SilSol: A Dark Crystal Vignette

Here is my second, and last Dark Crystal character sketch. I made a lot of speculation as to which urSkek SkekSil and urSol came from: especially from the second volume of The Dark Crystal Creation Myths. To me, this writing represents what I could have done, and what I did actually do. I hope you will enjoy it and appreciate this in the spirit that it is meant. 

SilSol flew through the lines of stars and suns with his brothers as they finally left Thra through the Crystal of Truth. His own mind, though clearer, now was no less blurred as they passed the point beyond space and time and perception.

He looked down at his form: such as it was now. It was a brighter orange: almost a bright white light. Once, UngIm would have told him that a white corona symbolized a process of healing. And he, above the rest of his brethren, shone the whitest of all.

Even now, travelling with the others, it was hard to think of Thra: of the place of their banishment. He remembered wanting to leave and rejoin his people so badly. He hovered in the skies far across the ocean and sang in a place where he thought no one else would hear them. To the Gelfling people, he taught them songs of growth, and peace, and love. But to himself, singing to an audience that no longer listened to him, that he was no longer a part of by virtue of being a “he,” of being an individual, he sang of loss and loneliness and the clinging to of false hope as temporary staving off of despair. But it had been a deceptive salve, one that ate away at his very being, that stained his reddening form with a spreading blackness … it had proven just as corrosive and as ineffectual a balm as essence, as vliya

Deep regret flowed and passed through SilSol’s ethereal form. He had not known the mariner Gyr had been there that day, listening to his song. It hadn’t been the Gelfling’s fault. It had been none of their faults. In his spite he thought them primitive savages and only Aughra was considered even remotely equal to his kind. But she had been wiser than he in many ways, though he did not spend nearly as much time with her as TekTih had, and the peoples of Thra had their own songs, their own rhythms and variations. It was the very opposite of the former unity and symmetry—the perceived perfection—of the communal consciousness of his own race. Once, long ago, SilSol knew his music had been as precise and perfect—as crystalline—as mathematics and the physics of the cosmos. But he had split away down a quantum path into something else, like the rest of his brethren and he hadn’t been able to find that perfect note again, that rhythm that he needed, that he craved for balance …

Is there no place in all the realms of the Crystal where a single being will show me compassion!?

It wasn’t even Raunip’s fault that he had finally unleashed his anger and bitterness. That one had his own imbalance, his own lack of connection with himself to deal with and SilSol had not envied him. In the end, SilSol blamed Thra, the place that graciously took them in, for this sense of loss: though the fault, he knew now, lay within himself.

Dark Heart, Raunip named him, once.

Is there truly no love for me in all creation!?

The Crystal, and Thra, and the Universe had answered him. They had always spoken to him. He just did not hear it. He chose not to hear it. Like the Chanter that he had been, he closed his hearing to everything but his own song, letting it play around him and drown everyone out, let it deafen the world, let himself become deaf …

He knew now that his brothers had been the same: had denied their darker impulses, had secretly hoped to purge them with the light of the Crystal, to go home … SilSol had just been the catalyst to ignite and rip apart their wilful ignorance.

But it did nothing to assuage his guilt. Better urSkeks than he: so many others including TekTih and the great SoSu passed on fragmented while he, the catalyst that made the Crystal divide them, remained. He recalled the Division vaguely: remembering the scorn of his brothers and their hatred of his one discordant note: for the vestige, that grating reminder of what he had cost them, of what they had lost and he had taken from them when they were all whole. He went around and used that crooning voice, that one note, to tell lies and ruin lives … At the same time, he recalled the Valley and the peace, though unearned, that he had finally found for his soul there, for the love he had of the planet he once disparaged, and the time he spent singing with his brothers, with the Gelfling Jen that was like their child …

As these fragmented memories unified, the pain in SilSol eased and flowed out of his body into the darkness of space, into the streaming of his brothers’ light. Even fragmented, he taught Jen his songs, and his selfish part—the part that caused so much pain—guided him to where he needed to go. Unity and symmetry won out at the end of the day, disparate notes becoming a single song again.

Around them, as they continued to travel, his brothers began to sing. UngIm, at their forefront where SoSu had once been, beckoned him forward. SilSol found his light becoming a brighter white and gold again. He understood that he would heal—that they all would heal and had healed—together. With this thought, this solace, his two voices—become one once more—joined the rest of the chorus as they, all of them, continued on their final and eternal journey together and whole again.

Urskeks

Jen: A Dark Crystal Vignette

Two years ago now, I immersed myself in the world of Thra: in an attempt to write a novel for The Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering Contest. Every day I would write notes on my novel outline in my journal while reading the old novelization and the visualized encyclopedia. Before this, I had only taken smaller creative challenges that I displayed on this very Blog. But taking this on, even though I didn’t end up creating a novel, actually helped to save my sanity and cultivate my own creative energy. 

Still, sometimes I regret the fact that I didn’t write that Gelfling Gathering novel or the short story I had planned. To be honest, though, sometimes I’m just sad the contest itself ended: with all the interactions on the Community Forums and the possibilities of making myself a part of this world. During this time I wrote a few story sketches on the Board: to immerse myself and my writing into that world. Basically, I wanted to see if I was capable of writing Dark Crystal stories. So in honour of that special time in my life, I want to present to you one of the first story sketches that I made: from the point of view of our favourite Gelfling Jen in light of everything I learned afterwards. I hope you will enjoy this, my friends for I know I did, in writing it. Take care. 🙂 

Jen watches the luminous beings—the urSkeks—as they ascend into the air, through the Crystal, dissipating into mist, into space, and time and energy, and all the other elements and concepts that his Mystic teachers and friends attempted to instill in him until they were gone completely: as though they had never been there to begin with … as though they had never come to Thra at all.

But Jen knows better. The gleaming palatial white of the Castle that houses the Crystal of Truth—once blackened and warped by the filth and depravity of the Skeksis—is a testament to the beings that were here: that did all of these things. He sees the inscriptions on the newly clean walls: with art and frescoes rivalling that of the ruins of the Gelfling cities … so many cities … so many people … so many of his own kind gone.

UrSu had known. All of the Mystics—the urRu—had known. Even when they taught him, he sensed their collective weariness—their awful guilt—and a few moments ago he realized why.

Jen looks out through the window at the sky. The three suns have passed other another. The Great Conjunction has ended: not to begin again for another one thousand trine. And the wake of those three mingled suns leaves Jen with much to think about.

The urRu and the Skeksis had been one people: two halves of the same being.

His Master had always instilled into him that everything has symmetry and balance: and that when balance was broken, Nature—abhorring a vacuum—would adapt accordingly. UrAc, the Scribe of his people, of his brothers, once showed Jen a myth that his long-departed brother—who Jen now remembers as urLii the Storyteller—used to tell in which a race of great and powerful beings challenged the gods and for their hubris were torn asunder into two peoples. They would spend the rest of their existences trying to live and yet always searching for their other halves. UrAc had written this tale down: as one of the many chronicles that urSu let him see when he was learning to read, and the irony of this story does not escape him now.

He saw them. After the Skeksis cut down Kira, even after he saw her graceful, beautiful winged form crumple to the ground reaching for him and he slammed the burning shard into the Dark Crystal with a righteous fire in his veins, he saw his teachers come into the Chamber. They surrounded the Crystal and he saw them … He saw the light refract from the whitened Crystal blazing as they drew the panicking Skeksis towards them.

The usurpers of Thra were so afraid: as their moment of triumph became one of their greatest fear. It was as though the Skeksis feared death and, in a way, that is exactly what happened. Jen saw that even the Skeksis that tried to trick him and Kira, become drawn into the waiting arms of urSol. The urRu had always been so hunched over, so old, so humble but when they came before the restored Crystal they towered powerfully … majestically over the quailing Skeksis. They were beautiful as their thoughts and considerations finally followed through to definitive action.

