Less Random Thoughts on Infinity Wars

Stormbreaker belongs to Beta Ray Bill! If he’d had it, then he wouldn’t have been a face on the Grandmaster’s tower!

*ahem* Spoilers.

Full disclosure: I saw all of the following in my first go-round with the movie but elected not to write about them. I thought that maybe I was being hyper-critical. But on the 2nd go-round I was just as annoyed as during the first viewing.

So, here goes.

Thanos

Thanos’s plan is still stupid. In talking to Gamora he says something along the lines of: twenty years ago, I murdered half your planet’s people. Now it’s a paradise.

His next line should be: And I’ll be going back to wipe out another 50% when they start consuming too many resources again.

Or maybe: When I get the 6th McGuffin, I will wipe out 50% of those who remain on your planet which means I won’t have to go back there for a much longer period of time. Gosh, I hope I’m still alive by then!

Or, wait, is Thanos immortal? Gamora should ask: So, Daddy, just how many resources have YOU consumed in your long life? Hmm? What about the planet of the Groot you wiped out to make all that quilty smooth Charmin? We’ll send that old dude from those ancient commercials after you….

And why is it half? Why not kill 80%? 90%? Burn ’em down to minimum viable population? Presumably any of those options would preserve still more resources. But, I guess 50% just rolls off the tongue better.

Gamora and Thanos

Thanos has a spaceship. And a cool teleport power. Why didn’t he and Gamora just teleport to the top of the mountain where the soulstone was kept by Tantalus? Er, Red Skull.

I don’t mind the “must sacrifice something you love” trope, only how dense Gamora was in the moment. For such a savvy character, why didn’t she see it coming?

I get that she doesn’t think Thanos loves anyone so what happens in the movie makes sense from that perspective, but we also know that she loves (and hates) Thanos.

Consider that Tantalus said that to gain the soulstone you had to sacrifice something you love. (Or maybe Tantalus said “what you love most?” I don’t recall exactly.)

Since Gamora loves Thanos and b/c she’s so savvy, what if she was just slightly quicker on the uptake than Thanos and uses that microsecond to try shoving him over the edge? And let’s say she almost gets him, but he uses the power of the McGuffins to screw with reality thus gaining the upper hand and realizing his goal.

Does that rob the scene of weepy Thanos? Or does he remain sad/grieving because he loves Gamora all the more for fighting so damn hard. She is a firecracker, right?

I don’t know if my scenario would’ve worked better or not, but imo its truer to her character than what does transpire. A little tinkering with the prior scenes could’ve set up all of the above.

Thor

As enjoyable as his scenes with the rabbit were, I’m annoyed that he survives the blast of a neutron star but gets his ass kicked by Thanos. Does that mean Thanos is as powerful as a neutron star? Or is the plot convenience more powerful still?

And when the heck did Thor get *that* strong? He got pounded by the Hulk like 5 seconds ago…and Hela….

And did Thanos really leave Thor to die in the purple fire? Really? Why didn’t he wring his neck like Loki? (Who died in a really dumb way.) Moreover, you’re telling me that Thor doesn’t know the difference between a rabbit and raccoon? Really?

And when Thor takes Beta Ray Bill’s rightful weapon, plot-point-dropping Eitri says that the weapon oh-so-conveniently incorporates the power of the Bifrost.

(Many sentences start with “and.”)

So…why does Thor go to Wakanda to battle the zerglings? And, for that matter, how did Thor know to go there?

And if he knew to go to Wakanda, why didn’t he also know to go to Titan to fight Thanos? If he’d gone there, he could’ve gotten the glove off.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seemed like those two fights were happening at roughly the same time.

The Fight on Titan

Starlord’s “loss of control” when Gamora’s death was revealed to him felt forced either b/c of the acting or the writing or both or b/c the business plan required Thanos to not lose in the first movie.

Wouldn’t it have been cooler if, sure, Starlord goes ballistic but instead says: “Let me help you get that effing glove off so I can kick his ass man to scrotum-chin.”

But b/c Mothra is tickling Thanos’s memories the Mad Titan realizes what’s happening thanks to his grief being so powerful. So Thanos bellows, “Get out of my mind!”, regains his control and beats the piss out of everyone.

But when he says “get out of my mind” he has to say it in the exact same way as the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother says it to Paul Muad’dib in Dune (the movie).

IMO, you get the same result with my half-assed scenario above w/o the “er, what?” record stop noise.

