John C. Wright on the Canon of Fiction

An Essay in the form of series. Part 1 and Part 2, and a footnote.

The question is, can fanfiction – sub-writings in a fictional universe, by fans – become Canon, i.e. officially a part of the story?

I myself would err on the side of “no, not really”, without making a categorical claim on it. But more important than the answer to that question is whether a story, any kind of story, follows its own structure consistently.

My last podcast was a discussion of sequels that did not respect established lore. Not fanfiction, mind, but canonical sequels. When people talk of “respecting the fans”, they really mean “respecting the lore” – i.e., not ignoring what has been previously established in order to Subvert Expectations. You can’t just give Bran and Sansa crowns because that feels good and completely ignore the political realities in the published Song of Ice and Fire canon, for example. So for me, the greater question than “can fanfiction become canon/” is “can sequels become canon?” or even “can the later series of a TV show avoid destroying its own canon?”

Wright discusses the points of internal consistency in Part 2 of the essay.

Current Writing Progress

I’m somewhat stalled in a Western novella, but making slow progress.

I’ve started outlining (!) a fantasy novel, but I haven’t committed to starting on it yet.

The fifth Chapter of the The Meditations of Caius Caligulia is going well, and will be in the next issue of Unnamed Journal. UJ is going to be next-levelling pretty soon, I’ll devote a post to that later this week.

There’s probably going to be a Drunk Vampire Hunter story in there as well. Which reminds me, I should devote a post to Drunk Vampire Hunter, as it’s one of my favorite new things to play with in UJ. It might become a novel at some point as well.

Irons are in the fire, I just need to tend them.

 

The Bradley Font and Classic Pulp

I found this today on Twitter:

And it’s entirely in line with the whole Pulp Revolution indie scene, in which classic pulp fantasy tropes are lovingly dusted off and embraced. Cirsova Magazine is a good go-to (I’ve bought an issue; it’s excellent if you like that sort of thing), all hail the spirit of Robert Howard.

It’s a bit over the top, frankly, and I don’t know if I’d want to use it for my big fantasy project that I keep telling myself I’m going to start. But I might like to throw down a longish novella for 2020, along lines earlier alluded to. Since this would be a self-pub, I’m fine with playing up the glorious pulp-cheese of it.

You might ask why I’d even think about such a thing when the story’s in outline form. I say unto you, the spirit of composition matters. I think in the next few days I’ll start jumping on the first chapter.

Here’s another look at the Bradley font.

The New Year For Unnamed Journal

Unnamed Journal has finished four volumes and is about to start its fifth. It’s gotten into a nice steady rhythm now. I enjoy the process of creating it. Short fiction and essays are always a challenge worth grappling with.

But it wouldn’t be UJ if we weren’t thinking about how we could improve it.  A couple of things have been under serious, two-beers-in discussion:

  1. Opening Up Submissions. We’ve been producing everything in-house so far, except for one or two outside-written pieces. We’re open to having a place for other people’s wierd fiction, driven snark, and long-form jokes.
  2. Charging for Subscriptions. There’s a point at which giving it away for free loses its luster. Producing a literary magazine and a podcast does take some work. So we’re looking at Patreon as a possible solution, as well as others.

I suspect that if we do one of these, we’ll probably do both, as they both kind of fulfill the need to grow UJ to the next level. But everything’s on the table at this point, including staying the current course of a quarterly free lit mag.

In the meantime, links to all our currently available issues is found on the UJ page on this blog.

On the Shores of Cevalon – New Story in the Works

I have often mentioned my interest in epic fantasy, and that I have been working on my own homebrew world, in fits and starts, for a long time. I have put in some drawing time using the aforementioned Fantasy Maps drawing guide, and I’ve already started constructing a story on my new map. It’s part of the overall world of Cevalon, which I’ve been expanding to include more lands beyond its shores and a more clearly spelled out mythology & history.

And as part of getting myself back into actually writing in the world, I’ve outlined a new small project to start on for the new year. I actually started it without an outline, then junked the start and went back and did the scut-work. I was trying for a first-person narrative, which is usually fun, but for some reason didn’t work for me. A bit of Robert Howard (“The Black Colossus”, to be specific) and I decided to avoid a self-overhearing ironic approach, as is common to the Drunk Vampire Hunter stories (which really need a post of their own), and play it a little more straight. It’s kind of an experiment in world-building.

What’s it called?

The King’s Ransom.

What’s it about?

A bastard prince finds redemption in rescuing his full-blood brother, the King, from fiendish enemies. A trio of scheming princesses round out the family as a kingdom beset by enemies human and demonic dances on the edge of chaos.

It’s got the shape of a novella at this point, but who knows. I’ve got an outline.

Fantasy Maps and Cevalon

There’s an entire subculture of fantasy map-making and world-building, because Tolkein and Gygax together hammered into the genre of epic fantasy literature and gaming the need for a world to have an all-encompassing backstory, including a theogyny.

I’ve been farting around with a fantasy world of my own devising, known as Cevalon, since I was about 14. I’ve even written a novel set in that universe, which I still find interesting, and may, with some extensive editing, see the light of day. More likely, the first novel of that series will be set several thousand years before that. Because I’ve got backstory. I’ve even got the theogyny. It’s a riff off the Hindu Trimurti, with a Mother/Creator Goddess, a Protector God of Craft and Knowledge, and a Destroyer God of Fire and Renewal. There’s a bit of family drama between them, and the Destroyer God is that touch more Satanic, but…

Some of the stories I’ve written for Unnamed Journal, the Tygg and Drea stories — The Dying GoddessThe Barbarian on the Shore, and most recently The Sword in the Cave — are set in this universe. They take place on the periphery, so I’ve kind of expanded the geography of the world. This is as it should be.

For my birthday I got a How-To guide for drawing fantasy maps, which has inspired me to go back to my old maps and kind of rejuvenate them. This has been in my mind for  a while, but I will enjoy nerding out all over it.

I think that’s the trick.

Chaia Nov21 09-32
A totally random map made from Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator. https://azgaar.github.io/Fantasy-Map-Generator/

Considering John O’Brien

The author of Leaving Las Vegas pretty well fit the cliche of the alcoholic writer. He embodied it so well, in fact, that it killed him.

O’Brien had been a hardcore alcoholic for much of his life. His sister, Erin O’Brien, said of his drinking: “John’s drinking problem started as soon as his drinking started. By the time he was 20, he was taking a clandestine flask to work. By the time he was 26, he was chugging vodka directly from the bottle at morning’s first light in order to stave off the shakes.”

In popular culture, it is often written that Leaving Las Vegas was the author’s suicide note, perhaps to try and make something ugly a tad bit prettier. His sister takes exception to that. “That story was the fantasy version of John’s exit,” says Erin, “The man who goes to Vegas and fades away in his sleep with a beautiful woman at his side? John’s death was nothing like that.”

Erin O’Brien has spent many years being the keeper of her brother legacy. “John was profoundly misunderstood by most people,” she told me. “There has been very little intelligent commentary out there on him and his work.”

This is relevant not just because Leaving Las Vegas is a masterpiece of prose style, albeit one that has drifted off the cultural radar in the last 20 years (virtually everything does, and if I can discover the novel 20 years later, there’s no reason anyone else can’t), but because of the promise destroyed. O’Brien had the talent to become a major American author, perhaps the best of his generation. Instead, he became the embodiment of what became his magnum opus by default. The true artist should always be larger than his work, not bound by it.