The Hills Remember

Check it. I posted a one-shot story on the Paradox forums: The Hills Remember.

Please consider that I write these usually in one sitting and they represent mostly practice for me. There are likely mistakes and it likely comes to a quick end because it is nearly 9 and I haven’t eaten or showered yet.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve added my wife’s website to the top bar. Please check out her stuff. She works a lot harder than I do and deserves some love.

Sláinte, bitches.

Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton?

Language has been on my mind a lot. I’ve recently taken to a website to try to finally buckle down and learn Irish Gaelic. While I have a good foundation on the language, it is only a foundation and I want to move up with that. Gaelic, to me, represents some small connection to a past long before I was alive. The Celtic languages are of particular interest to me. They seem so foreign and yet so familiar to me as a speaker of other Indo-European languages.  I love what I know about them so I push on.

But this isn’t a post about Gaelic. It is a post ostensibly about another language close to my heart. It is about a strange connection I made at my first job out of college. And then I’ll wrap up with some more stuff about my book.

Let me set the stage.

We all knew we were going to get let go. It wasn’t a question of if, but when. The office was getting tense. The big-wigs got their raises and bonuses but many of the supervising engineers did not and everyone knew something wasn’t right. Every week we had a meeting that could be summed up as: “You aren’t getting laid off, everything is fine. Promise.”

Our company had fucked up big in another division and the whole place was hurting. Apparently someone really burned a bridge with a major client – a client my job security rested on. I only found this out later.

One day, when avoiding my desk for fear of my idle web surfing  attracting attention (there was literally zero work), I headed into the kitchenette to make some tea and perhaps steal a few more cookies or something before we got the boot. Walking in I found an older co-worker sitting down and quietly contemplating life after work.

He was very well accredited. A PhD level programmer and aeronautical engineer. But he was much older than most (my guess in his 60s) and his English wasn’t great. He spoke with a very thick Russian accent and stuttered as he tried to translate everything from the language he thought in to the language we all spoke.

I asked, expecting a simple answer like “Moscow” or “Leningrad,” where in Russia he had been born. He said he had been born and raised on the Kamchatka Peninsula, far from anything most westerners would deem “civilization.” I chuckled and said as much. He agreed, and rambled something I only half-understood and now is lost to me.

He asked, perhaps realizing the trouble I was having, if I spoke anything besides English. I told him, in my awful half-Swabian dialect that I spoke German and as a joke I added:

Mi parolas Esperanton. 

Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? was his surprising retort.

Jes. 

Kafo?

Ne, me havas tason de teo. 

Esperanto was always a curiosity for me. Simple, effective; it embodied many of the beliefs of a young man. It was a language for everyone and yet I had never met another Esperantist before. I had and still have met many detractors of Esperanto. Some, like my wife, see it merely as a simplistic conlang, lacking anything that makes a language natural or interesting. Others, like a co-worker I spoke to a week or two ago, it represented some over-arching communist or “academic” attempt to dismember western civilization.

Yet, for a brief moment a few days before we were all let go, I and a co-worker held a brief conversation in Esperanto (likely one of a few outside of Esperanto conventions and meetings). For a few minutes we were once again Esperantistoj – those who hope.

See, every language has an endonym . And every endonym has a meaning, though it might be buried deep in the history of a language.

The English are the Angelcynn – Kin of the Narrows

Esperanto in Esperanto means “one who hopes.” It comes from esperi – to hope. To many Esperantists it is more than a language – it is a hope of a more united and understanding world.

Maybe that day we were hoping that a week from then we’d still be in the office. We’d still be able to having little conversations in our shared love of a dreamed-up language.

It was not to come to pass. We were let go and dispersed to the winds. It was August of 2013. During the free time I had I started writing what will become my first novel (hopefully in only a few short months). Language plays a roll, sort of in the background, between the characters. They live in a world where language matters. A language defines what a person can or cannot do, and who they can or cannot be.

Though all dialogue is written through the veil of English (as I have neither the time nor the effort to devise several conlangs for each to feature briefly or uselessly), I do try to make sure it is in languages that suit the character’s station and place. Languages either build bridges or barriers.

They can mark someone as part of the tribe, or outside it. And using one other than your mother tongue can imply servitude, defeat, education, or worldliness.

