I’ve just been introduced to Nightwish – the love child of heavy metal and opera – and I’ll be listening to more of their music in the future. For now, I just want to save this song to my blog so I can find it without relying on memory, or searching Youtube for hours.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Nightwish:
I know this kind of music won’t be to everyone’s taste, but look at those faces in the crowd! So young and so turned on to the music. They know the lyrics, just like the crowds at a ‘normal’ rock concert. It’s wonderful to see, because they are the ones who may advance the evolution of opera into a vibrant art form for the future.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as Evanescence was a huge phenomenon. This is from eleven years ago:
One of the things that always drew me to Metal was that it was melodic. Melody with a driving rhythm equals passion to my ears.
Anyway, it’s Monday morning, and Nightwish has given my day a fabulous start. I hope yours starts, or ends, as well. 🙂
Flying. We’ve all had the dreams, and most of us have travelled at some point in our lives, so we know what it’s like to be up in the air, flying through the cloud layer. Or looking down, and seeing cars the size of ants. But back when I was young and stupid, I had the glorious experience of flying in absolute silence, with nothing to hold me up but the air. I’m talking about gliding of course:
As you can see from the photo, gliders have no engine at all, and rely on those incredible wings to stay in the air. Getting up into the air usually requires a ‘tow’ from a plane that does have an engine. The two are connected by a long cable and the plane literally pulls the glider up into the air. Once they’re high enough, the cable disconnects and the glider is on its own.
The most amazing thing, however, is being in the air. I was only ever passenger material, but I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to be up there, cradled in the thermal, watching the world change around me.
A thermal is a column of warm air that rises until it cools [at the top]. Birds and glider pilots use thermals to gain height and spiral up inside the thermal. Once they’re high enough, they can glide for miles until they reach another thermal, or decide to land.
Part of the reason I gave the Vokh and iVokh wings was because I never forgot how wonderful it felt to glide. Not all iVokh are good at flying though. In the following short excerpt, the main character [the Messenger] is trying to catch up to the caravan [on the ground] that had left without it. An expert Flyer is sent up to help:
Up in the air, the Messenger was focused so hard on reaching the cluster of tiny dots on the distant hillside, it did not notice the Flyer approaching. It almost stalled when the small Trader suddenly dropped down on it from above.
“What doing here Messenger?” the Flyer shrilled into the wind as it cupped its wings to match the slower speed of the healer. “Caravan…” the Messenger huffed.
The two iVokh flew side by side for a short while in silence as the Flyer tried to send a message to the Apprentice. The small Trader only had a very weak talent, and was not having much success until it suddenly felt the Apprentice bridge the gap between them. Huffing in relief, it quickly informed the Apprentice who was coming, and why.
“Thinking Messenger being very determined,” it added, “because not being very good flyer…”
There was a short silence before the Apprentice asked, “Can helping Messenger flying this far?”
“Can helping Messenger flying easier,”the Flyer sent back. “But healer already looking exhausted.” “Doing whatever can,” the Apprentice sent back.
“Messenger!” the Flyer shrilled. “Flying into wind being too hard. Following!”
The Messenger was well aware that flying into a headwind was difficult; it had been battling the wind since leaving Two Rivers. Unfortunately, it simply did not know any other way of reaching the caravan.
“Not…turning back!” it wheezed as it continued pumping its tired wings into the wind. “Ki!” the Flyer shrilled. “Taking to caravan!”
Despite the Flyer’s assurances, the Messenger continued straight ahead for a long moment before finally nodding in agreement. Even so, when the Flyer began banking to the left, away from the hills, the Messenger had to force itself to follow.
Its wings wobbled, threatening to lose their grip on the air as the wind began pushing it sideways. Panic was very close when it finally felt the sudden uplift of a thermal beneath its wings.
Delight erased fear as it rose effortlessly on the current of warm air. The Flyer had been right. It was much easier flying with the elements than against them.
I hope you enjoy this vicarious bit of flying. 🙂 Have any of you flown? Are any of you pilots? Gliders? Would love to hear your experiences.
Oh, and you can find direct links to the free download of Vokhtah here.
It’s that time. Sorry. Rather than posting an excerpt from Vokhtah today, I want to talk about language, and how it is the true, living history of a race or culture.
Think about Shakespeare. The Bard died in 1616, yet many of the words he made up…yes, made up…are still in use today. According to litcharts.com there are 422 words that almost certainly originated with Shakespeare. Many are nouns turned into verbs, or two words smooshed together, but they did not exist in that form until The Bard made them so. Want some examples? Here we go:
You can find the complete list by following the link to litcharts.com, and I guarantee you will be surprised.
