The Liner Notes: “Washed Up Upon the Shore”

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Ever since I discovered the compelling and lore-rich Bloodborne, I’ve been on a Lovecraft kick. I’m not a fan of his views or the man himself but the cosmology fascinates me, as does how other people have taken the mythology and made it their own. Case in point: I absolutely love Ruthanna Emrys’ The Litany of Earth; that’s the kind of mythos story I’ve always wanted to read and news of more Aphra Marsh books coming next year really excites me. As does The Old Hunters DLC recently released for Bloodborne (see here, here and, most importantly, here).

The only story I ever actually liked out of Lovecraft’s collective fiction was The Shadow of Innsmouth (which is also why I love The Old Hunters and the corpse of Mother Kos. Litany also focuses on what happened to the people of the town after the government bombed the sacred Old One reef and put them into camps far from the ocean). Dreams and the Old Ones go together but it was the lure of the sea which interested me. Plus I wanted to do something fantastical and secondary-worldy.

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The key for me was the idea that the sea is the gate to immortality. My protagonist is a man living in a seashore village who has an otherworldly connection to the ocean, it calls to him and he is receptive. His village has a spirituality revolving around the waters; the dead are sunk beneath with pearls beneath their lips as payment, their bodies becoming part of the ocean environment and they are also aware of a culture mirrored beneath the waves; once there was a town where there is now only underwater ruins with creatures living within.

The Faith of the Sea has the status of a minor cult but by the end of the story is a mainstream religion. Balem, my protagonist, is a priest when it is a cult and by the end of the story it’s one of the greater faiths that move over the land constituting the Twilight Empire. The Empire is minor in this story but it’s ruler the Empress Caisha is not, not is she quite as she appears and only certain people can see her with unclouded eyes and a mind able to survive the revelation.

Worshipping the sea is, as a concept, not new. It’s one of the primal forces of life, like fire and the seasons. A couple of years ago, while in Japan, I went to Teramachi (translated as ‘Temple Town’) in Kyoto and just wandered. There were a number of temples and a couple of shines but one took my interest because the kami being worshiped inside was this beautifully carved wooden octopus. I snapped an image of it because it struck me as beautiful in a weird way, octopi are about as alien as sea life can get and it sat in my brain, asking what else could live under the ocean on a world that isn’t quite Earth.

And what else drifted through the heavens.

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I quite enjoy writing secondary worlds, world building is after all my thing and I’ve always found the dark depths of the sea to be disturbing, unknown and dangerous. I also wrote this piece in second person as I wanted it to be really immersive and just a little bit creepy even though the narrator is referenced as male. My other issue is I tend to write passive characters. This is probably because I’ve spent much of my life unconsciously being like that and am now making an effort to be much more active; Balem lies to get into the entourage of the Twilight Empress and as the great monarch herself says:

“I do not punish honesty but I don’t forget liars.”

 I love that line, I think it’s my favourite of the entire story.

“Washed Up Upon the Shore” went out on submission this week, I have high hopes for it so here’s hoping it sells.

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The Liner Notes: “Infinity Girl and the Shadow”

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This actually started out from a very specific question relating to a rewatch of Sailor Moon Crystal (apologies for the anime screengrabs) and re-reading the manga in Japanese to help make my language skills not so rusty. Sailor Moon was how I learned Japanese, because I was eighteen and magical girls were cool. Plus the manga’s simple language and furigana helped, as did the size. I used to work in a kitchen and had an apron with two pockets. I’d keep the English Tokyopop translation (hahahahah!) in my left and the original Japanese edition in my right.

Yes the translation was crap but the idea basically survived and it did help (now I’ve switched to Japanese computer game streams, Dark Souls and Bloodborne, mostly). The early 2000’s were, however, a much more analogue age and there were two Japanese books stores in London that would accept my Student Loan money to feed my burgeoning addiction.

But, anyway, back to the question. Excuse the long, rambling, fangirlish and roundabout way we get to it.

Usagi (the main character) was Princess Serenity in a past life, heir to the moon kingdom known as the Silver Millennium, who fell in love with the heir to the Earth, Endymion (yes it is based on the Greek myth of moon deity, Selene, and human shepherd, Endymion). With the second arc, we’re introduced to her future self Neo-Queen Serenity, monarch of Earth who kicks arse and is awesome. I adore both princess and queen forms of Usagi’s alter-ego but NQS literally performs miracles and has all the grace, age and power Usagi lacks.

Within the mythology of the manga, Usagi gets her throne because of her past life (though this makes little logical sense as she’s reincarnated as a human, Tsukino Usagi, not a White Moon princess). As part of the storyline Usagi, Sailor Venus and Chibiusa—who has the full and surprising name of Usagi Small Lady Serenity, ChibiUsa literally meaning ‘Little Usa(gi)’—travel to the future, 3oth Century Crystal Tokyo.

There Usagi is informed that she became Queen after giving birth to ChibiUsa around the age of 22. ChibiUsa is like 904 years old and all the humans of Earth are now functionally immortal upon reaching adulthood because of a mystical crystal which serves as the series’ McGuffin/awesome-looking magical power source.

Unsurprisingly Usagi is like ‘OMG I got to have SEX with Mamoru!!!!!!!!’ (Her reincarnated, destined-to-be husband).

My question was not ‘Cool, Usagi got to be Queen’ but how. I mean like, literally.

Did she have ChibiUsa and then declare, to her civilian family (who are never mentioned outside of 20th century Tokyo) that she was now ruler of the planet? Was there a coup? Did the other senshi forcibly help her take over? Did the UN just go: ‘Sure random Tokyo woman, go nuts, the Earth is all yours’. Did she use the Silver Crystal and perform miracles/brainwashed the planet’s population? Did all the Japanese TV/newspaper coverage and the Guardians’ wins against Queen Beryl, Metalia, the Black Moon Clan, Wiseman and Black Lady, Pharaoh 90 and Mistress 9, the Dead Moon Circus and Sailor Galaxia, finally teach all of Earth’s governments that Sailor Moon’s ultimate self could keep the Earth safe?

(Though, in the manga, NQS admits she lost most of her power as a Guardian when she ascended the throne.)

How has rankled me. I’d love to think given NQS’s benevolence and her posse of planetary guardians, plus cats, that it was a peaceful transition but the writer in me much prefers some kind of coup d’etat. Not bloodshed but not compliance either.

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So I started writing my own magical girl story about a Latina girl in a US school who becomes the saviour of a planet (complete with merchandising and hard-core PTSD). Tara Morreno is a kid in high school who also happens to be an old enough soul that the Fates have co-opted her into serving as saviour of the planet against a succession of more powerful foes.

Except this is a story in the vein of Madoka Magica, not Sailor Moon, meaning when Tara turns up to school with bruises and a black eye, her best friend Esme thinks she’s being beaten by a family member, her dead-beat father who left when she was small.

She certainly doesn’t think her best friend is fighting against a Dementor-like monster that is leeching the life from a parallel dimension in order to digest the Earth in chunks. Esme has her own role to play in the story because Tara is also, in her civilian life, a gay teen who has deep, unspoken feelings for her best friend. Esme is the one thing that keeps Tara going even when she’s so close to walking away from her life as Infinity Girl or dying in the middle of battle because she’s just not strong enough.

And that’s where I kinda forgot the question and this story became about Tara and Esme, being a magical girl where those wounds leave a mark. This is definitely an origin story and the start of a series of tales focusing on Tara’s adventures and the various creatures trying to take over the planet.

This is going to be fun.

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