Jan. 23rd, 2017

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Years ago I numbered these notebooks so I would know roughly what order they went in, but it’s more what you might call guidelines than actual rules. This one, #5, starts out with my junior year of high school — I can tell because there are three pages from a project I was working on for Theory of Knowledge — but then it jumps straight to my sophomore year of college. And I can tell that because I was finally taking actual notes in class.

In fact, the bulk of this notebook is dedicated to class notes, stretching across three semesters. But even if there were nothing story-related in it — which isn’t the case — I would still consider it fair game for archiving, because of what it shows about my development as a writer. The classes recorded here are Ancient Celtic Society, my Irish Gaelic language course, The Christian Revolution (on the early formation of the church), Shakespeare’s Later Plays, the history of folklore theory, Japanese history, and witchcraft. (Yes, I took a course on witchcraft. My textbooks for that had the most interesting titles.) This is characteristic of my education: I ricocheted all over the globe, filling my brain with bits and pieces of material from a dozen different cultures.

I hadn’t realized it began this early, but here we get the first scattered appearances of the mark I mentioned before, the thing I would put in the margins of my notes to let me know when I’d gone haring off the path of class material and into ideas for my stories. It’s a little MB, for Marie Brennan, and it makes obvious what otherwise would require inference: the fact that my classes were directly fueling my fiction. It’s possible that one of my other notebooks will even record the moment at which a folklore seminar gave me the idea for “Calling into Silence,” the first piece of fiction I ever had monetary success with. I’ve said before that I didn’t choose my majors (archaeology and folklore & mythology) with an eye toward what would be useful to me as a fantasy writer, but I don’t think I could have chosen better for that purpose if I tried. Here is the proof of it, with my college education dumping truckloads of fertilizer and seeds directly into my brain.

Story-wise, there are a bunch of things in here, starting with Old Project C (that can be the code name for the originally-fanfic-based-but-later-original thing I may revive someday in vastly altered form) and bouncing around through Doppelganger, The Kestori Hawks (my third and wildly unsuccessful novel, now trunked), the Nine Lands short stories, and Sunlight and Storm (my fourth novel, which may get revived from the trunk someday). I can see the moment where I started noodling around with the name that wound up becoming Shikari. There are some scene-bits for what would probably be the pivot point of a series I have not yet written, more than fifteen years later. There are diagrams and choreography for the plays I worked on, during the four years that I was basically the only stage combat person at Harvard with anything resembling training — early stratigraphy for Writing Fight Scenes.

There are also a few habits that are still with me now. The first is my tendency to randomly start writing in cursive, in a never-ending and perpetually doomed attempt to regain the ability to make it look good. Sketches periodically fill the margins; I’m not much of a visual artist, at least not outside of photography, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. And every so often — more, when there’s a good reason — I’ll write bits of my notes in Japanese, again in an attempt to keep up my skill. Mostly what it means in practice is that I remember how to write dates, and my hiragana comprehension has stayed good, because I can spell out things I don’t remember/never knew the kanji for, and kanji (at least the way I write them) are often too slow for note-taking purposes. This was useful in the part of the notebook where I was studying Japanese history, because I could and did write about how しょとく promoted Buddhism in やまと during the 六の century, but a few scattered habits stayed with me overall; I suspect later notebooks will show me writing 人 for “person” or “people,” because that’s one of the few cases where the kanji is genuinely faster to write.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.


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