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No, I haven't written any new chapters for TQC yet - haven't in quite a while - so the one concrete thing I can offer in this update is that there's nothing new. The other concrete thing I can offer is that I'm not going to make any promises about when the next chapter will be written.

Nevertheless, "The Queen's Courtesan" is like that pain in your joint that just won't go away, and I can't stop thinking about it. I've got tons of ideas for the story and for related stories, but nothing to show for it yet.

My StatCounter statistics tell me that somebody in or around Mountain View spent about an hour and a half - and some 28 page views - reading the story this afternoon. What they thought of it, or what prompted their interest in the first place, is anybody's guess. (No referrer was recorded.) Anyhow, it's always nice, though a little scary, to see somebody taking an interest in this convoluted tale. Frustrating too, because I want to write more but I'm banging my head against a solid wall of writer's block.

The good news is, I'm starting to fill in a lot of the blanks about the Gilkesh people, their world, and their history. My long-term project is to draw up a complete history of the Gilkesh people, from stone age to space age. I've identified some of the major early tribes and their homelands on the planet Shakti, along with possible routes for some of their migrations. Next I want to sketch out a timeline for the major historical periods - Stone Age, Classical Age, Industrial Age, Space Age - and the principal developments associated with each. I'll also take a look at how Q'ormis and the Singularity cult arose and how they influenced events.

I understand the political structures of Shakti as having evolved gradually from loose tribal alliances, to city-states, to queendoms and empires, to entities approximating (but only approximating) the modern nation-state. In general, leaders among the GK arose through consensus and moral authority; the ability to form friendships and partnerships was valued, and having a large number of friends and allies was the most consistent status symbol in GK culture. (Sort of like LJ ...) Individuals who possessed charisma, good decision-making ability, and strong negotiating skills tended to become chieftains, queens, and empresses. However, during certain periods, hereditary monarchies developed which led to political stagnation. (This is one reason why the family unit is so important in GK culture: the requirement of partnering and co-parenting dilutes the biological mother's control over her offspring, and enhances cultural diffusion. This principle proved to be of critical importance in the royal houses.) Most nation-states in industrial-age and space-age Shakti are neither pure monarchies nor pure constitutional democracies but hybrids of the two, somewhat like modern Britain.

So that's where the Gilkesh universe is at. But as far as the story goes, I'm still stuck.

Oh well. Heiti dhu kayash! (That's life.)


Sep. 26th, 2007 12:29 am
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Sagh-e gir, sagh-e gir,
Dalse miq'h prai gelam.

Sagh-e gir, sagh-e gir,
Atmise kayash tatam.

Sagh-e gir, sagh-e gir,
Nangise dayo abam.

Sagh-e gir, sagh-e gir,
Kairise shone arja.

Sagh gir, sagh dadal,
sagh kayash, sagh gir.

Sagh-e gir, sagh-e gir,
Sigse q'aya miq'h kesham.

Good night, good night,
May you fly among the bright stars.

Good night, good night,
May you breathe the breath of life.

Good night, good night,
May you drink the waters of the Infinite.

Good night, good night,
May you return in peace to the homeworld.

A good night, a good flight,
a good life, a good night.

Good night, good night,
May you dwell ever among the living.

Dedication/Sududor: Sophia Lee Fastaia
Born/Mugen: 2007, September 25, 20:33
jur 2007, sezd min-chom-lia september, min-chom saq'hat esh-chom-esh dakikin
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Of interest only to the most incurable conlang (constructed language) fanatics.

Introduction to the grammar (almost complete) and 850-word vocabulary in pdf at the link.

I've got most of the bugs worked out, and with a few more tweaks I'll call it a done deal.
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So, I've finally started writing chapter 30 of my two-page short story (ha ha) and should have the chapter finished by the end of this weekend. I'm dividing the narrative into ten-chapter sections, for no particular reason except it helps me keep a little bit of structure; so this will be the conclusion of Part III. I think Part IV may include some flashbacks, in fact the whole next section may be set "in the past" because I'm realizing I need to bring the reader up to speed on some of the backstory and it's probably most economical if I just shift scenes and narrate it directly.

Originally the story was just supposed to be about Kathris, Amira, and the affair. But then I realized I needed to give Joli a friend or two, so Dess and Atubis appeared. And then I had to create some kind of concrete external threat, and so I conjured up the Anomaly. Finally I thought I ought to add an internal threat as well, so ... Singularity.

There's an extraordinary double episode of Xena titled "Sacrifice". This is the one where Xena and Gabrielle rescue Seraphin from a cultic sacrifice and learn that she's become a devotee of Hope, the goddess of Dahak. Xena realizes that civilization may be destroyed unless Hope is killed and her nihilistic cult overthrown. She enlists the help of Callisto, who is tired of immortality and yearns for oblivion. In the end, though, an old favor is called in, and Gabrielle understands that she must sacrifice her own life to save Xena.

