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27 September 2010 @ 12:21 am
The recent bit of trouble that Peter Jackson has had with actors' guilds in trying to recruit for his new version of The Hobbit, which has already run into much trouble (Tolkien's heirs haven't yet okayed it, for one), leaves me ambivalent about its fate. While I'd like to see another awesome spectacle on the big screen set in Middle-earth, I can no longer in good faith recommend Jackson's adaptations. You see, I recently reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (along with The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, and The Unfinished Tales) after completing The History of Middle-earth and The History of The Hobbit. Okay, I'm a nut on the subject, a true geek in the purest sense. I love the Legendarium more than I love spicy food, and that's no ordinary love. This is why I'm ambivalent about anything done with them in new works on any media, and have mood swings with regards to recommendations. I'll set aside my opinion of a movie adaptation of The Hobbit (and The Silmarillion!) for a bit, though, and try to explain why I've decided that Jackson's LotR movies should be junked.

In a nutshell, the LotR adaptations are not Tolkien's story. Jackson (and his producers, editors, and distributors) did what movie makers have to do when adapting a mammoth epic to the screen by refashioning scenes and reshuffling them to make the story into a more visually and chronologically understandable piece, but he went too far. Boy, did he ever. We had to do without Tom Bombadil and "The Scouring of the Shire", which were regrettable necessities, although the latter really was an important illustration of the evolution of the characters of the four main Hobbits and gave a logical reason for their later ascendancy to the governing of the Shire.  Nevertheless, they were tangents to the main story and would have bloated the plot. What I cannot condone, however, is Jackson's liberal misuse of Tolkien's characters, and this has been complained about in countless threads around the net. Not only do we get a weak, overly emotional Frodo (furrowed eyebrows do not equal good acting, by the way), but Sam, Boromir and Faramir, Éomer, Gwaihir, Elrond, Arwen, Treebeard, and others have been bludgeoned by the screenplay into almost wholly different characters.

In some instances they've been made almost opposite from Tolkien's originals, but in all cases stretched or combined to better fit the Hollywood mold of dramatic films. In LotR, this is epitomized by Jackson's insistence to make every character have a fuller, more conflicted personality than Tolkien intended. Some of the switching of dialog between characters might be understandable to make the story more succinct, but such turnarounds as Sam's cruelty and the confusion of motives in Faramir to make him look as if he might have gone the way of his brother are simply unforgivable. Sam routinely abuses Gollum, a horrendous insult to Tolkien's character; he is arguably the most earnestly noble person in all of Tolkien's works, and the idea that Frodo (even in his Ring-induced darkness and influence of Gollum) would turn away his most loyal friend is as far from the original story as one can get. Having Faramir vacillate about Frodo and the Ring to the point of having the Hobbits dragged to Osgiliath went against Tolkien's clear intention of showing him as a paragon of a chivalrous and honorable warrior of old, a return to the noble blood of Númenor. That Boromir falls under the spell of the Ring is not supposed to be a sign of his weakness of character, but the twisting of his almost blind loyalty to Gondor and its place as defender of free peoples; and his brother's triumph is that he understands that his true loyalty is to what Gondor stands for rather than to the kingdom itself. This is not a conclusion that Faramir has to come to but an integral part of him that contributes to his estrangement from his father. Gwaihir and Éomer are in part combined to the detriment of both, Elrond is made out to be reluctant to take the side of good and even seems deviously trying to stop his daughter's choice to be with Aragorn, Arwen therefore is shown doubting that choice (let's not even get into Jackson's pandering expansion of the love story), and Treebeard is shown as basically a wandering fool who must be driven to wrath.

What is wrong here is not just that none of this is true of Tolkien's characters, but that it undermines the very idea that they have their places in the story because they are the best of people. There are no accidents or moral dilemmas in the modern fictional sense in Tolkien's world, and the good side wins because it is definitively good, not because every character overcomes his bad side. In Middle-earth, there is only one Bad Side, and even Saruman's fall is not supposed to be tied to ambition, but to his failure to overcome the will of Sauron, who is ultimately behind every evil in the story (actually, Morgoth is behind it all as having sung his discordant note into the very structure of the world, and Sauron is his most powerful agent). All of the characters who are seduced by the Ring are not meant to be caught by their own hidden desires but given those desires by Sauron. This reversal underlies every major trouble I can see with the adaptations, and so dooms the work as a "this is how it should have been written" derivation rather than a faithful retelling. Regardless of Tolkien's incessant insistence that LotR was not an allegory, his characters are purposefully set out as game pieces and never really become multi-dimensional. This can be legitimately criticized, but in a literary venue. A director, especially one purporting to be an avid fan, should not take it upon himself to make such a fundamental change in a story, in this case 'modernizing' its characterizations, to make it more palatable for a general audience. If Jackson had a problem with the stiffness of Tolkien's characters, he should have left the job to someone else. If he merely has misread the themes of LotR, then he can be forgiven, but that does not redeem his work.

Besides Jackson's changing and wrongly trying to fill out Tolkien's characters, he also goes too far in reediting the story to give it a chronological continuity and cut down on secondary and tertiary characters. I've given a few points, but I can't possibly give a full list of scriptural changes in dialog and action. To put it simply, I was hard pressed to find a single scene in the whole trilogy that was not tweaked, added superfluously, or altered in a way to inject something that Tolkien never even implied. From Frodo riding with Gandalf in their introductory scene (and Gandalf setting off some fireworks for the trailing Hobbit children) and the Elves showing up at Helm's Deep for Haldir to find an untimely (and noncanonical) end to the numerous problems in the audience hall scene with Théoden being possessed by Saruman, there seems to be no plot point or bit of dialog that Jackson did not feel the need to alter. Even Gandalf's signature "You shall not pass!" on the bridge in Moria should be a repetition of his seconds-earlier "You cannot pass!" (although, despite what legions of rabid fanbois claim, the balrog can be said to have wings, since Tolkien mentions wing-like shadows or some such). In any case, Aragorn would never have decapitated a messenger of Sauron, Gollum had no explicit second guessing of his intentions much less an argument with his 'Ring side', Merry and Pippin were not playful thieves of Maggot's farm (and did not join Frodo and Sam there), the dead army did not fight at Minas Tirith, and on and on. Many of these things could be forgiven for being necessary changes to save time, but not the whole mass of them. And so many were completely needless, and added questions where none existed in the novel. For instance, why have Frodo see Gollum in Moria instead of on the river, since Gandalf had already explained back in the Shire about Bilbo's mercy regarding him? Why have Elrond wait until Aragorn is about to go on the Paths of the Dead to give him Andúril, when in the novel he had been carrying the sword ever since Rivendell? I can see that by having Boromir pick up the Ring when Frodo drops it Jackson is showing his gradual fall into its power (and Aragorn's distrust of him), but neither the scene nor the slow buildup is evident in the novel; Boromir gives no indication at all of succumbing until the Falls of Rauros, and even then it's a momentary loss of reason. Even Frodo shows far too much paranoia and distrust throughout the films, when in the novel he only begins to lose his perspective in Mordor, where the Ring's pull toward Sauron is strongest. And two elekks for Sam? Seriously? Tolkien's single one going rogue would have been a better dramatic effect...that's why he did it.

