Tuesday, August 16, 2022

More AI experimentation

     Since I spent all morning wrestling with a 3D program that decided it was thoroughly, 100% evil and I am now too frustrated to do anything remotely productive, I've decided to experiment some more with LAIKA and the Shakespeare brain I created for it.  (Wow, that sounded like mad science...)

    This time, I decided to see what would happen if I just told it to generate text without any prompt on my part.

    Result One:  Or if I say, mine ear is grow'd to deafness, And mine eye is pained with care, And mine eye hath found a way to cry, My heart hath learned to love him, And for him will quench my fire, And then he will in that way take away my night

    Result Two:  may befall a man's pride, That he may say, I was so proud to be so strong. Then what use is a weak man's pride, To build up a monument that will be taken away?

    Result Three:  - Like a thousand kisses true, Yet when twain mine eyes have eyes like unto desert, And one sweet kiss well, unto him gone: But when love's eye hath spy'd a thousand kisses lost, And that by one sweet kiss thy love hath lost, What tongue shall speaking be after all?

    Sooooo....some parts of those results are better than others...so let's try again and see what happens?

    Result 2-1:  ' begun a groan, and her sorrows are too heavy to bear. Thus loathed do I am, and yet you have dear friend, from whom you have borrowed much. I feel that you have wronged me, and yet you do not know why.

    Result 2-2:  , like a wind, flyeth in a rage, And makes the world mad, and loves the world ill. 'Then murther, why dost thou break forth thy tale? Or to tell it with tongue, or with deeds, or by his own hand?

    Result 2-3:  , and she was left alone. Even the wind, she 'gan say, 'gan herself know, whate'er she sees, so soon as 'tis said.

    Hmm.  Again, bits of it aren't too bad, and other bits are very much wtf.

    I should try to research how the process actually works before I decide how to really use this and how to optimize the "brain" to create the play for my story.  I mean, does the AI have to understand what the words mean for it to work properly?  Or at least to understand the role they play in the sentence?  In those cases, Shakespeare and other Elizabethan writers may just be too much for it to handle, and some poetry may need reformatting so that the AI understands where the sentences begin and end.  (Though that sounds like a crazy amount of work, so if that's the case, I'd probably just deal with the suboptimal results instead...)

    Let's try something else, though.  Let's input some actual Shakespeare as a prompt, and see what happens!

    I'm gonna give it "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" as the prompt, and see if it recognizes that that line is part of its brain and just hands me the rest of the sonnet.  (Yes, I realize that this is 100% not what it's for.  I'm just curious about what will happen.)

    Result One:  The cold of winter's day doth blow the face Of summer's shadow from hence, and youth makes a winter's waste. How so? By night and by day makes thy face look age old, And gives thy shadow much to credit Of that which they thought of when they fell.

    Result Two:  Or else to a other far off, bright, and yet so bright I forget. 'And then should I be contented where I am now, But where I have been before I want to be?

    Result Three:  Thine eye hath not yet wakened, O what more do I fear, But that thou wert asleep, or waking this night? A thousand nights and nights have I been sleeping, One wakeful hope but dreams, And sleep again in my wakened body doth wake.

    LOL, nope.  Did not give me back the original sonnet, or anything close to it.  :P  And again, there are some bits here and there within that which are actually pretty promising.  Meanwhile most of it is total gibberish.

    So let's try something from one of the plays--ooh, no, let's go really crazy and give it some Marlowe as a prompt!

    "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"

    Result One:  Or how the loathsome spots of the plague-pened plague-wounds proved a contented city? Or how the blood-hungry hurly- rate that wounds hastened his death? Or how the certain smell of blood, a thousand hours old, made the wound healed?

    Result Two:  The plague of night, as of two dire wolves, were ever on her side, When night itself in the height of her heaven fell, And made her all nigh immortal night. And her vow of love was still perpetual, And made her ever to the skies his lover.

    Result Three:  Or by this the gulf is sullen, and the waves break forth their force? Or by this the eye of love corrupted is changeable? Or this the tyrant himself is sinking, and the ocean breaks.

    Interesting.  It seems to have caught the war and violence theme of the quote, and has produced results attempting to fit that theme.  Some of it's actually pretty good, like to the point that I should squirrel it away as a possible line to use in something when I need a centuries-old poet to quote.  Other parts, of course, are still nonsense, but that's the case even when you're doing AI text generation using modern English prose.  Using 400+ year old poetry, of course you're gonna get some nonsense.

