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The Past | The Previous

Where You Want to Burn a Name

Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there.

 

Last week on facebook I posted a small excerpt from the Eternal Kingdom on it:

‘How long have you been a soldier?’ he asked.
‘A few months?’ Isaap offer a wry smile. ‘Just over a year, I guess. I was given a posting last spring. First Talon.’
‘What were you before?’
‘Rich.’
‘And you gave that up, did you?’
‘No, sir. My parents said I could be rich and respectful in the lord’s army.’ He ran a hand through his hair, fidgeting, embarrassed by what he said. ‘My parents did not want the family to stay in Maosa. They said that there was no fortune here, beyond what they had. No prestige. They said I should distinguish myself to bring the attention of the other lords to me. You know how parents are, sir.’
‘Mine have been dead for a long time.’ They had, at any rate, not been like that. ‘But I know what you mean. Not so long ago, I had a sergeant whose father was rich. He was a very rich man in Yeflam. His son lived in the shadow of it for a long time. He tried to step out of it for years. I thought that there could be something in him if he managed to do so.’
‘Did he? Step out of it, that is.’
‘No,’ Heast said. ‘In the end, he was nothing more than his father’s son.’

It may not survive various edits. It may, but it may look different. It may look the same. But I was pleased with it, and because it does not spoil anything in the second book, I put it up.

And yes, the Eternal Kingdom is the current title of the third book. I’m not a hundred percent sold on it, but it fits, and I have nothing no one likes enough as a substitute. Titles remind me a bit of a Fiona Apple album, her second album, which was called When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right. It was commonly shortened to When the Pawn… because everyone likes short titles. It’s part of the art of a title, really. Short, snappish, easily remembered. It’s something I struggle with entirely, and at times, I imagine Apple titled her album that just because she was tired of being told that small titles, phrases, would be better. She probably didn’t. But every now and then, I think, I’ll write a poem, and I’ll use it as the title of my next book.

(It’s probably more likely that I’ll do what Beat Takashi once said, in relation to the titles of his films, in which he just wished he could call them, Film 14, Film 15, and so forth. Give me enough fame and enough money and my books will have blank covers and no titles and I’ll be happy. And, you know, not selling. At all.)

***

On the weekend, one of my students asked me how many hours a week I work. I told him I work seven days and I work at least eight hours a day. He laughed. I didn’t tell him that it wasn’t uncommon for me to work three jobs, which put more hours on top of it. But I did tell him that I sat and wrote every day because that’s how work got finished. You can have word counts, you can have chapter goals, and I often do (I like a thousand new words a day) but for me, I sit down and I write regularly. More and more, I am convinced this is the key to it. For me, at least.

***

I read P. Craig Russell’s the Ring of Nibelung over the weekend. It is his graphic novel adaption of the Wagner opera from 2000 and 2001. Dark Horse released a nice hardcover of the complete thing last year, and I picked it up on Russell’s name without really much idea about it – even though it won a bunch of awards – and have to say, it’s pretty sweet. Well worth the price of admission.

While I was reading it, I thought, at times, about Lord of the Rings. Both the Tolkien novels and the Jackson films (and the Hobbit, as well). There has been a long debate about how much Tolkien was influenced by Wagner for his work. For his part, Tolkien is reported to have flatly denied it. The famous quote goes something like, ‘It is true that both rings are round.’ But he didn’t like Wagner’s opera, and it was perhaps more difficult to admit at his time that he did like it, given the connection that Wagner’s work had with Nazi Germany (Hitler was reportedly a great admirer, and saw much of his world view in Wagner’s work). For my part, I think Tolkien was influenced somewhat. Not hugely – but I think there’s enough there in the rings to make the argument and make it stick. Of course, I like these little debates about influence and inspiration and theft, in part because the lines are never clear, and because I’m just kinda nerd for shit like that.

It was in that air that I found myself thinking of Wagner and Tolkien and, after, Russell and Jackson. Russell has scenes in his graphic novel that appear almost like early sketches for scenes in Lord of the Rings. In particular, he appears to be mapping scenes with Gollum before an audience sees him. Russell’s scenes with Alberich and Mime are wonderful, but his design of them, the way they move, the shadows that they exist in… it really is as if you have seen early sketches of the CGI Gollum from the films. There are other things, as well. The ring of the Ring of Nibelung continues to present itself before the ring from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in design and influence on some characters (mostly Gollum). And Russell’s Votan, as the Wanderer, looks like Ian McKellen as Gandalf, though this, I suspect, is simply more about the generic nature of an old man in grey robes with some crows about him. But still, with the other aspects of it, I had at times an odd feeling of being cast into that debate about the influences of Wagner and Tolkien again and seeing it play out with a new generation of artists.

Regardless, Russell’s the Ring of Nibelung it is an excellent graphic novel. You would not buy it or read it for these little discussion I like to have, but for Russell’s excellent adaption, which is its own, unique creature, and speaks well of his talents entirely.

 

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