No matter how Jackson claims in interviews that he wanted most to be "true to Tolkien's vision", I can only conclude that he never trusted Tolkien's ability to set the right tone or scene. There are just too many changes, from the profound to the perplexing, to call it Tolkien's work any more. It's not fan fiction either, since it's a reworking of the original rather than an ancillary story. At best, it is a gorgeous visual illustration of Middle-earth, but that's never nearly enough excuse to get permission to portray a masterpiece. What Jackson did was take Tolkien's characters and world and rewrite the story the way he wanted it to be, and that's not something I can condone. So, while I'd love to see The Hobbit on the screen, like I said, I'd rather it not be done than to be given the same treatment.

And I've heard that Jackson wants to film The Silmarillion as well. Please, movie gods, for all that is still good in the world, don't let that happen. Christopher, if you're still cognizant, don't sign away those rights to anyone while the blockbuster still rules cinema, especially not Peter Jackson. Those stories deserve a kind of film making that hasn't been invented yet and a filmmaker who will not shy away from making it exactly as dark as it should be. The Silmarillion should not be set within a single two or three hour frame, or even a trilogy of three hour films, but each chapter given all of the time and scope it requires, and forget distributorship. If it's done right, it would be at least twenty-four hours altogether, give people chills just to see the name on the first trailer, and be the biggest fucking thing in the world. If it's done by Peter Jackson, it will be a cgi dagger in my heart.

EDIT: I looked up the relevant passages in LotR, and here's what it gave me about the balrog: "His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings." Then, more conclusively, "It stepped forward slowly onto the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall..." That's enough for me in that nerdy debate. Whether elves (and hobbits) had pointy ears? Unless Tolkien mentioned it in interviews, there's no telling. From all that I've read, he rarely described anyone in that detail. Gimli would not have been so clumsy or slow, though. Dwarves were supposed to have great endurance in running and savage prowess in battle (even against elves, which is saying something).
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Holst - Mars, Bringer of War
17 September 2010 @ 02:11 pm
Trying out a new account at Dreamwidth. I know, I'm jumping on another "jumping off" bandwagon. No panic this time; just seeing what DW can do for me.
16 September 2010 @ 11:27 pm
I remember reading Elizabeth Moon in high school and being transported to cool worlds. Now I feel like I need a shower.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Current Music: My teeth grinding
31 August 2010 @ 09:19 am
M. A little Pookie bird has been singing in my ear about you. I'm sorry that I can't send out any inspirational lines of bad poetry right now, because I'm not in the best of health. You know I'm not one to believe in empty platitudes, so I'll save you the bullshit. You know I love you, Princess, whatever that means for fucked-up people like us. If you're thinking of flying away, I can't jump up to catch you, but you'll be carrying a part of me with you if you do. I can't tell you that coming back here would somehow make anything better, either. The things that are broken in you and me are beyond the help of doctors and drugs anyway. I can only say that I miss your bright eyes. Please don't make someone else tell me that I'll never see them again.
Current Mood: crappycrappy
Current Music: Phil Thornton & Hossam Ramzy / Derwood Green
24 August 2010 @ 05:48 pm
A lot has been made lately of the "mindset" of the recent graduating college class, and I admit to finding it quite fascinating, if a little depressing. I didn't have what I'd call a seminal "mindset moment" until this past Saturday, however, when I was out in the college bars. I was having a political conversation with a group of happily tipsy kids, when one guy brought up the recently overused "even a broken clock is right twice a day" cliché. True to form, a young woman at the table, very bright by any standard, said, "I don't get that." The rest of us took five minutes explaining to her what rotary clocks are. Big Ben? We thought. Surely, she'd know about that. The clock tower in Back to the Future? Never seen the trilogy. Apparently, she's never seen a rotary clock or watch in her life. Where's my time-traveling DeLorean? I want to go back to the `80s, when we were sure we'd all get it in WWIII.
Current Mood: morosemorose
Current Music: Neurosis - something droning away
20 August 2010 @ 03:00 pm
A generation has grown up without knowledge of true solace. Electronic boxes buzz in their ears with the voices of their friends, always available. Always. Their dramas are immediate and acute, their romances as fleeting and delicate as damselflies. Their stories are plotwise dance music; scene-to-scene, they bounce through wafer-thin dialogs...little conversations are they. What blindly heaving dinosaurs we must seem to them. We're not blind, but their sight has passed into the ultraviolet, where only insects with multi-faceted eyes can tell the flowers apart.
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: Joanna Newsom / Only Skin - sonique
15 August 2010 @ 09:18 am
Another potentially long one on the subject of my 'ancient' empire idea, so you can yawn and pass over at will. I devoted my last post to an overview of the lineage of kings, mostly to set the general tone of changes for future reference. In this, I'll try to come up with a preliminary look at the pantheon of gods in my series of kingdoms. As the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean were varied in their theology as well as their theogony, my empire should also be complex in this way. I played at forming a dogmatic mythology for Sita Roryn, but the religions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome were never so concretely defined. Many of their gods were worshiped before they even had writing, and many factors precluded their religions from ever being defined in a single coherent mythos. Particularly in Egypt, there was a dichotomy between official gods, those used in political ceremonies and whose cults were handled by vast and rich bureaucracies, city and village gods, whom were worshiped locally and generally had a more personal character, and household gods, whose character and attributes shifted with location. As far as I know, only the Hindu pantheon has been given even partial consistency in works like the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Nevertheless, in a given place and time of Ancient Egypt or Greece, the religion was consistent and well understood by the people. It is only when trying to look at every location and time period together as a seamless whole that the tapestry and evolution of the religion becomes needlessly confusing. In my empire, therefore, the religion will also be both universal and local, timeless and evolving, official and personal.

I won't try to create a comprehensive timeline that includes every god, spirit, or elemental force with their interrelationships; this would be folly and would require thousands of pages in its own right. This kind of thing is impossible even for Egypt, though its religion was documented for several thousand years in countless texts and monuments. Such a religion is not a monolithic entity to be looked at in this way, it must be watched as it evolves, with understanding about its origins and inner connectivity gained by understanding this evolution. Instead, I'll come at the problem in the same way as I show the narration - from many different perspectives at different points in time. I do need at least a quick reference on its major aspects to keep what I write in context, however, so I'm setting some of it out here pretty much as I think of it.

