the dark myst vignettes - author's notes - a.k.a. thanks, babbling, and many notes on continuity

Notes from the original post in 2004, w/ some editing

First drafts finished for: Mysterium 2002, Philadelphia.

Final drafts finished for: Mysterium 2004, Toronto.

Invaluable editing and advice from: Dester'edra, a most excellent dragon.

Musical and lyrical salutation to: Garmarna and the grand old Swedes.

Nervous tip of the (top)hat to: Team Revelation UbiSoft, especially Mary DeMarle, for the threat of new canon which gave me the kick in the rear I needed to finish old fanon.

Department of Motor Vehicles?

Dark Myst Vignettes. What I called these stories as I first started writing them, before they were too darn long to be vignettes. The name stuck, and I can't think of a better one. They've been the DMVs many times in many places, hence the acronymic confusion. There is no way my humble pen could touch the extent of the soul-grinding inhuman horror of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Wibbly author's comments...

There are dozens of things I've wanted to say in these notes for quite a while now--more than two years, to be precise. Mostly disclaimers and apologies, for a structure I consider imperfect, for an arrangement I consider anticlimactic, for very bad poetry, for an untoward focusing on Achenar and ignoring of Sirrus, and for not extensively addressing the central question of the brothers' childhood. By now, however, I've gotten rather less uptight with author's notes. These stories are what they are. Among other things, they are old; my writing has changed considerably between then and now, and there's only so much I either wished or was able to address various weaknesses during the rewrite.

And yet, at the same time, I still feel like I need still more disclaimers, about what these stories are and what they are not. They are not stories about how the brothers came to be themselves, nor about any drama or conflict between them and their parents. The dynamics of families and the workings of children are not things which I feel at all qualified to address. These stories are instead about the brothers as adults and, most importantly, as people, albeit horrible people; I attempted to delve deep enough into their psyches to understand them in their own right rather than as villains or case studies. Whether I succeeded is, I imagine, quite subjective. Also, these are not horror stories, at least not primarily, though they contain some elements of the genre. I say this because I consider horror stories to be primarily about the horrific actions themselves, while these stories are, ultimately, about the brothers; they contain various acts of violence and manipulation because that is the world these characters live in, and to write of them seperate of it would be like writing Atrus and ignoring the Art. (The exception to this is the opening of the first piece, which is very deliberately and blatantly a horror story.)

I know Achenar better than Sirrus, and I'm more interested in him, and it shows. Sirrus is also a slippery fish of a character, very hard to get a grip on, while Achenar has large spiky things that one can grab ahold of if one is not afraid of a little blood. Excused or not, the imbalance is there, and I am not happy about it, but I have not been able to fix it in two years' worth of stewing, so I am pronouncing it hopeless.

Whiterock is, quite frankly, an anticlimax, and I always intended it as such; indeed, the series as a whole takes a turn for the quieter after the intense violence of Stoneship and Mechanical and the pastiche-interlude of Myst, when I begin to consider less the brothers at work, conniving and killing and all that jazz, and more the brothers simply as characters, as people--again, albeit horrible ones.

I finally, thank god, gave up on most of the bad poetry. (There was tons in the first draft of Aspermere.) What remains I've done the best with I can, but even with a dictionary I can't rhyme worth a damn.

The biggest change, though, is the ending of Stoneship. Rereading, I thought the original ending, in which Emmit commits suicide by jumping in the shallows instead of out to sea, was too cruel, too cheap. I suspect some people might dislike the change. I might even dislike it. I'm not sure yet.

When you get down to it, I just love these stories too much to post them without disclaimers available somewhere, which is probably a bad thing. Ah, well.

Why I resurrected this particular old work...

I chose to finish these stories off and post them for several reasons. One is in honor of those who read and loved them two years ago, and who I find still remember them and mention them from time to time. One is in honor of my own beloved and intense process of writing them: I broke new personal boundaries with these pieces, came to a new understanding of the possibilities of fanfiction, and, frankly, became euphoric from the acclaim they received at MC back in the day, and it's long weighed on me that I'd never before bothered to put the time and effort into finishing them, even knowing it would get harder and harder as time went on. And my timing was determined by the (relatively) recent announcement of Myst IV: Revelation, for I am well aware that the backgrounds and personalities I established for the brothers in these stories are quite idiosyncratic and unlikely to have anything to do with what will soon become canon through UbiSoft's work.

More on that music thing...

