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Part of the fun of writing fiction is the dialogue that arises with readers
if you're lucky enough to have any. Since I've always enjoyed learning about
an author's thought processes and how it shaped what they wrote, I've created
this page to describe what I was thinking and some of goals in writing this
book. The result is a kind of FAQ (that I'll expand on request), with three
The world of the story
- The world of Chords is what might be described as "high medieval" or
perhaps even "early Renaissance". As is revealed in the novel,
and will be explored in more detail in the sequel (Jester)
human civilization was quite advanced before the magical catastrophe that
led to the Exodus and arrival of humans in the new world—at
least as advanced as early European Renaissance civilization, and more advanced
in some ways because of the possibilities opened up by the use of magic.
This explains the relatively sophisticated language and level of education
of most urbanites, which presupposes the existence of public
schools or their equivalent. It also explains some of the modernish gender
politics in the story, not that we really need an excuse in a fantasy world.
- Many old technologies were preserved at high levels after the Exodus, particularly
those that would have helped the early colonists survive. These include things
such as weapons manufacture, the construction of extremely strong fortifications
such as the fortress of Volonor, and basic Renaissance-level medicine and
medical skills. Other technologies may have been preserved, but were not
deemed sufficiently important for survival to be actively practiced; this
is why bound books are only now, more than two centuries after the Exodus,
beginning to replace scrolls.
- The complete absence of anything resembling religion from human society
is not an accident. Strong hints about what happened are provided, with more
details in Jester. There are inconsistencies
in the hints you'll encounter in Chords, and between what I've said
here and in Jester. Most of these are intentional; some
are just mistakes. You'll have to wait for the third book set
in this world to learn which are which.
A word on language
- Language choice is always an issue when you're writing something ostensibly "medieval" or
set in a foreign culture. Since linguistic games were not my goal, I didn't
adopt the Tolkein approach and try to create my own languages or even a subset
thereof. Neither did I want to painfully salt the book with thees
and thous or made-up words that sounded foreign but were really
pulled out of a hat. Instead, I opted for a somewhat stilted and ornate style
that would suggest formality rather than modern informality, and evocative
words such as Amelior to suggest a concept (amelioration, because
its founders saw it as an improvement over the society they were leaving)
rather than as clumsy symbols.
- Speaking of clumsy symbols, Ankur isn't one of them: I didn't
choose that name as a clumsy symbol for "anchor". If memory serves,
I chose it long ago (how long I won't reveal) because I was reading about
Turkey, and liked the Turkish city name Ankara. Ankur is
here not because of any resemblance to Turkish culture, past or present,
but rather because of the city's long history and importance as a crossroads.
That made the name appropriate.
Details about Chords
- In many ways, this is a conventional "buddy" story, with an
emphasis on male bonding between two seemingly unlikely friends. I don't
think I've added anything to that subgenre, but in some ways, that makes
this a "comfort story".
- It's also a fairly traditional war story in the fantasy genre, with the
traditional exploration of clever military tactics that would be unlikely
to work in reality, barring considerable luck. On the other hand, I
deliberately modeled Amelior's tactics in this novel on the German blitzkrieg of
World War II, so there's historical precedent if you're willing to
stretch a point. (It wasn't until years after I wrote the first draft of
this novel that I realized that the city of Arden, which falls to Amelior
early in the story, might have been named after the real-world European region
of Ardennes. The subconscious is a tricky beast sometimes.) More
details of blitzkrieg warfare
can be found in the Wikipedi if
you're interested. I don't think I've added anything to the "clever
military stuff" subgenre either, but it was fun to speculate about
whether a pseudo-medieval army based primarily on cavalry could make
a go of blitzkrieg. I suspect they could.
- I also hope I’ve managed to avoid falling into the trap of writing "military
porn", though that's always a risk in such stories.
- The novel is also an exploration of the world in which the story is set.
It was actually written long before Jester to fill in some
backstory and set the stage for events in future books. Close reading
may reveal some inconsistencies with the events in Jester.
Although there are undoubtedly inconsistencies that resulted from
my failings as an author, most of the overt inconsistencies are intentional,
and some will be explained in a future book set in this world. (Working
- Mostly, I wrote this novel as an exercise in creating what I hope are
believable and sympathetic characters despite the constraints of
the roles imposed upon them by the traditional pseudo-medieval social structure
that I took as one of my givens. That social structure is indeed stifling
in many ways; it's no accident that both the male leads are male chauvinist
pigs in every modern sense of the phrase, and make little or no attempt to
challenge their assumptions about male and female roles. I hope you enjoyed
Alison despite this; under those contextual assumptions, she has an even
more narrowly constrained role than the two male leads, but manages to escape
that straightjacket every now and then. I liked her enough that
I named my daughter after her—poor child.
- Although I've written in my blog about the need for increased ethnic and
cultural diversity in fiction, I made a deliberate decision in creating
the world of Chords and Jester to attempt something
more manageable for a newbie novelist. To do so, I assumed that the
civilization of the story world came to the new lands from a reasonably
small part of a much larger land (something akin to, say, England or
Ireland), and whether or not those original lands were ethnically diverse,
the terror of the Exodus would have led to an "our people first" attitude
that would have further reinforced the cultural homogeneity by excluding
anyone but the majority ethnic group. Instead, I've focused my efforts
on creating other believable races, specifically the Goblins and the
Elves—though you won’t encounter them until you read Chords. I recognize that this isn't a strong argument, but it'll have
to do until I have time to begin revising my Black Ships series
of stories. There,
I've made a conscious effort to create less of a white-bread universe.
To whet your curiosity about those stories, have a look at the
Wikipedia article on Commodore Perry's de facto invasion of Japan.
Now replace the sailing ships with spaceships and the Japanese with
Comments from readers
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