First Drafts and Calculus (July)

July 5, 2009

So the month of June has ended, and I haven’t posted in over two weeks. There’s a reason for that; I’ve been on vacation since June 22nd, but forgot to mention it here.

In any case, it’s now July, which I plan to spend doing two things. Waking up at 5:30AM every M-Th in order to take Calculus III, and finishing the first draft for Chapter 0 of (one of) the books I’ve wanted to write for a long time. After all, if I’m going to be a speculative fiction writer, I have to start writing eventually. (And incidentally, I got honorable mention in the WotF contest, so I might as well actually keep submitting short stories until I manage to achieve something or it turns out I can’t get any higher than that.)

What’s strange about this is that, as I said, it’s a first draft. I have very little prior experience with writing “first drafts”. I almost always edit as I write and so go from nothing-written to everything-written, with no first-draft stage. But with something as vast as a book, it seems somehow pointless to make minute edits to a section that might end up on the trash heap. So I’m trying to do a quick write-through, getting everything on paper, then I can go through and tidy up, so to speak. We’ll see how that goes.

Oh, I also have other plans for this month, including reading Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy and a bunch of Gerard Manley Hopkins criticism (I’m going to spend the next several months thinking about his poetry). One thing you might notice missing from this list is “working on Orbivm”. I’m semi-retired from crafting the Orbis Terrarvm; I’ve written the last campaign I have planned (though have frustratingly been unable to publish it online due to technical difficulties) and no longer do pixel art. Since those were the two main things I did, I’m pretty much done. Perhaps that’s a mistake; I might come back to it eventually. But I think I’ve done everything with the Wesnoth campaign format that I can do, and there’s no point in continuing to churn out campaigns just to fill out the rest of the Orbivm universe.

Oh, the last thing I plan on doing this month is, get a cell phone! Unfortunately, it seems it has come to this; I’ve avoided getting one for longer than I thought possible, but I really do need one. They’re basically mandatory in my social circles; people often get irritated at me for not having one.

Which brings me to the Orbivm character I will resemble. A cell phone is a way of instantly communicating with those far away. In Orbivm, none have that capability save the Cavernei Monitors. They use runic magic to transmit information across vast distances. So if I get a cell phone, I’ll be rather similar to Trondar, the Cavernei Monitor who assists Gali in “Gali’s Contract”.


April Fools

April 1, 2009

Today is April first, traditionally April Fools Day. But I’m not going to pull a prank on you. Probably.

But April is the month of fools because of this Biblical quotation:

The land of a certain rich man brought forth abundant crops. And he began to take thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast many good things laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Thou fool, this night do they demand thy soul of thee; and the things that thou hast provided, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich as regards God.

I find all of the New Testament references to fools fascinating  – foolishness  of God versus wisdom of  man, etc. But this one is relevant because this month, I have to do a lot of planning. I’m going to have to “pull down my barns and build larger ones”, because registration for next semester is next week, I need to figure out where I’m going to live next year (hopefully an apartment, but I have to actually get one and sign the lease), I have to make sure I’ll actually have money for next year… oh, and I also have a lot more schoolwork this month than last, which I have to do if I want to pass my classes. So I’m having to focus a lot on providing for the material future. Not so much on providing for my spiritual or social futures… ah well.

What Orbivm character does this remind me of? One who doesn’t actually have a campaign, but perhaps should – Primus Maximus, first emperor of Lavinia. He spent his entire life running around conquering other nations, expanding Lavinia’s territory, “building larger barns” – and then he died on the battlefield against the Sidhe and never had years of peace to enjoy his conquests. He was probably happier conquering than ruling anyway, though. Historically he’s somewhat similar to Julius Caesar; he’s a famous painting of the Gauls surrendering to him.

Calm Down (March)

March 1, 2009

So, this semester has not been at all how I expected it to be when it started a month and a half ago, socially speaking; it’s been a weird roller-coaster, actually, and now I’m just about back where I started. Fun.

Anyway, social life interesting => little accomplished elsewhere, and that has indeed been the case. But spring break is coming up soon, and hopefully I’ll have some free time to get some Orbivm pixel art done, finish up the short story I’m writing, prepare to submit a (different) short story to the Writers & Illustrators of the Future writing contest…though I will have to cobble together an hour-long presentation about fractal dimension for my Math Colloquium class at some point as well.