The words of the long-dead Storyteller flashed through Jen’s mind of two becoming one again. So much more happened after that. The urSkek—the one that had ordered the Garthim and urIm the Healer both—told him so little, but enough. One mistake had cost them their unity, one mistake had cost the lives of the Gelfling people, and almost the life of Kira. But then … the urSkek sang and his brothers sang with them. It was urSol’s chant and the deep resonant hum of the other Mystics only with another chord running through the sound, a high pitch to match the heavy thrum. For a few moments Jen thought he had heard what was once the squealing “mmm” of the Skeksis he met before, which he now saw as just a broken fragment, a base echo of the brilliance surrounding him as his heart glowed against Kira’s body: clutching it for dear life.

And as the music filled him, it was like the dreamfast … only different. There was no touch of skin, but it went beyond that. He saw stars and a crystalline world, and the urSkeks, Thra in the beginning, Aughra younger and his people all whole and spreading throughout the world … the urSkeks aligning crystals to make the Crystal brighter, cultivating it … the Great Division, the inhibitions of the urSkeks turned into the Skeksis and their horror, the compassion and conscience of the urRu powerless to do anything but protect and pain, and sorrow, and joy, and peace and yearning manifesting into one place through another people entirely: Jen’s people … Jen and …

The joy of Kira stirring against his breast would never leave Jen as long he lived. And that was when he saw the glimmers of the urRu through the strange and ageless forms in front of him, the active power that was once embodied by Skeksis made into something positive again.

And now they are gone: the urSkeks leaving them with the mysteries of the Castle and the Crystal: with hope. Kira is at Jen’s side: stirring against him. Jen realizes he isn’t angry at the urRu for not telling him. They did in their way. But he wonders. What of the urRu and the Skeksis that died before the Conjunction: fragmented and separate? Were they consigned to a void? To an abyss of nothingness? Did the gentle and inquisitive urTih cease to exist? And what of urSu: the wise Master that shared his fate with a dying corrupted Emperor: who Jen now knew had finally let himself die so that he could succeed this day?

But then Jen remembers. He recalls his Master telling him about another life, and Aughra saying that urSu could be anywhere. Jen smiles and closes his eyes: basking in the light of the Crystal and Kira by his side: for he now remembers another lesson. For just as urSu once told him that Nature abhors a vacuum and that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the urSkek also taught him another lesson.

Everything is connected.

It is with this thought that Jen knows he and Kira can build again: and that there is again, finally, hope.

Jen and Kira

For Crystal and Castle: An Author Quest Ends and a Gelfling Gathering Begins

Last week, The Dark Crystal Author Quest to write the first novel of The Gelfling Gathering finally ended. Twenty-five excellent writers were given honourable mention and five were chosen as finalists. It still really disappoints me that I couldn’t find the time to enter the story that I had planned. I was working on another submission at the time and I had to make a choice. Suffice to say, it was not an easy decision to make and, hopefully, I will be able to show all of you the fruits of that decision one day soon enough.

However, I did manage to do something during that time. As a treat and in honour of the Author Quest’s success, I want to show you the introduction that I created to start off my Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering tale. I hope you will take it in the spirit that it is given and enjoy. Its working title was Dark Crystal: For Crystal and Castle.

It was over nine hundred trine ago that the Great urSkeks, wonderful, luminous, glorious beings from the highest realms who had come to bring wisdom and enlightenment to our beautiful world of Thra, finally left us. They had come to our home for contemplation and, having gained the revelation of their true selves from the divine Crystal of Truth, they left us with one final task.

Before the urSkeks, we were small and lowly. It was not until their blessing that were chosen as Stewards of their Castle of the Crystal: to guard it, Gelfling, Podlings and all of Thra from the evil that still surfaces to this very day.

For the soul stealers, ugly, twisted monsters that would take Gelfling children in the night for their shadowy sorceries were locked away: banished to their prison in the Mystic Valley from which they shall never fully escape. Our Adversaries were held back and imprisoned behind the wards of the urSkeks, whose power we still maintain and they cannot ever fully escape: let alone dare approach the Sacred Crystal to see what cowards they truly are inside.

Nevertheless, the soul stealers are crafty and clever.

To this very day, led by their dark and insidious Master, these cruel wizards still lure Gelfling victims to their Valley. And sometimes it is even worse. Sometimes, some–not all, but some–of the soul stealers find ways out from the barriers that seal them their infectious nature from the rest of Thra and seek to interfere with, and corrupt, our great and glorious realm.

This was the reason why the paramount of our kind, the beloved and enlightened Emperor skekSo First and Only of His Name, created the elite Castle Guard and made his Empire of all Gelfling civilization and Podling principalities. This is why we have decided to teach those worthy among you Gelfling the arts of war and defence.

And while a soul stealer cannot be destroyed by Gelfling or Podling hand, with your help we can capture and contain the menace of the wizards–to keep the dread Sixteen from liberating their entire body–until that great and glorious day when a thousand trine shall pass and the Third Great Conjunction brings glory to the Empire, peace and order to its loyal citizens, honour to the Guard that defends our Lordly Stewardship and the Crystal of Truth, and eternal oblivion to the soul stealers and their corrupted followers.

Until that momentous day we must remain forever vigilant. Everything is connected and it will only be through our sense of connection and our trust in his Imperialness the Great skekSo that we will all find true harmony.

This is our duty and our gift. This is our peace to all of Thra.

Remember the oath of our Guard: “For Crystal and Castle.”

— written by skekLi, Noble and Humble Poet Laureate of the Skeksis Empire

File:Castle of the Crystal - Pure.jpg

This was, sadly, as far I officially got. But I had plans. I’d written a whole lot of notes asking myself questions about the Skeksis, the urRu Mystics, and the Gelfling, their different Clans and what kind of plot I could make out of all of it.

But as the second part of my treat, I will tell you what I roughly had in mind.

I really planned on writing about Rian, the Woodlander Gelfling Guard slowly discovering that his beloved rulers were in fact some of the most evil monsters that he has ever met. I wanted him and his Spriton friend Jul to be rivals in the Guard and when Rian finally did defect away from the Skeksis, he would have to face his best friend until, finally, the latter saw the truth and came to his side.

During this time, the Guard are actually trained and led by three Skeksis: skekVar the General instructs the Gelfling in land-based combat, skekSa the Mariner drills them in naval war, and skekMal the Hunter teaches the Guard survival skills and the art of stealth and, well, hunting. I wanted to make three things clear. First, skekGra the Conqueror was once a leader and instructor of the Guard before he was exiled by the Emperor along with skekLi the Satirist. The second is that Emperor skekSo sometimes displays his martial prowess during Castle Festivals and the Guard are in awe of his speed and sheer power. And, third, that all the Guard feel very uneasy about skekMal. He has this way of looking at them as though they are just pieces of meat. Sometimes, some of the Guard go missing during the night. Not always, but occasionally and while the “soul stealers” are blamed, some of the Guard wonder.

Of course, it is revealed later that skekMal basically trains the Guard to hunt only to hunt them down, in return, much later after he puts on his mask and tracks them. It is basically a sport to him to “play with his food.” Even the other Skeksis find that somewhat disturbing. He comes and goes whenever he feels like it and he supports the two Skeksis in exile when it suits him. I was also toying with the idea that it is on a mission to “find” the exiled Skeksis that Rian discovers more about them.

Basically, this side story, or first book even was going to have the Emperor send the Guard to stop skekGra and his associates from attempting to make their own rebellion with Gelfling followers. If skekHak the Machinist hadn’t been killed in the second volume of Dark Crystal Creation Myths, I would have used him to create a makeshift essence-extractor: a cruder version of skekTek’s. However, perhaps skekMal had his own portable device made when he threatened skekTek. Remember: the Gelfling Gathering takes place before the Emperor had sole access to essence, so it is possible that something like this could have happened.

