The Ring of Gyges Made Real

I blogged recently about the Ring of Gyges, the invisibility ring mentioned by Plato in The Republic, a ring I wrote about in my upcoming story, RippersRing72dpi“Ripper’s Ring.” Today I revisit the topic since I now own the ring.

Ring of Gyges 8Ring of Gyges 3Well, the one I own is actually a replica, or at least a conception of how the ring might look. A close acquaintance of mine made it by the technique of additive manufacturing or 3D printing.

As shown on Thingiverse, my ring was based on two versions of the Green Lantern’s ring shown here and green_lantern_ring_display_large_preview_card GLR1_preview_cardhere. Then my friend used Tinkercad and 123D to add the Gyges touches. She used a Printrbot brand printer, the Simple (Maker Edition) and PLA filament. The .stl files you need to print the ring yourself are on the Thingiverse site. She glued a machine screw and nut to fasten the pieces together and allow rotation. If you make the ring yourself, you’ll need to scale the design so it prints a ring that will fit you.

As Plato described the ring, the collet (the part of the ring that grips the stone) could rotate. The stone must have had some sort of obvious orientation, because when Gyges turned it toward himself, he disappeared; when he turned the stone 180° toward his fingertips, he reappeared.

In my story and in my 3D printed ring, the stone is in the shape of an isosceles triangle, so think of the stone as an arrow—pointed toward you makes you invisible.Ring of Gyges 7

Not quite like that. It actually looks like this:

Ring of Gyges 6

And when you rotate the stone to point the other way, you become visible again.

Ring of Gyges 5

In “Ripper’s Ring,” (which launches in less than a week on May 4th!), I describe how the ring was made and how it works. A farmer finds a meteorite, and parts of it are solid to the touch, yet invisible. Anyone who touches the invisible metal becomes invisible, too. A jeweler discovers that the invisible metal becomes visible (and returns its wearer’s visibility) when in contact with iron.

The jeweler constructs a ring of gold lined inside with the invisible metal touching the finger. The stone is a triangle of iron attached with a screw mechanism such that the wearer can rotate the triangle and move it up or down. Moving it down brings it in contact with the invisible metal, rendering the wearer visible again.

So far I haven’t gotten my Ring of Gyges to turn me invisible, though I will keep trying. Perhaps when you make yours, it will work. For your sake, I hope not. Don’t forget to get your copy of “Ripper’s Ring” and wear your own Ring of Gyges while reading it. If you make one, or have any questions, or if you think I should 3D print more objects from my other stories, leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Missing People, Unsolved Crimes

Today I’ll let you inside the thinking process of a writer as he tries to flesh out a story idea. In this case, it’s the idea for the story that would become RippersRing72dpi“Ripper’s Ring.”

I had read about the Ring of Gyges and thought it would be a great idea for a story. There’ve been many famous novels with invisibility rings, so I needed to separate my story from those in some way.

While thinking about how to form a story about the Ring of Gyges, I wondered what would happen to the ring over time. It occurred to me that an owner would not pass it to his own child. First, the ring’s owner would be unlikely to tell anyone about it, even his own children. Second, he would be unlikely to relinquish it to anyone while he remained alive. Third, possession of the ring ends up being a curse, so the owner would not want to pass that on.

Therefore the ring would remain on its owner until the owner’s death, and someone would likely remove it from the finger of the corpse, or, if long enough afterward, the skeleton. I realized the ring would leave behind a long string of owners who had either vanished mysteriously, or who had committed crimes no one could solve.

Wikipedia contains lists of both unexplained disappearances and unsolved crimes. I could select any one of these for my story, or more than one if I wanted. As a writer of steampunk, I focused on Victorian times, and therefore to the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Although there have been many stories about that killer, I think the addition of the Ring of Gyges sets mine apart.

Still, I was unsatisfied. I wanted to convey the explanation of the ring’s creation, as well as the notion of its passing from owner to owner down the centuries. But how do I do that with a story told from one person’s point of view? I hit on the idea of giving the ring one more property in addition to invisibility—the ring allows owners to see visions of past owners, all the way back to the jeweler who created it. My Jack the Ripper character would see all these visions, and the reader would understand not only the history of the ring, but also project beyond my story, and wonder where the ring is now.

In my story, I briefly mention these visions of past owners. My ‘Jack’ character only gets vague impressions of clothing and surroundings, of course, not names. The ones he sees are the rebel slave Spartacus (71 B.C.), the Roman general Valens (378 A.D.), the Egyptian Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (1021), vague mentions of others, the diplomat Benjamin Bathurst (1809), and finally gun manufacturer William Cantelo (1880s).

Once the reader grasps the idea of a single ring causing strange disappearances and unexplainable crimes through history, it’s a short mental leap to realize such a ring could also explain the unidentified Zodiac Killer (late 1960s), and the disappearances of D.B. Cooper (1971), Jimmy Hoffa (1975), and many others from our time.

