WTF and Other Stars

“Every man and every woman is a star.” ~ Aleister Crowley

In this famous statement from The Book of the Law, Crowley meant that every individual is the centre of the universe to themselves; their own God and an equal element of the cosmos. In the commentary, he went on to describe how an atom of carbon may pass through myriad phases ‘appearing as chalk, chloroform, sugar, sap, brain and blood, not recognizable as “itself” the black amorphous solid, but recoverable as such, unchanged by its adventures.” The implication, I think, is that this is also what happens to consciousness.

In Mapmakers, the fifth story of Mind in the Gap, Maisie borrows from Crowley by saying that “every man and woman has their own orbit and their own constellation of meaningful events.” In Winter Triangle, the people of Origin take this idea more literally, naming their people of underground significance after the most prominent stars in particular asterisms. Then the stars surface again in The Fold when Georgie says ‘My mother always told me people are like stars. They have a light inside, and you can tell if something’s amiss by the way they shine.’

In the course of researching for the book, I learned some fascinating things about particular stars, which I applied in metaphor for the way my characters were acting. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

 

WTF Star

Perhaps the most interesting star I came across in my research was KIC 8462852, located in the Cygnus constellation. It doesn’t have an official accessible name because its nature is still a mystery to astrophysics, but it is often to referred to as Tabby’s Star, or WTF Star which stands for Where’s the Flux? M likens herself to it in the book when attempting to describe her nature to a companion.

WTF Star has an irregular light fluctuation, with dips in its light lasting anywhere from 5 to 80 days at unpredictable times. A single object orbiting around it was ruled out as a cause. Other proposed reasons for the fluctuations have included dust clouds and comet showers, which are both considered highly improbable. Others have suggested more outlandish explanations, such as the existence of a Dyson sphere (a hypothetical megastructure that could be used by spacefaring civilisations to generate energy from a star). As much as this sounds like something from science fiction, if we are to remain sceptical we cannot dismiss the suggestion without proof of what it actually is.

There’s a brilliant TED Talk on this, by Tabetha S. Boyajian, the astrophysicist leading its study. You can watch it here.

 

Mira

Mira is a star in the constellation of Cetus. It was first noted by David Fabricius in 1596, and presented a puzzle for a long time due to its variable, pulsating luminescence. It was later found to be a binary stellar system, with a white dwarf companion (Mira B) orbiting around a variable red giant (Mira A). The variable luminescence is due to expansion and contraction of the whole of Mira A, which is in a state of dynamic instability. Mira B is orbiting Mira A and accreting mass from it. A spiral of gas can be seen rising off Mira A in the direction of Mira B, which also has a protoplanetary disc forming around it which could eventually form new planets.

Mira features in my story The Fold, when the horrifying root of Aaron’s problems are explained to him.

 

The Winter Triangle and the Summer Triangle

As the names suggest, these are two triangular asterisms seen in our sky at opposite times of the year. The Summer Triangle is made up of Altair, the brightest star from the constellation Aquila, Deneb from Cygnus, and Vega from Lyra.

The Winter Triangle begins to appear after Autumn Equinox, and it was no coincidence I chose that as my book release day this year. It is made up of the famous bright star Sirius (the Dog Star) from the constellation Canis Major, Procyon from Canis Minor, and Betelguese (the proper name of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice!) from Orion.

Sirius in particular already has a history of being included in mythology, the occult and science fiction. It had significance to the ‘big three‘ thinkers of 20th century occultism: Aleister Crowley, Helena Blavatsky, and Georges Gurdjieff. One of my favourite thinkers, Robert Anton Wilson, also wrote about Sirius. After he carried out one of Crowley’s rituals in search of his inner guide, he awoke the next day with the thought ‘Sirius is important’ stuck in his head. It was July 23rd, the first of the ‘dog days’, and that was the beginning of a chain of synchronicities in his life. There’s a fun article with more details on this here.

For Mind in the Gap, I made up a little mythology around the namesakes of these six stars, focusing on Sirius in particular. I feel there is more still to explore there, so watch this space for flash fiction length extras!

* * *

If you’ve read Mind in the Gap, please take a moment to visit the Connections and Easter Eggs page to add any wonders you might have spotted. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out the blurb or pick up a signed copy here. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle or as a paperback from anywhere that sells books. Thank you!

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