Reptilian Serendipity

I churned out four thousand words, more or less, for my November novel on Monday, with poor Hunter unluckily arrived on Tsyriel, and I found myself faced with the necessity of inventing my first creature inhabiting the strange new world. (Yes, you are stuck having to learn more about the ongoing writing project for NaNoWriMo.)

In the few hundred words I put down over the weekend, I had already established that Tysriel has (at least) two moons — after all, there must be a minimum of two for there to be Slaves of the Lesser Moon. And, yes, one of the moons is large (full on the night of Hunterʼs extraordinary transition) while the other, visible even in daylight (so far), is a mere crescent, and significantly smaller (I think it also orbits the planet more distantly and slowly). Furthermore, the stars lie more thickly, lushly and colorfully around the new planetʼs sun (which, by the way, shines more blue-white than our good old yellow sun, perhaps disgorging higher amounts of hard radiation, too — I havenʼt decided about that yet). The Milky Way (if it is our galaxy) is a broader, more opalescent (thereʼs a word I need to remember for the text) band of glittering dust across a third of the sky. Writing all that — late on Friday, for about an hour on Saturday, and then Monday morning — was pretty much just some florid description. But the first creature was going to be an action scene (of one kind or another).

The image that started everything yesterday.

I wrote earlier that I intend for my long-suffering hero to endure a long time, alone, at first, in order to introduce him to this world and to toughen him up sufficiently to survive and not be merely discarded as fat and worthless once he does encounter the humanoids (and his difficult lifestyle is also meant to inspire me to keep up with and improve the necessary workouts this fat and worthless carcass I inhabit desperately needs*). I had decided that there are going to be bird-people, but also that the humanoids were of reptilian or lizard stock, not mammals (and I am still of the intent that mammals either donʼt exist on Tsyriel or at least are very rare, thus marking Hunter as more odd to the natives and more lonely to himself). The lizardliness of the natives is the reason their words hiss so much (like “Tsyriel”), and I just wanted to make them really, really alien (and different from the usual Burroughsian planetary romance).

With all this preamble, a faithful reader may be wondering what the title of todayʼs post has to do with anything. Well, I expect you can (or currently think you can) grasp the “Lizardly” half. But what about “Serendipity,” a word I first encountered in the name of the folk-singing Sixties group, the Serendipity Singers? For the lexically challenged, letʼs deal with the word itself first. My Dictionary program defines serendipity as I learned it from the singers a long, long time ago — “developments from circumstance that work out in a beneficial or happy manner” (Dictionaryʼs actual definition appears in the picture above). Now the question is: so what was my happy circumstance?

A month ago, probably early October, I decided to use my well-gotten gains at the time, falsely believing that I would somehow continue to substitute at a regular rate (which has puzzlingly and troublingly not turned out to be the case), to re-subscribe to some of the magazines I had permitted to expire for retirement and let drop by accident since (Time, in particular). And most of those new, revived subscriptions have started putting magazines in the mailbox many days each week, as October drew toward a close and November began. I enjoyed my first renewed Astronomy, several issues now of the TLS, and an initial reintroduction to The New York Review of Books (this most recent one with an excellent article probing problems of the current Supreme Courtʼs radical decisions) and The London Review of Books (Janet and I had a good time going through the LRBʼs renowned, disconcertingly amusing personal ads Friday evening).

from the Science News website

Monday morning I picked up my first Science News in more than a few years, the November 6 issue, where inside on page 9 I saw an interesting article about “giraffe-sized pterosaurs.” Instantly, the tiny seeds of inspiration wafted into bloom: Hunterʼs first nemesis on Tsriel would be giant flying reptiles (I even stole from and enlarged on the colorful image — reproduced above from the original National Geographic version of the story — click the picture to see the story). The only question/problem I really had to face was how an unarmed, newly arrived earthling would defeat or at least send away such a hideously huge predator. I am pleased that I did discover Hunterʼs accidental escape, truly fitting to his college-student beginnings.

(Intrigued? I wish. But I was pretty pleased with myself how neatly and appropriately it worked out. Now if I only knew why thatʼs how it works out… The process of invention just never stops. Each decision or innovation just produces an army of consequent issues, all clamoring vociferously for resolution.)

Sorry for all the updates focusing on the evolving novel, but that is where my mind is this month. However, if I meet the challenge and finish the book this month, then it should no longer preoccupy my every waking and sleeping thought.

*And I am fat (if I hope not entirely worthless), too. Having just recently gone through the annual HealthCheck 360 that Janetʼs company now requires for their health insurance program, as of this year including spouses, I found my numbers had fallen from my formerly marginal but comfortably healthy zone to a disgusting low that I have to rectify by next October. The Lovely One has made great strides getting herself into good shape again (she is after all “The Lovely One”). I have a long climb back to the realm of the healthy to make, too.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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