Amid strain and worry from personal upheaval, I fixed on a notion that, in order to continue developing Habdvarsha material, the productization and sale of that material had to become my bread and butter. There was some sound reasoning behind this—not much, but some. Acknowledging a fact of passing years, new physical limitations constrain activity. Sleepless nights can no longer offset the hour and energy burn of outside employment. Viewed through that lens, being purged from my job of sixteen years was a convenience. Given conditions of the job, losing it would have been all convenience had the purge not erased my income. A year later, scramble remains the order of the day.
When I saw the writing on the day job wall, the shortest distance between two points of pressure seemed obvious. Make Habdvarsha => Sell Habdvarsha => Survive. As a trajectory, it’s not a bad one, but as a plan it’s thin on details. Thinking things through is a practice I intend to try next time out. Piloting vague notions by dead reckoning and seat of the pants is not sustainable. Not out here wandering in the wilderness.
Ordained in a star chamber of post-job panic, the first imperative in the Habdvarsha scheme was a practical reference for the Dvarsh language. Development of every other aspect of the world was handicapped until whatzizname, the originator, had access to such a tool. There has always been a subset of reaction to Dvarsh driven by fascination for the language itself, mainly (as hindsight notes) among the conlang crowd. They are the folks who have been vocal about wanting a dictionary. The simplest shape a reference could have taken would have been to wedge an a-b-c outline of grammar and a lexicon into a minimal book. This would have provided the toolkit for subsequent projects and punched all necessary buttons for conlangers. Obviously, that is not what I did.
The first thing that I did was conflate many kinds of reactions to Dvarsh. Swept together in a raging noggin storm, ultra-geekish, “You’ve created a language! I’ve got to see this!” was thrown together with buttoned-down, “You’ve created a language. Hm. I see it can be used to make lovely things.” My Fifty-two Card Pickup decision-making process crammed the two populations into one shelter.
It’s unlikely a better sense of audience would have changed the broad outlines of the book that emerged. Dvarsh, An Introduction does feature the lexicon and notes on grammar a functional reference requires. Along with an ethnographic discussion, however, these are lodged within an utterly Stikmantic work of non-narrative literary fiction. The book is an elaborate (and smokin’!) instrument for play. You may find it hard to believe, but the whole time I worked on this volume, I envisioned people using it—not just learning the language, but tracing lines of fictional ethnography into the lexicon, finding the dozens of Easter eggs, smiling at humor (some subtle, some not), beginning to imagine themselves into the world, beginning to co-create….
The process of bringing Dvarsh, An Introduction to press stirred a huge pot of emotion. Remaining detached from hard work is difficult, especially when one builds in a vacuum. The more energy and creativity brought to a project, the more its handler will tend to attribute intrinsic value to the result. There is, of course, no necessary relationship. Pinning future material hopes on the labor’s fruit aggravates such baseless attachment. Like passion inflamed for an indifferent beloved, the stronger one’s feelings about an object of manufacture, the more one comes to believe that the world MUST respond in reciprocal measure. As with a beloved, however, nothing obligates the world or its markets to embrace an object lacking utility or charm. Every lovestruck adolescent must eventually accept the fact that the only source of utility and charm is relevance to target. Project handlers must learn the same.
More than anything else that I have produced, Dvarsh, An Introduction approaches a work of my whole self. This is its strength. This is its crippling flaw. Near the end of the pre-press phase, I told a friend that this book is a cry to the absent, undiscovered archetype of my own beloved. It will provoke a response from one of my kind or it will poke unproductively at silence. What I never bothered to connect was how a book fletched for that task could simultaneously target a paying audience. Exactly here the conceptual frame of the project breaks down. The degree to which the work reflects this creator is also the degree to which its notional, fragmented market will not relate to it. Commercial appeal doesn’t seem to be a volatile outgassing from the Stikmantic well. This is unfortunate only because I put so much stock in people embracing and interacting with what I have done, and it isn’t going to happen.
Significant interest in Dvarsh comes not from an absent archetype, nor from the enthusiastic but sparse language-as-artifact crowd. Significant interest in Dvarsh is sparked by things I have made with it. People like it because it is pretty. All the other gobbledygook amounts to baggage of limited draw. No one much cares what it means. Dvarsh, An Introduction is not the cornerstone of ” Make Habdvarsha => Sell Habdvarsha => Survive.” It is a chisel for shaping the conerstone.
All caught up in effort and difficulty and setting a deadline, I mistook personal cost and private value for a market basis. Too idiosyncratic a measure set up misplaced expectations for a fall. Galileo put considerable skill and effort into making telescopes, but telescopes did not make his reputation. Chastened and wiser, I know what needs to happen next with Habdvarsha. I now have most of the necessary tools.
It would be nice to find a clue to earning a living while constructing this alternate reality. It would be nice if that clue pointed profitably to activities of my heart. It would be such joy to finally earn my way doing what I love. That looks about as likely as discovering the absent archetype. For these and other reasons, after many years of restraint I am again writing torturously bad poetry. I have also begun laying the keel of the next project. Emphasis from this point forward will stress loveliness over self-portraiture. As for Dvarsh, An Introduction, even if no one gets it, the book is extraordinary and I remain obstinately proud.