Friday, September 30, 2011

Witchy Newton

Thalanes dug into Calvin’s pack and pulled out his powderhorn.  He shook a pinch of the gunpowder into the palm of one hand.  “I want you to use this gunpowder as a material component of the gramarye.  “Just like you used three drops of blood back in Nashville, in your love-charm in Father Angleton’s tent.”

Sarah blushed, thinking of poor Calvin, still smitten.  “I think I can do that,” she agreed.

“The gunpowder serves the same function as the words,” Thalanes explained.  “They both just build a bridge, to get power from you into the fire.”

“Of course,” Sarah said, feeling slightly offended.  “Just like the blood in my love-charm.”

“Forgive me a little lecture,” Thalanes said, “but I am, after all, a priest.  Sir Isaac Newton, you probably know, was a great wizard.”

“Everyone knows that.”

“He was a great practicing magician and an even greater theoretical one.”

“He wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Magica just the year before he joined John Churchill’s Glorious Revolution against the Necromancer’s Eternal Commonwealth.  Everyone knows that, too.”

Thalanes smiled.  “Perhaps not everyone.”

“Okay, but I know it.”

“Have you read the book?”

Sarah shook her head.  “The Elector’s got a library, but it isn’t that good.”

“Read it when you can.  Newton formulated two laws to explain the efficacy of a material component in any work of gramarye.”

“This I don’t know.”

“I’m glad to hear I am finally able to teach you something you don’t already know.”  Thalanes laughed.  “Newton’s Law of Sympathy states that things that appear to be connected, are in fact connected.  And his Law of Contagion states that things that have once been together, are always together.”

Sarah screwed on her thinking cap and tried to apply Newton’s laws to the lighting of the fire and the little pile of gunpowder in Thalanes’s palm.  “So the gunpowder is an efficacious material component,” she said slowly, “because gunpowder and fire appear to be connected, so they really are.”

“Very good.”

She considered further.  “I suppose if I hold the gunpowder in my hand and then throw it into the fire when I cast, then I also catch up the Law of Contagion.  Me, the gunpowder and the fire will always be together.”

“Excellent,” Thalanes said.  “You would have run circles even around old Palindres.”  He poured the gunpowder into her hand, carefully dusting all of the grains off his fingers into the neat little pile.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Iron Andy's Reputation

Bob clucked like a chicken.  “Po’ little Angus, gettin’ scairt by a girl!”

“To hell with the girl!” Angus barked.  “I’d chop her to pieces right here and now and eat her heart raw and not miss a wink of sleep over it.  But iffen she really is Iron Andy’s daughter?  Damn right, I’m a little nervous!  Ain’t you?”

Bob spat in the leaves.  “You only die once.  Don’t be such a damn coward.”

“I ain’t afraid of dyin’.  I’m afraid of gettin’ my tongue cut out, and havin’ my fingernails torn off, and bein’ hung from a tree by my own guts while I’m still alive as a warning sign.  They say he crucified people in the Ohio Forks War.  They sat he took scalps.  They say he’s the one as killed George Washington, stabbed him in the heart in his sleep with Washington’s own sword.”

“All that shit you heard about the Elector jest ain’t true,” Bob said.  “The Calhouns spread those notions around to make people scairt of ’em.  Besides, didn’t nobody kill George Washington, John Penn bought him off with a bunch of land somewhere and he jest up and quit.  Pontiac’s the one they killed, and it was hangin’, not no midnight assassination.  And iffen any of it is true, it happened a long time ago.  He’s jest an old feller now with a lot of rough Cracker grandsons who live out in the woods, stealin’ cattle, drinkin’ home-made corn likker and sportin’ with their own sisters.”

“You ain’t from around here,” Angus muttered.  “You don’t know.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm working on a rewrite the main objective of which is to get more milieu detail into my novel Witchy Eye.  This is fun, and it has me thinking about ways to communicate milieu to a reader, in any book in which the setting is not already familiar.  Here are some ideas.  This list is not exhaustive.

