quinara: Spike smoking on a crate. (Spike crate)
[personal profile] quinara
I'm not quite sure what to do with index posts, but it seemed like a good way of collecting all my random Spikeid content together, so here I am creating one! Please find everything ripe for your delectation, and feel free to comment on anything and everything wherever you like. ;)

The Spikeid is approximately 50,000 words long, in twelve 4000-ish-word books of blank verse. It's rated PG-13/R, generally for for the rather liberal smatterings of gore to be found on various occasions. Also swearing. It's Spuffy, otherwise generally gen, and takes place a short while after Not Fade Away. It contains the following potentially problematic content (highlight to view):

- Major character death (but not for our romantic leads)
- Forced denial of agency (for non-sexual purposes)      
- Graphic violence                                                                 
- Maleficient gods                                                                 
- Depictions of the afterlife                                                  

If you would like to read without seeing any reference to warnings, I would recommend the ebook PDF (where the warnings are in the afterword) or the AO3 version (where I believe warnings are hidden by default).

So, an introduction. Basically, nearly four-and-a-half years ago, I got it into my head that there should be a Buffyverse epic. Buffy and Angel are shows about heroes, right? With gods and fighting and all that jazz? Surely that’s what epics are made of! Obviously, writing an epic would be a lot of work, but no one else had done it and I love epics, so how hard could it be…??

Other than wilful naïveté, however, I didn’t have much idea about where I was going to start and where I was going to go. I started writing, but I wasn’t actually intending to create the Spikeid, so much as the Buffiad, inspired by my (at that time blossoming) love affair with the Aeneid and my long-since-nuanced belief that Buffy Is Aeneas. This rather quickly changed, however, as I started book I from Spike's Dido-ish POV, without book II or any of the rest of the story much apparent, causing [livejournal.com profile] gillo to comment ‘this seems more like a Spikeid to me, Quin...’. This comment, completely offhand though it was, set me off thinking about a dozen other things, namely where the plot could go and how my intended homage/pastiche of the Aeneid could develop into something new and different. Hence fic.

Of course, having my head in the second, more independent half of the story for quite a while now, I tend to think a more appropriate (and pleasingly punny) title would have been the LAad. But that just looks silly. And I do like what I hope is cognitive dissonance in the first half between Spike getting the classical-style title (invented from the spurious Greek genitive ‘Spikeidos’ in the same manner as ‘Aeneid’ comes from ‘Aeneidos’) and Buffy, Angel and everyone falling into the more obvious classical roles. I’d like to think it carries all the way through, so maybe I’m sticking with that as my reasoning? Who knows.

Certainly calling the epic Spikeid encouraged me to play around with elements of the genre that I hadn’t known I was going to think about. Book I had some attempts at epithets, but I got rid of them fairly early on, simply because they weren’t doing anything and I found them more alienating than anything else. On the other hand, I had already begun with my modernised version of a poet’s invocation of the muse and, though I had only half-heartedly got into the somewhat traditional idea that all epicists try to outdo each other, I found myself thinking about the poet’s persona a bit more and the relationship the Spikeid would have not only with the Aeneid (in particular), but also with my other faves like Paradise Lost (whose metre I'd been nicking anyway), Dante, my dear mate Homer etc. I knew I was going to deviate from exactly following the Aeneid’s plot (though it was really useful in the beginning as a structural aid – cheers, Virgie), but it was now that I started thinking that that deviation had to be more emphatically pointed, if not, in fact, an outright rejection.

I think the most important way that this came out was in my decisions on how the heroes were going to deal with the epic’s gods and, indeed, how my narrator would interact with the muse herself. Now that I’ve mentioned it, it’s probably going to be anvil-obvious (if it wasn’t already), but I think exploring that dynamic is really what the story gets at, from the more obvious chess pieces of the plot to the way that my heavenly and hell dimensions are constructed and interpreted by the characters. In pretty much all the epic I think about there’s a very defined hierarchy between mortals, heroes and gods, where generally the gods dictate what happens and the heroes go about doing it (or failing to do it and getting punished): in the Aeneid (for example!), Aeneas is constantly frustrated by how his desires conflict with divine plans, but the gods basically get their way. The Buffyverse, on the other hand, has heroes, but what defines them is more fluid and I don’t think you can say that any ‘hierarchy’ works in the same manner. What the Spikeid tries to do then, I hope, is fling the Buffyverse system of heroes and gods against the more rigid system of epic in order to see what settles comfortably and what doesn’t work, to ask the question of how the Buffyverse differs in its use of heroes and other epic norms, like destiny.

