Friday, May 16, 2008

“Breathing Life into a World, Stealing Away with its Stars”

“Breathing Life into a World, Stealing Away with its Stars”

Being Appendices Concerning the Two Tales Entitled “At the Peony Teahouse” and “The Theft of Heaven” with Notes, Thoughts, Inspirations and Origins.

© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



I finished posting the last act of the three-act story “The Theft of Heaven” last Friday, May 9th on my blog. In January of this year I posted the two-act tale “At the Peony Teahouse”. Both stories are spawned, continuations from the original story that I wrote and posted May through July of 2007 on the same blog. That story’s title was “The Children of Gods” and featured the heroic efforts of Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish of 100,000 Sorrows and Beauty, his half-sister and demi-goddess frog Wu Chan Chu, and the trickster god Comet Fox as they took on evil forces seeking to gain control over hell.

I finished “The Children of Gods” with an appendix/afterword entitled “Drawing Down the Sun, Uplifting the Stars” detailing inspirations for the story and origins of ideas.

“Giving Birth to a World, Stealing Away with its Stars” is a similar appendix concerned with the inspirations of the two stories “At the Peony Teahouse” and “The Theft of Heaven”.

I actually wrote “At the Peony Teahouse” Act I last year, about a week after the final posting of “The Children of Gods”. That would place its initial writing sometime in July of 2007. I didn’t post the story in 2007 because “The Children of Gods” was such an intensive writing experience within a short five week period that by the time I was beginning “At the Peony Teahouse” I was simply burnt out on the characters and their stories. Act I remained as a saved draft in my blog until I published it in January of 2008.

I published Act I (on the post it was called Part 1, but I have since restructured it and called it Act I) in January because, having looked over the previous year’s blog entries filled with lots of science fiction, horror and nerdy goodness about up-coming movies or new technology or random news articles concerning robots, there was relatively little original material on my blog. I wanted to start the new year with new stories to draw in more readers and promote my own work.

Truth be told, I was yet feeling in the mood to post “At the Peony Teahouse”. But I posted Act I on January 4th nonetheless, making it the very first post of the new year. In the following week I wrote and posted Act II (posted as Part 2). I was yet feeling in the mood to write these tales, so I quit. Hence the rather abrupt ending of “At the Peony Teahouse”.

But the stories remained with me, stewing in my head for a good few months until, at last, I decided this fantasy world needed to be fleshed out with more original characters on more adventures. I felt the need for detailing the world, how it came to be, and then some. At last I was in the mood to write in this world once more and on April 25th I posted Act I of “The Theft of Heaven”.

In that time between “At the Peony Teahouse” and “The Theft of Heaven” I kept returning to a story I had conceived at the same time that I initially started writing “At the Peony Teahouse” last year. The story, entitled “Warriors of the Midnight Sun”, was initially designed to bring more of a mortal touch to the otherwise deity-dominant “The Children of Gods”. I wanted to bring the stories down to ground level, so to speak. As such, I was highly concerned with the world itself and its people. I think this served as further inspiration for “The Theft of Heaven” which, in many degrees, is the Creation Epic of the world.

I also want to inform everyone that “At the Peony Teahouse”, “The Theft of Heaven”, the forthcoming story “The Ruby Bug” and a few others will all play a part in setting up the story that is sure to be an epic in itself: “Warriors of the Midnight Sun”. So, although “At the Peony Teahouse” and “The Theft of Heaven” both may seem to have finished abruptly or with a few loose ends, fear not. These stories are in actuality one part of a much larger story!

The Children of Gods Act I
The Children of Gods Act II
The Children of Gods Act III
The Children of Gods Act IV
The Children of Gods Act V

At the peony Teahouse Act I
At the Peony Teahouse Act II

The Theft of Heaven Act I
The Theft of Heaven Act II
The Theft of Heaven Act III


“At the Peony Teahouse”

Still impressed with Tony Jaa’s movie Ong-Bak and having always been a fan of fighting bloodsports, I wanted to incorporate the element of a kumite-style fighting culture into the universe. I was also, for reasons I cannot remember, taken with the peony flower. Together the two formed the teahouse arena of the Peony Teahouse. As we pick up with the story, Xiao-tep’s half-sister Wu Chan Chu, the frog demi-goddess, is the current champion at the Peony.