  • If you have an omniscient voice, can simply tell it.  I tend not to write this way, but to stick closer to a character.
  • You can physically describe distinctive objects.  (Don't waste a lot of time physically describing objects that aren't distinctive.)
  • You can insert in-world documents, poetry or songs.
  • Your POV character can remember details to help him interpret things that are happening to him.
  • Your characters can make allusions to the setting, tell jokes, insult other characters, etc., using references to the setting, especially where those references already have some meaning to the reader, or where multiple references can build up and create meaning.  Be careful.  A bunch of such references that aren't explained or tied together just add up to the indistinct realization that This Place Isn't Earth.
  • You can show culture in the behavior of characters.  Are they fatalistic?  Individualist?  Xenophobic?  You can show cultural interaction by showing the interaction of characters from those cultures.
  • Bringing characters to a milieu who are not native to it gives you scope to describe the milieu through their impressions and reactions.  The more foreign the newcomer is, the more you can describe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Essential Classics: The Child Ballads

If you read many liner notes or recollections of sixties folkies, you will inevitably come across references to the Child Ballads, expressed either exactly like that or else as follows: "this song is a variant of Child #86."

"Child Ballads" does not mean songs for children.  It refers to the printed texts of songs called The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, collected by Francis James Child.  Words only, no music.  These are ballads, a structure we have discussed before: they are narrative songs, often recounting real historical events, characterized structurally by a series of identically-organized verses.

The Child Ballads were a wellspring for the folk revival, and continue to inspire musicians and writers today.  Unless you're a folkie, you're not going to recognize most of these songs on first sight -- and that makes them worth reading.  And some of them, you just might know... "Matty Groves" or "Barbara Allen"or some of the songs about Robin Hood, for instance.  Enjoy.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Hey, passed 3000 pageviews.  I'm sure the 1,000,000 mark is just around the corner.  If I cluttered up my blog with ads I could make, like, a nickel.

What Is Steampunk? (City of the Saints: Edgar Allan Poe)

Another illustration from Jeff:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stephen Foster (II): I Dream of Jeannie and Beautiful Dreamer

As part of my ongoing crusade for cultural literacy, here are two more Stephen Foster songs.

And that last one really needs an encore.

Seriously, Stephen Foster was the bomb.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stephen Foster (I): Oh! Susanna and Hard Times, Come Again No More

Stephen Foster was the great American songwriter of the nineteenth century.  Here are a couple of his you may recognize.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unconventional Narrator: Brian Selznick

In his novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick introduced us to a striking and, to my knowledge, unique style of storytelling.  Hugo Cabret alternated between prose narration and sections where there were no words, only pictures.  In other words, the pictures were not illustrations of the words: there were sections where the words told the story, and sections where the pictures told the story.

Hugo Cabret was a great book that suffered, I think, in the story department.  Now Selznick is back with a new-this-month encore called Wonderstruck.  Wonderstruck uses the same narrative technique, with a slight twist: from the beginning, the book tells two different stories, parallel but fifty years apart.  One of them is narrated (almost) entirely in prose, and the other entirely in pictures.  Late in the book, charmingly, the stories intertwine, and the storytelling becomes more Hugo Cabret-esque, alternating simply between words and pictures carrying the same story.

Wonderstruck is a stronger story than Hugo Cabret.  Without giving away any plot twists, Wonderstruck is also about deaf people, which makes it a story singularly suited to Selznick's unique narrative chops.  This is a wonderful book.  You should read it for its charm and human warmness, and you should read it for an example of innovative storytelling.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Google+ Writing Circle Project

Challenge Word: Trail

            Obadiah returned with his simple wooden bowl and Ezekiel took it. 
“Let us contrive a tool,” he said to his servant, and he laid the hairs into the bottom of the bowl and then poured some of his drink, a little light beer, over them.  From his pocket he produced a vial of quicksilver and let a small drop roll into the beer.  It plunked into the golden liquid as if it were a solid metal marble and rolled down into the bottom of the bowl, coming to rest on the thick black hairs.
Obadiah looked like he was holding his breath.
            Ezekiel cleared his mind and let it fill with an image of the girl, as he had seen her that morning.  Pasty white skin, angry red eye, ragged black hair, sluttish dress.  He thought of her essence, of the blasphemy that she was, the Unsouled blood staining the holy escutcheon of the House of Penn, and he willed all those images into the bowl, into the beer, into the hair and mercury.
            He took the wooden bowl in his two hands and leaned in close, the exhalations from his nostrils on the beer like the breath of God on the waters of the First Day.  He felt his will gathering in his throat, and, closing his eyes, he formed it into words to push it into the compass he was creating.  Ani mechapes yaldah,” he muttered in Hebrew, and he felt his power moving through the words of the dead language into the bowl, “ani mechapes yaldah.”
            As he finished speaking, he opened his eyes and looked into the bowl.  The drop of quicksilver trembled as his incantation activated it, then steadily rolled up, through the beer, moving along the hairs and turning them with it until it bumped against the wall of the bowl and stopped, quivering, dragging the tail of hairs out behind it like a comet or an arrow.
            “Zounds,” Obadiah muttered. 
            “This will take you straight to her tonight,” Ezekiel told Obadiah.  “But you’ll need some help.  Go to the market and gather three or four big men; I’ll wait here for you.  Take my purse, offer them a crown each for a few hours’ work.  If they’re reluctant, go as high as a pound.  Take the Warrant to show them, in case any of them are worried about law.”
            Obadiah stood gingerly to go, adjusting his belt under his paunch.  “Aye, father,” he said simply.
            “If any of them are worried about sin,” Ezekiel told his servant before letting him go, “assure them that I’ll give them absolution, in advance.”  He smiled, an expression that he meant to be wise, calm and fatherly.  “After all, this is the Lord’s work.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Is Steampunk? (City of the Saints: Sam Clemens)

As of today, I am 65% through the first draft of City of the Saints, my gonzo steampunk action romp set in the year 1859 in the Kingdom of Deseret.  My tentative plan, though things may change, is to publish it next year, serially, in four parts.

My good (and talented) friend Jeff Brimley has started doing some illustrating art for me.  Here's the first.

The Adults Problem: P.S. Treasure Island

I read Treasure Island over the weekend, too, and it's worth mentioning as a thought exercise in terms of the Adults Problem.

Set aside, for the moment, the various deus ex machina issues, which may have been less problematic for Stevenson's audience than for us.  The boy Jim Hawkins travels with a variety of adult allies.  How does Stevenson make sure that Jim is facing and overcoming problems?

The answer is that he repeatedly isolates Jim from his allies.  Jim hides alone in the apple barrel to overhear the pirates.  He leaves the camp alone and finds Ben Gunn.  He frees the Hispaniola, again, all alone, and all alone he defeats the murderous Israel Hands.

P.P.S.  Incidentally, here's a charming quote from Stevenson's "Appendix" to the 1894 edition:

"Sooner or later, somehow, anyhow, I was bound to write a novel.  It seems vain to ask why.  Men are born with various manias: from my earliest childhood it was mine to make a plaything of imaginary series of events; and as soon as I was able to write, I became a good friend to the paper-makers."

P.P.P.S.  Turns out, Treasure Island was written as a serial, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Adults Problem: A Tale of Two Monster Hunters

I finished Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist this weekend.  It's a fine book, for older middle grade readers or young adults who are not averse to gore and horror (the book's jacket markets it for readers aged fourteen and older; the point of view character is twelve years old).  Nothing I say in what follows should be understood to detract from my recommendation of the book.

It was an interesting read for me because of the similarities to my fellow Story Monkey E.J. Patten's Return to Exile, and because of one important difference.  In both books, a boy learns about monsters and the hunting thereof from a quirky and cantankerous older mentor.  In Return to Exile, that mentor is missing and out of the picture from early in the book.  In The Monstrumologist, the mentor is always present.

Which means that The Monstrumologist, an otherwise excellent, book, has a serious case of the Adults Problem (a MR / YA pitfall about which we have previously blogged).  Young Will Henry is almost entirely passive, following around his mentor figure and taking orders from him.  When he is active, it is only on the tactical level, not the strategic level.

Which, weirdly, means that Will Henry doesn't really have a plot.  So the real protagonist of The Monstrumologist is actual the Obi Wan Kenobi figure, and the POV lad Will Henry is a secondary, subplot character.  This is fine, the protagonist doesn't have to be the POV character (the POV character of the Sherlock Holmes stories is Watson), but for a middle reader book, the result is that it decreases reader sympathy for the character with whom the middle reader is supposed to sympathize, the boy his own age.

How about your book?  How are you handling the Adults Problem?

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Was Raised in Missouri

 “He sent you to kill Brigham Young, and you double-crossed him.”  Poe saw truth-induced hesitation in the other man’s face, so he kept going.  “You were supposed to kill Clemens, too, or at least capture him, but Rockwell and the Ambassador were serendipitous.”
Hickman stared sullenly at the line of scarabs.
“He means catching Rockwell and Armstrong was just plain dumb luck,” Sam Clemens interpreted.
“Thank you, Mr. Clemens,” Poe said.
            “I was raised in Missouri,” Clemens grinned.  “I speak idiot.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dave Alvin

Here's another great Californian, songwriter and guitarist.  Here is with "Downey Girl", backed by the Guilty Women.

The Downey girl of the title, by the way, is Karen Carpenter.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tom Russell

I'll salute California this weekend.  Here is a great Californian songwriter, Tom Russell, with one of the great tracks off his recent Blood and Candle Smoke.  This is "East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam".

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taffy Was a Welshman

Captain Jones stomped through the creek, righteous rage playing across his square face. “It was you, wasn’t it, boyo?” he demanded, staring hard at O’Shaughnessy.

The Irishman sneered. “Taffy was a Welshman,” he chanted, “Taffy was a thief—”


Jones pistol-whipped O’Shaughnessy across the jaw with the gun in his hand, sending him sprawling into the tall, dry desert grass.

“Taffy came to my house,” Jones finished the rhyme, “and he kicked out all my teeth.”

“Muurrrmph,” the Irishman groaned vaguely from the ground.

“I am reluctant to criticize another man’s work,” the gypsy called out, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, “but you’ve spoiled the rhyme.”

The quip snapped Sam out of his stunned reverie. He grinned. “True,” he agreed. “Though I must say I find the meaning of the revised couplet congenial.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Is Steampunk? (Terry Gilliam)

Promo trailer for an upcoming Terry Gilliam piece that looks steampunktastic.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I've recently read two great novels that were written as serials, Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road and Charles Portis's True Grit.

Of course, lots of classic novels have been written this way.  Dickens, for instance, wrote serials.

I'm writing a serial right now too, as it happens, only I'm cheating.  I'm writing the whole thing as a single book, but building the climaxes so that I can divide it into four big parts.  I call this cheating because it means that, unlike those other guys, I can go back and fix stuff.

If you are writing a serial in true serial fashion, I have two pieces of advice for you.

1. Keep your plots simple.  Read Gentlemen of the Road or True Grit for examples.  Make setting, humor, characters, and action the drivers of your story, and not byzantine plot.

2. Plan the whole thing in advance.  Outline it in as much detail as you can, and especially know your major plot points cold.  No room for exploratory writing here.

And if you get yourself into a corner, and have to cheat, by writing in a later fix for an earlier statement? Do it, and don't apologize.  That's called "retconning", and it has a long and glorious tradition, at least back to the Deuteronomists.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing to the Punchline: True Grit

I'm reading True Grit now, and it's fantastic.  If you saw both movies and wondered, the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges hit it closer to the mark.

Here's a short excerpt from early in the book.  I share it because it's an example of something I've mentioned before... in all good writing, but especially in humor, write to the punchline.  If you make the last word an essential word, the reader will keep reading right to the end.

*   *   *

"I will inform them myself," said I.  "Who is the best marshal they have?"

The sheriff thought on it for a minute.  He said, "I would have to weigh that proposition.  There is near about two hundred of them.  I reckon William Waters is the best tracker.  He is a half-breed Comanche and it is something to see, watching him cut for sign.  The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn.  He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don't enter into his thinking.  He loves to pull a cork.  Now L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive.  He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake.  Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men.  Quinn is a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot.  He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner.  He is straight as a string.  Yes, I will say Quinn is about the best they have."

I said, "Where can I find this Rooster?"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Essential Classics: Enuma Elish

Enuma Elish (named for its first two words, meaning "when on high") is the Babylonian creation epic.  It is related to the Genesis creation account (some would say "lies behind it") and is gripping reading.  It's old (probably dates to around 2000 B.C.E.) and introduces world-shaking protagonists like Marduk, grotesque human progenitors like Kingu (whose blood, drop by drop, turned into mankind), weird magical-cult items (the Tablets of Destiny, worn on the chest and possible predecessor of the Hebrew Urim & Thummim), the Assembly of the Gods and that perennial favorite of dungeon-crawlers the world over, Tiamat.

You can find it in various editions and collections, including this convenient classic anthology.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Nick Cave

Nick Cave is the love child that in some alternate Bearded Spock universe was born to John Wilmot and Flannery O'Connor.  He's a different kind of "guilty pleasure".  He's a terrific writer, and very powerful, but the... er, vocabulary content... and the sheer gothicity of his writing mean that I can't recommend him to just anyone.

And (but?) Nick's straightforwardly sentimental songs are very powerful.  I loved "The Ship Song" when I first started listening to his stuff; from a more recent album, here's "Breathless".

(Not to share any spoilers, but the bunnies, like the sentimentality, work better because of the raw emotionality and gothic darkness of Nick's other work.)

Bonus: Bearded Spock.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Is Steampunk? (Vintage Tomorrows)

Check out this trailer for an upcoming documentary.

Guilty Pleasures: Neil Diamond

In honor of Neil Diamond's recent announcement of his impending (third) marriage, I post a number by him.

It's not quite right to describe Neil as a guilty pleasure, because he's an amazing songwriter who has demonstrated real staying power and broad appeal.  When I was a kid, though, it was hard not to think of him as tacky music my parents and their friends listened to.

But then Rick Rubin got to Neil, and Neil got to me, with his album 12 songs.  Here's "Hell Yeah", from that album.  I will admit that this song had made me feel emotional more than once.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What Is Steampunk? (Modding)

A retrofuturistic visual aesthetic is an essential part of Steampunk, which in some ways is at its heart a fashion movement.  At WorldCon this year there were several sessions on "modding" your current-tech gear to make it more steam-y.  Here, courtesy of the interweb, are a few other examples of steampunk modding.

An MP3 player.

Mouse, USB drives, other.

A webcam.

And, er, a katana.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Essential Classics: The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion is a collection of eleven old Welsh stories.  In the form in which these stories survive, they are medieval, and some of them are probably in fact medieval stories (two of them are very old King Arthur tales).  Some of the stories, the Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi (the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi"),  are likely older, and contain old Celtic myths in medieval cross-dress.

The Mabinogion is great in its own right, and is also a well to which many fantasy writers over the years have had recourse for inspiration and/or outright theft (see, in particular, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain).  If you're stuck, you might do the same.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Return to Exile Book Launch!

Tonight, 7:00 pm, at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City (1511 South 1500 East).  E.J. Patten will launch and sign copies of his debut middle reader novel, Return to Exile.  Appearance, emcee services and further autographing by Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer et sequelae.

The Other Fantasy

For a lot of people, "fantasy" literature means Tolkien, and his many followers.  This is what is often called "epic" or "high" fantasy.  Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Peter Orullian, Stephen R. Donaldson, Steven Erikson, etc., all write high fantasy.

From the birth of fantasy literature in the early twentieth century, there has been another fantasy, sometimes called "low" fantasy (of which "sword and sorcery" stories are probably a subset, heavy on action, flashy magic and romance).  Its characters aren't knights and wizards battling to save the world from ancient evils... they're thugs, thieves and drifters, trying to stay alive.

Most of Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories are low fantasy -- Conan is a thief or a mercenary or a pirate.

Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser tales are classic, excellent low fantasy.

As a kid, I loved the Thieves' World anthologies and Robert Asprin's myth books -- both low fantasy.

I just finished reading Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.  It's a fine first novel, an entertaining caper story, and an example of low fantasy.  Its protagonist is a thief and a scoundrel, and (at least until quite late) he has scurrilous goals -- robbery and revenge, mostly.  It's good to know that low fantasy is alive and well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sequels and Expectations

When you write the first book in a series, you can do anything you want.

When you write the second, you can still do anything you want... but whatever you do that repeats or echoes the first book, becomes part of the shtick of that series, and your audience will expect you to do it again.

Think about Harry Potter.  You read the first book, in which there is a prologue, then Harry has a sequence in Muggle England, then he goes off to Hogwarts for a year of school.

At that point -- the end of book one -- the series could have looked like anything.  In the next book, Harry could have become an astronaut.  But parts of book two echo book one (Harry has a persecuted sequence in Little Whinging, travels to Hogwarts and goes through one year of school), so those parts become the shtick of the Harry Potter, and we expect to see them repeated in subsequent books (and we do).  Some parts of book one are not echoed in book two: book two has no prologue, for instance, and thereafter prologues are not a necessary part of the series (some books have them, and some don't).

E.J. Patten of the Story Monkeys wrestled with this recently in crafting the sequel to his epic horror middle reader book Return to Exile (released TOMORROW).  He had to consciously choose which parts of book one to repeat or echo, knowing that then he would be using them (or riffing on them) again in books three and so on.

And I recently read Endymion, book three of Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos.  And this book... man, it just didn't live up to books one and two.  Part of that may just be ordinary series fatigue (see Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Dune, etc.), but also, I think my expectations as the audience were violated.

See, the first two books -- Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion -- were really doggone smart.  Hyperion was actually very self-consciously literary, modeling itself on the Canterbury Tales, but the sequel dropped that conceit, so I knew literary models were not part of the series shtick (it would have been cool if book two was a science fiction take on Beowulf, but oh, well).  But the first two books were both cleverly plotted, with surprising ends.

And book three was not.  It violated my series expectations.  It was fine, it wasn't bad.  It continued the plot of the first two, more or less, and if it had been the first book of a series I probably would have enjoyed it without any complaint.  But its change of heart twist at the end was nothing like the surprises of the first two books (and was fairly predictable).  Add some mostly two-dimensional characters, and my goodwill for the series and author and the book's own actual high concept coolness (it's sort of Riverworld meets Terminator 2) weren't enough for me.  My expectations are violated, I don't know if I'll be able to pick up book four.  Certainly, not for a while.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Outsider Genius: Blaze Foley

I spent several evenings at World Con in Reno the other week filking.  Filk is (and probably always will be) something of an outsider art.  I'm going to honor the filkers I met and heard this weekend by posting songs by other outsider songwriters.

Here's Blaze Foley:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bully That

Here's the audio / sham video for "Bully That" (lyrics posted earlier this week).

Sorry, I meant to capo it up into G minor, but I forgot until I already had most of the tracks down in the E minor basement.  Fortunately, my voice goes that low.

Congratulations again to E.J. Patten -- Return to Exile is available next Tuesday.

Story Monkeys, ho!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Witchy Hillary

The Kings of Cahokia (and its Queens, of which they have had many, for Ohioan rules of inheritance, including its laws of royal succession, do not favor the male of the species over the female) have long had a mysterious relationship with the beastkind and, if he exists, their legendary ruler, the Heron King.  The Cahokians are tightly allied with their near neighbors, or they wage fierce intimate war against one another, reliable informants tell me, but they seem unable to simply leave each other alone.  This may be simply the destiny of geography, as Cahokia is nestled in the very arms of the Mississippi, the great river that the Heron King claims as his capitol, but it is difficult to escape the impression that there is a more substantial connection.  I understand that from time to time the Heron King has taken to wife a Cahokian princess.

– Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, Mississippi: The Nile of
   the New World and Its Savage Glories, “Cahokia”