This is an experimental literary work combining ancient styles of poetry with postmodernist deconstruction of traditional plot, and of the idea that a novel should have a protagonist. The book begins with an epic poem in which the Norse goddess Freya has decided to embody in four human beings on Earth, and the Weird Sisters preside over the births of the women who will be her aspects and carry parts of her soul during her journey. All four of the women are Freya, so all four of them are the heroine of the story, but they have different lives. The story is told through slice-of-life scenes while the four of them come together around another embodied god, Baldr the Beautiful.
While playing with structure is a hallmark of postmodernism, this book also includes many references to mythological material that readers of modern fiction may miss unless they are also familiar with classical heathen literature. Readers who are not used to reading medieval literature may find the prologue’s poetry difficult to understand, even though archaic words are glossed throughout the text of the poem.
In heathen mythology, Freya did go on a quest: a search for her missing husband Odhr, whose name means “inspiration.” The quest was not successful, teaching us that the journey is more important than the destination. Likewise, in postmodern works such as this novel, plot is not the point, but rather, the point is the portraits of the characters as they live real life and develop as human beings.
The four hypostases of Freya are Lurelle the Crone, Chelsea the Mother, Frieda the Maiden, and Marcia the artist. They live in a polyamorous relationship with Todd, who is Baldr. The relationships between the five of them depict an idealized, jealousy-free open relationship, but since the four women are all really Freya, their relationship is inhumanly perfect.
The human model they attempt to add to their mix is named Heather, nicknamed Heifer. The name Heather resembles and is linguistically related to the word heathen, the general name for the various present-day sects that worship these gods. They are angry at her for not rendering perfect obedience, even though they don’t consciously know that they are gods and she is not. They call their hired human servant Heifer; she is the cattle of the gods.
In Norse mythology, Freya is goddess of love and war. Because her human forms have no memory of being the goddess, however, her warrior quest is forgotten until her divine nature begins to break through. It is as lover of Baldr that she relates to human life. In the ancient heathen literature, Freya and Baldr were not lovers. Baldr was a type of Dying God, whose resurrection would accompany the end of the world and the beginning of the new world. In this novel, though, he is resurrected as a human, and rather than being a harbinger of the apocalypse as a type of Christ figure, he is equally an embodiment of beauty and charisma as are the four Freyas.
The plot of Right Here Right Now is that Freya divides herself into four parts and incarnates in mortal women for the purpose of fighting the God of monotheism. Their daily lives revolve around art modeling, particularly nude modeling, for Marcia, and showing her works. The four women develop as people while embodying some aspect of divinity. Frieda begins the story as a Christian, but through philosophical discussions, nude art, and sexual play, the others get her loosened up. Their perfect polyamorous lifestyle becomes humanly dramatic when they try to add a human to the group, which creates great art but not great life. Aided by performance artists and weed, the four Freyas and Baldr realize they are gods and hear of Freya’s quest.
The title Right Here Right Now refers to a catchphrase that the avatars of Freya use when they want sex. The phrase bears a resemblance to “be here now,” a directive in Zen meditation. To be here now is to fully embody, to fully experience life as a human being within a physical body. This is the challenge faced by these gods in human form, and it is also a universal challenge to a human soul living in a human body, as a soul is equally a thing of light and thought and energy, sometimes sitting uncomfortably within coarse matter. To learn the life lesson of being human, one must be human, in a fully human and physical awareness-based way within a body of meat that has qualities like appearance and appetite. Meat, appearance, and appetite, both for food and for sex, are recurring leitmotifs in this work. Appearance and appetite are two of the divine gifts that the creator gave to humankind in Norse mythology. Another recurring image is fire, depicted as both the practical cooking fire and the bonfire around which witches dance, which unites the five embodied gods in their daily lives. By contrast, the human Heather chooses water, abandoning the eternal divine spark for the transitory pleasure of an ocean voyage.
Symbolically, this story represents the divine spark in humanity, the divided consciousness of godhood within mortal flesh. This is a book about Freya written by a man, and not just any man, but a heathen king, a man who has been a leader for decades among those who still worship these gods. In psychological terms, the four-part protagonist is the anima, the other self that a man must find to grow in wisdom and wholeness. Learning to hear the secret whispers of the divine in oneself and in daily life is the challenge of the characters, and of humanity. The book therefore becomes an archetypal journey for the reader as well, challenging us to listen within.
This novel combines traditional symbolism with postmodern plot structure, and therefore is a post-postmodern work of literature. Intellectuals who enjoy deep thought will appreciate Right Here Right Now.
[Erin Lale is the Acquisitions Editor at Eternal Press and Damnation Books. Her writing and publishing career began in 1985. She has an extensive list of published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, etc. In the print era she was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine and owned The Science Fiction Store, and she publishes the shared world Time Yarns.]