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Roger E. Eichorn's Blog: Fantasy, Philosophy, and whatever else I feel like writing about
I utterly failed in my goal to start updating the blog this summer. I did, however, make good headway on the novel. The numbers aren’t spectacular, at least by my old standards. I used to be able to churn out 3k-4k words a day, consistently. On the other hand, the quality of the work I’ve produced this summer is, if I do say so myself (and I do), pretty damn impressive. I’ve reached the point where all the disparate elements, developed over so many years, are coming together, and the results surprise even me, who’s supposedly in control of the whole thing.
I started in June with 37,815 words written (down from 44,122 at the end of summer 2016 because of cuts). I ended this summer (last Friday) with a grand total of 79,871. That number includes a significant rewrite of, and significant cuts from, an earlier chapter. In terms of chapters, I’ve finished 10 out of 29 — which means that at this rate I’m going to pretty soundly overshoot my 200k “word limit.” So be it.
Alas, the time has come for me to start thinking about philosophy again. I have to finish a second (and final) draft of my dissertation this year. I hope to defend it early next summer. That’s the most important thing I’m facing, at least as far as my sanity goes.
In the fall quarter, which starts in a couple weeks, I’m going to be teaching a class (of my own design) called The Skeptical Tradition In Philosophy. It’s basically “the world according to Eichorn.” If there’s any interest, I could make the course available here: I could post PDF’s of the readings and recordings of the class sessions.
My resolution for this school year is to continue making progress on the novel. Like a well-worn New Year’s resolution, this one’s an old hoary thing. I’ve never had much luck shuttling on a daily basis basis between philosophy and fiction: it’s like I have only so much RAM, and loading up both those programs at the same time crashes the system.
But fuck that shit. No more excuses. As long as I keep moving forward with the novel, it’ll get done before too long, and it’s got to get done.
Believe it or not, I am finishing this goddamn novel, in its current form. It’s just a matter of finding the time.
I don’t know what I’m a-gonna do, but I will find a cure for the end-of-summertime blues.
I’ve finished a draft of my dissertation and am ready to get back to work on Three Roses. The near-future is a bit uncertain for me at the moment, but I hope to start making decent progress on the novel pretty soon. You can check out the first chapter of my dissertation here, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’ve updated the Sample Chapter. It now includes the Prologue along with the first chapter. Let me know what you think!
I hope to start posting actual, substantive blog posts pretty soon as well. The stacks in the Kosmos Biblioth are sadly barren…
I’ve decided to record my progress as I work to finish a draft of Book 1: The Anarchy.
I begin with 23,321 words completed (first 4+ chapters). I’m aiming for the book to come in around 125k-150k (which probably means it’ll be 150k-175k), and I hope to have it done by the end of the year. Can I do it? Check back to find out!
Update (2016.09.18): Alas, the answer is no. I’m not going to finish the book by the end of the year. I’ve decided that I need to finish my dissertation first, this fall. So I’m putting the book aside until I have a complete draft of that other big, looming project, which should be in January. Then I’ll come back to Three Roses, ready to crank it out. Getting the dissertation done should, I hope, be a real load off my mind.
The numbers: from 7.11-9.12, I added 20,801 words to the ms., for a grand total of 44,122. I’ve completed Part 1 out of 5 parts and have begun on Part 2. Each part should be similar in length, so it’s looking like the book will come in around 200k words (rounding to 40k/part). So I have roughly 150k words left to write. That’s not quite where I wanted to be at this point, but Part 1 proved much more difficult to write than I had expected. The rest of the book should come more easily, now that I have a solid foundation to work off of.
I’ve spent much of the past several weeks on world-building. I was working off a foundation (of histories and maps) compiled about six years ago. Aspects of both have gradually changed over the years, but I’d not gone to the trouble of recording and consolidating the changes.
I’m particularly pleased with my new maps. (I still have two more to make: one of the Continent and the Big One, which covers an area 6k miles by 4k miles.) Also, it took me way too long, but I finally figured out how to post both the maps and my genealogy in a way that allows viewers to click on the smaller images inserted on the Pages in order to access the full-size images. You’d think this would be easy to do, but it’s stupidly confusing.