    Before I try to work on the play for my story, I'll want to tailor the brain to that purpose (add in the text of the comedies for sure, and maybe some of the tragedies and romances) both to increase its vocabulary and to give it more range of subject matter.  I do wonder if it can recognize proper nouns and if so does it avoid them?

    Hmm...definitely something to investigate.  (I should at least watch all their instruction videos first, lol!  I have a bad habit of diving in headfirst without bothering to learn how a thing works when the only documentation provided to me is in video form.  Videos just take too darn long!  (Especially because they always start out by telling you what they'll be teaching you about in that video, despite that you already knew that because it was in the title and the thumbnail, and given how much faster reading is than speaking...honestly, I don't know why people are so lazy and prefer making videos to providing written instruction.  Written instructions are vastly superior 9 times out of 10.))


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Randomly, I have decided to experiment with AI-writing.

     Okay, maybe it's not 100% random.  But it's still pretty out there.

    I should probably explain before I get into the details.

    I have this story in mind that I want to write later.  It's going to be a slice-of-life fantasy story about a group of friends performing an unpopular play by a famous poet.

    My plan, initially, was to raid Shakespeare for the play's text, mutilating lines where needed to fit the needs of the bad fictional play being performed in my story.

    Then someone in discord posted the link to LAIKA, an AI-writing program.  It occurred to me that it might be fun to use that to write the play, rather than trying to figure out how to search all of Shakespeare's work for exactly what I needed for each and every line of the play.

    So, I signed up for the beta, and pretty soon had the invite in my email to try it out.

    It turns out to be really easy to set up a new AI "brain" for it:  you just need a text file with sample text, at least 10,000 words of it.  I wasn't sure about how to use the plays for this (do I omit the name of the speaker?  do I leave it in?  do I need to add quotes and "sayest Mercutio" after every line or something?) so I decided to just use the sonnets and long-form poems.  According to Word, that produced a file with 46,875 words, so I figured that was plenty good enough, especially for a first test.

    I've decided to record some of my results here, because it seemed like something fun to share.  😆

    

    So, the way it works is that you type in some text to start with, then hit a button to have the AI generate some follow-up text.

    I started out with the rather bland "Tell me truly, how fares it with you?"  (Since, after all, I'm still only experimenting with this process, and don't actually know what I want the play to be about yet, except that it's going to have a tragic everybody-dies ending despite being a comedy.  (Hence its unpopularity!))  Then I pressed the button to make it generate text.

    This always generates three results, which you can switch between with the press of another button.

    The first resulting text was "Do you place yourself in my power, and wish to do me good? Then do me good, for I will do my best; then do me vile, for I will do my worst. But do not then strive so hard, for there are many that strive to do you harm."

    Honestly, aside from absolutely not flowing from the prompt text I wrote, that's not bad.  I could totally use it.  I'd have to modify it a little, but it could work in any number of situations.

    The second resulting text was "Tell me, how many wise men have been of your kind, and of my kind, I'll know no way to answer, though many more of my kind have done the same, and more would you know, if I could answer in words."

    That....is less good.

    Like, a lot less good.

    It very much feels like someone trying to be profound and poetic without quite understanding how to be either.  (Which, in a way, is what it is.)

    Anyway, moving on, the third resulting text was "Or if you please, I'll hear your woes; for trust I am a wise man. My plague is past reproach, but you may my love count. Make me your lover, and I'll do my will. Sweet boy, your fault is past forgive."

    Well, some of that works.

    Ultimately, I think this brain probably isn't going to work for my purposes as it stands; too many of the sonnets are essentially love sonnets, so there isn't enough story-telling material in it.  Still, let's have one more test before I get back to what I'm supposed to be working on right now.

    New prompt text:  "Mercutio, you dare to fight against thy lord?"  (No, I'm not sure why I'm hung up on Mercutio today...)

    Result one:  "Come, make him yours, I will force you to obey." With this the covetous wife weeps, and weeps for her husband, to be revenged on him for what he did; and then he leaves her with a groan, and turns his face away, with that look of""

    Let me show you part of a screenshot of that so you can see how weird the quotation marks are...

    Really random use of quotation marks.  Possibly because they're somewhat rare within the source text.  In any case, at least it felt sufficiently narrative, even if it doesn't make any particular sense...except that it seems to be insisting that Mercutio seduce his lord instead of fighting him.  😏

    Anyway, result two:  "You have done wrong to him; his issue is dear; therefore do not fear his anger. So do not fear his rage, my love; fear not his anger, for it cannot harm thee. When he hears thee armed, do not fear to leave thy bed."

    That...actually kinda works.  Again, it would need tweaking (especially given that it starts with "you" and moves to "thou" despite obviously addressing the same person), but I could work with that, if I had anything in mind for this to be.