What makes this story so amazing is that all four primary characters - Xena, Gabrielle, Seraphin, and Callisto - all seek the same thing: death. But they all want it for different reasons. Xena understands that she may have to sacrifice her life to save the world, and Gabrielle knows that "if Xena kills Hope, Xena will die" - so she herself must kill Hope (her own daughter) to save Xena ... giving up her own life as well. Seraphin wants to give her life in order to bring the apocalypse. And Callisto simply wants to end it all. (For some reason I was weirdly reminded of the Jewish legend of "The Four Who Entered Paradise" ... but that's another story.)

This is where I got the idea for Singularity. They are a doomsday cult very much like the followers of Hope and Dahak. And this is what makes them so dangerous: because their motives are completely incomprehensible to anyone else.

This also kind of goes back to one of the key themes I'm playing with in the Gilkesh material - the temptation of the "return to the source". (I explored this in depth in the chapter on "Lilith", which presents various characters' interpretations of the role of Lilith in Gilkesh mythology.) The seductiveness of Singularity's brand of mysticism is the secret of their attractiveness to certain people.

Singularity originated on Shakti, but its membership is no longer confined to the Gilkesh. After the death of its founder Q'ormis (the Q-apostrophe is pronounced like a guttural G, by the way) and her followers, the cult was believed to be extinct but in fact it went underground. With the advent of space travel its members began recruiting converts from among the Humans, the Fao, and the other intelligent races.

The current political picture on Shakti is one of superficial stability. Kathris and Amira both emerged as clan leaders. Their marriage was intended to bring union and stability to Shakti, but it's looking pretty shaky now. Needless to say, Amira's affair with Joli isn't going to help matters. Meanwhile at Earth Central Intelligence, the Humans are watching all this and trying to "read the tea leaves" regarding the internal politics of their galactic neighbors. For this, they depend on an informant within the Gilkesh government ... but how reliable this informant is, is open to question. As we shall soon see.

The main plot of TQC still revolves around the Kathris-Amira-Joli triangle. The complications will emanate from the various major and minor characters' relationships with one another, and their responses to the Singularity threat.

Here's the link to the story. The current chapter (scroll to bottom) is still in progress.
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For those of you who are just dying to know what language Kathris, Amira, Joli, Dess, and Atubis are speaking, there's the Gilkesh Language Homepage which currently features a 700-word vocabulary and the basics of the grammar.  I'm going to add sections on pronunciation and complete grammar tables, and try to work up some sample texts in the language.

Oh yeah, and I bought a new computer.  An HP dual-core.  So far I'm quite happy with it.

More thoughts on hesed shel emet to follow soon.
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If you're one of the two or three people following my story The Queen's Courtesan / Space Lesbians, I've got about four or five episodes in the works now and they should be posted soon.  The story is now at about 14,000 words, which is much longer than anything I've attempted before.

The story itself is meant as entertainment, not "art", and keeping that in mind has made it a lot easier to write.  In fact, aside from the (negligible) literary value of the story itself, the project has gotten me in the habit of writing, which is something that hadn't happened before.  What I'm saying is, it was a great way to get past perfectionism and other self-defeating habits, and build momentum, confidence, and proficiency.  So if I do get ambitious in the future and aspire to writing something a little more serious, I'll be in a much better position to do it.

Meanwhile ... just in case you're wondering what language the characters are speaking, I've created a Gilkesh language home page.  Currently posted are PDFs of the 600-word core vocabulary;  in the future I'll add sections on the grammar. 

So if you were looking for conclusive proof that I have way too much time on my hands, there you are.


Dec. 21st, 2006 09:05 am
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Our story so far:

Who or what is Lilith? Well, in Gilkesh mythology, she represents the creative force and the owtward-directed urge toward growth. She is sometimes called the Angel of Night, and some of the tribes know her by other names as well. Lilith is Eve's consort, and symbolically she is regarded as the collective bondmother of the Gilkesh people - the parent who guides us away from infancy and toward adulthood in the big universe. Eve is the prototypical birthmother; but Eve is also the Angel of Death.

The Humans also have a Lilith figure in their mythology, but she appears as a more sinister character. Recently there have been some very good studies on gender and mythology among the dimorphic races. Now, the Errioi, for example .....

Lilith? Well, everybody knows she's the angel of space travel! Because, who wants to be stuck on their homeworld forever? And that's what Lilith is all about. I mean, it was Lilith who drove Eve out of Paradise in the legend - Eve wanted to stay, because it was pleasant and comfortable, but Lilith said no, you must go out and explore the universe. You've got to grow. Because that's what life is.