Garmarna is a Swedish folk-industrial band (yup, folk-industrial) that mostly does glorious adaptations of traditional Swedish ballads and folksongs, a few of which are considerably more gory and disturbing than anything I ever wrote in these stories. Now I mention the band not just because I am madly in love with Emma Härdelin's voice, but because a particular song of theirs, "Vedergällningen" (available here, even legally, as a sample mp3 from their album Vengeance) was a primal and intense musical inspiration for these stories. Garmarna also provided lyrical inspirations--or rather chose traditional poetry which did so. The poem Ananis and Sirrus read in Aspermere is essentially an adaptation of the song Garmarna recorded as "Bläck" (also on Vengeance), and some other poetry, which didn't make it into the final draft but underlay many aspects of it, was connected to aspects of the story-songs "Sorgsen Tod" (again, Vengeance) and "Herr Holger," a magnificent number from their other best album, God's Musicians.

So yes, it's all really one big obscure demented songfic.

Besides the Garmarna obsession, my main writing musics for this, besides the soundtracks for the games, were various parts of Mozart's requiem (Mechanical), Loituma's lovely album In the Moonlight (most of Aspermere), and, naturally, Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Whiterock). I mention this simply because I find the association of music with particular pieces of writing an interesting phenomenon.

On canon and continuity...

Due to the time of their writing and the nature and capacity of my computer (staunch and isolated Mac users have gotten the short end of the stick recently), these stories do not take into account any information from realMYST (there's a major difference in Channelwood), Uru, or Myst IV: Revelation. The aborted and non-canonical attempt at comics a while back are, of course, ignored. Several of the Ages, most notably Whiterock, I take from a collection of excerpts of Atrus' journals, which can be found at the D'ni Desk Reference, possibly still somewhere on Cyan's servers (though I've not looked since they redid their site), and likely elsewhere on the web.

These stories are in the same continuity as my other--and unfinished--Mystfic magnum opus, "The Book of Narayan." I considered attempting to surgically remove the few references to the BoN from the DMVs (look at me, I'm acronymic), but balked at the idea, partially because of my aversion to altering or denying the roots of stories (for the DMVs did evolve from my writing of the brothers in the BoN), and partially because of certain aspects of Sirrus' character that seem to me unclear without the Narayan story. But at the same time, I worry that they are even more unclear for those who haven't read the BoN, which is currently in shambles and not online. The most important thing is that Sirrus falls in lust with Tamra, seeing her as an incarnation of the perfect woman of his mind, Tisha, and things get rather messy. (The Tisha thing started as a comment upon the long-standing family habit of men renaming their wives: Aitrus renaming Anna to Ti'ana, Gehn renaming Leira to Keta, Atrus renaming Katraan to Catherine.) But the question of BoN continuity is one I'm not up to addressing quite yet.

A note on retroactive continuity...

I could do it, but I probably won't. The could is because of the different time frame of Revelation: by mentioning some events and subtly altering some characterization, I could whip these stories at least somewhat into line with the new canon without having to totally gut them. The won't is because of my note below, added a few days before Revelation's release: I have finally been able, after over three years, to more-or-less let go of these pieces. And I've done enough editing and Lucasizing and constant bugging of the fandom about these works. Retconning is, in my current opinion, just going too far.

Timeline foo...

I deliberately constructed these stories to jump all about in time, because I like playing with nonlinearity and nesting stories and all that jazz. If, however, you wonder what happens when...

Myst - the first scene
Everdunes - all but the last scene
Myst - most of it
Aspermere - most of it
Aspermere - the last three scenes
Channelwood - all but the last scene
Channelwoo - the last scene
Everdunes - the last scene
Myst - the last two scenes

Addendum, as of completing Revelation, on my decision not to retcon...

Aside from the above-given reasons, which basically boil down to "these fics are done, comma, goddamnit," retconning to Revelation, while fairly doable, would have to involve cutting one of my favorite Sirrus scenes (his discussion of the Art with Atrus in Myst, due to the Revelation canon that Atrus never taught the boys to Write out of fear for their sanity--which makes one wonder why he let them as much reign as he did in Myst canon--and which is tied up to the fairly recent retconning the Gahrohevtee out of existence, which I find annoying), as well as some other less problematic sundries.

Revelation as a whole was a very up and down experience for me. There's certainly a lot of interesting stuff in there, and overall I can agree with Mary DeMarle's characterizations of the brothers (though Achenar's spot of jewel-hoarding we see in Serenia is, IMHO, utterly out of character). She still can't write Catherine worth a damn, though that isn't relevant here; and, in general, there's nothing so momentous or deep or cool that it Utterly Needs to be incorporated into this old and beloved dinosaur.

Pah. Enough babbling! Fic!

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