In the last part of “The Children of Gods” Comet Fox had mentioned he wanted to learn a new fighting form, one that allowed sobriety unlike his previous drunken style which literally required him to be drunk in order to fight better.

As Comet Fox and Wu Chan Chu square off inside the Peony, Comet Fox takes on a new fighting stance, one that makes him look as though he’s dancing. This is capoeira (see a capoeira demonstration here), a combat style originating from Brazil that incorporates dancing and play and lots of aerial leg techniques. I felt capoeira was only appropriate for the flying trickery of Comet Fox.

I created the fictitious Island of Black Soil and Oranges, where Comet Fox was trained, as a symbol for tropical climes, hinting at Rio de Janeiro and other areas in South America where capoeira enjoys popularity.

While on The Island of Black Soil and Oranges, Comet Fox is made to work against his desires. This was my attempt to bring a certain amount of humility to Comet Fox. Fear not, however: he will always remain a trickster god!

Comet Fox makes friends with Risueña Cara. Her name translates from Spanish as “Smiling Face”.

Comet Fox’s new master is called Akan Bakongo, a hint at capoeira’s origins with both South American Indian slaves as well as African slaves. Akan are a people from West Africa who revere Anansi, a trickster god. Bakongo is another name for the Kongo people. Kongo means “hunter”.

The ball game Comet Fox is taught by Akan Bakongo is similar to football (soccer).


“The Theft of Heaven” – Act I

I had wanted to make a creator for the world that was largely unemotional, unattached and not quite a god with human personality, but rather something abstract. I had made mention of The Cosmos previously, but here I outline The Cosmos as the creator of essentially all things. In this way I felt The Cosmos were more like a mysterious element rather than an identifiable entity that could be addressed or reasoned with. In a way, The Cosmos are like the essence of nature and not a god.

The Mountain That Lived in the Sky, Taliesin, is named for the Welsh poet most famous for his Book of Taliesin, the earliest poetic work known that was written entirely in the Welsh language.

Momoki’s name has no origin other than being alliterative with the word ‘marmoset’. In part this is due to the fact I was thinking out his character, including name, away from a computer or books or other reference materials. It is simply a made-up name.

I wanted to give Momoki some sense of archaic tastes, grace and old charm. As a result, I made him a lover of the smoking pipe, which also often denotes wisdom and contemplation. I imagined the pipe similar to the kiseru.

Gogi the Grasshopper’s name also has no real origin. It is entirely original and was chosen for its ‘cute’ sound and alliteration with the word ‘grasshopper’. He was somewhat modeled after Piglet of Winnie the Pooh fame in his outward timidity yet with a certain amount of daring within and in being cognizant of his small size. I also connect grasshoppers with Tom Sawyer and summer adventures, so you may find hints of such thing in him as well. His story about the goose is somewhat inspired by the fascinating migratory geese that fly over my house every fall and spring here in Michigan.

Gogi is one of the first major characters introduced in this world that is mortal.

The headdress given to Momoki by Gogi is modeled after Hindi headdress I recently saw on a wrestling program on television. I wish I had more descriptions or references, but I caught a mere glimpse of the headdress.

The story of how Szu Ri and Gogi meet was inspired by the story of how Leizu, a Chinese empress, discovered silk from silkworms. One story goes that a silkworm fell on her hand and wrapped her finger in silk. Hence we have Szu Ri falling on Gogi and leaving small bits of silk on his hands.

Szu Ri roughly translates from Chinese as “Sun Silk”.

The story of Motharus has several origins. One is that of Stilzel, a boy who was found in a stork’s nest in the Sumava/Böhmerwald forest between Bohemia and Bavaria. Motharus, being an anthropomorphic demi-god, also finds roots in the Egyptian god Horus who had a the body of a man and a falcon’s head. His name started as a contraction of the names Hathor, the Celestial Cow goddess, and Horus. It was then changed to make it sound a tad better.

