Pittsburgh filmmaker Jonathan R. Skocik talks about Mornnovin as an allegory for coming of age on the autism spectrum.
|Today in the howling dystopian wasteland that is America of 2019, it is the day after Black Friday, also known as Small Business Saturday.
The idea was, ironically, originally conceived of by credit card giant American Express as a way to encourage people to support their local businesses during the holiday season. A good idea, even if the source and their motives are questionable.
This year I find myself in the position of, well, being a small business on Small Business Saturday.
I am also, as you might imagine given my last post, sort of drowning in medical bills. I’d like to call your attention to this little page detailing how you can support this indie author on SBS, and point out that there is almost definitely someone in your life who would love to be gifted a fresh new fantasy novel for the holidays.
And it has been a veeeeeeeeeeery busy day, so for the moment I’m going to have to skip the dancing and champagne. Right now I just want to leave you with a HOORAY! and an OMG! and a couple links in case anyone wants to snag themselves a copy.
If you’re wanting to buy the book from as close to the source as possible, (and in so doing, put the most profit into the author’s pocket,) then that would be Aerio, which is the storefront arm of the IngramSpark publishing machine.
If you prefer to obtain your books through more conventional channels, Mornnovin is also available at every one of these retailers:
Including, obviously, many people’s mostleast favorite source, Amazon.
I’m actually ready to pass out onto my pillow right now, but I still have to iron out some jackassery with the eBook download for my international Kickstarter backers. So.
Please carry on the OMG HOORAY!-ing in my stead.
(Holy shit, I’m a published author.)
Okay, yeah, I dropped the countdown ball. It’s because 1.) I am bad at this, and 2.) there has been a lot to do as far as actually getting ready for launch. I spent an entire evening this week signing book copies, and then spent the next two days getting shipments packed up and sent out. Not all of them, I’m afraid, but many. As many as I could do in the time I’ve had. I will continue to chip away at it as I can.
But I mean. Check this out.
So, I do actually have some more work today, finishing the special hardcover edition for the two people who will be receiving it. But before I turn my attention to that, and because I am a nerd, I want to spend a little time talking about conlangs with you.
What is a conlang? some might ask. Boy do I have your back.
“Conlang” is an abbreviation of “constructed language,” a term used to refer to a language that was deliberately invented and planned rather than developing naturally. The most widely-spoken conlang is Esperanto, but other examples include Klingon (Star Trek,) Dothraki (Game of Thrones,) and, of course, all of the languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien.
It has become more common, especially in the age of moving media, for storytellers to create languages — or at least just enough of one — to lend their work a greater element of verisimilitude. But in fact, Tolkien is on record as having stated that rather than inventing languages for his stories, he invented stories to explain and lend context to his languages. “The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien)
As a lifelong word-nerd and language fan, I have always been utterly charmed and delighted by this approach. I actually think this is one of the things that first drew me to Middle Earth when I was very young. It is completely unsurprising, then, that within minutes of having drawn a map of Asrellion, I was already thinking about my languages.
Obviously, I was very young then. What has eventually evolved into my Elven language bears nearly no resemblance to those early scribblings. (Neither do my names, although the places and people are the same places and people they’ve always been.) Honestly, what really kicked my language-development into high gear was when I began to study French in the eighth grade and, at the same time, my extremely exacting English teacher was having us memorize our Greek and Latin roots.
Oh, that’s not to say that the Elven of Asrellion is Fantasy French — not at all. Just that, for the first time, I was really starting to peek behind the curtain of grammar construction and the relationships between vocabulary elements. It made me realize how small I’d been thinking. From that point onward, I wasn’t just pulling a word here and there out of thin air. I was building a coherent linguistic structure, thinking about how words related to each other and what roots they might have come from, and the sort of sounds the culture I’d created would use to express itself.
And doing that, organically, led to me thinking more about the philosophies of the culture I’d made. How those philosophies would manifest in the language, how they would have shaped its development. The language grew from the civilization, but the civilization also grew from the language.
I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say, like Tolkien, that the language comes first and the story is secondary. I am after all my own writer with my own voice, my own process, and my own stories to tell. But I do very much feel him when he says, “To me a name comes first and the story follows.”
All of this is to say that in two days, when Mornnovin officially launches, it will bring a brand new conlang into the world with it. I hope my fellow word-nerds and language fans are just as excited by that as I am.
Today it is seven days to Book Launch, and it is also World Autism
Awareness Acceptance Day. This seems like a good moment to call your attention to this blog’s header.
That’s right! We’ve got an autistic person on our hands here! And I can assure you that it has most definitely shaped the writing I do. How could it not? Autism is not a thing I have, it’s a part of who I am.
I was twenty-five years old when I received my autism diagnosis. At that time, my life had been decomposing at a snowballing rate for the last several years and I’d been trying to get to the bottom of why I couldn’t handle very basic everyday things that everyone else seemed just fine at. In retrospect and placing it within the larger context of my childhood moving forward, the diagnosis of autism seems super obvious. At the time, it was a revelation that helped me slowly begin to get my life under control.
