måndag 27 april 2015

Flight of the Bumblebee

Ytterligare ett smakprov översatt till engelska av Dominic Hinde. Denna gång ur Vredesverk, så viss SPOILERVARNING om ni inte läst boken än. Illustrationen är en målning av Nicholas Roerich, en av mina inspiratörer.

Like mice scratching and scraping in the walls in the small hours, strange sounds emanated from the furthest corners of the palace. Heneguya knew that the most eager of the plunderers from Tricilve had reached them. Crashes echoed and the sound of splitting wood could be heard, though slightly muffled by the walls in between. Laughter, running feet and loud cries could be made out in passages where until recently groups of high-born aristocracy had paced in earnest conversation. The Empress watched and listened, keeping distance from the events like the audience in a theatre – even if she would soon be forced to take to the stage herself. Suddenly someone tried the lock on the door to the throne room and she involuntarily jolted up, awoken from a dream already exhausted. She was inclined to confront the intruders, for she had been a formidable regent, but managed to suppress the impulse. How many years had she worked and negotiated for these people’s betterment in the place of her unfit spouse? How many years trying to help the same people who would now defile and destroy her world? To what end?
The palace was soundly constructed and the Chalkland guards had barricaded the entrances as well as they could in the few hours given them, but neither the doors nor the walls were designed to withstand an attack. It was only a question of time until the plebs found their way in. The Empress lifted her age-old ancestral pendant from her neck band, opening the front to look at the silver ring and its fragile chain. The pressure in the room rose, a sign that the air spirit Basenanji was ready to carry out whatever she might order. He had always been there, powerful but invisible to all. Maybe the being could protect her. In her youth the bards of Trastamara had sung ballads telling of how these slaves of generations had gone into battle for her ancestors, crushing armies under flying blocks of stone and blowing whole armadas to splinters. Air spirits were strange creatures that nobody really understood, but through the years she had been left with the impression that Basenanji was a peaceful sort who reluctantly showed his violent power only at her behest. He was perhaps even a touch melancholy in these older years of his thralldom. She did not have any great desire to sully this servant who had obeyed her and her ancestors for hundreds of years with the blood of thousands of people. Even if she could escape, where would she go? Neither Chalkland nor Trachoria, nor any of her other old friends would want anything to do with her. No, she was a Trastamara and would not be humiliated. Her old combat tutor had told her that the Knights of Bansikan could never be beaten; only crushed as a single intact entity. Should she, an Empress of the oldest blood, fare any worse?
“Basenanji”, she said as tools were put to work on the door to her sanctuary.
“Basenanji, we require a final and great effort on your part, our servant. In exchange you may then rest for as long as you should like, in a place and manner which suits you at your leisure.”
A low murmur whistled through the room, a sign that that air spirit was listening attentively.
“We have always desired to meet the clouds eye to eye, just as you yourself met them when you were young and free, but we shall travel as befits us with our entire palace. Can you manage it?”
It became so oppressively silent for a moment that even the looters outside the door stopped what they were doing. Then the whole building began to shake. The empress rocked back and forth on her throne, afraid she had asked too much. Then everything levelled out again and she felt a weight push her stomach down into her hips. Out in the corridor cries could be heard, but this was not the Empress’ concern. Heneguya stepped dignifiedly down from the throne and over to the largest of the room’s stained glass windows. It was impossible to open but the empress took hold of a poker from the fireplace and beat out the glass and lead frame. She and her palace were in the heavens, the warm wind of the mountains flowing into the room as a surprised albador looped by. Far below she could see the Coimatri River weaving its ways east, clear as a mirror until it reached the great waters of Lake Malossi. There was only the odd cloud to be seen in the sky, which was perhaps the reason Basenanji had been hesitant, but a tiny cluster glided towards them, barely larger than a haystack. It thudded softly against the palace walls, at which point the air spirit turned the building so that the empress could reach it from the window. The cloud felt cool and fluffy to her touch, and she had a sudden urge to climb out onto it and to see if it would hold, sweeping over the earth for all time up where nobody could touch her. In the meantime though she had other plans.
“Basenanji, turn the palace so that we can see the city!”
At once the world around them rotated so that her head would have been sent swimming had she not been used to the movements of the building. A few people, presumably having clung to an outer staircase, fell screaming to the ground far below. She did not command the air spirit to rescue them though, for they had come to plunder and had only themselves to blame.
Heneguya had to shield her face against the afternoon sun with her palm in order to glimpse the capital city as never before. Tricilve seemed tiny from above, and not even the imperial palace on its little mound could impress any more, though she knew how much the craftsmanship had cost as a gift in kind for the privileges granted them by Radassabar. The street kitchens must already have begun preparing for their evening diners judging by the sickly yellow colour hanging over the city. The empress toyed with the idea of ordering Basenanji to direct the palace over Tricilve to bid a final royal farewell to her subjects, but lost the urge, perhaps because from that height the place seemed so small and poky. She felt endlessly wearied by it all, as if the perspective gained by such a view had reduced in importance her life and everything she cared about. A familiar shaking of the walls indicated Basenanji’s powers were waning and the air spirit would soon need to rest; despite his strength he was aged. Heneguya walked over to the toolbox her guards had borne in at her request before disappearing and drew out a heavy pair of pliers. She sat on the throne and opened up the pendant with the silver-link chain shackling the air spirit. It must have been cast at least five hundred years before, yet the metal resisted more than she expected. Only by clasping both levers of the pliers firmly in her hands could she muster the force to clip through it.
“You are free, Basenanji! Thank you for everything!” she shouted as the bonds were broken. Then all she could do was laugh as she was struck by weightlessness, kicking off of the throne and floating in the middle of the room. “Look Basenanji, I am free too!” she cried. I am a floating cloud!”