    Result three:  "Do not strive to be first, but first make the attempt, and so things will be. A thousand lives will you take, and all dead in your thought. If you kill a thousand lives, why should your life leave your memory alive?"

    Again, that's something I could work with, and it fits pretty well with the suggestion of violence in the prompt text.

    I think before I try any further to work with this, I'll look into how best to use the text from the plays, so it'll really have a lot to draw from, but this could actually do what I want from it.  (I might also try other Elizabethan texts that are not in play format to worry about (Spenser's Faerie Queene, perhaps, or the faux-Elizabethan of Byron's Childe Harold) to see how those turn out.)  I notice none of these sample results produced any archaic verb forms ("dost," "hast," etc.) despite there being plenty in the source material, but I'm not sure if that's because the samples primarily used "you" instead of "thee/thou" or just because the samples were so brief. 😅  It's something I'll have to keep an eye on whenever I next play around with this.

    Actually trying to use it to write a whole play without significant editing on my part would definitely produce the kind of craziness you see in YouTube videos, but this should definitely prove worth my while.  😄

    (I am also tempted to feed in all the novels in my quasi-YA series and seeing what kind of nonsense it would produce.  Hopefully I won't try it until all the rewrites are done, though.  Hmm, I could feed in a public domain translation of the Iliad and use it to try and generate some fight scenes.  Enh...yeah, that probably wouldn't work.  Even if I just used the fight scenes, it still probably wouldn't work.  Also would be way too archaic in language, because the only public domain translation I can think of off the top of my head that used the right names was the Lang et alia translation which used archaic language throughout, presumably in order to impress the antiquity of the material on the reader.  That or because they expected that the reader was likely most familiar with the Pope translation, which just plain is old.  I mean, which was already old by Lang's time and so its archaic language was actually more or less just the current language of Pope's day.  (Or was he doing a faux-Shakespearean thing?  Honestly, I haven't read Pope's translation, because any translation of Greek material using Roman names is just a hyper-no from me.))

    So, all-in-all, this was a fun little experiment that I will definitely be repeating.  And I'll probably post about it then, too, because this blog is almost entirely dead and needs any injection of life it can get.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

IWSG - On Originality

 


    I usually don't use the suggested discussion questions, but this month's is actually tangentially connected to what I already wanted to write about, so I figured may as well do both!  Here's the August 3rd question:

When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

    Obviously, this question is intended for people who are already connecting with an audience, so it kind of doesn't apply to me, as the few things I've posted to AO3 and itch.io have minimal presence and very little in the way of an audience.  (What little audience they do have, I'm not sure what they want, other than LBGTQ+ content (primarily in the form of stories featuring m/m romantic relationships), which is pretty much the only common thread running through almost all of my work.)  And yet, in a way it also does apply, in that my most popular game on itch.io (having more than twice as many downloads as the rest of my catalog combined, and almost as many pageviews as the rest of my catalog combined) is so much more popular that it gives an idea of what people on itch.io really want out of me.  Or perhaps simply "what they want, period."

    Unfortunately, that's something I'm not prepared to give them, because that game (which I wrote and coded in about two and a half weeks for Yandere Jam (if you're not familiar with the term "yandere" you might be happier that way)) is marked as NSFW.  Which it kind of is and kind of isn't.  There's no nudity (well, none beyond a very tame monster sprite with partially exposed, non-nippled breasts) and what little sexual content it has is text-only, very brief and lacks any descriptive details.  On the other hand, it contains a character who derives a sexual thrill from watching a handsome man die horribly over and over again, so it's not so much Not Safe For Work as absolutely inappropriate for people under 18 years of age.  (Or, really, under any age.  Honestly, I was terrified to release it, because it's so unlike me and so twisted, even though it's actually quite tame for what it is.)  Based on the number of followers I've gotten since its release (many of them starting to follow me on days when no other game got any pageviews), it's obvious that there are people on itch.io who would like to see me write more games like it.  But that's just not going to happen.  I don't want to become a NSFW game developer (I'd need someone else to write the NSFW parts, among many other reasons!), and I'm certainly not releasing anything else so demented.  I actually rather wish itch.io would let us "orphan" games the way AO3 lets us "orphan" works we've published there, so they can still be out there for people to interact with, but without the works generating unrealistic expectations regarding future works.

    Hmm, rereading the question, I feel like I kind of misinterpreted it.

    *cough*

    Right, so the actual question was more along the lines of "do you follow the trends or do your own thing?" wasn't it?

    Yes, I knew that all along!  Of course I did!

