Blast from the Past: Wayland, örlogg, and Wyrd

I’m getting ready to leave for LibertyCon in Chattanooga tomorrow.  No time to write up a blog post (and don’t expect much until next week).  So here’s one of my older ones with a little updating with a few additional thoughts interspersed.

Wayland (Völund) the Smith.

Wayland is a character in Germanic and Norse myth.  He was a smith of remarkable, even magical, skill.  In one version of the story he and two brothers lived with three valkyries.  Some say they were wedded to the valkyries but that’s not particularly important to the story.  In other versions they were swan maidens, not valkyries.  That too, is not particularly important to the story.

After nine years the valkyries left, never to return.  Wayland’s two brothers left as well, hoping to find the valkyries and they, too, never returned. Wayland retained a ring left to him by “his” valkyrie.

Some time later, the king Niðhad discovered Wayland and lusted after the many fine things Wayland had made on his forge and captured and imprisoned him.  To prevent any possibility of Wayland’s escape, the king had Wayland hamstrung.  For those who don’t know, this involves cutting the two large hamstring tendons in the back of the knee (and remember that this would have been in the iron age where no anesthetic was available).  He would have had to heal from that with no pain killer other than alcohol and nothing but luck and a strong constitution to stave off infection (no germ theory of disease, let alone modern antisepsis and antibiotics).  The tendons themselves would never heal and a person thus hamstrung would be unable to walk properly forever more.

Thus crippled, Wayland was forced to forge for the king.  However, far from being helpless, Wayland plotted revenge.  Over the course of it he seduced (or raped in some versions) and impregnated the King’s daughter, killed his two sons, and made drinking vessels from their skulls, jewels from their eyes, and a brooch from their teeth.  He sent these items to the king and queen who used them without knowing their gruesome origin.  And, finally, he made his escape using wings he fashioned in his smithy.

To modern Western sensibilities this seems utterly horrid.  Revenge against the king himself is one thing, but taking it out on the children who were presumably innocent of the crime?  To modern Western mind’s that’s beyond the pale.

Some have argued that the starkness of Germanic literature is a reflection of the harshness of the climate from which the Germanic people sprang, but I am dubious.  If you dig into it you find equally reprehensible (by modern Western standards) behavior by Greek heroes and others from much more “pleasant” climes.  One could simply say that life was held cheaply in the past, and “corruption of blood” (later generations held accountable for the crimes of their forebears) and there’s more than a little truth to that.   But, again, I don’t think that truly explains the tale of Wayland.

I think one of the important lessons in the tale of Wayland is that of Wyrd, or “fate.” Wyrd, also rendered as “Urd” is the name of one of the Norns that dictate the fates of men and gods.

Back when I first started investigating Asatru (and make no mistake, I am still investigating it), one of the books I read talked about Wyrd.  Extrapolating that description (and it’s my own extrapolation—I’ve lost the particular book and can’t say if I’m accurately representing the views of the author or not) “fate” is not something declared into being by any Gods or Goddesses, not even the Norns, but simply revealed by them.  It’s not a case of “it is because they say it” but rather “they say it because it is.” Instead, what creates the “fate”, the Wyrd, is the weight of events and choices made up to the moment.  That “weight of events and choices” is termed örlogg (again, if I remember correctly).  You create your own örlogg by the choices you make over life.  But örlogg isn’t just defined by your choices, but by all the choices behind you, including those of your parents and their parents and so on to the dawn of time.  The closer to you and to your “now” the greater the effect, but all of it affects your Wyrd.

With that context, the tale of Wayland becomes a cautionary one.  When the king enslaved and mutilated Wayland he added heavily on the negative side to his örlogg—and to that of those close to him including his wife and his children.  Wayland’s revenge, then, becomes in part a working out of the Wyrd of that örlogg.  He represents here simply the uncaring forces of nature reflecting evil back on evil in a shower that falls on the guilty and innocent alike.

And so the cautionary tale becomes to be careful what you do and who you harm because the harm reflects not just back on you, but on those around you that you care about, not because any deity delights in harming the innocent but simply because that is what harm does.


If the Asatru idea of fate and the Norns interests you, you might like my story The Spaewife.

$2.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read on Kindle Unlimited

What can a spaewife do, when even the gods are against her and the future she foresees is full of horrors?

For years Katla Gudmarsdottir told no one of the things the Norns, controllers of fate, told her were coming. She shared forecastings of when to plant and when to harvest and other simple things, but not the dread visions the Norns gave her.

