Tad Williams, The Witchwood Crown, and the Gardenborn calendar

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arly this morning, Tad Williams released the latest edition of his newsletter, where he talks about his writing, specifically with regard to The Witchwood Crown and the Gardenborn calendar.

Readers of Williams’ classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series (comprised of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower) will remember that the Gardenborn are the elder, elf-like race who sailed across the seas to Osten Ard from a mysterious eastern land known as Venyha Do’sae, the Garden That is Lost. The Gardenborn clans, composed of Sithi, Norns, Dwarrows and Niskies, settled in Osten Ard and established rule over a land empty of men… until centuries later, when mortal men arrived from across the western seas.

In “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, Williams had previously developed calendars that were used in most of the mortal realms; the main calendar closely resembled our own (Gregorian) calendar: months with alternate-reality names like Septander, Octander, Novander and Decander. The months July and August were named Tiyagar and Anitul, after the Nabbanai imperators Tiyagaris and Anitulles. (An interesting aside: although they are never mentioned in the text or the appendices, a careful reader can infer (even though readers are told to “avoid assumptions,” we’ll risk it here) that there are old Nabbanai gods named Jonevus (or similar) and Marris based on the Erkynlandish months named Jonever and Marris, and also likely an old Nabbanai god named Satrinus, based on the Erkynlandish day named Satrinsday).

Despite Williams’ detailed work on the mortal calendars of Osten Ard, the full calendars of the long-lived Gardenborn were never revealed in the original Osten Ard novels. However, with the upcoming release of the new “The Last King of Osten Ard” sequel series, the focus has turned to the Norns, according to the author, and their calendar now plays a part in the new books.

Mr Williams gives some insight into his creative writing process as he talks about how the Gardenborn calendar developed in the writing process. He also gives some insight into how important it was for him that the new books match up with the old books when it comes to continuity. Williams writes:

So a few weeks ago I’m working my way through the 1st novel of the new trilogy, The Witchwood Crown, in final rewrite.  One of the many things that happens during my final rewrites is that I crystallize a lot of the smaller details, or sort out confusions and inconsistencies and commit to a final version of troublesome bits of the history/plot/etc.  In this case, I decided I needed more references to calendars for the “immortals”, especially since in this book I’m actually spending a lot of time with the Hikeda’ya — aka, the Norns.  One of the things that we learn in the new books is that the name of the Norns and Sithi when they were still one people was “Keida’ya” — “Witchwood Children”, because of the importance of that tree and its products to their civilization going all the way back to their old home, the Lost Garden.

There’s already some built-in complexity because of their old calendar from the Garden and their way of counting years — a Keida’ya Great Year is a bit more than sixty years in length (and why that’s true is another story for another newsletter) but they’ve been living in Osten Ard, which is more or less like our world, for thousands of years, so they have to have developed some kind of calendar that matches our world.  The most obvious markers for such things are the stars, the sun, and the moon.  The stars feed into the Great Year idea and others, so I concentrated on moons as the source of the calendar, as they are (roughly) with most real-world societies.

Williams states that during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, he conceived of months with names like Mother, Father, Child, Flower, etc. Eventually, however, he discarded these names entirely when he realized a partial list of months might potentially already exist in the later chapters of Stone of Farewell, in the magical song that Aditu sings when she brings Simon to Jao e-Tinukai’i, the Gardenborn settlement hidden deep in the ancient Aldheorte Forest:

"Memory, Sorrow and Thorn"

Aditu and her brother Jiriki, cover of To Green Angel Tower

I realized that I already had the beginning of what could be a symbolic lunar calendar back in Stone of Farewell, when Aditu the Sitha leads Simon “from winter into summer” — from the rest of the world, in the grip of the Storm King’s winter, into Jao é-Tinukai’i, a place where the Sithi hold sway, which is at least temporarily immune to the Storm King’s magic.  When I thought about all these evocative characters that Aditu mentions as she takes Simon from one season into another, it suddenly made sense that she should be invoking the names of things or powers or spirits or gods or whatever pertaining to different times of the year — in other words, her journey through seasons should be in part evoked in the names of the moons from different parts of the year.