A Whole Heap of GodsCollapse )
12 August 2010 @ 08:21 am
Okay, I'm not the geekiest guy on the net, but I'm not a rank n00b, either. My IP, Charter Cable and Worldwide Domination, last gave us the round figure for our connection speed at 5Mbps. Now, I know this is averaged, though I'm not sure over what exactly. The US? The world? Avg daily use? Avg website traffic? Anyway, I expected to see that when doing speed tests after momentary cable burps, but what I've gotten consistently for about a year now kinda bothers me. I test connections all over the world and, yeah, Volgograd will only get me a 2Mbps down. Christchurch around 1. But anywhere in the US, I regularly get over 20Mbps. For the short hops from Dallas or Austin, I get 48Mbps every time. That's HUGE. I don't want to take the time to figure out how long my old 1100baud would have to work to pull down the stuff I can get now in a minute. Washington DC? 28Mbps. Bellingham, Washington? 24Mbps. This has got to be a dream.
05 August 2010 @ 08:18 am
I hear that California has busted a new hole in the Far Right's asses by getting Prop 8 knocked down. Good on'em. It'll probably breeze through the 9th Circuit, but run up against a wall of bullshit with the SCOTUS. I hope we don't get another 5/4 decision upholding the 19th century values of White Male Privilege, as that could set a precedent for the states regulating all kinds of "immoral" behavior. *sigh* Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Anyway, I've been reading up on the gods and dynasties of Ancient Egypt, getting a better idea of the overall flavor of life in the center of their politics. I'll buy more in depth books on the lives of Egyptian commoners and histories of Sumer and the Greek Isles as needed. This is all for preliminary sketches of stories surrounding my imagined grand epic. I have a better idea of how I'll flesh it out, but I'll still leave most of the particulars to whim when I get to it after finishing Sita Roryn and The Dragons of Cowtown.

In case y'all don't care to read through more speculations on what I might write, you can scroll down now. ;)

I'm thinking of doing three volumes, maybe more, of short stories, novellas, and simulated prayers and poetry set in the Egypt-esque world. Each will loosely revolve around one of the three great Kingdoms, with additional add-ons for the three Intermediate Periods and the final, semi-classical Fourth Kingdom of outside rule. This is meant to echo the actual history of Ancient Egypt, but set in a vast inland sea rather than on a great river, with nods to the Minoans, Sumerians, Caucasus cultures, Hittites, Bedouin, etc. and ending with a general invasion by a kind of amalgam of early Rome with a sudden Islamic-styled internal political upheaval. If it sounds mixed up and chaotic, that's okay for a start. The overall story will basically follow what I outlined in my last post.

The first volume will be about the rise, fast flowering, and sudden collapse of the First Kingdom. Beginning with the rags-to-riches tale of the young tough who becomes the legendary (and forever after worshiped) First Father, it will gradually lead away from the center of power as that power grows to seemingly universal heights. From the first king to a vizier of his grandson, to an artisan of a later king's tomb complex, to the wife of a businessman during the high-point of the royalty, to a lowly soldier who sees the utter destruction of the coast from a tsunami. It will thus go in a step-by-step route from obscurity to palace politics, from boredom inside the gilded cages to the awe of seeing the majesty of palace life from outside, and finally from comfort in the now peaceful kingdom to new-found poverty at the hands of an angry god. I'm not sure if this is how it will go exactly, but the out-in-out, poor-rich-poor theme sounds like a good way to introduce the cyclical story.

The second volume will begin right away with warfare, as the self-proclaimed heirs of the now nearly mythical First Kingdom fight throughout the sea to regain what was lost. Here, I'll have the novella of a sailor who, growing from a fisherman into a naval captain, becomes a king's Master of the Waters, the naval commander finally responsible for the reunification of the ancient empire. During his life, he'll see many battles from all sides and learn that the kings are not only human, but sadly fated to dying young at the hands of their enemies or from the daggers of their brothers. Nevertheless, the sailor will survive to see his sixth king crowned and the empire reborn. From this, I'll jump forward to the daughter of a desert governor being preened to be given to a king, ashamed of her family's lower status among the courtiers, who uses her wiles to gain the rights to the mines in the west and bring to the palace what becomes the fount of the empire's greatest treasure. Next, after several generations, the capital has been moved to the formerly unknown desert town, and its local leaders and priests have become the most powerful nobles in the world. Here, a greedy young priest dreams of taking the throne from the now fat and weak royals, but learns that conspiracies are nothing new to the empire and that generations of viziers and regents learn from childhood how to stop greedy little men like him. Finally, I'll follow the last prince of the empire as he goes out to quell a civil war between two upstart regional governors, only to find that they have secretly set a trap for him with the priests back home taking advantage of the situation to finally end the reign of the fishermen kings.

The third volume will be one novel-length story with a few short pieces thrown into small breaks to spice it up, with the final one a kind of retelling of the whole thing from the perspective of a priest-scholar from long past the fall of the last native dynasty. The main story will be about a Horemheb-like figure who is born during the reign of the last great king of the empire at its greatest flowering. He grows up knowing the eccentric second prince who accidentally becomes king, and watches in despair as this heretic king wallows in religious delusion while the empire begins to show cracks. Later, he tries to hold the regional governors and outsiders at bay as the heretic succumbs to his insanity and dies, then juggles fighting in the hinterlands with trying to keep watch over the new child-king who is unfortunately doomed to follow his father into oblivion. He returns to the capital with the outer empire in better shape but with the dead boy-king's vizier already enthroned as a paranoid old man clutching at any way to justify his reign, and finally takes the crown himself after the dynasty has truly ended and there is no one else left with the power to hold the now fragile empire together. The much later scholar will recount a kind of archaeologist's view of the history of the three Kingdoms from their mythical beginning, through the second and third resurgences of power and glory, to their end as a poor province of his own, much larger and more advanced civilization. He will finish his tale as his workers find the entrance to a forgotten tomb, the one of the ill-fated boy-king who was reluctantly wiped from history by the Horemheb character.

I want to have the three volumes set up as follows; the first as a loosely connected set of short stories, the second as several less-closely related novellas, and the last as a single life-long story interspersed with short cultural snippets to show the rapid changes that occur during the character's lifetime. I want to see this empire from many varied points of view; from bottom to top, from inside and out, old and young, through plain narrative and half-awed legend, and from eerie prophesy to sketchy hindsight. It's an ambitious idea, and probably far beyond my ability to make into a coherent whole, but it's the kind of story I want to read.
Current Mood: melancholymelancholy
Current Music: Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack - Heeding the Call
28 July 2010 @ 01:53 am

I have a lot of story ideas flitting around in my belfry, too many to ever let them all out. Especially considering how lazy I am. I've proved to myself that I can put out a massive mound of work when properly motivated, however. On this journal I've outlined several ideas I've had for future projects, only bringing up the ones which I can immerse myself in to the extent where I know the full (general) story, and can feel the details itching to flow. If I were a short story writer, I'd probably be able to spit out one every couple of days, but those have never satisfied me. My taste is in depth. Even Robert Jordan's world, epic though it is in length, is too shallow for me. Tolkien is really the only fictional author who has given me the kind of richness of detail in plot, recursiveness in storytelling, and true mastery of the epic in time that my mind craves. And yet, I've studied Ancient Egypt, which filled in dynastic genealogies like Tolkien never could, and Greece, which contained a greater dysfunctional family of city-states than Niven could extrapolate into star-faring civilizations and impossible journeys that put Burroughs to shame. Roma was the Empire, one that dwarfed in its greatness and tragedy that other one dabbled in by Asimov. The Khans really knew how to rock a continent, which places them above the Hyborean Age in my book. Likewise, China's Middle Kingdom drew together strands of culture, wealth, and power that no fictional tyrant could ever dream of, even if his Empire was a whole galaxy far, far away. This is the kind of thing I love, and what I want to write. Yeah, I know, my imagination is not worthy of Tolkien's, much less ten million Romans. I have written something of a sweeping story, though, in my Sita Roryn project from last summer. It's basically only about two women, however, and takes place over only a decade or so. If I want to write something anywhere close to what I'd want to read, I'll have to think bigger.

