Yuletide reveal day!
I wrote two stories this year, both for Hexwood
, a standalone science fiction/fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The book is something of a head trip, and I will therefore not attempt to summarize it, except to say that pretty much any back cover or dust jacket summary you will find for it will be misleading in one way or another. But it's a lovely book and I recommend it almost without reservations.
The reservations have nothing to do with the writing. They are simply my way of warning you about a quirk of Jones's stories. Her books are always lovely fun on the surface, but if you look more closely there's often a darker, more disquieting undercurrent to some of the world-building or the backstories of various characters. Hexwood
is no different -- the lurking horror here is the backstory between Mordion and Reigner One, which starts with child abuse, slavery, torture, brainwashing, and murder, and could, depending on how you read the things Jones leaves unsaid, go to even worse places -- which is why my two stories have such different tones.
---------------( 1 ) Childish Things
), 7,200 words, Dec. 2010. Three games Vierran played with Mordion over the years. Contains mention of slavery
and child abuse
This was my assigned story, written for Elspeth Vimes
, whose request read as follows: This is one of those canons where I'm equally for gen and het fic. I admit I'm a fan of Mordion/Vierran and would love to see more of them interacting like a happy, normal couple. But I also just love each of those characters in their own right and would love to get a deeper look at their lives. Forest hijinks with Ann, Mordion, Hume, and Yam are also fun.
Something with Ann's real childhood would be particularly interesting.
I turned that over in my head for a while, wondering if there were a way to fit more than one of those ideas into a single story, and eventually hit on a gimmick that would let me tick off every single one of them. So. Vierran/Mordion? Check. Vierran's childhood? Check. A deeper look into their lives? Check. Forest hijinks with Ann, Mordion, Hume, and Yam? Check. I even squeezed in a bit of Siri, Arthur, and Fitela for good measure.
Basically, this story builds from a distressing beginning toward what I hope is a crowning moment of heartwarming. :-)
---------------( 2 ) Served Cold
), 1,600 words, Dec. 2010. Orm Pender bred Martellian's descendants into Servants for a thousand years. He was quite practiced by the end. Contains sociopathy, slavery, child abuse, sexual abuse, implied rape, implied torture, murder, etc.
My second story was written as a treat for shewhoguards
), whose request said: I asked for Mordion fic, because Mordion makes my heart hurt, but what I really want here is backstory. Where did these babies come from? Who were their mothers? Were they related? Were they killed afterwards or did they try to get their babies back? Was it all an attempt by Reigner 1 to keep their houses under control? You don't even have to include him as more than a baby if the story doesn't turn that way, and he certainly doesn't have to be a main character. I just want to know how we got here.
I wrote this story because I ran a search on the giant request spreadsheet, noticed that someone besides Elspeth Vimes had requested Hexwood
, and since I had the book in Seville with me so I could edit my other story... well, why not at least look? Shewhoguards's request hit a lot of my writing kinks, so I dashed it off in under two hours.
What can I say? Backstory is my addiction, OCs are my bread and butter, and sociopaths are disturbingly easy to write.
was interesting. I remembered the gist of the story, but the details had blurred -- partly because I hadn't read it for a few years, and partly because the story's presentation is so convoluted. The first time I read it, I got horribly
confused the second time Ann went into Banners Wood, and thought there must have been a terrible editing mishap. But then I remembered that I trust Diana Wynne Jones, so I continued reading and my trust was more than repaid in the end. This time I knew the trick and wasn't so utterly thrown, but it still takes a bit of work to keep all the threads straight and figure out what events actually happen, and in which order.
Some other random observations: Hexwood
makes me think that Jones must have been reading Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea
series shortly before she started writing. I mean, this book has a character named Orm Pender who turns into a dragon! You cannot tell me that's a coincidence.
Also, Arthur Pendragon is a real mythological figure, so it occured to me this time round that Fitela Wolfson might be drawn from European mythology as well, and it turns out he is! Fitela is the Old English name for Sinfjötli
, the son of Sigmund and his sister Signy, who avenged his family (the Völsungs) against Signy's evil husband. His half-brother Sigurd is notable for slaying the dragon Fafnir, so it's likely that Jones is suggesting that her Fitela Wolfson was the inspiration for both stories -- after all, she says that Martellian was trying to breed pureblood Reigners to avenge him against Orm Pender (which suggests he might have encouraged incest), and Fitela fought the dragons the Reigners sent to kill Martellian.
Those observations made it into Childish Things
by way of the focus on dragons in the middle section and Fitela's brief mention of his parents in the third section, but mostly I bring them up because they amuse me. :-)