09 February 2015 @ 10:02 pm
On my website - "Afterword"  
Continuing with discussing the webpages for my Yuletide stories....

Oddly, the first one I wrote was not something that I had ever imagined writing. It was certainly inspired by the Yuletide tag set; but it never had a rightful recipient. In the end, in order that it might go in the main collection, I gave it to my sister. Well, she likes the books, though she'd never thought of asking for them. Another treat went to [personal profile] toujours_nigel in the same way. Very obliging people both of them: neither complained at getting the odd extra story.

I had known for about a year that Alan Garner had written a third volume in his Alderley Edge series; and last summer I finally succeeded in purchasing a copy. What with one thing and another (not least being a certain reluctance, for his style has radically altered over the years and I knew perfectly well the book would be very different from the first two), I had not got round to reading it until early October. At that point, I knew immediately that I had found the subject for my next paper for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. So I wrote a proposal and submitted it. In due course, it was accepted; and I'll be giving it next month.

Meanwhile, Yuletide nominations had proceeded in their usual fashion; and, for the first time (as far as I know), the "Weirdstone of Brisingamen series" was on the list. Both The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath have been favourites of mine for decades, and are eminently fanworthy. Nevertheless, as far as I know, no one has ever written for them. I was surprised, therefore, when I saw that the characters nominated were Cadellin Silverbrow, Grimnir, Nastrond, and Gowther Mossock. The wizard, certainly. But not the children, who are the protagonists? Nor Selina Place, who is the only villain common to both of the books? I could only assume that the nominator had in mind a very specific request: backstory for Cadellin and his brother in terms of the latter's turn to the dark side. (Where Gowther would come in such a story is a whole other question.) I duly put the fandom down as an offer; but I was careful to list only Cadellin and Gowther as characters.

Then I started to wonder what sort of story one would write that had the two of them in it. With Boneland fresh in my mind, it seemed obvious that the events that Colin deciphers with such difficulty (and only to a degree) in the course of that book would have left their mark on both men, years before. He had only been twelve when he was "struck by lightning" and lost his memory; but they presumably suffered no such impediment to their own knowledge of events. Indeed, to make sense of one particularly sticky point in the book—that no one had ever talked to Colin of his missing sister, with the result that he wound up assuming he'd imagined her existence—could, I thought, be partly explicated in a story involving the adults of the first two volumes.

As it turned out, whoever had nominated the books either changed their mind or missed sign-ups. However, the idea that I had come up with stuck with me; and, in that irritating way that plot bunnies sometimes have, insisted on turning itself into words in my head.

"Afterword" was therefore written quickly, and was the first of my Yuletide stories. Normally, I would then have polished and posted it and gone on to start something else, for I already had two other stories in mind for treats (unless, of course, I matched on one of them, in which case it would be my main gift). However, "Afterword" was far from done, for—as anyone familiar with the Alderley Edge books will realize—any story involving Gowther (or his wife Bess, for that matter) requires dialogue in the Cheshire dialect. More particularly, for the story to seem authentic that dialect had to be in the form in which Garner had written it in the Alderley Edge books. I had roughed Gowther's words as best I could; but I knew it needed to be done right. That, therefore, entailed skimming through both the early books, writing down every piece of dialogue from either of them, and then using the result to pattern what Gowther said in my story. Indeed, at times I had to rework what I had written since I had no equivalent structure in the rather small corpus I was working with.

I then dilly-dallied making it a webpage (which could not, of course, be uploaded until the New Year); and, even then, had it all done before assignments went out.

For the webpage, I wanted something to symbolize the Alderley Edge series, particularly the anthropological theories that underpin Boneland. I therefore chose a starfield—my usual starfield, yet again!—as the background, with a tiny picture of the Pleiades floating just above the right corner of the panel with the story.

The border of the story panel is itself significant, for it represents the earth itself, as it lies below the stars. The outermost layers are textured green, for plants; then there is a fine bolt of blue-white for the magic of Fundindelve; and below that is a brownish-grey texture for rock. Below that again is black, for the depths of the caves that are so important to Boneland. (Actually, it's got just a touch of red in it, to thicken it perceptually by comparison with the starfield.)