I feel this week’s gone fairly well. Actually met my writing goal! (First time in a while…) This upcoming week’s going to be an exciting one for me. The next course of my MFA starts Monday – and we’re finally doing fiction! While I actually have found a fair amount of thinking space to appreciate in both my poetry class and my creative nonfiction class, fiction is why I’m in the program. I’ve got about six months of varying fiction seminars lined up, and I’ve been looking forward to it pretty much since I finished my first class back in September.
But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s do what I’m actually here to do, and look back over the last week.
I’ve been chipping away at Ursula LeGuin’s Rocannon’s World during the past week. I’ve not gotten very far into the novel (about three chapters), but it’s been enjoyable so far.
The story is science fiction, and mainly from the perspective of Rocannon, a scientist for the League of All Worlds who studies native species and cultures on a variety of planets. However, the world he’s on – Fomalhaut – is lifted from Norse mythology, and has a strong fantasy feel. There are smiling, mysterious elves, technologically inclined dwarves (helped into industrial technology by the somewhat-benevolent League), and two races of “men,” the lordly Angyar and the midmen.
Of course, LeGuin brings her own twist on these peoples, courtesy of Rocannon’s perspective. It feels very much like she’s teasing Tolkien. Rocannon finds the Angyar’s “heroic” behavior overblown, somewhat humorous. She doesn’t push it to the point of funny (which is good, because “one cannot laugh at the magic”) but there’s definitely some professional smirking.
I’m enjoying the book, but I intend to put it aside for this week. Him, by my friend Caitlin Mazur, comes out today! So of course, I’ve got to go read it. It doesn’t look to be incredibly long, so my reading goal for this week is to read it fully. That’s what I’ll be talking about next week.
My writing goal last week was to reach 20 handwritten pages of my current piece – and I made it! . . . And the chapter’s still not done, which is making me worry a little bit. 20 pages should equal about 5,000 words. That’s not unheard of for a chapter (and I wouldn’t consider it unusual in epic fantasy), but I don’t see the end particularly nearby.
I’m currently intending to let this chapter run as it runs, and I’ll see where it ends up. I’m writing more to experiment and practice a particular style than to say “This is first draft, chapter one!” so if it ends up being this gigantic mess with too many moving pieces for one chapter, there’s really no harm in me scrapping it.
On the worldbuilding front (which may just end up becoming its own section in the future), I’ve not made tons of progress. Mostly, I’ve been re-reading articles by con-langers (people who invent constructed languages) and on linguistics in general, trying to get some general knowledge about the field. I don’t need a full language, but I want to make sure I have enough to provoke the sensation of realism.
I don’t need a full language. I don’t. I don’t I don’t I don’t.
(But Austin, I want one…)
It’s a problem.
So I’m going to spend five hours on ancient Greek this week.
“Hang on!” I hear you saying. “That’s not a fictional language. That’s a real one!”
True, very true. That’s why I’m going to work on it! To be honest, I’ve had a bit of an itch to get back to some of my more academic interests – namely philosophy and classics – and reviewing and getting some language knowledge back into my brain seems like a great way to do that.
Plus, several sources assert that when con-langing, a linguist or author ought to make sure they know or have tried to learn at least one foreign language. This helps guard against making a language which is basically just English, but with funny sounds and random letters.
(To take an extreme example, it would make no sense for a culture of mermen and mermaids to have our English idiom “the grass is greener on the other side,” since living underwater there isn’t really either hills or grass.)
I love working on Greek translation, even if the learning curve for getting back into it is atrocious. I have a translation of Plato’s Defense Speech of Socrates (the Apology) laying around, neglected. Chipping away at that this week seems like a wiser way to prepare for language creation than just muddling away at articles and books and hoping something clicks.
Last Week: Reach 20 pages in my handwritten draft of Jiharel, and spend any amount of time reading Rocannon’s World by Ursula LeGuin. Accomplished! (Though I would like to have spent a bit more time reading…)
This Week: Read Him by Caitlin Mazur, and spend at least five hours working on my translation of The Defense Speech of Socrates. And y’know what? Let’s add another two pages of Jiharel. Gotta keep things flowing.