    I was just testing you.

    Really.

    *ahem*

    I tend to just do my own thing, and if that happens to line up with something that readers actually want, that's great, but I don't go chasing after trends.  Or even keep up with what's currently popular, for that matter.  *cough*  I have a somewhat isolationist lifestyle, I guess you could say.

    I would like to think that I manage to be somewhat original from time to time, though.

    I hope.

    That being said, it's my lack of originality in certain regards that I wanted to post about in the first place.  There's a novel I wrote a few years back that's currently on its second major draft.  It still needs a lot of work before it's ready for anyone else to see it, but one of the things I'm wondering about is if I need to start over on a lot of its world-building.  (Because I do want to release it eventually, in some form or another!)

    As it stands, each nation in the novel's world is based directly on a real world culture from past eras, all of them then technologically advanced to a roughly mid-19th century level.  My original plan was to establish in one of the later books in the series (not sure how many there are going to be, probably between 5 and 7) that the elf-like species that had originally been the dominant one on the planet had abducted humans from all those different actual cultures to act as slave labor.  Due to various factors (mostly having to do with how the elf-like species ran the planet before the humans successfully revolted against them) the different groups maintained a large part of their national culture, language, etc., though many things also changed, of course, including the names they applied to their cultures, and by the time of the novels, none of them have any idea that they used to live on another planet.  I'm now thinking that's way too much convoluted backstory to have to insert in a late section of the series, and I should probably just ditch that part, but since I have so many other question marks about the later parts of the series, that's not my big concern at the moment.

    What I'm really worried about is how for some reason I thought it was a good idea to have some of the cultures also have some partial parallel history to their Earth counterpart.  So, for example, the country inspired by Ancient Rome had its own Hadrian and Antinoos tragedy, the country based on France had its own revolution complete with a lot of heads being chopped off, the country based on Ancient Egypt had its own Akhenaten religious upheaval, and originally I was going to have the country based on Japan have its own Meiji Restoration, but that one I already scrapped and turned into more of a reverse Meiji Restoration.

    I'm not too concerned about the Hadrian and Antinoos one, since the basic idea--powerful ruler falls to pieces when his boyfriend suddenly dies--is not all that complex or unique, and I had a lot of differences both pre- and post- the boyfriend's death.  (Naturally, they don't have those names, of course.  But the Antinoos-analog is from the Ancient Greece-inspired country.)  The tragedy (which is very recent to the events of the book, as one of the leads was in fact a former schoolmate of the Antinoos-analog) plays a pretty heavy part in the cultural landscape of the book, so it's good that I'm okay with that one, 'cause I absolutely cannot remove it without reworking a lot of stuff I really like.

    The Akhenaten one is a bit more questionable, but I'd prefer being able to keep it, because mine had the twist that it was successful, unlike the real Akhenaten's restructuring of his country's religion.  Thus, in my novel, the Egypt-analog is the only monotheistic nation in the world.  (With one exception, the elf-like race had purposefully avoided abducting people who were from monotheistic cultures, in part because they couldn't make their slaves accept them as new gods if the slaves only had one god.  Although the main off-the-page reason was that one of the things I didn't want to have in this fictional world was any religion that seeks converts, because...well, for a lot of reasons.)  Still, maybe it's inappropriate?

    In any case, it's the revolution in the France-like country that I'm really worried about, to be honest.  I mean, it does have a lot of differences, first and foremost being that in the novel the queen and her children survive, because a secret society replaced them with body doubles before they could be executed by the revolutionaries.  (They tried to save the king as well, but he had been kept in a different prison under tighter security, so they failed.)  Said secret society, of course, being the real reason for the revolution, as both it and every villain in the entire world are after the pieces of an ancient magical device (which they see as a super-weapon though its purposes are not military), and one of the people after the pieces knew that the royal family had one, and so they fomented the revolution in the hopes of getting their hands on the piece in the ensuing chaos, but the secret society managed to rescue the queen (one of the society's leaders) and her children, along with their piece of the thingy.  (The revolution was likewise very recent in the book's timeline, and a major part of the plot of book two is going to be the heroes having to ferry the queen and her children to safety with her brother, the king of the Germany/Scandinavia-inspired country.)

    Ultimately, maybe the problem isn't the revolution, but the fact that I put it in a France-like country?  I had all the countries basically positioned to roughly line up with the locations of their real life counterparts, but if I shifted them around, maybe that would fix (or at least vastly improve) things?

