forgotten - most of them. Here in the North, we need to know and to remember those who shaped our culture and gave its fabric colour, texture, and durability. Gogama's Joe Laflamme was one such man; CHALLENGE celebrates the enigmatic legacy he left behind.
PORTRAIT OF TERRY MASON
Text by Marek Krasuski, photography by Daniel Racicot
CHALLENGE puts the spotlight on one man from the Sudbury community - his interests and his sense of what it means to be a man.
In this portrait, Marek Krasuski evokes the spirit of a man who not too long ago would have shied away from the mere thought of revealing anything of his inner world to another person in this way, but Terry Mason, at the age of sixty-four, has found that it's never too late to make new demands of himself, and in the belief that more voices need to be heard on issues that he himself has confronted in himself, he accepted the invitation to be profiled here. The photos which appear on these pages offer just a glimpse of the unassuming, diligent man who is in his outer life doing what we all must do for the sake of our inner lives - and that is to care for what we are given, what we find, and what we ourselves create. Terry's willingness to share his world with us is no small matter; it is an act of courage and faith.
THE RUTTING FIELD
By Daniel Racicot
"What [men] seek from sports is something that sports cannot deliver; and the pressure to achieve strips them of the ability to receive what sports really can offer: fun. The establishment of a public masculine identity is concerned more with doing, with achieving, than it is with fun." This quotation from Michael Kimmel's, Changing Men: New Directions in Research on Men and Masculinity, is the springboard for personal reflections by Daniel Racicot.
UNTO the HILLS: A Men's Wilderness Retreat
This is a pictorial essay on the first MAN to MAN wilderness retreat sponsored by Mountaintop Enterprises. In the belief that self-discovery and personal growth depend upon much more than those elements of relationship that can be found in discussion meetings, members of the MAN to MAN Support Group in Mountaintop Enterprises undertook a three-day venture that challenged them on several levels. Men commonly take to the hills, it is true, but what distinguished this outing was the willingness of particpants to explore not only the wilderness, but their relationship with themselves and with each other. Events included canoeing, hiking, and all that goes with wilderness camping, including campfire discussions. The theme, 'Interdependence between Men', was explored through various exercises and tasks that served as reminders.
CELEBRATING ... My Beatrice
by Marek Krasuski
A man's search for meaning is not a solitary journey through this world - it may seem so at times, but most men experience a need for the companionship and love of a woman. In this article, Marek Krasuski undertakes the daunting task of probing his own experience of being in love. His intention is not to define 'love' or explain what it means to be in love, but rather to explore the deeply personal feelings which arise when the heart of a man is smitten by the overwhelming presence of a woman. In the great romances of history, we read about those feelings, and we assume that it is only 'great lovers' who experience them. It is possible for any man, however - any ordinary man - to be so smitten, and to enter into the profound mystery of this sacred love. As Marek has pointed out, great love "is not the privileged domain of 'important people'," and he boldly takes his title from The Divine Comedy, intentionally alluding to the divine Beatrice who, as Dante's beloved, has become an archetype of spiritual fulfillment for men in all epochs.
PHOTO GALLERY: Attending Thought . . . .
CHALLENGE's Photo Gallery is an opportunity for photographers and other artists to share their impressions - impressions of the outer world in which they carry on their daily lives, and equally important, impressions of themselves. In a very real sense, where our attention takes us is what we are.
SENIOR MEN AND MEDIATION
Doug Joblin, President-Principal of Huntington University, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Gerontology, presented this article at the 17th Congress of The International Association of Gerontology in Vancouver, July, 2001. In it he examines four Jungian archetypes which underlie the experience of all men, and assesses issues of meaningful communication.
FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT CHALLENGE AND BECOME A PATRON OF A NEW VENTURE.
Back to top of page
MANHOOD: New Explorations in Masculine Identity
By Daniel Racicot
A series of talks on the subjects of the relationship between sexual and spiritual energy, and the missing factor in our common understanding of Male and Female Power.
ORDER YOUR COPY NOW! Click here for info
To the Reader [Click for excerpt]
Sex and Spirit
1 Spiritual and Sexual Energy [Click for excerpt]
2. A Little Cock Talk [Click for excerpt]
3. A Little More Cock Talk
4. The Inner Sanctuary and the Initiate
5. Masculine Spirit
Male Power [Click for excerpt]
Back to top of page
CHALLENGE: A Journal of Male Perspectives, Vol. 2
In the next issue . . .
SPIRIT JOURNEY, by Daniel Racicot
This work, subtitled "A New Beginning," uses pictographs to represent the inner journey as it is experienced in the early stages of commitment to a new way of life. Inspired by the images at Petroglyphs Provincial Park, "Spirit Journey" attempts to broaden perspectives on the search for meaning by reaching beyond the stereotypes of Eurocentric North American culture and value systems.
PORTRAIT of . . . Ed Spehar
By Marek Krasuski
This feature article probes the work and mind of a Timmins artist known for his compelling images of the North and its mining motifs.
. . . and much more . . . .
Unto the Hills, by Daniel Racicot
An inner odyssey in the form of a real life canoeing adventure
Back to top of page