Where do the ideas and visions that eventually become complex cities and timeless books come from? I don’t know actually—how to blunt a piece from the get-go! However, I do know that they first show up as blip of light barely large and lasting enough to evoke a “What the heck was that?” It gets a smidge of our attention before it flicks on by. After a while, it comes back, this time a bit brighter, lingering only long enough to make us think: where have I seen that before? It’s got a bit more of our attention. It keeps up this appearing and disappearing act until it gets under our skin, be it as annoyance or curiosity. We just have to find out what it is. It now has our full attention, and off we go to chase it, exactly as it intended that we do.
Years back, I coined the word flyby to name this elusive phenomenon for myself. It’s more commonly called an inkling, a term meaningful to folks who remember the fountain pen. (I’m old enough to have used one, but those dastardly things left more ink on my fingers than on paper, so for me flyby has a more pleasant ring.)
By whatever name, these mini-UFOs of mind space are crafty critters. By seeming to avoid detection, they coyly aim to attract attention, which happens to be their fuel and food. They have to be chased down and taken in before they can morph into manifestation. Quite human in behavior, we might say. Without attention, recognition, curiosity, and capture, they remain fussy potential no-things buzzing about in an ethereal soup, alien vessels without a place to moor.
In quantum terms, the flyby is the first glimmer of specificity in a wave, like a splash of moonlight on undulating water that an observer notices and forms into an image, particularizing it as a photograph or phrase, and thus giving it a unique existence that marks it an entity separate from the other unobserved reflections of light in the ether.
The Flyby in Visionary Fiction
The visionary writer aims to fosters growth in consciousness—alertness, awareness—in the manner of an astronomer setting out to explore a distant star or a biologist searching for a curative compound. Imagination is his telescope-microscope through which he magnifies his perception so it will penetrate into the microcosms and macrocosms of infinite potentiality. And flybys are the intimations he looks for, signals that something barely visible but worthwhile is in the available vicinity.
Like the heavens with its myriad stars, flybys are likely to appear wherever one cares to look. But human consciousness seems burdened with an entropy that shrinks our field of vision as soon as we let down our guard. Why perhaps that, despite billions of humans passing through earthly life and speaking or writing a billion100 words on that experience, the bulk of the current population is still picking through Wal-Mart looking for that one bargain that will reveal the purpose of life.
Flybys, despite their ubiquity, are, by nature, Flibbertigibbets (How long I have waited to use that word!). Like our fleeting New Year’s resolutions, they have to be corralled, cornered, and pounded into the ground before they take root and grow into something good, beautiful and true. The visionary fiction writer, who largely works in the realm between the abstract or spiritual and the concrete or material, might best style himself a professional wrangler with electric eels of potential, whose nature, like dreams, is to tease, only then to blithely slip out of our mental fingers.
The Flyby as Self-Accumulator
Without belaboring the necessary and sometimes tedious stages through which a flyby must pass from intuition to notes to outline and then on to completed story—a sequence paralleled in every creative act—let’s examine its primary, seemingly magical, internal characteristic: its self-generative nature. This is the process, not matter that it surpasses our understanding, that turns inspiration, with a due amount of perspiration, into a finished creation, from which we, all godlike, can step back and pronounce as good, and on occasion, really damn good.
The flyby, the seed of it all, is a self-accumulator. At first it is a very lonely monad (think about—but not too hard—the concept of the alleged Higgs boson or God Particle in physics) that flits or flirts about with the sole purpose of attracting attention from a target. It wants a suitable partner. In absorbing that first particle of attention, the twosome forms a dyad, a couple, and from there the dating game is off to the races. The more attention the writer or artist gives to the inspiration, the more the inspiration takes form as a creation.
To ask which came first is to pose the impossible “chicken-or-egg” riddle. After the initial coupling, to attempt to separate the insight from the in-sighted is to doom the creation to a stillbirth. And if, by the way, our discussion here smacks with the language of reproduction (flyby easily equates with pollen in the plant kingdom and semen in the animal realm), it is not coincidental. The process of creation, proceeding from the humble flyby unto the most magnificent cathedral, is, as even physicists now accept, a single sequence that takes the simplest building block and from it fashions all that is.
Click the link for The Flyby in Visionary Fiction, Part 2.