From the deck of the Chalklandian stanelast, Legate Ludenbrand had watched the air spirit lift the palace higher and higher into the sky, until the people standing at its windows, or clinging to its doors balconies and climbing plants, became impossible to make out. He held perhaps a vague hope that the empress and her home would float away out of reach of the plebs, but also a foreboding knowledge deep inside of how the flight would end. In any event, he howled in terror as the chain was cut and Basenanji departed from service, leaving the building to fall. By that point the vessel had made enough progress out into the bay that no screams could be heard. The palace seemed to fall so slowly that the crew could not take the whole thing seriously, until they heard the roar of impact roll out over the water a few seconds later and a dust cloud surged up into the sky. Pik Tambra, where the building made landfall, was an overgrown sandbank, but the sheer height of the drop meant what lay beneath was of little importance. Ludenbrand sunk to his knees against the balustrade with a copy of Retribution jerked closed in his lap – his closest companion in mourning.
“Justice shall be done”, he whispered over and over. Just an ounce of shame accompanied the thought that his chronicle might now contain a climactic conclusion.

onsdag 22 april 2015

Skribentens Geologiska Undersökningar

Det är trevligt och omväxlande med efterforskningar bortom internet ibland! Min erfarenhet är att akademiker gärna hjälper till med även befängda frågeställningar och snarast finner det uppfriskande att få vädra tjänsterummen och släppa in dofterna av det vildvuxna utanför. (Jag har tidigare antagligen berättat om mitt sökande efter Borgias familjegift "La Cantarella", där frågorna till sist fick svar från universitetet i Milano.)

Igår besökte jag SGU – Sveriges Geologiska Undersökningar, där geologerna Erik Jonsson och Henrik Mikko hade vänligheten att träffa mig över en kopp kaffe. Den förre är mineralog och den senare inriktad mot glaciärernas inverkan på landskapet. Min avsikt var att prata vulkaner, tektonik och glaciärer med anledning av händelser på Marjura – kanske inte för att nå realism i boken, men att få lite tips om hur verkligheten kan jämkas samman med fantasin.

