So here’s the thing, kids:
In his book, “On Writing,” Stephen King gives some solid advice on the fiction writer’s most important tool: his or her imagination.
“The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”
My first novel, “La Barceloneta,” is first and foremost a labor of love born from my own frequently-overworked imagination. It is a story that came nearly whole one sleepy morning, kicked up to me by the monkeys who dwell in the sub-basement of my brain. It was only later, after I had scribbled down the general concepts I knew I didn’t want to forget, that I realized the monkeys had sent me not just a story, but an entire universe. What began life as a hastily-scribbled note in one of my journals (i.e., “Parallel world? Simultaneous sentience-track evolution for apex organisms within analogous paradigms? Non-Judeo-Christian cosmology, Aztec deities ascendant?”) has become, over the years, a rich and complex reality for me, peopled by characters who have been kind enough to share a part of their stories with me.
That might sound a little odd, but like King I truly believe that a large part of any writer’s duty is simply to listen and transcribe the stories that flow through us onto the page. We can try to force characters and situations to bend to our wills (and sometimes we even succeed), but in my experience, the best, most readable and entertaining writing comes from catching and translating every bit of magic (or as much as one can) that’s pouring through that conduit, while one can. As a rule, once the tap shuts off, it never quite dispenses that same formula again, and thus are we beholden to capture every drop while the flow is strong.
As the storylines for “La Barceloneta” and the other Circe novels developed, I came to realize that one of the most important aspects of exploring another world – language, culture, and the ways in which both inform each other – was missing. I knew from the start that Circe and Earth had a very special, very strange relationship; one that would not be done adequate justice by leaving unplumbed the depths of Circe’s rich linguistic and cultural heritage (and, by extension, the ways in which it paralleled and informed Earth’s own – and vice versa).
So, I tossed a crate of bananas and sporty fezzes down the trap door into the brain’s sub-basement and asked the monkeys to come up with an appropriate language for a planet whose history is interconnected with, but still largely independent from, our own. A language that would reflect the intermixing of cultures and peoples of different races and species while remaining accessible to a reader from good old Terra.
After a week or two of pondering, the monkeys started sending stuff up the dumbwaiter.
And thus Circean was born. A planetwide language whose various dialects are usually, but not always, mutually intelligible. A language employed for matters sacred and profane; a language created by the slow turn of time’s wheel in its stony channel, grinding away at irregularities, occasionally mixing in some new bit of vocabulary or syntax as the fortunes of the planets’ inhabitants waxed and waned. A language that would be familiar and yet exotic to my Terran readers.
A language suitable for the people of the gods.
I will not endeavor to explain its particulars to you here. I have developed, over the course of a decade, syntax, vocabulary and conjugation. I have created a full character set (two, actually – Traditional Circean, which is pictographic while relying on phonemes, and Romanized Circean, which has been rendered in Roman letters by Terran transplants and scholars), numbering system, and punctuation scheme. I am slowly assembling a full dictionary to ensure consistency across the novels (and to assist the reader where relevant).
Let us consider the horse. In the image below, we see a perfectly-acceptable illustration of a horse, accompanied by the term for the animal, “The horse.” This article is not the only one available (we could have, for example, used “A Horse, ” which would be rendered “Ei Callixino,” with correspondingly different glyphs). Regard:
As you can see, Traditional Circean is structurally very different from most Western Terran languages. It is written in columns rather than rows, and while each glyph corresponds to a phoneme, the concept of “letters” per se did not exist until the first serious scholarly examination by Terran linguists (professional and amateur alike) approximately seven centuries before the events of “La Barceloneta.”
(Seven centuries ON CIRCE, that is. It is important to note that while the histories of Circe and Earth are interconnected, the temporal and quantum mechanics involved in this connection have rendered direct timelines of interconnectivity impossible to construct.)
So why am I sharing all of this with you?
Because I want you to understand that my imagination is indeed both muscular and flexible – and that the world I’ve created is full of stories worth telling (and reading!).
Because I want you to know just how seriously I’m taking this endeavor, and why I therefore feel so comfortable engaging both my longtime Hordelings and new readers alike in asking for support that will ultimately keep me alive and in my home long enough to complete the book.
And, yeah, because I am a huge geek and wanted to share this crazy thing I made with you, dear readers.
Because I’m finally at a point where I am comfortable sharing my secret universe, and I want to invite you all inside.
I hope you’ll accept my invitation.
Please visit my Kickstarter Page to learn more about La Barceloneta and to contribute and (most importantly) SHARE WITH OTHERS the story behind my creative endeavor. Every contribution, every dollar, makes such a huge difference. No money is released to the project unless my goal is met; we’re 10% of the way there, and I’m hoping that the next five weeks find us rapidly reaching and exceeding that goal. Thanks for your time, support and love, my Hordelings. Today, Kickstarter – tomorrow, THE WORLD!