Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Novelish Something for November

Ever since I started this blog, I've thought it might be fun to participate in the blog version (NaNoBlogMo) of NaNoWriMo, but every year November has been a hectic month for me, and it hasn't been feasible. I'm not sure it will be feasible this year, either, but as it happens I will have a tiny bit more time this November than in any November before, even allowing for things like research. Since I can't guarantee anything, I won't be officially participating, but I've been planning to put up a novel or novelish bit of draft this November. The idea would be to get at least most of it online by the end of November. What precisely it will be will depend in the end on what I decide will flow more easily, but as I always have several ideas for novels in my head, I thought I'd ask what people thought of the various alternatives currently on the table. These are the current possibilities:

(1) Tanaver: a rather involved space fantasy involving, among other things space barbarians, super-advanced space monkeys (the Samar), and a War between Very Powerful Aliens (one group of which is the Tanaver, of whom the Samar and the main character -- who is not Samar -- are less-advanced allies). Actually, it's a little more serious (the villains are a very nasty bit of work) and a bit less pulpy than that makes it sound, and this is the current frontrunner. The Samar aren't the main characters, but I've really wanted to write a novel about them for a while -- the problem being that they are, for a number of reasons, not actually novelizable. So the next best thing is a novel about human beings in which they figure on occasion. Reason for the Working Title: The main character, Kassi, lives in the Tanaver Alliance, a political commonwealth that covers seven entire universes and uncountably many civilizations, and is chosen suddenly by the powerful and mysterious Tanaver, who exist outside any particular universe, to be an ambassador to the Samthyrian Empire in a non-Alliance universe; the Empire is a galaxy-wide empire under attack by an enemy that takes over human bodies, an enemy that is itself backed by mysterious Tanaver-like aliens.

(2) Aegidius: a fantasy about werewolf packs in the modern world, and in particular about the Wolf-King; his history will unfold as he handles a pack war and a rebellion in his own ranks. There will be no sparkling vampires or nonsense like that, so never fear on that end. This is one where I like the idea, but waver on the particular course to take with it. Reason for the Working Title: The Wolf-King's modern name is Giles Scott, CEO of the Aegidian Corporation; 'Giles' is just the anglicized version of his actual name, which is Aegidius. Unimpressive to look at and originally rather mild-mannered, he rose to power through the centuries by cunning and strength of will, eventually killing his predecessor and destroying his rivals.

(3) Balaam's Ass: science fiction with some (fairly mild) fantasy elements, beginning with a terrorist act on the advanced planet of Hypermetria, in which all the Scientists of the planet are shut down -- the Scientists of Hypermetria being in fact artificial intelligences. The rest of the story is about an attempt to find out who is behind the act. This is probably the one that currently holds the position behind Tanaver; I like the two main characters as they are currently conceived, Robert Couvert (pronounced Ro-Bare Cu-Vare) and Father Matthew Li. Reason for the Working Title: The main characters will spend most of the work trying to uncover the nature of the Society of Balaam's Ass, an anti-Hypermetrian group accused of having initiated the attack on the Scientists; their motto is, "Balaam's Ass is the True Prophet." When I first thought up the basic story idea, it was called The Dead and Their Shadows, about a multi-generational feud between the Devil and either an Ibbur or a Dibbuk; but once the mysterious Society of Balaam's Ass came in, it dominated the story until it's pretty much stuck with its current title, however completely unpublishable in the real word such a title may currently be.

