Curious Tale Projects
I Still Hope to Tackle
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Welcome to the future!
Today, I thought I'd talk a little bit about what I hope to achieve with The Curious Tale. You see, this decade has been filled with changes for me, and all these changes mean that I have a new baseline. My hope, going forward, is that I'll be able to use this Year of 36 to usher in a new productive period, just like the one in the Year of 32.
For you, this article is an opportunity to get a big picture view of what you can look forward to. For me, it's a way of setting some goalposts, and is actually a part of my Year of 36 planning process, which I mentioned a few weeks ago is a work in progress itself, owing to my busy schedule.
I'll be looking at this mainly from a creative standpoint, as opposed to any social or economic accomplishments.
What Would Have Happened in Another 2016
We begin today by looking at an alternate past future, one where my life didn't fall apart in 2015, which I think is instructive because it draws upon the strengths of a Josh from three years ago, who had more going for him than I do.
When the Year of 32 began, I knew I was leaving the Mountain. The plan at the time was for me to leave in 2016, but as the months passed this date got steadily moved up, with the consequence being that I deliberately put all my focus on the Year of 32 projects, and did not do hardly any planning for anything after the Prelude. I figured to let it take care of itself.
As we know, of course, this didn't work out at all. Empire on Ice, The Great Galavar, my Special Infrastructure Projects, and all of the lesser projects all went by the wayside as I dealt with one existential crisis after another. But if things had worked out, what would I have wanted to do?
The answer to that, as best I can figure, is that I would have wanted to make another big creative push: another book. Probably, that book would have been the book: Book I, or at least Chapter 1, of After The Hero. Everyone was clamoring for it, and it would have been the obvious step forward from the Prelude to After The Hero.
I may very well have also tried, in tandem, to continue The Great Galavar as a weekly serial—in fact this was one of the last things I gave up on after things began falling apart for me.
And of course I would have continued my platform-building efforts on social media and so on, along with, hopefully, at least a couple other Regular Features, like Empire on Ice or Wiki Wednesdays.
In that scenario, my next book would have been long finished by now, under the matured logic of a Josh in his 30s who recognized he's not going to live for ever and knows that the only way to finish books is to cut corners and make compromises.
It was also fairly clear, by the way, which of the characters and subplots in the various provinces of The Curious Tale were resonating with me the most. That's a good place to be, because once you can identify what you want to write about, then, if you can commit to that, your odds of successfully writing something go way up. You could see me playing around in all of the fiction I produced at the time—Empire on Ice, The Great Galavar, and the Prelude itself—with different characters and feeling them out.
In Empire, Josh, Silence, and Afiach were my golden trio, with a lot of second-tier love for Grieve, Thanatos, and a few others. In The Great Galavar I was really digging Javelin, Jahvoy, and Galavar himself on the main stage, with secondary love for a number of others, like Ornithate, Nightlight, and Saysh. In the Prelude I enjoyed virtually everyone, because that story had been so long in coming, but I especially enjoyed (alongside givens like Silence and Galavar) the characters Diva, DeLatia, Gregor, and a few others you may have forgotten about.
This sort of thing has a bearing on what I'm going to write in the future. Characters who resonate with me are characters who get invited back. And insightful readers can make a generalization from this. For instance, my recent article about the real-world history of DeLatia didn't occur in a vacuum. If I'm thinking about a character enough to write a Curious Tale Saturdays article about them, then, while not guaranteed, it's certainly a distinct possibility that this a subtle hint at my behind-the-scenes thinking, planning, and sometimes even writing.
I don't know if I would have succeeded in building an audience by now, here in the later months of 2018, had life not fallen apart in 2015. Honestly, probably not. But I do think I would have a great deal of creative output to show for it.
And so we come to the real future.
My Creative Hopes for The Curious Tale
The Main Projects
Without being too blunt about it, I don't want to slow-roll this either: My chief Curious Tale intention is to write the first ATH book as soon as I am able to do so.
