February 12th, 2008

coyote, furry

Returning to Ranea

While I’ve been lax in updating again, I’m going to blame (with some justification, I’d argue) the flu of doom that I’ve been suffering. Truth to tell it’s not a very high level of doom, but in some ways that’s made it more irritating: instead of a few days of abject misery followed by recovery, it’s just been an ongoing lingering cough and low energy.

This has put the kibosh on a lot of “what I’d like to be doing” plans over the last couple of weeks; it kind of sucks to be inspired to finally get going on projects and then find yourself completely unable to work on any of them. Even so, one long-standing idea has been pulled out of mothballs, and has actually had a little progress made already.

About (glark) eighteen years ago I wrote a fantasy novella entitled “A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood,” which was—at least in certain circles—wildly popular and still has fans to this day. Since it technicaly remained in print up until just a few years ago, I’ve resisted the idea of putting it into a collection, but I’ve decided that YARF! is pretty much dead to the world. At the convention, I talked with a publisher about the idea of producing a new edition.

This of course leads to the question of whether to revise the story. While there’s something to be said for not mucking with success, the truth is that a lot of people either haven’t read the original version of the story—or haven’t read it in a long time—and together with its sequel story, “The Lighthouse,” there’s basically a novel-length narrative that could probably be strengthened by, well, treating it like a novel. (Looking back, there are things that were added to the story’s “mythology” in later bits that should really have been mentioned. Most obvious so far: one of the main characters belongs to a race which has a name—Derysi—in a later story, yet is never given in the fifty thousand words of the two novellas.)

So. I’ve actually already started. I have about three thousand words written on the new incarnation of “Gift of Fire,” which comprise the first two scenes—the first one a rewrite of the original first scene, an the second one a scene that was referenced but not shown before. (Funny how show, don’t tell actually works in practice.)

Deciding what to do with “Lighthouse” will be harder; while “Gift of Fire” is written in canonical third-person, past-tense from Mika’s point of view, “Lighthouse” is written in first-person present tense, virtually stream of consciousness, from Revar’s point of view. That seemed like a great idea at the time but I’m not sure whether to retool it—still from Revar’s point of view, but back to third-person, past-tense—this time through. The argument against doing that is that, well, it works in the current incarnation, mostly; the argument for doing it is that to make this all work as a novel, I’m going to have to give Mika more to do in the second half beyond just showing up at the end, and it may be easier to do that if I can switch between the two characters’ points of views. (If you’ve read the two, you know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, I don’t think I’ve given much away.)

Even so, it’s already been fun to revisit the characters, and the world. This time I’m trying to assume that readers have no familiarity with the world the story’s set in—an assumption that wasn’t necessarily true back in 1990. (Yes, in the early days of the fandom, my stories were actually that well known. Scary, huh?) This actually adds to the fun; I get to re-examine the assumptions I made in the world in the first place, quietly disposing of things I no longer like, and seeing if I can bring out things that, if I’m honest, existed more in world-building notes than in the actual stories themselves. Something that should inform the whole world, for instance, is the idea that magicians are basically Ranea’s equivalent of engineers, fashioning devices that are used in everyday life by normal people—but we don’t see that in practice nearly enough.

I’ve been playing around with my working habits, too, for this project, and as I get energy back I’ll hopefully be able to put more of that into practice. But that’s for another post.