The Fight in the Blue Bubble of Stargate: Atlantis

And, to wrap up my Negative Nancy-ness, the whole battle scene in Wakanda was just dumb.

They make a big show of forming up ranks only to raggedly charge a force that greatly outnumbers them? That makes no sense to me.

Sure it allows the heroes to have some individual moments but those are yawningly predictable. Guess what, they win!

Why not have the bad guys break the shield wall and the heroes rally the troops to reform the wall. And…spoiler…why didn’t the bad guys just pummel Wakanda from orbit with very small rocks a la The Expanse (and Monty Python).

And, sure, Thor looks cool being the lightning and wielding his now over-sized hammer (Freud much?) but his actions on the battlefield are literally sound and fury signifying…nothing.

Someday, somehow, I will write a book with equally glaring errors and make a similar amount of cash as Infinity War.

Or, maybe I’m just being hyper-critical. After all, the movie was, on the whole, enjoyable.

Thoughts?

Random Thoughts on Infinity Wars

My son and I finally saw Avengers: Infinity Wars this past weekend. Fun movie. The following contains spoilers…and a few thoughts on the flick.

Thanos

He was done pretty well, both on the CGI and Brolin’s acting. Better than I expected, frankly. And having read Jim Starlin’s original Adam Warlock series years and years ago I was prepared to be disappointed.

But I gotta say, the Mad Titan’s rationale for wiping out half the universe was cooler in that old comic. Essentially, he did it b/c he was wooing Death. Based on this, it makes total sense as to why the movie’s creators didn’t run with Starlin’s original plot.

Nidavellir

In Norse myth, Nidavellir is one of the names for the home of the Svartalfar. The other is Svartalfheim. Nidavellir means the “low fields” or “dark fields.” See this site for more info.

In the movie, Nidavellir is both the home of the MCU’s giant dwarves and the forge where Mjolnir and now Stormbreaker were made. It was clever having the forge be a neutron star, but less so to have Tyrion Lanister play Eitri. (Though it was funny to have him be gigantic.)

Thor and Stormbreaker

First, Stormbreaker belongs to Beta Ray Bill!, Second, these dudes make a real Stormbreaker. If you’ve never watched Man at Arms Reforged then you’re missing out. Forged in Fire is good, too. I’ve learned quite a bit about blacksmithing and forging from those shows — enough to improve my fictional scenes that incorporate that stuff.

Eitri, Brokk and Sindri

The movie only includes Eitri, but there are other “dwarves” in Norse myth — there’s a long list of them in Voluspa (if memory serves). Two of the other important “dwarf” names are Sindri and Brokkr. All three are part of a myth that Snorri relates in the Prose Edda that deals with:

  • Loki cutting off Sif’s hair and getting forced to replace it
  • Loki wagering his head against the dwarves’ craftsmanship. Loki loses the bet, but through quick thinking keeps his head — only to get his mouth sewed shut. It’s a cool little tale.

The Svartalvar are heavily referenced in my first two books, they make an appearance in a “flashback” sequence (Kinsmen Die) and then directly appear in Book 3 (BK3). The Svartalvar are integral to the “mysterious device” plot arc that I introduced in Kinsmen Die.

And with that said, a future series that I’ve partially written (originally it was woven into the series I’m writing now) Eitri, Brokk and Sindri are three brothers who are “of the line of Sindri.”  That original Svartalvar is the one who forged/crafted the items used by the Aesir (as part of Loki’s wager) — Mjolnir, Gungnir, Draupnir, etc.

At the moment my Svartalvar are more like elves than dwarves, though I tried (and will continue trying) to avoid the Tolkien elf trope. Which is really a Svartalfar trope. Kinda.

That future series is equal parts prequel, contemporaneous and sequel to my current series. It’ll be fun pulling all the various threads together especially since I lose track of quite a few them until they reappear again…right before Ragnarok.

 

 

 

 

 

Thor…Ragnarok?

So I saw Thor: Ragnarok. Really enjoyed it.

If you hate spoilers, then stop reading here.