But in any case, I saw Rian and the Drenchen Gelfling Gurjin as childhood friends. Gurjin, for a swamp-dwelling Gelfling, was the more scholarly of the two in my mind and he wasn’t a part of the Guard. When they weren’t playing Jarra-Jen and Creghel the Tyrant, they played Three Suns and the Moon: each of them was one of the suns and an old childhood female friend was the moon. I picture her as a Vapra and perhaps, in their minds, the future Queen of the Gelfling Clans.

Eventually, Rian discovers that there is a Gelfling Resistance led by the hidden Gelfling Queen. As it turns out, almost a century ago, the Sifa Gelfling Gyr and the Vapra Lady Kel witnessed the actual creation of the Skeksis and the urRu. Kel, becoming the next Gelfling Queen, secretly passed on the knowledge of what happened through dreamfasting with her successor and a select group of loyal Gelfling. They didn’t know what to make of what they saw and so they waited. They waited for a few generations: knowing that they didn’t have the power to oppose the Skeksis directly and that their own pacifist nature, with the exception of perhaps the Spritons that were so close to the Skeksis’ corruption, would limit whatever they could do for now.

I decided that Rian first acts as their spy in the Castle and then he finally just can’t stay there anymore. Maybe I will tell that story one day: though it will definitely be fanfiction unless the Henson Company or Grosset and Dunlap are ever looking for short stories. That story was going to be my entry. And if the third Dark Crystal Creation Myths book doesn’t destroy its continuity, then it definitely will be a fanfic.

But as for the rest … Rian sees the beginnings of the proto-Garthim developing in the cave tunnels of the Castle: supervised by skekUng the Garthim Master who wants to supplant skekVar as General and skekTek who hopes to get more prestige out of helping him. I see them as red and raw without their organic carapaces at this stage. Rian and his friends run into the real Gelfling Queen: a young and mute Dousan Gelfling. She has mastered Dream-etching: the precise ability needed to bring something from dreaming into physical being. She will become the central architect of the Wall of Destiny. They attempt to mobilize the other Gelfling, but they need resistance and disbelief. But gradually, they would pass on what they have learned through dreamfasting.

At this point, the Skeksis become aware of what is going on. As they pass the cover story of there being missing shards of the Crystal, as the Gelfling group has revealed that it is damaged, the Castle Guard is led by Emperor skekSo himself, along with his minions, to take care of the Rebels. Unfortunately, for the Skeksis, the Guard are all converted to the Rebels through dreamfasting. I planned, at this point, for the urRu to get involved: as the protagonists were staying in the Valley: having realized that the Skeksis’ accusations against them are obviously false and the Skeksis are the ones kidnapping and “draining souls” from Gelfling.

There was an epic duel between the four-armed combatants: urSu the Master and skekSo the Emperor. These are not the decrepit beings we saw in the film, but two powerful opponents in the prime of their lives. Each blow they land on each other also affects the other one and they gain cuts and injuries that match each other’s own. SkekSo only retreats when he realizes that his Guard have defected and his other Skeksis are facing similar problems. SkekSo vows revenge and flees. The Gelfling either do not notice this phenomenon or simply do not understand and it is understated. It is also during this time we are introduced to urVa the Archer: the one Mystic who seeks to actively destroy his counterpart in the form of skekMal.

UrVa spends much time teaching Rian and the others how to fight, as he is a martial arts master, and when the time comes to leave the Valley and go to organize the other Gelfling, he chooses to go with them: being the only urRu who can actually find it in himself to actively interfere in what is going on. Later, as they get to the site where the Wall of Destiny will be built, this is when the Skeksis get nasty and they send the three militaristic Skeksis with a mass of essence-drained Gelfling husks, literally zombies, to destroy the Rebellion.

By this point, it is a bloodbath. And what is worse is that skekMal starts picking off Gelfling from the shadows of the Vapra’s trees (I assume this their territory is close to where they are building the Wall) with his crossbow. He and urVa have a standoff. UrVa hates everything that skekMal stands for, representing the aggressive side of him he despised as an urSkek, while skekMal hates urVa for being that weak and hesitant part of his original self whose deliberations cost lives back on the urSkek homeworld.  In the end, they both shoot each other at the same time: a former whole being in conflict with its dual aspects.

Rian holds urVa’s dying form in his arms. UrVa asks Rian to kill him, but Rian doesn’t understand and refuses. He then goes and finishes off skekMal: who had killed his father not too long ago. Both Skeksis and urRu die. Then the seven Gelfling Clans, all knowing what the Skeksis truly are, congregate and the Wall is created.

File:Prophecy.jpg

It awakens the essence-drained Gelfling husks from their living death and the remaining Skeksis are forced to retreat. But Rian, the Queen and the others all know that this far from over. Nevertheless, there is still hope and wonder in Thra.

This is, sadly, as far as I got in my notes. And there are so many gaps. I still have difficulties describing our world’s geography, never mind Thra’s and its unique solar system. There is also so much story there and many story lines that I could have done with the mariner Sifa, the desert-dwelling Dousan, and the underground Grottan. I did plan on having each chapter dedicated to, and function from, the limited third-person perspective of the character: Skeksis, Gelfling and perhaps even an urRu. You know: much in the same that George R.R. Martin structures his chapters in A Song of Ice and Fire.

But I didn’t get to it. Nevertheless this process of world-building kept my mind occupied and got me into some good discussions on The Dark Crystal Community Forums. I’m also pretty sure I learned something and, in the discussions themselves, I even suggested corrections for their entries into the Encyclopedia. And what is even more awesome is that the other authors that didn’t get into the finals have a similar idea to mine and have posted links to their stories in the Forums and in the Fanfiction section of the Dark Crystal website.

The fact is that my experiences in the Quest, for all I didn’t make a story, deserved its own honoured place in my Mythic Bios and it is excellent way to show you how my creative process and, well, my mind works.

I will say it again: everything is connected. Everything is connected and I am glad I connected my creative mind to the world of Thra. Therefore I salute my fellow writers and posters, as well as the Henson Company, and my story that could have been and in the words of the Castle Gelfling Guard I planned to create let me proclaim proudly, “For Crystal and Castle.”

Dark Crystal: Connection

From the moment they entered this world, YiYa knew that Thra was special.

Even though they had come through the Crystal of their homeworld as exiles—transported here to deal with the imbalances within themselves as this world came to its next Conjunction—it was no coincidence that they had been brought here. YiYa firmly believed that there was a reason they had been sent to Thra: so much so that now, when the prospect of finally returning to their homeworld came, it leaves him feeling … unfulfilled somehow.

The two Gelfling and the Podling representative, along with the Landstriders that brought them here to watch this moment in the Crystal Chamber fascinate him. In fact, every life-form on Thra—from Aughra and her son, to the Gelfling civilizations, even to the nebrie—all fascinate him. He never dreamed of this. Never in what was a million of this world’s trine did he ever conceive of such a variety of life even existing in the multitude of possibilities that the Universe had to offer.

Even now, holding the stave that Aughra made for all of them, YiYa remembers SoSu abjuring the urSkek Collective’s decision to banish him along with the others. He told them that he had committed no crime: he did not know what he was doing and that he had no place with them. But YiYa interrupted them. He had been so curious. He always wanted to know not so much how, but why. He was the youngest of the eighteen. Only the most discerning of Thra could see that he was a little smaller and brighter than his other brethren. And always wandering. He could never stay still unless the occasion demanded for it.

