One of the most striking features of Plato’s classic The Symposium is Alcibaides’s entrance. It’s been edited out of televised versions due to its blatant and unapologetic homoeroticism. Alcibiades confesses his devotion to Socrates. This devotion developed after Socrates turned down his advances. In doing so, Socrates impressed Alcibiades with his desire for a deeper love, a deeper wisdom than what an attractive young man could provide with his body. Alcibiades decided to chase after Socrates from that point on, pursuing the love and wisdom embodied by the man in pursuit of them.
I’ve always been fascinated by the eternal chase, the various forms it can take. This struck me as a profoundly deep one.
Perhaps with the discomfort of a modern reader with deep matters, I made a joke out of it. I pictured Socrates with Phaedrus and Timeus in space a bit like the protagonist of Mystery Science Theater. Alcibiades would be chasing them across the universe, showing his devotion to Socrates in oddball ways, like attacking the places Socrates visited.
I mentioned this in a joking way on social media. It was A. Catherine Noon who said, “You should do it!”
Encouragement caused inspiration to flower, made me determined to give it the chance to flower. I sat down at the Peet’s Coffee in San Ramon between games at DunDraCon 2016. I’d brought my beloved Penguin classics copy from 1990 of The Symposium, the one I’d used for a core class at Cowell College, the University of California at Santa Cruz.
I started to read, remembering how much The Symposium enchanted and maddened me. Plato had such a low opinion of women, yet I was the one responding to his words, his mythology centuries later. Why couldn’t a group of women have an equally deep, intellectually arousing conversation about love?
Before long, my own symposium was in full swing. The guests were all women, only the word ‘women’ was no longer fashionable in the Intergalactic Democracy, a curious matriarchy that was an inverse of Ancient Athens. It was also a strangely magical place where food could appear on your plate, taking on the symbolic form of your words. At least it could in Agathea’s star cluster. Guests could get to the symposium just by thinking about why they wanted to go, why they wanted to accept Agathea’s invitation. Agathea, the host, could feed upon the passion within her guests’ words of love. They brought a blush to her otherwise pale cheeks.
Everything I found wondrous and frightening about technology, social media, and mythology came together in A Symposium in Space. This fear and wonder found a voice in Phaedra, my main character. In search of herself, she found love and rekindled love in surprising places.
Not that A Symposium in Space ever lost its core idea. Alcibiades became Alkibiadea, the dashing pirate queen. She’d be chasing Sokrat, my female version of Socrates across the universe in the company of Phaedra and Phaedra’s newfound spaceship, the Timea. Alkibiadea would crash my symposium as Alcibiades crashed the symposium centuries before.
My story became a science fiction tale, a fantasy, an homage to a literary classic, a crossover joke, and a Young Adult coming-of-age story all at once. No wonder it’s so hard to classify as a genre. No wonder it’s so hard to market. No wonder it holds a very special place in my heart.
Large parts of this story concern women having thought-provoking conversations. Whether they’re being pursued by space pirates or rediscovering each other as their host drinks deep of their passions at a dinner party, these women always have something important to say and to hear.
These conversations are both my homage and my comeback to Plato in all his eloquence and misogyny. They’re meant to entertain as well as inspire.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
A Symposium in Space
Phaedra and her lover, Pausania, are invited to a dinner party. Only this won’t be like any party Phaedra has ever been to. Nor does Pausania want her to go. But Phaedra is determined, even if she has to find her own way to this symposium in space.
A fateful encounter with the spaceship of her dreams and the wandering philosopher, Sokrat, lead Phaedra to a unique gathering of individuals where thoughts of love are offered up…and consumed.
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