 

Last Warning! 🙂

 

 

 

 

OK, Let’s start with a simple critique of how the movie/comics differed from the myths:

  1. Thor does not have blond hair, is not the “prince” of Asgard, does not lose an eye, does not fly by flinging his hammer, does not become “king” of the Asgardian people. He also doesn’t have a particularly great relationship with his pappy.
  2. Loki is not Thor’s adopted brother; Loki is Odin’s blood brother. Loki is part of the assault on Asgard when Ragnarok begins (he and Hela, among others, sail in the Naglfar to destroy the “gods.” In a way, Loki does “start” Ragnarok in the movie.
  3. Hela is not her name (it’s Hel, but I’ve covered that elsewhere). Half of her face (and body) should be blue-black, but it isn’t. She also doesn’t have evil witch make-up or a horned helm. And she especially isn’t Odin’s daughter; she is Loki’s daughter. She also doesn’t fight against Surtr. She (and Loki) and a whole bunch of dead folks fight alongside Surtr (sorta). But, Odin did exile her.
  4. Odin is not a kindly old man that floats away in golden sparks (see the link below for why those sparks looked like they did). He is not a kindly king. He is more like the Odin that Hela uncovered when she broke the fresco. Sorta.
  5. Fenrir is not Hela’s mount; he is her brother. He also doesn’t get his ass kicked by the Hulk. Fenrir eats Odin and is then killed by Vidar.
  6. Heimdall cannot psychically pull anybody to where he is. That’s the kind of super power reserved for plot conveniences. Idris Elba is totally awesome.

But, really, none of the above inconsistencies actually matters. It was a good movie and the Marvel universe does not equal Norse myth…so I won’t go into how “misleadingly” the film’s titled 😉 (Spoiler: everyone who survives should be dead.)

Did any of you catch some of the “Easter eggs”? I caught a few:

  1. Beta Ray Bill was on the Grandmaster’s tower.
  2. Thor said Loki once turned him into a frog. That’s a reference to the Simonson era of comic books…and pretty much when I stopped reading the Thor comic because that issue was really, really stupid.
  3. Check out #15 in the link below. I didn’t catch that one — the shirt Banner is wearing is “Hungry like the Wolf” (Duran Duran)…and then Fenrir bites the Hulk. Which is how Odin dies.

And here’s the link I mentioned: 15 easter eggs in the movie.

Now for a quick word on Skurge (Karl Urban’s character). The movie did a good job capturing his look & feel, particularly with the M-16s. I was a little disappointed with how the character was portrayed, but the film departed so heavily from what Simonson did with Hela and Skurge, I’m just glad they included Skurge at all. And, Karl Urban’s cool.

Maybe it’ll inspire folks to pick up some cool old comics. Try clicking here (Simonson link)!

And finally, I couldn’t help but think that the spaceship Thor & Co. fly away on looked a lot like Scuttlebut (the image above). It doesn’t now that I’ve looked at the image again, but at the time…dang! =D

Did you see the movie? If so let me know what you think!

Book promotion starts Nov 4!

Coinciding with the release of Thor: Ragnarok, I’m launching a book promotion (on Amazon only) that starts on Friday, Nov 4.

Basically, Kinsmen Die (ebook only) will be discounted to $0.99 and then over the next five days the price will climb back up to the full $4.99. The price of the paperback doesn’t change.

If you haven’t yet, pick it up and let me know what you think!

I’m really hoping that I’ll have time to see Thor: Ragnarok this weekend, but it’s not looking promising. Definitely interested to see what they do with the myths and the comics. And I saw some stuff pulled from Walter Simonson’s period working on Thor (Karl Urban as Skurge!). Note: I’ve been avoiding spoiling the movie too much for myself.

Oh, and, Cate Blanchett looks fantastic as Hela.

In my second book (in progress…and update on that soon), Hel is a major non-POV character. She’s a lot of fun to write. Lots of interactions with Loki and she stands up to Odin. Which kinda pisses him off.

Kinsmen Die starts at the inflection point in Norse myth — the point at which the Aesir realize they can die. From there my series builds toward Ragnarok, though that event is many books in the future.

Rule Number Three

I can’t bring people back from the dead. It’s not a pretty picture, I DON’T LIKE DOING IT!