    Like, if I deleted the France-like country altogether (Europe is unfortunately over-represented as it stands, so not much loss there) and moved the China-like country over where the France-like country was, then the revolution in question could have been in the China-like country, which would have made it all the more shocking to its contemporaries.  And then I could make use of all that I've learned about Chinese culture lately.  (Plus I could introduce a new character for book two who's inspired by Wei Wuxian! 💗 Not that I could do him justice, but...a girl can dream!)

    Hmm.

    Y'know, I'm feeling pretty good about that idea.

    Although I might need to keep the "abducted Earthlings" part if I'm going to have an England-analog (or rather an island with a Celtic-inspired culture) off the coast of a China-analog, since in a real world neighboring polities tend to have a lot in common, both linguistically and culturally.  But since I've already set up the elf-like race and the fact that they used to tyrannize the humans, that's not too much...hopefully...

    LOL, sorry for turning this into basically "me talking to myself in public" about a planned re-write for a novel that who knows when the heck I'll get to it (I'm still in the middle of rewriting and releasing an entire series of novels, and absolutely should not deal with this single novel (that is intended to be the first in a series) until I've finished dealing with the series which is already partially released and has a complete set of first drafts already written, plus I'm committed to writing a visual novel for a friend before working on my own projects anyway) but I think this has proven very useful to me.  :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

IWSG - On Love

 


    As I continue to wallow in the throes of research on an overwhelmingly large topic in order to write most of someone else's visual novel, I keep finding myself focusing on one of the two parts of the game I absolutely will not be writing:  the love story parts.

    Not focusing on them in the sense of "it's those parts I find myself imagining writing" but in the sense of "how do I even write the lead-ins and lead-outs of romantic scenes?"  Knowing your limits is, of course, an important part of being a writer, and I have long since come to understand that I 100% cannot write characters falling in love.  Being someone who does not feel romantic or sexual love, this is hardly a surprising fact.  (Though it is surprising how long it took me to figure out that I couldn't write it; I kept trying to write love stories stories with love in them long after I realized I was asexual and aromantic.)  For the most part, in my own works, even if I can't remove romance entirely, I can at least work to avoid the "falling in love" stage of a story and it generally works out at least enough for me.

    But this time it's not my story, so I don't have that control.  And, as is common (but not universal, no matter what some people think) in visual novels, there is a dating sim aspect to the game.  Well, "dating sim" isn't really accurate, but I'm not sure what a better term would be.  I can't really explain the story since it's not my story to share, but I think I can at least admit that the player character has entered a mostly-closed location in search of a particular individual who he knows is there but whose face he does not know, so he has to get to know all the people there who match the missing person's general description (age, mostly) in order to figure out which one is the person he's looking for.  In the process, he can fall in love with one of them, leading to a different branch of the story that leads to the romantic ending with that character.  (Not that all the suspects are potential love interests, and at least one of them won't return the player character's affection even if you pick them...)  Consequently, when we leave the research and planning stage (another hindrance in writing this game is that we're having trouble finding times we're both free to discuss the game) I'm going to have to write each character's subplot such that it could lead into romance, but doesn't have to.

    I am unsurprisingly feeling very daunted by this idea.

    I did at least come up with the approach of having the subplots advance in a manner similar to the S-Link scenes in the newer Persona games (the ones back on the original Playstation having been entirely different) which should make writing it a lot easier on me, but...

    ...the prospect of finding a way to make seamless lead-ins for the other writer's love-related scenes in still scaring me a lot.

    Also scary is the prospect of trying to write something set in ancient China, given my lack of firm knowledge of the setting.  Obviously, that's why I'm doing research (I've been reading a lot of online information, and have just received one of the two books I ordered last week (on top of two books I bought in person)) and have been watching some Chinese dramas on Netflix, plus reading the translation of the original novel one of them was based on, but...at the end of the day, it still feels a bit like I'm attempting to do something I'm not qualified to do.  Like, does it still count as cultural appropriation for me, a white person, to write something set in China when I'm doing so in partnership with (and under direction from) someone who is of Chinese ancestry?  I mean, I hope that makes it okay, but I still feel a little iffy.

    The irony about my extreme inability to write love is that when I read (or sometimes watch) something with a great romance in it I often find myself reacting like a giggling teenager.  *sigh*  Even to me, I don't make sense.