Obviously, "able to do so" is an unlimited loophole. I'll need to be in a better position than I am right now, that's for certain.
I also have every intention of continuing The Great Galavar, and that one is going to be much easier to resume working on, because it has a lower production value. If you compare the text of The Great Galavar to that of the Prelude, you'll see what I mean. This story is one of The Interludes, and The Interludes are an integral of After The Hero.
That also covers Mate of Song, another Interlude. I still feel very passionately about this story and was thinking about it at length earlier today. It even got some shower time, which is prime daydreaming turf for me. One of the biggest problems I had with Mate of Song's development back on the Mountain—figuring out the secret to Afiach's power of song, and the story impact of this power—have long since been solved, in a way that excites me way much.
I want to do the other Interludes too. In fact, let's just cut to the chase here and say that there are no stories in The Curious Tale that I wanted to write before but don't want to write now.
It is my creative intention to always be working on a full-length book, from now until further notice, whenever possible. The first ATH book is at the top of my list when it comes to these books. Thus, while I am not actively working on that book right now, it is absolutely my intention to begin doing so within the Year of 36.
Since it's a serial rather than a book, from a production standpoint, you can also safely assume that I am looking for the right moment to resume The Great Galavar. It needs a little bit of a story revamp, which was actually plaguing it back in 2015 as well, but, with that revamp, it has a very important story to tell, and one that greatly excites me.
What it will take for these pieces to fall into place is not exactly defined, but the general look of it is clear: I need financial stability, mental stability, and enough time to actually work on this. Currently I have the first two, but not the latter. Therefore I will need one of two breakthroughs: I will either need to reduce my working hours in a way that doesn't threaten my financial and mental stability, or I will need to increase my mental stability so that I can be more efficient with the very limited hours I do have.
I am currently actively working toward both of those solutions.
And I encourage you to watch this space come the first Saturday the 27th of the Year of 36: October 27.
The Regular Features, and other features, will of course continue in some form or another, permanently.
Secondary Projects, Spinoffs, Etc.
I don't know if my time will ever permit something like this, in my whole life, but I would also like to do a number of secondary projects. I would love to do an entire series about Silence's time as a pirate captain, and another series about her time as the captain of the Handsel Band. There's something that happens to Silence later in ATH that would require eight books for me to fully explore. Beyond Silence, the pickings are just as fat: I'd love to do a series about Semneride RiPana, the commander of Gala's air force, a series about the Drakes, a series about—well, honestly, I'd love to do a series about virtually every interesting character.
I'd love to do all kinds of secondary works like this, but I don't know if I can actually consider them "hopes" for eventual creative accomplishments, because I genuinely doubt I'll ever have the time for them. These might be a great fit for some of the other media projects I discuss below, such as graphic novels and video games.
"Black Sheep" Projects
There are also some projects I'd like to tackle—though which are, from a practical standpoint, as unlikely as the secondary ones mentioned above—which don't fit into the storytelling style and tenor of The Curious Tale. I'd love to do some really weird stuff...incomprehensible poetry, dark arts, a book of Afiach's songs, genre-bending overlays of other types of stories, an alternate reality fat Silence erotica fanfic, and some stuff that's too ridiculous to mention at all.
Weirding. I want to weird people out. I want to pay homage to my conviction in experiencing the full range of human emotions, and create works that genuinely make my readers feel mystified, unsettled, dumbfounded, creeped out, disgusted, and all the other stuff that the "white sheep" projects are unlikely to be able to really delve into. I want to be one of those artists who people look back on hundreds of years later and say "What an extraordinary writer, but good damn was he a weird one!"
I don't know if I have it in me to actually pull it off, even if I did make the time for it.
Even as of right now, I haven't resumed serious social media work for The Curious Tale. Thus far, my social media work has been almost entirely one big chore. And with my time being so limited, and me being aware of how little return there will be, at least initially, I haven't been able to justify putting in the time to get this started again.
