Wednesday, June 25, 2014

O4S Trivia: Book II

Okay, ready for the next installment of O4S trivia?  I definitely am, as Carcosa has one of my favorite scenes in the series.  WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. 

Let’s go.

1. More Stephen King Shout-Outs.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  So begins The Dark Tower series, which are among Coyote’s and my favorite books of all time.  In Carcosa, a woman in red flees across the desert, and the gunslingers follow.  Our version of Carcosa is a place where time and distance is “soft,” and the world has definitely “moved on,” littered with crumbling relics.  The relics, like bombs and Gatling guns, have disturbing implications for what came before.  It’s implied that Carcosa destroyed itself in a war.  What’s left has reverted to a crude Old West culture with struggling farms, desert and bandits. 

No meks in King's story, though.

2. Westerns. 
The Gunslinger as a western also ties in with our KC references—as I mentioned in the last trivia post, KC is a cowtown.  We host the American Royal World Series of Barbecue every year.  Kearney, MO is home to the James-Younger gang, who, as you may also recall, play a big role in Book I.

In Book II, JD really gets to take the lead, as he fits right in in western-themed Carcosa.  As Murphy will later say, “Guns, dusters, plenty of stuff to shoot.”  Yeah, JD’s home.  In his backstory, you will see that he met his wife, a smokin’ hot Latina, in Yuma, AZ.  As JD is driving along that western highway, he’s listening to John Lee Hooker’s “Bad Like Jesse James” on the radio.  The location is a nod to 3:10 to Yuma.  It’s also just up the road a piece from Tacna and the Devil’s Highway, where Bill, Emily and Vickers will enact their own showdown some thirty years later. 

Finally, Nathan DePriest is our pale rider, both of the Clint Eastwood and Biblical variety.  There’s also Nathan’s lair, known as Calvera, Spanish for “skull,” and a reference to the villain in The Magnificent Seven.
3. More Kansas City Shout-Outs.
In Book I, the team sets out from KC.  Bill drinks Roasterie coffee.  In Book II, we see that Kate works for the Kansas City Public Library, the Downtown branch, which has been listed in several places as one of the world’ s most beautiful libraries.  It does have the giant chess set on the roof.  Kate also stops by Fervere’s, a KC bakery, for her cook-out with Bill and Cecil.  We never say it, but it’s implied that Clayton lives in Hyde Park, a grand and historic KC neighborhood. 

The main library building

The library parking garage

4. Languages
The written and spoken language of Carcosa reflects its past as a place where many worlds once connected, what Coyote and I think of as a “hub” dimension.  The Mayan writings we connect back to Book I—presumably, Whitefeather’s visions (or, more likely, his extradimensional excursions) took him to Carcosa.  Carcosa’s proximity to Excelsior Springs also influenced the architect who designed the Hall of Waters. 

The names and nationalities of Carcosa’s inhabitants illustrate the diversity of the place—or the remnants of it, anyway.  Old Geb, his granddaughter, and Bran Okafor are dark-skinned, African-looking people.  Okafor is actually a Nigerian name.  A lot of Carcosans are Latino, like Diego.  The Eerin's names are derived from Australian aboriginal words.  The Hormiga folk have Biblical names, mostly from the Apocryphal texts, like Enoch. 

A translator amulet was necessary to navigate the linguistic waters, and what good is magic in a series like this if you can’t talk to your extradimensional neighbors?  Coyote is an old-school Trekkie, and he always appreciated their universal translator devices.  We’re both Star Wars fans, and one of the things that disappointed most about the prequels was how everybody suddenly spoke English.  We missed the polyglot universe of the original trilogy.   

5. Lovecrafty Goodness
Carcosa is more popular than ever these days thanks to True Detective.  (I blogged about that, too.) 

As much as we owe to Lovecraft, with our concept of horror (madness and the terrible beings that lurk outside the known universe), we also owe much to the older incarnations of Carcosa, from the works of Ambrose Bierce and Robert Chambers. 

In our book, Bill is tormented more than ever by the King in Yellow—or is he?  In his backstory, we learn that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of a spectacularly deadly mission in Peru.  (BTW, the Lima beastie came straight out of one of my nightmares.  You’re welcome.)  Ah, PTSD—the gift that just keeps on giving.  Bill also wrestled with a little problem with prescription pills.  Again, the concept of mental illness as horror is very Lovecraft.  We find the idea of losing one’s mind to be just as frightening as any Elder God. 