    (BTW, for anyone who's interested, let me recommend that drama and its original novel (though unfortunately the official translation is so far only up to volume 2 of 5 on the novel), because they're super-good.  On Netflix, the drama was given the translated title of The Untamed, which is a bizarrely flavorless title, and I don't think it accurately translates the show's title, though I'm pretty sure the drama does have a different title than the novel.  The novel's title is Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, which I admittedly can see making any network (or streaming service) wince, despite that it's a really good title.  I decided to read the original 'cause looking around online I began to realize that the drama had been heavily self-censored to be allowed on Chinese television, and it sounded like the novel let the two leads actually admit to being in love with each other.  I'm actually still only most of the way through the first volume, but it's already much more direct about...well, it's not really "their feelings for each other" at this point, just "his feelings for him" since it's not reciprocal yet...but it still had me acting ridiculously giddy because he's adorable in his inability to express his feelings.  (But that's exactly the sort of thing I know I'll never be able to write, but hopefully my co-writer will be able to add that sort of thing into scenes I've already written...)  The drama version seems a bit simplified all around (which is astonishing, considering it's 50 hour-length episodes long!) but the cast was really excellent (and the hero is quite possibly the most beautiful man I've ever seen a picture of) and the scenery and sets incredibly gorgeous.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

On the (Mis)Use of Ancient Words in Fiction ~ Or ~ Patroclos is a Warrior, NOT a Healer!!!!!!

     So, part three in my series of textual rants about how people are abusing poor Patroclos in their fanfiction.  (Part one is here, part two is here, if anyone cares.  Though actually part one wasn't as much about Patroclos as about Ancient Greek naming schema...)

    One warning about this post:  I'll be talking about a lot of different works (albeit briefly) and will be changing spellings accordingly.  If I'm talking about a work in Greek or the character in general, I will use my standard spelling of Patroclos, but if I'm talking about a work in Latin or an English-language work that spells it thus, I'll be using the Romanized Patroclus.  (One exception is that there's one work I'm not sure how they spelled it, so I'm using my standard...'cause they might actually have used Patroklos, only I can't remember for certain...)  I apologize if this seems confusing.

    Over the millennia, there have been a lot of changes to Patroclos' role in the story of the Trojan War.  We don't know what the story was like before the Iliad was composed, but from the way the epic never bothers explaining who he is or why he's following Achilles around so devotedly, we can assume that prior to its composition, their relationship was well-established, and the audience would already know that they were friends, comrades-in-arms and lovers.  (Well, given the variations caused by oral tradition, it's actually safer to say that many held them to be lovers, rather than that all did.  But the way the intimacy of their relationship was treated, it was clear that the poet expected people to already be aware of it.)

    In late antiquity, two anti-heroic versions of the Trojan War story were floated about, purporting to be first-hand accounts by Dictys of Crete and Dares of Phrygia; in addition to changing the story to make everyone seem worse, these stories confused or conflated various figures who had similar names (e.g. Atreus and Catreus, Peleus and Pelias), making it clear that not all the changes to the tale were purposeful.  In these, Patroclos played almost no role, and in fact died almost immediately in one of them.  And he's not even mentioned in Vergil's Aeneid (which only makes sense, really).  And why do I bring this up?  Well, because eventually the ancient Greek language was pretty much lost in Europe, so throughout the Middle Ages and most of the Renaissance, these Latin versions of the Trojan War story (which did, admittedly, also include a highly-truncated version of the Iliad, about 1/16th the length of the real thing) became the only ones known.

    So for all the Medieval and Renaissance tales of the Trojan War--Bocaccio, Chaucer, etc.--Patroclos essentially doesn't exist.  Around Shakespeare's time, Ancient Greek was becoming known again, and there was even a translation of the Iliad into English, thus Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, while mostly based on the Medieval version adapted out of Dictys and Dares, was able to reintroduce Patroclus as a major player and Achilles' true love (despite much moaning and groaning about Polyxena).  But Shakespeare made other changes to the character.  His Patroclus was a teenage boy (probably played by the boy who usually played the female leads) and not only didn't fight (being too young) but didn't even want to fight.  (Though he still met his traditional end on Hector's blade, of course.)

    Shakespeare's version of Patroclus--despite that his Troilus and Cressida was ignored for centuries, only reemerging onto stages in the 20th century--at some point became viewed as the dominant version, being called upon by any hack writer who didn't want to deal with the real story as told in the Iliad.  (See, for example, that ghastly movie Troy.  Well, no, don't see it:  just look it up on Wikipedia or something.)

    The Patroclos in the Iliad is radically different from Shakespeare's timid boy:  he is older than Achilles, he's brave, he's kind, and when he's rampaging across the battlefield in Achilles' armor and cutting down Trojans left and right everyone knows exactly who he is and they are still terrified of him.  (In fact, when Apollo disguises himself as a regular Trojan and goes to fetch Hector to have him face Patroclos, he tells him that it's Patroclos who is running rampant, and Hector's reaction is basically "yes, only I can deal with this deadly foe" not any mockery of an insignificant opponent.)

