The following entry contains personal details that may be triggering.
So, I reorganized some Otherfaith fanfics I wrote into a series, and thought to share more here about the process. (Edit to add: hey, this is a lot in line with Aine’s post on writing the myths.) Note that I’m all for the figurative Death of the Author, also less known as the Birth of the Reader, so this certainly is not to put out that I heard a voice, or had a dream, and therefore this bit or that bit is a truthier truth.
Ironically, I’d say, it’s Princess Irene’s obscurity (wasn’t named in the Founding of the West, just in the Wikia) and liminality (roles usually being of a mediator and herald) in the existing body of Otherfaith canon that I considered so intriguing and was why I wanted to write more of her.
My thought process during Almost Heroes, a writing experiment not part of the trilogy, went sort of like this: “Ooh, I like her, so she gets a comity-shipping cameo with the Ophelia. Wait, am I mythologizing my real life history? Yeah. Irene’s got to be there when Mary Sue starts crushing on the science teacher lady, because I really wish that some guiding spiritual presence like Irene had been there then, as first loves of lady-loving ladies in a no homo world. Wait, and Irene can turn into a bird? The Laetha’s a bird, if they fought I wonder who would win?” And I thought, “Obvously, the god would win in a fight with a spirit, so what would make it as though there’s tension?” And I thought, “It can’t be a challenge on neutral grounds, then, it must be…a surprise attack on the god’s sacred personal space.”
And then I thought, “Ulp, now my headcanon Irene did a bad thing.” My headcanon Irene did possibly the worst thing, and I never even did get around to revisiting the elation and yearning of what I guess people in temperate climates euphemistically call a spring awakening. How one makes up for messing up was also a very interesting question, though. But I didn’t want to write an Irene whose turning point in character development was…a deliberate Mary Sue, who I’d originally stuck in there to explore the more established, more prominent personalities of the myths, and a way to write the gods and spirits enacting their scopes of responsibilities.
I picked up the story again after I’d read up more on Laetha shards, and figured Aletheia 003 to be the best character foil for this Irene, because of all the meta I caught around The Red Room.
Peace At Last was mostly a way to organize the elements of a complicated idea, not so much to resolve the question or announce the role or method of forgiveness in the Otherfaith.
I may have also caught a sort of disembodied voice shouting, “Libel!” at an earlier retelling of The Red Room that I’d posted, but the main idea that voice pushed for, of reversing William’s and A003’s roles, was still something I thought (and decided) would fit in neatly. So, as far as woo might go, I’d say that’s still par with my just deciding that the Firebird and Irenebird would fight instead of figure out, like a responsible plotter-writer, some avian way they could bond.
(The above painting gives me Irene feels, though Aine tagged it for the Laethan Firebird on the tumblog. They could have a lot in common.) (Also yay Irene has a tumblog tag!)
Upping the woo, lowering the word count. Here are some excerpts from my noxary (dream diary or dream journal, and I write sideways on notebooks with dotted or plain paper, to double the size of a page uninterrupted by the spine.) These inspired the sequel, Songs of the Sunsets. Except for the third dream. That one was just weird.
18 Sept 2015. Princess seated between hourglass and clock stained glass circle before her like anathema device time was set but she still wanted to interfere.
19 Sept 2015. Queen-of-Years-but-not moved the telescope and hourglass. Kaleidoscope window on a balcony looked over indigo twilight.
20 Sept 2015. Wandered a bookstore, bestseller was a romance between an angler fish and a remora.
These records drew similarities to Anathema Device (a character from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) although not a correct one because that character was very much for doing what she’s been foretold, and also the Queen of Years from the new Doctor Who although in the dream the red cowl looked worn by somebody bigger than a wee child and I don’t remember more.
I actually shouted when the not-really-Queen-of-Years moved the stuff, and this woke up my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who woke me up to say that I sounded like I was being tortured. It must have been important in the dream not to move the stuff.
Using a method that’s basically Carl Jung’s Active Imagination dream re-immersion, I did return to the dream of that palace, which was much more splendid than I jotted down both during the dream and during the meditation to revisit the dream. It reminded me of the stained-glass windows painted in the Shadowscapes suit of pentacles, here and here with the stark and lush hues that are almost garish. Those sorts of surfaces made a vast, low-sloping but high dome, maybe the size of an airport, and empty except for the princess (in the way of dreams and inspiration, the meaning and the word and the thing all just stick together, so I just feel that “princess” is the best word for the person) who sat beyond the archway to the balcony, and the balcony overlooked a violet (I wrote that it was indigo, but it was closer to pink-purple than blue-purple) star-freckled sky. There was no view of any landscape, just of more sky.
And I could let my mind’s eye float about and view this. The princess in her chair, in contrast, seemed compelled to only regard the round stained glass circle, sometimes sitting in the middle of it, and it sometimes on the balcony ground in front of her, and sometimes hanging in front of her, and a giant hourglass on one side, and a clock or a telescope on the other. And those aren’t similar positions or objects, and I did say “sometimes”, but these didn’t change or flicker. They weren’t sometimes but always…something like one of those things, for absolute maybe.