Några samtalsämnen från mötet
? Rör sig glaciärer alltid över underlaget eller kan de ligga stilla (och underförstått låta bli att mosa ruiner som jag vill ha kvar)
 ! Enligt Henrik beter sig stora ismassor som en mycket trög smet hälld över landskapet. Tänk er en gräddtårta som man hela tiden bygger på med nya lager; förr eller senare börjar de undre delarna kollapsa och tryckas ut åt sidorna. Jag fick bekräftat att glaciärer ofta är isvidder på ovansidan, men lätt spricker upp i där de rör sig mot smältkanterna, något jag redan skrivit in i romanen. Mitt hopp om Krau-Ki står till grottbildningar av typen Kverkfjöll på island som jag tidigare pratat om.

Jag fick lära mig om lavors natur, där den mafiska, lättflytande och utsvämmande basaltlavan passar mina syften bättre än den felsiska som är trög, gasrik och ger de explosionsartade, rykande vulkanutbrott vi oftast tänker på. Jag framlade tankeexperimentet med ett vulkanutbrott i en av kulvertarna under SGU, hur snabbt lavan skulle rusa genom källarpassagerna, om den skulle föregås av giftig gas etc. Intressant är att lavans densitet bara är 2-3 kg/liter (vatten = 1, Guld = 19,3). Basaltlava är ca 1000 -1200°C. En fråga jag ännu inte fått svar på är hur nära man kan komma sådana lava innan det blir outhärdligt. Det är basaltlava som kan stelna som glasyr över ett stup på bilden ovan från Hawaii. Vi pratade också om scenen där Gollum ramlar ner i Domedagsberget*.

? Kan en vulkan ligga med bubblande lava permanent i dagen?
! Knappast eftersom ytan snabbt stelnar sedan utbrottet dämpats. Däremot kan smält sten finnas en bit ner i magmakammaren. Jag tänkte lite skamset på min 60 mil långa öppna vulkanklyfta Drapaklev norr om Vitrike på Argonds kontinent, vilken kanske är mer häftig än realistisk. Samtidigt finns visst hopp i vår världs "hotspots", där het magma strömmar upp underifrån av inte helt kända anledningar och "svetsar hål" i berggrunden ovanför. Två kända hotspots är Yellowstone och Hawaii, där jordskorpan i båda fallen rört sig över den underjordiska svetslågan så att nya vulkaner uppstått på rad. Om man tänker sig att de gamla vulkanerna inte sluts så kanske en vulkanklyfta kan kvarstå. Duger åt mig.

Sist av allt pratade vi om huruvida glas är en trögflytande vätska eller inte, där svaret tycks vara "både och". Erik Jonsson hävdade att glas är en vätska rent strukturellt. Samtidigt vet jag mig ha hört från forskare att glas inte alls flyter ut med tiden, vilket bland annat Harry Martinsson sade i Aniara och vilket man ofta hör som orsak till att gamla glasrutor är tjockare i nederkant, eller till att Linnes flaskor ändrade form vilket resulterade i att han inte kunde få ut nedstoppade stenar och därför drog slutsatsen att stenar växer. Gammalt glas kan dock kristalliseras och få ogenomskinliga fläckar.

Spännande och givande möte!

(* Gollum faller i filmen under fem sekunder vilket motsvarar 125 meter, landar platt på ryggen i mer än 1000°C varm, flytande sten. Han skulle knappast kunna hålla upp ringen och göra några miner alls och han skulle inte sjunka utan brinna upp på ytan om han alls hann komma upp igen.)

onsdag 8 april 2015

Svavelvinter som podd

Ni som själva aldrig spelat rollspel kan nu höra hur ett spelmöte går till. Spelledaren Axel Widén och hans minioner spelar det gamla Svavelvinteräventyret från 1987 inför öppen mikrofon i poddcasten Vi spelar rollspel. Mycket underhållande, i trevligt tempo och utan det sedvanliga flams jag minns från eget spel. Tre avsnitt har redan publicerats och planen är att lägga ut ett nytt varje vecka.

På bilden gruppens äventyrare:
Riddar Francus Gyllenhane
Dvärgmedicus Castur
Halvalven och tjuven Deleth
Halvlängdsmannen och jägaren Urmari
Alvmagikern Arvakur (Deleths far)

tisdag 7 april 2015

Smakprov på engelska

Översättaren Dominic Hinde har översatt fem smakprov ur de tre konfluxromanerna till engelska. Nedan finns en av dessa texter för påseende, en bekant scen ur Brimstone Sleep, kapitel 31. Min agent, Brandts New Agency, kommer att ta med texterna till Londonmässan senare under april och visa dem för intresserade förlagsrepresentanter från andra länder. Notera att det alltså inte rör sig om avsnitt ur en fullständig översättning utan just om fristående smakprov.