In the original Ambrose Bierce story, Carcosa was a ruin—hence, our Carcosa is a ruin.  Of course, our Carcosa refers to an entire planet, not just a town or city.  In Robert Chambers’ work, Carcosa was cursed.  (I forgot to mention in the Book I trivia post—we named the fictional town of Chambers, KS after Robert.)  Our Carcosa is decidedly cursed—virtually all of the wildlife is deadly and/or poisonous.  The majority of the people and animals suffer from what they call “blights,” genetic mutations that have been handed down over untold generations. 

We also reference Lovecraft’s The Doom that Came to Sarnath, about a ruined city that was once a cultural mecca.  Religion was its downfall.  Presumably, religion was also the downfall of the Sarnath in our Carcosa, which is what brought such devastation to the land and its creatures.  We include the remains of Lake Hali.  In Lovecraft’s work, Carcosa was on the shores of Lake Hali.

6. The Eerin
The Eerin are one of the extreme examples of genetic mutation, presumably from some sort of horrible nuclear fallout.  We couldn’t imagine anything worse than being an albino mutation in the middle of a desert.  Hence, the Eerin are cave dwellers.  They were once gentle, nomadic shepherds.  It is also implied that their relatives are the ones who went and got all citified and founded Sarnath.

A lot of elements went into creating the Eerin.  We decided to get a lot of names from Australian Aboriginal words.  The word eerin means “small gray owl,” fitting for nocturnal, subterranean creatures.  Their home is Canungra, which means, “place of owls.”  They refer to the dead gate as the Cobar, which means, “burnt earth.”  Their cleansing ritual, Yarrawonga, means “water running over rocks.” 

The Eerin history is gruesome.  They hid themselves away in the caves as a war raged outside hundreds of years ago.  When they ran out of food, they resorted to cannibalism.  The current Eerin no longer partake of meat.  It has become a religious and cultural tenet for them. 

We include a creation tale for them, which we based on Gnostic traditions—the idea that the world had been created by a demiurge rather than God, hence the world is unclean, material, and separate from the pure spiritual world.  That’s why the Eerin are so fanatical about cleanliness and purity.    

One can also assume that Nathan DePriest was born in Canungra and, at some point, became an exile. 

7. The Mushroom Trip
This.  This is, quite possibly, my favorite scene in the whole series.  Obviously, the sequence is rife with symbolism.  Kate eats mushrooms, like Alice in Wonderland, another favorite of ours.  It starts with her going down into the stone grotto below Canungra, a reference to the omphalos, the axis mundi, the navel, the Center of the World.  Her Eerin guide is Kudin, whose name means, “navel.”

From there, she connects to the divine—the spirit of Carcosa itself, which she discovers is not dead after all.  It helps her really tap into her own magical abilities. 

The catfish is a nod to the actress who played Kate West in the original film, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who had a catfish tattoo to symbolize the blues.    

"Don't you worry.  I'll bring you to the other side."

The mushroom trip foreshadows events for the rest of the series.  To prepare ourselves to write this scene, we spent several days writing out what information we wanted to hint at and the best way to symbolize it.  We also watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Restless,” several times.  Lots of inspiration there. 

Except we inflict ABBA on Kate rather than Grace Slick.

8. Order History
In Book II, in addition to getting some backstory on some of the characters, we also get more backstory on the Order itself.  The Order is, for all intents and purposes, a borderless nation.  It has its own laws, traditions, and even schools. 

Doug gives a pretty extensive history lesson to the team, and Clayton and Alyssa’s foray onto the Field of St. Matthew, the Order’s construct (or pocket dimension), also illustrates the organization’s long and storied past.   

The Rosslyn Chapel was built by the Sinclairs—historically true.  Obviously, we made up the part where they are members of the Order.  Around that same time period, Starry Wisdom had thoroughly infiltrated the Catholic Church, which is why the Templars were persecuted. 

The Rosslyn Chapel

For our purposes, the Sinclairs built the Chapel to house the segments of the Staff of Solomon.  All of the ornate carvings and the unusual architecture of the Chapel itself are spells to ward off the enemies of the Order.  The Rosslyn Chapel serves as the entryway to the Field of St. Matthew, the Order’s headquarters.  This is where the Oracles live, where the Council of Names convenes.  The Council of Names, like the organization it serves, is ancient, venerable, and international.  (Did you catch that Galileo reference?)

Further glimpse into the Order is offered through Alyssa and Clayton’s chapters.  You see Clayton’s role as a regional director.  You also see that the Order, being a human institution, is not infallible by how it treats its Oracles. 

9.  Five Towns, Five Moons
In numerology, four is a number of stability and order, whereas five is a number of chaos and strife.  Hence, Carcosa is a place of five moons and five towns.  The Eerin’s myth tells how the Fifth Moon once gave birth to the demiurge, a being called Yapabat, (from an Aboriginal word meaning “untamed”). 