So I've thought bigger. Actually, I've been thinking that big ever since high school, but my efforts were hardly worth mentioning. A scifi epic to straddle the stars, of course. Taking humanity from your next-door neighbors to the far future in places unimaginable. I've developed the story somewhat, which I've talked about here before. It's sort of an ongoing tale of two lovers, seemingly forever trading off living for hundreds of years and dying, leaving each other alone until the next cycle begins. I realize now how claustrophobic the idea is. Along the way, we might see civilization evolve, but it's directed by the main characters toward an ultimate flowering only they can see. And they're lonely. For hundreds of years, waiting. It's damnably unfair to the reader to outline the basic idea from the beginning and yet still go through all of the frustration and angst over and over. I need a story like the history of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire, that has a direction and destiny, but one that no one in the beginning could possibly have imagined. One that is not about two archetypical images on a Tarot card but many different characters in the great sea of history. Ah, a sea...now there's an idea.

I wrote the Sita Roryn project originally to keep my cousin in Antarctica occupied during the winter darkness, but also to study, if informally, a lot of what it takes to build an epic. I think I've learned a lot, maybe enough to get started on the real thing. I still have this young adult version of that project to finish and my story about the geeks in the `80s, but the big one is beginning to build within me. If I can hold onto it through these two novels, maybe I can do some real justice to my imagination. If I do, it won't be a continuation of Sita Roryn, because that's a world that belongs to three women (the third shouldered her way in while I was writing - what could I do? There had to be three, it seems) and one slice of time, kind of like Conan or John Carter. No, this will be analogous to the rise and fall of successive civilizations, told from the perspectives of many of their characters, both major and minor. Imagine Egypt, growing from mythical origins, later sharing political space with Mesopotamia and Greece, each of which having their own semi-fictitious origin stories, then all three conquered by one man of unprecedented ambition, Alexander. Imagine the further rise of Rome, the Eternal Empire that was so full of itself and so drunk on its power that it named the Mediterranean "Our Sea". The heights that Rome rose to and the scope of its power were unmatched in the West, but it stretched itself too thinly and finally unraveled under the feet of barbarians and a cult that it once had laughed at. Finally, civilization around the Mediterranean divided into the West, an uneasy conglomeration of warring sibling feudal states and, in the East, a gilded shadow of greatness, slowly shrinking under the pressure of a rising tide of Muslim fanatics. This is the kind of story I want to write. Too big for a single couple or even one dynasty. Hell, too big for one civilization. I want to bring agriculture into a world of hunters and fishermen, then stomp them down under the boots of soldiers. I want to build the First City, make it the mythical template for a hundred others, and have them all crumble as they are choked by the weeds of the New City. I want to write about the curious man who, four thousand years later, goes back to the buried ruins of that First City and finds that it was not the home of the gods after all. Oh, yeah, I'm loving this. There's even a place in it for three women, the unlikely warrior, the improbable princess, and the killer priestess. They wouldn't be called Roryn, Sindane, and Savane, but they should be recognizable. It won't be centered on them, however. Maybe they'll have their moment on stage near the beginning of the 'second empire', when the world really needs fighters with a vision for a future they won't see. But there has to be more, oh, so much more.

Okay, here goes another flight of fancy into the world of my imagination. I'm writing this out for the first time to try some of the ideas, not to cement them into a final order or design. I want the overall story to be a framework for each individual tale, not too different from Asimov's Robots-Empire-Foundation world except that there will be no single thread to tie them all together beyond the general struggle of people to live. It will be about four great civilizations, each in turn taking its place as the bastion of Order against outer Chaos, yet all (but the last) falling inevitably against the forces of change. Seen through the eyes of those on the ground (though at times being seen from afar by a person long before or after the fact), it will be shown only in part. I can't possibly give the whole story without losing all of the wonderful details, and would have to live a million lifetimes to give all of the details. So, I'll give it as it's seen from within, as the world at war was seen by priests and monks in the Chronicles of the Crusades or far palaces were described by alien visitors like Marco Polo, except that most of my tales will be in the third person (did I mention that I'm lazy?).

A whole lot of dead people.Collapse )

Notes about how the story might be written

The first thing I have to say is that I haven't yet thought of how to name the kings or the empire, but you probably guessed that. Names are a tricky thing in ancient culture, even what they called their own countries, so I'll hold off on that until I have the time to think about it in more depth. I can imagine a system not too distant from the Ancient Egyptian one, upon which this is largely based. It also has shades of Pre-Roman Mediterranean cultures, so I might throw in some identifiable allusions to those. There won't be any direct parallels; my "Tutankhamun" won't be called "Fruitincommon". Even the more recognizable stories won't be so recognizable once I've twisted them around some. I want to echo some of the main themes, though. The conquering native Theban and the heretic king are two that are just too hot to pass up. I'll also be adding in some queens, both those trying to rule after the deaths of their husbands or brothers, like several in Egypt, and one or two who took power for themselves and had a true reign, like Hatshepsut and the Cleopatras. Before everyone starts screaming that I've left them out because I don't consider them important, it's really because they are unique in ancient history, even the Ptolomaic Queens who were of Greek descent. Much more thought has to be taken as to where and how they come to be queen than the men who, after all, basically either get it by genetic accident or by usurping the throne. I believe men like Horemheb were different, so I've included what amounts to the whole Amarna Period. I'll probably mix it up a little, but keep at least three of the primary figures.

This leads me to the next topic. I've defined the timeline by dynasties and kings, but most of the stories (probably short or long, randomly), will actually be about secondary or tertiary characters. The tale of the First Father might be told by a friend-turned-official-chronicler, as a story-behind-the-official-story. This story will again be told in part on later occasions, as legend by a peasant in the first intermediate period, as myth by a priest in one of the later empires, and as a hypothetical reconstruction by a foreign "scientist" of the last period (I used "foreign" pointedly for the outer empire, as all of the separate groups would consider each other foreign in the beginning). Likewise, many different kinds of people can be followed in the different periods. A soldier rising through the ranks of the first empire to become the high commander of the army, only to watch the destruction of his civilization by a massive tsunami from the northern mountain slopes while vacationing at his "summer home". Two peasants looking back to the lost (first) civilization with alternatively a sigh of awe from one and a shrug from the other. The actual youth who rises up to take back his homeland at the beginning of the second empire. A young woman sent to become a minor queen during this period, only to be left holding the crown after many assassinations and battles (this might have actually happened to a few tragic queens in Egypt's Old Kingdom). The possibilities are legion, and should come to me when I decide which parts to concentrate upon.