(4) The River Already: has the advantage of largely being written already -- I wrote it years ago (because of that it would be ineligible for real NaNoWriMo, but since this won't be officially NaNoWriMo, but just inspired by it, that wouldn't be a problem). It requires some pretty heavy revision in parts, and there are possibly irreversible plot problems that are almost inevitable in something whose basic outlines were thought out in ninth grade, but for all that the original (which wasn't, never fear, actually written in ninth grade) was quite readable -- reasonably trim and with at least some engaging characters. It's a fairly straightforward quest fantasy, although it's an occasionally weird take on the genre, with a lot of dream sequences: a boy, and the tiny country of Irlia, gets swept up in bigger affairs involving a might empire, a demon, invasions, etc. I'd have to dig up the old drafts, but they're around here somewhere. The story (deliberately) has no chapters -- it's just one long stream with occasional pauses, which might make it difficult to put online very easily. Reason for the Title: Much of the background for the story is the tiny landlocked nation of Irlia and its relations with its next-door neighbor, the mighty ocean-spanning Tasimonian Empire. The Irlians are very practical, while the Tasimonians are rather cryptic and mystical in outlook. 'Time is the River Already and Already is the Moment of Decision' is a Tasimonian proverb.

So does any of that sound the slightest bit interesting? As I said, I'll end up going with what I think I can handle most easily (i.e., what will be likely to hold my interest long enough, what has been thought through enough, etc.), but I'd also be interested in whether any of it sounds promising to anyone who's likely at least to browse it.

9 comments:

  1. Catherine Hodge7:41 AM

    Since you asked, I'm going to stick in my oar.

    <span>(2) Aegidius: a fantasy about werewolf packs in the modern world, and in particular about the Wolf-King; his history will unfold as he handles a pack war and a rebellion in his own ranks. </span>

    I vote for Aegidius, for this simple reason: the capsule review is the most concise, which strongly implies that you have a good sense of what the story is about and where it will go. The complexity of the other three concepts threatens to overwhelm the capsule synopses, so even with the fun world-building explanations I still don't feel that I know what the novels will be about. Your one-sentence summary above tells me more about the the story you intend to tell in this novel than the other three paragraphs do for their stories.

    Anything I say, though, should be taken with the proviso that I gave up reading fantasy as a genre long ago, and when I do read it, tend toward the urban fantasy of authors like Tim Powers. So in that sense, Aegidius seems most personally interesting.

    However, I have to say that Ro-bare Cou-vare is about the coolest name ever.

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  2. branemrys11:43 AM

    Very useful perspective here; thanks for it. I think what you're picking up on is actually what worries me about Aegidius, at least at this point: I've got how it would begin fairly well, and am just uncertain where to go with it beyond a certain point. I have only the haziest idea of where it will go in the end. With some of the others, on the other hand, I have a pretty clear idea where they are going, but am fuzzier about the getting-there. The latter certainly are more difficult to summarize; you can get away in a summary with being vague about the ending, not so much other parts of it. But I think I trust myself more to finish a story if I know the end already; creating problems is easy -- it's the resolutions that usually seem to make or break the story.

    On the other hand, Aegidius does have the advantage that, unlike the others, it's not trying to be clever; the premise is pretty straightforward, whatever turns I might end up throwing into it. And there's something to be said for that in a throw-out-a-draft project like this.

    So right now it seems to be between Tanaver and Aegidius; at present I think I'm still leaning toward Tanaver, But that could always change.

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  3. Brendan Hodge11:54 AM

    I'm pretty much where Cat is on this one, and for similar reasons -- but I've enjoyed all the fiction you've put up, so I'll definitely be reading along whatever you settle on.

    I've always found the idea of NaNoWriMo tantalizing, though I'm hesitant for time and personal reasons to try to actually crank out a novel in a month.  I'm going to try to see if I can at least re-start the fiction engines with a couple of short stories over the course of the month.

    My sister, who's turned into the real writer of the family, piled onto NaNoWriMo last year and ended up churning out a 160k+ word novel (mostly within the allotted month), so the family precedent is daunting.

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  4. Catherine Hodge12:17 PM

    More Matriarch!

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  5. branemrys12:35 PM

    <span>More Matriarch!</span>

    :)
    If I had the talent, you'd definitely see many more Matriarch stories -- I've occasionally thought of a whole series of different Matriarchs, like the two I've done, each being The Matriarch in her own way. But holy moly does it take an effort to pull together a story! Plus, she executes writers who don't do a good job; that's pressure!

