[Anyone caught by these ideas, please contact rbalthazar(at)msn.com]
You know how folks always talk about an idea whose time has come. Then there are those ideas whose time hasn’t come yet, and it’s a lot of work making sure they don’t just wander off and get lost. Fortunately I’ve kept a mental shoebox full of keepsakes, those dear ideas that we like to look at occasionally and play with. And now it behooves me to line them up in an organized and searchable list. All of the following inspirations are waiting for the right someone to come along and help me manifest them.
Nonfiction Books: With the fiscal flop of my first two books, plans for Five Flower Press to publish others had to be scrapped. At the time I envisioned mostly Native American subjects like those two which dealt with Indian mounds and the Aztec calendar.
First on the list was something like IMAGINE NATIVE AMERICA! Petroglyphs of Ancient North America, edited by some noted scholar in the field, a geographical and historical survey with the most representative and striking images. It’s still something I’d like to see, and synergy with a learned someone equally fascinated by petroglyphs might possibly make it happen.
There were other projects on the drawing board which I frankly can’t recall anymore, all likely on very visual themes. Oh, yes, one was a total fantasy: a photographic tour of the principal named mountain peaks (hundreds?) in the US, like Rainier, Shasta, Guadalupe, etc. Such a book probably already exists by now, and I couldn’t have afforded to do it anyway.
Regarding my third nonfiction book, GETTING GET, I’d be very interested in working with an English language scholar (graduate student?) to give a similar structural treatment to several other wild verbs like ‘make,’ ‘take,’ ‘put,’ etc. I can see a good thesis in this, can’t you?
Products: I’m convinced that my artifact drawings for REMEMBER NATIVE AMERICA and my illustrations for CELEBRATE NATIVE AMERICA would be ultimately suitable for a wide array of products such as cards, calendars, clothing, etc. Does someone out there know how to or want to make that happen? Meanwhile, I’m now taking the Aztec theme to a new level in a long-term project of a coloring book: YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities. Check it out.
Games: All my life I’ve enjoyed playing games, particularly card games, but Monopoly and chess are also favorites. While in college a cutthroat hearts player and formidable at bridge (and still wicked good at computer hearts), I’m also a whiz at gin rummy most of the time. With this gaming bent, I couldn’t help but imagineer some new games.
The first, which was conceived in 1984 in an actual dream, was a deck of cards to be played in conjunction with a game of chess. Right now I’m calling the game MAYHEM because the cards will interject the fickle finger of Lady Luck (i.e., the element of chance) into otherwise utterly logical chess. Though I designed a few of the cards, the thing never got off the ground, largely because I had no idea where to go with it. I do know that cards to use with chess have already manifested in various versions, but I somehow doubt they do quite what I have in mind. Does anyone out there know what to do with this idea?
A few years later, must be 87-88, I stumbled on the Aztec ceremonial calendar with their odd ‘century’-count and was immediately inspired about a deck of cards of the standard 52 but with eight suits instead of four. (On a parallel track as noted above, I proceeded with artwork on the calendar itself.) At the time I called the cards PALLI, the Aztec word for the 13-year periods, and designed a prototype deck with illustrations of Aztec gods and year-signs. It was mind-boggling to play gin rummy with and blew the odds in poker sky-high. Now in early 2018 (30 years later!), I’ve finally put it all together in a deck called TONALLI (days), which is available for someone to produce, merchandise, and market with my blessing.
For the same reason as before, that game never went anywhere. However, the Aztec calendar also spurred my nimble brain to imagineer a couple board games. One called FLOWER WARS was a four-player thing like checkers played from the corners. Another was based on the day-count and also could be used for divination. Called TICITL, Aztec for ‘fortune-teller, it involved more illustrations from the Aztec pantheon and led to my book CELEBRATE NATIVE AMERICA. These mind-games of mine also languish without a path into reality. Can you help a needy idea?
That isn’t all that came of the Aztec inspiration. Twenty years later in 2008, I combined their curious count system with the closed number system from my ‘grafyx’ delirium in the late 60’s and imagineered a 54-card deck of cards with six suits of nine called SIX SNAKE (an Aztec day). It’s a simple, fun way to teach/drill basic addition in/to little kids. The prototype worked great, but I couldn’t figure out rules for playing with subtraction or multiplication. This brilliant scheme also climbed onto the shelf to await synergy.
I have little doubt that there’s something in these several game ideas that would work well for a computer game. But I also have no idea what. Let’s talk.
Fiction: Far from alone in this, I spontaneously sprout ideas for plots and stories like weeds in my head. Many grow fairly large in there before getting re-absorbed into the grey matter and lost to posterity. Some make it to bloom somehow and become lasting memories. Only one has made it onto actual paper, a short story “Traveling Men”, initially intended to be the first in a series of gay cow-people tales.