De stycken som översatts är:

Kapitel 29 Eld från himlen
Scenen när Trodax tar sig ur gruvan. (Scenen fanns redan översatt av Martin Andersson och har redigerats.)

Kapitel 31. Mannen utan öde
Scenen när Silvia Miranda vaknar i Shaguls grav.

Slaktare små
Kapitel 3. En blå Meridian
En enda sida om när Grisselhår och Perrima seglar tillbaka till Trakorien.

Kapitel 39. Den pilske prelaten
När Didra och Robur samtalar och kramas.

Kapitel 10. De åldriga ödlornas arv
När draken attackerar magillernas styrkor

Kapitel 43. Humlans flykt
Om kejsarinnan Heneguyas död

A man without fate

 Silvia Miranda the wind witch was awoken by a faint draught across her face, the remnants of a foreign breeze, odorous and until now reticent to come so close to a human. Deprived of her ether she could neither understand nor identify it, but she knew she was not dead at any rate – in the underworld there is no wind at all.
Her limbs were leaden, as if her body had been emptied of blood and her arteries occupied by thick quicksilver. Her thoughts were clear though. Fear of the unknown is something every conjurer must suppress from the first tears of childhood to avoid being crushed upon fathoming the endless possibilities their art can grant.
She lay in the damp half-dark, on a stone table covered with dead rustling leaves. Over her stretched naked branches that had surrendered their bark to the soil long ago, but beyond them there was no sky, only vaulted stone. The shadows of sprawled limbs patterned the walls in perfect but lifeless arrangement, carved in an unmoving blue light as if the whole scene was drowned in set glass. Underground. Sealed off. Still.
A procession drew slowly closer, its steps revealed by the still rustle of feet moving leaves. The sound reached an audible level thanks only to the contrasting silence. The weak breeze that had visited her immediately petered out into nothing. A man moved into her field of vision; she recognised him immediately from their disturbing ethereal meeting at the basin in the underworld. This time he came as one person, not three, but he had the same round, bare head as his projections. His green eyes looked down in cold assessment, the eyes of an executioner in powerful sockets. The man felt her lame body, not with desire but as to assure himself of the solidity of her substance. He placed his hand on her stomach and let it rise and fall in time with her breathing.
“Warmth”, he said slowly and lay down next to her on the stone altar, turning his cheek to her left breast as if to relive a lost, primal memory.
Another hand, yellowed and withered with its bones sticking out like newly hatched insects at the extremities of the ring and middle finger, suddenly stretched toward her. The man batted it away, irritated.
“Master Honsula! You cannot touch everything simply because you lack eyes. Be mindful of your privileges, I can just as easily bury you again whenever I like – and keep you conscious in your grave.”
With great effort Silvia Miranda turned her heavy head and saw three, no four, figures standing silently at the end of the altar – dead, contorted and ravaged by time but animated by the stranger’s necromancy.
The reprimanded Master Honsula withdrew his hand without a trace of disappointment. She saw his eyes had been sewn shut with a rough black thread. The dead figure next to him had its mouth tacked closed in the same manner. Honsula, where had she heard the name Honsula? “Our guest was until recently a man”, the living one informed his companions. “Does that perhaps dampen your enthusiasm?”
A lunatic. Silvia Miranda tried to study him from the corner of her eye. He pulled himself up on his elbows and into her line of sight when he noticed her efforts, chatting slowly as he lay with a finger caressing her chin like a sated lover.
“Your sleep revealed your name to me and I already know you better than you could imagine. Until it was decided otherwise you were a man by the name of Ramilard. The Narrators - I prefer calling them that as Gods is such an overblown word – it was the Narrators who changed you, removed bits and rewrote others so that now you have always been a woman. I had nothing to do with it myself but for my part I can say that I find you much more agreeable like this. Though your love I cannot perhaps count on, rather… mutual respect and a crumb of warmth. One does not apply any value to warmth until the alternative is apparent. It can be hard to fathom the Narrators of our world. They do not want us to understand, robbing a snake of its legs when it tries to help us to knowledge, punishing us with challenges and eternal travails when we reach for the forbidden fruit. They want us to worship them and play our roles, to be born, live and to die. But they no longer exert that kind of power over me, and I can offer you your salvation even if you are willingly enslaved to the God of Storms. Think it through calmly! Here there really is no urgency to anything.”