Ultimately, however, I envision social media as the main venue for my communication with fans. The Regular Features are more of a "come listen to Josh lecture" thing, but what I really want when it comes to my audience is engagement. I want people leaving feedback, asking questions, sharing ideas. I want to have a lot of that going on. Not surprisingly, I love talking about the world of Relance! Look at how much I do it even all on my lonesome. Imagine if I had even five people asking me questions on a regular basis!
Ultimately, this is where I want the Tale's social media to go. Yeah, yeah, it'll be a part of platform-building too, but it'll also be something to look forward to in its own right—sort of a miniature and much more frequent Curious Tale Saturdays, covering topics that are granular enough that they couldn't fill a full article.
I actually have an audacious idea in mind for expanding my efforts in this area, one that I hope to set into motion during this special creative year, but first I would need to get to the point of regularly updating my social media accounts. That's the first step.
Music and Illustrations
My Curious Tale composing isn't going anywhere. I very much want to do more composing. I've been a little sheepish to do it at this apartment, because there's no real privacy and for me the artist's work is extremely private. I also want to upgrade my composing hardware and software capabilities, which is pending the discretionary funds to do so, which may not happen anytime soon. I hope to be able to make that purchase during the Year of 36, but it's not looking good right now. My musical endgame goal is to produce soundtracks for The Curious Tale, as well as non-soundtrack "inspired by" music, such as the Sunlight Symphony.
Other than that, my major unspoken ambition in this area is to do some Curious Tale drawing. [Beginning to] learning to draw is actually one of my decadal ambitions for my 30s, and so far I haven't even tried. I have a lovely drawing starter kit from Amy, and I've never used it. I would like to be able to do casual sketches for The Curious Tale, and someday I would even like to rise to the level of graphic novels, though I'm doubtful I'll ever get there on my own.
Additionally, I would like to produce a Curious Tale podcast. I was experimenting with this last year before things got really bad, and even recorded a few episodes. I'd still like to do this, or something along these lines.
Special Infrastructure Projects
Back in the day, my monthly SIP was how I got this website started and up to such a good place in terms of functionality. I know it's not a typical "sleek" website look, but I honestly really like it.
I've learned from my current job, however, a lot about SEO, and my site is not surprisingly a black hole for SEO purposes. I would like to change that, which would constitute a pretty significant series of SIPs.
Another SIP I would like to do is get the earlier installments of Curious Tale Saturdays and Empire on Ice up on the site, as they currently exist only on my journal.
A third, potential SIP is that I'm toying about the idea of a message forum, just because I've had such good experiences with it in the past—it's even how The Curious Tale was born! But this is a cart before the horse problem, as I would need people before a forum would do any good.
Over the years I have learned something that, in hindsight, should have been more obvious: I would like a creative partner to work with me on the Tale. It was born of collaboration, and I work best in collaboration—I think ATH the RPG itself, as well as my high school Purim spiels, are proof of that. I would like a kindred creative intellect to help me solve problems, fill in my weak spots, make the story have a whiff of unpredictability as I write it, and generally keep me engaged and putting out work.
In all my years, I have never found such a person. I don't realistically expect that I ever will, either. But I would really like someone to come along and be the Ronnie to my Roy. I think that would make me wonderfully happy.
Encyclopedia Reluria and Fanworks
The encyclopedia, and lexicon, are projects I intend to work on for the whole lifetime of The Curious Tale. If I ever do manage to finish the actual books, I'll probably still be working on the encyclopedia, right up to the day I die.
I haven't done any work in the wiki in quite some time, and I'm looking to change this, but I don't know when or how I'll find space to fit it in.
