Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tanaver IV

The following chapters have been done at Tanaver.

Part I

Chapter I: A Day in the Life
Part I, Part II

Chapter II: This Darkest Sea
Part I, Part II

Chapter III: Conversation over Lunch
Part I, Part II

Chapter IV: City in Heaven
Part I, Part II

Chapter V: Ohu's Stronghold
Part I, Part II

Chapter VI: Representatives
Part I, Part II

Chapter VII: Negotiations
Part I, Part II

Chapter VIII: The Thing That Can Explode **New**
Part I, Part II

Chapter IX: Transitions **New**
Part I, Part II

Chapter X: Samar in the Field **New**
Part I, Part II

Chapter XI: Pavilion **New**
Part I, Part II

Chapter XII: The Gates of Death **New**
Part I, Part II

The last two weeks of November saw a severe slowdown, as it all had to compete with more immediately important things; having fallen behind about a week, I couldn't catch up and, as I had originally suspected, it took the whole month of November to get through Part I. The wordcount for Part One comes to about 40800, or about 9000 words short of the NaNoWriMo goal. And since Part I was just supposed to set up for Part II, where the major action in the book takes place, I suppose that's a long way to go without getting to the meat of the story. On the other hand, considering that this is all a completely first rough draft with almost no revisions, I think it has actually turned out well so far. Much of the material will eventually need to be redistributed a bit; the few something-like-action parts will need to be redone, and several of the conversations will need to be made less rough-hewn (and in parts trimmed and reworked considerably), but all in all it's OK.

One of the things I have an interest in when reading stories is the philosophical backgrounds in play. In most stories, especially most science fiction, this ends up being of the most simplistic kind, just as science fiction tends to be ploddingly prosaic (or else merely pseudo-poetic, with a lot that is kitschy and incoherent). A Canticle for Leibowitz is probably the most famous science fiction exception on both points. In any case, I have been angling for something that is at least not an egregious offender on these two fronts.

The Samar are an interesting case, because the sort of philosophical backgrounds that have to be available in Samar culture in order for them to do what they do is actually quite constrained. What do the Samar do? Well, they're an entire civilization that functions as a sort of civil service, but given the size of what they have to handle, they cannot be (as civil service usually ends up being) a rigid and extensive bureaucracy. Civil service has to specialize heavily but the Samar have to be generalists to the extent possible. They go around and try to help different societies, operating on a large scale, and they are trying to make things better. That means they have to have a clear sense of which direction progress is found. And they have to do this over an extraordinary variety of cultures. There are lots of things they cannot be. They cannot be relativists, because to be relativists doing what they do on the scale that they do would mean that their actions would be indistinguishable from a might-makes-right approach, and would make any general sense of progress impossible. Sophisticated relativists can make sense of progress on a small scale, but it's not a sense of progress that scales up. A lot of philosophical backgrounds are ruled out simply by being too small change: the Samar are dealing with so many things on such a scale that any philosophy suitable to what they do has to be bold, ambitious, sweeping, capable of taking an immense civilization in all its richness into its scope. But it also has to be practical and flexible, and it has to have a strong moral component. That rules out a lot. But the Samar do need a very developed philosophical background, given the sheer extent of their operation.

There are two general kinds of philosophical background that come immediately to mind given this sort of description: one Eastern, one Western, namely, Neo-Confucianism and Neoplatonism. These are more families of philosophies than particular philosophies, but they have the right scale: they are massive in scope and ambition. They are highly rational. Neo-Confucianism is obviously practical, and perfect for philosophically astute civil servants who have to be generalists; and, while it's not what tends to be studied when people study it, Neoplatonism is also quite practical in orientation. Not all versions of each are equally appropriate. One thing that is needed is detachability from historical contingencies, which means that Plotinian and Christian Neoplatonisms are more suitable than Iamblichian (if that's the right adjectival form) Neoplatonisms. In Neo-Confucianism, the lixue of Zhu Xi and the daoxue of Wang Yangming are certainly more appropriate than the scholarly back-to-the-text approach of the hanxue.

So I made them Neoplatonist Neo-Confucians: they have a Neo-Platonist sense of beauty and a Neo-Confucian attitude toward its pursuit. Most of what the Samar say on this subject have parallels on one side or the other. Their philosophical practices are a mix of Neoplatonist 'therapy of the soul' and Neo-Confucian self-cultivation.

All of this contrasts with the Ylfae or the Syylven. The Ylfae are only seen from outside as rather incomprehensible, so any sense of their philosophical approaches to the world can be left inchoate, although they would probably like Novalis. The Syylven are not as active in the world, and thus their philosophical background can be left implicit, as a sage philosophy, in their poetry and wisdom traditions.

7 comments:

  1. MrsDarwin11:27 AM

    I would very much like to have this entire book in hand.

    ReplyDelete
  2. branemrys12:55 PM

    Well, at Aegidius levels of development, you should have it in five years, tops!

    More seriously, while I hope to continue (at a slower pace!) I want to get the first draft of Aegidius actually done and out of the way first, so now that NaNoWriMo is over, that's the higher priority.

    ReplyDelete
  3. MrsDarwin2:47 PM

    The first priority should be taking a writing break! I went twenty-four hours (nine of them sleeping!) without penning a line of story yesterday, and it was glorious.

    I'll be writing through December myself, though I'd really like to be done before Christmas. Already I can feel the difference now that the NaNo pressure is off: there's more freedom to work on a line as long as necessary, but less urgency to get anything done quickly. A blessing and a curse.

    I'm looking forward to more Aegidius -- you're only one year into the Five Year Plan, so you're not doing too badly. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Leo Carton Mollica8:27 PM

    Curses! I was really looking forward to the next part, and now you have to tell us that it'll be taking a back seat. Ah, well.

    Anyhow... is there a reason the Syylven don't draw?

    ReplyDelete
  5. branemrys8:57 PM

    Some of them do, it's just not a major part of their education. And we're the same way -- while not everyone can draw equally well, given how easily we take to it, how very basic the most basic elements are, and how useful it is in everything from giving directions to engineering to mathematics to natural history, it's rather remarkable that we let such an ability stagnate in children the way we do.

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  6. Leo Carton Mollica9:39 PM

    I assumed it was an analogue to similar tendencies among ourselves, since the Syylven seem pretty close to us physiologically and culturally. I was simply curious whether the same was also meant to express some deep truth about the Syylven.

    On a related note, are the Samthyrians intended to be humans at a later age in our development? Forgive me if the answer would require revealing too much plot.

    ReplyDelete
  7. branemrys10:16 PM

    Actually, it ends up being rather complicated.

    ReplyDelete

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