A dry leaf settled in the hollow of her throat. He plucked it up and held it against the blue light.
“This was a strong and hardy tree, chosen for its ability to grow underground, but the leaves are more beautiful dead, you can see all of the veins. I appreciate a beauty that does not change. They merely molder imperceptibly slowly. When plants are alive you always worry about them withering and crumpling, is that not so? I used to collect chicks as a boy, but they always died as soon as I had developed an attachment – as unpredictable in their vitality as women are in their love. When I was young I liked the idea that every leaf was unique, that two leaves have nothing more in common than the label we have given them for quite practical reasons. In those days I was fond of wandering in the forest below the mountains. Now though I know the truth. The lack of any one unique form detracts somewhat from the experience. A leaf is a leaf is a leaf, the same tiresome reproduction of the same tiresome idea, their name. Did you know that if you changed the Narrator’s written word for ‘leaf’, the real one that only exists in one single place, all of the leaves would vanish? Not because it is within my power to do so, but if you could delete that one word then none of the leaves would ever have existed. All those songs about greenery and girls with wreaths in their hair would change at a stroke. Who knows what you would sing about? Perhaps the poets would extol the virtues of… the gut instead?”
Silvia Miranda tried to collect herself. She had apparently been captured by a necromancer, in connection with the unearthly predator she had encountered at the temple of Kmorda. But where was she and with what purpose? Underground, yes, but where? She was under his control, but her aura could not be kept out forever – it would collect and give her back her power if she was given time. Who was he? Had he lost his mind? It was not unusual for powerful magicians, especially illusionists, to lose all perspective and vanish into their art. It was said that in Coro Partena they dug up an old master magician when they were building a carp dam. The man was sealed in a copper urn from an ancient civilisation. Pale and mushy like a tape worm, he turned to steam in the sun without anybody being able to understand who he was or make sense of his flat and increasingly desperate babble.
“See these small, tiny holes along the edge of the leaf?”, continued the man, pinching her cheek sharply when he saw she had stopped paying attention. “My princess made them all with a tiny pin – it must have been between her nineteenth and twenty-first years in here – long ago now. She catalogued and marked all of the leaves, thirteen thousand, five-hundred and eighteen. With three hundred and fifty three holes in each if I remember correctly. A lot of holes. You can see that the holes are slightly bigger on the later leaves as the pin was worn down and the tip widened. The imperceptible resistance of a thin leaf membrane can in time blunt a bronze needle. It gives you a certain respect for the patience involved that you could hardly imagine beforehand. Is it not a beautiful thought that a princess of noble blood year after year should punch patterns into dead leaves? Yet her work was never completed, for I was forced to take her needles away from her. She tried to kill herself with them by piercing those same tiny holes in her skin above her arteries, so she could open them up before I had a chance to stop her. She was too eager though and punctured a blood vessel prematurely. I saw the blood and healed her, and in thanks she poured Kargomitic curses upon me, ugly but impotent words.”
Suddenly he got up from her view, but after almost a minute’s silence, when she thought he had gone, his voice spoke from over the top of her head.
“You are strong, but I knew that as soon as I saw you down there amongst the dead at the river. Your power could be significant if only you freed yourself from the curses of your sullied name. I understand your innermost feelings. You can be sure that I am the man to restore you. Now I deign to lift a weight from your body so that you might move. As your liberator I do not wish to admonish you, but I ask you to exercise judgement and carefully consider my offer. Know that my name is Shagul, and I bid you welcome to my tomb!”