Monday, December 7, 2015

Ancient Day

Stone and vines and
veins green with mold
and rust.  Watch high

and white fangs emerge
from their cave of lips
and neverending pits.

Take wing, dark one.
Three terrified flee
over stone square and

embattlements deserted.
A vast ocean of moss
spreads to the horizon

when the being is
realized.  Legends churn
over a red half-moon;

an eye.  Of dark the
willow weeps, like those
below.  Arms to the

sky-gray sun and cracked
towers of fear.  Windows
break.  Jump now or

forever speak no more
of this gate.  Chased to
the edge, the portcullis

dried under claws.
Something fell into the
gray-green plane of mist.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Eddings [Reference] The Rivan Codex (1998)



Finally, the last volume in the Belgariad / Malloreon saga (I wish there were an overarching name for the entire thing, but alas).  This is a somewhat unique book, as it's a mix of reference material and essays on the world and writing process.  It would be akin to The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time if Jordan had also explained why he did things the way he did.

Before you continue:
  • This is part 13 of my The Belgariad and The Malloreon retrospective
  • See this blog post for an overview of the retrospective
  • These blogs are most effective with your own re-read of both series
  • Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH SERIES

What I Already Knew

Reviews of this book were generally positive, and I was anxious to read it... but in the end I skimmed through most of it, as chunks of it were material I'd already read in the main narrative of The Belgariad and The Malloreon.  Like the "Book of Alorn" that Belgarath recites way back in Pawn of Prophecy - it's almost lifted word by word from this.  Most of the prologues throughout the two series come from these notes.  Which makes sense, considering that much of this material was background made beforehand, to give them a foundation from which to write the story.

There are sections with holy texts for each race, and then sections on the history of each race and country.  These take up most of the book, and I skipped most of it.  Seriously, there are dozens of pages dedicated to the entire succession of Tolnedran Emperors (yes, every single one) - something that I was not the least bit interested in.

The Malloreon Gospels are in here, which I did read, as well as a section at the end from the personal journal of King Anheg, which appears to be set up for the storyline of The Malloreon, as it focuses on the events leading up to it and into the first book, Guardians of the West.

So I probably only read about 1/4 of the book.  All of the racial minutiae I didn't care about.  But it certainly was an interesting look into the amount of preparation that went into creating this series.  As a writer myself, it's always helpful to see how successful authors go about creating and writing in a world.  Although in the end there's no right or wrong way to do it... it's all up to the individual author and how they work best.  I personally have never gone into that much detail regarding a race or people when plotting something.  It would bore me to tears.  I want to get on with the writing!

What I Didn't Know

I had no idea Eddings had such a substantial background in medieval literature.  This is covered in the Introduction of the book, which is the most interesting part of it, though most of it reads like a condescending lecture (more on that below).

Since much of his writing was done pre-Internet, there aren't the typical fansites that crop up while a series is being written, with the inevitable wealth of information you generally can get on a writer in the current Internet age.  So there was very little I knew about his personal life, even now.  He says in the Introduction that he is very private, and that it's going to stay that way.  Mission accomplished, I suppose.

Anyway, Eddings spends a lot of time in the Introduction explaining the roots of contemporary fantasy and how you should respect medieval literature above all (which explains why he was so good at writing "High Style" dialogue - thee and thou, etc).  He also originally intended to do just a trilogy, but Lester Del Rey (the publisher) said it had to be five books due to the length limitations bookstores would impose on them (shelf space = premium).

Eddings then goes on to say that "you're not qualified to write epic fantasy until you've been exposed to medieval romance," which I think most people (including myself) would disagree with.  Maybe 40 years ago, when there weren't many epic fantasies on the shelves, this would be true, but today... not so much, unless you want to be formulaic and boring.  It doesn't hurt to know (I took a medieval literature course in college for my own amusement), and it's certainly influenced modern works such as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, but necessary?  You can get along without it.