That time on their homeworld he had been reverberating with eagerness, just as he was with reluctance at this time now in the Chamber. The Collective had said that the mere act of wanting to explore was enough to place him out of consensus and into the dangerous sense of individuality that the other seventeen found themselves in. YiYa had felt such fear and joy that time when he was allowed to join his brethren—his adventurous brethren—to see another world after developing such complexities within himself: to not be uniform again. He also recalled SoSu’s sad eyes as he told him that this would be a great burden, these barely controlled passions that they had: that it would be sad that he would have to learn of his role in another world. Still, SoSu vowed that he and the others would watch over him and that they would return here together when they did what needed to be done.

YiYa grew up, in a fashion, on Thra. He watched TekTih interact and examine the organic and the inorganic parts of this world. He heeded SoSu’s counsels and maintained meditations with UngIm. But sometimes he would follow SaSan into his voyages under the various oceans or be made to assist LachSen in helping the Gelfling keep a census of their populations. His favourite times, however, ones that he looked back at mournfully as the three suns of Thra were coming together, were the journeys with the wandering GraGoh and MalVa. MalVa had always seemed the most solemn among the exiles. YiYa, in the beginnings of millennium they spent together, always asked him what it had been like to hunt and to pursue an enemy in battle such as in the first times before the Collective. It always struck YiYa, that look on MalVa’s face, as he told him with some weariness that it was a feeling that he should be thankful to never understand.

The taking of a life was hard—this was something MalVa had always tried to instill into him—and should only be done when all other possibilities were exhausted. Almost a thousand trine on Thra and YiYa had seen life take life, and observed the checks and the balances of such. Sometimes it seemed so arbitrary and cruel, but over time there was a pattern. There was always a pattern.

Far away from Gelfling ears, he’d told the others his theories. He asked them how they could come to a world built on the very principles they said they held dear: of realities of three angles encircling the perfect unity of a sphere and not be moved by its lessons. Had they not seen the skeletal structures of the Gelfling and the Landstriders as tripartite? Couldn’t they sense Aughra—as the avatar of this world’s elemental energies—with her three eyes as embodying their ideal?

So why, he asked them, why was it so hard to believe that this place that had such an intermingling of Light and Dark—in the multifaceted nature of the Crystal with its crossing lines and angles no less—had nothing to teach them about their own darkness? Couldn’t they find a way to coexist with it as the lifeforms of this world had? Was it really wise to try to suppress or purge those inclinations but instead, somehow, integrate them and learn more from it?

But the others said that YiYa, though young and bright, had much to learn and the evolution of life on Thra had even more so. But then YiYa had brought up the Gelfling and the Pod People and asked them, after spending so much time among them—for as much as they had been comfortable—and asked how such a peaceful people could evolve on a world of Light and Dark if Light and Dark contrasted as much as the urSkeks said. ZokZah warned him to be mindful of his thoughts—to be careful of straying beyond the heresy they’d all already fallen deep into—and the others remained silent. YiYa would have spoken more about this had not SoSu adjourned their meeting.

YiYa didn’t understand. Perhaps this was what Raunip—Aughra’s child—felt whenever he told her that she didn’t see everything when she looked at them. The urSkeks could hear their conversations well enough, but chose to say nothing. But YiYa, who always tried to befriend Aughra’s hostile hybrid son, now wonders if there was something to those claims that even he could not fully see.

YiYa levitates in the circle of his brethren around the Crystal as it hovers over the Lake of Fire: as it began to glow. As it begins to happen. He fights against the inclination to look at the two Gelfling. The Sifa Gyr with his tear-drop scar and the pale highborn Vapra Kel stand there and watched their leave-taking from this wonderful, fascinating place. Their hands inch together and YiYa remembers …

After that fateful meeting where he spoke out, SoSu wished to talk with him. As the other urSkeks went out to fulfill their tasks and duties, the two urSkeks had hovered across the green land around the Focal Point—or “the Castle” as the Gelfling called it—and observed the stars in the sky. YiYa recalled seeing the faint rays of the Rose Sun and the twilight of its Dying Brother as the Greater Sun had rotated away for the night. They weren’t as close this time: the Greater Sun always dominating, always there, but only barely touching the Rose—a tousle between brothers, the Gelfling told him—and the Dying Sun was still, far, far away. But because of what he and SoSu were, they could see the spheres of energy and their concentric circles of power and influence gradually, ever so gradually, rippling into each other until—inevitably—all three would cross again just as they had that fateful day almost a thousand trine ago.

SoSu asked YiYa then what he had seen. Even though his role was undefined as of yet and they all remained individuals, YiYa was still part of the collective consciousness that all eighteen made up. To an extent, he access to all their thoughts and experiences—their feelings—but as time went on, even with their strides towards calming the turbulence inside of them, YiYa did not see everything. But they did not see what he saw either. What many did not know, outside of the eighteen, was that YiYa sometimes had flashes of insight along the multifaceted angles of the Universe: the circle of himself still young and growing into lines that had not completely formed yet.

These flashes of actual prescience, like solar flares in his very being, motivated YiYa into finding out more: more about Thra and why of all places they came here. YiYa told SoSu then about the Gelfling—and to some extent the Podlings but the Gelfling in particular—and how they were growing. How they would face that time. As they themselves had long ago.

It didn’t surprise YiYa when SoSu told him that he had also seen this and more. The elder urSkek believed that they had been sent to Thra not just to purify themselves and reincorporate into the Collective, but to help another developing species manage their burgeoning abilities. The ability to dreamfast—to make a rudimentary Collective—was indicative of this crucial and potentially dangerous development should an imbalance between individuals occur. It would only be with the Crystal properly and naturally honed that the Gelfling could reach their potential. SoSu told YiYa what the urSkeks had always known: that each world was a gradation of reality and that, as far as their perceptions reached, the Crystal of Thra was the strongest and most clear version of all the world-Crystals that had ever existed: the archetype of what it was to be the Crystal: an ur-Crystal, for lack of a better word.

It was no accident they were summoned here for, as YiYa was told that night by SoSu, just as this Crystal would help repair them; they would also help the Gelfling find their way. Nothing comes from nothing, YiYa recalls now, and everything has an equivalent exchange of influence and interaction. Everything is connected. SoSu’s belief was that they would show the Gelfling and others that understood that Darkness had to be overcome or controlled for Light to prevail and be refracted through the natural angles of their being: that through this act of hard-work, discipline and humility that they would also purify themselves and ascend back to a proper balance.

But now, as YiYa floats in his place—no longer the erratic young urSkek he’d been and knowing what was at stake—he wonders if SoSu’s thoughts were merely one interpretation of their role. His brethren were proud of him however. As preparations for their guests and the ritual had occurred, and they bemusedly watched AyukAmaj indulge in his speciality and prepare his material sustenance for their guests, SoSu had told him that he had almost reached his own role. Even HakHom, the primary architect of the Focal Point and a contributor of Gelfling artistry, told him that YiYa had been building on sound foundations and that soon, back in their world, he would add another newer pattern to the complex of the urSkek Collective.

Yet YiYa kept his secret: too young to access the confidence of his elders and their specific experiences. He still saw the Light and Dark struggling. He wonders if, deep down, it would ever stop. If it ever should stop … if it ever did…

And then it happens.

SilSol. He had been … discordant somehow after talking with the Gelfling: the being that YiYa had wanted to also talk with, but decided to leave alone in order to help his brethren with the ritual despite his nagging sense of curiosity. But now it is worse. Somehow, they still hold up their star-staves: despite something … something coming. The suns are coming together. The power flowing through them now is tremendous and for the second time in his existence YiYa feels transcendent and alive and all the mysteries of the infinity open up and despite everything drilled into him, he wants to explore them all …

But SilSol, who had been so red, darkens. Raunip, that unique hybrid, antagonizes him. SilSol had never liked Raunip. In fact, despite his interest for all life on Thra, YiYa never had opportunity to even talk with Aughra that much: that honour being mostly reserved for TekTih with whom she had been closer. YiYa himself had apparently been “too annoying” and she had wanted to be the one to “ask the questions,” not him. But SilSol had been sulking for a while: lost in his sad music where he thought none of the others could find him save SaSan that always fetched him from his favourite voyages in the water. This world had changed them all, but SilSol not for the better.

