Monday, 1 August 2011

What is an Artesan? (originally posted at Rhemalda in April 2011)

When I first began writing my fantasy series Artesans of Albia, it had a very different title. The premise is that a section of my world’s populace, drawn from five separate races, would be born with a certain talent. One manifestation of this talent is the ability to learn how to control one’s inner life force; an energy I call ‘metaforce’. Once this was decided, I found I needed a vehicle through which this metaforce would be channelled; something possessed by every living thing but which was unique in each case. I experimented with various terms until I hit on the word ‘matrix’. The matrix would be akin to the psyche, and it would be a thing of ephemeral, mystical beauty. It can only be seen by another practitioner of the craft and is an intricate, four-dimensional ‘pattern’, consisting of whorls, spirals, helixes, colors and emotions. The more skilled the practitioner, the more complex their matrix would be.
Having decided these things, the series’ title became obvious. It just had to be ‘Masters of the Matrix’. Brilliant title, I thought – I love it! (Can you see where this is going?)
I wrote happily on, oblivious to the slap in the face that was coming my way. Sometimes I just hate the film industry… Ok, of course you know, it was the release of the Matrix films. I spat feathers when the first one came out – how dare they ruin all my careful planning – not to mention a perfectly good series title? Not fair! For a while I toyed with the idea of keeping my masterpiece – maybe I could capitalize on the connection? Thankfully I thought better of it; can you imagine how mad someone would be if they bought one of my books by mistake, thinking it was related to the films? And I could just imagine what agents or publishers would say…
Anyway, now I had a problem. The people who exhibit this talent are not magicians or wizards in any sense of the word. Their ‘powers’ owe more to Druidical beliefs, or that of Wicca, than to such creations as Gandalf or Merlin. I had to find a unique name for them, a term that reflected their knowledge; their artistry.
One of the best-loved books in my writer’s arsenal is my Roget’s Thesaurus. It was a 21st birthday present from two great-aunts. (Actually my parents bought it, but the money came from my great-aunts.) They are both gone now – my 21st birthday was a long, LONG, time ago – but I still frequent my Thesaurus. When I’d exhausted all the obvious and immediate terms I could think of for my talented people, I dug through its many permutations and suggestions until I whittled all the possibilities down to two words. Artist and artisan.
Both these words carried elements (pun intended) of the skills my people possess, but both were too ordinary. I rejected them, but it wasn’t long until I realized there was nothing else. I’d already decided against coining a brand new word; I wanted potential readers to at least have an inkling of what the term might mean. Eventually, in desperation, I tried altering the word ‘artisan’ by exchanging the ‘i’ for an ‘e’. Bingo! The rest, as the old clichĂ© goes, is history.


  1. O, we still get the feel of the Matrix centre in there, Cas, trust me. You lost nothing. I know that fear though. All this energy channelled into a title, a carefully worded concept, a dialogue, a with much craft painted scene or an 'elegant' thought--then poof! A book title that is published first, a magazine article with your thoughts captured before your novel carries it and then Oh Dread! Hollywood taking your dialogues and capitalizing on your characters! ...Is there such a thing as brain wave thievery? No matter. We are all fractals of the whole. Of course we resemble each other, but ever evolving differences. . .Your Artesans have their own universe, and they play well in it.