Monday, March 04, 2013

The Temple’s Posthole—M.K. Hutchins

"The Temple's Posthole" is filled with things that make me happy: postholes, a cool family dynamic, and lots of Classic Maya-ish stuff.

the-temples-postholeMy writing group was once waiting for someone to return to Skype. After an awkward silence, our illustrious leader asked if there was anything we wanted to talk about. Without hesitation, I answered "Postholes!"

Postholes are fascinating. Carefully excavated, they can show the shape of a structure long after the actual building has disappeared. Someone else in my writing group jumped in with her love of postholes and ruins. Our leader groaned. Awkward silences have, ever since, been traditionally filled with postholes -- largely because postholes are excellent, but partially as good-natured teasing.

During one of these awkward silences, someone joked about how onethe-temples-posthole or all of us should write a posthole story. The idea lodged in my brain. I day-dreamed about a postholes magic system. I scribbled in notebooks. I outlined. And I wrote.

In those early brainstorming notes, Ayin didn't have a son -- she had a romantic interest to play the role of Lord Yuknoom's hostage. It was the first trope on the shelf, and it felt flat to me even as I scribbled. There are plenty of other important relationships in the course of human existence; romance just seems to get the most attention.

And so Tzi entered the picture instead. I haven't read much fantasy where the protagonist is a mom. Kids are hard to pack for on the road to Mordor. But I'm happy that I was able to place a mother-child relationship at the heart of this narrative -- I think Tzi made this a richer story than it otherwise could have been.

My love of postholes comes from my love of archaeology, and I knew I'd be setting this in a fantasy land drawing from the Classic Maya. This story, with its abundant magic, isn't anything near historical, but I hope I was able to capture some of the feel and flare of that time period anyway.

I focused on the Classic Maya and their glyphs in college, and I've long wanted to write a story that criticizes the mountains of media that depicts them as a bloodthirsty, incomprehensible civilization. These depictions seem especially unfair, given that the Roman Empire's particular brand of human sacrifice -- the gladiators -- are celebrated. Gladiators themselves are praised for their bravery, and the socio-political motivations behind the arena are explained, neatly and rationally, as bread and circuses.

The nations I've created are fictional, but I'm happy I was able to take something that is at first glance utterly alien, and reframe it into something human and comprehensible.

More Maya stuff: Kaloomte is actually a high-ranking title. If anyone reading the story is familiar with Classic Maya titles, I apologize for the blatant foreshadowing.

Last tidbit: My favorite part of this story is the line "sit in the lordship." I doubt anyone else will notice it, but it's a direct translation from a phrase the Maya used to write about ascensions.

--M.K. Hutchins

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