Writing the City

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Since the long Easter Weekend I have been putting my notes on the imaginary city of Lamborough into a format that is easier to read, a travel-log of sorts.  So far I have done Barracks Square, the governor’s residence, the university district, the Sap, and the temple of the Presters.  Last week I moved back to the shore-line to detail the harbour.  So far I’ve written five pages.  It’s a pleasant diversion.

Urban Elf Tribes

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One of the projects I dabble with is to create a city in a fantasy world that could be a mirror to the one I live in.  I watched parts of the movie Peter Pan at the weekend.  It contributed to an idea that has been germinating that in such a city the elvish and fairy citizens are an artistic sub-class overlapping with criminality.  They walk among the other peoples of the city with otherworldly gifts and immortal foods that offer addiction: lotuses, viaticum, elf-shot.  They also steal children when they can, and run gangs of unageing flying thieves.  They need to policed and kept within their boundaries.

As for the image of a pirate ship riding the fog of London between the clock towers, that’s an evocative image.


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I was going to write up my notes on Geoff Troughton’s address to the Presbyterian Research Network: The Demon Drink and the Christian: Yesterday and Today. The Archivist has suggested that I put this up on the Presbyterian Research blog which has been inactive.  Instead I will give you a fragment that I wrote for the Writing Different Worlds workshop a couple of months ago.  I haven’t done anything further with it.  I’m coming to like the direction I think it is going in.

The morning sun was shining through the curtains.  They did not close completely, a line of light shone between the curtains into the still dark of the room and across the bed.  On a fine warm morning the boy enjoyed the luxury of being under blankets while still not fully awake.  He emerged into consciousness at his own leisure.

It was not to last.  A voice broke through his reverie.  “Johnny! Johnny!” A women entered the room and she was pulling the drapes open. The sunlit sky illumined the room.  The last snatches of sleep were expelled.  The boy protested, snuggling deeper into the blankets.

Still it was too late.  She pulled the blankets back.  “Johnny, it’s time to get up. The porridge is nearly ready, and I need you to go down to Mr Potipher’s.  There’s no milk.”

Johnny groaned and tired to pull the covers back over him.  His mother was firmer.  “None of that,” she said.  “There’s work to be done.  Get up and get dressed.  Here’s some money.”  She left a handful of coins on the drawers.  Now she was wasting no time pulling him out of the bed.

“But mum!” he wailed.

“No nonsense,” she said sternly.  “Everyone is else is up.  Now get up and go.”

He was up and pulling on clothing.  Everyone else was already out of the house, probably down the section.  He had time to give himself a quick wash in the bathroom and was out of the house.

They lived on the edge of town.  North of most of the shops, but at least out of the shadow of the towers.  Mr Potipher’s shop was on the very edge of the inner district.  It was a stone building and had always been there.


Food for the mind

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I was at Archives New Zealand Dunedin this evening for the opening of an exhibition for Archives Week. The theme was food. I was asked about the Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop that I went to in Invercargill. I told them about the different kinds of speculative fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and the other stuff (magic realism and new weird). I was asked what I want to write. Well there I’m stuck. I have entertained myself for some time picking up little details for an imaginary city. It is a part of an imaginary world I started to create a few years ago. Sticking with what I know it is a modern city, less then two hundred years old, set in the islands at a latitude that I live in. It is busy and on the trade routes. Magic exists, even though it appears to be an early modern city; and so do things older than the city itself. Even for a young city it has a lot of heritage. Then I get stuck because I don’t know what I want to write there. The workshop gave me a push to start something. As another story-teller once said, following a path can be a danger in itself. You never know where it is going to lead you.

New Weird is basically urban fantasy written by British socialists

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The title today comes from a quote I made at the writing workshop in Invercargill Writing Different Worlds at the Invercargill Public Library on Saturday. I lost two days this weekend to travelling there and back again. It was worth it as we imagined writing speculative fiction and the work I created in half an hour was as good as any shared at the workshop. Invercargill has a speculative fiction group that meets on a Sunday evening, Chapter I. I didn’t find out if there is a similar social group in Dunedin I could join up with.

What else happened this month:

  • The Southern Consort of Voices sang at St. Joseph’s Chapel. Highlights for me included a piece of Russian church music by Sheremetov that felt like it was going to break out into gospel singing, and Arvo Pärt’s Women with an Alabaster Box which made the choir sound like they were singing like a pipe organ.
  • The Centre for Theology and Public Issues put on a discussion about recent events in the Middle East. This was so popularly attended that they had to close the doors to bar more people from entering. The most interesting comment from the panel was developments in Syria could have serious repercussions for all the countries in the Fertile Cresent.
  • Lucia di Lammermoor, wonderful opera, basically a ghost story by Walter Scott. Imagine that there is this alternative kingdom called Escozia where everyone dresses as Victorian goths and speaks Italian. There has been a regime change and the great houses that have lost power are desparately trying to claw their way up the food chain.
  • Visit to the Art Gallery to hear Dr Jane Malthus talk about Regency fashion. I was in the minority of men attending this lecture, the ratio was about 10:1. It was a talk about fashion for women who could wear diaphenous revealing dresses with no stomachs (or else look like a muffin); very Holly Hobby or White Witch look. I wonder how much the Kate Middleton dress was influenced by this look?
  • The Right Reverend Graham Redding talked about worship in the Presbyterian Church to the Presbyterian Heritage Network.
  • The Presbyterian Synod of Southland and Otago met in Invercargill. The synod is the original governing body of the Presbyterian church in that region. It remained independent of the national church body until 1901. An article of the settling document of Dunedin made it one of the original property owners in the south. The money was held in trust and distributed twice a year. Since the millenium the synod has realised that while it has maintained the buildings well it is a decreasing and ageing number of people who patronise them. It now looks for projects from the parishes that will reverse this trend.
  • Parish Council met.
  • Easter Break happened and I had a four day weekend. I went to only one church service on Easter Sunday, not finding one I wanted to attend for Good Friday. Then I took off again to Invercargill on the next Friday for the writing workshop meaning I had a very short week.