Once upon a time, I started reading through my old notebooks from high school, college, and graduate school, and blogging about what I found therein, preparatory to packaging these things up and sending them off to be archived with my papers at Cushing. I’ve finally picked that project back up again, so let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine to 2002!
Nothing from here on out is numbered, and pretty soon we’ll lose chronology entirely. For now it holds — this next volume shows me in my first year of grad school — but my notebooks are sorted by size on the shelf, and when I run out of the standard size, it’ll be time to explore the random other crap. I know from glancing through them that one at least will be taking us back to high school and my early fanfic days. What else is waiting for me on that shelf? Who knows!
But for now I’m in grad school, which means this notebook starts off with me being ever so diligent about taking class notes. Barring one line where I noted “writing” with some arrows to indicate the above bit might be useful, there are eight solid pages of nothing but notes from my “history of anthropology” class. Then it diverges briefly into four lines of notes for the early sparks that eventually became Chains and Memory. Then eight more pages and six lines of me musing about the unwritten novel known as TIR and speculation as to whether I should write the Viking revenge epic idea instead, and damning Donald Maass for making me question what I should be working on. 🙂 (The Viking revenge epic won, though that one’s trunked until someday I can dust it off and try to do something with it. The first paragraph of that book is near the end of this notebook.)
But my academic virtue doesn’t last. The next five pages are me writing fiction longhand again — always a rare occurrence — some scenes that were either a start for the epic series I still haven’t written, or maybe a half-baked short story idea. I think the former, but I can’t be really sure.
The multilingual nonsense continues, but has mostly settled down to just Japanese, as by this point my Spanish and Latin and Irish were far too rusty to do uch with them. Not that the Japanese is anything meaningful, either: it’s the usual mess of dating, kanji practice, and whining about how I don’t want to study.
NOPE I LIED. I must have been really bored during the discussion of Mary Douglas, because I wrote out the opening lines of songs in a wide variety of languages: Norwegian, Latin, Irish, Welsh, Spanish, Japanese, French, Spanish, Hindi, and German.. (To this day I have a habit of memorizing the lyrics for songs in languages I don’t speak.)
Heh. Later on, I literally wrote “My mind is elsewhere today.” No kidding, past self.
Apparently I had a vague notion of writing something on the idea of “redeeming Pandora.” No clue whether that ever had concrete form, or was always nebulous and cloudy. Probably the latter, since immediately afterward I wandered into conlanging two different languages for the unwritten epic, complete with a marginal note saying “I can’t believe I’m considering dragging in the idea of mutation.” Of course I’d been using mutation since that first conlang, in the form of lenition and eclipsis, but nobody had called those changes by that term in my hearing; I was thinking of the vowel gradation in the stems of Old Norse nouns and verbs. Which was a thing I hated when I studied Old Norse, because my professor was absolute shit at teaching, so I basically learned how to read the language without ever learning how it worked.
At this date, more than a decade later, I don’t know why I had conlanging so much on the brain, when I wasn’t studying any languages at the time. But on the next page I’m working out dialect differences, both regional and urban vs. rural. And then, heh: “We now return you to your regularly scheduled class” . . . yeah, right. There’s a single line of actual class notes, and then I’m back to noting that I want to work on verb conjugations and that I should refresh my memory on noun declensions during the class break. The doodles that keep recurring in the margins appear to be me creating an alphabet for one of those languages. I wonder if I have those collated anywhere? I should find out before I send this notebook off.
Hilariously, I apparently made up ways to say “Oh my god, there’s an axe in my head” in four different invented languages, two of which I hadn’t actually invented — I was just flinging down phonemes. Why? Because there used to be a website that collected ways to say “Oh my god, there’s an axe in my head” in as many languages as possible. It amused me.
I am also amused that I have a list of virtues that could be used as a form of address for someone, the way we say “Your Grace” or “Your Honor.” Four of the five virtues Alyc and I are using as titles in Sekrit Projekt R&R are in this list! Pity I didn’t remember the list existed; it would have saved me a bit of effort. (I think the notion of creating titles of that kind came from a short story I read eons ago, maybe in a Sword and Sorceress anthology. Anybody remember what that might have been?)
