Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kresz: the 'anti-Sense8'?

Reading J Michael Straczynski's interview on his new show Sense8, made with the Wachowskis, I realised they had turned my idea of Kresz development on its head.

The Kresz used to be plagued with House Wars, each fighting the other for supremacy, and causing a lot of death and suffering as a result. But with the 'emergence' the Kresz developed their empathic sense, feeling the emotions and physical suffering of other Kresz as if it were their own. That brought a sudden stop to the House Wars as fighting between Kresz became impossible.

Sense8 tracks the emergence of an empathic ability in eight individuals across Earth. They can access each other's emotions instantly - but it also goes a bit further. They can talk to the other sensates even when on a different continent and - by the look of the trailers - they can also access the skills of the other sensates. But it was the origin of the sens8 ability that made me think of the Kresz. Here's a snippet from JMS's interview:

Our theory was that originally we’re all sensate, and we all had this ability. The mutation was those who are born without the ability because they’re more efficient killers. If you can’t feel that person’s pain, it’s easy to wipe that person out. Over time, those individuals outnumbered those who were sensate.
How cool is that? I'm very happy to be sharing ideas with JMS :-)

You can read the whole interview here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Lenticular Series - how long should each part be?

For something that started nineteen years ago as a series of short stories on the Nuketown website, the Lenticular Series has far outgrown its humble beginnings. The last few years have been very productive in developing and shaping the story. Book one is in what I’d call ‘middle draft’ shape and currently standing at a modest 70,000 words – not really long enough to be called a novel. But the foundational elements of book one have proved to be a rich vein to mine and the story has blossomed into a multiple point of view tale, so much so that book two (in first draft) is weighing in at a 117,000 word, fifty-five chapter behemoth.

One of the things writers often ask me is ‘how long should my novel be?’ I don’t think it’s helpful to think about that in the early drafting stage, for fear of bending the story out of shape in order to fit some preordained word count. The story is as long as it needs to be. That’s my mantra in early drafting. But it’s time to start thinking about that now. 

The boundary line for book one is arbitrary. There was a natural break at the 70,000 word mark. But the 'complete' story so far is 187,000 words. Ideally that splits into two books of a little over 90,000 words, which falls nicely within the ‘norm’ for print genre novels (and I would like the Lenticular to be available as a print version). So one of my concerns at the next stage of drafting both books will be to see if the action lends itself (perhaps with minor rearrangements) to creating a natural break beyond the 70,000 words, and ideally at the 90,000 words ‘sweet spot’.

In the meantime, I’m having fun developing my third point of view character, Denev, a particularly frakked up Hegemony Diplomatic Corps officer who might just be the key to bringing the whole rotten edifice of the corrupt Earth Central Administration down...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How do Kresz talk? Creating language.

As part of Swancon, I appeared on the More Than Just Extra Umlauts panel about invented names and languages, because as part of the development of the Lenticular Series I'd realised that I needed to work out how my alien Kresz spoke and how their language was constructed in order to bring consistency to their names.

I didn't have the language skills, time or need to invent a totally new language - like Klingon - so I decided to cheat a little.

The starting point was the way the Kresz mouth is constructed. As you see from this picture, their mouths are quite different to yours and mine and this meant there would be sounds that we can make that the probably couldn't.

So thinking about their mouth shape I tried out a few sounds and decided they couldn't form 'eff', 'em', 'en', 'pee', 'vee' and 'we' sounds. I then created a table of phonemes based on the sounds I thought they could form with their mouths.

Ad | ag | ah | ak | al | ar | as | at | az
cz (ch)
Da | De | di | dj (ji)
Eh | el | ek | er | es
Ga | ge | gi | gu
Ha | he | hi | hu
Id | ig | ik | il | ir | is
Ka | ke | ki | kl | kr | ku
La | le
Ra | re | ri | ru
Sa | se | sg | si | sk | st | su | sz (sh)
Te | ti | Tz (ts) | tu
Ud | ug | uk | ul | un |ur | ut
Za | ze | zi | zr | zu

After that I was ready to string these sounds together and create new names. I had a bunch of placeholder names that I'd used along the way, which were made up on the spur of the moment and didn't necessarily sound like they came from the same language. I realised first up that my protagonist's name 'Jeldon' was going to have to change. It was quite hard to change the name of someone whose lived inside my head for years, but I bit the bullet and he's now called 'Udun'. He seems to like it. The results of the other name changes have - to my ear - brought more consistency to the Kresz naming conventions.

Character names
Final version

The same can be said for the House and Lodge names used by the Kresz:


LODGE Leaders

Hern (merchants)
Szemad (adepts)
Krup’na (defenders)
Mehap (cultivators)
Gulpak (priests)
Go’kran (educators)

In any case now I feel there is some reason behind the sounds my aliens make and it all adds to the sense of verisimilitude I'm trying to create.