The character names that Aditu invokes in this passage (the Serpent, Wind-Child, Tortoise, Cloud-Song, Otter, Stone-Listener, Lynx, and Sky-singer), then temporarily became the basis for the Gardenborn calendar in Williams’ draft of The Witchwood Crown, providing an explanation for Aditu’s invocation of those names in the novel. Williams then added four additional names (Ice-Mother, Wolf, Raven, and Fire-Maiden) to the already existing names to bring the full number of months to twelve. Then the author ran into a major problem:

I made this list and was all happy and pleased with myself — I even went back to the Witchwood Crown manuscript and put these moon names in various places where I’d left a blank space waiting for a date-name, especially in the Norn sections — I had a horrible recollection.(Horrible because it would mean more work.  Thank God it came to me before the book was finalized!)

Anyway, what I remembered was that when Simon, Binabik, and Miriamele entered into the deserted Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza by river (and the city will almost certainly feature in the new books) they passed under a succession of bridges, called “Gates”, that had something to do with moon cycles.  So I went back to The Dragonbone Chair and looked it up and damned if Binabik didn’t specifically say “These gates represent cycles of the moon”.  So immediately my most recent moon calendar turned out to be wrong, because TDC mentions several “gate” names, and none of them correspond with Aditu’s incantation.

So there I was.  I either had to say Binabik was mistaken (which goes clear against my principles, unless it’s in a minor, minor mistake that can be easily explained) or I had to throw out everything that didn’t match, which would mean that the new Da’ai Chikiza stuff would wipe out my (still unpublished) second version based on Aditu’s incantation.  Which would be a shame, because I really liked the connection, and it brought a little quasi-historical light to a magical section of the old books.

The author then decided to merge the two draft calendars together to create one unified calendar:

Thinking about it, I decided that what seemed quite realistic to me was that each patron spirit (or god or ancestor, or legendary hero/heroine, or whatever) might have both attribute names and animal names — that both could be ways to describe them, but neither would be the patron spirits’ actual NAMES.  So then the problem was to make the two lists match up somehow.

Williams’ letter not only sheds light on his creative writing process, it also reveals how deeply committed he is with establishing a continuity between two series of novels (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” and “The Last King of Osten Ard”) which were written thirty years apart. It is clear that Williams has been working diligently to avoid major continuity errors.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

The cover of The Dragonbone Chair shows Simon, Binabik, and Miri traveling through the ruins of Da’ai Chikiza

Hidden in Williams’ text is another (small, but important) revelation: that the lost Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza, Tree of the Singing Winds, will also feature somewhere in the new series. Da’ai Chikiza is the ruined city depicted on the cover of The Dragonbone Chair; what remains of the city are the old Sithi ruins through which the main protagonists, Binabik, Simon, and Miri, travel as they attempt to escape the Queen’s hunter Ingen Jegger and his deadly white hounds.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is set for publication in April 2017, to be proceeded by the shorter Osten Ard novel The Heart of What Was Lost in January 2017, and to be followed sometime thereafter by three more long Osten Ard novels (provisionally titled Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come).

To subscribe to Tad Williams’ mailing list, and for regular updates on the publication schedule for the five new Osten Ard novels, click here.

 

 

 

 

Tad Williams Writes About Editing Process of New Osten Ard Novels, Hints of More to Come…

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his week, acclaimed Science Fiction and Fantasy author Tad Williams, author of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn; Otherland; and Shadowmarch series, announced via his official newsletter that he is in rewrite mode on two of his new novels, The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, both due for publication by DAW Books in 2017. Both novels are set in Osten Ard, in the same universe as his classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books. Williams wrote:

I am deep, deep, DEEP in Osten Ard history at the moment.  Having finished the first drafts of both THE WITCHWOOD CROWN and THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST — in the first case, most of a year ago — I’m in rewrite mode on both to finalize the stuff I left vague in the first drafts.

