|Internal Memos (2)
||[Oct. 24th, 2006|07:41 pm]
So, I was thinking about the way that Journey to the West (sorry, I cannot find an electronic text, but compare wp's entries for Xuanzang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang) and (linked from previous) Xuanzang-as-a-fictional-character) works; the epic takes a real historical person and series of events and makes it into a lurid mythical account.|
This is awesome. I think you can see the application, and I have some thoughts about the form... it's pretty clear that what the fiction is doing is taking the story and exulting it with preexisting mythical tropes (which is dude awesome).
So, I think the dream peoples' method of telling stories as dramas or dreams supports and induces this... they may even retell their more interesting dreams in the form of stories, and they have a good chance of surviving and turning into folklore.
So it'd be interesting if it's possible to simply skip the base state and jump right into 'exulted by mythical tropes'... I'm not sure how to induce this yet, but it's there in my head.
I, too, have been thinking some about 4N. Unfortunately it's not been the cool colorful stuff that everyone else has been thinking. No, my thoughts are pretty mundane, but they seem important to me...
My concern at the moment is this: are the 4 Nations races or cultures? Which is just a fancy way of saying: must you be _born_ a Dreamer or Door and thus use dreaming and door magic? Must you be dead to learn the magic of the dead? (These are actually separate but related questions.)
The problem is that I don't know what answer I prefer. My egalitarian side says 'Screw birth, it's all culture. You can learn any of the magics if you have the time/resources/whatever.' But the story-telling structure we seem to be aiming to emulate seems to be pretty well focused on the rare and unduplicatable greatness of the few. None can compare to the heroes because no one is fated to have their power. No matter how hard you work you won't be as great.
Personally, I try to avoid thinking in racialist terms, because the idea of "race," at least as we understand it, is largely a modern invention, a result of the study of genetics and breeding and what not.
The dream people are dream people because their ancestors were dream people, because their parents were dream people, and because they were raised as dream people. With this kind of pedigree, what else could they be?
If a mature dream person went to live among the door people, they would still be a dream person, even if they lived for 40 years among the door people and died there, even if they dressed and lived exactly as the door people do. That doesn't make them any more a door person, it just makes them less of a dream person, since people from their homeland would not instantly recognize them as a fellow dream person.
However, if the baby of two dream people was kidnapped or sold or adopted into a house owned by door people, was raised as a door person, and etc. They would most likely be considered a door person. If they discovered their true parentage later in life, they might journey to the lands of the dream people, but the people there would not recognize them. If they could prove they were the offspring of dream people, the dream people would be unsure about how to view them. Some would welcome them in, but the newcomer would still not know the ways of the dream people and would still act like a door person. So some people would continue to view them as a door person.
I would rather not view the cultural gifts of the Four Nations to be "magic." Think of them as a kind of cultural heritage, like calligraphy or painting or theatre traditions or storytelling or a religious tradition. Anyone can learn how to do it with the proper training and such training should begin when they are very young if they expect to be any good. Lots of people can do it on a fuctional level, but only a few really excell to become masters. There are some self-taught laymen who are quite good, but most of the true greats learned from other masters.
Basically, I want the Four Nations to work like real cultures work in the real world. No special innate magic powers. No X-Men. No Exalts. No chosen few with special powers. There is certainly a cultural elite, who are not necessarily the same as the political elite, but are clearly tied into them through patronage and the like.
Anyway, that's my perspective on the whole thing.
I think we talked a little about this, and what we tossed around was, like, culture lubricates magic, basically. Because you live in Njaaluwe-in-Dreams, you're surrounded by rich dream images and lots of people can teach you sleeping arts, whereas if you tend to hang around Heart of the Sun, you have to handle the many languages of fate, and that means that you tend to develop pattern-analysis skills.
I do like the idea of a compromise position where it is not uncommon for people to have intensely unbalanced talents, almost always in favor of their birth. I believe in a world where all the cultures have mixed races in them, but each culture also has a racial core - you don't have to have misty green-grey eyes and wavy hair to be part of the dream kingdom, but certainly the hereditary lords have always been like that, and of course the night theatres take great care to keep their blood pure.
(I suspect that this comes out of my experience of India, and, like, the tendency of creators to create in their own image.)
> On the Heroes
I don't think that you can/should talk about heroes in an egalitarian manner. If you say, "Any random dude could have done this, but as it happened it was Lord Sunmoontree..." it's got a lot less force and energy than, "Many men tried and died because they were not equal to the task, and then Lord Sunmoontree said, 'I am the only one who remains; I will do it because I must'." (I didn't deliberately cast that in storybook language against the casual language of the first but I think it works as an illustration of, how DO you cast the first in storybook language anyway?)
Greatness is inherent to few anyway. Let us revel in it.
But at the same time, we were not originally intending to tell hero myths, which is an interesting conflict. I think it could be understood as 'putting the humanity in our heroes', because presumably all the tellers know of the grandeur of the hunting of the sun or other precipitatory event, and they are biographing the heroes of that thing. Nonetheless, I don't think there is a worthwhile story that looks at the deficiencies of the many, instead of attending to the excellency of the few. It's a question of focus, and if you focus on the backdrop then obviously you will miss all the action.