    But what does any of this have to do with the misuse of ancient words in fiction?

    Well, I'm getting to that.

    You see, not all modern authors are willing to work with Shakespeare's teenage boy version.  He'd have been sorely out of place in the video game that was a Canadian-made spin-off of Koei's Dynasty Warriors franchise.  (I think it was called, like, Warriors:  Legends of Troy or something like that.  I'm sure about the first word and the last, just not the ones in the middle... 😅)  I haven't played the game, but I did watch some footage of it years ago (when I was working on a paper on the changing portrayals of the Trojan War heroes over time), and its Patroclos was just as buff and dangerous as any other player character.  (Too buff, honestly; the characters were kind of grotesque, as I recall.  Like, they looked like they'd all overdosed on steroids.)  The version of Patroclus in the very recent game Hades is probably the best, most accurate version of the character I've ever encountered in a modern work.  (Yes, they changed his ethnicity, but there aren't actually any ancient descriptions of him that specify his ethnicity.  No reason his family a few generations back couldn't have moved to Greece from Africa.  I think it happened a lot more back then than people now expect.)

    Literature seems to have been less kind to Patroclos than video games, weirdly enough.  Most of the (unintended) abuse of the character I've encountered on AO3 has been entirely caused by fans of a single modern novel, Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles.

    And why do I call it abuse?

    Because it turned a warrior into a healer.

    Seriously, some of these fanfic works have claimed he never even went onto the battlefield, just waiting in the camp for Achilles to return.

    That is the most appalling nonsense!  (I can only hope that comes from the fic writer and not the novelist, but I fear the opposite is true.)  Every man in the Greek camp--with the possible exception of the priest Calchas--went out to battle.  Even the aged Nestor, who was too old to fight, still went onto the field for every battle!  Let's be real, here:  the Greek army was having too much trouble procuring food for it to have useless hangers-on in the camp who didn't fight.  (Uh...especially in light of all the women they had enslaved, who obviously didn't do any fighting, but still had to eat...and all the children those poor women were being forced to bear...)

    The closest to professional healers that the Greek army had were Machaon and Podaleirios, the sons of Asclepios.  But they still went out and fought.  (Machaon, in fact, died in battle, either to Penthesileia or to Eurypylos of Mysia, depending on the version you're looking at.)

    Now, yes, it's true that Patroclos had some knowledge of field medicine, and in the Iliad he helps a bit with some of the wounded before persuading Achilles to let him join the fight, but they've all been fighting for nine years at that point!  Every soldier would have needed to know a bit about field medicine just to ensure his own survival.  And all the more so for an attendant like Patroclos, who would need to be able to help his lord if the need arose.  (Okay, not so likely given Achilles' natural skills and supernatural armor (his first set of armor was also made by Hephaistos) but still!)  Furthermore, in pretty much all known traditions, Achilles was trained as a child by Cheiron, who was known for his knowledge of healing (he had, in fact, trained Asclepios himself), and who had surely taught the boy at least enough medicine to be able to deal with injuries on the battlefield.  Whether or not Patroclos was trained alongside Achilles (and there is ancient precedent for that being the case), Patroclos would have learned some of the techniques from Achilles if he hadn't learned them with Achilles, because Achilles is going to want to make sure his lover knows how to save his own life if necessary.

    So, where did Miller's healer-only version come from?

    Well, in that we get to the title of this post, and the misuse of ancient words.

    Because the word for Patroclos' position is θεράπων (therapon), a word often used in the fanfictions that have gotten me so worked up about this.  Obviously, someone (presumably Miller?) looked at that and said "well, it looks so much like therapy that it must be related!"

    And yeah, it probably is related, in the sense of it having come from the same root word as θεράπευσις, meaning "treatment, attention."

    But θεράπων does not mean anything related to healing!

    In the Homeric context, it has traditionally been translated as "squire," and its most standard definition is "comrade-in-arms, but of inferior rank."  Other definitions include "attendant," "servant" and even "worshipper."  But not one of its definitions has even the slightest thing to do with healing.  (You can check out the dictionary entries for θεράπων at the Perseus Project:  here, here and here.)

    This is not only just plain wrong, it was also purposefully wrong on Miller's part.  She had to have done enough research to have known that the word did not mean that, and she used it that way anyway.  In consequence, its misuse has been spread like a virus throughout the Trojan War-related fandoms on AO3.

    I cannot express emphatically enough just how much that pisses me off.

