The Mornith War

The Bookstore of Gloucester is very kindly throwing a release party for the new book today. After the cover image, one or two notes on The Mornith War

Some thoughts about having the word “war” in the title of my book. “War” is not a word I want to use without care. I never want to gain from maiming, killing, and misery; I never want to exploit anyone’s fancy to see others suffer and die—even in a story. (Yet I have read of the brutal fights in the tunnels in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the Long Sun with pleasure, and have been entertained as starfighters exploded over the Death Star.) Still, the story led me to a war, and I chose to keep following even after I saw where it was going. I have tried to be sure that the war over the Mornith is not, as Ursula K. Le Guin puts it, “a mere excuse for violence” (in her talk “Some Assumptions About Fantasy”, collected in Cheek by Jowl, Aqueduct Press 2009). Whether I succeeded or not, war is the primary event in this part of Elwood’s story, and so the word is there in the title.

I also believe that, for someone like me who has never seen war firsthand, even writing about it is questionable. But all of this pertains to a deep trouble that could and should be dealt with much more fully than I am prepared to do here in this post. (In a way The Mornith War itself, at least in part, attempts it. And so do other things I have written, and so do other things I will write. I will never be done with that trouble.)  

Mistakes! I want to note two mistakes in the book, both entirely my fault and both regarding the compass: on page 209, Elwood should scan the woods to the southeast, not the southwest, and on page 216 Granashon, Elwood, and company should reach the pasture’s southwestern edge, not its northwestern. These are the only two mistakes of consequence I have noticed, but there may be more. Hopefully not.

Mistakes aside, I am delighted with Mornith as an object. August Hall’s cover reproduced beautifully, it feels good in the hands, and it has that lovely new book scent. Mm.

And having such kind words on the back cover from both Christine Brodien-Jones and Frederic S. Durbin! The whole thing is a daydream come true.     

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Who is building part 2

Yesterday I stopped and talked with the owner of the excavation company at the bottom of the street, and my questions of the previous post were answered. 

The place on the hill is being cleared for a wedding reception! 

There will be no big house up there—just a tent for the celebration, a high place in the woods with a view of the earth going down to the sea. On the day there will be music and dancing, and candles and torches as it gets dark. Maybe the moon will even join in… if the weather is good, as Mr. and Mrs. Ernest V. Stoneman sang in the “The Mountaineer’s Courtship”. I hope they have the fairest of wedding day weather. (And as I imagine this, Marissa Nadler’s beautiful and eerie new song “Wedding” has begun to play here in my study, fittingly but without intention on my part.)

Zooming in on the excavator on the hill, seen through glass and screen

So. A break in the trees should be the extent of the change—for me, anyway.

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Who is building what and why are they building it now

Something I saw out my study window this morning startled me deeply. On top of the wooded hill west of the house, craning its neck above the trees, was a huge yellow excavator. It was so visually dramatic, so monster-like, one of my first thoughts was to take a picture. Raising the window wide, though, brought in a gust of wind that blew a stack of papers across the study and into the hall. I quickly closed the window, and the excavator was quickly out of sight behind the trees. In the several hours since, the machine has only shown itself in glimpses. So, for now, no picture to share with you.

Since the hill would be valuable real estate otherwise—from its top you have a wide view of the harbor, the city, and the ocean—I always figured its extensive granite ledge was the thing preventing this. I also thought if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Though I look at it every day and though it’s part of the same woods I’ve walked for years, I’ve only been on that part of the hill once. (It’s far from any path I’ve ever found, and its eastern base abuts houses.) I am fairly sure this is the same hill on which Mason Walton, the hermit of Ravenswood, camped for a time when he first came to Gloucester. (If I remember right, he called it “Eagle’s Aerie” or something like that. I will revisit his biography at the library.) I’ve thought about finding a way back up there countless times; now I’m thinking about doing that even more.

A long time ago a neighbor I don’t know put a lone white chair high up on the side of the hill, facing it toward the harbor and the sea. When the leaves are gone or at least thinner than they are now, I can see the chair from my window. The spot is just below where the excavator has begun its work. I wonder if anyone will sit there again? Maybe the unknown neighbor is the one doing the clearing?

Anyway, I should prepare myself for a change in the view from my writing desk window.

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