New year, same me. I’ve given it a whole 30 seconds of thought (lavish, eh?) and decided that YES I do still enjoy doing these posts this way, so welcome to another year of me blathering words onto a screen and then screaming them out into the Void.
As usual, I’ll be blabbering about things I’ve been reading, things I’ve been writing, and then occasionally things I’ve been watching or playing and so on. Let’s get on with it!
This week, I’ve been meandering my way through The Mistress of Mistresses by E.R. Eddison. It’s labeled the “sequel” to The Worm Ouroboros (which, now that I think on it, was probably overall my favorite book I read during 2017) which I simply cannot stop thinking about or mentioning in conversation with fellow fantasy readers and writers. It’s Eddison’s prose style which really gets me; it’s this great big lush thing that just sort of gushes everywhere with overuse of metaphor and images and archaic language and I can’t stop loving it. The way he tells what are in essence adventure stories or fairy-tales feels, to me, to elevate them into something so much more powerful. It’s a poignant reminder of the strength of well-woven words.
Where the Worm was adventure, Mistress feels more like a romance. There’s battles and intrigue and traveling and duels and all that, but the story thus far is more centered on character interactions and romances within the strange not-quite-real world of Zimiamvia. Fitting, for a novel titled after Aphrodite (who seems to me to play the role of antagonist). The story is related to Worm, but doesn’t follow it. Lord Juss, Brandoch Daha, Goldry Blusco and the other Lords of Demonland – the heroes of The Worm Ouroboros – make no appearance; neither does their lands, their friends, nor their foes as well.
Instead, we have a tale about Edward Lessingham, one of these larger-than-life figures who dies in our world and enters a new life in Zimiamvia with Aphrodite’s blessing (and at first without knowledge of his prior living). He’s a bit cardboard, as are all of Eddison’s heroes, but that’s the point! All of Eddison’s characters are these big, dramatic archetypal figures who ooze charisma and passion and violence. Even if his villains are more interesting (because they’re more flawed), reading of Lessingham’s exploits in Zimiamvia is still a true delight.
And yet, I find I can’t genuinely recommend these books to anyone. The language, which I sincerely love and am currently trying to mimic, is so over-the-top that I’m not sure anyone I know who likes modern fantasy could bear it with pleasure. Your first hundred pages of Eddison are sort of like being smacked in the head with a mallet. I just happened, fortunately, to enjoy the punishment when I first began to read Worm.
Speaking of mimicry, that’s exactly what I’ve been up to this week. I’ve been in a sort of pre-writing phase on Jiharel for the last month-ish, and finishing a super-solid outline and worldbuilding and all that other jazz is my big creative goal for 2018. Reading Mistress of Mistresses gave me an itch to try this overwrought, archaic style of prose for myself.
So, I’ve been dabbling with a first chapter of Jiharel.
The chapter’s gone well, so far. I’m writing by hand because I enjoy it, and I like what I produce much more. I’m about eight pages in. I’ve had various plot points of Jiharel stuck in my mind for quite some time now, and though I’ve not tried this particular opening to the story before, I’m liking it much more than previous attempts.
Admittedly, that may be because I’m indulging myself with Eddison’s prose style, which I’ve found as fun to write as I find it to read.
When I’ve looked back at it, the prose obviously has some issues, but I think there’s a lot of room for good improvement, not just scrapping and rewriting or abandoning the style. I’m not a medievalist like Eddison, so my natural voice doesn’t drift quite the same way toward archaic forms of modern English (or into Elizabethan English itself), so revision will require me to take a close look at syntax to see if the voice is coming out genuinely, or if it’s reading like faux-High Olde Voice.
I’ve also spent some time this week working on a gaming thing.
I play a weekly game with my friends called RuneQuest. It’s similar to Dungeons & Dragons, but with slightly different dice and very different rules. RQ is set in the world of Glorantha, which is a sort of mythic Bronze Age world, designed to have a very literal feel to the myths of gods and heroes. It’s a setting which is actually pretty influential on me, as I go about making the world of Jiharel.
RQ uses a rules system called Basic Roleplaying, or the BRP. There’s at least a dozen different game systems which use that same set of rules, and I’ve been tinkering with one of my own in the last week or two. It’s less something I’d like to produce and offer up to the world, and more just something which could be fun for my friends and I to play.
Game design is a very interesting creative space, to me, and one I’ve wanted to spend some time fiddling about in. I know that thinking about Akhelas – the world of Jiharel – in terms of designing the world for game players has been a useful lens when worldbuilding. Designing for tabletop gaming requires a certain sense of openness to my thinking. I feel like I need to think as broadly as possible, since games like RQ and D&D at their best are really the ultimate in open-ended adventure.
If you’ve never played, the games are kind of like a choose your own adventure book, but instead of four options to follow the path of story, you have four hundred. They’re a good time.
Just a quick aside for Watching this week, but if you’re at all into video games you really should check out Awesome Games Done Quick. It’s a marathon of gamers speedrunning all sorts of different games, all while raising donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. They’ll be streaming all the rest of this week (and I believe next week as well) live on Twitch.
I don’t speedrun myself, but I’ve acquired a fascination of watching speedruns during AGDQ last year. Watching someone complete a game in under two hours that would have easily taken me twenty, to sixty, or more is just perplexing and wonderful to watch, and the runners donating their time to AGDQ bring together a great marathon show for a great cause.
Last Week: Jeez, I have no clue anymore. Last week I did my obligatory End of the Year blog, and the time before that was right before I went on vacation. But, week’s felt kinda productive since then, so that’s positive, right?
This Week: My main goal this upcoming week will be to have at least 15 handwritten pages of my Jiharel chapter finished, or have the chapter itself finished (whichever is longer). I will keep reading Mistress of Mistresses, but I’m not setting finishing it as a goal (although I do see that as possible, maybe probable).
Oh, and school stuff, too.