One thing I do agree with, though, and what most writers will tell you, is to write every day, as often as you can, and to toss your early work.  I wrote dozens of short stories and four novels before I decided I had one good enough to publish (Bonebearer).

Confirmations!

Most of my theories or thoughts from previous blogs on the series were confirmed here.  I'm only going to discuss the major ones that have always bothered me.

Anachronistic Cultures
Eddings confirms that he deliberately drew from different cultures from across the globe, though some differ from my guesses.  Here's what he said they correspond to:

Sendars = rural Englishmen
Arends = Norman French
Tolnedrans = Romans
Chereks = Vikings
Algars = Cossacks
Ulgos = Jews
Angaraks = Hunnish/Mongolian/Muslim/Visigoth

None of the rest had a specific analog in our world.  I got a few of them right, though, and of course the anachronism is intact, as not all of those cultures/races are from the same time period in our history.

Malloreon Made Up Later
Eddings also confirms that much of The Malloreon continent and backstory was not created until after The Belgariad was done and they had to come up with another story.  Which is what it totally feels like, especially with the contradictions that come up between the two series.

Ideally, you don't need to detail all of the backstory and history in order to write a series.  Sometimes you don't need it until you have to make it up as part of the narrative (which I have done).  However - you should always try to make it fit into what you have so far.  Avoid contradictions and inconsistencies like the plague, as there are plenty of sharp-eyed readers who will gleefully point them out.

The Prophecies Don't Exist
That's right, he never actually wrote out the entire Mrin or Darine Codex - the impetus for much of the story.  As he says, they are a literary device and nothing more, used to occasionally set our characters on a new course of action.  He simply came up with lines as needed.  That's all.

Retrospective Conclusion

So there you have it.  I'm not going to create a separate blog post to "conclude" this Retrospective, like I did for The Wheel of Time, with things like favorite volumes, characters or scenes.  First, because I don't feel it needs one, and second, I want to be done with this Retrospective.  You'll note that I didn't even talk about the cover this time!  Lucky you.

Instead, I'll just wrap things up with the below:

The Belgariad and The Malloreon are not paragons of modern fantasy, but they will always hold a special place in my heart, as they are the first fantasy series I ever read.  I notice so many holes and issues with it now, but they still remain fun and nostalgic for me.  I would recommend them for young readers as a perfect entry into the world of fantasy.  Are you ready?

I'm thankful Eddings stopped doing "honest work" to write these two series.  They had a great effect on my life and my own writing.  Many people may scoff at it these days, but I'll never get rid of my copies, and I'll continue to read it every few years, no matter how old I get.

Online References

One last thing.  Throughout this Retrospective, I've referenced a few Eddings-centric websites.  There aren't many, but if you want to explore sites that actually still exist, here you go:

The David Eddings Wikia
Eddings Chronicles
Guardians of the West
alt.fan.eddings
The Eddings Trivia Page

Note that most of the links on the latter two sites are dead.  One is even linked to Geocities!  The content is somewhat outdated as well.  The Wikia site is pretty much the only currently maintained site on Eddings and all his (and Leigh's) works.

Previous:

Related Works
Novel - Polgara the Sorcerer
Novel - Belgarath the Sorcerer

The Malloreon
Book 5 - The Seeress of Kell
Book 4 - Sorceress of Darshiva
Book 3 - Demon Lord of Karanda
Book 2 - King of the Murgos
Book 1 - Guardians of the West

The Belgariad
Book 5 - Enchanter's End Game
Book 4 - Castle of Wizardry
Book 3 - Magician's Gambit
Book 2 - Queen of Sorcery
Book 1 - Pawn of Prophecy

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dream

The magic only works in certain areas
Boundaries painted on the ceiling
Bars and features on the ceiling
Have to use moving vehicles to activate it
No one believes

Monday, June 1, 2015

Yellow Chair Review - Chair Stealer and Tickle Finger

A poem of mine, Chair Stealer and Tickle Finger, is featured in the latest issue of Yellow Chair Review, which has a theme of Superheroes.  You can check it out here:


If you're wondering, I don't write much poetry these days, but I did a lot when I was at University of Nebraska, like 18 years ago or so (wow I'm getting old).  I even took a poetry writing course there, which was interesting, as I got to learn about different styles and force myself to write in them.