The point is to take a survey of the civilization, across time and class, showing how much and how little things changed throughout. This also is mostly based upon my studies of Ancient Egypt and Rome, which show an astonishing amount of cultural inertia among the lower classes, with cultural developments happening much faster among the royalty and nobility (but still glacially by modern standards). I want to show the development of the religion, the meaning of being a king and public opinion of the kings, the changing roles of women and the peasantry, the overall swings of power and how they affected (or rather, didn't affect) the lower class, the amazing variety of landforms and how this was reflected in the culture (and how it affects history), and the reasons behind and efforts involved in building the great monuments, as well as how these were seen by the people (some statues in Egypt were themselves deified and given their own small shrines!). Specifically, I want to show things like: the power of visual propaganda in an age when writing was considered to be truth in a way we can barely understand and most of the population was illiterate, how the different classes were seen as different kinds of people (as the Indian caste system can come close to even today), how the theology pervaded every corner of the people's lives (to the extent that the gods practically walked among them), the variety of cultural artifacts (while coming in a very limited number of "types" like pots and beds, combs and sandals), and the comprehensive nature of their culture (how every person and thing had its place in this world and the next). These are what archaeologists learn about, not just the names and fates of kings and queens. Through writing my Sita Roryn project, I think I've learned how to instill the stories with all of these elements and string them together in a way that is understandable, if not quite linear.

This is the last point: I want to build a world through its parts, from the bottom up and from pretty random points of view rather than by telling a single narrative of the various dynasties. There were too damned many kings (emperors, whatever) in the ancient world to do that and keep a reader of fiction interested anyway. There were 30 dynasties of Ancient Egypt and who really knows how many "official" Emperors of Rome and Byzantium. No one knows how many Greek kings there were in the various city-states, much less the earlier cultures in the Mediterranean. The Hittites? The Hyksos? Don't even try, but there were hundreds of kings of various levels of power throughout the region. Only a very few, like Alexander and the Caesars, became infamous enough to be known universally in their own time, and whole swaths of ancient civilizations have been lost because their writing (when they did write) was simply destroyed. I want to give a better picture of an ancient-ish civilization than is normally shown through encyclopedia articles and pretty pictures. I think I can do it, but I have to do it to find out.

Current Mood: artistic
Current Music: some punk goodness
1) Love at First Sight: in film and romance novels, this is not only real, but arguably the only 'true' kind of love. IRL, interest can be instantaneous, infatuation can come with a conversation or a long walk, and a deep fondness can happen in a weekend, but love is not a one-time-then-forever thing. It's always a work in progress, a mutual kind of continuous pregnancy in which the child is reborn every day...or miscarried or even abandoned. Like a life, it can grow and mature, age and die. But to say that it can happen with one glance is to narrow its definition to something more like a crush which, as any old married couples will tell you, has very little to do with an enduring love.

2) That perfect person: in most romance novels, if not most fiction, there is one and only one perfect mate for the protagonist. Their journey to find each other may be circuitous, frought with danger and detours, but ultimately becomes inextricably joined. Even the world itself seems to conspire to bring the two together. IRL, people are not jigsaw pieces to be fit together like a puzzle. They are imperfectly formed, change with time, and often disappoint each other's expectations. Take heed, though. There are seven billion people in the world, and it's not really that hard to find at least one among them who fits well enough.

3) Sidekicks: in a lot of the best stories, there are sidekicks for the protagonist; foils for his bravery, supporters for her self-doubt, surprising fonts of wisdom in times of great need. IRL, we have friends, real people with dignity, troubles of their own, and at least as many faults as we have. We should treat them as such.

4) Good people are always good: like the villian, the hero is ubiquitous in fiction, either a lawful good paladin or a scruffy anti-hero, but always wanting to do the right thing. IRL, heroes are usually just the ones who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, have the presence of mind to see a way out of it, and are slightly less terrified than the rest. The rest of the time, they are pretty much like everyone else, and they are often the first ones to say this.

5) Evil people enjoy the suffering of others: by definition, this seems to be trivially true, and it's one of the most common tropes in fiction. IRL, people who are clinically sociopathic or psychopathic and enjoy the suffering of others often don't really understand that the sufferers are people. This is not the same as a movie villian. As far as I can tell, most evil people are selfish and callous, but don't really enjoy suffering. They don't seem to enjoy much of anything, which is part of their problem. In fact, many people who have been called evil in history lived their entire lives believing that they were doing good.

6) Being bad is fun: since the teenager culture ballooned after WWII, it has become fashionable to believe that a little rebellion when young is a mostly harmless rite of passage. IRL, your parents are usually right when they tell you that getting into trouble is more trouble than it's worth. In truth, most trouble is found by stupidity and accident rather than active trouble-making, but looking for trouble too often leads one to finding more than he can handle. And the morning after is usually only the beginning of a painful recovery.

7) The Evil Plan: it's a much over-played cliché in thrillers; the bad guy has the hero cornered or tied up and smugly tells him exactly how everything has been planned to lead to the world's destruction, usually giving the hero just enough time to get free and win. IRL, bad guys just shoot, they don't explain. Someone in the deep throes of psychosis might, but his explanation is likely to make sense only to him. In any case, a criminal mastermind would not be destroying the world merely for the sake of beating his enemy, he begins by killing his enemies. Destroying the world is much easier that way.

8) Monsters: in fiction, animals are usually the scary ones and people are usually justified in killing them. This is the age-old man vs. nature trope, a metaphor born in a time when we still believed that nature was stronger than us and inextinguishable. IRL, animals are usually tagged, watched closely, or penned, and people can be much scarier monsters.

9) Technology will save you: in movies, the answer to most bad situations is a better gadget. IRL, the answer to most bad situations is trying to relax and think calmly.

10) Technology will kill you: in movies, the biggest danger comes from the biggest bomb. IRL, the biggest danger comes from blind faith.

11) Countdowns: there are countdowns for just about everything in fictional media. Bombs, poisons, how long bank robbers will give before they start killing hostages, etc. IRL, about the only countdowns you'll see are rocket firings, and these are mostly to make sure all the buttons are being pushed at the right times. Bombs generally have either time-delayed fuses or dead-man switches, but rarely clock faces that count down. Basically, if you see a countdown in a film or TV show, it's for dramatic effect; in the real world, bad things don't wait to happen. The effects of most poisons are cumulative, acutely symptomatic, and very rarely fully reversible. As far as I know, there are no poisons that can kill within a set time frame, much less be completely undone at the last minute. If you're ten minutes into a twenty minute poison, you're pretty much dead whatever you do. In any case, there is irreversible damage. Although there may be people who follow the rules of popular movies when taking hostages, they are by far the minority. Most hostage-takers are irrational, nervous, and apt to follow no rules. If they are going to kill their hostages, it's more often than not for personal reasons, and they don't use a clock to toy with the police.

12) Related to above, Fail-safes: every bomb shown in film seems to be rigged to blow if it's tampered with. IRL, this is usually an added complication that no one bothers with. Bad guys might use them, but more likely will try to make their bombs go off before anyone knows they're there. Armed forces, on the other hand, do the complete opposite. If they have fail-safes on their weaponry, it's to shut them down if tampered with. The bigger the bomb, the more likely they will make sure that it will only go off when they want it to.