Now you see how I came up with the idea for “Ripper’s Ring.” Enjoy the story, and leave a comment with your thoughts about my process for developing and maturing the idea for the story. If I’ve helped you along the way in your own writing journey, that’s the sincere hope of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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The Ring of Gyges

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make yourself invisible at will? Do you wish you could just disappear and reappear when you wanted to? If you had the Ring of Gyges, you could.

The philosopher Plato discusses the Ring of Gyges in The Republic. He uses the ring as an allegory, similar to his use of Atlantis and his famous allegory of the cave.

In Plato’s ring allegory, Gyges is a shepherd in the country of Lydia. An earthquake uncovers the opening of a cave, which Gyges discovers while tending his flock of sheep. He goes into the cave and finds a bronze horse statue with its torso opened up. Within it is a man’s corpse with a golden ring on one of its fingers. Gyges takes the ring. He finds that if he turns the ring’s collet (the part that secures the stone in place) so its stone points toward the base of his finger, he disappears. If he turns the collet 180 degrees so the stone points to his fingertip, he reappears. He goes to the palace of Lydia, seduces the Queen, kills the King, and becomes King himself.

Why am I telling you about the Ring of Gyges? It’s because I make use of that ring in my upcoming story, RippersRing72dpi“Ripper’s Ring,” which will be launched in early May. In my story, a troubled character in East London comes across the ring in the summer of 1888, and starts killing prostitutes. He becomes the murderer we know as Jack the Ripper. Now you understand why they never caught the Ripper. When you read “Ripper’s Ring” you’ll also learn how the Ring of Gyges works, and why Gyges found it on a corpse inside a horse statue in a cave.

Some of you are thinking, “A magic ring? Hasn’t that been overdone? Does the literary world really need another magic ring?” You’re recalling Aladdin’s ring in Arabian Nights, the Ring of Solomon, J.R.R. Tolkien’s One Ring, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the rings in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.

Enough with the magic rings already, you’re saying. Well, my ring is different. Not only does it turn its bearer invisible, but it also provides the bearer some mental visions of all the ring’s previous owners. When my troubled character comes across the Ring of Gyges, he learns its history and what it can do.

Now back to Plato. What was that ancient Greek philosopher doing discussing a ring of invisibility? He stated that the ring separated actions from consequences; that is, an invisible man could commit an immoral act (as Gyges did by killing the King) without fear of retribution, since no one could connect him with the crime. Further, Plato believed that if a person had such a ring, his eventual commission of immoral acts was inevitable. In other words, no one can resist the temptation of invisibility and the power it conveys.

No one? Well, in The Republic, Socrates doubts the temptation is as inevitable as Plato thinks.

My scientifically minded readers are laughing at the whole idea of human invisibility. After all, the human eye only works because light interacts with the rod and cone cells in the retina at the back of the eyeball. If the eyeball is invisible, light passes through without interacting. In other words, an invisible person is also blind. You could get around that with partial invisibility, allowing only the retinas to remain opaque. It would be a bit creepy—two partial eyeballs seeming to float around, but at least you could see.

How did I resolve that problem in my story? I didn’t. Sorry. I chose the course most writers do and ignored the problem. At least I’m admitting that here.

If you come into possession of the Ring of Gyges, just keep it. Better yet, destroy it. Whatever you do, don’t bring it to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Jack the Ripper

Late in the year 1888, someone terrorized the slums of East London’s Whitechapel district, murdering at least five women. Before the slayings stopped, a newspaper received a letter signed by ‘Jack the Ripper,’ and that chilling moniker haunts us still, more than a century later. The cases have never been solved.

RippersRing72dpiJack the Ripper appears as a character in an upcoming story of mine, “Ripper’s Ring,” which will launch in early May and will be available here. After reading the story, you’ll understand how the Ripper got away with the crimes, and how a single detective at Scotland Yard really solved the case. Well, one fictional theory, anyway.

Hasn’t JtR been used in fiction before, you ask? Yes, in tales by the following authors, at least: Peter Ackroyd, Carla E. Anderton, John Brooks Barry, Robert Bloch, Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown, Harlan Ellison, Philip José Farmer, Lyndsay Faye, Gardner Fox, Michael Generali, David L. Golemon, Richard Gordon, T. E. Huff, Richard Laymon, Kim Newman, Anne Perry, Robert Perry and Mike Tucker, Stefan Petrucha, Ray Russell, Iain Sinclair, and Roger Zelazny.

Obviously, JtR is a character too compelling for writers to resist. When you combine the horrific acts, the fear they induce in a community, the anonymity, and the timeless nickname, you get a powerful character suitable for unlimited fictional variations.

As you’ll read about in upcoming blog posts, my take on the Ripper is—I believe—unique. Since the story is part of the What Man Hath Wrought series, you know it has to involve technology, and the difficulty of coping with it. This story might even make you think.

“Ripper’s Ring” is darker than the other stories in the series, but is also a mystery/detective story, and a thoughtful tale about power and restraint. Soon it will be released on an unsuspecting public, not just in Whitechapel, but worldwide. It’s well worth the wait, according to—

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