Guest Post: Eleventh Cycle Writing Inspiration

  • Title:
    • Eleventh Cycle
  • Author:
    • Kian N. Ardalan
  • Release:
    • February 1, 2023
  • Format:
    • Audiobook
    • eBook
    • Paperback
  • Narrator:
    • Jessica Threet
    • Evan Jordan
  • Series:
    • Mistland #1

It is no secret that my inspiration for Eleventh Cycle stemmed from the Dark Souls games and the Berserk manga. But this only scratches the surface. In truth, Hollow Knight, another game based in an apocalyptic world long past its glory days and featuring bugs, was the first spark for what became Eleventh Cycle.

Hollow Knight had a morose, sad atmosphere. It was gothic and its story was uncovered from environmental storytelling and was so fractured that one had to piece the lore together. I wanted something like that. Obviously, that led me back to Dark Souls and other Fromsoft games, but I don’t think that is where my journey stopped.

I did research, and there is this ongoing discussion that Miyazaki (who spearheaded Dark Souls) once read Lord of the Rings in English. Having struggled to understand everything, it was the experience of then going through other sources to piece together the story for himself which changed the entire narrative of those books. It supposedly then became a narrative style which influenced his future worlds too. I liked that idea a lot and wanted to capture that concept in the Mistland series. The main storyline is accessible and people can follow the narrative, but in the background, the story has a lot of fragmented pieces that you need to piece together to learn what is happening behind the scenes.

On top of that, just like the idea that every freeze frame of those games resulted in a sublime image, I wanted that to be the case in my book as well. Some may say it is too verbose, but that is by design. I wanted this wilting world to have a haunting beauty to it just like in the games. Wanted each section to deliver on the haunting beauty and sombre feel.

As far as Berserk is concerned, I sought to replicate the themes of suffering and tragedy, the idea of characters facing the most horrible realities possible, and then showing how they moved past it. In a sense, I wanted to show that no matter how dark it can get, there is a way to move on. The book is unapologetic in that sense, or at least that is my hope.

Author Kian N. Ardalan

But it wasn’t all just games. I looked into a great anime classic film called Angel’s Egg. One of the most surreal, cryptic and amazing movies I ever watched. There are only a handful of bits of dialogue, the rest of the story is so heavy with symbolism, theme and
atmosphere that one needs to extrapolate the story you want it to tell. And that was the magic I wanted in my work.

For me, the most exciting thing was transferring a feeling into another medium, but doing it in a way that doesn’t outright alienate a lot of people. I wanted to experiment. There is a reason why 4 of the POVs are in 1st person and the 5th is in 3rd person omniscient.

And within such a world of abstract beings and unfamiliar cosmic laws, I wanted to deliver on the feel of the Elders with different prose. Their language is spoken in Shakespearean English. The architecture of their realm is directly inspired by the works of Piranesi and his etchings titled “Imaginary Prisons.”

It is said that Piranesi did these etchings when fighting against malaria, which is a way to explain the unhinged dimensions of his chaotic architecture. But as others have said, this theory does the amazing nature of these etchings a disservice. The impossible dimensions are what make them so incredible and that was a big part of how I describe the world of Elders on Mount Morniar.

Looking back at all this history, of the building blocks and the works that came before, I feel like Eleventh Cycle owes its creation to this past. I stand on the shoulder of giants and hope simply, humbly, that my take on these games, on these old cult classics, resonates at least with some of my readers out there. And that’s all I can ask for.

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