The internet is a great place to find information.
It’s an even better place to find distractions, confusions and outright silliness.
I spent a long time worrying about terminology, accuracy and even, in some cases, physical possibility when thinking about what I laughingly term my book. There is so much out there that the more I looked for information the less likely I was to actually get anything done. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened on a number of subjects … maybe some things I could have done with not knowing.
In the end I just had to say ‘sod it’ and get on with writing. I’m probably wrong on many counts. The damn thing is set in a future with impossible people so who is to say what may or may not be appropriate terminology.
History, real ancient history, is one of the things I have tried to maintain an air of versimilitude (you can tell I’ve not had a drink yet today). Having shelves of Egyptology books doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t go off-piste – once I get settled on the sofa it is often easier to go www rather than get up and look for the books I know have the reference that I half remember.
When I was thinking about what to call my experimental soldiers I found nothing that I was very happy with. I left it and left it, waiting for an appropriate word to bubble up from my subconscious. Eventually, looking at the line of Egyptian figurines on my mantelpiece I thought ‘Shabti’ and I was happy. The word has different spellings – shabti, ushabti, wushabti – and the little figures are generally reckoned to have been magical stand-ins in the Egyptian afterlife. The richer the deceased the more shabtis he would have and the better modelled they would be. There were worker shabtis and overseer shabtis of all types, all inscribed with the spells that committed them to answer on the part of their owner should he be asked to do any task in the Field of Reeds.
So many shabtis have been found that they cram forgotten cases in museums around the world and a quick search on ebay will always uncover entries for many ‘genuine’ examples but, to be honest, reproductions are cheaper and generally nicer looking unless you have very, very deep pockets.
In searching for a word to describe an army of the faceless and nameless to be sacrificed and used by their government owners then ‘shabti’ seemed to be the right one.
Once I’d decided on using a real word for my disposable soldiers then it seemed easy to include other Ancient Egyptian references in other parts of the book. Egypt became the backdrop to the relationship between Gihon and Dave, the sense of time and history seemed appropriate. The apartment they live in is one I would like to have but after taking 4 years to complete a mural in my own house I doubt I would be able to complete the decoration I’ve described.
I have an idea for one of the story beats to take place at a maskerade party where the main characters appear in costumes appropriate to the gods guarding their rooms. Just me having a bit of fun with the notion but when someone refers to Gihon as a hippo he is not being offensive, the hippo represented Set as he was finally defeated by Horus. And before anyone gets snarky about hints that Set had an unnatural interest in his young nephew well that can also be found in the Egyptian stories.
Trust me, you may never look at lettuce the same way again. That’s all I’ll say for now.
February 1, 2012 at 12:32 am
I do trust all the concepts you’ve presented in your post. They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for beginners. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.
February 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm
Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yours was my first feedback. I’m still kind of getting used to this so I’m not sure what or how to post some things yet. I’m also trying to work out how to say some things and get the pitch right for when I get to the appropriate section of my text.
For instance, I find lettuce highly amusing but would be surprised if many (any?) other people can be reduced to Beavis and Butthead style sniggering the way I have been before now. This isn’t some weird unrelated quirk but just a side effect of perhaps reading one myth too many too late at night. Lettuces in Ancient Egypt (wouldn’t like to comment on today) were considered to have aphrodisiac properties as the early morning dew on them was thought to represent Horus’ semen spilled onto the salad vegetable and then eaten by Set. The episode is part of the long running battle for supremacy between Horus and Set with the throne of Egypt at stake.
Early in my main Gene Bomb thread (Home) I give a description of where the main characters live which ends with a comment about the life of the gods being a like a soap opera. And it was – sex, death, deceit, destruction, debauchery – pretty racy stuff some days for a society based on the principles of Maat (she’s like universal balance and truth).
I have to work on getting that balance right because I so want to get Gihon (Set) to feed baby lettuce to Myk (Horus) when they are at that party, and I need a bunch of drunken and childish Egyptologists to find it all very amusing. It’s no biggie for the story, just something that makes me smile.
As for the Shabtis – the term pops up in all the threads but will only be explained in the main one. Not a huge explanation, just enough to move things on for my confused female lead.
I should really compile a ‘proper’ list of references and links. I’ll have to have a think about that. It might be useful.