So I have tons of old poems lying around that perhaps I might dust off and submit to a few places.  Some are actually pretty good, I think.

The thing I've always liked about poetry, though, is that it's very subjective.  There's almost no right or wrong, unless you are attempting to write in a rigid format, but that's only fun a few times.

Anyway, check out YCR, it's a newer journal, with both poetry, short prose and art.  Some good stuff in there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Brad Murgen on Bandcamp

So if you're familiar with my Music page, you'll know that I wrote and recorded some electronica music a while back (2004, to be exact).  Those songs have been on the page for free since I put it up, but now I've decided to take them off there and throw them up on Bandcamp to hopefully generate more interest, since it can be discovered easier there and linked to other music via tags, etc.  I've also put it in the sidebar below Apps.

Here's the link:

Goblin Stands by Brad Murgen


You can get it for free by entering "0" as the amount when you click "Buy Now."  You can also donate something if you like.

I'd like to eventually do more music, though I have little free time right now as I'm involved in a few other things.  But I feel I'm pretty good at it and I enjoy doing it.

My idea right now is to do soundtracks for my novels...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eddings [Novel] Polgara the Sorceress (1997)




Eddings followed up his first fake autobiography, Belgarath the Sorcerer, with a second one, told by Belgarath's daughter, Polgara.  Just like her father's, it clocks in at over 700 pages and drags in places.  Sometimes there's no need to retell the same events from a different perspective.  Especially when they contradict things yet again.

I honestly don't remember when I first read this book... but I do remember that I had a Science Fiction Book Club version (you know, the smaller hardbacks), so it was probably around 1998, after I left college and got a job.  I donated the book 4 years ago when I moved across the country, so I had to go find another copy for this re-read.  Sadly, it's not in ebook format yet.  The Rivan Codex, which is the final book I'll be doing in this retrospective, is the only one in ebook format for some reason.  Del Rey's probably too lazy to OCR / scan in the original text.

Since many of the things I talked about in the previous blog for Belgarath the Sorcerer apply to this book, I'm going to instead talk about each major section and my thoughts.  Overall this book is okay... it's on par with Belgarath, but neither of the autobiographies are as good as either main series.  It's really only worth reading if you absolutely love the Belgariad and Malloreon, and can't get enough.

Before you continue:
  • This is part 12 of my The Belgariad and The Malloreon retrospective
  • See this blog post for an overview of the retrospective
  • These blogs are most effective with your own re-read of both series
  • Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH SERIES

The Cover

First, the cover.  As usual, nothing special.  Polgara in front of the Tree in the Vale with an owl on her wrist, presumably Poledra, her mother.  



There are different versions, of course - and a decent amount of fan art for Polgara out there, since she's a very distinctive character - but this one below is probably my favorite.



You can find more covers on the David Eddings Wiki.

Part 1: Beldaran

This first section covers Polgara's childhood and her bond with Beldaran, her twin sister.  It always seemed weird that Polgara was a tomboy growing up, though compared to how long she's lived (4,000 years) it's only seconds in the grand scheme of things.

A few major things happen here.  Polgara learns that she has the power of the Will and the Word, while Beldaran doesn't.  She learns that her mother, Poledra, didn't die giving birth to her, and that she had to hide as part of the Purpose they are all following (the eventual Godslayer and new God of Angarak that will fix the Mistake).  Poledra, it seems, has been with Polgara all this time.  I don't believe Polgara mentions that she had always been guiding her in the Malloreon, but I could be wrong.  It feels like something Eddings threw in later.  It works better than some of the other inconsistencies, though.

The last thing of importance is Polgara essentially becoming the guardian of the Rivan line.  She hears the Voice of Prophecy as well... it's the same inconsistency that popped up in the Belgarath book.