Of course, what I’m really hoping is that this exercise is still interesting, even without much (if any) familiarity with epic as a genre. Like a lot of epics, I think it’s still possible to just see the Spikeid asking the question ‘what is a hero?’ on its own terms, not even taking any of its compatriots into consideration. Even more basically than that, it’s an action adventure story in the end, filled with all the things I like in stories: Spike, Buffy, Illyria, Gunn, slayers, humans, gods, demons, dragons, spells, flashbacks, dreams, myths, arguments, discussions, action and thinking. The medium, to me, is definitely associated with the message and I don’t think I could have written the same thing in prose, but I’m really hoping the verse is also accessible, even to people who’ve never read a long poem before.

On that practical point, I’ve had some people comment that they aren’t sure how to go about reading epic, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s something of a different discipline from reading a novel, if only because you’ve got far fewer words and yet are still possibly looking at the same level of time commitment (I was surprised as anyone to find out that Paradise Lost is only ~80,000 words long), so I’m hoping I might be able to offer some facilitating ways of thinking about a block of text that is apparently 50,000 words of poetry. Feel free to ignore the following and do your own thing, of course; these are just my reflections.

Because, the first thing I think about when it comes to destructuring epic is that books aren’t chapters. Super-traditionally, books were reasonably arbitrary breaks in the narrative created for archiving purposes: Homeric books were created several centuries after the poems started knocking around and the tablets which structure Gilgamesh definitely postdate the development of the poem, unless I'm very much mistaken. Naturally, the moment written composition comes in, ‘books’ can be seen as more consciously constructed division, but to me at least (possibly because I’m always two millennia behind the times) they retain their sense of being fairly regular units which are superimposed on the story, rather than clearly indicating the story’s structure. The actual puzzle pieces of epic, in my opinion, are the episodes which make it up: the set pieces which are stitched together to form the narrative, which may take up a whole book, part of one or more than one and consist of a single scene or a multiple-scened mini-narrative. These are begging to be separated as far as I’m concerned, and should have enough individual coherence to survive a reader going away and coming back after a break from the episode before. They are, to a certain extent, separate poems, and there shouldn't be any reason to fear reading X number of lines one evening and then Y the next, not really paying much attention to book markings other than to find your place. You don’t have to commit to the whole thing in one go (she reassures).

And that idea of dipping in and out, I think, ties into what else I would say about reading long poetry, which is to give it time! Long poetry shouldn’t be any more difficult to understand than prose, and I’m sure this sounds like a cry for attention, but when I read poetry quickly at least, I find it very hard to distinguish the sense breaks and the meaning all blurs into a mess. It shouldn’t be necessary, perversely, to really notice the poetry aspect of what's going on – thinkng ‘da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM’ as you're reading, noticing how the lines break or whatever – because the poetry should do its work on its own, but what’s more important is to follow the punctuation, which can be difficult when a sentence is spread over three or four (or more) lines. Reading slowly around the punctuation (as in hearing each word in your head, but not labouring over every syllable) should generally make everything more immediately comprehensible, as well as allowing the poetry to Do Its Thing and (cross-fingers!) amplify the imagery and sense of what’s going on, without you having to work at it too hard.

To be honest, though, I’m not the best poet in the world, and I can only beg you to come at the Spikeid with some patience for the odd dodgy line, though I’ve tried to catch as many as I could along the way. I think there’s a story worth reading in there, and I think you might enjoy it once you’re into the rhythm. My betas and cheerleaders have really got everything working quite well, I think, and I have to thank them for helping me create something I’m actually quite proud of. So, hats off to Brutti ma Buoni, Gill O, verity, fulselden and Stultiloquentia – you’re all exceptionally fab!

Otherwise, all I can end with is a general recommendation for epic as a genre, because I do think it’s under-read and doesn’t need to sit on the shelf collecting dust for being too posh. So go, read! Or maybe read mine first...

.

To read everything together, you can either go to
[The complete version at AO3]
or
[Download the shiny, shiny ebook version from Box.net, which includes the introduction as a foreword]

Alternatively, individual books are on LJ and DW:

I - The situation in LA unfolds.
[ LJ | DW ]

II - Buffy begins the tale of how she came to LA.
[ LJ | DW ]

III - Buffy concludes her tale.
[ LJ | DW ]

IV - The Slayers meet another group of people who are fighting in LA.
[ LJ | DW ]

V - The three groups unite and a scouting party is formed.
[ LJ | DW ]

VI - Spike and Buffy deal with where they've landed; Illyria is tempted.
[ LJ | DW ]

VII - The group return to the shelter, where someone unexpected is waiting.
[ LJ | DW ]

VIII - Willow tells her tale; Illyria is challenged.
[ LJ | DW ]

IX - Illyria shares a memory and other preparations are made.
[ LJ | DW ]

X - Spike and the others return to the upper world.
[ LJ | DW ]

XI - Gunn and Illyria deal with their counterparts.
[ LJ | DW ]

XII - The party returns home.
[ LJ | DW ]

And the soundtrack's here! (And on LJ.)

