I bought Skyrim for my daughter (Yeah, sure I did) some six years ago, and I have been playing it ever since.
For those who do not know, Skyrim is a fantasy video role-playing game. It’s correct and full title is, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It is an open world action role-playing video game by Bethesda Game Studios.
I am onto my fourth or fifth incarnation; the others got lost in PS3 game wipes, or I got bored and started a new character following a different allegiance.
When the first Skyrim games came out, game-players of all stripe were excited – video-gamers, LARPs and Dungeon and Dragons fans, flocked to play this well-rendered, highly populated, multi-themed addition to the Fantasy genre – who didn’t want to be that hero with the horn-ed helmet we saw as a cut-out stand throughout stores?!
There is just so much to do and it keeps on coming (though some might argue it’s the same fight in a different guise).
The main quest is the resolution of the so-called Dragon Crisis – you do this, you become the Dragon Borne – cue expansive, emotional music. Then there are the the secondary quests: that’s all the ‘factions’; Thieves Guild, Companions Guild, Mages Guild etc, etc. Added to each guild are side quests. Add to this a civil war, which prompts you to choose sides, and all the side quests that go along with that. Then there’s the ‘gods’, dungeons, city stories, and bounty hunts.
Do I cheat? Of course I do! What’s a laptop for?
Currently I am playing a Level 62 Wood Elf (oh, did I not mention the races? Human, Elf, Argonian, Khajit, I’m not explaining them all), called Gylia Whitethorn. And this is one of the things I like about the game, you get to choose your race, your gender, your looks, your name; women enjoy playing sword and sorcery genres as much as males – and you don’t get the sexism like in Grand Theft Auto (that is such a male cisgender, ‘duh’ scenario).Gylia Whitethorn is, I suppose, what D&D players would recognise as a Rogue. She is an excellent Archer (100), Thief (100) and almost perfect Enchanter. What more could a girl want?!
I have completed the main quest, I am leader of ALL the guilds, I have been a were-bear and a vampire, I have lost, slain or accidentally had killed dozens of companions. I married and adopted 2 children, built my own houses and have collected enough gold and gems to choke even Smaug.
So why am I still playing it? When will it end?
Well simply put, the game NEVER ends; it keeps spawning dungeons, monsters, minor quests. I was expecting (five years ago) that there would be an ‘Hallelujah’ moment. I would be crowned Queen of Skyrim and all would come and bow before me -nah – members of the guilds are just as snotty towards me as ever before, and that is an irritating point, the ‘little people’ all have set dialogue, so even when you’re the head honcho of The Companions in Whiterun, no-one actually gives a toss, you still get sent on crappy little missions (should you choose them).
So why am I still playing?!
I honestly don’t know – sometimes I have played as a relief from a crappy day at work, “Eat my ebony arrow, Management.” In the beginning it was obviously to complete quests and gain treasure. But now I have so many magic staffs that I don’t know what to do with them all, honestly it’s ridiculous. I like the world the game is set in, I like to wander sometimes and just look about, until some wretched Ash Spawn attacks, and then, yawn, I take it out. However, when I look at images of Skyrim on the internet, there are many places I do not recognise or creatures I have not encountered, so what have I been doing all these years?
There have been long gaps between gameplay, over the years those gaps have grown, sometimes it is a couple of months I don’t play it.
Maybe the gaps will get longer until I just stop playing altogether, I can’t see me stopping altogether any time soon.
Maybe I will be an eighty year old granny, sitting in my fluffy slippers and dressing-gown, yelling at the screen through my false teeth as I take down another Draugh with a balletic swipe of my Daedric Blade. They will have to peel the controls from my cold, dead hands…
It’s an exciting day for some people! Others are less so, and then there are the ‘meh’ crowd. All of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun.
I can’t get too excited as this eclipse will not be visible from the UK; many things are not visible from the UK, clouds and rain have a lot to answer for (as well as too much street lighting). I believe in London they might see a slight, partial eclipse – but I don’t live in London either! Besides, weather is dull, drizzly; British! Not conducive to astronomical activities.
When we have had eclipses that can be seen in Britain, we mostly all see it at around a similar time. But as America is so huge in comparison, there is a kind of timeline of viewing which will peak at 2:44:59 pm EDT, when the moon obscures 71.6% of the sun; beginning at around 13:20 and ending around 16:00.