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  6. Baduin12:41 PM

    Do those werewolves turn into actual wolves or half-wolf/half-man beasts?

    Werewolves are quite interesting, but that business with turning into actual big dogs does not make any sense. Wolf-like mentality, and some physical improvements (strength, sense of smell, invulnerability or great resilience) are much more useful.

    Anyway, the transformations of vampires and werewolves between the folklore and moder literary standard are fascinating. On one hand, the modern long-living, hereditary, pack-living werewolves have nearly nothing in common with the folklore, on the other hand, they - and their contrast with the vampires - are a very good example of a classical mythic opposition discovered by Dumezil - in this case, the opposition between the magicial Varuna/Odin and the warrior Indra/Thor.

    Surprisingly, the folkloristic werewolves, if involved at all with those gods, were connected to Odin, not to Thor, similarly to the standard Odinic warriors, berserkers, and had therefore various berserker-like traits, like magical invulnerability.

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  7. branemrys3:53 PM

    I think the taking on wolf-form has too much potential symbolic and story value to set aside easily; but it also seems clear enough that natural wolves and preternatural wolves can't be the same thing, and thus makes sense to make it simply one extreme in a spectrum of possible changes between man and wolf. What one really wants is a creature that is preternaturally and ambiguously both, not just alternately one and then the other, and that requires them conjoining them, either chimerically or by smooth integration. But the full characterization of the werewolf-like things that I have in mind is not really something that I can fit into a comments box; it would take the entire story, because it is not a device, but the material of the story itself.

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  8. Baduin11:53 AM

    What I dislike about werewolves as shape-shifting hybrid monsters described in modern literature is that they seem purely material. Old mythological way of thinking was designating with one word different levels of reality: pneuma is both wind and spirit. Werewolves were ambiguously both natural and spiritual.

    Modern way of thinking is differentiated (using Voegelin's terminology). Accordingly, werewolves became merely material monsters. And this is precisely what is not interesting. Tigers escaped from private ZOO are entertaining news, not a serious danger for anybody. What is interesting is mental and spiritual "wolfishness", and the external shape served merely as the symbol and external correlate of it.

    Anyway, werewolves were sometimes only a wolf-shaped soul or spirit sent from the man in a trance.

    http://www.werewolfpage.com/myths/Benandanti.htm

    This case was tried in 1692 in Jurgenburg, Livonia, situated in an area east of the Baltic Sea, steeped in werewolf folklore. It involved an 80-year-old man named Thiess.
    Thiess confessed being a werewolf, saying his nose had been broken by a man named Skeistan, a witch who was dead at the time he had struck Thiess. According to Thiess' testimony Skeistan and other witches were preventing the crops of the area from growing. Their purpose for doing this was to carry the grain into hell. To help the crop to continue to grow, Thiess with a band of other werewolves descended into hell to fight the witches and recover the grain.
    The warring of the werewolves and the witches occurred on three nights of the year: Saint Lucia, Pentecost and Saint John (the seasonal changes). If the werewolves were slow in their descent the witches would bar the gates of hell, and the crops, livestock, and even the fish catch would suffer. As weapons the werewolves carried iron bars while the witches used broom handles. Skeistan broke Theiss' nose with a broom handle wrapped in a horse's tail.
    The judges were astounded by such testimony, for they had naturally supposed the werewolves were agents of the Devil. But now they were hearing the werewolves were fighting the Devil. When asked what became of the souls of the werewolves, Thiess said they went to heaven. He insisted werewolves were the "hounds of Gods" who helped mankind by preventing the Devil from carrying off the abundance of the earth. If it were not for them all would suffer. He said there were werewolves in Germany and Russia also fighting witches in their own hells.

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  9. branemrys2:59 PM

    Very much agree with that. One sees this attempt to naturalize the horrible, the monstrous, and the preternatural all over the place today, and it generally shows little more than a lack of imagination.

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