Thats all, folks. :)

(no subject)

Date: 09/10/2011 00:32 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Okay, I'm done. Or, done reading, but not reacting. I c&p-ed cool lines as I went along, so I have some immediate feedback for you. Now I have to sit around for a couple days with the whole story in my head, to digest it properly and figure out what I think of it as a story.

Illyria, whoa. She was amazing. Everybody was amazing in their individual moments. What I'm having trouble with, initially, is knowing where—on which character—to hang my hat. It's called Spikeid, and starts with him, and then we get a big Buffy vs. Osiris moment, but then it's Illyria who finally defeats the god. So—every individual section is amazing, IMO, but I didn't feel like I got to go on one epic journey with any single character, and maybe I love it less hard because of that. But I don't really know how epics work, except for PL. Which I guess works the same way, with the multiple spotlight characters. Hm. Thoughts?

I will have more. Gimme a minute. God, I love having something this chewy to...chew on. Bless.

But then they’re through, and he can see at last
The way the world works in their terms.
Or not
Exactly their terms, but just his alone.


The hivemind explanation is pretty awesome. You don't make a bigger deal of it than necessary, it's just this neat, "Aha!" and then moving along.

Angel, who is Spike,
Whose gait and energy are not so far
From Angel’s at the end as you would think.


Hah. Yes.

Spike,
Who's frowning, animated, not so much
Like Angel anymore, who really was
A half-erased enigma by the end.


"A half-erased enigma" is such a striking, fascinating description of Angel. So much of Angel's arc is about his struggle to deny and discard parts of himself, while keeping others, and he never quite seems to understand (except when he understands all too well) that his people are part of him, and in discarding and pushing them away, he discards himself, too. I'm having one of those, "never thought of him like that, but now you've said it, the description's inevitable" moments. Thanks.

Hot blood now flowing faster, fast enough
She has to call on what her shell still knows
About the human gag reflex
(about
The quickest way to chug a pitcherful,
To beat the boys on Friday kegger nights
And be the nerdy girl who’s popular)


This bit is so damned Joss. The contrast, the pull-you-up-short. And all your imagery, the way you describe Fred, is just perfect.

She felt
The god solve into kingship


Oh my god, this verb. Following the math textbook bit. Oh my god, that is so hot.

I'm not the story, I’m just standing here.

*shout-whoops* Okay, I may have to steal this line and use it for, like, journal headers or icons or something. I think this is tied for my favourite line in the entire poem, and possibly my favourite line all year.

(no subject)

Date: 11/10/2011 17:36 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
You know I love hearing your readings

Yeah? Because you just worked your tail off and completed something really, really amazing, and now I'm about to dive in and question a bunch of your choices. Which is not the same as poo-pooing your choices; I really am in inquisitive devil's advocate mode, but still! I just find it all really interesting to think about.

what I really wanted to do was break down the idea that a 'hero' has to
be the bloke with the biggest willy who gets to hog all the best moments
and generally has the story revolve around him.


Hah, well, when you put it that way...

This is a mild comment
on Aeneas, whom I love but whose manpain pretty much swamps the whole
narrative, and the hope with calling it the Spikeid was
(eventually) that it would feel kind of jarring, definitely by the end
when Spike concludes his story by ultimately rejecting he has one, but
basically because he spends most of his time in this subordinate,
feminine if you want to get gender studies about it, Dido-ish role, but
is nevertheless awarded top billing.


Too me, Spikeid is jarring right from the get-go, because Spike is so blatantly not Aeneas material. His role in the Jossverse is crucial, but it has never been "protagonist" (one of the fundamental ways in which I disagree with the lovely folks at Tea at the Ford), and casting him as Mr. Top Billing feels like an in-joke, precisely because it's a role he has already, over the course of the shows, desired, struggled with, and ultimately rejected.

If you took this entire poem and swapped Spike for Angel, starting with the lonely, rain-drenched battle in Book I and ending with, "I'm not the story, I'm just standing here," it would have been fucking revelatory.

Or, if you'd started with Spike's rejection of the hero role, and then, over the course of the poem, noticing the multiplicity of heroes in this tale, and ending with, "Okay, fine. We are all of us Aeneas," and accepting that mantle. Solving into protagonism. ;)

Why I say above that I wouldn't have minded calling it the LAad,
though (if I could have made that pun work), is that it's an interesting
quirk about the Iliad...