    I'm not even going to try (the fact that I've spent this long ranting about it is probably a good indicator of just how angry I am, obviously), as the whole point of this was to try and purge the anger from me, not to wallow in it.

    The worst part is that--whether this comes from Miller's novel or from the people writing derivative works on AO3--by making him a passive healer, they've imposed an artificial heteronormative dynamic on a homosexual relationship:  the Patroclus of those fanfiction works is forced into a feminized position, allowing those writers to essentially write a straight relationship despite that they're writing about two men.  Now, yes, not all of them do that, even when they embrace the "sitting passively in camp" aspect.  (My sample size is small, since I quickly got too fed up to read any more of them, so I can't guess at percentages either way.)  But the fact that any of them do it is already cause for alarm as well as fury.  And yes, Shakespeare's Patroclus was a relatively passive character in a submissive role in the relationship, but he was not so much feminized as not-yet-masculinized, as man/boy relationships were not uncommon in Shakespeare's day.  (Shakespeare himself wrote more than one love sonnet addressed to a boy, which if they were in his own voice (rather than works written on commission for someone else) indicate that he was likely bisexual, but due to the culture in which he lived, that bisexuality would have found expression only with boys, not adult men.)

    Hopefully, this has concluded my series of rants about the ghastly things people are doing to my poor favorite on AO3.  (Aside from my overwhelming fury that they keep putting their fics that are 100% contrary to the Iliad in the Iliad fandom!  Anything that lists Miller's novel as its fandom is automatically not compliant with the Iliad, and therefore shouldn't list it!)

    *ahem*

    Yes, so, as I was saying, hopefully I'm done with this ranting, and will post more positive, interesting things in the future.  (I always have lots of things to say about Greek mythology, after all...)

    In closing, though, I just want to encourage everyone to actually read the Iliad if they're interested in the Trojan War.  Some of the battles can get a bit gruesome (though tame by modern standards, I suppose) and the catalog of ships is pretty dull unless you're into ancient power structures and/or geography, but the characters are fascinating, the dialog is often very entertaining (the snipes at Alexander/Paris esp.), and the pathos of loss is genuinely heart-wrenching.  And Patroclos is just 💓.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

IWSG - **coughing**

 


    It's hard to think of anything to say.  My allergies have been kicking the crap out of me for like two months now.

    I'm still managing to write--albeit more slowly than usual--and I actually came up with some good new material in the rewrite I'm working on.  A little leery of my next project because it's a bit out of my comfort zone in terms of setting, but I've been doing research (um...if streaming TV shows in that genre counts as research...) and my collaborator is familiar with the setting, so hopefully it'll turn out at least well enough for a rough draft that they can then hand off to someone else who'll do a better job on a second draft. 😓

    It seems to be something of a passion project for them, so I'm afraid of doing a crappy job and letting them down, you know?  And I don't exactly have confidence in anything I write, even when I'm in my "home turf" in terms of setting, so....yeah, it's nerve-wracking.  At best.  But I don't want to let them down; they seem to have a lot of people flake on them, and I'd rather not be one of those people, though I guess at the moment I kind of seem like I'm being one, since my rewrite has taken a lot longer than I was expecting it to!  (But at this point I've added most of the new material it needed, and there's only 12k left of the original to rework, so the end is definitely in sight!)

    So...that's pretty much where I am, for whatever it's worth.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

IWSG - Slow going


    I'm having trouble getting writing done lately.  Some days I just open the file, look at what I'm supposed to be writing, and just sort of go "meh" and close it again.  Maybe after re-reading some of what I've already written, and maybe not.

    Part of me wants to say "creative overwork" but it's like...I haven't done that much writing lately.  I did a whole mess of coding over February and March, but not much writing.  Maybe that's actually the problem, like my writing muscles have grown flabby from disuse?

    It's frustrating on a lot of different levels, no matter the reason.

    The programmer I worked with on an earlier game asked me to co-write a game they want to make, and I agreed, but on the condition that I finish the next draft of book 3 of my semi-YA series.  And the draft is going at a snail's pace.  Even though it's rewriting rather than writing.  It's annoying that I'm making someone else wait on their project because I can't get my butt in gear on my own.  But I worry about what will happen to the draft if I abandon it midway through to work on something else.  (Especially since my novel is Greek Heroic Age, and the game is Ancient China.  The gears that have to be shifted there are massive.  Esp. since I still have to do a lot more research before I can start working on the game.)  I feel like I'm letting them down by taking so long, and yet putting more pressure on getting the draft finished is only going to make it worse, surely.

    Or maybe not?  I usually did a pretty bang-up job of getting NaNoWriMo finished and overachieved...