Yet why should we be surprised? We know that jargon/slang changes from generation to generation. Who would have known 30 years ago that ‘my bad’ could mean ‘I apologise/I’m sorry/I was wrong’? Language always changes to reflect the needs or concerns of the time. It’s just a different way of looking at history.
So why am I making such an issue of language? Well, it’s because one of my favourite bits of Vokhtah is the language I created to express who and what the characters are.
There’s a Vokh-to-English dictionary at the back of the book, but in reality I didn’t use many of the words in the actual story. Readers quickly work out that ‘ki’ means ‘no’ and that a wingspan is fairly wide in relation to the size of the body. Fingerwidth is pretty self explanatory too, but the pronoun ‘it’ is where the conlang [constructed language] becomes most noticeable.
Remember how I explained that all Vokh and iVokh are hermaphrodites? Well, how can you use ‘he’ and ‘she’ when the character is both? Take away the gendered words and all you have left is ‘it’. Once you start using the word ‘it’ though, other words become problematic…like ‘I’ and ‘you’.
I solved that problem by using ‘one’ or ‘self’ instead of ‘I’, and just for fun I turned the word ‘you’ into a very nasty swear word. But then I really started to dig myself into a hole. How on earth could I write dialogue without pronouns? Try it. ‘Tain’t easy, and sounds really…ugly.
I’m not a linguist, but I do speak a smattering of seven languages [only two properly!], so the sound of the language was really important to me. I was seriously thinking about not having any dialogue in the story at all when Hungarian, and to a lesser extent Japanese, came to my rescue. Pronouns do exist in both languages, but who is speaking is often obvious simply by the form of the verb.
This is what the present and past tense of the verb ‘To Go’ looks like in Hungarian:
For more on Hungarian grammar, please follow the link to the website.
Hungarian is my mother tongue so I’ve always known that in common speech, you almost always leave off the pronoun because it’s obvious from the form of the verb. In the graphic above, if you ignore the pronouns [shown in green] and just look at the verb forms, you’ll see that the verb changes… for each pronoun. In fact, the form of the verb is unique for each pronoun.
Thus, if I wanted to ask where you [plural] are going, I’d say:
Hova mentek? [Hova is ‘where’. Mentek is the plural form of [you] go because the ‘you’ is known from the verb form itself]
From there, it was a fairly easy step to reach: ‘”Where going?” it asked.’ The number of iVokh ‘going’ is understood from the context of the paragraph. If you’re talking about multiple iVokh then the question implies more than one. If only one other iVokh is present then the question implies the singular.
From the Japanese, I borrowed the short, sharp form of the men’s language to allow for commands. Thus: ‘”Hold!” it cried.’
And then, because I’m a bit of a masochist, I added a bit more biology in the form of the cilia. Cilia are like tiny pipe organs, and they are how my aliens breathe and speak [the mouth is used only for eating].
But what is the most noticeable thing about pipe organs? It’s that they play chords – major [happy], minor [sad] and variations on discord. Thus the words are automatically coloured by an emotional element, making it unnecessary to say “Self feeling sad” etc.
Finally, I added one more bit of biology – scent glands at the base of each cilia. I blame Golli for this one. Golli is a cat, and when I pick him up for a cuddle, he always rubs his cheek against my shoulder. Yes, it’s a sign of affection, but it’s also his way of scent marking his territory via the scent glands in his cheek. So he’s really saying “I love you, and you’re mine!”.
The Vokh and iVokh never show signs of affection, but those scent glands do produce cues that sometimes ‘leak’ into the air as they speak. Think a whole range of sneaky farts that all ‘mean’ something different. So the spoken language of Vokhtah – the actual words used – can be quite rudimentary because two other emotional cues provide richness and context.
On the cultural side, I decided to make life even more difficult for myself by not having public ‘names’, only titles or ranks. There are strong biological and cultural reasons for this, but I can’t tell you what they are because the published story hasn’t revealed them yet. Suffice to say it’s all because of the big, nasty Vokh. 🙂
One of the very first people who read Vokhtah said that I should change the dialogue into everyday English. I did think about it, for about five, very unhappy minutes. Then I realised the obvious: Vokhtah was going to be a difficult book to read no matter what, so asking Readers to get used to the dialogue was peanuts. And really, how could I change the language without changing the very core of the story?
Inevitably, this begs a whole slew of uncomfortable question: why bother creating such unappealing, difficult aliens in the first place? Why go to so much work and effort to write a story only a handful of people are likely to read? Why not use the tried and true trope of having a human main character who could ‘explain’ the bits that really needed explaining?
I guess the most honest answer to all those questions is the same as for the question: why climb Mount Everest? It’s because I wanted to.
Like almost every speculative fiction author I know, I wanted one shot at creating something new. Something that hadn’t been done before. A world that was not Earth, and an alien that was not human.