I know I talk a lot on this blog about finally being able to sit down and do some work – but hey, most of the time when I say that it’s true. I tend to go in cycles; get a lot accomplished in a month, then get nothing done the next month, then get a lot done the next, etc.

What’s interesting about the coming month is that not only am I energy-wise moving into the “lots of work” cycle, but the social part of my life is being forcibly calmed down as well. (You can read this as referring to romantic entanglement(s) if you want to, but that’s not the only valid interpretation, and that’s all I’ll say about that.) To put it another way, there definitely won’t be many distractions in the coming month, and not only because nine days of it will be spent at home rather than at school.

Anyway, what Wesnoth/Orbivm character does this remind me of? In a strange way, it makes me think of Konrad, the hero of the original Wesnoth campaign Heir to the Throne. He dithers around for the first several scenarios of the campaign, and only starts focusing on his goal of finding the Scepter of Fire basically after the scenario Princess of Wesnoth, in which he fights Li’sar (whom he eventually marries, but whatever).

Konrad, portrait by Richard 'Jetryl' Kettering

Konrad, portrait by Richard 'Jetryl' Kettering

Hue, Value, Saturation, Mythopoeia

February 21, 2009

Every color can be described with three basic numbers – hue, value, and saturation. The hue is whether the color is red, green, or blue; the value is darkness vs. light; the saturation is how much “color” there is in the color (a really bright red has high saturation; a faint red that’s almost white has low saturation; both of these would have the same hue and value).

Now, when I look at things qualitatively, especially when thinking about mythopoeia, I tend to think of them in terms of colors. For example, in Orbivm, there’s a lot of color imagery – Lavinians=red, Sidhe=green, Marauders=blue, for starters – and that’s all intentional. Somehow those colors just seem to fit with those civilizations.

These are all different hues, clearly, but basically the same value, somewhere around the middle (though there’s some variation). This because good is white and black is evil, traditionally. There’s not really any civilization in Orbivm that could be qualitatively considered as “black” or “white”… they’re just different hues.

There’s a reason for this, I think. If you have one civilization that is pure black and another that is pure white, then their average saturation is zero. So it seems out of place for there to be a red, or green, or blue group; the fantasy world has been cast in terms of black and white, and there’s no room for color.

Which isn’t to say that black and white fantasy is impossible or pointless. The last few short stories I’ve written have been very dichotomous – light versus darkness, and all that. But when you do this it’s necessarily simpler – with only value, you can do much less than with hue, value, and saturation.

What’s hard to do well, I think, is combine light vs. darkness and red v. blue v. green. It requires forcing each civilization, which was originally just red, or blue, or green, without any real moral alignment, to pick a side. What you can’t do, as someone on the Wesnoth forums tried to, is leave the RGB valueless and just add two more groups, one black, one white. Doing so is conflating hue and value; they’re simply different things, and have very different implications for a fantasy world.

Fight!!! (February)

February 1, 2009

I have noticed recently that I often enjoy being enemies with someone more than being friends with them. I don’t mean “enemies” as in we actually detest each other – rather, I mean that, whenever we meet, we are constantly sparring verbally, never being “nice” (which means basically being polite) to each other. Often it’s more fun this way; after all, unless you’re good friends with someone, you don’t get much out of being polite to each other. But arguing with people when neither of you cares about the argument helps you think on your feet, improves your wit, and gives you a thick skin.

I’m afraid others don’t see it this way though; most people avoid confrontation like the plague. So sad. They’re missing out.

The only problem with this is that it can be used too often; there are probably some people I would be better off being civil to than arguing with, but that’s not how it goes down. Perhaps I ought to try being nice every once in a while…

Anyway, what Wesnoth/Orbivm character does this remind me of? Sparxus the Orc, a gladiator. As you may recall, he led one of the first bands of escaped orcs from the Lavinian Coliseums; they wanted to escape so they could fight who they wanted and not fight who they didn’t want to. Sparxus is more civil than most of the orcs, and ends up not really as enthusiastic about gladiatorial combat as some of them – but he still ends up dueling Grarivus, his mortal enemy who he was friends-of-convenience with while they made their escape, once they’ve reached safety. He can’t rise above his orcishness and love of violence.