And a few times after that I’d wander back to that state of mind, and she’d be walking around inside the color dome, and I’d be embodied…and, she just looked an awful lot like my headcanon Irene, what the character looks like when I read about her on the Wiki, or imagine on the film set of the mind (wringing her safety belt in her hands, or tossing back a shot of coffee tequila that would actually exist but I mistakenly wrote it as coffee vodka.)
She and I didn’t talk enough that I could say that Songs of the Sunset is channeled. These splendid dreams gave me the drive to write the chapters out, but very few of the symbols or conflicts originally dreamed had made it in. There’s a bit of those dreams in it, yes, but what likely inspired those dreams in a wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-that-was-the-next-thing way was the bridge from the song “Black Sheep” by Metric (Got balls of steel, got an automobile / for a minimum wage / Got real estate, I’m buying it all / up in outer space). The romantic subplot is based on a Philippine folk tale about the origin of the tides: basically the son of the ocean god had a forbidden love with the moon-daughter of a night sky god, and I really just wanted to queer it.
Those were just story fragments jostling around, sort of in their own way nagging to be written. But they didn’t entirely fit with each other, and there’s a moon spirit missing because I just couldn’t think one up. So, I wrote the outline, expecting the story fragments would leave me alone then.
The remaining fragments weren’t as keen to get written. Lilibell was coming down with something, I thought that much, but didn’t have a clearer idea than that. I liked to imagine that Irene and Lyra would have met and talked about the rights and responsibilities of gun-owners or something, but it wasn’t something I was bursting to get on the page. The sort of demiurges of the Ophelia working the Wastes was a captivating image, but they didn’t really move in my mind, and I didn’t even feel like drawing them. I mulled over the forbidden love between a star spirit (or moon spirit) and a Western spirit, and imagined that Irene would support/enforce the Clarene’s rejection of the stars, so there was enough tension and potential growth to make a story there. But it just wasn’t crystallizing into a beginning, middle, and end.
When I took a moment to muse about how the sickened Lilibell could fit in to that story, or try to imagine her, she bounced and floated after Mallory over a waterscape of muddy tidal pools, and Mallory was running with Althea’s heart roasting her hands…dafuq, how did that happen? But then that moment was over, so, whatever. Let somebody else find out, I thought.
As Reunion approached, I set out to write something for the occasion. A blog post. The draft of that sprouted personal details and complexes like weeds. These came about in response to a number of other pressures, but adjusting to someone else or other’s jealousy (insecurity, hostility, entitlement, whichever) was one of the major factors in some of my own life’s most ruinous decisions and conditions: dropping out of high school, developing an eating disorder, declining to train the talents and passions that might have been of some use or consolation once I could wrangle out of the relationships I prioritized anyway, and generally never enjoying life what with all the anxiety.
And I thought, I grew up shuffled between two countries and through six different schools. Maybe a family legacy of abuse and toxic dynamics primed me for it, maybe I truly was too sensitive and spineless, but, just as a matter of statistics I thought Mircea-like people should not be as common as they have been. I mean, just what sort of world
common denominator in relationships be damned, for common courtesy, that is, structures to show real care and make for mutual comfort and not classist or cliquish sort of
on the bubble thing space invaders
huh what does that have to do
star spirit space invaders
and why only now is this
…okay then well I guess I’ll jot down the start to a possible sequel to Songs of the Sunsets…
…okay then well I guess I’m scribbling down the outline to the sequel of the Songs of the Sunsets outline…
Unlike the disembodied libel call-out, this wasn’t anything like a voice saying the thing. It was more like the idea kept nudging for a chance, and blossomed when I gave it one, until I wrote more than the outline. Hat tip, too, to Jenn on Stars and Earth for recommending the new Florence + the Machine album! “Queen of Peace” was like auditory caffeine for writing Uncover, Undercover.
Throughout the thing I felt like I was grieving, and writing characters who I rather liked going through stuff that I rather didn’t like was…not a cheer-up. And I wouldn’t say that the finished product gelled well: lots of dialogue exposition, more than a few hints dropped that just weren’t picked up in the pattern again, a few points that could have used more foreshadowing, the style is not my best or even consistent, and the climax with Mallory might not have made sense narratively (or thematically: stars have an obviously condemnable lack of consent culture but Lillibell comes back home only to get mugged of a vital organ, what)…but from the initial idea, I felt like I knew where it was going, and the scenes and the ideas did have a flowing-together.
And it did all lead to a major point I wanted to include and I believe fit well, the birth of Alynah Blake. When the outline draft made it more about Lilibell’s recovery, I felt Althea would of course be there. And, having read the 2015 Reunion Roadmap, I thought that if Althea and Lily were both going to be in this story and I was writing during Reunion, then…might as well have Alynah Blake.
In a strange way, writing Alynah changed my headcanon of Alynah. When I would read about her, I used to take her as this mysterious ‘problem child’, the culmination of a blessed lineage of positive role models in loving relationships with themselves, each other, and the world. She has all these blessings and strengths, yet leads with dangerousness and harm. That couldn’t move me to respect her, frankly, I would even kind of despise her for that.
But to have constructed all these circumstances around her birth allowed me to reconsider her, now, as a generational rejection of Mircean fire, born of the heart of a calamity, and as the survivor without guilt. I’ll still pronounce her name with a long (loud) “A” and a silent everything else because I’ve run off in fright, but with this dimension I’d at least be open to her as an antagonistic presence.