What’s in a Name?

Two of the questions I face most frequently are “How do you pronounce Cirsova?” and “Where did you get the name?”

The C is a hard (like in Latin) and is pronounced kɜrs oʊ və.

The name comes from back when Cirsova was a setting blog. Cirsova is the heartland imperial province.  Long before the ‘contemporary’ Cirsovan Empire came into being, a tribe called the Akhirs invaded and migrated to the riparian highlands, which became known as ‘the nest’ or ‘the egg’ of the Akhirs, “Akhirs’ Ova”, which eventually morphed into Cirsova.

I kept the name for the magazine because I already had the name for the website and because it’s the only thing that shows up if you Google it (for the first few years, searches would mostly turn up Alissa Firsova).


This Is Not the Fantasy Blog You’re Looking For…

My Choose Your Own Adventure Story, “City at the Top of the World”, takes place in the aforementioned setting during a time that pre-dates the arrival of the Akhirs, the founding of the Cirsovan Empire, and the fall of the Dreamers’ Polar kingdom (though the book presages this last event). It’s not exactly the sort of pulse-pounding pulp action you might expect considering the overall bent of the site lately, but if you’re curious about a CYOA ‘Weird’ fantasy, you might enjoy it. Seriously, one of these days, I’ll reformat the physical version of the book to make it easier to buy on Amazon.



Dragons, Dragons and Publishing

I want to see a highly insensitive turn-based economic-military strategy game based on The Dragon Masters.

Vance provides us with a handy value conversion via an exchange between one of the villains and a Jabba the Hutt-like* character upon which we can base the military economy of Happy Valley: 25 choice children are worth 3 dragons. It’s a little wobbly, as the trader doesn’t seem to take the evil lord of Happy Valley up on the offer, but it’s enough to give us an idea of how resources and commodities might work on Aerlith.

You’d need warrens & tunnels to crowd your people in, farms to feed your people and your dragons, breeders and trainers to fill your dragon army ranks and make them effective, and a surplus of women and children to trade for additional dragons and sundry magic items. Or something.

Speaking of dragons, I’m one big dragon-fight and a conclusion away from finishing the first draft of the short story I’ve been working on.

As for my other stuff, having the Cirsova book up on DriveThru was a bust, so I’ve gone back to Amazon exclusivity. At least there I could give my stuff away for free and it would get some downloads.

*The one from the original script and comics, not the slug muppet from the 3rd movie.

Minor updates

I’ve finally concluded that the story I’d been working on as a follow-up to City at the Top of the World is simply unworkable as a Choose Your Own Adventure story, and once you read it, you’ll see why.  I’m going to try to salvage what I’ve done and, with a few edits, simply publish it as a short story.

That said, I’m contemplating how to use the events in the short story as sort of a launching point for a CYOA – the CYOA that THIS story was originally supposed to be – one which will encompass an adventure around the Port of Syflanis and a journey to the Dreaming City.  As it was, there was just too much baggage attached to the story as I had been trying to tell for it to be conducive to such an adventure tale.  Once I write that story, I’ll include this one as supplemental material.

In other news, power was out at my parents, so I didn’t get to finish Bar-Lev.  My B/X game is postponed this weekend, so no Alfheim update for awhile.  Hugo drama also kept me getting around to writing up something on the 15 minute work day and playing a low level magic user, but I’ll try to get to it next week.  And thoughts on making Dead of Winter less terrible can keep for a few more days.

A (Very Rough) Cirsova Timeline

I don’t know if I ever shared this, but I came across some old Cirsova notes I’d used for some basic historical guide-lines.  These probably can’t be considered canon, but if you actually enjoyed the setting, you might get a kick out of them.

-500 Migration northward from the people from Ortia and Paelnor

-200 Pre-Cirsovan culture fully assimilated with the migrants

-100 Tower of Owen purportedly built

1 Gatia is founded

20 Cirsovan culture is unified, with Gatia as its capital

25 Ga Akana(1) dies, son Angar Akana(2) assumes throne.

38 Angar Akana(2) dies, son Ger Amia(3) assumes throne.

62 Ger Amia(3) dies, Nephew Orwen Gladus(4) assumes throne.

90 Orwen Akana(5) succeeds father, Orwen Gladus(4)

100 Paelnor invades Karkuras, Cirsova intervenes, unites three provinces.

110 Davou is fortified

120 Ortia is peacefully added to the Empire, Solaris becomes a major port city, exporting goods to lands unknown

125 Orwen Akana(5) dies, is celebrated as a god. Son(6) succeeds him.
127 Son(6) dies, brother(7) succeeds.
143 younger brother(7) dies, son(8) succeeds.
150 Southern Gatlia is settled,
155 (9)
156 (10)
173 (11)
180 Conquest of Ungoza, Delivals settled
189 (12) Orrin Acana succeeds his father(11)
200 Discovery of the Ungoza crater, first envoy from Polaris

210 the Long road is completed.

400ish, encyclopedia of the cirsovan empire written

You’ll note that by this timeline City at the Top of the World takes place roughly 1000 years before “present” of the setting as well as the book I’m kind of half-working on.  I’ve changed the scope of the follow-up book to be more about these two characters and their story, removing the aspects that worked in the original D&D adventure.  I feel that the tone didn’t quite work, even if I pulled a quantum narrative.  An urban and sea adventure in Gatlia doesn’t quite jibe with the horrifying setup of Altier being burned to the ground on the night of the Goash festival.  I think I’ll split off that aspect to be its own book.  Maybe even make that one second person?  I think this book works better to establish Percy and the conspiracy for the throne he’s involved in, but the limitations of a Choose Your Own Adventure format would make it difficult to explore both the setup through this main character AND allow the reader to explore and become involved with it.  I MIGHT go with a “canon” ending of the second book, though, to the extent that the characters from the 2nd book will remain relevant in 3rd, though they will not be the “player characters”.