The five towns are:
  • Elysium - named for the mythological afterlife; a paradise.
  • Siloam - named for the healing spring in the Bible; there is also a Siloam Springs in Missouri.
  • Pata Sur – okay, I made this one up as a joke.  Literally, “south paw.”  My husband is a leftie.
  • Hormiga – this came from something my great-grandmother always used to say.  She used to say that bad deeds led al ojo de la hormiga, “into an ant’s eye.”  Seemed fitting for a Carcosan town.
  • Trapiche – the fifth and final town.  Trapiche refers to the star-shaped pattern of inclusions in gemstones, like emeralds.  A hint of what is to come in Book III.

10.  Parallel Characters
Like many authors, we have several pairs of characters who mirror each other.  JD and Nathan are a big example—their speech patterns are very similar; they’re both hard-bitten gunslingers; they both follow a certain ethical code; they’re both kinda insane.  Obviously, the crucial difference is JD has morals.  But we think that Nathan is what JD could have descended into, had his circumstances been different; had JD lacked the crucial intervention from Clayton.    

Katarina and Alyssa is another such pair.  They were both abandoned by their parents; both mages; both abused horribly; both taken in by a loving caregiver; both have a fondness for knives.  Both young women will do anything for their parental figures, including becoming a bodyguard/human shield. 

Unfortunately, Katarina’s caregiver turned out to be Bathory, who took the girl’s already damaged psyche and twisted it further for her own ends.  Alyssa, on the other hand, was rescued by Clayton. 

I know who I’d pick to adopt me.

Motifs & Symbolism
The Book Cover – Book I’s element was water.  Book II is earth.  Carcosa is a place of desert hardpan, sand and farmers.  Hence, the cover is a sandy color, all greens and brown earth tones. 

Bunnies – Alyssa’s Bugs Bunny lighter.  The rabbit-like creatures hopping around Carcosa.  We find out that Vickers is something of a magpie where magical artifacts are concerned, keeping trophies for himself from Order and Starry Wisdom operatives—among which are rabbit items. 

Water – Book II is notable for the lack of water in Carcosa.  Diego’s fountain is dry, his well is nearly tapped out.  There is the rainstorm where Bill and Emily really start to bond; the gentle stream lapping its way through the Field of St. Matthew.  Kate has to undergo a ritual bath to enter Canungra, and of course, there’s the empty fountain at the center of the Locus in Trapiche.

Sri Yantra – no Sri Yantra this time around.  There is no connection from Carcosa to heaven.  The closest you get in Carcosa is “Elysium,” where at least you can buy a bath. 

Phoenix – not an actual bird this time, but Clayton and Alyssa find themselves on a layover in Phoenix.  (Yes, that’s Arizona again.) 

Minotaur – the minotaur appears to Kate in her mushroom trip.  I don’t know if I’m more disturbed by the fact that it’s eating a steak, or that it uses A1 Sauce. 

It will share its meat with you.

Pomegranates – In Book I, Akhenaton sips his pomegranate juice in the end.  In Book II, Kate is tempted by the handsome rancher named Diego, whose home is called Granada—Spanish for pomegranate.  Solomon’s pomegranate scepter is among the Order’s treasures.  The pomegranate is an ancient symbol across many cultures.  The Egyptians regarded it as a symbol of prosperity.  The ancient Greeks called it the "food of the dead," and of course, it's associated with the Persephone myth.  

Also, after we finish each book, Coyote and I celebrate-- we toast with pomegranate juice.  

Beverage of choice for Elder Beings.

Colors – White – in the O4S verse, white is associated with madness and disorder.  Hence, Nathan is an albino who favors white garments. 

Names – There's the Council of Names who rules the Order-- once again hearkening back to the ancient Egyptian belief in the power of names.  The Order arose from learning the name of Atum, the Elder Being, which gave them the power to trap it and learn Its secrets.

Grigori is Hebrew, for “awake,” or “watcher,” and Chaldean, for “guard.”  It’s a Biblical term associated with angels.  Doug “Doc” Grigori certainly represented all that was good and just in the Order.  Watcher is also another reference to Buffy and the Council of Watchers. 

We made David “Cecil” Morgan’s middle name Ganesh, because his mom was a hippie, but also because Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu god, a patron of arts and sciences, which seemed fitting for our techie.

Some religions: no mushrooms required.

If you have questions or comments about the O4S verse, please don't be shy!  I'll be posting Book III trivia soon.  

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