The part that applies to me should be obvious. I don’t mean to imply I have a love of violence or am an orc, obviously.

(BTW, I do plan to write that post about the purpose of criminal punishments… eventually. Just haven’t had energy and time at the same time yet.)

Resolutions (January)

January 1, 2009

I’ve never really been into New Year’s resolutions. They seem stupid. There’s no reason to wait for the new year to try to improve yourself.

But this year I have some, kinda. I’m going to make some modifications to my social persona – mainly because the new year is between semesters, and it’s easier to change how you interact socially with people suddenly after not seeing them for a while than to gradually do it over the course of a semester. I’m not doing it because it’s the new year, but still, I guess I count as one of the many people making New Year’s resolutions.

This somewhat reminds me of the Orbivm character Vaniyera, the hero of his eponymous Epic and one of the villains in both the Fall of Silvia and Alfhelm the Wise. His life story is, basically, he is young, rash, impetuous, and makes mistakes (sort of), he is assigned to a new teacher, he reforms (sort of), then gets killed by Alfhelm. The basic connection is in the “reforms (sort of)” part. How Vaniyera changes is, well, open to debate, but he definitely does change, and intentionally.

I am also reminded of the Picture of Dorian Gray, and how, near the end, he promises to himself he will reform, but that promise ends up leading to his, uh, I guess suicide. Fun. Maybe you can’t try to reform yourself morally.

And A Possible One

July 14, 2008

This post is, in a way, a sequel to my previous one (“Story Without a Moral“). In that post I said that Orbivm is not meant to have any preset philosophical interpretation; still, I thought it might be interesting to examine one “theory” of Orbis Terrarvm philosophy.

This idea is, one might say, that of “anti-Pelagianism”. Now, Pelagianism was an ancient Christian heresy that said humans could save themselves – they did not need God’s grace or the Resurrection (Christ was just setting a good example for the rest of us). How does this apply to Orbivm? Well, since there is no Christ and no Resurrection in Orbivm, then if Pelagianism is not true then mankind cannot be saved, since he cannot save himself. And I think this is backed up by examples from the history of Orbivm (is that a result of my skewing the history to support this interpretation? maybe).

Basically, it’s clear that the residents of Orbivm can be virtuous in different ways. But they cannot save themselves; this is why all heroes of campaigns are in the end flawed. Caius Regilius goes back to the front to fight a battle he knows is hopeless; Alfhelm lets his wife get killed and loses his kingdom; Vaniyera is consumed by his hatred for humanity in a way that eventually leads to his death; Sparxus thinks that he found freedom, but his “freedom” consists of the ability to kill who he wants to. And it goes on.

Basically, in the end, I don’t think any of the heroes of Orbivm campaigns has reached happiness or salvation or anything like that. And if none of the heroes of the campaigns manage it, how could anyone?

Of course, this poses a problem for those who would like to interpret Orbivm in light of Christianity (which of course is the only reason you would be talking in terms of Pelagianism at all)… namely, if the menn of Orbivm cannot save themselves, how are they to be saved? It seems to me there are two possibilities. One, that there is some sort of salvific event late in the history of Orbivm, after all events outlined in the histories. The problem with this is, what could such an event possibly be? Two, that, even if the menn are fallen and there is no salvific event in history, God could still redeem them without any informed consent on their part (their desire to do good being enough). This latter possibility is of course not really Christian, but it might be that a constructed world can’t really be Christian, since it seems stupid to try to write your own version of the Resurrection story (you couldn’t possibly do it justice – I don’t think Aslan really succeeds in Chronicles of Narnia, if you couldn’t tell), and without some form of Crucifixion and Resurrection it’s not really a Christian universe.

Which means, I suppose, that it’s not really a possible universe. Oh well. I guess the best we can do is to stay somewhat vague on the idea to make sure it’s not explicitly non-Christian, even if it’s not explicitly Christian. Which is what we’re doing so far.

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