Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tangled Web?

Young Lochinvar Carrying Away His Love
From Misrepresentative Women by Harry Graham  (c1906)
       Remember the old quote "Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive"? Bet you don't know what it's from. Shakespeare? (Isn't everything from Shakespeare?) The Bible (less likely!) Well, I didn't know either, so I looked it up. It's from an epic poem that's pretty obscure these days -- Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field, by Walter Scott, first published in 1808.  It's a tale of romantic intrigues involving nuns who break their vows, wronged heroes, duels, revenge, deaths at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513, etc., etc.  Modernized a bit, it might actually have something going for it! It was immensely popular in its day, although it was not a critical success; according to Wikipedia, it was castigated for the "unwarranted intrusions" of the letters to Scott's friends that head up each canto and its poetic style was called "flat and tedious." There was also a complaint that it was written solely to show off Scott's erudition.  However, the poem also contained the "Lochinvar" section that people used to read in school.  I remember that galloping anapestic rhythm very well -- and with some nostalgia ...

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar ...

       Does anybody read that poem these days?
       So where was I?  What was my point?  Oh, I remember -- the tangled web.  First, however, let me say that some might criticize my writing for some of the same reason they criticized Scott's (although I don't write poetry):  That my stories have "unwarranted intrusions," that my style isn't spectacularly original (although I really wouldn't call it "flat and tedious"), and that I like to show off my erudition (which isn't as mighty as I wish it were).  That's still not my point, however. 
       My point is, everything I write is interconnected -- a bit of a tangled web.  I really hadn't thought about that until lately.  All of my books share characters and allude to events or people which exist in my other books.  The Termite Queen is the seminal tale.  It introduces Prf. Kaitrin Oliva, who is also the main character in "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder," which is laid thirty years later.  Kaitrin is also the editor of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series, which begins hard on the end of The Termite Queen.  The series contains many references to events in The Termite Queen, because after all it was the coming of the Star-Beings to the termite planet that precipitated the New Time (doesn't the arrival of aliens always change things?)  Kaitrin mounts several expeditions to the termite planet after that fateful first one, and these are mentioned in footnotes throughout the series.  And Kaitrin actually does make a physical appearance as a character in the series but only near its end.
       Then of course two of the major characters in the series -- Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head and Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer -- were introduced in The Termite Queen, so that's an essential interconnection.
       See how tangled it's getting?
       I also have a number of unwritten books that increase the tangles.  Something I plan to call The Dark Leopards of the Moon (title from a poem by Yeats) will be the story of the remainder of Kaitrin Oliva's life, and then there is an episode of her life alluded to in "Monster" as "my experiences with the EtĂșmanoi on the fourth planet of Foraka 3."  That one I mean to write as a separate novel (entitled The Hard, Bright Crystal of Being, from a poem by Conrad Aiken), and it also includes a couple of other characters from Termite Queen whose names I won't mention for fear of spoilers.
       The only story I've written that isn't tangled up with the others is The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  It's laid in the 28th century while TQ is laid in the 30th, and its only association with The Termite Queen lies in the fact that first contact with the bird aliens (Prf. A'a'ma's people) occurs in MWFB.  That's important, of course, but it does allow the plot of MWFB to pretty much stand on its own.
       I say all this only because the tangling of my characters and plots may make them a little problematical to read.  You may have read TQ and found some things not to like about it.  It has a double plot line, so you may like one plot and not the other.  Besides, it contains all that conlanging gobbledegook, which is a little bit of a specialized interest.  (However, I can't imagine anybody who wouldn't be curious about how we're going to communicate with aliens when we finally meet them.)  So I would say this: if you enjoyed the termite people in The Termite Queen, please do go on and give the Ki'shto'ba series a try.  And even if you haven't read TQ, it's summarized sufficiently at the beginning of The War of the Stolen Mother, so don't be deterred from jumping right into the series. 
       I hope to meet you there!

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