13) Self-destructs: again, in film and books, every big weapon, vehicle, or energy using device seems to come with a self-destruct mechanism. IRL, these only exist as booby traps in the most paranoid of nutjobs' homes. Militaries will have plans to scuttle ships or crash planes if they are taken by the enemy, but never by self-destruct. That is basically admitting that you expect your ten billion dollar ship to be taken by pirates, and no one will admit that, much less endanger every crewmember just to keep the bad guys from winning.

14) Magical words: in fantasy stories, words have power backed up by the will of the speaker, and use of the right phrase can do just about anything. IRL, words have a different kind of power backed up by the wills of the listeners, and use of the right phrase can do just about anything.

15) Magical things: once again, in fantasies, people can instill power into various items to make them special; swords, gems, and books are common. IRL, things are what they are, and are only as special as what people use them for. Swords cut, but cannot make a boy into a king. Gems sparkle, but cannot make a girl into a queen. Books can hold great wisdom, but they cannot make someone wise.

16) It's good to be the king: as the aim of most fictional villians and the birthright of forgotten princes and princesses, being the supreme leader brings with it the acclaim of the masses, the fear of enemies, and uncountable wealth. IRL, leadership is a neverending struggle against doubt of self and everyone close, a fathomless labyrinth of politics and beaurocracy and, for the ambitious, all too often the opposite of what they fought for. It is not from envy that the throne has been called a golden cage.

17) Happily ever after: in one-off fiction, this is still the preferred way to end a story, with most plotlines neatly tied and all of the major problems resolved. IRL, every day is different, with its own little triumphs and tragedies and possibilities of great victories or horrific ends. There is only one ever after, whether it comes happily, sadly, or just comes; until then, it's play it as you go. And the plot goes on whether you're in it or not.

18) Fate: like its warm, fluffy ultimate end in fiction, living happily ever after, fate is used as an anchor for readers. It gives the protagonist a purpose in life, sets him on a journey with a foreseeable end, and guides him along that journey with signs and momentous events. IRL, we are all born naked and helpless, with no future foretold for us but the airy dreams of our parents. Life is far more complicated than we can possibly imagine, and the world at large cares not a whit whether we win or lose, get what we want or end up dying in a gutter. We must be the captains of our own fate, write our own story, and create our own purposes.
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: Metallica - Master of Puppets
21 July 2010 @ 09:40 pm
I have a present of a kind for you, my long-waiting friends. I've finally opened a journal for my new version of Sita Roryn and have added to the whole first Part, the first nine chapters. I'll be making posts to the writing communities I belong to, but I wanted to give y'all the first look. The story will go for another two or three Parts, but I need to do a severe rewriting on the second before resuming the plunge forward. For those of you with a sturdier stomach, the original project from last year is here, with all of its blood-splattered 740 pages. The revision is, and will be, very different, as I'm aiming it toward a younger crowd. Don't ask when I'll be finished with it. All I can say is that it won't be as epic a story, but has already taken longer than the original. Ugh. Anyway, enjoy! As always, feel free to criticize to your hearts' content.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: crickets
12 July 2010 @ 12:50 pm
I, for one, welcome our new octopoid overlords.
Current Mood: jealousjealous
Current Music: Karate Kid II Soundtrack
09 July 2010 @ 04:06 am
fairy floating by
on an errand of
get it while you can
because face-to-face still beats
half-written glimpses through flatscreen windows
edited, spell-checked, filtered from the prying eyes of
third-party nobodys
intruding on friends who don't need passwords

a few hours of
say anything
because talking matters
Current Mood: mellowmellow
Current Music: Fleetwood Mac - The Chain
08 July 2010 @ 08:37 am
If the stuff I gave you is confusing, just look through the PDFs in the "Blue Circle" folder and the "SitaRoryn/OpenMaster" folders. I didn't mean to include "The Dragons of Cowtown" since, as you can see, I've just started on that. The new "Sita Roryn" version is in "NewRoryn", obviously. I'll be making pretty radical changes to what I've written there so far, so don't take anything after "The Value of a Name" seriously. As you can see from the outline, it has already diverged pretty heavily from the original and from what I was planning; it is certain to diverge further still. You can print out whatever you want, but I can't imagine what SR would cost in printer ink and paper.I already have a cousin Farley printing out that one and promising to bring me a hard copy. If Genevieve did that, it would take up half of her room at the South Pole. Anyway, enjoy. I'll send you a copy of the new "Sita Roryn" and TDoC when I finish them, if you want, but I'll probably be setting up LJs for them as well.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Queen - A Kind of Magic
06 July 2010 @ 11:52 am
The recent photoshopped oddity that was the faked July 5th, 2010 date for a setting on Doc. Brown's much-desired time-traveling DeLorean has gotten me thinking about that madcap trilogy of so long ago. No, not about BttF Day, which I saw as a hoax at first glance (and still don't really see the point-Doc went to 2015 after apparently deciding that 25 years wasn't far enough), nor about the incessant rumors about sequels that will never come, but about the time-traveling ideas by The Two Bobs in general, which I was never comfortable with from the beginning. Fasten your seat belts, friends, this one's going seriously into geek territory.

I was originally made uneasy about the franchise's take on time travel the first time I saw Part I in the theaters, and let that date me. I won't belabor the wealth of books, television, and films I've seen dealing with time travel, let alone more serious takes on it in science magazines and nonfiction books, beyond saying that I've seen far more than I can remember and picked up quite a few prejudices along the way. First, although some of my favorite stories about time travel have been done in Star Trek, even Harlan Ellison didn't get the bare physics of it good enough for me. Second, although I can allow for different versions of it to be possible in scifi 'theory', mixing types of time travel in one fictional universe amounts to using more than one version of physical laws at the same time, which is sloppy storytelling. Third, and most pertinent, the deus ex machina is fine for scifi stories, when taken in small doses that don't undermine that fictional universe's working rules, but when it's employed to make ad hoc fixes to dangling plotlines...I get stabby.

So, what do I have to bitch about in a twenty-five year old trilogy that I admittedly love and have watched no less than ten times? Basically, it's the 'ripple effect' that the Bobs use to explain how they can have so much going on that changes the timeline(s), yet have everything magically work out for our hero in the end. Note my ambiguity surrounding the word "timeline". Despite so much that has been written about the trilogy by well-intentioned fans and the chalked explanation that Doc. Brown gives Marty in Pt. I, there is really only ever one timeline in the films. The Bobs have implied as much in interviews, although they didn't have to. The whole ripple effect is based on this idea. I'm not talking about the particular timeline experienced by Marty as he bounces back and forth, although there is an argument for that (and not about the timeline experienced by the DeLorean either, even though that's an interesting tangent all its own). No, I mean that, in general, there is only one linear chronology from 1885 onward; the timeline shifts and fades in mysterious ways (to overly dramatic effect, thanks to the Old Biff), but nowhere is a true 'alternate' one ever created. If that were so, the ripple effect would not exist, as every newly created timeline would just carry on without regard for apparent danger of paradox. In short, for those of you who are still awake and reading, yet aren't following me well yet, the ripple effect is what happens in the trilogy when a profound change is made in the timeline that affects Marty's 'future', usually his future of 1985. For instance, when he's hit by his grandfather's car rather than his dad, and subsequently takes his dad's place as his mother's love interest, this endangers the possibility that he will ever be born. The trilogy deals with this in comical fashion by having him begin to fade away. As Doc puts it, he comes close to being "erased from existence." This is the most acute example of the ripple effect, and I'll try to show how this is logically unfounded in the plot, even given the trilogy's loose way with time-travel physics.