Williams began writing The Witchwood Crown in 2014, and had finished the rough draft  back in May 2015. The first draft of The Heart of What Was Lost was completed in November 2015.

Williams has communicated that the writing process for the new Osten Ard novels has been unusual in that although he normally writes very detailed drafts, in this case, he has spent much more time on the worldbuilding, because returning readers already know this world:

I know so much more about my own imaginary environment than I did a year ago, despite the fact that I think it was already one of the more catalogued invented worlds.  I know the name of all the original Scrollbearers (the learned folks who make up the League of the Scroll) when King Ealhstan began it, two hundred years or so before Simon and company.  I know the history of the two great families of immortals, the Hamakha and Sa’onserei, all the way back to the garden, in far more detail than anyone else needs to know.  I know the order in which the Eight Ships came to Osten Ard, and I know what happened to Seni Ohjisá, mentioned only in a song in the first set of books.  I know the names of people’s horses when even the names of the people who ride those horses will remain essentially meaningless trivium in the final story, if they even show up.

Stone of Farewell, book 2 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

Stone of Farewell (1990) discusses the Hamakha-Sa’onserei feud and the eight ships of the Garden

Williams’ mention of the families Sa’onserei and Hamakha refers to the ruling dynasties of the Sithi and the Norns, two of the immortal (and ever-feuding) races in the classic Osten Ard novels, with Queen Amerasu no’e-Sa’onserei presiding over the mortal-hating Sithi, and Queen Utuk’ku seyt-Hamakha ruling over the even-more-mortal-hating Norns.The two families’ bitter, centuries-long feud is a central plotline in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and lies at the heart of the conflict in the series.

Williams’ reference to the “Eight Ships [that] came to Osten Ard” harkens back to the legendarium of the Gardenborn, the immortal clans exiled from the Lost Garden, which the author only briefly hinted at in passages of the classic Osten Ard novels, written in the 1980s and 1990s. Stone of Farewell (1990) mentions the eight ships, as the protagonists Simon and Aditu enter the Gardenborn city of Jao e-Tinukai’i, and pass by the woven cord art at the edge of the city:

They crossed a bridge over one of the river-forks, then turned and followed the watercourse down a long corridor of willows. A ribbon of white cloth wound in and out among the trees on their left, wrapped about trunks and looped over branches. As they passed farther down the row of willow sentries, the initial ribbon was joined by another. These two snaked in and out, crossing behind and before each other as though engaged in a kind of static dance.

Soon more white ribbons of different widths began to appear, woven into the growing pattern in knots of fantastic intricacy. These weavings at first made up only simple forms, but soon Simon and Aditu began to pass increasingly complex pictures that hung in the spaces framed by the willow trunks: blazing suns, cloudy skies overhanging oceans covered with jagged waves, leaping animals, figures in flowing robes or filigreed armor, all formed by interlaced knots. As the first plain pictures became entire tapestries of tangled light and shadow, Simon understood that he watched an unfolding story. The ever-growing tapestry of knotted fabric portrayed people who loved and fought in a gardenlike land of incredible strangeness, a place where plants and creatures thrived whose forms seemed obscure even though precisely rendered by the unknown weaver’s masterful, magical hands.

