Ashewoods

I’ve been rereading some of my old work; I thought this might be reather appropriate in October.  I ought revist the Ashewoods, I think.

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The Ashewoods are an interesting case.

All the Houses are interesting cases, of course, and all have their claims to uniqueness. Perhaps it might be better to say that the Ashewoods are an unsettling case. Part of it is their Hearth; what is now called Barrowlux was once a necropolis filled with the entombed ranks of the dead, catacombs beneath a long-fallen city. Part of it is their lineage, and what they bred with down in the dark.

The Ashewoods are part ghoul.

According to their history, when the Darkness fell, a few survivors sought shelter deep in the catacombs. Over the years, the descendants of those survivors adapted to their environment. As the city above Barrowlux was razed, the survivors moved deeper, scavenging for survival. Presumably the incursions from Neverborn above led to the first uneasy alliances between human and ghoul; the details remain unrecorded. Over the years, the deeper parts of the catacombs were turned into a refuge, secured as best as possible by the traps and the great doors left above.

Barrowlux sits at the far northeastern edge of the House’s lands, and is the farthest city of any note–beyond it, there are a few scattered hamlets, and the sparsely-mapped stretch of the wilderness. Buildings are being constructed aboveground–low, square, and wide-roofed, walls plastered smooth with mud or daub when stone is beyond the means or the reach of the builder. With the disappearance of the Darkness, the eating of the dead among the Ashewoods has become largely ceremonial, though it still deeply marks their culture. Their physics are a particularly striking example–nowhere else is the study of medicine so deeply entwined with the study of cooking (on the theory that really, it’s all a matter of caring for and preparing the body).

Ashewoods tend towards the wiry and pale, with dark hair, strong jawlines, and a good sense of smell. Brown eyes are most common, although green or red are occasionally seen. Occasionally the jawline will be prominent enough to be described as a muzzle, and the brown of the eyes light enough to be more reasonably described as “ochre” or “yellow”. They are generally soft-spoken, reserved (although visitors to Barrowlux report a more relaxed attitude towards guests), and quite cautious in matters of physical security.

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Splendid isolation/I don’t need no-one

So, John and I are driving around, and between the GPS in the cars and our phones, it’s a very well-informed trip.  And it came up in casual discussion that many many horror movie plots have been rendered unworkable by the existence of these things–GPS systems and cellphones.

This is pretty obvious stuff; it ties back to the truism about horror movies being, in many ways, about isolation.  Being able to dial 911 and start hiking out with a map that shows you your heading and the distance to the highway makes things a lot more manageable.  (Or, you know, the amusing values of being able to Google something like “chainsaw sabotage”…  But I digress.)

We went back to it later, a bit.  If you eliminate the tactical elements of isolation, then what you’re left with is two options.  There’s social isolation (“they won’t believe me” or “they didn’t believe me”)[1] which has a long and storied history, including those godawful fifties movies about the aliens landing and the teenagers being the only ones to see them.  Or else there’s self-imposed isolation, where the protagonists don’t want to call for help; what that sprang to mind was them being in a haunted house where they had no right to be[2], but Session 9 is also a beautiful example.  The guy needs the job, there’s no way to leave and get it done, and he can’t afford to take the time to call for help.  Alright, yes, there is definitely an element of social isolation there; that’s fine.  One kind doesn’t need to do all the work.

So I am discussing this with John, and he points out that splitting up becomes a lot less frightening, a lot more manageable, if you have something like Google Latitude in place.  You know where people are, you can track them.  And I nod in agreement, and then he smiles and points out that it isn’t true.

“You don’t know where I am.  You know where my phone is.”

I do confess I shuddered.  (A lovely moment over lunch, to be sure.)

Because that takes it out of isolation and into uncertainty, which is the other great foundation of horror.  The world crumbling out from under you, slowly or suddenly.  In some ways it ties to isolation–not having anything you can be sure of to reach out to–but it’s a basically different development.  It’s the horror of “The calls are coming from inside the house!“, which relies not on there being no-one to help but on the space that you were sure was safe being taken away.

So that’s something else to look to, I guess.  Not sure how much good it’d be for movies, which don’t necessarily have a lot of time to establish certainty, but definitely something to keep in mind for written work.

(ObDisclaimer: no, not all horror movies rely on isolation.  Scream, f’r ex, handles the advent of the ubiquitous cellphone quite well.)


[1] See also: all the travel horror that involves being surrounded by those terrible strange Other People (usually brown).[3]
[2] Or this 90s movie about four suburban guys out for a night on the town who accidentally see a murder and don’t want to call for help because they hit someone with their car… I will try and look up the title later.
[3] …echoes of HP Lovecraft, actually…

Tagging

Been trying to write tags for Excolo on the phone. The fact that Swype changes “Excolo” to “Wiki” makes posting in the OOC a bit awkward.

Had a bit of a shock when I went to edit this post and remembered the draft was stored *locally* in my phone, not on the Dashboard I can get to by Internet.

I wrote a post about Glass having… I suppose that at seven months it’s not a miscarriage, but the phrase “having a stillbirth” sounds *entirely* wrong. It went over pretty well, I think; reaction posts that show you’ve hit the note you were aiming for are always satisfying.  (Earned a !caution tag, which I was hoping for but which I honestly wasn’t sure it merited.)  Next up I need to write something bouncy and cheerful, and then a couple of comfortable and mildly curious tags.

I think collaborative writing (and I do think it merits being called that) can actually really help you switch gears, especially when you’re working on more than one scene at once.  On the other hand, it can really leave you high and dry when it comes to practicing plotting.  Genuinely not knowing exactly what the other person is going to do, and trusting them to give you something to react to, doesn’t exactly give you a lot of practice in Getting An Idea.

And I honestly twitch when I hear people talking about their characters as if they were real people.  I understand that it can be a perfectly useful shorthand for “I have constructed an idea of a personality that, while I haven’t exactly sat down and analyzed it to death, is resiliant enough that I have a (sometimes unconcsious) idea of what the character in question will naturally tend to do.”  And that’s fine.

But the “I totally didn’t want to do this, $CHARACTER just screamed at me until I typed it, and hey maybe they will do my housework later if you bribe them” lines?  I… would call that not so fine.  I really would.  There’s a level of responsibility for conscious action that I get a bit uncomfortable over when I see it being eschewed.

Ugh.  That sentence needs editing.  Very badly.  I may come back to this later.