– The Genie, Disney’s Aladdin, voiced by the incomparable Robin Williams

 

One of my big worldbuilding challenges was reconciling the multiple “realms of the dead” in Norse myth:

  • Odin, Valhol and the Einherjar: These are the humans who die in battle (often b/c Odin betrays them), are chosen by his valkyrie and are then taken to Valhol to “train” every day in preparation for Ragnarok.
  • Freyja: Half of those who fall in battle go to her, half to Odin. No explanation in the myths as to why. Her chosen dead reside in Folkvangr and comprise her own army. The Vanir fight with the Aesir in Ragnarok.
  • Thor: Accepts the dead “peasants” into his “realm of the dead” (the name of which escapes me, atm)
  • Beneath the Waves: Those who die at sea can sink into Rán’s cold embrace. She’s a goddess of the sea and is married to Aegir, also a god of the sea. I’ve transformed these two (Rán and Aegir) in my fictional mythology and made them fundamental deities.
    • As an aside, and according to the History of English podcast, the words soul and sea derive from a common Germanic root word “siwas” meaning lake or inland sea.
    • In later Germanic (southern & eastern Germanic) the word became “siwelo” meaning something belonging to lake; deriving from a lake. And that word eventually became our word “soul.”
    • I don’t know why, but this etymology makes me think of mist swirling above a lake.
  • Helheim (Home/Realm of Hel): Hel is Loki’s daughter by Angrboda. Odin kicks her out of Asgard along with her two brothers (Jormungandr and Fenrir). Snorri says that she rules over the place where the “dishonored” dead go. Snorri describes her as half flesh color; half blue (blor) but according to Dr. Jackson Crawford, it’s not clear that Snorri means she’s split down the middle half & half blue-/flesh-colored.
    • As another aside, Dr. Crawford and the History of English of podcast, both (separately) discuss the origin of the word “hel.” It comes from the Indo-European root “kel” meaning to hide or cover. Our words cellar, conceal, helmet, holster, hole, hollow all trace back to “kel.” But since I’m not a linguist (yet?) I’ll stop there.
    • “Hel,” then, started out as a covered place — graves, barrows, under mountains, etc. Over time, this concept became “Helheim” which Snorri describes in the Prose Edda.
    • Crawford says that the Old English Bible used “hell(e)” to translate “infernus” in Latin; while the the Gothic Bible used “halja” to translate Hades.

So with all these different types of “realms of the dead” I had to figure out how I’d use them. And, as always, my goal was to remain as faithful to the myths as possible.

My first step was to give myself some elbow room. My entire fictional world is an alternate version of our Earth and its history.

Next, I made my world “pre-human” meaning that my Aesir, Vanir, Jotunn, Alvar and Svartalvar have yet to encounter us — regular humans. This opened up some really cool (imo) possibilities.

We also meet my major characters (Odin, Hel, etc.) at different places in their mythological lives (ie, our myths). So, my Hel is not yet Queen of Helheim. But, my Odin has sacrificed “himself to himself” upon Yggdrasil. At the start of BK1 he’s maybe half of the Odin we know. He develops fully into “our” Odin by the end of BK3.

With respect to reconciling the realms of the dead, the major stopping point for me was that Odin and Hel are enemies. I had to figure out why and how Odin would cede power over the dead to her. I think I’ve figured out a pretty good rationale there which, for spoiler reasons, I won’t go into here.

In BK1 it was sufficient to hand-wave at the relationship between Odin and Hel because it doesn’t really matter and she doesn’t appear on stage. But in BK2 she does. And the antipathy between her and the Aesir (and Odin in particular) becomes a big deal.

Another aspect to the whole consistent realms of the dead dealio involved integrating that afterlife into the magic system. I needed reasons for why Hel and Odin could do things. And I needed a system for what happens when people die.

Some of the questions I had to answer include:

  • Do the inhabitants of my world believe in souls/spirits?
  • What happens to the spirits of dead people? What happens to the physical body?
    • The Norse believed in the hugr (spirit) and the hamr (body/flesh). This belief is integral to my magic system.
  • Are there differences in what happens to the spirits of the dead Aesir, Jotunn and Vanir? What about humans?
  • Why is Odin able to summon and interrogate the dead?
  • Why does Hel gather to her the spirits of those who have not died in battle? How is she able to do that?
  • Why does Odin send the valkyrie to gather (human) souls? How do the valkyrie do that?
  • Why do Odin and Freyja divide those human souls between them?
  • We know all this from the myths — or some of it, at least — but I needed solid narrative reasons. I also don’t have all the answers yet.

And speaking of bringing the dead back to life, I’m having some fun with the Einherjar. In BK1 they are all living men and women. So, that’s one thing I’m hoping is going to set off alarm bells for all readers who Norse myth — i.e., wtf, these Einherjar are supposed to be dead zomg!? And for those who don’t know who/what the Einherjar are, I’m hoping that what develops is a big, inevitable surprise.