There’s a lot of ego involved in trying to climb the writing equivalent of Everest, but it’s also a rite of passage because it’s hard, bloody hard. For that reason alone, Vokhtah will probably remain the best thing I ever write. Also the least commercially viable. C’est la vie, n’est ce pas? [That’s life, right?]
Thank you for following me down this linguistic path, and if you know anyone who might be interested, Vokhtah will be free for five days starting on March 16, 2021 [that’s not until tomorrow for Southern Hemisphere readers]. I’m not expecting to make money out of Vokhtah, but I would dearly love to see one more review to bring the total up to 20.
I know I should be writing a post about Vokhtah, but I haven’t been this inspired in a long while, so here’s that dark scene from my latest WiP instead. And because so much of that inspiration has flowed from Lucas King’s incredible compositions, I’m including another dark track that I discovered today. It’s called The Grinning Man:
Excerpt from ‘Kahti’, book 2 of the Suns of Vokhtah
The Escapee took a long time to die, and all the Messengers stationed outside the door breathed a sigh of relief when its wordless keen finally stopped. All, that is, except for Death; it stayed silent and unmoving until the Yellow opened the door and ordered it inside.
Once inside, however, Death could not suppress a hiss of disgust as the melange of blood and body wastes assaulted its cilia. The stench grew progressively worse as it followed the Yellow down the short passage from the door to the main cavern.
“Throwing in pool,” the Yellow said, pointing a long finger at the body curled up in the middle of the floor. “And not forgetting…head first.”
A wet stain had spread around the body, blurring its outlines, but there was no sign of a wound until Death grabbed the Escapee by the ankles and flipped it onto its back. Only then did it see the bloody ruin where the groin sack had been, and the two eyeballs lying orphaned on the sand.
Jumping back with a hiss, it stared at the body in shock. It had seen bodies, or parts of bodies before, out in the Wild, but never anything to rival this deliberate, careful savagery…
The Yellow’s mocking laughter echoed from the passage until it was cut short by the slamming of the door.
Quivering with hatred, Death dragged the body into the bathing cavern and hauled it into the pool. Wrestling it into the correct position, however, proved to be an exercise in frustration as the current kept trying to suck the wings in first. In the end, it was forced to pull the body out of the pool and roll it up in its wings before feeding it into the fissure again. This time the Escapee was sucked away without a trace.
Once the body was gone, Death grabbed the slop bucket and returned to the main cavern where it sank to its knees beside the stain. It had almost finished digging out the filthy sand when it noticed a glimmer of white on the floor, near the Yellow’s perch. The glimmer turned out to be a jagged shard of ceramic, roughly the length of a finger…
“And sharp“, Death thought as it hurriedly withdrew its hand. A drop of fresh blood dripped from its finger as it scurried back to the bathing cavern. Grabbing a drying cloth, it hurried back to the main cavern where it kept one eye on the passage as it wrapped the shard in the cloth and placed the bundle in the bucket. It had just shovelled the last of the dirty sand on top when a voice said, “Still smelling bad.”
Startled, Death spun around and saw one of the Messengers standing at the end of the passage.
“Yellow wanting to know how much longer being,” the Messenger said, its cilia retracted to half their normal length. “Just finished,” Death said as it reached for the bucket. “Only needing to empty rubbish.”
Out in the main passage, the Yellow and the other Messengers flattened themselves against the walls as Death edged past with the bucket.
“Pah!” one of the Messengers cried as it fell in behind Death.
As expected, both Messengers stayed well back to avoid the smell, and neither followed Death into the waste pit. The moment they were out of sight, Death put the bucket down and hurried over to the edge of the wooden platform that jutted out over the waste pit. The platform had been part of the ramp building project, and each plank rested on two massive beams that had been attached to the walls of the shaft with arm-long starrock spikes. Some of the spikes stuck out more than others.
Dropping to its belly next to the wall on the left, Death dug the claws of its feet into the gaps between the planks and hung its upper body over the edge. If it twisted just so…
The small ceramic pot hung in a cradle of sturdy leather that was hooked over the end of one of the spikes. Unhooking the cradle, Death pulled the pot up onto the platform and quickly undid the knots.
It had stolen the pot of fast acting poison four years before, soon after being assigned to the Yellow. But the Yellow had never eaten anything prepared by its Assistant, and so the pot had remained unused. But not discarded. Death had thought about the pot many times during that first terrible year, but things had never been quite bad enough…
“And now having something better,” it thought with glee as it held the pot out over the void and opened its fingers. The pot fell for a long time before a distant smash signalled that it had finally met its end. The easy way out was gone.
Hurrying back to the bucket, Death dug the shard out of the sand and hissed in dismay when it saw that the soft cloth was already worn through in spots. The fat end of the wedge would have to be blunted or it would useless. Luckily sand was an excellent abbrasive.
