[livejournal.com profile] darius won my offer of an original story or poem in the [livejournal.com profile] care_faith_hope auction, and challenged me to write a sestina or story about the Tines, the pack-mind wolf-creatures from Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought), who share one mind in packs of four to six (they can be bigger, but they lose a lot of intelligence), and can switch out members but alter their personalities and names accordingly.

Behold! A sestina! Damn, that is a tough form. No, I don't know what possessed me to make it even harder by adding on an additional rule.

Cavelindamel was the name of my first pack,
only four of me but all bright and strong,
I think; who can be sure after so much change?
Not one remains, nor one who knew one.
But a Cavelindamel slew a great serpent in legends
and perhaps some of her warrior soul remains in me.

Now I am six. Hestalianakas, they call me.
I can out-run, out-fight, out-last any pack
but the time for that is past. The legends
left with the aliens, and it’s useless to be strong.
All the power in my six-self can’t beat their one
armed with gunpowder, computers, and change.

Shenkatafar says our very being is change.
Male/female, pup/old, canny/slow: all are me.
A fragment must change or die - and to stay one!
Better to be one-in-many, to be ever-shifting pack.
We will learn from the aliens new ways to be strong:
their planets are no more distant than our past of legends.

So. Shenkatakas and I will make new legends,
I with my will and she with her affinity for change.
We have traded pieces of ourselves, a strong
part in her for a quick-witted part in me.
More than brood-kenning, this shaping of pack
will create, we hope, something greater than one.

I, Hestashenlikatakasfar, remember being one-
in-six and one-in-four. Now I am legend:
no mob or choir, but an intelligent pack
of ten. I waited for more of us to change
as I had, but my idea only worked for me.
I wondered if others simply weren’t strong

but I saw Tinsaphrionapham, called Strong-
Minded, disintegrate into twos and ones.
I don’t know what’s different about me
but I’m looking for new truths in old legends,
not to kill aliens but to seek out the changes
a one-in-ten could make in a world of packs.

This is the one truth behind the stories that tell of me,
the pack whose mission of change itself was changed:
You too are strong. Make your own legends.

From: [identity profile] darius.livejournal.com

Wow, I'm marvelously pleased to have had any part in this. Thank you! It's a Vinge story fix and a neat poem and a chance for me to imagine I'd been a tiny part of a group mind, all in one.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I'd say there were at least three minds involved in this poem: Yours, mine, and Vinge's.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

Not bad. I've found sestinas to be a particularly good form for narratives of a certain length and obsessiveness -- such as this.


From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

This was the first sestina I didn't give up on. Of all the structured forms I've tried, this one did the most dictating of the content via the form. Obsessiveness is right!
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

I once read a, for lack of a better word, octina -- eight ending words doing the same over-and-under pattern -- about an anorexic teen. Now THAT conveyed the obsession. I've never dared tried one myself.

I tend to think of it as not so much dictating as channeling the content. With, say, a sonnet, how much you can say is prescribed by the length, but nothing prevents you from changing the subject halfway through. With a sestina, you have to stay within the range of subjects your end words cover. Which means choosing those words well. Words with multiple meanings and parts of speech help with your flexibility. Writing a narrative, a very short story, is one way to naturally want to stay in the channel.


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