So, we’ve been calling this game Thousand-Leaved Grass, but that’s a working title that we’re looking to discard. It happens to refer to yarrow, which is a reference to I Ching (yes, I’m using this romanisation, but in the bulk of the text we’ll be using pinyin like civilised persons), but it’s not the same kind of yarrow, and while that’s a detail that, like, three people in the world will care about, I happen to be among those three.
So, we’re asking you for help.
You know what this game is about, right? It’s (from Scooter’s intro) “a game about the mythology of an imaginary China, where archetypal and amazing mortals interact with and challenge gods, magicians, and other larger-than-life stuff of legend– and, through nothing more than their extraordinary-but-mortal courage, wit, and strength, become the stuff of legend themselves.” It’s inspired a lot by Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds and sequels, in a structural way but not necessarily in details; it tells a kind of story that I want to tell, but it’s also steeped in a kind of orientalism that we don’t need to ourselves become victim to.
So, that said, what we want to express with this title is a sense of the vastness and grandeur of this world on the edge of myth, and connect it with an image of archaic China. It doesn’t have to be a super-accessible image, in my opinion, but it’s got to be something that you can think about and maybe find the connection if you know how to think like that. That’s why I think Bridge of Birds is such an excellent title, actually, but it’s sort of…already been taken.
We’ve already talked about this at some length, and here are some things that we thought about.
There are lots of commentaries on I Ching! Among them are Chain of Mountains, which is a phrase I find beautiful but it’s not quite there. Another one, Gui Cang, Wikipedia maintains is translatable as “Return and be contained,” which doesn’t really speak to me.
I do like “Explanation of Horizontal Lines” and “Ten Wings,” but they are both really opaque, and also at this point, my discomfort with reusing titles asserts itself. We need to use these as inspiration rather than a place to steal from. Perhaps The Eleventh Wing? Maybe Legend of 64 Heroes?
Maybe we go farther back and look at Shang dynasty oracle bones. There’s a form of divination that was practised at the time using tortoiseshells or the scapulae of various animals. Apparently they used to be sold as “dragon bones” as a medicinal product…Cracking a Dragon’s Bones? Things Told to Pan Geng by a Tortoiseshell? (Pan Geng is apparently the posthumous name of a Shang ruler.)
Another direction to pursue is the exploration of mysterious heavenly vistas, or making reference to the Milky Way as Bridge does. In Japanese it is the “River of Heaven,” which is pretty okay to me. In a couple of languages it is a road or path.
There’s another way to go, making reference to the great literary classics of China, but I can only read them in translation, and Journey West is not the vibe I’m really going for…or is it? I’m just starting Outlaws of the Marsh (thanks, Jon) this week, and I dunno whether that’s going to be it, either. But maybe the classics aren’t where we should look at all? Maybe we should look at literature-for-the-masses, like Jin Yong’s wuxia fiction?
I wait with bated breath for your thoughts!