I mentioned alternate timelines and paradoxes, and both should be given their due for clarity. Touting quantum physics, many writers and filmmakers have opted to use the 'many worlds' idea in time travel stories. This means that every action (or decision, they're really interchangeable in effect) of objects and people splits the universe into multiples, providing a practically infinite number of simultaneously existing universes that characters can live in, some more different than others depending on the particular actions, and all diverging in appearance from their point of divergence from the 'original' (which itself may or may not exist given an equally infinite number of possible histories leading to convergent actions). In this kind of 'multiverse', anything can happen and, given enough time, theoretically every logically possible thing does happen. Back to the Future does not take place in this kind of multiverse, however. Because of the ripple effect, in BttF even big changes kind of flow down the (altered) timeline to gradually replace the 'old' future with the 'new' one. In this kind of universe, there is the danger of altering the past in a way that the ripple effect replaces the very actions that a character takes to make the change that starts the 'ripple'. In Marty's case, if he stops his own birth, he could not have gone back in time to stop his birth. This is the epitome of a Time Travel Paradox, the trope upon which countless stories have been written. In many stories, and in several places in BttF, other seemingly contradictory events are called paradoxes, but this is the true kind, a logical impossibility only shown when there is but a single timeline to be changed. In the many-worlds view, whenever a character goes back in time, an entirely new timeline is created, completely separate from the first, where he could kill himself, his father, or everyone on earth without destroying himself because he was born in a different timeline, one which he no longer affects the outcome of. There would be no need of the BttF ripple effect because both timelines could unfold with no paradox. The character does not really kill himself, he kills a different 'him'. Again, this is not the universe of BttF, so paradoxes have to be avoided.

Or do they? By their very nature, such existential time paradoxes are impossible, so they cannot even be stumbled into, much less planned upon. Since Marty does go back in time and change the timeline, there must be some way for the paradox to be resolved, and so it is in the trilogy. But what of the ripple effect? We are given this as an explanation for how a character's past can be changed while only reshaping the singular timeline rather than branching off a new one. When Doc tried to explain branching timelines to Marty, he got it wrong for his universe. Marty never stopped his parents from meeting, kissing, or getting together to make him, he only changed the way that they did it. In fact, given that his changes did not finally erase him or his brother and sister, he was never really in danger of being erased. Why did he begin to fade, then, and why did his siblings disappear from his photo? Was the danger of a paradox enough to do it, since no paradox ever occurred? This, in the end, is the fatal flaw in the Bobs' version of time travel. We see Marty's fading as an incentive to get him (and his dad) working to set the timeline 'right', but there's no logical reason for it. What is finally special about his dad needing to meet his mother after he's hit by the car? Nothing, since he meets her anyway. What is finally special about their first kiss or his hitting Biff? Again, nothing, since Marty's future is secured in the end regardless of all the fumbling and drama. There is, after all, nothing in the entire trilogy that stops Marty from being born, so there is no reason for him to fade. More tellingly, if he did somehow stop himself from being born, by killing his dad for instance, why would he fade away gradually rather than, well...nothing really works in that case but the many-worlds view where truly separate timelines can be created where he simply wouldn't fade.

Let's go a bit further. Later, in Pt. II, all hell breaks loose in the same week during 1955, but we don't have to dwell on that. The important part here is when Doc and Marty leave Jennifer (and Einstein) in the 'bad' version of 1985. Much has been written about this, much hair-pulling on two sides of the issue. We're told that, once the timeline is set right, the world will change around Jennifer, presumably leaving her in a better 1985 and none the wiser. It's implied, if not said, that she will not be erased because she has not been mixed up in a personal paradox like Marty. But what of the other Jennifer? At the end of Pt. I, we're shown Marty watching as his duplicate races off and activates the time machine in the 'Lone Pine Mall'. It has been argued that, regardless of the changes in the timeline, these two Marty's are really one and the same, but this can't be true as long as the 'original' sees the differences that have occurred. As long as Marty's memories of 'Twin Pines Mall' world and all the differences between it and the new version do not fade, he never becomes the same person as the Marty who was born in a cool family and owns a truck. In every way that makes logical sense given what we're shown, there are two different Marty's. And if more than one Marty exists who has a different history, including the one in the 'bad' version of 1985, then a different Jennifer also exists there when the 'original' is left to sleep. What happens to this second Jennifer? If she fades away, why? It's the 'original' who is out of place. Should not the other one change along with the rest of the world and the original fade away? Either one of those must happen, or both must continue to exist until the end of the trilogy. My point is that this fudging of the rules we're given for the BttF universe, seemingly always benefiting the original versions of the characters, goes against the very idea that the whole timeline changes to suit changes made in it, since Marty (and Jennifer) never changes. But if he never changes, then his various duplicates don't either, and we have a de facto many-worlds scenario despite every effort to show that it's not.He can go on while his first duplicate from Pt. I disappears because he replaces that duplicate in the timeline, but Jennifer in no way replaces her duplicate in the 'bad' 1985 (that we're shown). So, while one Marty can finish the story, we are still left with the problem of two Jennifer's battling it out existentially.

Finally, the Bobs have said in interviews that the Old Biff fades offscreen after returning to 2015 because his duplicate was killed in the 'bad' version (I'm told, by a vengeful Lorraine in 1990 when she learns that he killed George). If so, why doesn't Doc also fade, since the 'original' Doc was killed by the Libyans? This is reaching, since we don't actually see the Old Biff fade. It brings up the question of the ripple effect again, however. None of the characters' memories change, no matter how their reality shifts around them. Unless they are given supernatural precedence by special pleading or by some esoteric 'force' like that which allows Kirk et al to stay aloof from the profound changes in "The City on the Edge of Forever", their memory retention belies the ripple effect. The inconsistencies in this wishy-washy version of time travel are subtle and easily waved away by the Bobs as a mystery akin to quantum mechanics, but I find them a pretty damning set of flaws in what otherwise is a very ingenious trilogy.

