adventures in dysthymia

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Recent Poems

Stuff I've written over the past week or so. As ever, not necessarily in final form.

A Start

The painful beauty of sunrise and women,
the ache of dreams unrealized,
has carried me this far. A brushstroke —
cerulean on gold. A start.

Another start. Each clumsy daub,
each faulty word, each sidelong glimpse
of all I hoped, had its beginning.
I tell myself it is enough.

I say life must remain unfinished.
Harsh comfort follows such a truth,
and such a start as I might make,
this day of beauty and of pain.

Stephen Brooke ©2017


Daggers

Tragedy and comedy
share my stage. Let the clown
fight the villain. Let him kiss
all the girls before he exits.
Hidden daggers will be wielded
soon enough. Act Three, I think.

Stephen Brooke ©2017


the horns of Hathor
foretell the advent of Ra
as I too rise

SB 2017


I have rewritten
the first draft of you and me
it still makes no sense

SB 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Knowledgable Castaway

One of the staples of speculative fiction is the ‘modern’ individual thrown into a primitive culture, where he or she wows the natives with advanced knowledge and technology. Well — it used to be a staple. Not so much now, but it’s still around, appearing mostly in not-so-good attempts at fantasy or sci-fi novels. It smacks a bit too much of cultural chauvinism today, maybe.

But we might question whether that individual would actually be able to change the society into which he is thrown. I do think that cultures don’t change until they are ready; a printing press is useless in a world where no one reads, and that goes for pretty much any other advance one might attempt to introduce. It’s a matter of economics, in part. There is also the question of whether our modern individual would actually know how to make any of those items we take for granted.

My own Malvern/Mora books revolve around castaways (vintage 1914) thrown into a less-advanced world. They do introduce a few innovations, it is true, and it is not so much that some of them know how to make things but that they know things can be made. That’s at least half the battle, knowing what the end goal is! One, finding himself in a trade center where all goods are carried about in baskets on people’s backs, decides they need wheelbarrows and experiments — with the backing of the local leader — with developing one. There is little more in the way of modern technology introduced.

On the other hand, there are subtle influences on such practices as archery and fishing. In every case, the Mora people are ready for such things — and they take these things and run with them, creating their own innovations. But they are the ones who know how to do things in their own world; there are going to be no radical differences introduced from outside. There will be no ‘white saviors.’

In related news, I am working on plotting/outlining (and even writing a little) on the third book of the Mora Trilogy (which followed the Malvern Trilogy set in the same world). This one will be called ‘Woman of the Sky’ and focuses on/is narrated by Rahiniti, the titular woman. She has been the common factor of the trilogy, but was a secondary character in the first two novels. Now she moves to center stage to complete the sequence.

There may be more Mora novels down the line, maybe another trilogy, but that is way down the to-do list. Lots of other books need my attention first!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Evil Character

The most evil literary character ever created might by the demon-possessed Weston in C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra.” It can be useful to remember the ‘banality of evil’ but Lewis points out its emptiness. Weston — who is truly Satan — is utterly empty.

Evil, of itself, Lewis shows to have absolutely nothing attractive about it. It can make itself so only by borrowing from that which is good, twisting it to its own purposes. Weston is filled with emptiness,* so to speak, a nihilistic hatred of all that exists. One could not create a truly human character like that and have it seem plausible. No one alive is quite that far gone.

But there is something of it in every villain. Every hero too, for that matter — let’s not get into that right now. This is where that banality stems from; there is no grandeur to evil, of itself. It may clothe itself in many ways, trick us into mistaking it for the good, but there is nothing underneath. It spoils what is, makes it mean, tawdry, ugly.

This is, I believe, what we must remember in creating our characters. If there is anything attractive about an ‘evil’ character, a villain, it comes from the good in him or her. This is why Weston is totally unattractive. I have written some fairly despicable sorts into my books but there is always at least a glimmer of some redeeming quality. Lord Radal (in the ‘Donzalo’ novels) might serve the dark gods but he loves his daughter, and many of his ill-considered actions stem from that. His henchman Sojel is about as bad as they get, a sadist, a murderer, a rapist, but he is loyal and has a certain pride in his ‘work.’

I suppose the ‘Wizard-Lord’ introduced in my upcoming fantasy novel ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ (out in Jan 2018) is about as far as one can go with an evil individual. I have made sure to point out that he is quite insane, so there is a little more leeway in dealing with his humanity (what is left of it). That is, incidentally, a bit of a trade hazard for wizards, who are sometimes overwhelmed by the vast infiniverse they are capable of glimpsing. Yeah, that’s a useful bit of world-building I’ve employed more than once in plot creation.

Obviously, I believe in good and evil. Not every antagonist is evil, of course, or no more than the rest of us. Some simply want something different from the protagonist. The antagonist can even be morally superior to our hero. But evil exists and so do evil individuals. Recognizing this and the nature of evil will aid us in creating our characters.

Finally, recognize that there is dynamic of good and evil. People change, succeeding at times, failing at others. Some repent, some don’t. Some are redeemed, others are lost. They remain human. Unlike Weston.


