The novels, poems, articles, songs etc. associated with Songs of the Interstitium are presented via the five novels as  the work of a range of creative subselves (‘creative heteronyms’) associated with the main character, i.e. ‘Rowan Sweeney’. The various ‘Rowans’ are living out a number of distinct, though parallel, timelines between 1990 and 2020. In ‘our timeline’ (which features in book 5 – Convergence: The Orpheus Plague)  the Zoetics Institute’s Transmedia wing oversees the entire project and Rowan lives on a block of land as a largely obscure writer/poet and teacher. The following post will explore more deeply what is meant by ‘creative subselves’ since New Science theorising on multiple realities underpins the entire project.


We are conditioned to be fearful about the concept of ‘sub-selves‘ – distinct personas manifesting at odd times in a person’s life. Perhaps the idea reminds us of the suffering associated with schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. More recently, however, we note more positive, open-minded approaches to the idea that our personalities are not always ‘uniform’, ‘monolithic’ or ‘consistent’ throughout our lives. Zoetics Psychology adopts this more explorative, optimistic approach to ‘sub-selves’ – we are particularly interested in ‘vocational’ – especially ‘creative vocational sub-selves (or creative ‘heteronyms’).

The psychoanalysts routinely theorised the existence of sub-selves – though usually they were studiously chained to the entire ‘super ego/ego/id apparatus’ (Freud) – or in Jung’s case the ‘archetypes-personal unconscious-collective unconscious apparatus’. Pathology threatened the moment you started digging – even though the results of the digging could be positive.

Later in the 20th Century, however, existentialist and postmodern thinkers – emphasising lived experience over language generated notions of reality  – placed the notion of the ‘hybrid self‘ at the center of their theorising. There is no ‘true’, ‘monolithic’ or ‘integrated’ self to be captured by language/thinking, only a succession of ‘lived masks‘. Such a situation, they argue, should be celebrated – our identities are fluid throughout life, and embracing ‘hybridity‘ (the ‘bric-a-brac self’ or ‘collage self’) is a mark of psychological health in our globalised era.

The many worlds theory arising out of Quantum Mechanics also produced positive perspectives on our sub-selves – though the term used was ‘many selves‘ (or ‘super-positional clones‘). Everett’s theory proposed that any object, including a human subject, might be deemed to be in ‘superposition’ just prior to any particular moment of manifestation (existence). Not only does an object both exist and not exist at the same time until ‘observed’ (which for Everett initiates a branched world within the universal wave function rather than ‘wave function collapse’), butmany versions of it also exist. The universe is perpetually branching and objects are perpetually branching. Quantum mechanics seems to imply that at the sub-atomic level all possible versions of reality (and personality?) coexist. Some have even argued that subatomic ‘alternative realities and selves’ may be perpetually leaking into our apparently stable macro-level world/reality. Complex, fantastic stuff to be sure, but there are genuine positives arising out of such approaches to reality. Multiple selves (or quantum level clones) may be fundamental to reality and identity – making them, surely, something to celebrate and work with rather than fear.

More recently thinkers have begun to identify a tendency in some people to speak of their multiple vocational selves. Despite the demand to ‘specialise’ that is so fundamental to achievement in the modern workplace, many people guiltily indulge impulses that run counter to this imperative. The term being used for such renegades is ‘multi-potentialites. Such people may either flit from one occupation to another throughout their lives – feeling bored and constrained if they do one thing for too long, or they may indulge a limited number of ‘vocational sub-selves‘ that they feel driven to honor in succession. The idea that we may possess stable ‘creative sub-selves’ (or ‘creative heteronyms’)  – sometimes ones that are stable across a life-time – that we can dialogue with and set to work in the service of  our everyday self is an innovation of the Zoetics approach to creativity.

In Songs of the Interstitium Rowan Sweeney is forced to work with a number of ‘vocational (creative, mainly) sub-selves’ living in multiple timelines: a novelist, a transpersonal psychologist and creativity theorist (who tends to write non-fiction), an avant garde poet, an editor, a songwriter/musician and a professional cricketer The various selves have been given a task that gradually unfolds via the narrative of the five novels. Although  Rowan’s various doppelgangers see the world differently, they are force, in the end, to work together as an integrated team to achieve a goal set by the ‘Marvelous Hybrids. In book five the various creative ‘heteronyms‘ (Pessoa) or ‘personas/masks‘ (Yeats)] begin to merge under the watchful eye of two selves practicing transmedia authorship.

by Ian Irvine, 2016, all rights reserved.