Thursday, June 28, 2007


The Day's Progress

Got to the end of Act I (finally...), and am all set to start on Act II tomorrow. This afternoon and tomorrow morning I'm going to be doing some geek mining for a possible franchise project that's come my way, which marries several of my lifetime obsessions while finally turning a few thousand hours spent as a consumer into "research" for a paying gig. If the X-Men book was a project I've been "researching" for the last twenty-five years (and it was), then I started "working" on this new project about thirty years ago. More about this when and if the deal is announced (when, I hope, and not if).

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
33,466 / 90,000

A brief sample today, just a bit of backstorying about the society structure of the Mexica. Anything else would be too spoilery, I think.
The military divisions of the Mexica were different than those adopted by the Middle Kingdom. The forces of the Dragon Throne were divided into infantry trained for surface combat—the Army of the Green Standard—marine forces trained to operate in all environments—the Eight Banners—and the Interplanetary Fleet—as at home flying in vacuum as they were in the air, especially after absorbing the men and equipment of the now-decommissioned Imperial Navy of the Air some years before. By contrast, the military of the Mexic Dominion was a single body, reporting through a unified command structure, with men and women assigned to the various functions on an individual basis, by dint of their personal aptitudes and experience. It was sometimes difficult for onlookers from the Middle Kingdom to fathom, but it seemed it was not unlikely for a Mexic warrior to begin as an infantryman, later to be transferred to a marine company of commando, and end up finally as an aeronaut. The rank and roll of the individual could be determined by the type of armor he wore, and especially by its adornment.

The Jaguar Knights were an elite body of Mexic warriors who stood at the pinnacle of a military hierarchy that dominated an entire society. From birth, Mexica were trained to be fierce combatants, and each child’s umbilicus was ritually burned and then buried under the consecrated ground of a former battlefield not far from their capital city, Place of the Cactus. Testing throughout childhood gauged the child’s aptitudes, and training was tailored to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses accordingly. Coming of age, Mexica were sent into battle, and rose through the ranks by capturing prisoners in combat. Eventually, if the young warrior survived enough conflicts and distinguished himself through a sufficient number of kills and captures, he would be inducted into one of the orders. There were many such groupings, but the two preeminent warrior orders were the Eagle Knights, comprised of aeronauts who had garnered a requisite number of kills in air or space, and the Jaguar Knights, warriors who had captured a high number of enemy combatants on land, sea, air, or vacuum.

There was another warrior elite of the Mexic Dominion, the House of Darkness, which served the Great Speaker of the Mexic Dominion much as the Embroidered Guard served the Dragon Throne. But the servants of the House of Darkness were not simply secret policemen and intelligencers, like the agents of the Embroidered Guard, but were likewise torturers and ritual executioners. Those who came under the obsidian blades of the House of Darkness were sacrificed in the name of all the gods of the Mexica, but especially to the honor and glory of the flayed god, Xipe Totec.

Yo, Mr. "Why Won't You Let Me Teach In Your Writers Workshop"--have you gotten the emails I sent you following up on our Apollocon conversation? One was from my account, the other from my hotmail fallback. Let me know, okay?
Damn it! No, I didn't get either. And I've got all my spam-filtering disabled, too.

Mmm. Try sending it to and we'll see what happens.
I love your concept. I live in Texas, so the Mexic/Aztec thing resonates with me, and I take Kung Fu from a chinese master that barely speaks English--so the Chinese references also go a ways with me.

A little off topic:
I've had a WuXia story banging around in my head for a while, but I feel a little too removed from Chinese culture to risk it. Where do you do your research?
I just did tons of reading in preparation for the Celestial Empire stories, and watched a fair number of documentaries, too. I'd recommend starting with J.A.G. Roberts's A CONCISE HISTORY OF CHINA, which is a terrific overview of Chinese society from earliest recorded history to the end of the 20th century. That was probably the single greatest resource for helping me contextualize the little bits and pieces I'd picked up about Chinese culture and history, and gave me a framework for the stuff I found in later sources. From there, it's really just a question of what period and/or setting you want to feature, and then digging up references on that in particular. I'd also recommend the POCKET OXFORD CHINESE DICTIONARY. With so many transliterations (Pinyin, Wade-Giles, etc) being able to go back to the original ideograms and then translate back into English can be really useful, or barring that at least standardize on a particular transliteration across the board (in some of the early CE stories I mixed transliterations quite a bit, drawing from different sources translated at different times, and it really hurts my eyes to look at them now). Also, as I mentioned the other day, doing a direct translation of the Chinese terms can have useful, and really very poetic, results.
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