But hang on tight, ’cause I don’t deliver on any of that till BK3.

Spears, shields and spells

This week I’ve finished developing a Norse-sounding military hierarchy for my books. It’s  loosely based on very early (BC) armies — Roman, Greek, Etruscan, and what little we know about how the Norse / Vikings fought. I also made a lot up 🙂

My base military unit is a pair of warriors: a shieldbearer (front line) and a spear-wielder (second line). Two pairs of these warriors are the next biggest “formation.” There are 10 pairs of warriors in a shieldwall (if they’re making a square). The length of the line varies by terrain/tactics as does its depth. Every warrior also carries hand-to-hand weapons: mostly axes and long knives (seaxes), but there a few swords here and there (mostly used by Jarls).

Pure archers are a part of each Aesir (and Jotunn) warband, but about half of my “spears” are proficient enough with bows that they can switch if necessary. Each warband also has at least one healer who has been trained at Baldr’s academy (my invention).

The Aesir also have baresarkers (berserkers) but they are very few in number — these are elite, magically empowered warriors who report directly to the Alfather or Almother. Several baresarkers figure prominently in my first book.

I’ve organized my armies into warbands. Currently, each one is ~105 people strong. It is led by a Hersir and there is a short chain of command down to the warrior who’s in charge of each wall. I’ve tried to account for all the other duties that must exist — signals/comms, cooks, guards, latrine, smiths, etc. There are no independent/pure archer or cavalry warbands (among the Aesir and Jotunn).

To make things easier (for me and my readers), I’ve assumed that the basic military structure is the same for Jotunn and Aesir — despite a few key differences. The Vanir and Alvar fight differently, though, as do the Svartalvar.

The Aesir have three basic military groups:

  • Garrisons: Comprised of older men and women along with those young boys & girls who are learning about military life before they are compulsorily enrolled in the army. In my fictional culture, everybody learns how to fight. Most don’t end up doing that professionally, though.
  • Army: The largest fighting body of Aesir, led by Tyr and Ullr. It is comprised of multiple warbands. Their main job is border protection and internal security along the roads. These warbands are on their way to becoming more specialized (e.g.,. cavalry only, archers only, etc.).
  • Einherjar “Those who fight alone”: This is my elite fighting force — and are an important part of the story. To become Einherjar a warrior has to distinguish him/herself on the battlefield. Over time, and particularly since Odin went wandering in my book’s backstory, the Einherjar have grown large and begun to sprawl. (My Einherjar are not (yet) those you know from myth.)

All three of the above groups use horses (everyone knows how to ride) to get from one place to another, but they typically dismount to fight. They will also use ships to get from place to place, when possible.

Jotunn warbands are called “vegr.” That’s the Old Norse word for “road” or “way.” When speaking of death, the Old Norse would often say “he/she is on the road to Hel.” That phrase translates to Helvegr — which I thought  would be a cool name for a military group. So, all the Jotunn warbands are called XYZ-vegr. Helvegr is the best of them all and it is led by Beli.

The vegr are roughly the same size as Aesir warbands (about 105 warriors), with a few important differences. Namely:

  • The Jotunn use shaman who double as healers. The Aesir don’t have the same level of access to magic as the Jotunn do. For reasons.
  • Jotunn shaman also picked up a couple tricks from the Alvar and Svartalvar and the magic they use which allows the Jotunn to control wildlife.
  • And since the Jotunn don’t have access to horses, their shaman have figured out another way to move about Utgard’s vast desolation.

The people in my books refer to magic as “seidr.” In actuality, seidr is a sub-type of magic, but it’s the most common type. Seidr is what Odin learned from Freyja. But, Odin knows other types of magic: galdr, necromancy, runes & shapeshifting to name a few.

Each type of magic allows the practitioner to do certain things, assuming they have a power source. I show that power source being used in multiple different ways and I show the POV running out of that power source. Acquiring more is an involved process that I show Odin engaged in about mid-way through the book.

Note: Odin and others, including the Jotunn, use one type of power source, but Freyja (and the Svartalvar) have figured out other ways to power their magic. This becomes a thing in future books.

Certain practitioners only use certain types of magic — e.g., Freyja only uses seidr — but Odin uses them all (he is the Father of Enchanters, after all). Some don’t have any magic at all, like Frigg, but she uses items created from seidr. Thor is a hybrid (over which I’ll pull mystery’s shroud), but the visible source of his power are three Svartalvar-crafted implements: hammer, gloves and belt.

