Oneiropolis Compendium: Tree of Words

In a place unknown to all, where paths vanish under drifting leaves, there stands the Tree of Words. Many have seen it from afar on their travels, and some few from close up, though they never afterwards remember the way. People who have not seen it, or who prefer to tell themselves so, call it by silly names like “the Poetree” – but those who have truly gazed at its roots and branches know better.

Some who have stood beneath it have called it beautiful and comforting, a source of profound tranquility. Others have felt an unease in its presence, a restlessness, an unsettling awareness of their approaching end and the tasks left incomplete. Some have come to the tree by night and storm and found shelter; others have seen it as a dreadful shadow, its arms stretched out to grab them. One traveller fell asleep under it, and became either a prophet or a madman – depending on who is asked.

The Tree bears fruit, but not by the seasons we know. Eating of it is a dangerous affair. To some the fruit brings true wisdom, to others a pernicious deceit that seems like wisdom; to all it brings visions, and from those visions some never return.

As for the creatures that nest in the Tree, many have sought to consult them in matters of importance, but though they are friendly, their advice is not to be taken without thought. A king once came to them after a long journey of search, and asked how he might better rule his kingdom. The lizard said: “Show thy might, and guide thy people with fear.” And the birds said: “Live by no rules but thy own, and care for nought but thy heart’s desire.” And the voice in the hollow said: “Thine is the power to lead; lead, therefore, so that thy line will prosper.” And the king returned to his kingdom, and did as they had said. Thus his people were plunged into misery, and rose up and killed him, and afterwards lived better lives, saying “the best sort of king is no king at all.”

Another time a sculptor from a great city came to the Tree, and asked what she should do with her art, for it brought her no happiness; and the voice in the hollow said: “Take thy own life.” And the birds chirped: “Kill thyself.” And the lizard whispered: “Shatter thy bones.” And in her terror and despair, she almost threw herself to her death. But then she returned to the place where her work was placed for the public to see, and with a great hammer she smashed all that she had made, laughing gleefully, for she hated the unlovely art that was the fashion of that city. And in her crafting-place she sculpted many new works, beautiful and pleasing to her eye, and they said that her career was quite dead.

So if you should ever find yourself standing beneath the Tree of Words, listen carefully and with respect, but doubt all you are told, knowing that beauty and terror grow from the same branches; and prepare for great changes.

This entry in the Oneiropolis Compendium was made possible by Frank Powers, a man with a horn.

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6 Comments

  1. Frank

     /  December 2, 2011

    A thoughtful creation, and strangely alluding to the place I find myself in right now… You don’t happen to have some hidden psychic powers above all, do you?
    You are very right: “beauty and terror grow from the same branches”, and often even at the same time.

  2. Frank

     /  December 2, 2011

    Oh, and all the best for the Oneiropolis Compendium – looks like some great adventures and daring novels might come out of this effort. If I say “might”, I of course mean: “must”. 🙂

  3. You don’t happen to have some hidden psychic powers above all, do you?

    Not that I know of! Except for the power to make chocolate disappear, of course.

    You are very right: “beauty and terror grow from the same branches”, and often even at the same time.

    Oh yeah. I know.

    Oh, and all the best for the Oneiropolis Compendium – looks like some great adventures and daring novels might come out of this effort. If I say “might”, I of course mean: “must”. 🙂

    Thanks! This whole project is definitely going to influence Ithaca of the Clouds (the big Lands of Dream game) and Oneiropolis (a novel I will write someday, which will be the culmination of the Urizen/Oneiropolis story and which will be so long and complicated and fun and crazy that it will be quite unlike anything else out there).

  4. Robb

     /  December 3, 2011

    I’ll be honest, I thought a tree made of words was a little hokey…till I read the description. The story about the king seriously made my day.

  5. Frank

     /  December 3, 2011

    By the way, when talking about novels: whatever happened to Verena’s novel (“Mind the Gap”, wasn’t it)? Just curious…

  6. Mind the Gap? It’s done, and everyone who’s read it thought it was very exciting and original, but getting it sold isn’t exactly easy. There are several problems. The story and premise are really odd. It probably confuses both “literary fiction” publishers (it’s too genre!) and “genre” publishers (it’s too literary!). It’s quite long, but hard to cut down. It’s written by a woman – and she’s got a weird foreign name and lives in Germany! And she has no previous publications.

    Personally I think it could be a big success. It’s got a really unique story and setting, it’s funny, it’s epic; it’s post-apocalyptic weird fiction noir with a dash of philsophy and a bucketload of adventure. And it’s part one of a trilogy that isn’t just a trilogy because trilogies are all the rage these days, but because it’s a genuine epic that is *about* something and couldn’t be told in fewer words.

    Our current financial situation has forced us to focus on making some money, so with The Book of Living Magic and Catroidvania and The Oneiropolis Compendium and the children’s book and all that, there hasn’t really been the time to look for an agent/publisher as much as we’d like. For a while Verena tried to focus on writing short stories, because having any publications at all would be massively helpful in terms of queries being taken seriously, but the truth is that the short story market is an utter mess right now. And once again, not being English or American (but also not being from the Exotic/Guilt-Inducing Third World Where All Women Are Oppressed And Everything They Write Must Be Good) doesn’t make things easier. It wouldn’t bother me if only really amazingly good short stories got published, though the stories Verena submitted are beautiful and powerful, but man some of the pretentious, hollow-headed shit that gets accepted…

    So far my experiences have been similar, really. I know that a lot of people like my writing, and I’m confident enough to believe that it’s good, but it’s just not fashionable. I get messages every other day asking me to write a novel or short story (usually from players of The Infinite Ocean or The Book of Living Magic), but everything I submit to magazines is rejected. There are certain fashionable ideas about what’s good fiction, and if you fall outside those parameters – for example by being too old-fashioned – then things get very hard. It’s not that different from what happened to The Book of Living Magic. Its success on Kongregate should show that there’s an audience for such games, but I doubt that selling another Lands of Dream flash game would be any easier. Or, to use a different example, try convincing a TV executive that a sci-fi series could be successful.

    To bring all this rambling to a more positive conclusion, we haven’t given up on writing, and we hope that the publication of our children’s book will open new doors for us. It also shows that there are editors and publishers out there who have different ideas about what’s good, more in tune with ours, and it’s just a matter of finding the right people. Mind the Gap is not dead.