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Fanfic! From me! Any moment now, expect a pale horse to ride by and someone to start opening seals..

18th May 2011 (01:39)

Hi! It's only been over a month since I last posted anything at all, and over three since I posted fic. But guess what I have now? A multi-part 21,642-word new installment of Hiywan's Story, that's what. I'm planning to post two chapters a day to avoid overloading people's friends pages, but the story is 100% complete and written. \o/ (You may remember me posting a poll asking about Buffy's characterisation back in March; that's pretty much how long I've been writing this.

The story is a continuation of Last To Ancient First, which I wrote last year. If you haven't read or don't remember that story, the recap is simple enough: Buffy has been sent back in time 8,000 years to prehistoric Africa, where she joins up with the clan the First Slayer was born into - but by accident, she arrives about three years too early. Before the Slayer was made, and while she's still just a normal girl called Hiywan. Well, relatively normal...

Note that I have retconned a couple of elements of the 2010 fic in this continuation, mostly to make the story canon-compliant with the end of Season 8. Non-readers of Season 8 needn't worry about that: no knowledge of its plot is necessary outside of what's explained in this fic.

In essence, this a story about culture clash. I take a familiar character, Buffy, and throw her into a completely unfamiliar situation where she's hopelessly lost, to see how she copes. Hiywan too is a character close to my heart, and I always enjoy writing her reactions to things as first-person fic. She's always very forthright about what she thinks, but it's fun to occasionally hint that she doesn't always understand herself or the people around her quite as well as she thinks she does.

I had another reason for creating this, too: I realised that while I've written an awful lot of words about Hiywan, something I've very rarely done is include descriptive passages. What people look like, what their homes are like, what they do all day. It's rarely necessary in fanfic, because we already know what Willow looks like, what Xander does for a living, what 1630 Revello Drive is like. Spending half a page on a description of them would be silly. But habitually skipping the descriptive text is not such a good idea when it comes to original characters. The inspiration for 'Last To Ancient First' came from me imagining what a modern-day visitor to a Stone Age encampment would notice; what differences from today's world would be most striking.

Plus, of course, I love world-building. I had a background in RPGs before I ever got into writing fic, and it still comes out sometimes. :-)  (And just in case of confusion: that's Role Playing Games not Rocket Propelled Grenades.) I've done a lot of research of hunter-gatherer societies to write Hiywan's Story... although any mistakes should of course be chalked up to the Buffyverse being different from the real world, and narrative necessity trumping realism. ;-) I've got stacks of notes and ideas about Hiywan's world and society, very little of which has ever found its way into fic - mostly because it's way too abstruse and arcane, of course. (Seriously, ask me any question you like about her culture and society; I've probably got an answer. Or if not, your question will prompt me to think of one.)

I should warn that the story doesn't shy away from the more, well, down-to-earth aspects of Stone Age life. That was the point of writing it, after all: to show the contrast with the modern world. Squeamish people read at your own risk. (Well okay, it's not that bad really. But I do include a vivid description of how to gut and skin an antelope, based on accounts of Native American practices...)

On the other hand the usual disclaimer applies. Hiywan is a character, not an authorial mouthpiece. She isn't me. (In origin, actually, I wanted her to be a mixture of Buffy's stubbornness and heroism, and early-Willow's intelligence and sense of alienation from her culture.) The Mesolithic society I describe, with its social customs and laws, is intended to be consistent and plausible and true to what we actually know of prehistory, but not necessarily How Things Really Were. It's certainly not my prescription for an ideal society. A lot of it came from me starting with established datapoints about them and then extrapolating, and sometimes being really surprised myself at what I ended up with.


I hope you enjoy the fic.


Comments

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 18th May 2011 02:50 (UTC)
willow kill brain

I am, very much. This fic is one of the best things I don't mind waiting for.

Never did RPG beyond basic D&D and 2nd edition, but I know exactly what you mean. Even now I'm staring at the stack of dead trees covered with notes for my Xena epic, including that ultimate sign of the D&D geek, a map.

My question: What's the extent of agriculture in Hiywan's society -- both in terms of food supply, as opposed to hunting and gathering, and in terms of how "tied to the land" they are in any and every sense?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th May 2011 10:20 (UTC)
firstslayer-buffyforums

Glad you're enjoinyg it!

I've got lots of self-drawn maps at home - although I've not done one for Hiywan's Story: I'm still at the stage where it works better for me if the landscape isn't pinned down.

What's the extent of agriculture in Hiywan's society

None, in practical terms. They don't think in those terms at all.

They do have a traditional territory, but it's thousands of square miles in size. They normally do a circuit of it once every 2-4 years, staying in one place for a period of weeks to months then moving on again.

Because their ancestors have lived there for centuries, if not millennia, they do have very good knowledge handed down in oral tradition of which foodstuffs are available in different parts of their territory at which seasons, and they plan their wandering to make maximum use of this.

They also have traditional campsites which they return to as they pass through a particular region - originally selected for the availability of firewood and fresh water, but over the generations turning into "We've always camped here". I cover this more in Chapter Two. They also have sacred sites, most importantly the cave complex at Five Trees that the clan is named after.

They've moved a little way away from living purely hand to mouth. They've discovered how to smoke meat on a small scale to preserve it, and know that some foodstuffs such as wild grain last longer than others - but as a rule they don't deliberately create a surplus.

I mentioned in one fic that they have "legends" of culture heroes taming wolves to be a companion, although nothing like that appears in this actual story. I understand that domesticating dogs preceded agriculture, though it possibly inspired the domestication of cows, pigs and sheep eventually.

As a final point: I chose 6000 BC deliberately as the time setting for this story, because while the Five Trees clan are still pure hunter-gatherers, agricultural society has just started to flourish elsewhere, in Egypt, Sumeria and the Fertile Crescent.

See: told you I had lots of background notes! Thanks for asking. :-)

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 18th May 2011 15:55 (UTC)

Exactly the kind of detail I was hoping for! Noticed the cultural gap already in your latest installment that "of course" nobody would think of stealing -- that concept only starts to take shape the more people think about "something to steal" in the first place. Naturally, as a staunch paleo anarch, I approve :) And this is way more fun than Earth's Children, which I still can't believe I slogged through the final volume of all while thinking bloody hell, at least half the fanfic I read is better than this.

(The same thoughts, btw, thatI had when reading the DEXTER books, which I only read more than one of because I read so fast and I was criminally bored and kept hoping it would get better. It didn't.)

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 18th May 2011 15:58 (UTC)

Also, the ending of the last Earth's Children book, while actually not a half-bad explanation of some of the transitions of human societies, made me wonder just how much wankish fanrage there had to have been at the author's seeming betrayal of all that was right and good in utopian primitive matriarch-land.

(Ever have one of those days when you look at a sentence for years and you know there's nothing wrong with it, but it still seems like there is?)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th May 2011 22:07 (UTC)

Thanks!

When it comes to stealing, I see the entire clan operating much on the level a nuclear family would operate today. Most things are common family (clan) property and anyone can use them - although making sure everyone get a fair share is still a big deal. But some people have sentimental attachment to specific items - Hiywan's spear is a big deal to her, for instance, as you might remember from the original fic - and that's the closest they get to the concept of individual private property.

I don't think I ever read the last Earth's Children book, although I won't deny the earlier ones had at least some influence on me. :-)

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