I had totally forgotten I once had a short story idea that was backstory to The Kestori Hawks, that trunked novel I face-planted so hard on. I never attempted to write it — well, I don’t think I did; who knows what lurks in the depths of these notebooks? — and honestly, I can see why, since I described it here as “a story of a man’s identity being destroyed.” Sounds fun, ne? 😛
But here, my friends, we start to get something very historically relevant to my career: evidence of my involvement in the Bloomington Changeling LARP. I started playing because of Alyc; the character I played was the one I’d made for the jury-rigged tabletop game they ran while we were at the Castell Henllys field school. You may have heard of that character: her name was Ree Varekai. And that LARP also led to me choosing RPGs as my main focus of study in grad school, when before I’d expected to focus more on things like fairy tale retellings.
I know I did a lot of chewing over game stuff in these grad school notebooks, not just to entertain myself when I got bored, but because Ree was an incredibly difficult character for me to play at first. My original conception of her could almost be summed up as a “a female Spider Jerusalem,” but I fundamentally wasn’t capable of playing somebody that brash and confrontational — especially not in a LARP, where your performance is much more embodied than in a tabletop game. But I tried, and articulating the situations my character was in, what she thought about them, how she might respond to them, etc., all helped me get a handle on a personality and mode of behavior that was otherwise a real stretch for me.
And this, at its core, is why I keep coming up with ideas that are in some fashion based on games I’ve been in. Because the process of getting myself into that character’s head — only that character; not the whole mass of moving parts that is the complete story — creates a very particular sort of mental bond. If I play the character for long enough, I’m left with an emotionally compelling core arc long after the specifics of game sessions have faded from memory.
Ree isn’t the only RPG character in here, either. I’ve actually got a blow-by-blow account of what happened at the end of the game where I first played the character I think of as the White Swan — a swan pooka whose story was a mashup of “Swan Lake” with “Donkeyskin,” whom I managed to kill no less than three times, thanks to the way changelings reincarnate. If I can ever figure out a way to do something with her that isn’t super bound up with Changeling game concepts, I would love to revisit her tale. And I’ve got a list of other characters I played, most of them either for one-shots or as NPC guests in other games, but my Mummy PC Allegra Chilton gets her start about halfway through this notebook.
The history of anthropological theory class gave me some high-level thoughts about themes and such in my worldbuilding, but when I get to the notes from class I took from Anya Royce, I can see my brain light up. I’ve got ideas for Old Project C, the Viking revenge epic, the Nine Lands, and a Zapotec concept I used first for making up a bunch of Mesoamerican fae for the Changeling game, then reworked into its own setting for “A Mask of Flesh” and some other unfinished stories in that setting.
. . . I have no idea why I wrote down questions about gun permits and what sorts of knives one is permitted to carry. O_O The answers aren’t there, either.
I can also see here the roots of some stories that plagued me for years before I managed to write them. I was struggling here with “Once a Goddess” — I wouldn’t get a comlete and functioning draft of that one until 2008, roughly five and a half years after these notes — and the first attempt at a story I didn’t write a non-crappy draft of until last year, which is unsold because the anthology I wrote it for fell apart.
Okay, that’s why this notebook is confusing! I was taking notes from both ends, working toward the middle. So I’ve been reading some of these pages in reverse order. I clearly did that to separate my classes from each other, but it created a hell of a muddle in the middle — I’m not even sure where the two halves met. But it does mean that the final pages here are relatively focused on actual class notes, because once again, they date to the stretch of time where I was being virtuous about such things. I should probably re-read these notes for the purposes of my Patreon, because they’re about cosmology . . . but a quick skim reminds me that the class was largely not what I’d been hoping for on that topic, so maybe not.
Only a few more of this size of notebook to go. Then we’ll be diving into the wilds of notebooks of a different size — some of which will fling us all the way back into my high school years . . .