how much I struggled with the writing, and why that was. I won’t rehash those difficulties here, but the result was that I was put far behind on my writing for this episode, barely even starting it before the month began. Plus, part two proved to have its own difficulties, some related to the troubles with the first part, and some entirely original, which led me to even write August’s episode out of order (which you will read about when episode twenty goes live next month). The short version of this post: Contaminant would really benefit from my new staging revisions methodology.
It's almost considered too blunt to say that someone died. Instead, we might say that they passed away, or that they passed on, or that they lost or gave their lives. Some might argue that the difference between those wordings is slight, incidental, even meaningless. After all, in cold facts the end result is the same. Yet those words are different, they mean different things, and we use one or the other to convey different meanings - this is especially true of the last two examples. The difference between losing a life and giving a life may be subtle, and yet it makes such a difference in how the person and the event is perceived. One makes the death a tragedy. The other makes it heroic, because it expresses that there was a choice involved, it gives the individual agency.
As I think I said when this episode was first released, or at least when I did the review of season one, A Prime's Place doesn't entirely fit with the rest of Blood Magic. Despite that, it is one of my favorite episodes. It's short, it's a very tight viewpoint, its heavy on character and short on plot. I knew going into my revisions that I wanted to make minimal changes to it, and I retained that conviction throughout my re-read.
When I first started trying to write speculative fiction, way back when I was in the fifth grade, I spent a lot of time struggling with names. There were a whole lot of aspects of writing that I was terrible at during that time, but naming is what I was aware of needing improvement. My only ideas of how naming ought to be done came from the books that I read, and so my names in some ways read like classic fantasy names, except that I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t too close to any “real” fantasy name, so my names were even less pronounceable.
Over the past few months, I've been slowly making my way through the extensive historical archives of the Peanuts comic strip, starting all the way back at its inception in 1950. I don't usually get a lot out of comics, graphic novels, and other, similar forms - my patience and interpretive abilities for these visual media are only somewhat higher than my abilities to create in such media - but Peanuts was enough a part of my childhood that I am enjoying reading through them all from beginning to end. This rather esoteric project began from a random curiosity about how the strip originated, and while I continued with it in part because I was enjoying them, and out of curiosity, it also became something of a writing exercise.
As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I suspected that I was going to enjoy it. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but when you read enough in a given genre you start to know what styles of covers tend to be associated with the books that you particularly enjoy. This book’s cover evoked the fantasy and science fiction of the 1980s, like Dragonriders of Pern, or Xanth novels; in other words, it reminded me of a lot of the books that I read in middle school, usually by my dad’s recommendation (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, upon research, I discovered that the cover artist is the same for some of these titles). By the time I had finished the first chapter, I was enjoying it as much as anything I’d read in a long time.
One wonders what other common facts about everyday life we tend to ignore because of how seamlessly our technology helps us overcome those difficulties. Since most fantasy stories take place in pre-industrial settings that would not have most of these kinds of aides, it is worth considering working these kinds of facts of the human condition into stories.
Considering that a lot of classic fantasy genre tropes come from this period and region of history, perhaps that is a bit of an oversight on my part, one that reading Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series has helped me address. In fact, reading these books, combined with some thinking I've been doing recently about plotting, has led me to some interesting reflections. So while this is still a review of the series, I also want to talk a little about those thoughts.
Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.
There's something vaguely amusing about the fact that as I go through and read The Fall of Shannara series, I find myself most interested by, and rooting for, the invading Skaar and their hyper-competent Princess Ajin. It's not that I don't like the other characters (most of them, anyway), or that Brooks hasn't done a good job at making them sympathetic. To me, though, Princess Ajin is exactly what the best characters should be.