Then, as the tapestry eloquently showed, something began to go wrong. Only ribbons of white were used, but still Simon could almost see the dark stain that began to spread through the people’s lives and hearts, the way it sickened them. Brother fought brother, and what had been a place of unmatched beauty was blighted beyond hope. Some of the people began building ships…

“Here,” Aditu said, startling him. The tapestry had led them to a whirlpool swirl of pale fabric, an inward-leading spiral that appeared to lead up a gentle hill. On the right, beside this odd door, the tapestry leaped away across the river, trembling in the bright air like a bridge of silk. Where the taut ribbons of the tapestry vaulted the splashing stream, the knots portrayed eight magnificent ships at sea, cresting woven waves. The tapestry touched the willows on the far side and turned, winding back up the watercourse in the direction from which Simon and Aditu had come, stretching away from tree to tree until it could no longer be seen.

Williams then writes about the editing happening on both of the new novels, writing that he has received (hopefully useful) feedback from early readers of the manuscripts:

And I’ve also been getting the first feedback from readers of the new manuscripts in the last half-year, so I’m trying to let that wash over me as well, influencing the rewrites in a good way without overwhelming my own natural trust in what I’m doing.

That last part is particularly important, because I chose to let my first readers see a much rougher first draft (at least of TWC) than usual, so of course everyone pointed out the stuff that I would most liked to have fixed first before releasing, like “So-and-so has no personality”.  I mean, it’s true — So-and-so is definitely a stiff at this point, but part of that is because when I was writing it I wasn’t exactly sure how old So-and-so was, or what he or she had experienced in life, or what was going to happen to him or her later on, and which of the character’s traits and what part of his or her life history would be useful and necessary to deepen the character, and so on.

He then reveals that he is considering, down the line, writing an Osten Ard compendium, perhaps something like the Tolkien Companion or George R.R. Martin’s The World of Ice and Fire:

The balance point here, as in any worldbuilding, is knowing how much material you need to know to feel comfortable writing in that world — which will always be less than you’ll actually use.  Even though my worlds are generally long on history and convoluted recitations thereof, I obviously won’t cram everything I’ve figured out into the books themselves (although I am getting more resigned to having to do an Osten Ard Companion someday, with Silmarillion-like tellings of all this background material.  A good project for my old age, shortly before all the dog hair I breathe and cat scratches I suffer from every day finally kill me).

If such a project takes place, the Osten Ard Companion would become the tenth or eleventh Osten Ard book, after The Burning Man, The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, To Green Angel Tower (parts one and two), The Heart of What Was Lost, The Witchwood Crown, Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come, the last three of which are expected sometime after the publication of The Witchwood Crown.

Williams’ original newsletter posting can be found here. You can subscribe to the newsletter at this link. Readers can speculate on who “so-and-so” is, and of what import the eight Gardenborn ships might play in the new series, and what role long-dead King Eahlstan has to play, on the Tad Williams Message Board, where there are already speculation threads for The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown.

New characters and old familiar friends

Tad Williams recently posted a partial character list for his new novel, The Witchwood Crown, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”. There hasn’t yet been much analysis of this list in the blogosphere, so we at OstenArd.com are going to do some analysis.

Also returning are the Sa'onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Also returning are the Sa’onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Several of the names that Williams released are returning characters. Among these are Jiriki and Aditu, son and daughter, respectively, of the House Sa’onserei, the ruling house of the immortal Sithi. Conspicuously absent, however, are the names of any of the other Sithi who dwelled in Jao e-Tinukai’i during “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”: there is no mention on the list of Likimeya, the queen of the Zida’ya; her brother, Khendhraja’aro; or Kira’athu, the healer. These three characters played important (albeit secondary) roles in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Their absence indicates the possibility that the Sithi city of Jao e-Tinukai’i will not appear in “The Witchwood Crown” (other important Sithi characters included Amerasu, Shima’onari, Ann’ai and Kuroyi of Anvijanya, but these characters had passed on by the end of To Green Angel Tower).

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu'unigato, may reappear in the new series.

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu’unigato, may reappear in the new series.