YiYa can see the darkness inside SilSol squirming against something luminous. It is like there was a war raging inside of him. And that was when YiYa sees it.

That is when he finally sees it.

The others also have that Darkness. It isn’t a name or an urge anymore. It is right there—incarnate and inside of them—raging and raging to get out. And something else, something gentle and light quivers around it: like the rippling gelatinous insides of the organic beings of this world. YiYa feels it too. The surge to set out and keep going, that fascination at all costs rages—rages—against the love he had for his brethren, for the Gelfling, for the Podlings he celebrated with, for Aughra and Thra’s balance and his need to help … It is too much. That one discordant note that Sil … Sol … Sil…. Sol…

It is agony. Two halves in three-angles. How can there just be two … the darkness … dark … rk … radiance … rad … r … Words and concepts from another time, before urSkek … the Collective … Sol…. soul … the ur came first … that ascended death … and Skek … the body, the hungry, scared, creeping, living body that died … died … died …

The Crystal explodes into such Light: making them see, see, See … Then nothing … nothing … noth…

…Yi … ragged plumage, purple scales. A gnashing beak. He looks at his claws and feels a cackle deep in his throat. And … Ya … soft yellow skin with swirls on its flesh. He feels sleepy and ponderous. Yi hears the growls and trills of his brothers … they look and revel in themselves. They are free. They are all free. No voices in them. Just them.

Ya … looks around at his … befuddled brethren. Yes, they are his brothers. He blinks. It feels as though something, someone had been a dream and he has just woken up. He feels lighter. He remembers someone’s … others’ terms for the light part of a soul.

Ur … The first to awaken.

He looks at his closer brother at … at Hom … at urHom and urHom looks back: his long spindly fingers playing as though looking for a toy he lost before … sleep. And he is urYa … urYa knows he has been sleeping for a long time. But now he is awake.

UrYa looks across the Chamber at the others … and feels a part of himself still unaware. Still gloating and planning. He doesn’t understand … until he sees the others in the room. The … Gelfling and the Podling. Yes. They came by Landstrider. Noble beings: they know the balance of Nature intrinsically: implicitly. And Aughra and her wayward son…

SkekYi … yes, that is his name. And he knows many other names too. He has the power of them. More than even his brethren. Yessss … Looking at his claws and knowing how tall he is, newborn as he is, he knows how to Soulspeak, how to control the dreamfasting … the little fools trusted him once … and the connections to the Earth through the avatar and her deformed mutant offspring. They thought him a nuisance … he would destroy them. He would explore all parts of them until he grew bored. And then, then he would turn their secrets against them and show them how truly meaningless they all were … make the animals eat each other as he laughed … and laughed…

UrYa blinks, a newborn come from recent sleep, and sees Skek … Yi destroying all life on Thra … deforming the dreams of the Gelfling, poisoning all life with his twisted parody of Soulspeech, etching profanities in all sleeping minds … it is awful. And he wants to stop it, to stop him but he can’t … he can’t … he….

One of the other Skeksis turns to urYa. SkekHak … they regard each other. Hatred blooms in the reptilian being’s eyes and he lunges forward. It seems so slow, but in reality it is beyond time.

And then … urYa remembers.

Suddenly, it is fast. This concept of fast and slow is alien to them, and it comes to their minds so fleetingly compared to the totality of what others could perceive not long ago, oh so long ago … This … it happens so fast: as fast as the speed at which his former self … their former selves used to think and affect the reality around them.

UrYa knows that they were all one not too long ago. And this was the price of trying to control and separate their Darkness. SkekHak’s talons close around his throat. He looks into the hateful gaze of the being that his brother fought against forever. And he sees a horror. UrYa sees SkekHak the Machinist: a Skeksis creating a multitude of weapons, siege weapons, motley war engines and mechanistic terrors. He would dig up the bowels of Thra and pollute it with its own excavated waste. The Gelfling, not knowing their own Darkness enough yet to embrace combat for self-defence and innovation, would fall … fall to the Skeksis with SkekHak’s machines…

The claws tighten around urYa’s pulsating throat. His new-found vision is darkening again, from dream into death … All of them. All of the Skeksis will bring ruin … they were the threat. They were the threat, the potential of what the Gelfling could become. That was why … why Thra, the Crystal wanted them … To teach them, to warn them … but it didn’t have to be … be like … like…

UrYa sees his own brothers. He sees a Valley like the parts of their old world before they … the ur…Skeks had fully evolved. And urHom beside him … the builder, the Carpenter … making refined structures of beauty and repairing what the Gelfling lost for every city lost…

But is it enough? Does it make up for so much?

And with his dimming eyes, urYa understands again. They don’t know. No one here knows. But he has to show them.

Everything is connected.

Despite the passivity infusing his very being, his sweat-soaked brown hair against his smooth yellow skin, urYa knows that he can fight back. He more than knows how to defend himself. A remnant of his corona glimmers next to urHom. And he thinks he hears … something from urHom: a faint dulcet hum. And he knows that his brother understands him. UrYa saw it. He knows that SkekHak will kill him today: just as he knows that the Machinist would destroy and eventually one day build more destruction. But not now. He is too young and immature. Too lustful for killing. He would move on to as many … urRu as he could … like urHom.

Far away, he can see skekYi choking. SkekYi who doesn’t have a role yet … an infant monster … everything urYa is not. He can see him though, see what he became see him as…

SkekYi the Nihilist. SkekYi would obliterate all meaning … but he is choking, he is suffocating and he doesn’t know why. The others, his filthy brothers stand there and watch him. Wretched traitors, wretched things, he wish he could destroy them too, deform them further, and make them pay, always underestimating him…

UrYa does not underestimate the monster he used to live with. He doesn’t dare. He can only hope that the other Skeksis will be too stupid and their depravity will end. But he sees them, older, later, in finery and committing horrors and that SkekHak’s next murder leading to his flaming ruin will show them what they are in a purely crude way, will show them for what they are….

Instead, urYa closes his eyes. The darkness is soothing. He is falling asleep again, even as the nightmare across from him suffocates in its cradle. He wills his brothers to see … and he feels them understand. And the Gelfling and Podling … Because of this, they will not have to face the Machinist or Nihilist. He can do that much. Perhaps this moment will teach them as well … will pass into a legend or a small myth to warn future generations to come one day when that Great, awful awful Shattering that happened, that will happen, that is happening can be repaired and made whole …

The elders had been destroying themselves in this exile, but this would stop it. This would show them … the two Gelfling almost holding hands, male and female, Darkness and Light, there is always a third way … they always lived the third way …

They thought that the Gelfling had to learn from them, but they had just as much to learn from the Gelfling in their crucible of Light intermixed with Dark, with life … in their new home…

Everything is connected, urYa remembers, letting himself relax, letting himself die, willing his brothers—everyone—to see before, finally, he sleeps forever: his nightmare dying with him, and his dream living on.

*

The urRu gather together in the sands of the Valley. They had prevented the quake of the Crystal’s cracking from destroying the Gelfling, Podling, and their mounts. They are humming: their deep voices resonating and complementing each other’s.

One the tallest among them, urSu, closes his eyes. He remembers watching urYa stand and let SkekHak drain the life from him with his bare hands. He saw some of what the other did and knew what it meant … what it all meant.

And as the youngest had grown slack in the Skeksis’ hands, they all saw.