Now Ulfarr, the Foul one, has kidnapped her and holds her children hostage for her foretelling.

And alone, forsaken even by the Norns, Katla must save herself, her children and her people.

Productivity and the Economy.

Robots are going to put people wholesale out of work!

Been hearing that refrain much?

Or recently there was a post online that implied that Solar was better than Coal or Gas from the perspective of employing more people to produce the a given amount of energy:

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If we switch from Coal and Gas to solar we’ll employ more people producing energy Ms. Kohn implies.

Yay?

No, not yay.

Go back to basic, basic economics.  What does wealth actually consist of?  Is it money?  Can you eat money?  Can you drive money to work?  Ride it to a pleasant destination for a vacation?  Stay in money when you get there?  Watch money for entertainment?  Read money? (While there are some words on most money, I find it rather lacking in plot and character development.)

No, money is not wealth.  In the end it’s simply a scorekeeping system representative of goods and services.  The money isn’t wealth.  What you can buy with it is wealth.

And this is the basic principle:  the more goods and services that are available to you as an individual, the wealthier you are as an individual.  Likewise, the more goods and services available to a society the wealthier that society.

So to make a society richer, so that the individuals within it can be richer, you need to make more goods and services available.

Humans have been trying to do that–to produce more goods and services out of the finite amount of time and effort available from the sum total of people able to engage in that production since the first individual hooked up an ox rather than his brother to his plow.  Instead of one guiding and one pulling they now had two brothers each able to guide separate plows and since oxen can pull farther and longer than ones brother, each was able to put more land into cultivation.  So instead of a family barely being able to feed itself (if they were lucky) a family could feed a small community, a community of potters, of stonemasons, of glaziers and smiths, of artists and craftsmen of all forms.

This was the birth of civilization.

And it continued.  The widespread use of water mills in the middle ages replacing much that was done with muscle power before.  Steel mills with water powered triphammers forging iron products in a fraction of the time that hammers driven purely by a smith’s arm could accomplish.

Then came steam and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.  Early automation in the form of punch-card looms.

There have certainly been complaints about these new advances putting people out of work.  A movement supposedly started by an individual who was probably mythical “Ned Ludd” arose to object vociferously and violently to the use of automated looms.  However, the automation proceeded and far from putting people out of work the economic boom created jobs in wholesale lots.

Thus it has been with every major increase in productivity–in producing more goods and services with less human time and effort.  The changes, despite doomsday predictions, have invariably led to more goods and services being available, often goods and services that the people before the change could never even have imagined.  The societies have become wealthier.  And the people within them have become wealthier.

When changes happen quickly, there can be a period of disruption while things adjust.  And the change is not without pain.  But then, nothing worthwhile is without pain, whether it’s a skill acquired, improvement in ones physical condition, all the way up to a newborn baby.  Change and growth are painful.  But then, so are stagnation and death.  In the former case, the benefits more than outweigh the transitional pains.

This is why silly claims like “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” can never be sufficiently mocked.  The “poor” of today have at their fingertips wealth that not even the wealthiest of a hundred years ago could have dreamed.  A cell phone.  A cheap, smartphone on a “prepaid minutes” plan–costing about one full day’s work at unskilled labor rates–giving the person who owns it access to more information than even existed a hundred years ago, by several orders of magnitude.

Or they can use it to watch videos of cats.

Productivity creates wealth.  And that benefits everybody.

Turning back the clock, requiring more human time and effort, to produce the same goods and service–including the energy required for the production of other goods and services–depletes wealth, makes everyone poorer, harms everybody.

You want to create jobs?  Don’t make energy more expensive in terms of the effort needed to generate it.  Look to how to use the cheaper energy available to us to create more goods and services.  That benefits everybody and not just those getting the “new jobs” at the expense of making things worse for everybody else in a decline that in the end will hurt them too.

Snippet from a Work in Progress

Currently titled “Study in Black and Red”.  Looks to be a short novelette, probably in the 8000 word range.

Leslie slid the key into the lock of his apartment door.  Karen, his girlfriend, not content to wait until they were within tickled the back of his neck.

Leslie pushed the door open and turned.  Karen melted into his arms and tilted her face up for Leslie’s kiss.

“It’s been a long day,” Leslie said as he broke the kiss. “Make yourself comfortable while I grab a quick shower.”

“Don’t take too long.”

While the apartment was in one of the less affluent districts of town it did have plenty of hot water.  A few minutes later Leslie stepped out of the shower and wrapped a robe around himself.