By then, I’d already been writing about the characters and cultures of Asrellion for a decade and a half, so they were already fully-fledged even so long ago. And without knowing it or even doing it on purpose, I had written what my friends would later observe (as if it were glaringly obvious) was an autistic protagonist. Not just that, but an entire autistic culture.
I remember an occasion early in my first marriage when my husband-at-the-time was raging at me about whatever had flown up his nose that day. The angrier he got about the subject, the more vital it had seemed to me to remain calm and rational. Someone was going to have to do something about this thing that was enraging him, and I didn’t see how it could be either one of us if I started foaming at the mouth the way he was.
But the calmer I remained, the more intense his rage grew. He asserted that I obviously didn’t care about [whatever damn thing it was] since I wasn’t getting worked up. I explained my thinking to him. In a towering fury, he spat that I was “a damn Vulcan!”
He had meant it as an insult (which, what?) but refusing to take it as one, I simply replied calmly, “I think you mean elf.”
Needless to say, he wasn’t amused, but this isn’t about that jackhole. The point is that even then, and without quite meaning to, I had developed a culture and worldview that functioned in a way that made sense to me as an autistic woman. I’d invented a society of, essentially, Vulcan elves. And how my elves and their culture fit into what is for all intents and purposes a larger neurotypical world is a major ongoing plot element in the stories I write.
I don’t want to do too much telling before any of you have had a chance to read the novel, but I do think it is obvious, relevant, and interesting how my atypical neurology plays out in the world of Asrellion through my characters.
On this World Autism Acceptance Day 2019, as we count down to the launch of Mornnovin, I invite you to ready yourselves for a fantasy world and protagonist that are unashamedly neurodivergent. To restate the old saying, this novel is about us and by us.
As a postscript, April being Autism
Awareness Acceptance Month, if you are feeling any inclination to get involved with autism charities, outreach, education, or activism, as an autistic person I implore you to steer well clear of Autism Speaks. They are among the worst (if not outright seizing the title of Absolute Garbage Nightmare Worst) offenders in the predatory, disreputable charities department.
Instead consider giving your attention to one of the wonderful groups being run by autistic people for the benefit of our own community, such as The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network or the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.
When I was running the Kickstarter campaign to fund this publication, I shared several updates about my fantasy setting and the characters who appear in this first installment of The Way of the Falling Star. This seems like a good moment to bring those introductions off of the Kickstarter page and into wider circulation.
As the day draws near for Mornnovin to permanently enter the world we live in, I thought I’d start to build a little excitement by talking about another world:
I was ten years old when I drew the very first version of this map to impress a cool new girl at school who I wanted to make friends with. At the time, I was OBSESSED with Tolkien to the point where I could actually draw the full detailed map of Middle Earth from memory. It should come as no shock that my first stories of the adventures in Asrellion pretty closely mimicked the tales and faces from Tolkien’s world.
That was a long time ago, and my stuff is now my own stuff after taking a meandering detour through a lot of Shakespeare, various fantasy greats (Roger Zelazny, Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Stephen R. Lawhead, and Lloyd Alexander among others,) a smattering of sci-fi, and a loooooooooot of fanfiction over the years.
Now, the world of Asrellion has become the world I’ve needed to see in fantasy and haven’t until creating it myself. I guess you’ll see what I mean if you read the book.
“Don’t like it, make your own!” the jerks like to say.
Okay. I did.
Strap in for Ye Olde Creation Legend.
Confession time, internet: I’m a writer.
That is to say, what I am is a writer not a typesetter, a publisher, a business manager, a publicist, a social media coordinator, or any of the numerous roles I’ve taken on in order to get Mornnovin published and out in circulation. I absolutely respect the work that publishing houses do in order to fill the world with books. I’m just a storyteller, a painter-with-words.
In short, I really don’t know what I’m doing.
AND YET. Somehow, despite my ineptitude, physical copies of my book are being printed as we speak and will shortly be on their way to me, and I think they look pretty damn good. I’ve completed all but one last reward for my Kickstarter backers (and that one is only still incomplete because I was working on it and it broke and I had to start over.) I’ve set up my author profile on Goodreads. I’ve done the necessary official business with the copyright and my publishing imprint. I’ve set up an ad for the book in the upcoming Ingram Advance catalog that bookstores and libraries do their ordering from. I’ve already made contact with my local library about scheduling an author event. I’ve set up global distribution for the eBook through the following (rather extensive) selection of online retailers:
The paperback book release is currently set for April 9th — just in time to be the best birthday present I’ve ever had. I was pretty damn excited when I checked on a couple of those sites to see if they’ve already gotten the listing memo and I saw this:
So… this is happening. I’m publishing a book.
But because I’m just a writer and all of those other things are way, way out of my wheelhouse, I’ve been so consumed by the one primary task of making the physical book (and the eBook) happen that it has only just now entered my sphere of awareness just how profoundly I’ve neglected to do any of the sort of pre-launch publicity I ought to have been doing. Like. To the point where I don’t even know what pre-launch publicity I would even do. I just haven’t had the focus to spare for any thoughts of what would happen once I’d made the book become real.
Hey, I’m just a fantasy author, okay?
Holy shit, I’m an author!
I guess I’d better wander off and try to figure out how to promote this book in the little time I have left.
But not without a final squee.