So when you have some time tomorrow think about that. What does the ability to speak English and have it spoken all around you mean both in a personal and historical context? Were you born into it? Did you adopt it for convenience or to get an education? Was it forced on you? Was the alternative to live in poverty?  Does it empower you to chase your dreams?

Those shouldn’t be easy questions to answer, even for native speakers. Because once it was considered low to speak English. The educated spoke French or Latin. Are you okay with English’s status because you were lucky enough to speak it natively?

A tale of two co-workers: one who shared the dream of L L Zamenhof and one who thought that languages lived and died purely out of usefulness’ sake.

And if you are a writer brought here by my tenuous-at-best use of the #amwriting tags, what does the language or languages your characters speak say about them? If the whole world speaks one language, why? What killed the teeming thousands of languages once spoken? Market capitalism? Socialistic unity? Feudal oppression? Or did language simply resist the natural tendency to evolve?

Lastly, December 15th is Zamenhof Day. I ask that you consider, even for a brief moment, getting on Google and learning a few phrases in Esperanto. You never know when it might crop up. 800px-Vestaĵoj_MalnovajOld Clothes 

Or what other hoping people you might run into. Ĝis revido!

“Ni konsciu bone la tutan gravecon de la hodiaŭa tago, ĉar hodiaŭ inter la gastamaj muroj de Bulonjo-sur-Maro kunvenis ne francoj kun angloj, ne rusoj kun poloj, sed homoj kun homoj.”

“We should be well aware of the full importance of this day, because today, within the welcoming walls of Boulogne-sur-Mer, there meet not Frenchmen with Englishmen, not Russians with Poles, but people with people.”

  • Ludoviko Lazaro Zamenhof, 5th of August, 1905 to the First World Conference of Esperanto in France.

 

Rut

The rut continues. I was really hoping to put this week off to good use and get a lot written. In nine day’s I’ve written like 300-ish words.

Probably going to take tonight off. Hopefully have something for the blag tomorrow (I wrote and deleted two or three posts already).

Ugh.

Cartography

Been doing a lot of book stuff but very little involved writing. Mostly been working on my maps.

Brigid once pointed out another blog post to me where someone had written a piece on the sins of fantasy writers. One of the points made was essentially “Maps were Tolkien’s thing. You aren’t Tolkien. Ergo, don’t do Tolkien’s thing.”

I have several problems with this.

First. I love maps. So fuck you, random internet person.

Fuckyouzard

Second. Their entire piece was “No one is as good as Tolkien” copy-pasted until it was slightly shorter than War and Peace, which is admittedly shallow-minded and also debatable at its core.

Third. Seriously, who died and made them king of fantasy? Fuck you random internet person who I can’t bother looking up.

Maps and fantasy go hand-in-hand. Our world has maps, why wouldn’t a fantasy world? Maps are a great window into the human condition. From racial segregation, to the pride of nations. From isolated languages, to internet traffic in every corner of the world. Maps convey history, science, sociology, greed, adventure, stupidity, and the power to unite. A map can show the lines than humans have drawn over centuries of bloodshed, or in an instant erase them completely and show us as fleas on the side of an elephant.

A map in the first few pages of a novel might have trouble showing that sort of emotion. Without an known history, a history linked to who we are, a map might fall a little flat. Someone from Poland is going to see their western border in a very different way then the border between North and South Korea. Even if they were too young to experience either of the wars that set them.

It is the job of an author to make people care about the little map at the beginning. Whether it is of a continent, or a single mountain by a lake.

But, in a more pragmatic way, a map is a great way to show scale to a reader. Without context a hike from New York to Chicago can be five miles, fifty miles, five hundred miles. We know that it is a long way to hike. But we know that through experience and from looking at it on a map.

I think that if you are going to drop enough place names – actual, proper place names like “Main Street” or “Edinburgh” or “Poland” – it is important to use a map. ‘Enough,’ of course, is the key word. Use your brain, I can’t do it for you. But if a character just walks from “home” to “the grocer” and distance isn’t important, yeah leave the map on the desk.

Hmmm, I’m think about that urban sort of setting. Can a map help?

Eh… I won’t say no. I love maps.

Just -and this is a  general complaint about naming places- put some thought into your names. I read the first book of the Codex Alera series by the well-known Jim Butcher. The map drove me crazy because I recognized several of the place names and it took me out of “fantasy” world and put me more in the mind set of “this person apparently assumes I’ve never cracked open a history book ever.”