Overall, my magic system has rules and my characters use magic to do things important to the plot. In my initial books, the characters all take magic for granted so I don’t spend much narrative time explaining it — just enough to make sure the reader knows what’s happening and what the rules are.

There’s a lot more I could write about the magic system & how I developed it, but I think I’ll wait on that until I get some commentary back from beta readers of the line-edited book. Gamers are really good at figuring out what works and what’s broken.

Oh, the places you’ll go

Worldbuilding’s a necessity in any novel. Sometimes it’s relatively easy — e.g., urban fantasy (The Dresden Files). Other times it’s complex — the Stormlight Archives.

I put my world into the complex category for several reasons: I’m new at it, I’m trying to do something really cool “behind the scenes” and b/c applying consistent cardinal directions to Norse myth was basically impossible.

A few examples:

  • Yggdrasil’s roots go to different places depending on which poem you read. In one it’s Hvergelmir, Urdarbrunnr and Mimisbrunnr. In another, the roots go to where the frost “giants,” humans and Hel(heim) are.
  • Hel(heim) is often referred to as being in (or below) the earth — but those who go there never go underground.
  • Asgard was in the same horizontal plane as Midgard and what I call Utgard (while all sources call it Jotunheim). But Snorri placed Asgard in the heights of Yggdrasil, possibly to make it like the Christian Heaven.
  • The Jotunn are described as living in the east, past Jarnvidr (the Iron Wood), but some Jotunn are said to live in the north while others come from the south.

In my initial efforts to be true to where the myths said places were, I had everybody moving between different realms where realms equaled “planes of existence.” That caused lots of problems.

Then I thought that maybe everybody could live on Yggdrasil itself — that Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, etc., were the branches of the tree itself. I still kinda like that idea, but since I’m a giant nerd I would’ve had to figure out how the physics worked — I’d have spent way too much time doing that instead of writing.

Then I tried making the different realms equate to different planets. That didn’t work either. (But my magic system will, eventually, enable interplanetary travel.)

When I finally decided that each “realm” would be a continent or region on a single planet, everything snapped into place — events, plot devices, locations, the magic system, etc. Some of those things even got better.

I do still incorporate all of the many places in Norse myth, but where I put them may not precisely correspond to where the myths say those places are. I’ve also kept the fantastical elements — Yggdrasil being the main one. It’s a real, gigantic tree and my characters do ride down it to reach the Norns.

Other landmarks include the following:

  • When Odin and Hermod ride to Helheim, they head north…but magic is used, thanks to Sleipnir, and they end up on a landmass that’s actually south of Gladsheim (they’re on a planet, so they’re basically going up, over and down again…but not really, b/c magic).
  • In myth, the river Ifing separates the gods from the Jotunn. So, I slapped it down between Asgard and Utgard. Then, when I needed a town between those two realms, I created Ifington.
  • The river Thund is said to flow before Valhol. But, I’d read a translator’s note (Bellows, I think) that said Thund is better translated as “bay.” Thus, the Bay of Thund was born (the characters just call it the Thund).  As an aside, the body of water pictured on my cover is the Thund. The land across the bay is southwestern Utgard. Oh and Valhol doesn’t exist yet in BK1.
  • I put Vithi — Vidar’s land — to the west of Gladsheim. The town of Háls (Hill) is in Vithi and that’s where we first encounter Vidar. The forest of Arnheim (Eagle Home), along with a shrine to Aegir, lie just outside Gladsheim’s western gates.
  • Gladsheim is supposed to be one of Odin’s residence, but I made it into the Aesir’s main city. The river Silfr (Silver) flows outside Gladsheim’s eastern gates. That river’s my invention — I needed a quick, practical way for the residents of Gladsheim to get to the coast.
  • The Plains of Vigrid lie to Gladsheim’s east, across the river Silfr.
  • Other important places — Alvheim and Vanaheim — are far from Gladsheim, but close enough for it to make sense that the Vanir would’ve perceived the Aesir’s arrival as encroaching on their land (hence the Vanir-Aesir War). They’re also close enough for Freyr and Freyja to fly to Gladsheim on their boar and cat-pulled cart, respectively. Note that the Alvar primarily live in both Alvheim and Vanaheim.

