Jan. 27th, 2017

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I pity the hypothetical poor bastard who ever tries to go through these notebooks to write some book or paper on me. The fifth page of this notebook features the following gem: “Tá mé réasúnta ard agus measartha tanaí. Caithfidh mé a ? láidir. I should email [name]; he can probably help.” Four pages after that, we get “家へかえりたい” — the start of a whole block of Japanese text. I think by this point in my life I had stopped randomly writing things in Spanish, but I can’t swear to it, nor that there won’t be some Old Norse later on. The actual content of this stuff is rarely meaningful; the Japanese says “I want to go home” and goes on to whine about how I can’t write in kanji anymore and I’m tired, while the Irish, from what I can piece together with the help of a dictionary, is an evaluation of my height and weight and physical strength (why I was writing that I don’t know, other than as a way of not forgetting the language). But a casual glance at the text doesn’t tell you whether it’s pointless filler or not, written down because I was bored in class. Some of it might be load-bearing. The only way for that hypothetical researcher to know is to translate the Irish and the Japanese and the Spanish and maybe the Old Norse, along with the Welsh song lyrics and Latin poetry and other crap I scribbled out because I was trying not to fall asleep.

Dear god. A later page has me trying to write out the first line of the Aeneid . . . in katakana. アルマ ウイルムクエ カノ。

My brain has always been a weird place.

Anyway, this notebook. It mostly continues straight on from the previous one, as in I’m still taking notes from my junior year Japanese history and witchcraft classes. (Also my ethnography class, but either it bored me stiff or it was the kind of class that was more about discussion than absorbing information. Possibly both; I could tell you better if I remember which professor taught it. Anyway, my “notes,” such as they are, largely consist of details about paper due dates and complaining about my fellow students.) Reading through it took me a while, because I was pretty gung ho about writing as much as I could of my notes in Japanese; I got a lot of hiragana practice the last couple of days, and had a few rounds of “what do those kanji mean? Bakufu, maybe? <goes to dictionary> Okay, yes. Then the bit right before it probably means Kamakura, because I know that’s the next historical period after Heian.”

From a writing perspective, it means this volume isn’t very interesting, as the vast majority of it is class notes, and the bits that sparked story ideas are pretty scarce. But I’ve got a page or so of noodling about the Nine Lands, scattered notes on The Kestori Hawks, and the occasional nugget of idea, marked to hold onto for later. My paper for that ethnography class was written on the local SCA fencing practice, which is further evidence of how my interest in that subject developed. Toward the end I started working on my junior thesis, which wound up being about weapons in Viking Age Scandinavia; apart from more proof of “hey, I like sharp things,” that thesis led directly to a short story and an as-yet-unpublished novel based on same. (I read Hervarar saga and was wildly disappointed by how it squandered the narrative potential of the poem “The Waking of Angantyr,” which was included in my Old Norse textbook. So I decided to write my own version.) And I think this one page full of random words was me scribbling down names I liked while working for Anthropological Literature as an indexer, because the second page of that also features the note “Kumari” by Allen, Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society, 32:3 207-221 pp. I knew “Once a Goddess” was inspired by an article I read while indexing; now I have the exact citation. Thanks, Professor Allen!

The most interesting bit, however, comes at the back of the notebook — which clearly got used before the rest of it did, because the material there dates to my sophomore year, before everything else. I’ve got contact info for several archaeological sites, which must have been field schools, because the last thing on that page says “Cas Hen’s a possibility.” That would be Castell Henllys, the field school I attended the summer after my sophomore year, which is noteworthy for two things in particular. The first is that I wrote a good chunk of Doppelganger while sitting in my pup tent with my laptop balanced on my air mattress — including the pivotal scene where Miryo comes face-to-face with the Primes after her encounter with Mirage, which will forever stick my memory because my subconscious threw a spanner into the works that night, that wound up making the entire story much richer. And the second noteworthy thing is that Cas Hen is where I met Alyc Helms, who seventeen years on is still a good friend and my closest writing buddy. As I said when recommending her to my former editor after he set up shop as an agent, every time I hit a wall mid-draft, Alyc is the person I fling my manuscript at, wailing piteously for her to hellllllp meeeeeeee. So, uh, I’m glad I decided not to go work on Low Briker Farm or Silchester Roman Town or the Billown Neolithic Landscape Project, because I could have written Doppelganger there, too, but I wouldn’t have met Alyc.

Oh, and there is Spanish in this notebook, though it’s limited to me scrawling CALLATE! (shut up!) when one of my classmates wouldn’t stop talking, and some song lyrics when I got really bored. So, par for the course.

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

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