That is definitely something I’d avoid. Given that series was based on a challenge given to him to write something based off two “lame” ideas given by someone on the internet, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if some of the place names were after-thoughts. Still. “Aquitaine” is totally a place in France. Still is. Hard to think of it in a world of magic but that is totally a personal complaint; not bashing on Mr. Butcher.

Also, to the (other) guy on the internet who thinks Pokémon and the “Lost Legion” trope are lame.

Fuckyouzard

As a game Pokémon is a lot of fun. If it is “lame” because it lacks depth or complexity, I’d say you are wrong (look up competitive builds and you’ll get the depth to the engine) and also having a less linear story/game-play is great for that an RPG. Wish they’d stop trying to shoe-horn their shitty writing into it.

The lost legion trope is fun, I wish they’d stop doing it with Legio Nona Hispana, that story is played-out. Honor and soldiery tropes, there is a lot to do there and a lot of things you can do to make it unique. Plus the idea of a larger, vastly superior force being ground to paste by a smaller, native population has some great historical baggage to bring along with it.

As subtle as a brick through a store window.

Game Day

Newcastle plays today.

We have some good form behind us after months of suffering. Today’s opponent is QPR, one of the worst in the league. A month ago they were ahead of us, today they are half a table behind. We have a good chance today to push forward, though many of my fellow toons are worried. It wouldn’t be unlike Newcastle to lose this one.

Kendal Town plays today as well. They are already one up on their opponents.

Detroit City’s season is a far off tropical island, its alluring and sunny shores calling gently to me through the wind and ice.

Game day is one of the  few times I completely block off from any writing. During the DCFC season that might mean not writing all day. I spend all day in downtown drinking, reveling, partying, and supporting.

But in the midst of winter, when my beloved magpies play, things are different. As of writing we are in the 37th minute, 0-0, though we’ve had plenty of good chances. Something has to break eventually. Hopefully in our advantage. Since I don’t live in England, I don’t go to Newcastle games. I might comment and commiserate on /r/NUFC and that is about it. I’ll chance that eventually.

There are Newcastle fans in Detroit. I’ve met  a few through DCFC, including one of the fan-favorite players: Dave Edwardson, who is a Newcastle native.  Unlike clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and the Manchesters; there really aren’t Newcastle watch parties in the USA. There aren’t more than a handful of us in any given city.

2 minutes of stoppage.

As I sit here, not writing in my book but writing here and watching the Newcastle game, I think about travelling to Newcastle next year and catching a game in St. James.

Half-time in Newcastle, all tied up 0-0.

On an only tangentially related note I should learn Arabic. That way I could understand the commentators on this stream. I’ll add it to the list after Hindi, Farsi, and Urdu so I can understand the other engineers at work.

Half-time in Kendal Town, all tied up 1-1.

Going to call it quits for a while. Writing resumes after the game. This is my little sports break for the week. I can’t spend all my time working.

Sláinte.

Reread Your Work

Been writing this morning. I fell about a thousand words short of my goal last night but some things came up that couldn’t be avoided as easily as Facebook.

Decided to try to make a made scramble to catch up today. Am I going to make it? Maybe. Not that I care. All my deadlines are artificial constructs of my own mind.

So, in a pause between chapters I decided to re-read one of my previous chapters to reset my tone and consistency. I do this a lot. I love to reread my work. I specifically write what I want to read. I don’t read a lot. A book or two a year is pushing it for me. I was barely able to drag myself through high school “English” (read: “Reading”). There is only so many times I could read a book I hated and write a five-paragraph BS essay every few chapters.

I’ll bitch about fivers later.

So I lost a lot of interest in reading because to me it was all associated with the pain of over-analysis. Nothing is fun to read if some mad-woman is stopping you every few lines to ask you what it means and why it was done that way. I don’t know bitch, maybe he was being paid by the word and all those words contribute to a higher pay cheque. (Pro-tip: never suggest to your English teacher that Nathaniel Hawthorne was being paid by the word.)

This led to the golden-age of my childhood writing. I was writing the equivalent to a novel every year or so. That is a lot for a kid. I’d hardly finish what I’d start, writing a third of a novel and moving onto the next third. I did this for five years (counting the first year of middle school) until I went off to college, by which time I had started my serial publishing.