 

A few other things: There are lands to the far west of Gladsheim that have been settled by other Aesir (Odin’s brothers). What we would call Midgard, and its people, haven’t been discovered by the Aesir yet, nor have I discussed the other major players (the Svartalvar and the Sons of Muspell).

 

Having slogged through all this (assuming you did) it may seem like I assembled my world all at the beginning and then started writing. That’s absolutely not what I do; I just make it up as I go and I only stop to worldbuild when the writing stalls — because I can’t figure out what’s where, or I need ABC in a certain place, or X is too far from Y, etc.

Then, I pull out the notebooks and work it out. Almost always that involves changing things I’ve already established — which means rewriting. And, quite often, it also means that the idea I had — the one that I stalled on — gets replaced by a better one.

 

The traveling cast…

This past month I’ve eased up on the writing throttle. I dropped from a ~16 hour/week writing schedule back to about 6 hours/week. I’ve written a few scenes, edited some others but, mostly, I’ve focused on outlining.

In prior posts I’d mentioned how bloody that process was (and will continue to be). The new structure works pretty well (atm), but it needs a lot of work. Most of the existing ~60K words will get heavily edited or thrown out wholesale. Much of that’s b/c: the writing’s crap, scenes are moved around, characters removed (or added) to scenes, etc.

To reorganize BK2 I focused on travel times. Boring, but necessary since there’s a ton of travel. I’ve already mentioned Hermod’s journey, but along with that:

  • Frigg’s stuck in Gladsheim managing things, but then she leaves to speak with a Jotunn woman named Thokk. She has to be back in Gladsheim for the final scene(s).
  • Vaft & Hyrrokin have to get from Jotunheim to Gladsheim. Because reasons.
  • Odin arrives back (late) and aside from a quick jaunt down to see the Norns and then, a bit later, to the High Seat with Heimdall, he stays in Gladsheim.
  • Freyr and Freyja travel from Alvheim and Vanaheim, respectively, to Gladsheim. And, then, oops, Odin asks if Freyr brought Skidbladnir. No, Freyr, says, I rode Gullinbursti. Well dangit, Odin says, I need that ship. How long to get it here? (BTW, this is all prep for BK3.)
  • Thor zips into Gladsheim (b/c of the culminating event in BK1), Frigg orders him into Utgard’s frozen north (b/c of what Vidar found there), but he then HAS to be back in time for BK2’s climactic scenes.
  • Loki meets Odin “on screen” for the first time and then, at Frigg’s request, goes to Helheim. Then he has to get back to Gladsheim.
  • Vidar has to get back from Utgard, get to Vithi (his home), get to Gladsheim, get to Ifington, get back to Gladsheim and be present for the climactic scene.
    • One of the major changes I made was splitting up Vidar and Loki. In the “first” draft, I had them paired up for what I thought were good, dramatic, tension-raising reasons.
    • Then I decided it was silly and didn’t make sense time-wise. So, now they’re both alone & doing their own things.

So, with all that done, I’m really, really hoping that it’s not work in vain. Because, by Monday, I’ll have my editor’s comments back. Major changes to BK1 will ripple into the subsequent books.

/crosses fingers

Thunder & lightning…

“…very very frightening, Thor!”*

The ultimate disproportionate retaliation, Thor and Mjölnir not only crack Jotunn heads but they threaten to crack my plot wide open.

One issue is that the myths suggest that (some) Aesir/Vanir and (some) Jotunn can go toe-to-toe with each other. I have two such battles accounted for — but Thor is the outlier. A huge outlier since he kills every Jotunn he comes across.

In BK 1, I play right into that by making Thor break-a-mountain kinda strong. And I put Hyrrokin in his path which, I think, results in a pretty cool scene. (We’ll see what my editor thinks.)

But, there need to be limits.

Norse myth has already limited Thor’s strength in a couple ways. For example, to use Mjolnir Thor needs the Járngreipr (iron grippers) — i.e., iron gloves. He also wears Megingjörd (power belt) which doubles his strength. (As I write this, I don’t remember if the belt is needed for Mjolnir or if it’s just a bonus. To the books!)

But those limits aren’t enough, really. They do suggest that I could have Thor’s hammer stolen (as it was in the myths) or even his other implements. I’m not going that route b/c in my books, that’s already happened to Thor and now he keeps a watchful eye on his stuff.