Long story short: The ground is firming up under my feet. I’m ready to fucking go…
Scheduled for release in the United States on July 12, R. Scott Bakker’s The Great Ordeal is the third installment in The Aspect-Emperor series, which is a continuation, set nineteen years later, of Bakker’s earlier Prince of Nothing trilogy. Bakker, as well as his fans, refer to the story as a whole as The Second Apocalypse, though the title is (as of now) unofficial.
The Prince of Nothing
- Book 1: The Darkness That Comes Before
- Book 2: The Warrior-Prophet
- Book 3: The Thousandfold Thought
- Book 1: The Judging Eye
- Book 2: The White-Luck Warrior
- Book 3: The Great Ordeal
It is important to bear in mind that the two series are indeed a single monumental narrative. Readers would be nearly as ill-advised to begin with the first book of The Aspect-Emperor as to begin with The Great Ordeal. Too much has already happened—a fact underscored, perhaps to excess, in the laborious “previously on…” section that opens the book. This recap, entitled “What has come before,” clocks in at over 11,000 words. It is, to put it mildly, exhaustive—as well as potentially exhausting. Still, even readers coming directly to The Great Ordeal from its lead-in, The White-Luck Warrior, are likely to benefit from the recap’s distillation of the many-faceted story, though perhaps not enough to justify its length.
Each of Bakker’s fantasy novels (after the first one) begins with a similarly extensive recap, but the practice is especially needful now, given that five years have passed since the appearance of The White-Luck Warrior. (Compare that to the two-year gap between The White-Luck Warrior and the previous volume, The Judging Eye, or the three-year gap between that book and the final volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Remarkably, however, even given the five-year wait for The Great Ordeal, Bakker has managed to produce his entire series so far in the time it took George R.R. Martin to follow up with Tyrion Lannister after the events of A Storm of Swords! ) From what I understand, the delay was due partly to artistic considerations (that is, Bakker’s determination to get the story right) and partly to complications with his publishers.
Thankfully, none of that matters now, since The Great Ordeal has at last arrived.
The blog was down for about six months or so, partly because I just wasn’t producing posts (I still haven’t even finished my “Compositional History”!), but also because, to my great consternation, I ended up scrapping what I’d written and starting over again.
The goal of the opening chapters has got to be accessibility, and the way I’d started the book was simply too demanding: it virtually required that readers get through the first hundred pages in one sitting! I think the new version is far superior — not only in terms of accessibility, but also in terms of quality.
Interestingly, everything started coming together when I revisited some of the stand-out chapters from the original version of Three Roses, which was finished in 2001-02. That version of the book (whose story corresponds with Book Six of the series as currently envisioned) as a whole was a mess, but certain parts of it were (if I do say so myself) astonishingly good. I hadn’t read, and had hardly even thought about, any of that old-old material in over a dozen years. Revisiting it proved to be something of a revelation.
How awesome is it when you find great writing from which you can steal with utter impunity? After all, I’m only stealing from myself!
More on this when I finally write the final entry in my “Compositional History,” which will be soon.
On another topic, I’ve had the great good fortune to read the latest volume of Scott Bakker‘s series, The Great Ordeal. It’s set to be released soon. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve got to say: Chapters 12 and 13 left me breathless, both of them. They’re deep, harrowing, and thrilling, all at once. The book is a monumental achievement, and yet I have the feeling it’s only beginning, that the real shit’s gonna go down in the next book, The Unholy Consult.
Check out the trailer for Bakker’s series.
“He was a modern man, and the world of our ancestors was no longer the home of his spirit and his heart but his historical object.”
– Wilhelm Dilthey
What makes fantasy fantasy?
I doubt there’s any single satisfactory answer to this question. It seems to me that ‘fantasy’ is, to use a Wittgensteinian phrase, a ‘family resemblance’ concept: it signifies a cluster of distinct (yet related) features or qualities that works of fiction can exemplify in a variety of ways. If that’s right, then we shouldn’t try to force the pegs of ‘round’ fantasy and ‘square’ fantasy and ‘triangular’ fantasy into any one definitional hole.
Now, back in 2003 and 2004, I attended the Blue Heaven writers’ workshop run by Charles Coleman Finlay. Blue Heaven is exclusively for workshopping speculative-fiction novels: over the years, it’s midwived such books as Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, Paul Melko’s The Walls of the Universe, and Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest. One of my fellow attendees back in ’03 and ’04 was Benjamin Rosenbaum.
