It's Friday. It's the end of the week, and I'm finally getting back on schedule after last weekend's cold/migraine horror.
I've been planning this post for ages, and I've been terrified of writing it because it means I have to hold my hand up and confess to some things that are difficult to say. I've been aware of these uncomfortable things but avoided them for so long.
TL;DR: I'm retconning Amnar. I feel like I can do this because I'm a literal nobody. Although I have published some Amnar books, because they were self-published, I still have the opportunity to look back at my work and consider whether this is the work I want it to be.
TW: This post will mention events from the last ten years. Some of the retconning I'm doing is small and harmless (techno-magical iPhones, anyone?), but not all of it. I'm doing this considering the MeToo Movement, Black Lives Matter, and even (horror of horrors) J K Rowling.
Some people might say I don't need to do any of this. After all, nobody reads my work, and nobody's said anything. But I want to do it because it explains why I write in the first place.
I've had an imaginary world in my head my whole life, and I also grew up reading books that fuelled my imagination and supported me during some of the worst periods in my life. When I started writing fiction as an adult, my only real motivation for sharing it was that I wanted to give others a space to feel safe and excited, and welcome.
I was bullied throughout my childhood and adolescence. I know how important having a fictional world to dive into can be for surviving those experiences and recovering from them afterward. I was too old for Harry Potter to be my defining childhood space, but I feel so much for those who found those stories comforting and welcoming. I have been going through a process of realising that this world was not nearly as welcoming as I thought.
On the one hand, there are critiques of how this world treats House Elves and Goblins. I'm not going to go into detail here, but there is an excellent video essay by Shaun here presenting a thorough guide:
On the other, J K Rowling's politics have made it much harder for people to continue to invest in and enjoy the world. I've felt the same way very much. I came to Harry Potter late, but I still feel uncomfortable whenever I think about it. This video essay explains a lot of how I feel about it:
Hence, as I work on Amnar now, I'm rethinking some aspects of the world and the themes I want to explore.
Where We Begin
Let's start with the easy stuff. I've struggled to write fiction for the last twelve years or so. I've desperately wanted to write, but my mental health has been such that it's been almost impossible. I keep thinking I'll be able to start writing again. Then I fall apart.
Since 2009, I've been incredibly ill. It turns out I was Autistic all along, but it's taken me about nine years to get a doctor to listen to me, take me seriously, and allow me to get a diagnosis. Once that happened, I found I could start thinking more coherently about myself, my life, and what I wanted to do with it. That includes suddenly finding it easier to get back into what is my core Autistic special interest: Amnar.
The most straightforward changes I'm making are to the structure of the world. This includes exploring how the magical system works and what it allows in terms of technological development. That's the fun stuff, and it's incredible what words you can stick "Am" in front of and make them valuable and exciting new phenomena.
The Tough Stuff
This is where things get challenging.
In 2012, I self-published The Execution. It was a redraft of an Amnar novella I originally wrote in 2005, and I made very few changes to it then. The story is set in 4765 SA/AA and deals with a false accusation of rape.
I don't remember when this started making me uncomfortable, but it did. It still does. I frequently remove The Execution from sale because, aside from the fact that it needs a much more robust and precise ending, there are many aspects of the story I look back and think, "Argh, no."
At the time, I didn't think through the story's theme, and I never considered the theme much at all. I confess this right now: I didn't spend much time interrogating my ideas and why I might write a story like that.
I've experienced both sexual assault and rape. I also feel differently about aspects of Amnari culture as it appears in those books, especially as I've read more about structures and power dynamics and how they play out in sexual and non-sexual ways.
At the time of writing this post, I'm not sure what to do with that story. But I want to put it out there. If I write about rape, sexual assault, and the dynamics of sexuality, I want to do it in a more considered, conscious manner.
In Conclusion, Therefore...
The Amnar I wrote about in the early 2000s has evolved. It's growing up like I've grown up (kind of). I doubt many people will notice since I don't have any readers. Yet, for anybody who's popped up and asked to reread The Execution, ten years on, that's why the world I write about in the future will look and feel somewhat different.