His lower arms scoop up the sand in front of him. There were no remains to bury: urHom incinerated silently into flame and urYa vanished with his demise. There is nothing left of them except for the wind in their lungs and their dreams. He takes the coloured sand and gently blows it into the air: wishing for the passing of urHom—urHom the Carpenter—into the next life.

Then his lower arms scoop more sand. urSu opens his eyes and looks down at the many, many colours. UrYa would have appreciated the different varieties. The different perspectives. He had died so young and before his promise. And yet: he had shown him so much. UrSu speaks again in the flowing language of their kind. He wanted to call urYa the Philosopher, but as he speaks, he says something else.

“Here passes urYa, youngest of our brethren,” urSu says, a tear rolling down his cheek, “urYa … the Dreamer.”

The Master takes the sand to his upper hands and blows it gently into the sky: returning to Thra and to everything.

We Interrupt These Stories to Bring You Andrez Bergen, Great Capes and GeekPron

Originally, I was going to make the month of October 2013 Storytime for Mythic Bios: if only because for the past three entries I have been posting up stories. And I was going to do it again today until it occurred to me that there are two updates that I need to make.

So first of all, I am friends with Andrez Bergen: an author and musician whose Blog you can find under a cap-locks version of his name right here with the subtitle: a wayward soapbox for author/hackwriter Andrez Bergen. He has written a few books, but the one that I have read is his new Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?: of which you can either click on the previous link or look at Heropa itself. Basically, imagine a virtual reality world modelled after an original Silver Age comics universe where players can be either superheroes or villains. Then add to it with the fact that it operates on the Comics Code Authority rules: such as no swearing, fraternizing between hero and villain roles, drinking in public, revealing your secret identity, and then some. And then complicate it by having set in a dystopian offline society and have the dregs of it start to affect this ideal world.

I actually met Andrez in the WordPress Blogsphere when, I believe, I wrote My Best Friend Was a Sith Lord. What it seems like in this amateur version of Blog archaeology or psychogeography is that Andrez commented on my entry and I commented back, followed him to his site where his book was being promoted and still in the process of being finalized … and the rest is history that can be summed up into a continuing friendship and a consequent Sequart article published yesterday entitled Revisionism Comes to a Silver Age: Or Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?

Suffice to say, I am really pleased with how the above article turned out and if you are interested please buy Andrez’s book, look at my article and read through Sequart’s really fascinating scholarship on the medium of comics and everything it has influenced. You can find the link to Sequart through my article or my Blogroll on the right-hand side of Mythic Bios proper.

It is just amazing how things can come together: and in ways that you didn’t even think of beforehand. I also have another element of news. As you might have seen from my Blogroll, I have been following G33kPr0n for some time now. What you might not know is that they were looking for some contributing writers and, after sending them some work, you are looking at one of the newest members of the G33kpr0n Contributing Writer Staff. 😀

I didn’t want to say anything until I posted my first article and made it official. It is different writing for G33kPr0n than for Mythic Bios, but it has opened various new avenues to me: if only out of sheer geeky enthusiasm. My first article actually covers The Dark Crystal Author Quest and outlines it for the readers of G33kPr0n. I am also getting revitalized for my work for the Quest as well in creating my story. I know what I want it to be about and the rest is now a question of details and time. Suffice to say, I have a whole lot of ideas for G33kPr0n articles, new space to collaborate with, and good awesome geeky people to share it with as well: both staff and readers.

I have wondered, however, if this will impact my writing of Mythic Bios: if I will have to cut down on articles in order to also work on my other projects … maybe to once a week instead of twice for a while. I still need to look for other avenues as well and we will just have to see where it goes. But in the meantime, yay: lots of links tonight, ladies and gentlemen and beings of all kinds. I believe I will have some other news if and when specifics are given to me as well. I have plenty of branching ideas and I just want to see how they bear fruit.

So stay turned everyone, as I become an even more obnoxiously speaking-Geek. Same Mythic time, same Mythic Bios …

Looking Outward

The Dark Crystal Author Quest

Jen Dark Crystal

If you were a child that was either born or grew up in the 1980s, chances are you watched the 1982 film called The Dark Crystal: a movie in which Jen–the last of the Gelfling race–undertakes a quest to repair the broken Crystal of Truth in the strange world of Thra while evading its many dangers and the horrors of the evil Skeksis and their Garthim minions. The world of The Dark Crystal–of Thra itself–was created by Jim Henson: the master puppeteer and creator of the Muppets, Labyrinth and many other shows and films.

The Dark Crystal is a world onto itself and despite talk about a sequel this world has only been expanded on so far in two graphic novels: Tokyopop’s Legends of the Dark Crystal and Archaia Entertainment’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths. In addition to Brian Froud’s The World of the Dark Crystal–an art book illustrated by the conceptual designer of the film itself which expands further on the actual identities and roles of the Mystics and Skeksis as well as the lore of Thra–there had been no other official creative forays into the world of The Dark Crystal

Until now.

author quest

On October 1, The Dark Crystal Author Quest began accepting submissions for the next Dark Crystal novel. It is a writing contest created and organized by the Jim Henson Company and the publisher Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group–While the Rules for this contest can be found under the Author Quest Rules and Regulations section on the site, basically anyone can submit a 75,000-10,000 word entry–either a short story or chapter excerpts–to the Contest in order to qualify for review by the Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap. Then of all those entries, five writers will be selected and go to the second round where–with revisions and editorial suggestions–they will expand their story into a 50,000 word manuscript. After that process, and in the immortal words of Highlander, there can be only one. The winner of The Dark Crystal Author Quest will thereby receive a $10,000 book contract for the next Dark Crystal young adult novel.

This story is not supposed to be a sequel. It is a prequel event that occurs during that the time of what is called The Gelfling Gathering: in which the Gelfling people, once ruled over by the Skeksis Empire, realize what their overlords truly are and begin the process of creating the Wall of Destiny or the Prophecy that will one day liberate them. It is a time where the Skeksis still rule over Thra and have supporters among the Gelfling that they will one day commit genocide against. During this time there are seven distinct Clans of Gelfling, sixteen pairs of Mystics and Skeksis that are still alive and a lot of world-building toys to work with: found in both The Gelfling Gathering Author’s Resource and the still-developing Encyclopedia, Mythological timeline and other goodies at darkcrystal.com.

As I said, submissions opened October 1 and will close December 31, 2013, so feel free to join this wonderful Contest, or the official Dark Crystal website listed above.

As the urSkek at the end of The Dark Crystal film states, everything is connected. I myself am a participant in The Dark Crystal Author Quest and as a new writer to G33kpr0n I thought I’d be very remiss in neglecting to mention the existence of such a Contest. It is a rare thing for an established creative world to be opened up like a playground to prospective writers to make what has so far generally been fanfiction into a possible literary and fantastic reality. At the top of the page is The Dark Crystal Author Quest Panel from the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con if you would like to hear about some of what it is going on from the Contest organizers themselves.

Whether as a participant or an observer, or a dedicated fan or someone coming in new to the franchise, I hope that you get to experience the expansion of cult-classic mythos that has been so inspirational to so very many.

Of Dark Crystals and Brooding Hollows Traveling Down the Late Night Road

The thing about “there,” is that when all goes well you come back again.

I meant to write this the very … night I came back from my trip, but then I realized after talking with a friend that I was more tired than I believed. And then today I felt energized with purpose but now the exhaustion segment of this burst energy and gall on my part is coming into play: so much so I’m now writing this past Monday.