*I’ve used that phrase in one of my own books. Maybe more than one.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fantasy Continuum

Just for the halibut, I made up a little infographic-y thing about my fantasy novels.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

By the Tracks, a poem

By the Tracks

Whether the trains were moving east or west
did not matter; they woke me in the night,
there in her house by the tracks. The rent was low

and that was good enough. That and the pool

where we sometimes skinny-dipped.
East or west — or was it north and south?

Let me orient myself here. Yes, east and west,
parallel to Highway 84, there on the outskirts
of Thomasville. It’s been a dozen years

and memories are a patchwork now, bits sewn
together to make a new picture every time.
When they woke me and I could not sleep again

I wrote and sometimes it was good
and sometimes I threw the pages out, come morning.
She moved on and I moved on, but the trains,

I suspect, still pass by each night and wake
whoever lives in the guesthouse by the tracks
where rent was cheap. And there was a pool.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Addendum, Mon Oct 16: a couple days later, I saw various changes needed to be made - most of what I post here is early draft and often sees revision

By the Tracks

Whether the trains were moving east or west
did not matter; they woke me in the night,
there in her house by the tracks. The rent was low
and that was good enough. That and the pool

where we sometimes skinny-dipped.
East or west — or was it north and south?
Let me orient myself here. Yes, east and west,
parallel to Highway 84, right on the outskirts

of Thomasville. It’s been a dozen years
and memories are a patchwork now, bits sewn
together to make a new picture every time.
A rumble in the dark; it would pass

as all things are said to do and maybe
that is so. When I could not sleep again,
I wrote and sometimes it was good
and sometimes I threw the pages out, come morning.

She moved on and I moved on, but the trains,
I suspect, still pass by each night and wake
whoever lives in the guesthouse by the tracks
where rent was cheap. And there was a pool.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An Extra Novel

After claiming I was not going to insert another novel between the projected second and third books of the Mora Trilogy, I am going ahead and doing just that. This will follow the recently published ARROWS OF HEAVEN and almost certainly be titled WOMAN OF THE SKY.

So does the fantasy trilogy become a tetralogy (or quartet or quadrilogy or whatever term one prefers)? No. I recognized that the original third novel, WARRIOR OF THE MOON, is the start of a new sequence. The action takes place a decade and an half later than the end of these Mora books, and features the son of our protagonist in the original Malvern Trilogy, which the Mora Trilogy follows. There might or might not be more novels following it; we’ll have to see about that.

Am I working on WOMAN? Well, I’m making notes and plotting and outlining and all of that. I may start on the narrative or I may let that wait while I finish some other projects. I am supposed to be busy with my third Cully Beach contemporary crime novel (to be titled SMOKE). And I might even try having a life one of these days! :)

Monday, October 02, 2017

High and Low

I do not write ‘low fantasy.’ That is, fantasy that is set in more-or-less our ‘real’ world, into which fantasy elements intrude (which is something a bit different from ‘magic realism,’ which is actually surrealism, not fantasy). The familiar tales of werewolves or vampires are part of the long tradition of low fantasy.

On the other hand, Tolkien wrote high fantasy. The stories are set in their own world, with its own rules. The popular ‘Game of Thrones’ series is, as well. Both high and low fantasy have long traditions and, not surprisingly, the border between them is sometimes blurred.

Roger Zelazny’s ‘Amber’ novels are an example of essentially high fantasy that impinges on our own world in a low fantasy manner. In that the underlying cosmology of the Amber ‘universe’ (of which our own universe is only one among a possibly infinite number of variations) is fully realized, it has to go into the high fantasy category.

The bulk of my own fantasies follow a rather similar pattern. The Malvern tales start in our own world, amid familiar events, but enters another realm with different rules. Somewhat different, anyway. This world of ours is always a part of the larger ‘infiniverse.’ Whether I will ever actually set a tale here is questionable — and I’m not sure whether that would be high or low fantasy!

I honestly have a problem with the basic premise of much low fantasy – that there are hidden things in our own world, magical beings or what have you. It bends logic and science. Fantasy must be believable. Alternative worlds with their own logical sets of rules allow that desirable ‘suspension of disbelief’ we need. I take care never to break those rules, once I have created them.

This does not mean everything is thoroughly explained (though I, the author, might know the reasons for things). Nor would the characters necessarily be knowledgeable of why things work as they do — ‘magic’ might be largely an empirical science. But it is an integral part of their world, an alternate world to this one.

The basic premise of the whole world of my fantasies (and they are all interrelated) is that, among the infinite possible worlds, magic is easier in some than in others. Why the differences exist is somewhat explained here and there in the novels; no need to get into it here in any detail, but it is largely about how closed off one world is from the others (ours being very much so). This is part of the basic design of each universe — with infinite possible worlds, some will be so and some won’t. Or, more properly, an infinite number will be and an infinite number won’t.

So I have an extremely large canvas on which to paint my high fantasies. Will I ever bring any of it back to our own world? I suppose it is possible — and of course I have jotted down ideas from time to time. There is something to be said for bringing the familiar into ones stories, for creating a connection to our own mundane lives. I have only done that so far in the aforementioned Malvern books but there is no reason not to explore it — if, someday, I find a reason.