In the past, civilizations held differing views of the reason for an eclipse: dragons (China) or demons (India) eating the sun, dogs stealing it (Korea), a bear taking a bite out of it (Pomo; Native Americans), the sun was angry (Ancient Greece), the sun and moon quarreled (Inuit), a vampire tried to swallow it (Tatars, Siberia). There are those who still hold that it is a magical moment and traditions are carried out around the world to ‘reclaim’ the sun.
My husband is interested in astronomy. He also makes sundials; small pieces for the windowsill (hence name of his business Windowsill Art). He was contacted by a gentleman in America who is the head/secretary/leader (I don’t know what you call the person who runs an astronomy enthusiast society!) who asked for 38 sundials in time for the eclipse. He got to work. The number was increased to, I think 42 eventually. It took around 5 months to complete them. They were carefully packed off on their journey last month and arrived safely (no thanks to USA Customs!!!!)
I like the idea of the members of the society all turning up and this chap handing them a sundial each as they take their places; like children on a picnic getting a lunchbox!
I am looking forward to seeing the videos/photos/news reports later showing hundreds of ‘those weird Americans’, waving their arms while painting their chests like something out of ‘The Wicker Man’ and wailing for the return of the sun. It so could happen!
Whatever you are doing today, have fun, protect your eyes, don’t whoop into your neighbours ear, and pick up your litter before you leave!
Raven Dane is an award-winning author of steampunk, dark fantasy, alternative history and horror fiction. Her first novels were in the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series; Blood Tears, Blood Lament, Blood Alliance. These are dark fantasy/alternative history/SF novels about a non human race of vampires who most definitely do not sparkle!
In 2009, Endaxi Press launched The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire, Raven’s scurrilous and most definitely adult spoof of all things High Fantasy. A fairy tale for grown ups with a sense of humour.
Described as The Gothmother, Raven Dane is all things Gothic. With a ‘taste’ for vampire’s and ghosts, poison and dark fantasy, she has entertained readers of all ages with creations from her inky quill (I’m absolutely convinced she uses a real quill and ink!). She also enjoys dressing up in Victorian Gothic clothing for Steampunk conventions, and has a wicked sense of humour.
Hi Raven, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…
And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?
Flailing? Sounds very energetic …lol! I used to find myself frantically plate-spinning, trying to balance work, bringing up my son, looking after my mares and writing. These days, I sort of crawl between time spent writing and the necessities of real life and my ever welcome duvet. Wish I had the energy for flailing now!
Raven, you’re well-known for writing supernatural stories. There is the Cyrus Darian series and Legacyof the Dark Kindseries, plus many more. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?
I have always loved SF and dark fantasy. I was a precocious early reader as a child and devoured books at a fast rate. I used to sit on the floor by my parent’s book case and read works by Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, especially the Canterville Ghost. That story terrified me; it wasn’t until I re-read it as an adult that I realised what a poignant, sweet story it really was. In those early days I was definitely drawn to the dark side. My brother and I used to sneak downstairs late at night and peak through a gap in the living room door and frighten ourselves with Quatermas, SF and old horror films. Later when we were older and could watch what we wanted, we loved the old black and white Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as well as Hammer horror and old SF films like The Trollenberg Terror. And of course, Doctor Who which I have watched since the very first episode, usually from behind a cushion. Today my love affair with horror and dark fantasy has not dimmed. I am not a fan of gory fiction (unless it is something by Sam Stone, who adds style and great characters to the genre). The same goes for torture porn like the Saw films and the growing in popularity extreme horror books, they are not for me. I do enjoy creepy ghost stories; I am a huge fan of Susan Hill and M R James novels and their film adaptations. Ghost stories in a Victorian setting are a favourite for me to write. Other favourites include dark fantasy like Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, his two Hellboy films and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?
That’s a tough one. I have a special affinity with horses and love cats, wolves and ravens. I would have to choose a dragon though, for its magical nature, grandeur, its ability to soar to distant, exotic realms and to incinerate anything and anyone who gets in its way.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? What did you do with your first advance?
Did you splash out on something exotic with your first pay cheque?
Not my first pay cheque or advance. My other half has supported my writing all our married life and allowed me to work as full time writer for many years. It has been a struggle and we have gone without the material things that many people have thought essential in life, like holidays, big, new TVs and modern cars. So anything I have earned has gone straight into the household running costs. I did however, treat myself to a huge golden velvet dragon made by a lovely lady in the US. Total extravagance though!