Yeah, so about Twine

Just for the hell of it, since it seems like what the cool and hip people are doing, I downloaded Twine.  And I have created a Twine “port” of City at the Top of the World.  No, you can’t play it yet, because I don’t have anywhere to put it right now and free wordpress doesn’t let you upload html files.  You can play it here, but because of the upload type they use, you don’t get the full Twine experience of white text/black background/title frame on the left.

It took me a little under an hour, and I kinda half-assed some stuff (I didn’t fix hyphenations, for instance), and I’ve gotta say: I don’t think this qualifies as “Game Development”.

I feel like I did more coding when I manually built City in MS Word.  I sure don’t feel like I “developed” anything.  I mean, I didn’t even HTML.  So yeah, I can totally see why people who do actual coding type stuff look down on Twine and don’t consider people who make stuff in it real developers.

That said, aside from the fact that it doesn’t export in a format that can be published on dead tree pulp, it’s a pretty nice and fun little program decent for making a choose your own adventure story.

I can also see why there is a schism over Twine in Interactive Fiction communities.  I guess it depends on how you define interactive; if you define interactive as interacting with the text itself, sure, CYOA is interactive fiction.  But by that logic, so is reading a regular book, assuming the invisible cue to turn the page when you’ve finished the page you’re on.  If you define interactive as interacting with the environment and the fictional world in the piece, then most Twine games are pretty iffy.  Heck, the “game” aspect is kind of iffy, too, since it’s more of a click to the end type thing in a lot of cases.  I’m sure that there are ways that you could make something that’s far more “game”-like in Twine than a typical nodular fiction.  But why not let it be what it is?  A tool for writing branching fiction.  Branching Fiction isn’t a game in itself, but it certainly has its own merits, so there’s no reason to bother fighting to get it recognized as such.

Whatever.  I’m a double dev.  Cuz I developed my game in MS Word and then I coded a port in Twine.  Now I just gotta get Greenlit on Steam!

Or you could just buy the paperback from Lulu.

Buy My Book For Dirt Cheap!

Use the Promo Code: BELULUS  and get 28% off you order from Lulu.com!  This is a deal on physical copies of City at the Top of the World and any other stuff you might be wanting from Lulu.  City may not be up for a Hugo, but you won’t hate yourself for reading it, guaranteed!


Only $3.60 + Shipping W/Code!



Also, why not check out Dyson’s Delves while you’re at it?  I’m not an affiliate (so I don’t get any money from it) or patreon or anything, but 90% of the time I come across Lulu promo codes, it’s because Dyson’s the one sharing them.

Last Reminder: Comment for Free Copy of City at the Top of the World

This is the last call for anyone who wants a free copy of City at the Top of the World!  Leave a comment here or on the stickied post.  Your comment must be associated with a valid email.  A “Like” doesn’t count, because there is no email address associated with the Like.  Comment by no later than Sunday (or the wee hours of monday morning).  I’ll be sending the free copies out Monday.Alexcirsova-72dpi-1500x2000

Thoughts on Allegory in City at the Top of the World

I tried not to be too obsequious with the message behind City at the Top of the World, but I also tried to avoid blatant moralizing to the point where maybe the message is lost.

While Aeryn is a non-white protagonist, City at the Top of the World is a commentary on the decadence of technologically advanced cultures that have lost basic survival knowledge rather than a commentary on race, especially as the races and ethnicities in Cirsova aren’t exactly analogous to any potential real world counterparts.

The pale men of the North draw some inspiration from the Melniboneans in terms of how decadent their society has become, though I’ve tried to make them Dunsanian in their strangeness. While they are ‘fair’ and ‘pale’, the connotation is meant not in terms of race but in blandness. The society which they created is parallel to our own, where they have become victims of their own ingenuity and ability. While we today have an endless supply of diversions and seemingly limitless power to achieve what we desire, the knowledge to meet our basic needs to survive and react to change are severely lacking. Much like the Polarans, our only hope of survival will be looking to primitives of either today or our forebears for the means of carrying on. The big difference is the Polarans have opted to simply exploit the resources of those they deem primitive and inferior as a means of keeping their decadent pleasure culture afloat a little while longer.

I recall all of the constant complaints I see about magi-tech fantasy worlds, with continual light street-lamps and glyphs and wizard-mouths all over everything. One reason these settings irritate people is that they feel that the surfeit of magic undermines its magical-ness. What should be astounding is mundane. But these settings are often the logical conclusion of where a society with magic would end up. But in a world where all the lamps are magic, what happens when you don’t have magic and need light? What if the people have forgotten how to start a fire or can’t find food on their own without someone casting “Create Food & Water”? I wanted to explore that theme, but without using the typical steam-punkish magi-tech society template seen in a lot of modern fantasy settings.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on the stickied post to be sent a free copy of City at the Top of the World.

(Final note: if there’s hope for Steam RE: Hatred, maybe there’s hope for Onebookshelf RE: the Gamergate card game.  I certainly hope so.  Steve Wieck, please take note.)