Everything I write, including this, will be read and reread countless times by me. I write what I want to read and so I get great enjoyment out of rereading my stuff over and over again.

Echo_and_Narcissus

The comparison is inevitable.

After I finished a bit of rereading I checked twitter and got the following tweet on my feed:

I’m sorry. I completely disagree. If it said “editing” I’d still disagree but to a much lesser degree. What you need to avoid is over-analyzing everything you do. Reread all you want. Get back into your character’s heads, remember what motivates them, what they were trying to accomplish right before you stopped. Reread your favorite bits because it can inspire you to keep going.

Yes it is a first draft, yes you can change anything later. But it is later. Changing a piece because the necessary change is on your mind is important. Don’t let that idea fade. Act on it. If you characters are in a pickle because of some stupid choice last chapter, change it. Don’t “wait until the editor gets to it.” Do it now. Your editor isn’t your ghost writer.

Reread your work, it isn’t a bogey man hiding in the dark. It is a creation that requires attention. And no attention is more important than yours. Just don’t write fivers every few pages.

I Guess I am an Author?

Well, maybe I am in the midst of becoming an author. I’ve been doing a lot of writing this last two years. I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) in the past, successfully completing it in 2012. But while I like the idea behind NaNo, I was turned off to the organization when I saw that an editor’s choice link to the forums included ways to essentially cheat yourself out of what NaNo is really about to me: getting experience.

The suggestions, right out of the gate in this editor’s choice thread included: giving characters long titles and having them introduced a lot so you can repeat the title. Having a character who is hard of hearing so he can ask other characters to repeat themselves and then actually repeat themselves. The best was to have a character sing a popular song, and then include the lyrics.

Other than being a huge waste of your time and that last one might actually be illegal if you choose to move to publishing, what did it matter? They were missing the point. Other suggestions included striking through unused or edited text but not deleting it, which I guess is half fair, but it is still only you who is losing. Don’t be a dick. Don’t cheat at NaNo. If you want the stupid PDF at the end just lie and say you wrote 50k words and collect.

Anyway… End  rant and a bit of history.

I’ve been writing for years now. It started when I was 12, really poorly written completely incoherent messes that were based off page counts and not word counts but I generally enjoyed. At my heyday I probably spent at least two hours a day writing after school. It was something I looked forward to.

Fast forward  and I eventually found myself at the Paradox Interactive Forums, specifically the AAR section. AARs are essentially fanfiction about a game for all intents and purposes. Most are sort of like tutorials on how to play or how a specific person plays. But there was a core of us who focused on alternative methods: narrative and history book. I did a lot of writing there, including a rather ambitious project called Báltikjá which was going to cover roughly a thousand years of alternate history.

In it, the Saxons of Northern England flee before William the Conqueror could begin the Harrying of the North and head east into the Baltic. They settle in what is today the Kaliningrad Oblast and eventually expanding to create a massive medieval  empire, which promptly collapses in civil war.

I got well into the 1300s, maybe even the 1400s, but had the whole history plotted out through 2022. I still have all my notes, flags, maps, symbols, everything really. I went as far as creating a conlang that was part Old English, part Latvian, and part just a lot of fun. I was very proud of it. But I was getting busy with college and after so many years it just wasn’t fun to write anymore.

Part of that was because the medium: the serial format and the ages and ages of samey go-nowhere posts got boring to me and I think it got boring to my readers. I tried to keep things interesting. Tried to introduce arcs, but in the end the story was just too slow and I grew to loathe my time spent writing it.

I posted an apology, posted a general timeline of all the cool history bits I hadn’t gotten to yet. And moved on.

Later that year, I think, is when I did NaNo and was able to get something like 50,030 words out in just the nick of time. It was a lot of good experience. I enjoyed it. I still poke around at the characters I wrote, but that was a notes in a sketch pad to me. It will never see the light of day. Not because it is “bad” or because I am ashamed, but the purpose was to see if I still wanted to write, and I did.

In August of 2013, after being laid off, I sat down and opened Microsoft Word. I wasn’t too worried about being laid off. I mean, engineer, in Detroit, already hearing back from recruiters. But I did have some free time thrust upon me so I took at it with new life. There was a piece I started when I was about fifteen or sixteen. It can be hard to tell. It was a dark fantasy and involved a normal Gary Stu finding his vampire Mary Sue and them banging and eventually becoming King and Queen. Did I mention I was fifteen or sixteen?