Part 2: Father

In this section, Polgara becomes closer to her father, learns what it means to be part of this elite group of Disciples, and comes to terms with her own abilities.  You get a better insight into what went on at Riva in the early days, for she spends a lot of time there, learning things like healing, herbs, surgery, etc.   She and Belgarath visit the Mrin and Darine prophets, whose ramblings are recorded down as the Mrin and Darine Codices that become important later.  Also, she kind of falls in love for the first time, with a Rivan named Kamion, who becomes the first Rivan Warder.

Now, they call him Brand in this one, but I could have sworn back in the Belgariad and Malloreon, that the title of Brand only came into being after the assassination of King Gorek, when the Rivan line went into hiding.  But I could be wrong.

Part 3: Vo Wacune

Honestly, this section is pretty boring.  It's part of why it took me so long to do this retrospective.  I simply got bogged down in it and frequently read other things.

Polgara is tasked with going to Arendia and keeping the Angaraks from meddling in their affairs and potentially pushing the West into war, much like I had to push myself through this section.  It's quite dull and could have been done in maybe two chapters.

I guess Eddings was trying to establish why Polgara loved Vo Wacune so much.  It does explain how she became the Duchess of Erat and all that, which was nice to see.

Part 4: Ontrose

Ontrose is the next person that Polgara falls in love with.  She actually wants to marry him.  Belgarath says this is not possible, of course, because Ontrose will grow old and die, while Polgara won't.  This section mostly continues the storylines in the previous section, so it's just about as boring.

There's also an offhand remark in this section about how Polgara hadn't seen Belgarath in a few centuries, and you have to stop and think.  What is it like to not see someone for two centuries?  What do you say when you finally meet up?  According to Polgara, this is what you say:

"Well, Old Wolf, what have you been up to?" 
"Not too much, Pol."

Part 5: Geran

Vo Wacune falls at the beginning of this section.  Ontrose eventually dies in battle.  Finally done with Arendia.

See, I can flippantly disregard decades with a few sentences too!

The book picks up soon after.  The Rivan King, Gorek, and his family is assassinated by the Nyissans - all except their youngest son, Geran, one of many in the line named Geran.  Polgara and Belgarath rescue him and she becomes the guardian of the line, protecting them until the Godslayer comes.  They spend time at her Erat estate and then begins the long wait... moving around to various places in Sendaria and the Alorn Kingdoms.  Our old pal Chamdar (Asharak, whom Garion killed in Queen of Sorcery) pops up from time to time.

I've always wondered, why not just hide in Cherek from the start?  It's not easy for Angaraks to go to any of the Alorn Kingdoms; the line would be pretty safe.  Polgara does move them to Cherek and Drasnia and Algaria later, but I've never understood that.  I know they had to move because Polgara never ages and people would wonder... but still.

Also, working in the realm of prophecy... why should they be worried?  Countless times do the Angaraks try to end the line or this or that, and it never works.  Why would the prophecies be created if they weren't going to be fulfilled?  Prophecy can be a mess sometimes.

Part 6: Vo Mimbre

Pretty obvious what this section covers.  We don't learn a whole lot more than we knew before.  At this point you should know the story of Vo Mimbre.  Especially since there will be a test later.

We actually get to see Torak in this section, though, which is cool, since you rarely get to see him at all in the series.

Part 7: Annath

This last section deals strictly with the Rivan line and the birth of Garion.  Annath is the town he was born in, where Polgara moved his grandfather, a stonecutter.  It's a good section and probably the best of the book.  Despite knowing how it ends, it's nice to see it finally fit together.

There is a really good part at the beginning of this, though.  It's about Gelane, one of the Rivan line.  He survived Vo Mimbre in the Algarian Stronghold and he knew who he was from an early age.  He never seemed content to be just a normal person and later gets involved with the Bear Cult.

