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bear by san

March 2017

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writing literature vonnegut asshole

ain't misbehaving...

Actually, I sort of am. I've written a couple of pages on the novelette that's due on the 15th--working title "And the Balance in Blood," and they're scattershot and not yet well organized, but I like them. I have the setup and the protagonist and the conceit. I'm poking around looking for the conflict and arc, is all.

I am also working in The Stone in the Skull. And I'm at that point in the process we might refer to as Rallying Our Influences.

And I'm struggling with a desire to channel/parody the likes of Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard as I start actually writing. I've been poking at the opening paragraph tonight, that potent anchor by which the whole trilogy depends. I definitely want that pulpy sense of adventure, and I admit, there are attractions to passages like:

Evagh the warlock, dwelling beside the boreal sea, was aware of many strange and untimely portents in mid-summer. Frorely burned the sun above Mhu Thulan from a welkin clear and wannish as ice. At eve the aurora was hung from zenith to earth, like an arras in a high chamber of gods. Wan and rare were the poppies and small the anemones in the cliff-sequestered vales lying behind the house of Evagh; and the fruits in his walled garden were pale of rind and green at the core. Also, he beheld by day the unseasonable flight of great multitudes of fowl, going southward from the hidden isles beyond Mhu Thulan; and by night he heard the distressful clamor of other passing multitudes. And always, in the loud wind and crying surf, he harkened to the weird whisper of voices from realms of perennial winter.

(
Clark Ashton Smith, "The Coming of the White Worm")

and

KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen- eyed,sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

(Robert E. Howard, "The Phoenix on the Sword").

Attractions, sure. But... well, let's just say, it's not exactly a contemporary voice.

So my goal in life is to find a happy medium between that and the opening of John Bellairs' The Face in the Frost, which is one of my favorite bits of writing ever:

Several centuries (or so) ago, in a country whose name doesn’t matter, there was a tall, skinny, straggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you are thinking of, either. He lived in a huge, ridiculous, doodad-covered, trash-filled two-story horror of a house that stumbled, staggered, and dribbled right up to the edge of a great shadowy forest of elms and oaks and maples. It was a house whose gutter spouts were worked in the shape of whistling sphinxes and screaming bearded faces; a house whose white wooden porch was decorated with carved bears, monkeys, toads, and fat women in togas holding sheaves of grain; a house whose steep gray-slate roof was capped with a glass-enclosed, twisty-copper-columned observatory. On the artichoke dome of the observatory was a weather-vane shaped like a dancing hippopotamus; as the wind changed, it blew through the nostrils of the hippo’s hollow head, making a whiny snarfling sound that fortunately could not be heard unless you were up on the roof fixing slates.

Comments

"The Face in the Frost" rings a faint bell, but I'm sure I've never read it. This is a shocking gap in my education.
All I can say is rah! rah! and I wave pom-poms excitedly.
Seeing the first two together is kind of amazing. Moreso, the window on your thought process. This is very interesting sausage.

I love Bellairs.
Reading Clark Ashton Smith is like getting a vocabulary lesson every time.

But yeah, you can really see how the style works when you pile several of them up together. These guys could actually write, unlike a lot of their imitators--and the purple style has a certain turgid majesty. (Structure in the fantasy story was still a developing thing. Basically all Conan does in "The Phoenix on the Sword" is show up and receive a little divine grace.

Thoth-ammon does a lot more protagging.

two spittakes in one paragraph. Now I really want you to name something "a certain turgid majesty." Even if that's its secret name.
Now I’m wondering if I can run a pulp fantasy game where kindly, eccentric witches and wizards can plausibly tip over the jeweled thrones of tyrants... I may have to go on a reading binge to see if a campaign precipitates out.
Hasn't there been a Discworld RPG setting or three done?
There are a couple of Discworld supplements for GURPS, and Discworld was where my mind went first when considering this. While Discworld is a delightful parody, I was thinking about playing it straight: could I make it plausible for the tropes of the fantasy of manners to triumph over the tropes of pulp sword and sorcery?
Wow, seeing Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard together, it's clear why Howard is better-known. After struggling through the former, the latter came as a breath of fresh air.
The Monday before last I passed REH's birthplace and home in Cross Plains, but I was going about 70 mph and didn't see much. I'm going back though, when I can stop and smell the proses.