A cloud of vapor billowed out of the bathroom when Leslie opened the door.  He did not see Karen but did see the open door to his studio.

Despite the warmth of the humid air Leslie felt a shiver run up his spine.

“Not again.”

He crossed the hallway to the studio, his feet leaving wet footprints on the fake wood floor.  In the studio he saw Karen looking up at a painting, a big twenty-four by thirty-six piece.  Acrylic on canvas.

“Leslie, this is your best one yet,” Karen stood admiring the painting. “If a bit dark.”

The painting showed Philadelphia burning.  Thick black smoke blotted out the sky.  Tiny people ran, clearly screaming, in the streets beneath buildings engulfed in flame.

His work.  His painting.  Any inspection would show that.  From his signature in the lower right corner to the style.  Right down to the brush strokes.

The only problem was Leslie did not know where the painting had come from.  It had not been there when he had left for his date with Karen.  More than a dozen times he had found paintings in his studio, his paintings, but with no memory of having painted them.  He thought he had been sleep-painting or having some kind of fugue state.  But this one?  He had not even been home and here the painting was, a painting showing a terrible scene of fire and death.  But a painting that was clearly his work.

Where had it come from?

Getting my Daughter into Shooting Competition

 

Some time back when my daughter was on one of the local swim teams she came to me with a request.  She wanted to get a cartilage piercing in her ears.  She already had the typical lobe piercing.

I’m generally willing to allow her fashion choices so long as they aren’t too outre or cause permanent issues that she may end up regretting later.  This was something I was willing to allow but I wanted to make sure she was serious and, frankly, this was a good opportunity to get her to push beyond her “comfort zone”.  So I told her that she could do it if she qualified for Divisionals on the swim team for at least one event.  This requires meeting a qualifying time and was well within her capability if she pushed hard.

As things happened however, because of reasons beyond her control, swim team became an issue and she could not continue.  She, however, still wanted to get the cartilage piercing so I told her “find something else to make a good challenge.  Bring it to me and if I approve we’ll make that the challenge.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“That’s up to you,” I said. “Maybe it could be related to your art, maybe to your cello, maybe to your shooting (She’d started shooting seriously about September of last year), but you come up with something.  Coming up with something is part of the challenge.”

Okay, it didn’t quite go down like that.  There was more back and forth, but that was the essence.

So, yesterday she came back to me with the idea of getting into shooting competition, but she was having trouble finding something.

I was pleased enough by her choice that I decided to help her out.  I did some looking at my own using my Google-fu and… Wow.  that was confusing.  I’m big on rights but I’m only a moderate “gun geek” and know next to nothing about the competition side.  Fortunately, I had a resource she did not have:  I have a bunch of friends who are gun-guys on Facebook.  Plus, I’m a participant in several groups where a lot of gun guys hang out.  So I asked.

One of the issues is that right now budget is tight.  She’s welcome to use anything in my safe but most of it really isn’t suited to her size.  She’s got use of an AR pattern rifle with a 22LR upper at the moment (the adjustable stock lets her use it whereas mine, set up like the M-16 I trained on in the Air Force, has a stock a bit long for her) and I’ve got a couple of handguns she can handle.  But the only thing I have in 22LR is a cheap piece of junk I bought when I didn’t know any better.

I received several suggestions.  One was to attend an Appleseed event, which seems like a good idea if we can work the scheduling and find an event nearby.  Others included International Practical Pistol Confederation, Olympic style shooting, and others that looked to be rather expensive even at a beginning level.

One that was suggested, however, was rimfire steel challenge. That looked fairly straightforward, something a bit different from the slow-fire target shooting she’d been doing.  I found this video demonstrating it:

So I went looking for local clubs.  There isn’t one in my town.  The nearest is 35 miles away.  The nearest with a web site is 40 miles away.  However the regular range we go to is 60 miles away so that’s not a problem.  I’ve contacted them and asked what I need and how to get her started in it.

So, it’s a start.

Feeding the Active Writer: chocolate dessert omelet.

As I have mentioned from time to time I have a big sweet tooth.  But when you’re on a low-carb diet that’s a challenge.  Here’s a quick and easy recipe to make a sweet treat   If you’re not on a low-carb diet feel free to substitute sugar for the sweetener.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1 Tbsp “Splenda” or equivalent sweetener.
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.

Preheat a skillet over low heat.

In a small bowl combine the ingredients.  Beat with a fork or wisk until well mixed.  It’s important to make sure it’s well mixed.  Any unmixed cocoa will be gritting and bitter in the final product.

