Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost Soul – by Marie Brennan

Sometimes you write the wrong story first.

A while back, I was working on a story set in Tir Diamh called "Returning to the Nest." It was about a minstrel named Tirean going back to her old master Decebhin, whom she had left years before, and having an argument with him about different kinds of music, and the role they play in people's lives. Nice idea, but the story was unfortunately preachy; I submitted it for a while and then trunked it.

But out of that was born "Lost Soul." I wrote it three months after "Returning to the Nest," because I started thinking about what happened to Tirean in between running away from Decebhin and going back. Music means a lot to me; I learned to play piano at the age of six, and French horn when I was eleven. I know that incredible energy you get when a piece comes together, when everything's careening along and you wonder how it isn't falling apart. It really is a kind of magic. And somewhere between her departure and her return, Tirean found that magic. I was curious as to how.

Unsurprisingly, this story has a soundtrack. The five-beat court waltz wasn't anything specific, but the notion of having such a form came out of pieces like "Mars, the Bringer of War" by Gustav Holst and those parts of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ, Superstar that are in 5/4. (It's an odd meter, and one I quite like.) "Flower Face" is essentially a stand-in for "Dulaman," a traditional Irish Gaelic song about talking seaweed. But the most important song, the one I had in mind the characters played "Stone the Crows," comes from the Green Linnet collection Playing with Fire: Contemporary Celtic Instrumentals. Wolfstone has a track on there called "Gillies: The Sleeping Tuna/The Noose and the Gillies," the second half of which is the closest I can come in real life to what the group is playing in my mind.

"Lost Soul" fits into a bigger picture, though, than just a trunked sister story that will never see the light of day. Tir Diamh is part of a broader setting called the Nine Lands, that I created years ago, as an exercise in building a whole world -- that is to say, different countries, each with its own language, religion, clothing, governmental system, cuisine and so forth. For a while I was on a kick of writing stories set in different corners of that world, as a means of exploring it. Some of those stories have been published; others may be someday; a few have been permanently retired.

I'm working on different things these days -- most notably a historical fantasy series that will be eating my brain for the foreseeable future -- but the Nine Lands project is a long-term one for me. I hope to be still playing with it decades from now, because the whole point is to have a world big enough that I can always find something new to do there. And if that happens, you'll see Tirean again -- and Andris, and Ennike -- and yes, you'll get to see Tirean at the satire festival.

Because you know she's going there someday, and something interesting will happen when she does.

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