However, in a catastrophic computer crash last year, I lost the files on two other pieces. One was a fascinating sci-fi fantasy without dragons and the other something I’ve forgotten. I guess such electronic death is like re-absorption into the ether.
The lucky lasting memories are few, but fun. I’ve long been fascinated by the earliest European contacts with ‘natives’ of the New World, and three of my favorite hooks for historical novels would be the abduction of the Queen of Cutifachiqui by Desoto (Spanish), the mutiny at Cape Royal (French), and the massacres at Fort Caroline (also Fr.). For a quarter-century I’ve also dreamed of writing a fantasy history interpreting Aztec origin myths and involving an actual god-being, and for at least as long I’ve toyed with a sci-fi plot about the visit to earth of an alien being in the form of a plant.
Most recently I’ve cooked up an idea for a sequel to an existing historical, iconic story with potential for a series of young-person adventures. An enormous amount of historical research will be needed, and most importantly, I’d like to find someone with a talent for historical fiction to collaborate with. I’d be great on the plotting but don’t have much confidence in my talent for such fiction writing.
Music: No, I don’t claim to write music, though I have written for music. First there was poetry to be sung in my translation of Tchaikovsky’s opera “Maid of Orleans” (Joan of Arc), performed in Toronto and Ottawa in 1978 and in Detroit in 1979. Believe me, the Joan’s a great opera, and my English libretto is still available to perform. I also translated the lyrics of Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances” for a performance in Birmingham in 1980, but I’m afraid that manuscript has disappeared, hopefully not used to wrap fish.
Meanwhile, with my operatic inclination I’ve had a number of bright ideas for libretti, including those three historical novel plots mentioned earlier. I’ve also been hot for years to do a libretto on the gay love story of Hadrian and Antinoos. Is there an adventurous composer in the house?
Performance: After performing (technically speaking) in a ballet and two operas, as well as having a speaking role in a Shakespearean play, I tried my hand in the 80’s at stage managing for two productions at the Santa Fe Community Theatre. After that I limited my theatrical activity to writing for the stage. However, I’ve been told many times since that I’ve still got a great speaking voice, and I contemplate doing public/recorded book readings. What I really need, I guess, is a producer, someone to make it happen. Or make me make it happen.
Film/video: Here we’re talking about script ideas, of which I’ve focused on two so far. In 2011 I completed a draft for an animated feature about ancient Egypt (boy, cat, anthropomorphic gods, etc.) but am artistically unsatisfied. Otherwise, in connection with the short story mentioned above, it would be great kicks (as a collaborator) to imagineer the envisioned gay cow-folk tales into what would be a great TV series. Any takers? Also, I firmly believe my short play “Spoils” would make a stunning video, a moody nocturne at sea. Again, if I had the wherewithal or any idea what I was doing, I’d give it a shot. Does anyone out there know what they’re doing?
Earthworking: Inspired, of course, by my infamous Indian mounds, I’ve long fantasized about creating earthworks of my own. (It’s amazing what one can do nowadays with a ‘bobcat’ or front-end loader.) Not content with just piling up a private pyramid in a field somewhere, I soon broadened my vision to a monument to the vanished Mississippian peoples.
Along Florida’s Gulf coast (sort of in its armpit), there are vast areas of savannah not unlike the Everglades, an almost swamp of grasses with occasional hummocks of palms. Here I imagineer earthworks on a spectacular scale dredged up from the surrounding areas and creating a reverse design of waterways (connected to the Gulf for tidal effects?).
With a great deal of physical work, the monument could easily cover whole square miles with aerial views as wild as those fancy jetties off the coast of Dubai. (A design of causeways, terraces, and pyramids, etc., would also recall the incredible earthworks of the Beni in the Amazon basin.) Let me know when it’s all done. I can’t wait to see it.
Architecture: In line with earthworking, I’ve also had some philosophical ideas about architecture, namely the spiritual symbolism of building into rather than on the earth. I’ve dug countless fantasy houses sunken into hillsides or tunneled into cliffs and burrowed out many other semi-subterranean abodes. (The totally subterranean I leave to my friend and inspiration Ra Paulette, whose thing is creating caves like you’ve never seen.)
Unable to do a more grandiose project, by around 2002 while the Grandfatherly gay character, I’d dug a semi-subterranean greenhouse. It was a hole 32’ long x 18’ wide x 6’ deep below a 4’ terrace wall; a greenhouse roof laid from the top of the terrace to the other side of the hole did the rest of the job. One entered from a side-end of the low-profile roof and came into a high-roofed terrarium needing minimal heating in winter but major ventilation in summer. Sorry that it can no longer be seen since after 12 years without much maintenance, it deteriorated to point of demolition. Sic transit gloria!
I’d be happy to offer my free advice on such architectural projects, the grander the better. It would be a bargain at twice the price, and fun.