The only other “returning” Sithi character on the list is Hakatri i-Sa’onserei, son of Amerasu Ship-born and Iyu’unigato the Erl King, and brother to Ineluki the Storm King who played a major role in the destruction of the mortal world in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. It is not certain that Hakatri will return in the new series, or if he is simply a character mentioned in passing. However, even the possibility of Hakatri’s return sets the stage for a possible major conflict between the humans and the Gardenborn once more. Hakatri’s doings were legendary even among the Sithi. But Hakatri was badly burned a thousand (or so) years earlier, and has apparently not set foot in Osten Ard for centuries. Attempts by the Sithi to reach Hakatri via the Master Witnesses have all failed, indicating that he was far away from Osten Ard, or possibly no longer even alive.

With Jao e-Tinukai’i likely sidelined, the focus of the Gardenborn part of the story seems to be Nakkiga, the frozen city of the Norns, in the far north above Black Rimmersgard. In fact, Williams has stated that the immortal Norns will have an important role to play in the new series. Two of the names on the published character list are Utuk’ku the Norn Queen and Akhenabi, both of whom were antagonists in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Utuk’ku is expected to be a major antagonist in the new series, as one of the few major villains left at the end of the original series. The part that Akhenabi will play is as yet unknown; the embittered Norns were defeated and seemingly broken at the end of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, leaving interesting possibilities in the new novels, set thirty years after the end of To Green Angel Tower.

No other previously-seen Gardenborn names appeared on Williams’ new character list. Because the name of the third novel in the new series was announced as The Navigator’s Children, it seems likely that the Dwarrows and Niskies will have some part to play in “The Last King of Osten Ard”, but the names Yis-fidri, Yis-hadra, Sho-vennae, Imai-an and Nin Reisu, all Dwarrow or Niskie characters from “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, do not appear on the new character list.

Many new names on the list, however, do appear to be Gardenborn names. Among these are Nezeru, Takeru, Tsoja/Tsoji, Saojemi, Viyeki, Rinan, Khibi-Ya, and possibly Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu, and Makho. The names Rinan and Khibi-Ya follow formats similar to Niskie and Dwarrow names, respectively. Names ending with a -u and -a are likely to be female Norns. Names ending in -i and -o are likely Norn males. Alternately, the character names ending in vowels may be new Sithi characters. Some, including Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu and Makho, may be non-Gardenborn names.

Simon and Miriamele return in "The Witchwood Crown".

Simon and Miriamele return in “The Witchwood Crown”.

Among the returning mortal characters will be King Simon and Queen Miriamele, who have apparently ruled Osten Ard for the last thirty years. Count Eolair of Hernystir, Duke Isgrimnur of Rimmersgard, Jeremias, Binabik, Sisqinanamook, Tiamak, Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva also appear on the character list, indicating that they will return in the new series as well. Hyara (Vorzheva’s sister) and Pasevalles (the young boy in Nabban) also appear on the list.

Notably absent are Rachel, Father Strangyeard, Sludig, and Josua’s twin children Derra and Deornoth. However, the original press release has indicated that Derra and Deornoth will have a role to play in the new series. Also not mentioned are Count Streawe, Duke Varellan, Lector Velligis, Queen Inahwen, and March-thane Fikolmij, who were the rulers, respectively, of Perdruin, Nabban, Mother Church, Hernystir, and High Thrithing thirty years earlier. It remains to be seen who now rule these lands.

The names John and Pryrates also appear on the new list. These two characters are likely only mentioned in passing, since they died thirty years earlier.

One “new” name on this list, Morgan, was announced in the press release in April. Morgan is the prince of Erkynland, heir apparent to Osten Ard. He is likely either the son or grandson of Simon and Miriamele. It seems likely that he is their son, named in honor of Doctor Morgenes, Simon’s long-dead mentor.