Motharus is described as having a kestrel head. Kestrels are of the falcon genus.

Drae’s name is completely original.

Motharus’ desire to fly to the sun is inspired by the Greek tale of Icarus.

Srang Bo’s name is original, though I may have been subconsciously drawn to the word ‘srang’ as I’ve always liked its sound.

I introduced Srang Bo as Motharus’ first teacher because I wanted his martial education to be a bit different from the other characters in this world who were so far strictly skilled fighters. I wanted Motharus to have an element of supernatural control to his character, the ability to wield magic. I also knew that Momoki would have to defeat him in combat in the near future and an untrained fighter (in this case Momoki) rarely stands a chance against a trained fighter. Srang Bo became Motharus’ master in mystic arts. This idea was somewhat inspired by Marvel ComicsDr. Strange who has modicum martial training, the majority of his skills being his mystic abilities. I wanted more wizards and mystics in this world, so I made Motharus one.

At one point, Motharus stands in a cylindrical cavern with flaming light and odd shadows dancing on the wall. This cylinder is called the Black Chamber. I’ve had such a dream, but it was more a classic cave than a cylinder. The voice that came to Motharus was not in my dream.

I wanted magic within this world to be dark and threatening like that of typical sword and sorcery tales. That is not to say all sorcery within this world will be evil, nor the sorcerers all evil, but the mystic arts here will come with certain heaviness and consequences.

Adonai Ku-jal’s name comes from two sources. First, ‘adonai’ in Hebrew means “My Lord”. I wanted to use this addressing word as part of the name to hint at the subservience Motharus must make to the demon. Ku-jal is a contraction of a few different things as well as largely being original. It was inspired by the word ‘djinn’, also written as ‘jinn’ and has since been translated and extrapolated to ‘jinni’ or ‘genie’ within common modern English language (though it is a French spelling). A genie, of course, is the legendary supernatural being trapped in an oil lamp until Aladdin freed it. The genie is not, however, a single character but a type of being. Many genies make their appearances throughout The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

Tanas was named for the Tana River in Norway. He teaches Motharus a breaking-style martial art similar to the Muay Thai (see Tony Jaa demonstrate Muay Thai here) of Wu Chan Chu. Could a face-off be in their future? Hmmm… I wonder.

Twila’s name has no distinct origin other than alliteration with ‘turtle’.

Momoki and Twila’s love as well as Gogi and Szu Ri’s love are the first love stories found within this world.

I had The Cosmos, an element that normally does not react or interact with the world directly, respond to the deaths of Momoki and Twila to portray the severity of the loss.


“The Theft of Heaven” – Act II

Weeping cherry trees are new to me. I found one recently at a nearby store and fell in love with it. I wish I had the money and space for one on my property. They’re beautiful.

Etain is named for Étaín, an Irish goddess of the sun.

Kalavata’s name is derived from Kalevala, the national epic poem of Finland. The poem details a swan that lives along a river in the underworld.

The mourning dove is Michigan’s state bird of peace. Since a child, I’ve always loved yet been saddened by the low “whoo, whoo whoo” cry of the mourning dove. The mourning dove in this story was inspired by a mourning dove that live in my neighbor's tree. I have seen or heard it almost every day since winter. Aglina’s name is a contraction of Virginia and Carolina as the birds are cherished and abundant in these states. Mourning doves, in fact, are also known as Carolina Pigeons or Carolina Turtledoves.

The traditional way didgeridoos are made is with the use of termites that hollow out the wood.

I made Zingtai a birdwing as they are traditionally incredibly large butterflies. Though the males are the brightly colored birdwings, I made Zingtai colorful so she could become the stars. Zingtai is an original name.

The growth of the two swans and Zingtai the butterfly was inspired by Chaung Tzu’s Book of Chuang Tzu. He was an influential Chinese philosopher that lived circa 4th century BCE. He is widely considered one of the founders, besides Lao Tzu, of Taoism. In the first tales within Book of Chuang Tzu he details a flitting butterfly and a giant bird whose wings stretch from horizon to horizon.

