The World of Blind Barthon

The World of Blind Barthon

The World of Blind Barthon

My contribution to Sojourn was a pseudo-myth story called “Blind Barthon.” The basic premise is that Barthon must go on a quest to find the perfect bride, guided (and insulted) by the gods all along the way. The story began its life as backstory. Over the last three years I have been developing an EPIC fantasy world that I call the Mortal Realm (emphasis of epic). I wanted a mythology for a Nordic culture in this world, a people that I called the Jarls (j pronounced as y–and yes I do know that Jarl means King in the real world). This world is where I fully devote my passion for history. I want as much of the world as possible to feel authentic and plausible–at least to me. Basically not sound made up. I wanted the Jarls to have a mythology suitable for their inspirational heritage so I hit the books. I read up much on Norse mythology specifically with The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland. While reading that book I had a spur of inspiration and I started penning some myths. One of the myths (and honestly the best of the bunch) was the story that is now available in Sojourn.

Now to the map. Part of the function of the Barthon myth is not only to teach Jardic boys what are the preferable qualities in a wife, but to also give a geography lessen. Pre-modern peoples had a very limited scope of their surroundings. Only 200 years ago it took pioneers years to cross the North American continent. Nowadays the roughly two thousand miles from NY to LA is crossed in hours. Even driving is not much more of a hassle. A year ago my family vacationed in California. On the return trip my brother, dad, and I drove from California to Illinois in 24 hours. We drove in a Ford Explorer so at least one person was able to have a nap in the backseat (also we are from good Scottish stock so we were up for it). That is a colorful anecdote of how much time and distance has changed in the world. Barthon, and his pre-modern contemporaries, probably never strayed 20 miles from the place they were born. So how they learned of the surrounding world was through stories such as mine. Along with just directional information, the stories would be filled with what type of people lived such faraway places along with how they related to them. For instance, Barthon’s people were mainly a hearty warrior people and such they looked upon the Normons as very strange for their vigor of the seas.

The map only shows a quarter of the world (as I said EPIC) that is called Borea. Hemmed in by the Hygeann Mountains (high-JEE-in), the region is approximately the size of the Atlantic to the Mississippi. The region is divided into three horizontal cultural halves. The bottom half, comprised of those jutting peninsulas is subtropical and home to mainly the Waelens, an amalgam of invaders and foreign cultures. The Waelens are very cosmopolitan and the home of fine wine and finer intrigue. The middle bulk of the continent is inhabited by the great swordsmiths and hearty warriors of the Aluns (my Celtic analogy). And last but not least, is the most northerly half– home of winter and cold winds. Barthon the Jarl calls this his home.

The circles show the places where Barthon visited. Reread Blind Barthon and discover the places listed in the story. Have fun!

(Sorry about the confusing mess of lines on the map. This comes from one of those fractal map generators. The original files were corrupted but I did manage to save some images from the maps. I intend to one day draw out the maps properly so that they don’t look so squirrely, but that is for another day. Just cross your eyes…maybe that will help)

What’s a Sirini?

I’ve been invited to do author interviews in a few places, so I don’t want to steal any thunder from the questions they’ve sent me.  But there’s one question I’ve been asked by several readers that hasn’t come up in the interviews.

The story I wrote for Sojourn‘s first volume, Surviving Sunset, deals with a pair of teenage girls trying to adapt to life under alien invasion and occupation.  I’ve done quite a bit to develop the universe where that story takes place, and I’ll be visiting it again in future installments of the anthology (though likely not in the next volume).

The aliens menacing these girls are the Sirini.  They’re not an evil race, even if they are the antagonists in this particular story.  I hope to show the complexity of their culture and motivations later, but in this article I want to deal with a more basic question: What the heck is a Sirini?

The race’s name is pronounced [SEER-in-ee].  If you say the phrase, “beer in knee,” you’re basically there.  (Though if you actually have that issue, you should probably seek medical help.)  Oddly enough, every person I’ve talked to has mispronounced the name the exact same way — [sir-IN-ee] — so maybe they’re onto something.

Sirini are intelligent, cultured, and physically imposing beings, though they lack our overall agility.  They stand about 9 feet (2.75 meters) tall and are roughly 6 feet (1.8 meters) across.  I doodled out the race’s appearance back in 1997.  However, Keith Curtis did an amazing job of helping me really figure this species out, literally starting from the inside.

Sirini-SkeletonThe Sirini skeleton is designed with the major organs sitting in a saucer-shaped bone near the top of the body.  Rib-like structures offer some protection while leaving enough gaps for the tissue to stretch during respiration and digestion.  Since the brain sits below the heart — and the legs have a lot of muscle tissue — I imagine their blood pressure being rather high.

Sirini-MusclesAfter putting that together, he started adding soft tissue to the design, as you can see with the addition of muscles, trachea, and esophagus.  We talked about the brain being potentially divided into two hemispheres that are coordinated by a lot less tissue than we have between ours.

sirini_small_transparentThe finished art put everything in place.

The only clothing they typically wear is a stole on the front-left leg.  Its color indicates their philosophical inclinations (much like a human’s religious pendant).  The three patterns are constellations that represent a Sirini’s birth circumstances (bottom), social role (middle), and personality (top).  I suppose it’s something like reverse astrology — they dip into the constellations they’ve assigned meaning to, evaluate an individual, and then decide which ones best describe you.

The primary role of the stole is to help Sirini understand each other at a glance.  If you were trained to interpret them, you would immediately have some idea what a Sirini believes, their childhood history, their areas of expertise, and their notable personality traits.  As you can guess, Sirini have a much more open culture than we do, skipping the small talk and lengthy trust-building that would precede most humans disclosing that sort of information.

If you want to see any of the art in more detail, you can click the pictures to see them in higher resolution.