Oh, and after a successful morning’s book sales at an Asylum weekend, I treated myself to a gorgeous black pirate ship hat, very steamgoth, very me. I have had so much fun and use out of that hat, it was worth every penny.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was blessed to be taught English literature by a lovely lady called Miss Curry. She was not far off retirement when she had the tough job getting our lively class through the GCE’s for O and A levels but she introduced us to wonderful things. The powerful emotional impact of the War Poets like Rupert Brook and Siegfried Sassoon, the ravishing beauty of the English language from poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I think the most powerful moment for me personally was the first book that made me cry, to really weep as if for a person I actually knew…and that was The Ship Who Sang by Anne MacCaffrey. If the fate of fictional characters can move me to mourn, than what better proof of the power of language?
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Research is vitally important to me, whatever I am writing. I tend to research as I write as I never plan a book in advance. Some writers are planners, others fly by the seat of their pants and get straight to work with no idea of where the story will go. I am a definite pantser. Research can take me more time than writing sometimes but I think it is essential. I spent all afternoon recently researching a historical find that I mentioned in just one line of a book. Even in the most fantastical setting, research can give a depth and believability to a story , anything less is cheating the reader with shallow, implausible storytelling.
Cyrus Darian is a rather unusual name, how do you select the names of your characters?
Some come to me instantly as if been channelled from another dimension. Others can be a nightmare and get changed many times throughout the writing process. Thank goodness for my friend, the search and replace thingie on Microsoft Word. Cyrus Darian was a bit of a blend between the two. I decided he was Persian, so being named after a great Persian king of antiquity suited his vanity. Darian came into my head as a nice sounding name. I used my other friend, Google to see if it meant anything and discovered it was a town in Iran. Perfect. Mind you, it might not be his real name, Cyrus lies all the time and uses many aliases.
To date, what has been your hardest scene to write?
The hardest was also the easiest…if that makes any sense. The end of a story arc for one of my favourite characters was always going to end badly for him. He had become more than someone fictional but a very real presence in my life, so knowing how it had to end was deeply emotional for me. But the scene wrote itself, confirming it was the right plot thread for the culmination of a trilogy. Not saying any more…Spoilers!
If you were not a writer, and you could be anything else in the world, what career/vocation would you choose?
I love any form of creativity so always drawn to arts and crafts but I have no talent and anything I do is just for the pleasure of making things. I was always a good actor as a teenager, I was the annoying little madam who always got the main female role in all the school drama productions which were almost always Shakespeare. I was the only child for years that was encouraged by the teachers to go into acting much to the ongoing annoyance of my younger sister who was at the same school and did become an actress. Her teachers suggested a career as a secretary for her. A mixture of a sense of family duty and the need to earn regular money took me on another path, journalism and later fiction writing. I take part in amateur dramatics now and thoroughly enjoy being on stage…I love to make people laugh… or boo, when playing the baddie in Panto.
Or be one of those smiling ladies in sparkly clothes riding a dancing pure white Spanish stallion in a circus….
Have you ever had what one might call, a supernatural experience or event occur in your life? If so, would you care to share it with us? If not, which figure from history would you like to receive a visit from?
So many! I am very attuned to the presence of earth bound spirits since a child. I wish I wasn’t to be honest. It is not something I can switch off and has led to many uncomfortable times in the past. My present home is totally spirit free which is so relaxing! The worse one was an encounter with an angry, aggressive spirit in an old farmhouse where I worked. Young students at the riding school lived there and though we never told them about it to avoid hysteria, he was always targeting the youngest females, trying to frighten them. One day, when the house was empty for a couple of hours, I went in and ended up being pushed down the stairs. I could feel the imprint of strong fingers digging into my shoulders. In 1995, there was a big fire there, no one was hurt but the oldest part of the house was burnt down. All the spirit activity stopped and never returned.
11 And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?
Oooh….a tough one, I have so many. The first one that sprang to mind was the fantasy novel, Elidor by Alan Garner. I loved it and he is an early influence on my writing.
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Raven.
Raven’s most recent work is included in, Trumpocalypse; an anthology of satirical horror from authors on both sides of ‘the pond’.