I even had this post all planned out to an extent but then I just felt like … I don’t know, tired and repetitive. Nevertheless, there are some things that still need to be mentioned. I was on the Greyhound bus back from Ottawa and, finally, I got my borrowed laptop to link into the free wifi connection. After catching up on a wide variety of Facebook messages and even some new Twitter followers, I went on the Broodhollow website and I found something there: that on the very day of my impromptu trip my Sequart article got linked to and mentioned in an update by Kris Straub himself.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, and I was secretly hoping that he would mention my work, but it’s one thing to hope and think about it but it is an entirely different situation altogether to see it staring at you right in the face–on a Greyhound bus back to Toronto in the fading early autumn sky–and just say, “Wow.” Before this point, I did comment on the site like everyone else, but here was name again, connected to my writing, associated with Sequart and–for that time and that time alone–front and centre. I found this a few days or so after another Twitterer suggested my work be printed as a “Forward” to the upcoming Broodhollow Kickstarter, to which Kris Straub replied:

“@MKirshenblatt unfortunately there’s no room! but he is worthy of it”

It was at that point that I went on my Facebook and wrote another status down–linking the exchange from above–and I wrote, “I hope that this is the longest Day of my life.”

And I still mean it.

Of course, I’m not perfect. After I found Kris Straub’s post, I saw two comments. While one of them caught onto a run-on sentence I made, the other pointed out an even more glaring factual error. It turns out, I actually made the Belgian cartoonist Hergé have an untimely death: in that while he actually died in 1983, I wrote that he died in 1938. One simple reversal of numbers read the wrong way–some dyscalculia (a word I also apparently misspelled on the Broodhollow site) if you’d like–but ultimately a goof on my part. I spent our fifteen minute rest-stop replying to both comments, thanking the posters, and then emailing Cody Walker and Julian Darius with the good and the bad–but quite fixable–news. The mistakes have long since been corrected.

In the past, this error would have positively mortified me but I realize that everyone makes mistakes and it is admitting to those kinds of errors, thanking the people involved for pointing them out, and then taking steps to correct them that let others know just what kind of professional–or person–you really are.

The highlight of seeing that post of Kris’ is one other fact for me. I was first introduced to Kris Straub’s work when my girlfriend sent me “Candle Cove.” After seeing it for what it was, I realized I wanted to make something like this: something that wasn’t just a run of the mill creepypasta that is a variation of so many others. And I realized that the best way to make something like this was to figure out how Kris made his. You can look at Horror as a Universal Power and Horror as Collaboration to see some of the process right there. I have yet to unleash my precious horror: to make my monster.

So I found the Ichor Falls site and read some of the stories I found there too. I eventually found Broodhollow as well though it took me a while to get around to reading it, but when I did I began to see some … connections to things and after following some of Kris’ own exchanges on both sites I realized that making an article on an author’s creative process–aside from it being a Mythic Bios thing to do–was, and is, a great phenomenon and opportunity to witness and document. I also believed that Sequart would really benefit from an article on a webcomic like Broodhollow in terms of its aesthetics choices and implications and so I sent it to them.

On Stories

But the real highlight of this entire thing is that moment when I saw that Kris Straub referred to me as an author. He didn’t have to do that. He could have called me a scholar or a critic. Hell, he could have even called me a writer: a title which I’d been referring to myself as for quite some time anyway.

No. Kris Straub called me an author and that makes me know, if I didn’t know it before, that I have a future and I am seeking it right now even as you see this post. It means that much to me.

While I was staying with my friend, I was also thinking more about my own creative process with regards to my Dark Crystal Challenge. In the post directly previous to this one, I talk about and link to my short Story Sketches on the Dark Crystal Forums. I already mentioned how I decided to challenge myself and attempt further immersion of my creative imagination into the world of Thra by writing a story about YiYa: the first urSkek and subsequent pair of Skeksis and urRu to die before the Crystal is even cracked.

Mainly, what I sought to do was show that his death was not arbitrary and I realized I was being influenced by something I’d seen or heard about. It was only when I was at my friend’s by myself that I remembered. In Tezuka Osamu’s first volume of Buddha, there is a story about a wise man–a Brahmin–who is meditating in the wilderness and begins to starve. There are animals he befriends that help him but it is the rabbit that throws itself on the fire to provide him sustenance to survive. Yet instead of eating the rabbit, the Brahmin sobs and holds its body and, in that moment, attains enlightenment. Tezuka obviously got this from an older source that he incorporated into his Buddha manga series, but it stuck with me to the point where even when the names and images faded from my memory, the idea remained.

So I thought of urYa–the Mystic segment of YiYa–being of a philosophical bent and respecting and even loving all life on Thra. I thought of his counterpart, SkekYi–that part of him that always felt belittled or held back–wanting to greedily take everything on that world and destroy all of its meaning. And then I thought about the other Mystics and the Skeksis and how, at the time of the Creation Myths second volume–when they are recently split–and how they didn’t know or remember that they were all connected. I made it clear that YiYa had a limited form of precognition and that both of his aspects inherited this. But while SkekYi was enamoured with a future of despoliation and obliteration–so much so that he was so busy dreaming of those moments while freshly born from the Great Division–urYa was also seeing the future but had that presence of mind to know how to act in the here and the now.

The fact is: he knew that the Skeksis coming to kill him–SkekHak (that part of HakHom)–was destructive enough to eliminate him and urHom: the urRu segment of the original HakHom. UrYa could have defended himself even at that stage, but he chose not to. He chose to die so that SkekYi’s evil would never happen, and he knew that as a result SkekHak would kill his brother urHom and thus destroy himself: as they are both linked. But more than this, urYa knew that his Mystic brothers would see his and SkekYi’s simultaneous deaths and learn the lesson: that everything is connected. Those are the very words that UngIm tells Jen at the end of The Dark Crystal itself. In addition, urYa also knows that there are Podling and Gelfling representatives present at the Division and he hopes that this moment will teach them something about their future with the urRu and the Skeksis as well as the nature of their world and themselves.

UrYa is the rabbit that has attained enlightenment–or already had it–and he sacrifices himself so that others might have it as well. The Skeksis only figure out that they are connected to the urRu, however, when SkekHak throws his other Mystic counterpart–urHom–into the Lake of Fire and ignites as well. They only see it as a crude sort of material warning: something in keeping with their own nature. The urRu gain something else out of it entirely.

The thing about Dark Crystal, from what I have already observed is that you need the right amount of mysticism and exploration–along with characterization–to make a story there. And the story I made, as a sketch, was rough and I will admit that. But this is an insight I wanted to share with you all: just as I wanted to tell you that I wrote those articles for Broodhollow on Sequart to learn from Kris Straub. I am learning.

And one thing I want to learn is how to make a living, how to make some money in addition to recognition and fun, from what it is that I do. I have a few friends who say I should totally be doing this and while writing for free has its advantages, I would like to see if I can support myself from what I’m more than capable of doing. As such, I have some plans and I hope you will all stay tuned for them.

In the meantime, after my absence I have some other things to do and catch up on. As tired as I am, it’s good to be back and I hope to speak with you all soon once more.

I Think I’m Ready For Another Adventure

It’s been September for a little while now. Cool winds vie with warm air as Summer continues to want its time. The seasons tend to be greedy like that. And every year, at this time, I remember feeling a combination of fear and anticipation as school started again: as a whole new journey began.

Of course, after a while and as my Master’s work came to a certain point I had fewer–if any–new courses to look forward to and dread. Even so, in 2009 of this time I had Dragon Con as my next great journey–all the way into Atlanta–followed by forays into new places and meeting new people. But eventually by 2012, even that sense of movement began to ebb and fear–that natural fear of impending change–turned in on itself and became a deep sense of internalized anxiety followed by a sense of burn-out and a whole lot of being practically sedentary: in almost all the ways that mattered.

For about a year or so, my only real movements were–aside from meeting from friends–very reluctant journeys into practical matters and solitary walks. I can’t even remember a lot of last year’s September, but a lot of it was writing, writing, writing and the slow and inevitable realization that despite one inclination to shun connections and being the North American equivalent of Hikikomori–a recluse or a shut-in–I was now talking a different journey into making voice actually heard and slowly opening up in a different space in my life.

