World of WarCrafts: Congratulations on the win Marika! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing?
Marika: Well, to start, I'm an American expat living and working in London. I suppose I'm as much of a "lore nerd" in meatspace as I am in WoW; I studied medieval art history and classics in college, and I have a master's in library science. I've been playing WoW since about September of 2007, and my main has always been Catulla, my night elf balance druid. I even decided to level her as balance from the get-go because I thought moonkin form was both adorable and hilarious. (Bears with owl heads and antlers! Genius!) Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Writing (and drawing and reading and gaming!) is a hobby that's been a part of my life since I was very young. The house I grew up in was always full of books -- Tolkien and L'Engle were probably my favorite childhood authors, and I loved losing myself in the worlds those authors created. There seems to be a trend in these interviews to confess to horribly embarrassing things we've all written as teenagers in response to this question, so I'll bite: I am guilty of many things, not least of which was translating entire Oasis albums into Latin for fun.
That said, The Wicked and the Righteous was the first piece of fiction I'd written in about 10 years; my experience in college and grad school was similar to Celine's in that I had to put my creative efforts on hiatus for a while to focus on all the written work for my studies. I've also had a few jobs that required me to do a fair bit of technical writing. Being chosen as a finalist has definitely inspired me to return to writing fiction again in earnest, though -- it was my first love, after all.
The Wicked and the Righteous worked very closely with a character that we've only seen briefly in Wrath -- Mordent Evenshade, the ambassador from Eldre'thalas. Can you tell us a little about why you chose him as a subject and about the development of your story?
Well, I'll confess that Dire Maul is one of my favorite locations in the game, and I've spent a lot of time there. There's such a tragic, haunting beauty in its design and execution -- the Shen'dralar are essentially "living fossils" of pre-Sundering night elf civilization, and I feel that's reflected in both the appearance of the instance and the way its quests play out. I mean, we as players have it hammered into our heads from the start that the Highborne are to blame for bringing so much destruction upon Azeroth, yet we rarely hear much from the Highborne themselves about their feelings on the matter. Until the lead up to Cataclysm
, Dire Maul was one of the few places where we were able to get a glimpse into their minds and their lives.
That was why Mordent appealed to me so much as a character to explore. When the dialogue between him and Stillbough appeared in Wrath
, I was thrilled. In Mordent, I saw someone who is struggling to find acceptance in a world that has largely forgotten him, yet at the same time he staunchly refuses to apologize for who and what he is. I wanted to give him (and the Shen'dralar) a voice. I wanted to tell their story.
As far as the development of the story itself, bear with me as I digress for a second. As I was writing one evening, The Byrds' Turn! Turn! Turn!
came up on my iPod, and I had a proverbial light bulb moment about the direction the story needed to go in. As I sat there listening to the lyrics, I realized it really summed up some of the themes I wanted to convey in my story, particularly regarding the need to be flexible toward change, even if it is difficult to accept. I also wanted to address the absolutism and hypocrisy I felt was going on in the night elves' attitude towards the Highborne; in thinking that they were somehow morally superior, they were guilty of the same faults as the people they claimed to revile.
The song inspired me to do a major rewrite, and I ended up really expanding the section where Mordent is arguing with Stillbough to get those points across. "The wicked and the righteous" is actually a play on a line from the text that Turn! Turn! Turn!
is based on; the original reads "the righteous and the wicked." I ended up reversing it for the title because I liked the idea of turning who we typically see as "good" and "bad" on its head; I wanted the readers to really take a hard look at their assumptions they were accustomed to making regarding both the Highborne and the night elves.
Mordent's moved now -- in Cataclysm, he's hanging out with the worgen. Why do you think Blizzard placed him in that spot? Do you think it was deliberate, or it just needed someplace for him to go?
I certainly can't speak for Blizzard, but if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was deliberate. Both the worgen and the Highborne gain their abilities from sources that are powerful but extremely erratic and unpredictable. Night elves place a lot of value in the concepts of balance and stability, and so I think they probably find the residents of the Howling Oak unsettling. After all, both groups are living embodiments of moments in night elf history when they allowed themselves to lose control. I mean, the night elves are to blame for the Sundering and
for bringing worgen into Azeroth, and I expect neither is something they like to be reminded about. However, I don't think Mordent is the type to allow himself to be swept under the rug. He's just biding his time -- he has a lot of practice with that.
Do you think that Blizzard did enough with the story behind night elf mages? What would you have done to the story behind it, if you'd had the chance?
I think it's too early to make that call just yet -- we're still fairly early on in the expansion. There are certain things I'm hoping Blizzard will flesh out more, of course, such as Tyrande's motivations behind condoning the use of magic and the real reason as to why the Shen'dralar have returned from exile in the first place. That said, if I'd had a chance to develop this story arc a bit further myself? I'd probably have expanded some of the points I very briefly addressed in my contest entry -- namely, the effect that Malygos's death has had. I know we learned at BlizzCon that Kalecgos will be replacing him as Aspect, but as it stands right now, there's this huge power vacuum both politically and in terms of the arcane energy of Azeroth itself. How the Shen'dralar choose to factor themselves into that situation will be very, very telling.
Have you done any other Warcraft-related fan fiction that people could take a look at?
Unfortunately, I don't have anything publicly available, no -- as I said, this was the first piece of fiction I'd written in a very long time, and the only
piece of fan fiction I've ever written. That said, I'm a co-author at a new lore blog called Flavor Text
with a few friends; it focuses mainly on WoW
as a case study for MMORPGs as a storytelling medium and art form. I'm having a lot of fun with that.
If you were given a chance to write about one particular character in Warcraft lore (other than Mordent, of course), who would your pick be?
I feel like this is probably something of a predictable answer considering the subject matter of my contest entry, but I have to say Tyrande. She's been through so much, she has so many responsibilities to bear, and yet she manages to be this constant, unfailing source of inspiration for her people. I think it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing her as this larger-than-life character in lore, when in actuality she's very "human"; she had doubts about her capability to be High Priestess, and she still has serious fears of becoming another Azshara. I'd love to get inside her head and really try to tackle how she manages to reconcile all that.
Any advice for next year's aspiring entrants in the Global Writing Contest?
This is probably a bit meta, but I just want to encourage people to become "aspiring entrants" in the first place! I know of people who were afraid to enter because they didn't think they stood a chance -- and you know what? I honestly didn't think I did, either. I mainly approached the contest as an opportunity to say thank you to Blizzard for creating such a rich and engaging universe that I've gotten so much enjoyment out of. The most I dared hope for was that maybe, just maybe, the judges would enjoy immersing themselves in my version of Azeroth for a few moments. So to have them come back to me with this sort of acknowledgement -- that's more than I could have ever dreamed of. It was surreal, honestly. Moral of the story: Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Congratulations again on the win, Marika, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
For more from Marika, check out the full version of her winning story, The Wicked and the Righteous, on her Dreamwidth site, and read her other thoughts on WoW and storytelling at Flavor Text. For more excerpts from winning authors, take a look at the official Blizzard website.
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