So, the story I didn’t want to write hasn’t gone away yet, and it still feels like world-building for it is one of the hardest, slowest things I’ve had to do for a Very Long Time.
So far: it’s an epic fantasy about the power of belief. Wow, which sounds…completely the opposite of what I mean. Because when most people say something like that, they mean, “Faith will save us all! Put your faith in XXX!!!” and it turns into a big preach-fest. Some things that I’ve loved that went into my idea were John Scalzi’s The God Engines, where faith has power but can kill; the Thomas Covenant books, where a lack of belief can be a survival trait (if, admittedly, an ugly one); the Mistborn Trilogy, where the good faith of the characters usually made things much, much worse (but had to be done).
A few things that I know:
- The name of the “home” country is Jerradyn, named after the scout who first “found” the place.
- Some of the history, mostly that of the gods.
- The main character, who’s named Grist and likes to say things just to piss people off.
- That the world is flat, but not one-sided; it’s called the Coin, with Jerradyn on the “new” side, the Reverse.
- That good storytelling can create a temporary, phantom image of the world, an eidolon.
I know more than that, but I can’t say all of it. That would just be silly.
The official story about the gods, by the way, is that the One God existed for all time, and that the One God of the East and the One God of the West are just other aspects of the One God, duh.
But there’s a second story, that the three One Gods are brothers, sons of the Creator, who, having birthed the world, moved on to create other things: She was a busy woman, after all. The inhabitants of the Coin can never get to those other worlds. Also, the One Gods have names that they only share among themselves.
–Oh, but I forgot to mention that there’s more than just the One God; there are helper gods, demigods that embody this or that particular thing, and people tend to ally themselves with one or another of them, which gives them certain advantages, usually related to their occupation. And, if you were to go out for beers with one of those gods and ask them what the real story is, they would admit that they have no idea what the truth of the matter is, only that belief has a demonstrable power, and that they have never seen any evidence of a Creator god, but that the One God certainly exists. Probably.
Grist, who starts out as this torn-up skinny shit with anger issues related to failing as a mage, tells people, not that anyone asks, that the world is a pimple on the Creators ass (that is, on Her fundament), or that everyone is trapped in a long, convoluted story told over a game of dice, or that the inhabitants of the Coin are the descendants of a better, worthier world, that have been kicked out for being useless twats. That seems to be Grist for you.
I have this feeling, when I’m building things for stories, that you’ve found a good piece of the story when it clicks and you start spawning sub-stories off it. The story behind the One God (not telling) was one piece; the different cosmological stories and Grist’s addition to the canon was another.
Speaking of stories…
Right now, I’m just finishing up The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, by Laura Miller. It’s such a relief to hear things that I’ve been saying for years, said much more intelligently, with a lot more research. When I was a Christian–Narnia was part of the reason that I stayed. When I stopped being a Christian–Narnia was part of the reason that I left, not because I saw through it, but because it just pointed out how hypocritical and repugnant the religion had become to me. If Christianity wasn’t going to be as good as Narnia, why bother? But Laura Miller says it better. She also provides several inconvenient facts about Lewis himself that made me just about snort tea out my nose: ohhhhh myyyyyy (no, he wasn’t gay, but just as inconvenient for people who want to reduce Narnia down to a parable instead of a story). Anyway, I highly recommend it. I’ve also torn through The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simmons (fun); How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show, by Simon Winthrop (not especially deep but some nice techniques at the end); Sleights of Mind What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknick and Susana Martinez-Cond (very nice). I just started How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallability of Human Reason in Everyday Life, by Thomas Gilovich, and it’s just painful to read, because I go, “I do that” over and over again–like the idea that scoring points runs in streaks (it doesn’t; it’s just that actually random behavior doesn’t look random), or that punishment is more effective than reward (if you base punishment/reward on an extreme behavior, the next case of it will likely be less extreme–thus, it looks like punishment works, because the next case likely isn’t as bad, and reward doesn’t, because the next case likely isn’t as good). I’m pretty sure I’m going to be broken down in tears by the time I get done with that book.
I also read Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (loved it!), the first two books of the Belgariad (old favorites–why do I like them so much?), the last two books of the Dragonlance chronicles (ditto), A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare (hrm, okay, but a sense of sex scenes stuck together by a slather of plot rather than an actual romance), and I tried to read Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer but just about fell asleep. If there’s a better Heyer book to start with, let me know; it seems, with my affection for that period, that I should like her stuff. I also started Lord Foul’s Bane again, which, I just realized, I’ve read more often (and enjoyed more) than The Lord of the Rings books (although not The Hobbit, not by a long shot). A lot of people can’t get past the rape scene: who wants to read about a main character who’s a rapist? And yet–I can’t get over how much I like the book. I got a thrill out of just reading the phrase “Leper outcast unclean!” It’s been probably a decade since I last read these, if not longer–I go back to the Mordant’s Need books more often, though. And thinking about the different stories about the cosmology just makes me think of The Gap series. Siiiigggggghhhh. PLUS I have all those kids’ books to review. I just keep feeling that, the mood I’m in, it’s probably better if I don’t; kids just don’t need to hear about some of this meta/neuroscience/con artist/brainwashing stuff, and it’s creeping into everything I do.
I also started on Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Body. Whew. This guy is a nut, a total geek, like the way Terry Pratchett describes his da Vinci analogue, Leonard da Quirm, who is constantly bombarded with ideas. It really doesn’t matter to me whether the ideas in this book are accurate or not: I just love reading what he writes, the way he looks at things. Admiringly, I repeat it: what a nut.