It's a welcome change from the constant descendants that simply accept everything and lead normal lives.  As I was reading, I wondered why weren't more upset that they had to hide?  What if one of them did not want what Polgara wanted, i.e. to take up a simple trade and live in obscurity.  Gelane is the closest we get to that, but I wanted more.  How would she have dealt with someone who was apathetic and totally resistant to what she wanted?  Would have been a cool dynamic.

Other Notes

Just a few things I want to comment on before wrapping this up.

At a point in the Vo Mimbre section, I believe, Poledra tells Polgara that the Events and Meetings all come down to simple choices.  I'm pretty sure that in the Malloreon, they didn't know this until they visit the Seers at Kell.  I remember Belgarath or Beldin remarking that every Meeting between the Child of Light and Child of Dark probably had a Seer lurking around somewhere making a Choice.  But I could be wrong.

Towards the end of the book, Alara is devastated by her son Darral's death (Darral is Garion's real grandfather) and goes mad.  Ildera (Garion's mother) asks why Polgara can't just fix it with, you know... waves hand about.  Polgara says the mind is complicated and it doesn't work that way.  And yet... earlier in this book she's erasing memories from people for various reasons.  Poledra actually teaches her how to do this.  Um, okay.

There's more confirmation about the concept that everything is stuck in a loop until the Mistake is corrected.  Polgara comments on this in regards to Brand.  And that probably had something to do with the "ordinariness" of the males in the Rivan line that she protected.  Just keep chugging along, status quo, until it's fixed.

A final note about the line of Rivan Kings.  It would be strange to live for so long and see the line come and go.  Protecting them, keeping it secret, waiting for the Godslayer to come.  Eddings could have made this more tragic than it turned out to be.  Polgara often left to do other tasks, so she had breaks here and there, and she rarely seemed to get close to anyone after Ontrose.  She does get upset on occasion, but I would have liked to have seen her get really close to a few and be very devastated when they died, have her question why she has to go through this, etc... there's not much of that.  It's something I feel is lacking in the book.

The Final Entry

Alright.  It seems it will have taken me about 3 years to finish this Eddings retrospectives.  That's too long.  But good things come to those who wait, right?

The final entry I will blog about is The Rivan Codex.  It's a mix of non-fiction and background notes for the entire series.  I've never read it before, so am looking forward to it.  Reviews seem generally positive.

Wish me luck!

Next:

Reference - The Rivan Codex

Previous:

Related Works
Novel - Belgarath the Sorcerer

The Malloreon
Book 5 - The Seeress of Kell
Book 4 - Sorceress of Darshiva
Book 3 - Demon Lord of Karanda
Book 2 - King of the Murgos
Book 1 - Guardians of the West

The Belgariad
Book 5 - Enchanter's End Game
Book 4 - Castle of Wizardry
Book 3 - Magician's Gambit
Book 2 - Queen of Sorcery
Book 1 - Pawn of Prophecy

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Hope of Memory [Update 22] The Real Editing Begins

Quick update on my The Hope of Memory trilogy.  I've finally finished typing up the whole of the handwritten Rom Tar manuscript.  Took a bit longer than I expected.  I've had a week or so off from doing anything with the text of either book (Wilders and Rom Tar), because I need breaks from it on occasion, so now the real fun of editing will begin.

I know I mentioned in the past that I liked writing these books out shorthand first, then typing them up etc etc... well, I might not do that for my next work.  Just because at this point I wanted to get straight into editing but felt it would be better to have all of Rom Tar typed out first so it's easier to reference and search.

Editing Both at Once?

I've been toying around with the idea of editing both books at once, then releasing them roughly at the same time.  I'll probably edit both to a certain extent, but for sure I want to get Wilders done as soon as I can.  Definitely tired of sitting on it, because we really begin to get to the meat of the story in the second book.  There's a lot of set up in The Distant, which is completely necessary to the full arc of the series.

So I'm working on it.  I'll be glad to get it released... it's the first multi-volume thing I've done and it sure was tough.