In meditation, we always invoke Lilith as our guide, so that our practice will show us the right path in the world. Because that's the danger in meditation, you know? That you'll withdraw into this other space, inside yourself, and that is not the correct practice.

In pictures, Lilith is shown holding the Sword That Does Not Slay. This is the sword that keeps our souls from entering the Realm of the Dead before their time has come. It's the original non-lethal weapon.

Lilith was the Evil One. She is original sin. The Prophecies of Q'ormis teach us that Lilith drove Eve, the Great Mother, out of Paradise - and this is why the Universe is out of balance in our own time.

Lilith is growth, learning, and civilization. Without her - without the things she represents - we'd be savages, living in mud huts and birthing our babies in the woods.

Lilith is life, passion, and discovery. She's the angel of secrets and mysteries. She represents possibility, and the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Lilith teaches us that our children must find their own way - that they cannot remain with their mothers forever. It is the hardest lesson.

Sometimes Lilith comes to me in my dreams. Sometimes she speaks to me, but I can't understand what she is saying.
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For those just tuning in to my story, the Gilkesh (sing. Gilkeshni, pl. Gilkeshna or Gilkeshne) are a spacefaring, humanoid, all-female race who inhabit a universe of my own imagining. Nocturnal by nature (but adaptable to many environments), they have acute night vision. I imagine that their eyes would see a nightscape something like the Todelmer Age in the final Myst game (screenshots follow):

I'll post more on their culture, mythos, language, and technology (outside of the story itself) later on.
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The Gilkesh (the name means “star women”) are a humanoid race believed to be closely linked to modern humans. The exact nature of the relationship, however, remains in dispute. It is unclear whether the Gilkeshna (collective plural) arose from humans, or the humans from Gilkeshna. There is considerable variation among Gilkeshne (discrete plural) in physical characteristics, owing to genetic drift and bioengineering, but overall they tend to exceed baseline humans in physical endurance, strength, mental acuity, agility, and tolerance for adverse conditions. They are nocturnal and have acute night vision. All Gilkeshna are female.
more ... )
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"The Queen's Courtesan" was supposed to be a two-page short story.

It was to be my introduction to the Gilkesh universe, setting the stage for other stories to follow. TQC is set in "mythic time" and is written in the form of a historical novel; it looks back upon a pivotal moment in Gilkesh history, prior to which little or no historical information is available. It is also posited that the original homeworld of this culture, Shakti, has somehow vanished from the spacetime continuum, while the nearby planetary colonies have survived. Therefore, the narrator's knowledge of peripheral worlds like Darkhaven and Planet 138 (which appear in the story at an early historical stage of development) is more detailed than her knowledge of the main world Shakti. This allows me to begin the story somewhere without racking my brains about the ultimate origin of the Gilkesh.

The deeper I go, though, the more I realize I'm going to have to fill in the details. The narrator may be able to fudge, but the author does not have that luxury. Also, the plotline has turned out to be much more complex than I originally envisioned. Probably what I'm going to need to do is sit down and sketch out the rest of the story (perhaps working backward from the end, which I've pretty much got) and then piece it together one episode at a time.

I've used at least three different titles for this story but I keep coming back to "The Queen's Courtesan". The term "courtesan" is used somewhat ironically here, as there is no social sanction implied for Amira's affair with Joli.

TQC is not a political story. Don't look for Iran, Iraq, George Bush, or Osama bin Laden, because they're not there. I write about politics on my political blog, and I write fiction to get away from politics.

That said, there are certain basic values that underlie my fiction, and these are present in TQC as in my other creative writing. More on this later.


Aug. 28th, 2006 03:02 pm
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The alphabet, in its more-or-less-close-to-final form.

Some example letters. These are the letters A, S, K, E, R, N, and M. The image appears compressed on my LJ homepage, click on the image for full-size in correct proportions. The rectangular guidelines are to facilitate drawing the letters in the right proportions, 3-5-8 or the Golden Ratio.
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So, I'm going to be posting some cultural background on the story soon. I've worked out an alphabet, a 600-word vocabulary, and a grammar for the Gilkesh language; and the basics of the family unit, reproduction, social norms and values, and what I'm trying to do with the project. Also I'll post some thoughts abut the story and planned future fiction.
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I've previously linked this material posted on another site, but I think it makes sense to put it directly on my LJ as well. It's the background for "Gone Into Night". If you've already seen this, of course, or if it doesn't interest you, you're free to skip it.

Otherwise, you can continue reading ... )
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For those following my SF story, everything you always wanted to know about the Gilkesh civilization may be found here:

The story "Gone Into Night" is currently in progress. It can be found here:
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Just in case you happen to have a burning desire to know more about the universe of "The Queen's Courtesan", I've created a Gilkesh homepage which explains a little about the society and culture.

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