Instead, I separate Thor from the conflicts. First by having him “away” when he needs to be in Gladsheim. Second, by having him actively choose to zig when he should have zagged. And, third, by having him manipulated.

In Norse myth, there’s a bit of friction between Thor and his father (Odin). This appears true historically, too. The temple at Uppsala (Sweden) has three central statues: Thor, Odin and Freyr. Thor occupies the central position suggesting, perhaps, that he was worshipped as the “mightiest” god (according to Adam of Bremen). The language of place names and people names further suggest that Thor was very highly revered.**

In the Poetic Edda, the Poem of Harbarth illustrates another difference/tension between Odin and Thor:

The noble who fall | in the fight hath Othin,
And Thor hath the race of the thralls.

In this context I believe that “thrall” means the common people / peasants more than “slaves,” per se. So, it’s a class / societal status difference between the father and son.

The entirety of the Poem of Harbath is pretty awesome — it’s a battle of wits/insults between a disguised Odin (Harbath) who refuses passage across a river to a weary Thor who’s just returned from fighting the Jotunn. That in itself illustrates another key difference between them — Odin’s the cunning god, a trickster, who lies to Thor and is basically just being a jerk, while Thor’s portrayed as the opposite — honest and forthright. After all, he’s not disguised and he gives his name while the disguised Odin never does.

Note that there’s an underlying, casual brutality to both Thor and Odin that’s alien to us moderns:

Harbath spake:
32. “Thy help did I need then, Thor, | to hold the white maid fast.”

Thor spake:
33. “Gladly, had I been there, | my help to thee had been given.”

Thor is also typically depicted as simple-minded / stupid. I think that’s crap and probably more an outgrowth of “nobles” thinking they’re better than “peasants.” I’ve nothing to back that up, though. I will cite, however, the events of the Alvissmol in which Thor outwits the “dwarf” Alviss (All Wise).

So, is Thor dumb? Not in my books. 

However, my Thor is susceptible to deception (just as anyone is). In BK 3, Odin deceives Thor — manipulates him into leaving so that he (Odin) is free to do something vile which Thor, had he been around, would have prevented.

And that implies that Thor is capable of countering Odin. Which, in my books, he is. Odin doesn’t scare him nor is he intimidated by his father. After all, what does the oncoming storm  have to fear?

On the other hand, Odin isn’t afraid of Thor. He’s circumspect with his son. He doesn’t want a direct confrontation with Thor. And why would he, unless it served some subtle goal? (Also, he’s not sure who’d win.)

But even when Thor obeys his father, he’ll still refuse to do something he thinks is dishonorable — despite being ordered to do it by his father and despite what the Jotunn themselves did to the Aesir at the start of BK 1.

In the Lokasenna, Thor is portrayed as the only Aesir who Loki respects.

64. “I have said to the gods | and the sons of the god,
The things that whetted my thoughts;
But before thee alone | do I now go forth,
For thou fightest well, I ween.

I don’t think Loki fears Thor any more than Odin does; I read respect in those quoted lines — born, likely, of familiarity.*** And, much like Odin, Loki only does things if they suit his purposes. Loki will give ground if it makes sense and he’ll endure mockery by the Aesir since it means they’re more likely to underestimate him.

So far, I haven’t given Thor a POV in my books. That’s for several reasons:

  • His huge popularity these days
  • I didn’t think his POV was required, unlike Loki’s and Odin’s. I don’t need to be in Thor’s head to show him kicking ass.
  • I’m more intrigued by those who I put in his path. We’re in Hyrrokin’s head for her confrontation with Thor. That’s for two reasons:
    • reveal her character and
    • show the reader what Thor’s capable of — which, I think, delivers a bit of what they want (cool factor) and sets up future expectations.
  • His threat of overwhelming force. The Jotunn know it, they’ve lived it, so how do they plan on countering him? As the author, that’s the challenge I find interesting.

And for the Jotunn in my books, countering Thor is an ongoing concern. At least until Ragnarok.

__

* Courtesy Deadpool in Marvel Heroes 2016, sung to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Note: The graphic is from here. It’s a 10th century version of Mjolnir and is an amulet worn by someone who worshipped Thor.

** There’s WAY more to Thor than my poor summary suggests. Of notable interest, imo, is the parallel to Indra and how Thor’s role among the ancient Scandinavians and Germanic peoples shifted over time.

*** Of all the Aesir besides Odin, Loki is most often seen in the company of Thor.