Here's a last bit of uber-geek nonsense to wrap your mind around: since the duplicate Marty disappears at the mall in the end of Pt. I and is never seen again, does he fade? If not, then there is also at least one duplicate DeLorean. ;)
Current Mood: dorky
Current Music: Morning TV BS
05 June 2010 @ 10:39 pm
Interesting, I've been mirrored. A sockpuppet in (almost) my name has been set up to infiltrate a community I don't even read. If I thought it worth getting angry over, I'd be ranting pretty heavily but, as it is, they're mostly just giving my writing free advertising. Hey, dumbass, try actually plagiarizing somewhere that makes you money next time.
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: KISS - Detroit Rock City
04 June 2010 @ 04:31 am
scooping up what's left of life
down by the seaside
scraping wings and flippers and tossing another dead crab
into the bucket of filth
into the catcher of capitalist dreams
into the net of our million mile long extinction cord
wringing necks, drenching octopuses in our louisiana sweet crude
tangled with dolphins and whales and coral
wreaths for the dying
dying earth
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Joanna Newsom / Sprout And The Bean
I'm happy, but one step further away from finishing my new version of Sita Roryn. If I weren't so lazy, so flaky, or such a geek, I 'd have more integrity. Sue me; y'all aren't waiting for the novel with baited breath anyway. My latest excuse for not working is that I just got Mathematica again after several years of withdrawals. Math is my first love, all other science a close second, and writing only a recent infatuation. With Mathematica I get the premier geek's tool for doing math, a real pencil-neck's wet dream. Perhaps I'll throw up some neato stuff here from it eventually, but for now I'm just reacquainting myself with the language. Ever since I started learning computer languages, I had three projects I'd start with to get myself familiar, starting with Basic on a TRS-80 at my aunt's house. First, I'd set up Conway's Game of Life, about the simplest dynamic visual program you can do that will surprise you with its hidden complexity. Next, I'd generate Mandelbrot fractals, a good test of a computer's speed. Finally, and more recently, I'd try to simulate a ripple tank, the standard laboratory wave testing equipment. I originally had Mathematica from versions 2.0 to 5.0, but lost it when the price went through the roof and I was no longer able to get the student version. Now, however, there is a home version, so I'm back in the saddle. In between, I had a lot of fun with Java and will still work with both in tandem, but Mathematica is just so frakking convenient I feel like I've found a lost soulmate. But to the writing...

Sita Roryn is on the back burner, but not for long. I hope to get to a regular schedule with it again before July. Aside from that, I've already decided on what I'll be writing next. From what I learned last summer writing the original Sita Roryn project and my earlier Bluebonnet Circle, I'm pretty sure that my first serious adult novel should be set in this world and about situations I'm familiar with. Bluebonnet Circle was that, but was too much built from stereotypes. Although I doubt that I can free myself from that completely, I won't be starting my next project that way. It sounds stereotypical, I know, but I'm expecting it to be rather racy for a YA novel and not as pat a plotline for a traditional love story. It will be about a group of gamers in the early `80s (for video arcade reasons, I'm thinking 1982) who spend their summers playing D&D, Risk, and the like in a defunct bomb shelter in this neighborhood. As I did with Bluebonnet Circle, I'll be working with places, people, and situations close to what I've experienced while fictionalizing them just enough to protect RL friends (and myself from copyright issues). The crux of it will be the introduction into the circle of a girl, as you can easily imagine. Drama ensues, jealousy and changing loyalties threaten friendships, and the protagonist gets the girl after a deeply frustrating series of fuck-ups. As I said, it sounds stereotypical, not to mention openly pandering to nerdy members of my generation, but I really think I've grown enough to pull it off.

Here's the basic story of what I'll for now call The Dragons of Cowtown: our hero, Tim, is just getting out of high school for the summer break and is looking forward to his traditional three month long gamut of gaming with his friends when he finds himself suddenly attracted to Sarah, a quiet girl who is one class above him and lives across the little creek valley of Foster Park in his neighborhood. Since school is out, he tries to find ways to meet up with her, but all fail until the group is in a two week hiatus because Robert, Tim's best friend and another integral 'corner' of the group, is on vacation with his family. Tim sees Sarah in the big mall across town and finally has the guts to talk to her, awkwardly setting up a date for riding bikes in the park. For the two weeks, they get to know each other, but she has a boyfriend from school, so he's stuck out as a buddy (although they both can tell that the relationship is an odd one - a connection between disparate social worlds). By the time Robert comes back, Tim gets Sarah interested in trying a game with his friends. She and her boyfriend abruptly break up, and on meeting Robert goes for him 'on the rebound'. Obviously, Tim is doubly disappointed and quite angry at her, Robert, and especially at himself. He gets some advice from his step-father to hang on and remain Sarah's friend, however, as this might prove the deciding factor in the end (only Robert a Sarah among the group think that they're in True Love Forever). Robert and Sarah soon break up, but she stays around the group, having grown to like all of them (nerds are actually sensitive souls and such are quite girl-friendly don't you know?). She's a fifth wheel, though, and friction sets the friends to squabbling through July and the hotter part of the summer. I'm not sure what all I'll have them getting up to at this point; I've basically given up on meticulously plotting out stories ahead of time. Suffice it to say that Sarah and Tim will walk the tightrope, keeping each other at arm's length emotionally - believing that their chance has passed - yet coming to see each other in all the good and bad ways that people do when getting closer. When August nears September, and school again looms on the horizon as a kind of anticipated natural end for everyone's freedom, Sarah begins to go back to her other (older) friends, but Tim's gaming group realizes that she has become as integral to them as any other member. When it appears that she wants to stop talking to them altogether, and as the group despairs that their former cohesiveness is lost without her, Tim is recruited to persuade her to 'switch sides' for good. I see a miserable situation with her friends and the shock that she's found a new boyfriend, but a final understanding by her that she needs Tim and the group far more than her upperclassmen social circle. In discovering this, she also confronts Tim about his never making a pass at her, and they go the last step that hopefully has the reader pulling out his or her hair expecting all along.

Mixed in with all this will be such `80s goodness as coin-op video game rivalry, marathon sessions over dice-throwing RPGs; pop radio music played on Walkman knock-offs and 'ghetto blasters' and (thanks to Sarah) `70s music played via vinyl on an old Decca turntable; really bad TV heard mostly as background noise; world news mostly ignored but for it's growing influence upon post-apocalyptic books and movies; and, of course, the all-consuming juggernaut that was The Empire Strikes Back, due for its second re-release that fall. Also will be Tim's first sex after finding out that Sarah had not been a virgin since she was thirteen, tons of other breaks in traditional adolescent storytelling (I refuse to dumb down kids for political correctness), a much closer look at Fort Worth than I gave in Bluebonnet Circle, and more of the idea that a large part of a fifteen-year old boy's life was concerned with discovering all of the 'adult' things that adults tried to hide from him (along with the slow realization that the transition was really a one-way trip that he would forever after regret taking). I plan to tell it in the first person, which is a danger, but my autobiographical posts here seem to have met with a measure of appreciation, so why not try it? Regardless of all this talk, I still need to finish Sita Roryn first, so...back to the Mathematica. Gods, I'm an irresponsible idiot.
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10 May 2010 @ 05:30 am
Will you when endings show
The last of three is not me
Will you forward my dreams
To a name and soul
Neither of us knows?

Who was she, you never said
So never asked
So never forgotten
Nor need for forgiveness
For what she gave
I was too washed-out to offer.

But I know she's gone
The day your eyes dropped
From mine and mirror both
Both of us spoke only of the day
And in the night you wept
Walked out into the trees but I heard
The trees wept as well.

And when you are left
For my shell has never been filled
Even once, though we smile at the same skies
Oh, when you are left
Which name will you speak?
Speak neither, but find one more.

You, who burn with every new star seen
Burn again, for fire in this life lights
More than sticks and storied faces
Light a new heart and another until
Every corner of the night sky smiles back.
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