In years past, when I moonlighted for various sites and channels as a semi-professional critic and commentator of media, my inclusion of such in these year-in-reviews served a worthwhile purpose as a portfolio and curriculum vitae of my writings that year, indubitably among the most important aspects of any given year in my estimation. Per the parable, my Master has gifted my only a single Talent to invest to His profit, that being my ability to write. Therefore, irrespective of whatever career or profession might pay my bills, my vocation will always be that of a writer. But as I move away from pop culture criticism of the kind I engaged in here at the Hub City Review or later for The Federalist and Wisecrack, the inclusion of my reminiscences on the state of various media in a given calendar year seems now extraneous, and as such has been excised from what is now first and foremost an annual journal entry, albeit one public and not private.
This would not have been the case, as the first few months of the year represented a return to my roots as a media critic, having been hired (in a matter of hours after applying, having impeccable credentials for the position) as Medievalists.net’s Resident Video Game Expert, with a monthly column analyzing the accuracy of video games’ depictions of the historical Middle Ages and the faux-Medium Aevum of fantasy games. This was a necessary stepping stone to fulfilling a goal I had set out for myself some time before, when listening to their podcast only to learn that their guest for the episode also had the same last name of ‘Theriault’ and saying to myself that I should be on the podcast too. Thus when they later announced on the same that they would be looking for a writer familiar with video games and history, I seized my opportunity. I wrote three pieces in my monthly column during my time affiliated with the site. The first was on 4X grand strategy games such as Civilization VI and Humankind, the second on the superlative Crusader Kings III, and the final on the depiction of the Medieval era in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, specifically the first game and Valhalla.
Unlike my writing for Wisecrack, this yeoman’s work was fairly dry, as instead of being able to do deep analyses and defend theses, much of my space was set aside to explaining the basics of the games to those unfamiliar with the medium, being readers of the site solely for their passion for history. Also unlike my writing for Wisecrack, I was adamant about no longer self-censoring myself. I’m acutely aware of what my ideological opponents consider to be within their narrow Overton Window, and can in a mercenary spirit write what they want to hear, but so too can many on their side of the political aisle, if not as eloquently or with the same particular insights. But to do so would not be investing my Talent to my Master’s profit, and I was no longer so concerned with gaining exposure or building out my résumé that I was willing again to work for the other side. Thus, I wrote each article in my own voice and according to my own convictions, knowing that if such was to be a dealbreaker for my editors, it would become evident quite quickly, without me first wasting my time and Talent on fodder for them and theirs. The editor whom I worked with himself took no issue with anything I submitted, reading it carefully and choosing to print every dot and tilde I wrote with nary a word of worry or feedback. However, he was without backbone and when a Twitterati mob of three or four people came with proverbial pitchforks and torches, he folded immediately, despite a private admission that he saw no cause for such outrage. Without informing me, he scrubbed the offending article from the site and terminated the position of Resident Video Game Expert, then despite unsolicited assurances to the contrary, he later removed my more innocuous articles and excised any mention of me from the site. The whole affair left a bitter taste in my mouth, and for the next nine months I took a sabbatical from criticism to concentrate on my prose and poetry. This proved Providential.
For me, 2022 will always first and foremost be the year in which I composed the majority of The History of the Decline and Fall of Faerieland, unfinished at the moment, but after several months of steady work finally eyeing completion in the coming weeks. It began close to the anniversary of the composition of my short narrative poem from the prior year, Fiddler on the Throne. I had both a desire to showcase it in a public poetry reading, and a rare opportunity to do so, having been switched to day shift for a few months. The unintended and unexpected consequence of this was that I could occasionally attend open mic nights, and after the success of presenting Fiddler on the Throne I had a desire to follow it up with another narrative lay of similar length. This grew in the telling, however, and despite anticipating two or three dozen stanzas, I’m now projecting about a hundred, maybe more. Whereas Fiddler took me five days of intensive writing, Faerieland has been worked on more intermittently, but for far more total hours, thus taking half a year or so in total.
My other major literary output this year has been Hero’s Journey, with major revisions to the beginning and several new chapters finished, with a roadmap written for the story from here. Though in no way intended from the outset, I anticipate some sort of integration between Hero’s Journey and The History of the Decline and Fall of Faerieland, though this cannot be simple inclusion of the latter into the former, like many previous poems which I wrote originally for other purposes, as the sheer length of Faerieland puts it on par with a short story, far longer than, for example, any of the snippets of lays Tolkien peppered into The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, as is surely unexpected to those who know me, inspired much of Faerieland. The meter and rhyme scheme – simple as each are – are both inspired by Beren’s Song of Parting, which I’d recently come across when rereading The Lays of Beleriand. Having read thirty new books as part of my 2021 resolution, I luxuriated this year primarily in rereading old books. It was also in The Lays of Beleriand that I was smote by the beauty of a particular line:
The borders of the Faerieland.”
Tolkien later amended ‘Faerieland’ to ‘Elven lands,’ changing, if not the connotation, certainly the effect, and I wished to recapture some of the peculiar beauty of his primitive writings. These lines were one of the main seeds out of which The History of the Decline and Fall of Faerieland began to grow.
As should be evident from what I’m choosing to focus my recollections of 2022 on, my resolutions for 2023 follow from them. Firstly, I want to engage with media criticism again, with my mood of late being for literary criticism in general and Tolkien studies in particular. I believe I have insights in this field that have not yet been fully explored elsewhere. Secondly, I want not only to finish The History of the Decline and Fall of Faerieland, but find some place for its publication. This is a tall order. The long form narrative lay is not a familiar mode of expression in the present period, so I know of no publication dedicated to such, necessitating getting it printed in pages the readers of which might not have a preexisting appetite for long, metered, rhymed poetry, classical in its form, subject matter, and philosophy. But nevertheless this is the thing I resolve to niggle on in 2023, for when I take that long expected journey to Niggle’s Parish, my writings are the leaves I’ll leave behind.