Little can be deduced from the remaining new names, save that Jarnulf is likely a Rimmersman; Qina and Ommu may be Qanuc; Little Snenneq is definitely Qanuc, and is probably the son of Snenneq, who appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”; Olveris, Drusis, and Saluceris are likely Nabbanai; Tylleth and Etan may be Hernystiri; and Grimbrand and Osric are probably Erkynlanders. Fremur may be a Rimmerman god. The remaining names — Astrian, Drojan, Goh Gam Gar, Hugh, Idela, Lillia, Narvi, Porto, Udrig, and Unver — are hard to classify. It has been revealed that Narvi is a baron, but where he lives has not yet been revealed.

Williams has stated that more may be revealed soon, sometime after he begins the second draft of The Witchwood Crown. At some point, he will conduct chapter readings for fans. The book is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release.

 

Tad Williams completes 800 pages of “The Witchwood Crown”, releases partial character list

On his official message board today, bestselling speculative fiction author Tad Williams (The Dragonbone Chair, Tailchaser’s Song) posted a progress update on his manuscript of The Witchwood Crown, volume one of his planned three-book return to Osten Ard, “The Last King of Osten Ard”, sequel to the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series.

Williams revealed that he will have completed 800 pages of the manuscript this weekend. “I’ll crest 800 pages this weekend, I think, God willing and the river don’t rise,” he wrote, after much flooding in the Bay Area. The page count likely refers to manuscript pages rather than published book pages.

Williams, one of the most respected names in speculative fiction and whose fans include Christopher Paolini and George R. R. Martin, also released a partial character list for the new series, 34 of which are new characters, and the remaining 18 are characters who originally appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Several of these 18 listed characters died in the original series, so they are likely only mentioned in passing in the new book, rather than zombie resurrections, although Williams has been known to resurrect characters who were long thought dead, as fans of his work well know.

Cover of The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

Simon, Binabik and Miriamele will be returning in “The Witchwood Crown”, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”.

Returning characters include fan favorites Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, Aditu and Jiriki. Also apparently returning, at least as mentions in the book, are Duke Isgrimnur, Prince Josua, Tiamak, Lady Vorzheva, Pasevalles, Akhenabi, Jeremias, Count Eolair, Prince Hakatri, Sisqinanamook, and of course everyone’s favorite 10,000-year-old ice queen Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamakha, who is believed to be a major antagonist in the new series.

Unmentioned in this announcement are Derra and Deornoth, the twins whose respective prophesies caused over 20 years of fan speculation while Williams wrote other novels. Williams has confirmed in previous announcements that Derra and Deornoth will appear in the new series.

Williams also wrote of his plans for the new book, including his intention that The Witchwood Crown will move a little faster than the beginning of The Dragonbone Chair, stating, “[T]his one moves a little faster and jumps into multi-person [point-of-view] pretty much immediately.  The “moves faster” part may not be so obvious after I revise and put in some of the detail I skipped over in the heat of first-drafting, but I think it will probably still feel this way.  (Thus, for returning readers, I will have to make sure it still feels pretty similar in terms of depth of character and background).”

Also returning are the Sa'onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Also returning are the Sa’onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

The Witchwood Crown, the highly-anticipated first book in the new Osten Ard sequel series, is tentatively scheduled for a Spring 2016 release by DAW Books, publisher in the United States, and Hodder and Stoughton, the publisher in the United Kingdom. This will give the publishers time to edit what promises to be a lengthy manuscript, promote the book in international markets, and commission appropriate cover art on both sides of the Atlantic. An official release date for the first volume has not yet been set.

The Sa’onserei Family Tree

Here is an infographic showing the family tree of House Year-dancing, also known as House Sa’onserei, the ruling house of the Sithi.

Sa'onserei family tree

Sa’onserei family tree.

Notes:
[1] The text indicates that Shima’onari and Likimeya may be siblings in addition to being husband and wife. This may be an error in the appendix.

[2] Jiriki describes Kira’athu as his cousin on page 682 of To Green Angel Tower, part one, but her parentage is not clear.

[3] Jiriki refers to An’nai as his kinsman, but An’nai’s relationship to House Sa’onserei remains unclear.