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I should be working, and I'll pay for this later by having to work tonight, but I feel like I have to say something about this problem I've been having with my fiction.

Right now, I'm reading A Shadow on the Glass by Ian Irvine. It's the second series of standard fat fantasy I've read in the past year. The first being the Inda series by Sherwood Smith (sartorias). Both have a limited omniscient narrator in third person. I used to be comfortable with the head-hopping; I thought it told a story in the way a storyteller would tell a story, explaining both sides of social interactions, getting right to the point and purpose of everyone involved, so that there are no misunderstandings of where the story is going.

But for a few years before I took up these books, my SFF reading was of very limited POV stories. Books by Robin Hobb (robin_hobb), Terry Pratchett, and Gene Wolfe, mostly. In Pratchett, if there are omniscient moments, it's generally camera omniscience, and not a lot of in-the-head omniscience. In some of Hobb and Wolfe, it's very close up, sometimes first-person.

So I've gotten in the habit of writing in this way, too. If not first person, very limited third. It is apparently the fashion nowadays in genre in any case.

But my tendency is to always try to cram too much into everything. For me, writing is more a thick curry than nouvelle cuisine, a rich soup of culture and ideas and history. Something more suited to head-hoppery. There are more succinct forms, but isn't that what poetry is for? So, with short fiction, I try to mention other persons' motivations briefly, to try to capture only the part that matters for the POV character in their opinion, just enough to carry the story forward. Which sometimes makes it bloody difficult to follow; certainly it's a form that demands more from the reader. At least that's the impression I've got.

So I have this story that's now gone public on The Colored Lens site, having come out of its for-pay period. If you have a little time (Ahem. Maybe 15K words worth of time), I'd appreciate it if you could let me know if the story I think I told is the story I actually succeeded in telling.

So here's the story: Part One, Part Two.

And here's the story from a third person narrator (behind the cut to prevent spoilericity).

Iola lives in Chalcis, on Euboea, around 500 BC. She is the daughter of a reasonably wealthy merchant who tells her tales of his travels, but otherwise she is not very cognizant of the world around her. Athens invades Euboea via Boeotia, making Chalcis into a colony by invading and turning the island over to a confederation of wealthy Athenian families. Her father is killed in the battle. A mercenary, a Spartan psychopath who renamed himself "Tivviastis of Attica" after being kicked out of Sparta where even his own family is willing to risk the furies to kill him if he returns, takes her mother as a slave and spoils of war.

An accident in the warehouse where she is hiding gives Iola a massive head injury which blinds her in one eye and she's left for dead in the aftermath. She survives and eventually is nursed back to health by a runaway slave, an Ionian citizen of the Medan empire who was taken in the sack of Sardis by the Greeks. Iola slowly recovers but suffers hallucinations and bouts of poetic glossolalia, one of which proves to be prophetic: when while travelling together, they "accidently" uncover a trove of gold held by bandits. The bandits are dead, and it is possible that Iola killed them, but her hallucinatory fits obscure the facts.

To clarify what to do, they take a side-journey to Delphi, where a family of Athenian nobles have been manipulating the prophecies to free the city from the people's rebellion there, and have changed the Oracle from a shamanistic refuge into a matronly business of prophecy-making for extreme profit. Again aided by her hallucinations, she uncovers the deception, but also finds the real cave where ethelyne gas causes people suspended there to have visions and speak prophecies. Her own glossolalia convinces the matron in charge to let her join the priestesses there, and she spends ten years while her foster father goes on to their original destination.

During this period, she battles with her hallucinations, trying to force them to influence the Oracle to free her mother and do harm to "Tivviastes", who is now a wealthy power-broker in Attica. Her attempts to force her glosalalia to obey her fail, and she believes she has done more harm than good, and even credits herself with accidentally causing the death of hundreds of Ionians sailors.

She resigns herself to her fate, slowly becoming more accepting of the voices in her head, and several years later, is given a chance to re-unite with her mother. She then discovers that not only have all these prophecies that she has been railing against actually done the very things that she was hoping to do, but also that the God/Dragon/Brother/Lion figure that haunts her hallucinations is actually her own self. It turns out that prophecy made her foster-father rich, another made him marry her mother, a third gave them enough land to be self-sufficient, and yet another tricked the Spartan psychopath to battle with his brother and get himself killed.

Now understanding that she is, in effect, Apollo the god as well as Iola the mortal, she decides to enjoy the five years of peace and prosperity with her reunited family. But she has no need for a husband, being married to her divine self and able now to summon "him" at will.

So, did any of that* curry come across?

*Recipe: More like it's a soup. It's based on 1. Herodotus' version of the history of this time, plus 2. some lively theft from Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. This latter is the theory that consciousness is a fleeting thing, fairly recent in history, and in actual fact human minds are split between a speaking and a doing part (Huginn and Muninn, anyone?) with "gods" bridging the gap, 3. my own rogue theory that there was much more cultural interchange between West Africa, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Greece than the Neoclassicists that (my words) "appropriated and fossilized" Ancient Proto-Hellenic civilization were aware. I suspect (with very little academic and archaeological evidence) that the Mystery cults of the Mediterranean were of a piece, and 4. a re-use of the classic story of how the Oracle's prophecies don't always say what the listener believes is the case; but this time in reverse from the usual "Whoops. Destroyed the wrong army." Oh, yes, and I was also stealing some Gene Wolfe, as per spec, in that we are dealing with a brain-damaged Greek who hallucinates gods, although I've still not read Soldier of Arete or its follow-up volumes, deliberately.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, all of it, and I loved it.

(I realize I still haven't linked to the free-to-read version. Tomorrow)

Jul. 18th, 2012 09:07 am (UTC)
Thanks, as always! Let me know when they do a promo on Vol. 4.
Jul. 18th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Entry up now!
Jul. 18th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
Jul. 16th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
Jul. 18th, 2012 09:07 am (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )