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Why don't publish Arkat's Saga as part of the Stafford Library?


Thoror

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Pretty self-explanatory question. I find kind of amazing the current situation: if you want to learn all there is to know about Arkat (and why wouldn't you, seeing that he is one of the most important people in the history of Glorantha, if not THE most important (particularly if Argrath is some sort of reincarnation)), you would have to pay 350 US dollars for it on ebay. I don't see any reason not to publish it; the Stafford Library was made for this kind of unfinished/not-for-casual-fans work. Probably there IS a reason, but I don't see it.

Edited by Thoror
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11 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

It is a nice piece of Glorantha fiction, but it is not a "saga" as you might expect it to be. 

But it would still be nice if it was published and available more widely, so that other people could read it and make up their own minds about it.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

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8 hours ago, Jeff said:

I have no interest in publishing more unfinished manuscripts that appeal to a handful of people. I'd much rather finish them and publish the finished product that appeals to a broader audience.

I do not see how sharing the raw material online or as part of the Stafford Library prevents Chaosium from publishing it in a more polished manner in the future. Since you say yourself it would only appeal to a handful of people, it would certainly not hurt the sales of those future products. I am sure I must not be the only one who has bought practically each and every edition of everything I could find in print about Glorantha since immemorial times.

Your re-edited and illuminated version of the Abiding book might well be destined to achieve great success among new converts, but for us old grognards and godlearners there will be nothing as valuable as the raw material as written by God.

Edited by Hijabg
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If I were Chaosium, I would keep a Stafford Library extension low on the priority list as well, but maybe for slightly different utilitarian reasons. Then there will be a treat at the end of this post.

Start with a review of how Unfinished Works functioned when Greg was alive. He was never 100% happy with them but it was a good way to monetize rough drafts when he needed the cash flow. He never got around to finishing them. As others have hinted, titles like Arkat's Saga exist in a more fragmentary / less "finished" state and I suspect that was a big reason he never pushed them out in the Wizard's Attic series. He just didn't think they were worth turning into commercial products yet. We can argue with him but that's just how it played out.

sartar.png.6227bebe7944e50f7581c5c8b6ec3e8d.pngNow it's true that someone could build a commercial product on the foundation . . . but we don't need Unfinished Works any more so there's a strategic question of the role that product would play within the larger Gloranthan publishing trajectory. Jeff has been busy feeding the RQ side and getting things like The Sartar Campaign out the door. More of us than I want to think about have been dreaming for 40 years about seeing that title. It's tantalizingly close now. After that, who knows? But whatever it will be, it will be "finished" and the creative team can move on to the next thing. We don't have to survive on rough drafts and bullet point notes any more. It's exciting!

Arkat's Saga can't really develop unless it becomes either a novelistic work of metafiction or a game product. As we'll see, there really isn't a lot of game product in it, so the only way this unfinished work gets finished is basically by starting from scratch (total gut renovation) or turning it into a normal sort of fantasy novel. The gut renovation game product route wouldn't be an attractive publishing project for me at least for years to come because the path of least resistance would be a Dawn Age Seshnela experience and right now in theory the terminal Third Age is where the action is. You're taking development cycles away from the terminal Third Age to feed an untested and potentially alien spinoff experience. Save the spinoffs for when you can't think of anything to do in the terminal Third Age. And if you want a novel, similar logic applies. Plus you need to find a really good commercial novelist who gets the deep logic of Greg's vision, which is tough.

Furthermore, even if you succeed either way, it only confuses people. This would be my biggest red flag from a publishing perspective. Say Arkat's Saga (or Jonat's Saga or Damol's Saga or Hrestol's Saga, Snodal's Saga) becomes a huge hit. Great! But then you need to take time and effort to remind fans of that slice of the Gloranthan experience that "our" baseline setting is nothing like that, the world is very different, everything you know and love is wrong. That's no fun. Imagine how Third Age fans would have felt if Mongoose had taken the world by storm. Or if you had that feeling back then, think back to the confusion and consternation. We don't know enough about the status quo Third Age West yet. Until we do, all these First Age data points are worse than useless. They're potentially misleading, at risk of being overruled down the road . . . it's not just Chaosium that could waste its effort here, the readers who extrapolate are going way out on thin ice. Nobody wants that.

But of course we aren't the mass market gamers who will get confused here. We're hardcore. We know how to handle ourselves on thin textual ice. We'll figure out a way to get the texts we need. The bar on this one is set at $350 cash right now but collectors are resourceful in pursuit of the quest object. Greg didn't want to make this one particularly easy for you, but Travel and Journey. Talk to people. Do side missions. Start a petition. Send in a proposal of how you would make this a viable Finished Product. In olden days they had to go to conventions to get these peeks behind the curtain. Who knows what shakes loose in life? If you try sometimes you just might find you get what you ne-eed. Oh yeah. 

fox.thumb.png.e861a4d7f976dc21c0b546dca17d64a9.pngSo what's in that damn thing? Get ready for that treat. Mine is blue, about 40 pages in all and is probably Greg's third attempt to get the original Arkat narrative into a coherent form. One previous version, probably the first, got written in a fever and got lost. Another survives as a fairly straightforward historical narrative of the Gbaji era, but this is not that. This is from 1987 and mine incorporates additions and revisions up to 1994. It's an impressionistic ground-level view of military life, an endless and nihilistic conflict something like Vietnam. Arkat himself only appears in glimpses, reviewing or fraternizing with the grunts like nominal narrator Saralos Deguys, fresh from the island and wrestling with caste transgression. The real Arkat is always elsewhere.

Think of a King of Sartar told mostly through dialogue and first-person observation, supplemented with explanatory data dumps and outside fragments: the colonial perspective, the hsunchen perspective. It's Pynchonian in its way, a kind of hoax or satire on hegemonic narratives. The world it describes may or may not be the Dawn Age West that continues into RQG. I like to think that it is and that the world has changed a lot in the intervening millennium, but like St Halwal I am passionate about the redemption of trash. What has to happen to get from then to now, with the Middle Sea Empire material anchoring the arc in between? Who were these people? Where do they go?

heresy.thumb.png.c493b9d7dd96c829ad7ed1eb8c26dfe5.pngWe learn things about the island that nobody in the terminal Third Age could even countenance. They break all the fragile scholarship we have. Greg evidently realized this because he didn't bother to confirm these data points in Middle Sea Empire. That's important to keep in mind here, too . . . you can't get from this place to the terminal Third Age except through the mediation of the God Learners, who had a vested interest in erasing much of it and then were themselves erased, leaving us to build a new second-order world on the rubble. Meanwhile Greg himself moved on in the decades that followed. He focused more on that part in the middle (sea) and then came back to work on the Guide. That's the West that survives.

If I were one of those esoteric Arkat buffs I would be able to open the heroquest route to this material and see for myself. Maybe I'd be disappointed. Maybe I'd be illuminated. Until you've tasted it, what do you really know? And then, of course, it's too late. We don't really get to meet Arkat face to face. When I was a child learning how to decode parables, the faceless character was usually a self portrait, a void on which we project aspects of our own identity. Arkat and his good friend Saralos Deguys are like that, more mirrors than floodlights. But we can approximate their shapes from the world they inhabit. These, unfortunately, are the kinds of questions some unfortunate soul developing this particular property to a commercial stage would need to wrestle down in order to negotiate the threats. I am not an esoteric Arkat buff. I'm a relatively simple person. Holy books are hard.

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See, reading all that has been fascinating; I fancy myself a Glorantha lore fan who crossed the border of casual fandom long ago, but my experience has been nothing like that. I couldn't have waited 40 years for the Sartar campaign because I'm not even 40 years old. I couldn't have gone to any convention to get sneak peeks because I'm from Spain, and it's only in the last three years or so that I could have started to dream of going to a British con (nevermind the American/Australian ones), because I didn't have any sort of economic independence before that. I've never met Greg; the only sort of interaction I've ever had with him was him answering via email one question I had submitted to him, just one month before his death (I consider that answer a small, priceless treasure, even if it's just one stupid email from a creator who never stopped interacting with the fandom). I'm a self-taught Gloranthaphile who (with the sole exception of the answers in a post I wrote in this very forum some years ago, for which I'm grateful) never had anybody helping him navigate this most complex labyrinth of mythopoeic madness and endlessly evolving "canons"; my (probably many) failures and my (probably few) successes have been (almost entirely) my own.

I don't know about anybody else, but that's why Arkat's Saga would be important for me; it would be an important step in the road to illumination, a major piece in the puzzle of a figure that I've come to consider THE key to understanding Glorantha (and yes, I know that there is no single key and that nobody ever really understands Glorantha, but I think you can get my gist). I didn't know what you're saying about the role of Arkat in his own saga, but it doesn't surprise me. Nor does it discourage me. At all.

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16 hours ago, scott-martin said:

So what's in that damn thing? Get ready for that treat. Mine is blue, about 40 pages in all and is probably Greg's third attempt to get the original Arkat narrative into a coherent form. One previous version, probably the first, got written in a fever and got lost. Another survives as a fairly straightforward historical narrative of the Gbaji era, but this is not that. This is from 1987 and mine incorporates additions and revisions up to 1994.

I have a Red one from 1990 (27 pages). A different one from 1990 where Greg mailed it to me in three parts (No cover, 29 pages, two pages are from Harmast saga but have Arkat sage headers. And finally a copy I printed from from a floppy disk he had when he was visiting in 1994. As I didn't have WordPerfect it printed the raw text with the Wordperfect headers (unformatted 27 pages). This edition was on June 24, 1994 to be actioned off at Convulsion '94. They are all different in some way.

1990A & 1990B starts "I hate trolls," thought thinked Arkat to me.

1994 Starts: I remember when Arkat was born. I was there.

It would take a lot of work to sort all of these out into a coherent book (just the copies I have)

There are likely a few dozen copies out there, and I suspect there are a few unique ones we've not seen yet.

 

Edited by David Scott
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34 minutes ago, David Scott said:

I have a Red one from 1990 (27 pages). A different one from 1990 where Greg mailed it to me in three parts (No cover, 29 pages, two pages are from Harmast saga but have Arkat sage headers. And finally a copy I printed from from a floppy disk he had when he was visiting in 1994. As I didn't have WordPerfect it printed the raw text with the Wordperfect headers (unformatted 27 pages). This edition was on June 24, 1994 to be actioned off at Convulsion '94. They are all different in some way.

1990A & 1990B starts "I hate trolls," thought thinked Arkat to me.

1994 Starts: I remember when Arkat was born. I was there.

It would take a lot of work to sort all of these out into a coherent book (just the copies I have)

There are likely a few dozen copies out there, and I suspect there are a few unique ones we've not seen yet.

 

The 1998 version starts with: 

"I hate trolls," speeched Arkat to Seralos.

 

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3 hours ago, Thoror said:

my experience has been nothing like that

This is great!! I think every Arkat devotee has a unique journey . . . and the journey is the part that really matters. We all cut our way through the jungle of mythology on our own in the end. The jungle of Arkat is especially confusing. Greg never really figured it out in print himself so all we can do is use the trail of his exploration as a hint and not as the solution to the mystery. We can talk about that but it gets noisy. The Arkat cult hasn't had much of an exoteric manifestation for about 900 years now. It circulates in whispers. The gatekeepers charge arbitrary tolls as proof of intent and to support their own hustle. At this point it's all guru yoga and you know how gurus get.

But the line of transmission somehow extends all the same. I was just an impressionable child when I heard there would be a Sartar Campaign some day, so I probably wouldn't have been able to find or afford it then anyway. In 40 years I hope people are still participating in that alpine land in ways we can't even anticipate yet. Then I went to work, so was always too busy to travel to the lore . . . ultimately, I started buying or bargaining it from those who made the journey. Occasionally an initiate would quit or die and the relics would get dispersed. Keep your eyes open long enough, blow your horn at the right times and the doors really do open.

Was it worth it? Did I get what I needed? It's been a pretty good use of time. We all could have talked to Greg more than we did but now none of us can contact him directly via everyday channels. We're all in the same place. Access to texts is helpful but if the secret is there in itself, I don't have it. You got to talk to him! Cherish that because you got in before the door closed in the face of every fan to come. My only real achievement is being the bona fide last member of the Issaries Trade Association, only arriving at that party when it was practically over. Being the last is still better than missing out entirely. 

The question is always where we go from here. You're going to do great things. I don't think Argrath is Arkat. I think his mother was eccentric and possibly a visionary as well, but the name and its resonances stuck. He leaned into mythology. That's where you are. I'd rather meet several independent illuminati than an Arkat at this point. Take the techniques and write a world. The materials you need will emerge when you need them. 

think-thought.thumb.png.139ad4f5ebb2aba7fa5d37596dd0abec.png--[]--

So I am loving these comparisons and hope all the secret keepers will pipe up, or at least a quorum. This is part of the challenge of publishing this story, of course. There's no authoritative text. We work with the version that finds us. Blue Arkat (June 24 1994 a/k/a 1987 etc . . . I think this is more or less the one on ebay right now) starts in a hilariously transitional state, so it's obviously the best fit for me. "I Remember When Arkat Was Born" is of course pulled out of Troll Gods and you already know the origin of Kingtroll. The man from the island is more elusive.