Wrapping the cloth around the tip of the wedge until it formed a thick, padded lump, Death dug the fat end into the sand, again and again, until the sharp edges were scraped away. If there had been more time, it would have bound the blunted end in overlapping layers of leather, but there was no time so it cut a rectangle of cloth instead and wrapped it around the blunted end of the shard before securing the lot with a strip of leather.
The knife was far from perfect, but Death’s cilia quivered with joy as it gently inserted its new weapon into a crack and hid the end with a couple of pebbles. Messengers did not use weapons, but Tellers did, and whatever else Death may have become since entering the Settlement, it still knew how to use a knife.
“What taking so long?” the Junior Messenger demanded when Death finally emerged from the waste pit.
Death knew it should ignore the question, but as it pushed past its escort, a daemon of mischief made it say, “Trying to escape, of course.”
The two Messengers snorted in contempt, but when Death finally lay down on its pallet and closed its eyes, it slept like a newborn.
For those who haven’t read anything about the iVokh before, they’re humanoid-ish aliens who are all hermaphrodites. Because of their biology, they only ever refer to each other using gender neutral pronouns. And because the iVokh are distant cousins of the much bigger, aggressive Vokh, they follow the Vokh custom of keeping their personal names a secret. Thus they refer to each other as either ‘it’ or as the position in society that they occupy – e.g. Healer, Acolyte, Teller, etc.
Oh, and they all fit somewhere along a continuum of sociopathy. A subset of iVokh called Traders are the least sociopathic and have a strong sense of community, and honour. Death was once a Trader, but now it’s a Messenger, one of the enforcers of the Guild of Healers.
I hope most other things in the excerpt you can work out for yourselves because now I want to talk about this music! Widds commented in the last post about the bass notes of The Silent Place, and how it made us feel ‘wibbly-wobbly’. 😀 Well, this piece is very similar in that the melody is carried by the bass notes, all of which have a…resonance…that is almost visceral.
In most of the music we’re used to, the melody is carried by the higher notes while the bass provides a kind of ‘rhythm section’; it’s subordinate to the treble. In the Grinning Man this pattern is almost completely reversed with the higher notes [played by the right hand] being an almost hypnotic accompaniment to the growling melody played by the left hand. Most of that melody is also in a minor key – the ‘sad’ key. Put it all together and you have a piece of music that you, or at last I, cannot forget. 🙂
I’ve come across some brilliant Indie composers since I discovered SoundCloud, and I’ve showcased some of them on this blog, but Lucas King is the only one I would unashamedly label a ‘genius’. His music is classical but different, yet he isn’t going all atonal just to be seen as ‘different’. He’s simply writing what he feels, and boy does it speak to me. And he’s still in his twenties.
Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. Thank you for reading, and listening.
This is not the post I’d planned, but I’m utterly taken with this music and just had to share. It’s another one of Lucas King’s piano compositions, and it’s called The Silent Place. It also happens to be perfect for a scene I just wrote about Death [Vokhtah 2].
I have enjoyed a great many books in the last few years, but I have not reviewed all of them because…well because life gets in the way, doesn’t it? But sometimes a story grabs me enough for me to get off my butt and say why. This is the review I just left on Amazon for a scifi story called ‘Keiree’. I believe the book, and its author, deserve a great deal more attention from readers like us. So here it is:
Keiree, by C. Litka
I’ll start with Molly, a green silka cat whose breed has been genetically enhanced to understand human language, if not speak it.
That was enough for me to give ‘Keiree’ a go, but somewhere along the way the story snuck into my heart and took up residence there. I reached the end and kept swiping my Kindle, hoping for more. An epilogue, maybe. Or perhaps a link to a second book.
I found neither, and if the author reads this – please Sir, can I have more?
Not because the ending wasn’t right. It was perfect for /this/ story. But …I grew to love Gy and Molly. I’d really like to know what they did next. How they lived their lives /after/.
On a technical level, the definition of scifi is that the story could not have taken place without the technology, place or time of the world in which it’s set. Think Dune or The Left Hand of Darkness.
By that definition, Keiree is as scifi as you can get because it takes place on a terraformed Mars, many hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of years in our future. Cryosleep is commonplace, as is sophisticated genetic modification and all sorts of other, smaller, innovations that we would consider close to magic now. But while all these elements quietly define the place and time, it’s the people who truly shine.
People don’t change. Some are petty and avaricious. Some remain true, no matter the odds. Keiree is that kind of story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
You can find ‘Keiree’ here. It’s at a ridiculously low price, so even if you don’t think you like scifi, please give it a go. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed. Hmm…unless you’re looking for space battles, lasguns and Terminator style robots. Wrong book, sorry. 😉