And after two weeks of “oh my god, I’m never going to be ready for this presentation” I’m suddenly in a state of “wait, am I too read for this presentation?” Because it has to be ten to fifteen minutes long, telling the rest of the class what I’m doing my final paper on. (Which seems weirdly grade school for a graduate level class, but whatever.) I’ve been frantically reading for the last two weeks, when I wasn’t trying to get my novel written (see below) and today I finally said “okay, this last book is so musty it’s making me sick, so I’m just gonna start writing the presentation” which makes good sense, considering the presentation is on Thursday. Since I know what I want to write my Master’s Thesis on, the final paper and the accompanying presentation are both sort of fledgling versions of the thesis, starting to do the work that I’ll eventually do in a few semesters’ time. (Given where I am in this, I could technically start it next semester, I feel confident in saying, except for the fact that I’m way short on credit hours, and would thus have to keep taking classes after finishing my thesis, which would just feel weird.) Aaaaanyway, it’s sort of intellectual/cultural/gender-studies/LGBT-studies history (I feel like I’m making up a crazy new sub-category) following the way that cultural changes across the millennia have changed portrayals of the Trojan War in general, and Achilles in particular, with emphasis on his love life and especially his relationship with Patroclos. So I had to start out by telling what the myth is, in case people don’t know it (or only know bizarre Hollywood mutant versions), and then I go into the actual thesis, describing the changes to the myth and the changes in attitudes towards same-sex love that precipitated some (but not all) of the changes.
I’m only up to Shakespeare, and it’s already six pages long, single-spaced. I know I spent too long on the myth itself because it’s hard to know where to stop going into detail, but even so, this thing is going to be freakishly long by the time I’m done, since it doesn’t start getting complicated until after Shakespeare’s time. (Though as much as I hated Troilus and Cressida, I’m glad I read it: despite generally following the Dares/Dictys version of the myth that was the only one known in western Europe in the Middle Ages, Shakespeare knew just enough about the original to present at least the accusation of Patroclos being Achilles’ lover. (‘Tis never confirmed or denied, so what else to call it but an accusation?) And none of the books I’ve looked at that covered the Trojan War myth through time mentioned the fact that Shakespeare brought the homoerotic component back to the myth, despite how amazingly important that is!)
I don’t know how long it takes to read a single page of text (planning on reading it aloud once I finish it to time myself) but I’m quite sure it’s going to be way over 10-15 minutes. The good thing is, that means I should have plenty of information already to write my paper. The bad thing is, that means if I want to do my final paper right, incorporating as much information on the topic as I currently have…it’s probably going to be at least thirty pages. He did say we could turn in longer papers if we want, but I think that might be pushing it a bit too far. I’ll have to ask him about it in class.
So, NaNo! Well, as I may have said before I left for November (don’t remember, don’t feel like looking it up), my novel this year was to be called “Helen of Space” and it was to start out looking like a simple re-hash of the Trojan War, with the slight modification that it was taking place on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, and that both sides had giant robots. (So, Trojan War meets Gundam Wing, right?) But it only looks like that’s what’s going to happen, because then aliens attack and kill Paris before he can even meet Helen! (Only Helen has the same name, btw. Everyone else has different names kinda/sorta/maybe/a little like their original names. I’m just using the originals here to save time.) That was the original concept, which didn’t really go any further than the death of Paris. My ideas are often like that; I come up with the set-up, and charge ahead without thinking about what comes next. Since this was to be a NaNo novel, though, I kept coming up with more events as I awaited November’s start, so I had a lot more than that by the time I actually started writing. In fact, I had this wonderful full-circle thing, where it looks like the war is off, and then…Oops! It’s back on again! There’s even a fight between Achilles and Agamemnon that leads to Achilles withdrawing from the war. (Though the girl being taken away from Achilles isn’t Briseis this time (she already dumped him) but Iphigenia, so Agamemnon’s motivation is very, very different, and Achilles’ selfishness is more pronounced…but this time the war is neither clear-cut nor does it have any particular justification apart from mutual paranoia.) And just when things look worst, like it’s going to spiral down into death and despair as Cassandra predicts (poor thing; she remembers every single one of their reincarnations, where they’ve replayed the war over and over again), then the aliens come back, and the enemies become allies once more, and happy endings all around. Well, no, it’s not quite that pat, but characters live or die based on their own actions and on whether or not I want them to live or die, not based on what happened to them in the original myth. (Spoiler: neither Patroclos nor Hector is going to die. They’re my favorites, so I’m not letting anything happen to them!)
Given all the characters, all the interpersonal relationships, and the need to create a mounting atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust, I quickly realized that this wasn’t one novel: it was a whole freakin’ trilogy. And as November wore on and I learned how much work I had to do for class, I despaired of finishing even the first book during the month of November. (I know NaNo is technically supposed to be about writing 50,000 words, but for me that’s never been difficult, so I don’t consider myself to have won unless I’ve finished the whole first draft.) It took me all the way up to November 30, but I just barely managed to finish book one. Of course, now I don’t know what the title of book one is. I’ll probably still use “Helen of Space” for book three, but I have no idea about the first two.
And something is scritching around inside my wall, so I think I’m going to go take a bath where I (hopefully) can’t hear it.