This one ends with "court martialed for doing sorcerous things."

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7 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

You got to talk to him! Cherish that because you got in before the door closed in the face of every fan to come.

I cherish it. I do. It was on 9/11, exactly one month before, which is part of the reason why it hit me as hard as it did.

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

A different one from 1990 where Greg mailed it to me in three parts

His process and communications coming out of Avalon Hill and into the shocking King of Sartar are highly undocumented. Kindly step into my humble spell trading kiosk, we have fresh juices and tobacco to loosen your reminiscences, I believe I am addressing "the historical" Mr Starling?

Edited by scott-martin
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As someone who "only" got into Glorantha 17 years ago, and who for logistical reasons doesn't get to cons, I find the existence of rare texts... frustrating.

 

EDIT: I do not say this as a criticism of Jeff's priorities, or how anyone here deals with them.  It's just.... they exist, and at that point, no matter how people manage them, I'm probably going to grumble.

Edited by Nevermet
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21 minutes ago, Nevermet said:

I find the existence of rare texts... frustrating.

It's hard but it's the world we have. They do emerge for those who keep their eyes open and their bow strings waxed. They did for me! As people know, I have never gotten a chance to attend a Chaosium-oriented game convention.

Those same people will probably be amused to hear that I forgot at least two significant early iterations of the Arkat story . . . one the short undated "Saga of Arkat Chaosbane" and the long handwritten "Arkat Saga" that appears in the RQ Classic reprint package and starts with "The Wife of Humakt." There must be 70-80 copies of that one circulating so when someone quits, dies or reprioritizes they'll come up. Then let fortune favor the bold! 

Because it's relatively "common," it would be funny if the handwritten saga is the one Greg thought he lost but I haven't done intense dating on those yet. One day we'll be able to make an educated guess.

Also at least one version of "July 20 1987" exists without any thinking or talking at all. Just starts right out with the monsters who didn't think we could see in the dark. It's a good haunted field. Still opportunities and upsets.

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35 minutes ago, Nevermet said:

As someone who "only" got into Glorantha 17 years ago, and who for logistical reasons doesn't get to cons, I find the existence of rare texts... frustrating.

But we are in the lucky position now that we see the REAL versions of long promised works get published eventually. 

I am sure that the Hrestol, Arkat, Jonat, Harmast etc. "novels" will become available at some point. But i understand that for Chaosium first priority has to be building a strong community for the RQG line before they add esoteric Glorantha Fiction to they portfolio. 

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55 minutes ago, Nevermet said:

no matter how people manage them, I'm probably going to grumble.

It's all right to grumble. Sometimes it changes the world, sometimes the world just changes.  I probably spent 20 years being p r o f o u n d l y bratty about the Seshnegite Book of Kings being unavailable at any price and I couldn't even score an affordable Nomad Gods to see what that damn Three Bean Circus was all about. Over time, windows opened, maybe just to shut me up. Maybe some day they'll all be open to everyone. 

For me (and I am talking too much, largely do demonstrate how someone distant from the fandom until fairly recently can still contribute to the overall noise) the biggest benefit of the hard-won rarities was confirmation that there isn't a vast amount of apocrypha weighing on all our own explorations. There really isn't a text in the archive that Greg was 100% happy with that we don't all have now in at least Stafford Library format. There are drafts, fragments, wrong turns and dead ends . . . but by definition, none of that stuff achieved formal completion. There's nothing Finished lurking to trip us up. All there is back there is ideas, possibilities, glimpses into his process.

That's hugely liberating. I hope everyone reading this can feel that anxiety of influence lift. You can make whatever you want out of the scraps left behind. It's how Greg actually worked. I needed to be sure so I checked and trust me, everybody's free (to feel good).

Now that said, the scraps are high-grade prompts and collectible in their own right. Some day there might be a critical edition showing how the ideas evolved and all scholars can work with all the notes. How great!

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2 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Some day there might be a critical edition showing how the ideas evolved and all scholars can work with all the notes. How great!

That would be awesome, but it doesn't seem likely. Maybe I'm wrong (I wish to be wrong), but I don't see the intelligentsia coming to consider Greg what he really was: one of the greatest creative minds of his time and the only creator (except maybe Tolkien) of constructed mythologies whose work has come close to capturing the complexity, ambiguity and overall-richness of real-world mythologies.

But hey, there have been others Vindicated by History. Only time will tell.

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