I forget which year it was, but I remember Ben proposing, one lazy afternoon around the dining-room table, what we might call a ‘phenomenological’ definition of fantasy: rather than thinking of fantasy in terms of features or qualities exemplified by texts, we ought to think of it in terms of the experience produced by reading. (Unfortunately, I forget what Ben proposed as the ‘experiential criteria’ of fantasy.) I objected that the phenomenological-definition approach must fail, because it would relativize the concept of fantasy so much as it render it meaningless: if fantasy were defined in terms of evoking experience E in reader R, then we would have to accept that, if R’s reading of Lord of the Rings failed to produce E, then it’s true that, in R’s case, Lord of the Rings would fail to qualify as fantasy. Call this the ‘paradigm’ worry: Lord of the Rings is the very paradigm of fantasy novels—that is, it’s practically definitional of what fantasy is; thus, we shouldn’t accept any definition of fantasy that would allow for the possibility that Lord of the Rings ends up not being a fantasy novel.
“How long have you been working on Three Roses?”
A reasonable question, but one without an easy answer. I could reply, “For sixteen years this fall.” In a way, that’s true. I could also say, “For eight years—or seven, really.” That would also be true, in a way. Finally, I could answer, “For about a year.” Again, that’s true. Sort of.
Welcome to the Kosmos Biblioth! I plan to post mainly about fantasy fiction, especially my own series. I may include regular updates on my progress. (I’m on track to have Book 1 done this year.) But I’ll occasionally write on other topics as well, I’m sure, particularly issues connected to my philosophical work.
The best place to start, it seems to me, is with an obvious question: What’s a ‘Kosmos Biblioth’?
One could translate the term as “the book of the world/universe/cosmos,” or (less literally, but more accurately) as “the library of the world.” It is the headquarters, as we’d say nowadays, of one of the primary religious-political powers in the world of Three Roses: the Order of Sophiel. The Kosmos Biblioth rears from the heights of the massive Ecclesia Sophielas, which sits atop Phebe’s Hill in the sun-drenched splendor of Farnesse. You can see a depiction of the Biblioth in the blog’s header image.
The Sophieli are one of several branches on the tree of Elaarism, the faith that has dominated the Continent, from Brytar in the east to Szarvas in the west, for almost thirteen centuries. The Sophieli established the Ecclesia Sophielas around 260, on the site of an ancient pagan shrine. The Kosmos Biblioth was the heart of the Ecclesia from its inception; it serves as the Order’s administrative center as well as the primary storehouse for its massive collection of texts.
The overriding purpose of the Sophieli is to produce as fine-grained a record of world history as possible, in order to correlate events with the far more compact history contained in the central sacred text of Elaarism, the Kosmostoria (History of the World), the transcribed words of the Prophet Yehru Bar-el. The Kosmostoria charts the course of history from the moment of creation to the end days; yet it is notoriously difficult (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, notoriously easy) to correlate specific historical events with the history transmitted in the sacred texts. Hence the Sophieli’s grand undertaking.
The actual library, where the books and scrolls are stored, is underground, beneath the massive domes and towers. For this reason, it is known as ‘the Tombs.’ The Tombs are organized along three axes: time, space, and perspective. The library is composed of a series of chambers, branching off a central spiral staircase, with main passageways radiating outward to north, south, east, and west. Each floor of the library is a particular decade(s), organized according to a scaled-down map of the world, with the central axis representing itself. So the Empire is northwest and northeast; Nevegas is immediately south; and Brytar is in the far east, slightly north of the east axis.
But that’s only the first two dimensions. The third dimension is the complicated one. There are formulas that unlock the various ways in which the chambers, laid out in the way just described, form cross-floor and cross-location patterns. One ‘reads’ the formulas in a variety of ways, including: the shape of the chamber (the chambers have from three to eight sides), and the doorways between chambers (some are square, others arched; and all have words or symbols carved above them). If one knows the formulas, then one can navigate the Tombs in such a way so as to follow certain ‘perspectives’ across different times and spaces.
The perspectives are numerous, and they are embedded in each other in complex ways. The main perspectives are, of course, religious, corresponding to the four main Archonical Orders: Dathiel, Sophiel, Macariel, and Thoriel. Embedded within these large-scale ‘perspectives’ are a huge number of other perspectives, including: wars, successions, population, crop patterns, etc.
Like its namesake, I intend for this blog to house the history of Three Roses, both past and ongoing. I hope you’ll drop by every now and then!