Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doing it Old School

Was talking to dean a month ago and it was pretty interesting. We actually met at a coffee shop in Robinson's Galleria that morning because I had to pick up some copies of PSF3. While father and daughter Sage had breakfast, we talked about topics ranging from traditional fantasy, having a local spec fic award and creating a 'fun' anthology. (Later charles came in and joined the fun.)

While I'll talk about the other topics later on, I thought much about the idea of writing traditional fantasy (to shorten it, 'tradfan') a lot. As everyone knows, I originally started writing/ creating ideas in that vein thanks largely to my book influences (Dragonlance, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, etc.). However, I thought there was something missing, something I soon found when writing local speculative fiction.

I'm not sure how to describe that missing part, i.e. that certain resonance I couldn't find in the tradfan stories I was writing. Later, [identity-protected] suggested that I include a sense of my own identity in my stories was I able to finally actually to empathize with my own stories. Was that the resonance I was looking for? I'm not sure. I do know that I can actually feel for my characters when I write them in the stories, and thus make them more believable.

Still, when I look through my writing archives, I miss writing tradfan. I remember a time when my brain was on subconscious search-mode for interesting and rather catchy names I could use. Where else can you write stories with names like The Falconer (an assassin of The Faceless Masks), The Church of the Gran Gugnol, The Great and Ancient Dragon, or the revenant knight Lord Morgen Alberion Caele except in stories like these? (Er, patent pending on these so don't even think about it, parasites.)

It's not that I can't write 'em anymore. Far from it. It's just that I think if I'm going to write a tradfan, it has to be different and unique. But given how tradfan keeps trying to improve itself to avoid getting stale, different and unique is getting more and more common.

As an example, one thing I tried to explore in my tradfan short stories was the idea of setting up the usual trope-- and then breaking it. Nothing new, I know, but I still tried. (In the idea below, this is a geis.)

For years, the Kings of Halnatha had their half-brothers guard the throne using the wizards' magic to plant geis virtues within their potential rivals. And for years, the Swords of Vertu—or the Bastard Swords, as the bodyguards were derogatorily called—followed their enspelled souls as if their decisions were their own.

It was two-for-one: the kingdom was saved from the potential chaos of civil war and the lineage from its rival claimants. At the same time, it gained loyal adherents who would die for their king.

As one of the bastard offsprings of King Angwidd ys Lanan, Luth was raised with his other half-siblings as part of the troop that would take the place of the Swords once their royal brother took the throne.

Luth never questioned his geis.

But then Prince Rhoddaer became king and Luth’s whole world shattered as the madness rumored in the royal heir became more apparent in the newly-crowned king.

Now Luth watched and waited in the name of his enspelled geis, Faltha. Justice. After all, justice—like a sword—can cut both ways.

See? As [identity-protected] mentioned, the story looks and sounds good-- but it doesn't sound me.

Still, the ideas I was exploring in tradfan fascinated me, to the point that I tried to use different styles of writing the story. Ironically, my later revisions of some story ideas started getting rather 'grim-and-gritty' in order to base it in some human perspective.

Whenever the peasant girl Gisel thought of happy moments, she thought of chairs.

For example: she remembered her grandmother’s rocking chair sitting on a patch of afternoon sunlight like a sleepy, curmudgeonly cat just like her owner. She remembered sitting in that chair with Athea, when her ten-year old daughter was still alive, and singing songs like “Darby Constant and the Bear” or “Jackstraw a’ hiding in the pot” to her.

She also remembered the settee her husband Luc built for her for their house, ignoring neighbors’ mocking of ‘noble’ aspirations. She remembered sitting there in the morning, sunning herself after doing all the chores, with Luc on his way to the fields and herself all alone in their ramshackle house.

Gisel sighed. She leaned on the stone battlements as she looked down at the army gathering within the snow-covered inner courtyard of the Anduin, a fortress-turned-abbey run by the Domine Order.

Fatigued as she was from traveling for almost a week through the Arvyen countryside just as the winter drew on, she felt even more tired, cold and confused after three days of waiting in her sparse room in the fortress.

Furthermore, she wondered how it could be that all the soldiers gathered here by the Foreigner-Queen Isabel were meant to kill Gisel’s husband who she had overheard was finally coming home.

It's no Ernest Hemingway, but it's definitely no Dungeons and Dragons either, right?

Ironically, I never really finished most of these stories-- either they were done half-way or were half-edited. That aforementioned missing resonance I guess drew out whatever creative enthusiasm I was pouring into them. But still, I wouldn't mind finishing one or two and submitting it to either local or international markets. You know, just to see if I can properly tell a tale that my heart is unsure of telling.

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