I’ve told you all about some of the somewhat modest developments in my life over time, including these recent ones, and I want to tell you a little more before going on my next journey.

I am working on The Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering story and continuing to explore the world of Thra and its characters through story sketches. This is a recent one: it is the story of two urSkeks–though of one in particular named YiYa–who die before the Crystal is cracked. It is a brief look at YiYa’s existence, of a role that he didn’t have enough time to gain, and an attempt to give his demise some meaning aside from being a throwaway character. I tell more than I show, there are undoubtedly grammatical errors and perhaps some choppy sentences, but it is literally another foray into the world that I plan to look at with a little more depth. A journey does not happen all at once, but in increments and with setbacks and some insights along the way. The urSkeks came all the way to Thra to heal themselves, but they also got to explore an entirely different world and find out some things about themselves in the process. It is a nice background for me as I will continue on with how the Gelfling operate.

In other news, Sequart has published the second half of my article The Stitching Together of a Mythos: Kris Straub’s Broodhollow: which, in turn, focuses on a more neurotic young man named Wadsworth Zane undertaking a train ride of his own. And with Kris Straub’s comment today on my Twitter, stating that “@MKirshenblatt’s dissection of broodhollow and its origins is everything i ever wanted” fuelling my sails further I am also going to go on my own train ride: to Ottawa.

And by the time you read this, I will be on my way. I won’t be gone long and it is a relatively ad hoc journey. In fact, it’s almost completely out of character for someone like me: or the person I’d turned into this past while. While I am going out of some practical concerns–such as developing my skills and resources further to actually gain employment and even go so far as to create my own job–I’m also enjoying the prospect of meeting some old and new friends and, really, to get something akin to a vacation.

Some people might think to themselves, “But Matthew, you’ve not had a paying job or gone to school in almost two years. You’ve had about two years of vacation.” And that’s all very well and good an opinion, except that they would be wrong. I have been out of school and work for almost two years, it’s true, but almost two years of unemployment, of anxiety, of being shut-in, of not really having my own space, of doing a checklist and a report for Ontario Works, of looking for work, of networking, of constantly writing everyday–as enjoyable as that may be–is not a vacation. What it has been is almost two years of work and struggle and rarely, if ever, letting myself fully relax.

But I have been waking up. As much as I want to retreat back into the tiredness sometimes–especially when it gets stressful–I find I’m like I always am where when I am up, I’m up. I have built up a certain kind of momentum but I also recognize that I am going to have to take some paths I didn’t even think about and that sometimes they happen suddenly and that life does not stop when you want it to and–perhaps–that is a very good thing. Life happens when you make other plans and life happens when you make any kinds of plans, or you think you are going to be on a certain track for the foreseeable future and this is true of gods and monsters and careers and relationships of any kind. And even now, I don’t intend to really take a break.

It’s almost fitting that while I have a Project or two to catch up on, I will also no doubt be reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring on my journey by Via Rail on my seat by the window: watching the space I’ve been in for so long pass me by. A part of me is scared to be leaving the familiarity of my surroundings–both my comforts and my inconveniences and so relatively suddenly too–but there is another part of me, a part I’d almost forgotten about that is excited and looks greatly forward to meeting up with some awesome friends and to learn new things together.

To my friends and loved ones I love you all, and I will see you again on Monday because in the words of Bilbo Baggins–my favourite Hobbit–I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.

Looking Outward

Everything is Connected: I Have Entered an Author’s Quest

So, I have a few long overdue announcements to make.

I am going to be published. First of all, I’m going to have a poem published in a book called Klarissa Dreams: a collection filled with short stories and poems inspired by and including paintings created by the artist Klarissa Koscis. All proceeds from this book will go to Cancer and Lupus charities. It is for a good cause and I am proud to be part of such a marvellous collaboration and in very good company.

Second of all, on August the 28th I am going to have a three-part Sequart article published every two weeks. I am not going to go into the specifics as to what it is, but I will say that it has to do with the subject of horror … and you may have heard me talking about at least one of the elements in it, and one creator in particular. I will say no more, but it took a lot of work: about four days and a few more to look over it. So I am definitely looking forward to releasing this.

I may also have a story out in Gil Williamson’s online magazine Mythaxis at some point in the near-future as well for its lucky number 13 issue.

So these are the three publications that I will be coming out relatively soon. But I also have another bit of news for all of you. Do you remember The Secret Project that I have been alluding to? The one that I sometimes hint on, but I never quite come out with a straight answer. Well, let me just say that I have, in fact, given you some clues as to what it is that I have been working on.

For while characters, plot and setting are all seemingly separate entities, a wise fictional being once said, “Everything is connected.”

That’s right: I am going to be participating in The Dark Crystal Author’s Quest! Basically, I am going to write a 7,500 to 10,000 typed word story (about 25-40 pages) and outline for a Prequel story to The Dark Crystal. It will take place during an era known as The Gelfling Gathering: essentially that place in time on Thra when all the events that lead up to the Prophecy and the Wall of Destiny occur. It is a time when the Skeksis and the urRu Mystics are still young and Gelfing civilization still exists as part of the Skeksis Empire … before the Empire turns on them.

And, somehow, I am going to be writing a story based on the era, in this world, based on this archetypal, mythopoeic Jim Henson movie. Of everyone entering, five of us will be chosen and given editorial feedback so that a 50,000 or more-word novel can be created (about 200 pages) and then … even though Thra has three suns, there can be only one at the Great Conjunction.

I have my work cut out for me. A past version of myself would think that I am insane. You see, I’ve mostly been writing short stories, vignettes and even poems for years now: with the occasional strange thing that may or may not be interpreted as “novel-length.” But, in addition to all of that I am also working on a short story that I will go into more detail about later and dealing with employment issues.

And this isn’t even covering the fact that Thra is a massive entirely alien world with plants that act like animals and animals that act like plants, and there are massively different environments and different kinds of Gelfling as well. In addition, there are many details that aren’t even covered by the books that are out there! So not only am I going to have to struggle with my inherent spatial difficulty with regards to geography, Thra sacred geometry and keeping track of the various creatures and characters I need to flesh out, I also have to make stuff up and make it plausible.

Let’s also not forget that Gelfling are not human: even if they are the most identifiable and relatable beings in that world.

So to say this is intimidating is an understatement. It can actually be downright terrifying. But I have been doing my homework at least to this regard. Even though I have not been novel writing like many of my peers have done and are doing, I am taking notes. I have consulted and read through The World of the Dark Crystal, Legends and the Creation Myths that exist so far. I read the novelization of the film. I’ve watched and I am going to re-watch the film. I am reading through the new definitive Encyclopedia in progress that the Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap are making for the site I linked to above.

And I am participating in the Community Forums. You should check them out at some point. The users there are very friendly and helpful too. We have conjectured a lot of things and are trying to figure out some details together. I am the urSkek “MaKir” if you are interested in looking. I also did one more thing. I started a topic called Story Sketches: a place where I hope that others will show off like me and post excerpts of their writing or samples of their writing in the world of Thra. The two vignettes I made are a diagnostic to see if I can write in the world of Thra: to make that conceptual gateway for myself using two characters that are not really in The Gelfling Gathering era.

So feel free to watch my progress, or the lack thereof, as I tackle and attempt to add my rhythm to a song of an entire world with a Crystal at its core. I have one or two more things to do first: a review and a short story, but this will continue. I plan to make a rough outline and see where I can go from there.

I am excited and terrified and I would like to take you with me as much as I can. So stay tuned: for just as there are cracks in the Dark Crystal, so too are there as many paths that I have yet to travel.

*Breathes slowly out*

All right. Let’s do this.