Oil the skillet (I use a cooking spray) then pour the egg mix into the skillet.  Tilt the skillet in all directions until the egg mix is spread thin.

Cook until the top of the egg mix starts to solidify.

with a thin but wide spatula starting at one edge of the eggs start rolling it.  Roll until you reach the other end.

Cook a minute or two, turning once or twice to let it finish cooking through.

Transfer to a plate and enjoy.

 

The Kinmar: a new cover and description

I recently updated the cover art and the description for my fantasy novelette “The Kinmar”, part of my Knights of Aerioch series. (As of this writing, it still hasn’t worked its way through Amazon’s system.)

I have been told that the purpose of the cover is to cue genre, not to illustrate the book.  The cover for this needs to say “fantasy” which this new cover does far better than the old one:

kinmar v2 web.jpg

Likewise the old description of the story was weak.  So we have a new one.

Knight partners Kreg and Kaila cannot allow raiders to plunder the land unchallenged, even when they find themselves far afield without time to seek reinforcements.

Heedless of the risk they pursue, only to be ambushed not by human raiders, but by a band of kinmar, half-beast half-human creations left over from the Changeling War.

Kaila must leave behind the gravely wounded Kreg, hidden. His only hope of survival is for her to draw away the remaining beasts, a daunting and perilous task. Moreover, can Kreg stand to let his love face death without him?”

The book remains available on Kindle for $2.99 or free to read on Kindle Unlimited.  When I have enough shorts in this series I hope to collect them into a paperback but we’re not there yet.

Others in the series include:

$4.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited, $14.99 in Paperback

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!


Always $0.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited.


Baroness Talisa leads the last few surviving members of her household through the mountains in the dead of winter, fleeing the changeling hordes that have destroyed the kingdom. In that world of white and gray she stumbles on an oasis of green, a garden, sacred to Treva, goddess of the wild things of the world. There, Talisa encounters the enigmatic guardian of the place who possesses great and mysterious magical power and who claims Talisa’s life as forfeit for trespassing in Treva’s Garden.

 

Time for some Thrilling Heroics

As a reader I’ll forgive a lot if you give me some thrilling heroics in your story.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a TV show, a play, or an audio presentation.  Give me excitement.  Give me derring-do.  Give me reason to cheer.

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Add in a love story, and you’ve got me hooked.

Sure, you don’t need to have fast-paced heroism, and clear heroes and clear villains, to involve me in a story.  But, to be honest, it’s just easier to bring me in with that kind of story.  Give me someone to root for, someone to boo, a threat faced, a challenge overcome, and I’m happy.

Does this mean that you can skimp on deep character development or involved world building.  Eh.  Not really.

The key there is thrilling heroics.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t care about the hero, about those threatened, even bystanders along the way.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t believe the hero, and the villain, would act the way they do.  You can get away with less depth in lesser characters because by definition they don’t do much and we only need enough to do.  If the cab driver is just taking Our Hero from the airport to the hotel we don’t need to know that he washed out of law school, went on a month long bender that broke him up with his fiance and ended up in rehab before finally starting to put his life together and getting a job driving taxi (at least he’d never had a DUI even while drunk out of his mind).  But we have to believe that Our Hero is going to charge through machine gun fire into a burning building for someone he hardly even knows.  So you’ve got to have your character developed enough that when that happens we believe it.

Likewise with world building.  I’ve got to believe the threat.  And I’ve got to believe the actions available to the character.  It can be as simple as a modern cell phone.

A good example of that is the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In a group devoted to discussing the series someone made the comment that it was strange that Buffy and her friends (collectively known as the “Scoobies”) didn’t use cell phones to keep in touch and coordinate their actions.  However, when the series was made, particularly the first few seasons, cell phones were still high end items and not in common usage.  I didn’t have my own cell phone until the third season was out.

So if your characters have cell phones (which here is a stand-in for whatever bit of worldbuilding might affect the plot) then either have your characters use them when appropriate or give them a good reason not to.

So, develop your character.  Develop your world.  Hell, put in a “message” if that’s what you want.  But wrap it up in some thing for me to care about.

And if you succeed in that wrapper, your prose can limp a little.  I can let the occasional lapse in other aspects pass.  I’ve done it before.  I can do it for you.

So give me some thrilling heroics.

And if you can throw in a love story.  That’s good too.

And if you give me that, well, that’s the kind of thing that gets me to give you money in return.