Zom Loa’s name is taken from two sources within the Vodou (often pronounced and written ‘voodoo’) religion. Zom comes from the ‘zombi’ or, as is the modern way of writing it, ‘zombie’ which is, of course, an animated corpse made so popular in our culture by filmmaker George A. Romero and his film Night of the Living Dead. Loa is the name of divine entities within Vodou that concern themselves with humanity and often personify elements within nature. Zom Loa would become, ultimately, the second sorcerer chronicled within these stories (Motharus being the first). And why is it every time I write about Zom Loa the song “Duel of Fates” by John Williams (of Star Wars Episode 1 fame) plays on my computer? Perhaps it has something to do with Zom Loa trying to defy The Cosmos? Haha.

Little Epito’s name is original.

The shifting colors in the sky are, of course, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Latvian folklore holds that the aurora borealis are the spirits of dead warriors fighting in the sky and are an ill omen of dangerous times to come, usually bringing war or famine. Many northern people also believe that the souls of people that died violently cause the lights as they play with a walrus head.

Tarn’s name is original. I chose to use the walrus because of the above mentioned tale of the dead playing with a walrus head. It also inspired Zom Loa’s taking Tarn’s skull and placing it on his head as a helmet.

The Devourer’s Flower was inspired by the flowers from the Baten Kaitos series of video games. When one nears the man-sized flowers in the game, the flowers open up as if blossoming. When a character stands inside the flower the player is prompted to either save their game or, should it be a blue flower, to “accept the flower’s embrace” which transports them to the inside of a massive cathedral where they can level up their characters.

The Devourer was inspired by the Cthulhi, a small race of horrible creatures associated with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu. They are also called the ‘star-spawned’, thus furthering the symbolism within “The Theft of Heaven”. If I may point out, The Devourer even states when asked by Zom Loa if he is a demon: “Not a demon,” said the Devourer in a deep gurgling voice, its mouth tentacles moving as it spoke, “but something different entirely. My history extends farther than that of demons, my family older perhaps than the world itself. I am The Devourer of Souls. This is my realm.” I wrote this to indicate the Devourer’s connection with the Great Old Ones, the evil gods that Lovecraft is so famous for and that include Cthulu.

Latvica, The Devourer’s realm, is a clue to the Latvian influence of the aurora borealis in this story.

I made both Adonai Ku-jal (the demon that dealt with Motharus) and the Devourer make a pointed effort to ask Motharus and Zom Loa if they truly desired their help. This was to make clear that both Motharus and Zom Loa knew well they were consorting with demonic or evil beings and were not mere victims being tricked. I did not want villainy within these stories to have a victim status. Motharus and Zom Loa had choices and they both chose their paths willingly. In my eyes that makes them more villainous and potentially more dangerous. I wanted no victims here, just out-right villains.


“The Theft of Heaven” – Act III

I made Zingtai incapable of flight without her one jewel so that the world would lose its nighttime stars, showing that the actions of an individual (in this case Zom Loa aka Black Tentacle) can affect the whole world.

The reasons I brought Xiao-tep to Taliesin are threefold: one being that I wanted a character otherwise with a bit of haunting sadness to him to finally experience some beauty in his life; Taliesin needed a new caretaker; and at last the cast of the original story “The Children of Gods” needed to be introduced into this current story so as to build upon the eventual climax within the future story “Warriors of the Midnight Sun”.


I hope you enjoy this weeks notes on "The Theft of Heaven"!

Two quick reminders:

I will be publishing Issue 11 of my free ezine If - E - Zine(tm) on my website next Wednesday, May 21st. It will contain four free short stories within it ranging from military science fiction to tokusatsu fiction. Be sure to check it out and read it!

Also, next Friday, May 23rd these fantasy tales will continue on this blog with "The Ruby Bug". Be sure to check back and read the exciting adventures!


~ Charles

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