This brings me to the matter of fan collaborations, fan contributions to the wiki, and independent fanworks—all of which I would support, with varying conditions on each. For fan collaborations, I would love to find a really good artist who's also a fan of my work, and sort of make them (or maybe more than one of them) an "official" Curious Tale artist. For the wiki, I'd love to have anyone sufficiently trustworthy help fill it out. It'll never be editable to the general public, but I definitely hope to not have to tackle it solely on my own. And for independent fanworks, I support those to the fullest extent I legally can without endangering my own intellectual property rights (which is a subject for another time).
Curious Tale Video Media
I sometimes think about developing Curious Tale video games. As yet, there's nothing in the world of Relance that I would want to take the medium of a video game over, say, that of a book, but I nevertheless do have a number of specific video game ideas.
At this point in time I don't necessarily intend to accomplish anything like this, but I could see myself going in that direction someday if the right factors come together.
Cinema, on the other hand, I've given a great deal of thought to. I primarily conceive of The Curious Tale cinematographically, and I would love to do a corresponding motion picture series or extended TV series (in the vein of Game of Thrones, for instance) as a sibling to the books.
I think my loftiest, unlikeliest, most unicorniest dream of all, when it comes to The Curious Tale, is someday getting to pull a Peter Jackson and direct an entire production crew in the creation of Curious Tale movies or premium TV. I've always known, and have many times proven, that, like Silence, I am a power elemental, and am at my strongest, happiest, and most fulfilled when I have competent people working alongside and under me to produce something wonderful. Watching the Lord of the Rings director's cut documentaries was an uplifting and inspiring experience for me, and one that filled me with the envy to accomplish something of my own someday.
In practical terms, a TV show is probably more feasible than a movie. If the books ever do manage to succeed, I might be able to make a serious play for some kind of visual media project, especially in the realm of TV or (more accurately) the Internet. I don't need a LotR budget (though how friggin' awesome would it be to have that kind of wherewithal!). I could do a lot with much less.
I've also thought about the idea of the combined Curious Tale experience being multimedia in nature, including novels, graphic novels, video games, and movies or television. That's not quite as satisfying as the idea of simply doing a series of novels and a sibling series of visual media, but I do think about it from time to time.
One of my creative ambitions that isn't technically a Curious Tale ambition but which may overlap into the world of Relance is that I had always intended, after becoming a successful writer, to invite people to do real-life RPGs games with me, either in person or by post like ATH the RPG itself was. (Or both!)
When I think of doing RPGs, I don't usually think of doing them on Relance, but it would be interesting to do some RPGs away from the ATH characters—taking the opportunity to explore other people and places in this lush world.
It would also be kind of fun to do an "alternate reality" ATH RPG, setting up the same initial conditions of the Prelude as in the canonical story, but then letting a completely different story evolve. It'd be an interesting opportunity to take the characters in different directions, and be freed from some of the heavy plot stuff that weighs many of them down. I would love to see a totally zany Silence and DeLatia go off and wage glorious war. I would also like to see Galavar and the Guard of Galavar get more interaction together onscreen than they get in the canonical story.
The Structure and Scope of After The Hero in Particular
Old-timers will remember that After The Hero had two major structural forms over the years: The RPG itself was two parts, split into fourteen chapters.
The novel, meanwhile, consisted of five books and a vaguely similar number of chapters (probably a few more).
With the Draft 10 Era, it has gradually become clear that "five books" isn't going to cut it. From the planning I have already done, Chapter 1 looks like it's going to be book-length by itself.
This raises an interesting question—two interesting questions, actually.
The first is how long ATH is supposed to be. To answer that is difficult, because what ATH means to me is much bigger than what will ever fit in the actual books. (See the section above about spinoffs and secondary works.) Realistically, though, I'm hoping for "a chapter per book" and "roughly the same number of chapters as the RPG's fourteen." So that would point to something like fourteen main sequence ATH books, not counting the Interludes or anything else.