Oh, that is interesting. LAad would have worked better for me, I think, despite its odd look on the page. Then I would have automatically hung my hat on Spike, but more casually, with different expectations. More Scout Finch or Nick Carraway, guide and buddy and wry commentator, crossing back and forth across the line between actor to observer, as we all do in our lives. Ha, here's a thought for you: LAad: what happens to your epic when you plunk it down on American soil, home of the Great American Novel -- where Scout is the protagonist, but Atticus is the hero; where all the clear, gleaming-gold roles in The Great Gatsby are revealed as so much cheap paint?

It's very Highlander. I like to think that model falls down here, as does
also the model of vendetta chain killings (Y kills Z so X kills Y so W
kills X etc.)


Ahh, I loved that twist! When you revealed that the orcs and all the monsters who crossed through the portal were all scared out of their minds! And the alienness of the aliens, and the time and effort and discomfort it took to understand them.

(It was interesting in contrast that Osiris was so relatively easy to understand and slay. O Death, I have met you before. I was sure there, for a minute, that Buffy and Illyria were going to rip him limb from limb, which would have been suitable, but I liked the blood draining, too -- Illyria using the tools and memories of very lowly creatures she despised to accomplish her victory.)

unceasing piled-up angst is
melodrama, whereas angst with a banal contrast really sticks the knife
in. (And banal generally does work better than gloriously happy, because
you can really only get away with that once, Joss Whedon take
note
.)


It is all true.

And I love the verb 'solve'. Possibly because it makes me think of sugar
solution. /random


No, I was thinking of that, too. It's such a neat word.

You like my last power chord!

Heh, accurate description.

Although, naturally you've made me dead curious about what your other
favourite line is, because I can't remember.


They're all in my end-of-year awesome lines round-up.

(no subject)

Date: 19/10/2011 23:39 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Hullo. Now you know what snail mail conversations were like, back in the Olden Days, waiting for your buddy to reply.

I think my views on character (thinking
about what I always end up writing) are irritatingly Tacitean, in that
I'm not sure I think character (in fiction at least) can actually really
change - it can only be better revealed than it was before


Oh, gosh, that's an interesting premise to start with. I don't know if my fiction actually backs this up at all, but I like to think of my characters as exactly the opposite: endlessly becoming. I can tell I'm going to get hopelessly tangled as soon as I try to sort out fundamental vs. mutable, though.... How much can a character learn, grow, change opinions, change allegiances, etc. before you have to say, "Right, that's too far; Spike is now a fundamentally different person"?

I think yours is probably a more successful way to write, because it's more disciplined, accepts fewer excuses ("He's not OOC, dammit! What, a person can't change? Eff you!").

Angel's sense of his own protagonism is rather fundamental (he
narrates voiceovers!!! Nobody else ever does). I
could have proved, maybe, that there were other stories out
there, but I don't think I could have made him say it.


That's a very good insight.

to me it was still interesting to see what would happen if he was thrust, openly and artifically, into the limelight
[...] Buffy in book VI even explicitly redefines what a hero is so that he can take on the definition, but he still wiggles out of it
[...] an idea of protagonism that has been repeatedly adjusted and refigured in an attempt to fit his role.


Dammit, I'm going to have to reread the entire poem. Your explanation is really brilliant. I can't decide if it actually came across in the poem the way you wanted it too, and I just missed it because I wasn't thinking hard enough about the meta as I went along (a downside of picking it up and putting it down over many months), or if you're too telescopic for your own good. Fuckit, I wish this thing had more readers, so I could compare reactions them. Whatever; the idea is very cool as you've explained it, and I can definitely see where it comes through in certain scenes. Let me reread, okay? Might take a while, but I'm so intrigued by what you're doing.

Spike was crucial for the way [Illyria] worked
with the knowledge she was given - something which surprises him in XI
and which I'm not sure he likes the idea of. He shapes far more of the
plot than he'd have you believe...


Oh-ho! The accidental/unanticipated agent. That's a role he's played well all throughout the series, isn't it?

They're all in my end-of-year awesome lines round-up.
I've come to appreciate my list from last time and wish I'd kept one.


I find mine useful as a record of what I was reading and connecting with that year. I use them as reference docs all the time. This'll be year four -- I wish I'd started earlier in my career! This year's is really funny: it starts off with some Inception, a little HP, some Buffy and Stargate, and then all of a sudden, GLEE GLEE GLEE GLEE. Oh, Stulti. The current question: Usually I shuffle the quotes around, to make interesting or amusing pairings and sequences, but then I lose that rather hilarious indicator of what I was obsessed with when. So: chronological or suave?

Please don't take my stubborn arguing as an attempt to shut down your thinking

Oh goodness, no. I guess at this point we really should start believing each other when we claim we're tough cookies with more curiosity than ego.

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Quinara

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