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In 1991 depression and, especially, anxiety had become so overwhelming that I couldn't write an essay, much less a work of fiction. Indeed, I couldn't read a page of research for an essay before my hands were shaking so much that I literally couldn't read. I was forced to abandon the MA I was then working towards. I have been slowly recovering ever since; even though I think of myself as recovered now, I suspect there is still some distance to go.

My inability to write was a source of great anguish to me, because it was still my belief that I wanted nothing so much as to be an author. After several years I managed to begin exercises of writing for at least ten minutes a day, and for months produced nothing but drivel. But then one day I had a bit of inspiration. I went for a long walk, by the end of which the whole story was formed in my head, the second half of it almost verbatim. When I got home I set to writing it down, which took me three days; it's hard to sit still to type when that anxious.

I finished it, and it was good. For maybe a day. Then the nagging doubts set in, and I became increasingly disappointed, even ashamed. This short story, which I had hoped meant I was once again a writer, was now so embarrassing I couldn't bear for anyone to see it. After about a month I forced myself to send it in the post to my elder brother. Fortunately, his response was very positive, and this set me on the path to writing another book, building on the short story.

The book itself didn't get very far, largely because I was struggling to design a greater story that interested me; I was still; sufficiently depressed that practically nothing seemed a good idea, and the few chapters I wrote I thought poor. I was perhaps also over-obsessed with having a clear overview of the plot before starting, since my first attempt at a novel died in part for shortage of such planning. But in the meantime I did a fair a bit of work on the world, the language, and the culture.

TWomAB is short for The World of my Alleged Book, which is what I jocularly called it when talking about it to others; I don't believe I ever named it in any of its native languages. (After all, who gives a special name to their own world? One just calls it Dirt or the like.)

I don't propose to go into much detail about the book here, because it's still possible that I may yet decide to persist with it and don't want to risk spoilers.

I have worked to some extent on four languages of this world; I use rather generic names because originally I was reluctant to name them before developing the languages, and I still think of them by those names:

  • Holic is the language of a large kingdom that lies chiefly in the great Hol Valley, at the time of the story the greatest known polity of the world. This is the chief setting of the (alleged) book. Several centuries back the area was a true theocracy, which is to say it was governed directly by the gods. As one can imagine, their dialect was one of extraordinary prestige, which resulted in Middle Holic being remarkably uniform.
  • Imperial is the language of a former great empire which has now splintered into many realms. It remains the language of international commerce, diplomacy and scholarship, although Holic is beginning to supplant it.
  • Northern is a language spoken just north of the westernmost reaches of the Kingdom of the Hol, The area is culturally quite distinct, never having been conquered by Empire or the Kingdom of the Hol.
  • Oigulaoan is a distant relation of Holic. The land where it was spoken was sunk long ago by an extremely angry wizard, but daughter languages survive in its colonies. Perhaps more importantly, Oigulaoan culture had a significant influence on the future Empire.