The second question is what ATH is going to contain. I've become a lot more secretive about that over the years, for the sake of not spoiling the story. Many of the old ideas that I freely discussed in my journal way back in the day are still part of my story planning (though almost always in a changed form from what I last publicly discussed them to be. Other ideas have fallen by the wayside. And a whole bunch of new ideas have been developed that I've never talked about—though I've sorely wanted to. For instance, the Creqmer Tower has become more important to the story than I originally planned for it. So has Afiach Bard, for that matter. And here's a teaser: Those two things have an important story connection. Dun dun dun!
Generally speaking, ATH has two basic "phases" or "eras"—much as the original RPG's two parts reflected. The first era is the one you're familiar with: the Galan Conquest, with a heavy focus on exploring the world, introducing people and places, and bringing a critical eye to the themes of beauty, power, and the wonder of living and dying (just like it says on the tin). It is an era of growth, glory, and golden times. The second era occurs after a world-altering event. The Galan Conquest is still there as a main driver of change in the world, but the tone of the story shifts to a different kind of yearning than that which dominated the glory days of Galavar's youthful zeal.
Now that I have made peace with admitting to the world that Silence is the closest thing to a main character that something as sweeping as ATH has, it's also possible for me to say that the two eras of the story generally parallel two different eras in her own life. In the RPG, she met a terrible fate about halfway through the story, and she emerged on the other side as a very different person. Though the situational details and plot elements have long since greatly changed, the thematic essence of that premise is still in the story today, and is as deeply embedded as ever. And that's about as much as I dare tease without risking real spoilers.
Lots to Look Forward To
The year is 2032. I've just celebrated my 50th birthday. It falls on a Tuesday, that year—the same day of the week I was born on. I'm about one-third of the way through the rest of my natural life, as measured from 2018.
As such, I had better have completed at least a third of all the aforementioned stuff I want to get to. So that's roughly five main sequence ATH books, along with great strides in other projects, a proliferation of ATH art and music, a few Interludes completed, and of course a healthy dose of Regular Features, whatever form they might take in those days. The wiki will be big enough for you to lose yourself in for hours. And who knows: There may even be an ATH graphic novel, or video game, or something.
Is that realistic? Well, compared to my adult life thus far—which is roughly the same length of time as that between 2018 and 2032—it doesn't look promising. It essentially requires me to produce a full novel every three years, plus other stuff, continuously, on the side. That's doable on paper, but in practice it's a harder task. And even still, that's the rest of my natural life—and yours—until I'm finished.
On the other hand, it's possible that, as more of this gets written, I'll find clarity, and won't need to write as much as I now think I do. Separately, it's possible that, once I finally get into the rhythm, and get my finances figured out, and all of that, I'll be able to do books faster than once every three years. After all, once the years of percolation were complete, I executed the Prelude in just three months. And the RPG, all those years ago, took only slightly more than a year.
If I can recreate the circumstances where those cylinders in me fired so well, I could potentially finish the entire Curious Tale in my 50s or 60s.
There's a part of me that doesn't want to ever finish. It's my way of imagining that I can live forever, and always have more story ahead of me. What's more, I've poured a great deal of my own spark into The Curious Tale, and, if I ever finished it...I don't know how that would make me feel.
But there's a bigger part of me that does want to finish. I want to give the world this gift, this wonderful story, as best I can tell it. I want people to see how broad the possibilities are, and how beautiful it all is.
Sometimes I think back, to my days on the Mountain, and I remember the magical experiences I had there. And it feels like I really did visit Relance, because those experiences were so magical to me, and so dear, that they soaked right through and into the story. It may have been me who was physically present that day, walking the Ring Road through the thin fog, but in my spark it was Afiach Bard, singing "Into the Winds of Glarough." That day will live for ever, because it happened at all.
If there's any way I can bring that onto the page, so that someone else can feel even a pale echo of my wonderment in that moment, I will try my best to make it so.
Into the Winds
There you have it! A look into the future of The Curious Tale. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you'll keep me company along the way.
That's all for this week. Join me next week when I go through the trouble of reinventing the wheel.
Until then, may your todays magnify your tomorrows.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!