There were a few things I liked about it though. I liked the setting. I like the idea of a nation-state run by vampires in a world otherwise inhabited by moral peoples. I like the pseudo-medieval, light magic, big world feel. I like the way an immortal character and a mortal character might interact. So, essentially stealing my opening lines I began…

More than a year later, after three job switches, a move, a dead car, two new cars, plenty of soccer, getting on twitter, making this site, so much more… I am much further along. This series WILL get published, it is just a matter of when, not if. Book 1 Mark 2 is in the hands of some first readers. Once I upgrade to Mark 3 it will go to copy editing and then will probably make some rounds with publishers or maybe just get self-published.

I am very pleased with my progress so far. The balance of work, life, video games, DCFC, and writing has been hard but manageable. And enjoyable. I have been very happy to once again be at the helm of something like this. My character have been making me happy and though Book 2 has gone through the first of its rough spots, I am certain I shall see it to the end. And then the next one. And the next one. Because trilogies is so 80s. Now it is all about the Quadrilogies.

Sláinte!

Becoming an Icon

I mentioned some sports (I also mentioned being a writer but that can wait) and I want to talk some sports. Specifically I want to talk about becoming an icon of a city.

Now there is already a great blog specifically on Detroit City from a supporter’s view, it is called Boys in Rouge and I highly recommend it to those interested in the growth and soul behind our great team. I also recommend it if you want opinion and well-researched facts. This is a place for opinion.

I want you to read this tweet and then I’ll give you some background.

The Apostolopoulos family is a Toronto-based group that owns a lot of property in Metro Detroit, top of the list is the Silverdome (a complete wreck of a building in Pontiac) and also the State Savings Bank, a historic building in downtown. They are also the number one advocate for bringing MLS (Major League Soccer) to Detroit. Paints it in a different light, eh? DCFC knows its supporters have its back. It sees many of them calling out the Apostolopouloses on their bullshit attempts to both “invest” in Detroit while simultaneously trying to tear it down. There is no fear there. Detroit City looked a potential investor in the face and burned that bridge so readily, so quickly, and so fearlessly I can’t really help but be very proud. Detroit isn’t some dime-an-hour hooker to be partitioned and sold, no matter what Lansing or people like the Apostolopouloses want to believe. It is our city.

I can already hear some of you getting ready to rebuke me. Tell me about business plans and how all investors are alike and how teams should shut up and just play sports.

Fuck you.

That is the wrong attitude. That is the attitude that lets racist bullshit like the Redskins and Cleveland Indians exist into 2014. A team isn’t supposed to be just a business venture. It is supposed to be a little piece of a city’s soul, stitched together like a quilt made from those who wake up early, don their colors, drag their friends and family, and stand in the smoke and fire of the game.

Detroit City has done so much right. So much. They put vets back on their feet. They support our schools. They were proud to support LGBT teens in our city and wear kits donned with rainbows against a foe known for using homophobic language. And when people would tear down our city and our history they stood up in a small way with a picture of Jerry Seinfeld.

Because it isn’t about appeasing every investor – bending down a licking the hand that might feed. It is about that little slice of the city that is your soul. That’s why when Detroit City goes out onto a field they are marked by the Spirit of Detroit. Because if not them, then who? Certainly not the Wings, Lions, Tigers, or Pistons. They need fucks like the Apostolopouloses to sit in their court-side seats while the real fans can hardly afford the nose-bleeds.

And we are okay with that. We as Americans are okay with the idea that fans should shut up, sit down, golf clap when the jumbotron says so, and if you so much as think about doing anything more than the wave then the polite gentlemen with the badges and guns will show you to the door.

Why is that good? Why is what we have bad. Pro-tip. It isn’t. People will keep telling themselves that it is bad. Bad for a team to embody more than a business professionalism. Bad for supporters to chant and sing. Bad for people to stand. Bad for drums and coarse language. Bad to set off smoke after goals. Bad to tetris and bad to leave with no voice.

Bad to be an icon.

Well it isn’t. And the fucking line has been drawn. Detroit City Football Club isn’t becoming an icon, it is an icon.

 

Edit:
Detroit City still has its claws out, apparently: