Interview with ESO Loremaster Leamon Tuttle

A: So Leamon, thank you very much for joining me, welcome to the show.

LT: Hey, thanks, man. Glad to be here.

A: So I just thought we’d go ridiculously broad to start with just to set the scene and just get used to what we’re talking about. I want to talk about thought processes and helping to see more than a mouse. But just to set the scene, what is lore to you in the games? You are now the Loremaster, so what is your kingdom?

LT: Oh, geez. For one thing it’s not my kingdom! The kingdom belongs to many, many people. But, uh, yeah, it’s… I don’t know. I mean, it’s the really, really important stuff that happens underneath the basic activities. So it’s kind of the context in which everything happens.

I think it’s cool to really dig into that stuff. Because if you’re creating a living world, a world that people actually inhabit, they have to have stuff to talk about, they have to have shared cultural narratives and things that they that they can all be able to speak intelligently to each other in a way that makes sense. So, yeah, I think it’s really, really cool. It’s one of the one of the coolest parts of the franchise.

And, yeah, it’s exciting to be a part of it, for sure.

A: That’s a suitably broad answer to kick things off with I suppose! The way you’re talking about it, it sounds like you’re saying, it’s the way the characters experience the things in the game world? Right?

LT: Yeah, I think so.

A: But how does that perspective, which is incredibly broad, how does that perspective inform how you write about Tamriel? or Nirn, just keep it in broader?

LT: I mean, well, with respect to Elder Scrolls, generally, or specifically, it’s tremendously important because everything that the player gets is through the lens of one of those characters, right? There’s nobody outside of the game saying “it’s XYZ, and that’s just how it is!” or whatever. So you have to have a really solid understanding of how people in that universe think because that’s how you’re getting the information. So it kind of feeds on itself. It’s like you have to know the lore in order for the people in the game, who know the lore to explain the lore. It’s like this weird kind of cyclical thing. But yeah, and just thinking about needing to be able to think about it in that sort of a way.

A: And what’s that mean for how you think about the process of making lore?  This is possibly getting a bit of ahead of ourselves from the questions, but I just thought this was too good a segue to ignore. When you say, “think about what they’re thinking about and how they’re thinking about it”; so one character in the lore says they’re seeing a circle and one character in the lore says they’re seeing a square, right? Is there a cylinder behind that? Is there some sort of… I’m trying to describe, describe something visually…

LT: Are you talking about like, sort of a pan Tamriel, like shared narrative kind of thing?

A: Yeah.

LT: So I mean, there’s, there’s things like the Monomyth that kind of sets the table, it’s sort of the [story] that everybody kind of is adjacent to. You may not necessarily be on the same page with with how it all is laid out, but there is, there’s a kind of a shared basis of basic cosmological ideas that everything kind of taps into. So in that way, even if you’re looking at things, and you’re looking at them in a completely different way. You know, I think that when cultures are able to understand each other, even when those those differences are pretty, pretty big, you know?

A: that’s interesting, because I know that for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s development, particularly, there were some competing philosophies in how the game was going to be developed there. There was some people that saying that there has to be some sort of shared narrative (inside the battle for Red Mountain is what I’m thinking about), that there need to be these touchstones that had to have happened; this needs to reference this, needs to reference that etc. Then there were some other writers that were then saying that go and write a bunch of stuff that wasn’t necessarily related, regardless of how the contradictions fell out. But it sounds like from your perspective that you still got that common core that’s then being drawn from by everyone. Is that a reasonable description?

LT: Yeah, I guess so. I mean, it’s tough to say, because I’m a very big proponent in real life of, there is truth; there is a thing that, you can pile stuff on top of it, but at the end of the day, there’s this hard nugget of actual stuff that we’re all trying to get to, or whatever. And it’s a little bit more loosey goosey in Elder Scrolls, you know, because it is a fictional universe, right.

So I think it’s tough to say, where there’s a specific, discrete, truthful event that happened, and we’re all kind of getting at it, because it didn’t actually happen, it’s a fictional event. So it’s a little it’s a little tougher. In real life, though, I think that there’s, there’s absolutely truth that we’re all kind of getting a glimpse of.

A: Yeah, yeah. And just thinking about how that truth gets presented, the antiquities system is an absolutely fantastic way of doing that, merging lore and gameplay in a way that we haven’t really seen before in the games. When you were trying to conceptualize the types of lore that you could develop for that, what was the thought processes, and.. I don’t really want to say the word limit. But that’s kind of what I’m getting at.

LT: So we wanted to do two things. We wanted to expand on the stuff that people are really passionate about, and they know a lot about, right, like the Alessian stuff. And the things that people have been have been asking to see for a very long time, but hadn’t actually seen yet. So there was that. And then there was also there’s, let’s show people things that they have never seen before that there isn’t a whole lot of underlying lore behind. And so you’ve got the kind of familiar and the unfamiliar. And you have a lot of people worked on it, Andrew Young actually created most of the the list of the things that we should be looking at.

And, you know, he kind of batted around, saying, oh, this can be this, this can be cool. And this can be cool. And we hope to keep adding to it. So, there’s going to be more and more cool things that you can throw in your house or wear or whatever.

Yeah, so, I mean, in terms of in terms of limits, there are definitely things that we want to keep a mystery as much as possible. So we had, bouncing ideas around and were like “ooh, it could be this!” and then we’re like “no we can’t do that, we can’t do that.” But yeah, I’m happy with the list of things that we put out. I think people really dig them. I remember going on to Twitter, the day after it all came out and everybody was losing their minds like, “Oh my god, did you see the Alessia statue!?” or whatever, and it was really cool, really rewarding. Everybody is really happy. 

A: One of the things that fascinated me is that it’s a different type of lore, that’s being put through than things like, well, for this podcast. We’re often framed around the big questions, the “deep stuff” in inverted commas, right? These big, cosmic mysteries and so on. It feels like Antiquities is almost going entirely the opposite direction, going into the day to day details of life, and the kind of day to day “ceremonial” and the way that people’s lives are lived in a way that we haven’t really seen that much before, in how the lore has been presented.

LT: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. I was a history major history and philosophy major when I was in college. And I mean, history is all about, you get the big themes, but it’s also all about the mundane stuff, right? It’s because that’s your window into that world, right? So we do it with the “stealies”, too, in terms of just stuff that you find around the house, when you’re robbing somebody blind, whatever they can do to get a look into Tamrielic life. But personally, I really like getting to the kind of like, nitty gritty, hard, specific stuff about like, is the statue of Boethra, or it’s a statue of so and so. And it’s like, that’s cool. But what is it made of? How did they – who made it? What is it? Those are the kinds of questions that I think are really interesting, because not only do they give you a better sense of what’s going on in the world, but they also make things more real, because you’ve got to think about that stuff.

I think it’s sometimes it’s, you want to get into these huge things, and then you’ve got to have that strong foundation at the bottom, or it doesn’t feel real.

A: That’s something that I found that several fantasy universes will kind of skip out. There’ll be creation myths and the big cosmologies, and there’ll be dragons, but at the end of the day, how do they make bricks?

LT: Right. Exactly. And I think there’s two schools of thought. Both are tremendously flawed, like, one of them is, as a writer, “I’m going to focus strictly on these huge themes, and it’s going to be unbelievable, it’s gonna blow your mind!” And then, like you said, there’s no, there’s no floor to that. Or you can do like me sometimes and get so caught up in how do you make bricks, then  spend hours looking at brickmaking. And then it’s like, was that was that really relevant? Did we need to know everything about making bricks? I think they inform each other. I think you need both to make a compelling universe, for sure. 

A: Yeah, I’ve seen arguments made about that, actually. And there’s a quote, that’s not particularly complimentary, about Glorantha that kind of highlights exactly that, that you absolutely do need both mixed together. But thinking about the “voice” of antiquities so to speak, you’ve already said that you’ve got the little descriptions of all the objects in ESO already. But are there any particular challenges that came up with that particular writing style or implementing those sorts of voices that came up during antiquities development?

LT: Yeah, when we were talking about who is actually going to write these things, there was there was a lot of debate about what kind of perspectives do we want to give? Because the historian’s perspective informs a lot of what they’re going to say. So originally, it was we had two people, and we’re like, no, that’s, it’s got to be more people than that. Because two people, that’s not gonna work. So it steadily increased. And then we ended up with the five major voices that you have, which is Gabrielle, Verita, Amalien and the other two guys.

Anyway, so here’s an interplay there, and we try to give them each a unique area of expertise. You know, Ugron, he’s an orc so he has a very orcish perspective, but he’s also a scholar as well. So he’s not he’s not like the stereotypical banging a drum and grunt kind of orcish perspective. So he can he can provide a very unique perspective on all this stuff, because the orcish way of life is different than all the other stuff. And then you have a Amalien  who’s got you know, she has the the merish perspective, and she’s also kind of the the weirdo, which is a very thinly veiled avatar for me and some of the other lorebeards at the studio, you know, it’s like, “oh man, let’s talk about this really crazy thing!”

So there’s her and then and then you have Gabrielle with the more mage-y kind of arcane history sort of stuff. So everybody comes at it from a different angle. And when you have those competing worldviews, having good faith arguments, which is what those things are supposed to be, that’ll give you hopefully, kind of a more nuanced understanding of what that item is. It’s not, you know, it’s not the capital “T” truth of what that item is, but it gives you [a way to] approach it from multiple angles, and make your own decisions.

A: Now, I think about it that was already there to a degree with Phrastus and.. oh, I’m forgetting her name now…

LT: Oh, Lady Cinnabar.

A: Yeah, exactly.

LT: Yeah. Same deal. And I think that’s essential, to Elder Scrolls because I think that sometimes, because we have these ideas that some of us have been forming for decades at this point, about “I think it should be this”, and then they’re like, “here’s a pen, write books”. I think there’s an issue, it’s like, “I can finally write all the crazy stuff I’ve been thinking all these years!” And you can’t do that! So I think that having those having those dialogues between characters, it helps you balance out, saying my personal opinion, my personal ideas are not that important. What’s important is these characters battling it out, coming to consensus, or not. And then ultimately, that kind of invites other people into that conversation, which I think is that that’s, that’s when you succeeded. You’ve taken a conversation between two characters, and you’ve invited the larger community to participate. And I think we’ve done pretty well.

A: Yeah, that’s something that I think I’ve noticed a bit more with the texts of The Elder Scrolls in general. In previous games, there were books, well, I mean, there still are, and they’re penned by “Anonymous”. And there’s nothing else that makes me more angry than when I’m trying to work out where these ideas come from. I know there are biases in the text, but I can’t see them!

LT: Yeah, that’s got to be frustrating.

A: Yes. I don’t know, it’s, it might be that some of the texts are coming from an earlier era, where there was a bit more of a tendency to put something that was word of God-ish, if I can put it that way. Yeah, I like when I can say that this is definitely where those ideas come from. And it’s really nice to see Antiquities growing that sort of idea. And are you going to be adding any more voices to the choir for antiquities as you go on?

LT: Yeah, I can’t talk about that, specifically, and yes, there’s always that there’s always a possibility that it will expand the University of Gwylim, which they’re all faculty of, it’s a big organisation, there’s lots of different people all over Tamriel. So, you know, it’s possible. We are definitely going to be providing more antiquities for people to find as new zones emerge. So there’s always going to be is always gonna be more stuff to do and define, which is cool.

A: Are there any other universities on Tamriel, now that I think about it, because I saw the University of Gwylim getting associated with this, and it seems to have its fingers in a lot of pies, all originally developed off the back of one text that talks about the movements of men across Cyrodiil, if I remember correctly, but it seems to be the only real, what I would call academic institution as such on Tamriel. Am I missing some somewhere?

LT: I mean, there’s, you’ve got the College the Sapiarchs, so there are there are other universities. I think that that the the Gwylim guys have universal appeal, which is why everybody’s invited in a way that some of the other universities are a little bit more, you know, at arm’s length.

A: It feels the most university-like if I can put it that way, I wouldn’t necessarily have put the College of Sapiarchs in the same category because of how they deal with their knowledge.

LT: Yes, that’s true.

A: Thinking about that the University of Gwylim already existed before Antiquities, and I think the College of Sapiarchs already existed, but how does having that existing context within the lore impact the kind of things you can introduce when in terms of new antiquities or new books? What did the existing context give you in terms of constraints and opportunities?

LT: In terms of how we present that information, or and the types of information you can develop?

A: Both.

LT: So I think that there are limitations in terms of what scholarly practice in in Tamriel, how that’s different from us. I mean, there’s, there’s, no engineers in the University of Gwylim. I mean, there might be, but there are certain schools or things that they don’t necessarily need in Tamriel, but there are architects and then there’s things that they need that we don’t like Daedrology, and other types of classes that obviously not something that we need to worry about. We always have to keep in mind about, you don’t want things to be anachronistic, and you don’t want to enforce modern sensibilities on how they’re studying. Because it’s different. But I mean, they have a lot of the “ologies”. I don’t know if that answers your question.

A: I was thinking about it in a bit more of a meta perspective as to how the lore is produced, because you’ve already got this huge, great world. Mundus is already there, and with a relatively established timeline as such, so So how does that context inform the kind of stuff you can develop?

LT: Well, in terms of the timeline, everything has take place before 582. So yeah, there’s lots of like fun, heady stuff that we can’t really talk about, like, we can’t talk about Tiber Septim or any of the stuff that comes later, you know. But yeah, I don’t know if that I’m trying to try to follow your question. I’m not exactly sure.

A: I’m just I’m bad at explaining things! It’s just that you’ve kind of got this really rich tapestry that’s already there. And so how do you add new stitches, so to speak, without changing the entire picture?

LT: Oh, I gotcha. Yeah. I mean, there’s so much space on the tapestry. You’re talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of years. And, I mean, if you just look at the First Empire, that’s a lot of time, Second Empire. that’s a that’s a long amount of time. We don’t know all the sovereigns, we don’t know all their stories, There’s huge, huge gaps that you can that work in. I mean, some other things are places that people have visited like Clockwork City. There’s a lot about Clockwork City, but even with all the all the stuff that was already in place, I mean, there’s there’s still a ton of room for just looking around and seeing, digging deeper into exactly what’s going on. Also, with places like Black Marsh, how many people have gone to Helstrom? There’s who knows what’s going on. So there’s definitely a lot of space to explore for sure. I don’t think we’re ever going to run out.

A: Fair enough. It might just be my own biases, then because I tend to think in terms of ideas. And so I think “this idea has been played out or explored and has however many existing perspectives, can we really add anything more that’s meaningful to that idea?” is what I kind of go to, but that’s probably just my own way of looking at things.

As as we kind of come to ideas, like one of the big things that’s been on your CV in your work [as a writer] at ZOS has been that you created Sotha Sil as a a character. You mentioned in the past that hard determinism is one of those ideas that you wanted to get into Sotha Sil and explore. Yeah, so this is probably going to be the kind of meat and bones of the interview…

LT: I know you dug it. I listened to listen to your whole podcast series on it. I was like, Wow, man, that’s rad.

A: Any other ideas that you wanted to get into Sotha Sil? Any other perspectives or theories? I’ll stop throwing words at you now.

LT: Yeah. No, it’s all good. Yes, absolutely. Like I said, I was a philosophy major in college. And I’m very much the opinion that there’s important stuff that we need to talk about in philosophy and if I wasn’t able to find a way to do that, I would be miserable at my job. Just because that’s the stuff I really want to think about, stuff I really want to be talking about. So with Sotha Sil in specific, yeah there’s the hard determinism aspect of it. But there’s a lot with Nietzsche, that I was eternal recurrence and stuff. I’m a huge fan.

So for me, everything kind of goes back to Nietzsche eventually. But um, there’s Yeah, I know. I know. Not not a popular opinion. Depends on who you’re talking to. 

A: Yeah. For me it’s bit more like Deleuze, Foucault. Those more modern thinkers.

LT: Oh, yeah, that’s there’s good stuff there too. I have a friend of mine who he always gives me a hard time he’s like Nietzsche is just a lame Schopenhauer. It’s like, thanks, jerk. I disagree.

A: Yeah, yeah, no, he’s riffing off Schopenhauer. But that’s not all that’s going on.

LT: Yeah, that’s his point. He’s like if you want to get to the good stuff, just go to skip Nietzsche and go back to Schopenhauer. And then you can you can skip all his nonsense.

A: If you want to be depressed all the time, then sure. You go with Schopenhauer. But was it Schopenhauer that wrote On Suffering?

LT: No On Suffering is Kierkegaard he was another guy who I thought about in in this way… Oh, wait, it’s not No No, you’re right. On Suffering was Schopenhauer, I was thinking Sickness Unto Death.

A: Um, yeah, because Shaupenhaur can just mope and be fine, And that’s the end of it all. But Neitzsche tries to do something with it.

LT: Yeah. Neitzsche is joyful! He’s the joyful destroyer. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is like my favorite book ever. But anyway. Yeah, to go back, so Niezsche was a big influence. Plato’s Republic was a big influence. I think that comes across pretty clearly. What else? Kirkegaard, his whole despair of the infinite stuff that’s that played a role.

There’s just a ton of this stuff. And I love thinking about all of it. I think that it’s really cool. And I think people really respond well to it. It’s just, it’s, it’s daunting to drop one of those books in somebody’s lap and say “read this!” and it’s that some of these things are not fun to read, right. But if you can present it in a fictional setting with cool, compelling characters, I think it gives them a foot in the door, and they say, “Oh, well, you know, maybe there’s maybe there’s more here to explore”, which is part of the reason I love your podcast so much. It’s because, you know, you’re bringing in philosophers, which is totally my bag. I’m on board.

A: Excellent! Thinking about how you do that without dumping the whole book on them, so to speak, what’s your process for doing that?

LT: Well, my sister, who is also a philosophy major, she used to joke about how philosophers make poor writers, because you’re so caught up in these huge heady ideas that you forget about things like characters, and plot, and so you have to kind of reel it in sometimes, because I want to go off and talk about really crazy stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s really about making compelling characters that people can get behind and kind of get inside their headspace and actually feel for them.

So I think if you know, if Sotha Sil just waxed on Republic stuff for an hour people would have just completely tuned out, but if you present him as a real person with real priorities and sensitivities that people might not know about, then I think it becomes more compelling.

A: So that’s like dropping stuff from their immediate perspective, their story, and then going into the heady stuff, like the Prisoner dialogue, I thought that was beautiful.

LT: Oh, thanks.

A: It’s also recognising that the Prisoner is an idea that has been around for quite a while in the series, and also saying “this is how the stuff that Sotha Sil does is relevant to that.”

LT: It’s an interesting subject. So getting him to dig into that is cool stuff.

A: Thinking about Sotha Sil in particular, there’s an awful lot that we get about him that’s not necessarily his perspective. What went into the development of the Clockwork City and the relation to the Tribunal faith in general? I kinda see those as three distinct things: there’s Sotha Sil’s perspective, there’s the Clockwork Apostles, and then there’s the Tribunal Temple. How do those three interrelate?

LT: I think that there’s a fair amount of space between Vivec and Almalexia’s adherents too, that gets glossed over sometimes. But yeah, Sotha Sil, because he lives in a completely different place and his people are specifically explicitly isolated from the world that we know. You don’t have the kind of religious cross-pollination that you’d have in actual Tamriel.

So, they do have necessarily different beliefs because they’re just not exposed to anybody else, they’re in dad’s big house and dad’s down there sometimes. And every so often he shows up and he’s like, “here’s some dad knowledge for you, and I’m going to leave for another 200 years!” So, I think that there’s kind of a, they’re not starving for new ideas, but they are very steeped in one specific faith system. And I think that they, they Yeah, I mean, obviously they’re, they’re told to respect Almalexia and respect Vivec and respect their beliefs and how it ties in with Sotha Sil, but they’re very explicitly Sotha Sil worshipers.

A: Yeah. The way I saw that is that Sotha Sil is collecting black swans, if I can put it that way. Je’s taking individuals who are good at something, just plucking them out, and smashing them together to see what happens.

LT: Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s definitely an experimenting on the experimenters kind of vibe. In Clockwork City. I mean, there’s a book where Ius talks about increased sodium content by X amount, I wonder how many people are gonna get, I don’t know, diabetes, or whatever, You don’t get diabetes from sodium. You can tell I’m not a scientist!

A: Increased incidence of cardiac arrests, that sort of thing?

LT: Right, exactly. So I mean, he’s up to something that’s above all the stuff that they’re up to. And I think that there’s a sense that there’s definitely an emulation aspect to it, where they’re giving themselves mechanical limbs, and they’re trying to do experiments of their own, and they publish theses that five people will read. And so it’s definitely a lot of people just like trying to be like Sotha Sil, which I think makes sense, given the context.

A: That sort of thing puts a whole different spin on things like the Truth in Sequence. One of the things that I’ve heard a lot in the fandom is that it’s like the 36 Lessons but for Sotha Sil, which, frankly, no…

LT: [Laughs] No, not at all.

A: Perhaps one of the most apt descriptions I’ve heard is that it’s one of the best pieces of Sotha Sil fan fiction ever written.

LT: [Laughs] Yeah, I can see that. There’s definitely a lot of daylight between Vivec’s stuff and Sotha Sil’s stuff, though. First of all on the author, I mean, Vivec’s unreliable, but at least he’s writing himself. For Sotha Sil it’s, it’s this person who may have been appointed, may have just claimed the title on her own. So, you’ve got that one step away from the truth, which is, that’s that’s a big step for someone like Sotha Sil.

A: That’s fair enough. It’s been a while, do we actually meet Deldrise?

LT: No, she’s been dead for a long time by the time that the player gets there.

A: Ah, ok. And then it gets recycled, and religious dogmatism sets in, and the rest is, well, clockwork.

LT: Right.

A: Some of the bits that stood out to me, was obviously the hard determinism and “works like clockwork” kind of thing. You say there’s some distance between the Truth in Sequence and the 36 Lessons, but I also saw some commonalities in there.It’s in things like “the Anu-Padomay binary has no merit”, that sort of thing.

LT: Sure.

A: Then in the 36 Lessons you have “Anu and his double, which Love knows never happened” so I can’t help but see some similarities in there.

LT: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, I would be lying if I said the 36 Lessons had no influence on me. Like I was just doing my own thing. If anything 36 Lessons are so brilliant, that I think if I had said “I’m gonna do 36 Lessons again!”, it would have been a mess. I think that would be a ridiculous attempt. So it’s it’s definitely it’s own thing and we wanted to present you know, big, crazy heady, cosmological issues in it and so I think it’s evocative in ways that are similar to the 36 Lessons, I guess. There’s a lot of you know, kind of like Zen koans and you know, weird stuff going on in there.

So yeah, there’s there’s definitely similarities, but yeah, I definitely did. not go in trying to try to do 36 Lessons: part two, because that would just be a mess. I love I love Love, love, love, love that book series. So, yeah, it’s,

A: I’ve been asked to do it do I want to go through it and just..

LT: Wow. Settle in!

A: Just, no. The New World school has already done a fantastic job on that. I don’t know, if you’ve come across them?

LT: I haven’t.

A: Look them up., they literally go line by line through the 36 Lessons, they’ve been going for about three years, and I think they’re on, I think, sermon 23?

LT: Jeez, that’s wild man!

A: It’s just Rottendeadite and Buckneybos just go through whatever spare time they can cram. So it’s awesome. It’s fantastic. I was trying to do something similar when I went through the Truth in Sequence, and see what I can pull out. There is that kind of stuff in there. As you say, kind of all the different bits like that pulling out and pulling out koans, I was picking up on several of those in there. And it felt to me a bit more… almost overtly religious, rather than necessarily a mystery text, if you if you see what I mean. The 36 lessons is for the people who want to get inside the sixth circle of mystery, or whatever. Whereas the Truth in Sequence is something that’s a bit more for the common man.

So you’ve got standard reference points, and exhortations to be your best self, almost, towards the end. And, to an extent to kind of convert people as well, kind of “well, you you want to be on the losing side? Really!?

LT: Right. Yeah. I think most of the people are already already converted for the most part, but it’s definitely one of these things where she’s definitely writing to an audience. Probably an audience that’s on board already. But I think that there’s something, not subtly scary, I think there’s something really scary about where Sil’s endeavours are headed, even for people who might be part of that faith system, and she doesn’t shy away from saying things are gonna be different. She talks about how you have to shed your idea of self, and all that other stuff. I mean, it’s kind of creepy stuff. So I think less than trying to convert people, I think it might just be one of these things where it’s like, this is necessary. Don’t freak out, look at Sotha Sil, he’s got a great plan for everybody. Everything’s gonna be great. But seriously, stick with the program. It’s all gonna work out in the end. You don’t want to be like those idiot dwarves…

A: Yeah, there’s a feel of almost sciencism, if I can put it that way..

LT: Yeah, a little bit.

A: …in how that gets put across, and, there’s still the religious trappings in there, which just makes it just so much richer, when you kind of smash those different worlds together.

LT: Yeah, it’s weird, man. It’s putting those things together. And also, I mean, kind of the there’s some stuff about the essential nature of blasphemy. building blasphemy into the system that’s weird, and tough. How do you manage that in a way that doesn’t just turn into total chaos, you know? So this idea of control, blasphemy, or controlled chaos inside the system.

A: which is actually in there in 1984. Now, I think about it. They entirely predict what Winston’s going to do.

LT: Yeah, exactly. So I think you need that escape valve. Or you need that built in. So you know, what’s gonna happen?

A: No, absolutely. That’s more or less the end of sort of structure stuff apart. Apart from Argonians. We have to talk about Argonians. People don’t talk about Argonians enough.

LT: That’s true! That’s absolutely true.

A: Because you’ve mentioned before, Argonians are your favorite races in all Tamriel? Or maybe the favorite race? Is there a reason for that?

LT: Uh, yeah, there’s a lot of reasons I like that. They’re weird. They’re alien. They have a completely different faith system, a completely different cultural organization, different physiology. They’re just completely other than everybody else on the continent. And I think there’s something really fascinating about that. And then we’re given an opportunity to develop some of the specifics of how that society works. When you take a society and you take the idea of time out of it, like what happens? Everything about the Argonians that we’ve developed, it all comes from that central idea that time is is far less relevant than most people think it is. And you combine that with their relationship with the Hist and you get a really interesting culture. That’s very, very different, and I like different things.

A: Yes. I’d almost say it’s maybe not time, but progress. I was talking with, in the latest Selectives Lorecast that we recorded yesterday, we were going through Mehrunes Dagon, and one of his big things is revolution, I was curious as to what the difference was between what Dagon does and what the Hist have done in relation to Sithis with the Argonians, this idea of there’s no progress, but there’s constant change.

LT: Yeah, exactly. I think Argonians would baulk at the idea of revolution, because that implies that there’s something to revolt against. And for the Argonians, that entire idea is an illusion, there’s nothing, there’s no thing that you’re rising up against. That’s the kind of folly that makes all these other people build these giant castles for no reason, because they’re all gonna fall down. And  there’s that time just goes, and you just go with it, and whatever happens happens, and change is inevitable, there’s nothing they can do to really change it, to get in the way of it or to rebel against it, or to do any of that. You just have to flow with it. Sithis is a kind of an avatar of change, I think that’s how they make that connection.

I think Shadowscales are interesting in terms of their relationship with Sithis, but yeah, they just the idea of, not not so much. I don’t know, I feel like “revolutionary” implies that there’s these discrete moments in time, where you have to change course, so you have to do something. And it’s just that’s not at all the case. It’s that all that is an illusion, the only thing that you can maybe say, there was a revolution in history was, the period of transition between the stone building parts of their history, and then the current parts of their history. We don’t know how long that took or why it took place. But I think that that the idea that there’s these giant stone things that last a really long time, I think that’s kind of antithetical to the basics of their whole system

A: My  interpretation of that was that it was built, the xanmeers at another point in their history, when there was a different value system in place and then the Hist decided, “oh, we’re actually going to convert.”

LT: Yeah, yeah. Or maybe they got away from this for a while and weren’t listening for whatever reason. And then the Hist had to say, knock that off? It’s a mystery.

A: Yeah: And we’ve got, I think, at least two distinct Argonian subcultures existing in Oblivion in various ways, because we’ve got the ones in Coldharbour and the one and the ones in Clavicus Vile’s realm at the moment, I don’t think they…  no, they won’t have broken away and formed Umbriel yet. So there’s definitely all sorts of bits we can dig into with the Argonains since, and again, you’ve been very, very careful to say that all these creation myths are “for one tribe and not otherwise attested”.

LT: Exactly. Yeah, cuz that’s one thing Lawrence, made very clear too, before he left is that the idea that there’s this monolithic culture that all Argonians ascribe to is ridiculous, that just doesn’t work. The only kind of Pan-Argonian idea, I think, is just this idea of change and just having to having to go with it in whatever way seems appropriate. And also this idea of radical forgiveness, which is, if you have a society that’s full of all these tribes with disparate ideas about what you should do, and it hasn’t just collapsed in on itself in constant perpetual war, there must be something there. Which kind of keeps the peace or whatever. And I think the idea of the virtue of forgetfulness, I think is something that that is cool, because people get so caught up in holding on to things and saying things can’t change. And if you just say, no, it’s okay to let that go, let it pass, you know. I think that there’s something profoundly healthy about that. I think the Argonians are kind of the only culture that have figured that out because everybody else gets so stuck. I think.

A: I’d kind of argue the Bosmer, maybe, as well, they – 

LT: YeahI could see that.

A: – they seem to be more accepting of outsiders. At the very least I don’t know about acceptance of change as such. Because they’re caught, they’re relatively hidebound to tradition, still. You’ve still got the Silvenar, the Green Lady and that structure. But because everything is perchance with the Bosmer and so on that, again, they they’re edging towards that.

And I think, actually, in the more modern Tamrielic history the Argonians are possibly swinging away from that idea a bit.

LT: Oh, with the An-Xileel and stuff?

A: Yeah

LT: That’s one of those interesting things is trying to try to figure out how that works. How do you how do you go from this… and it’s kind of talked about a little bit in the Blackwater War books, is how do you have this kind of culture that very rapidly, can become very scary. I mean, you have the whole Argonian slave narrative. We definitely wanted to get away from that during Murkmire, we wanted to present Argonian culture separate from that whole part, which has, unfortunately become one of the central pillars of how they identified Argonians was this like, so… But then you think about, once the whole An-Xileel stuff happens, and conquering huge swaths of Tamriel or whatever, you’re like, “Well, shit, where did that come from?” They had it in them, right? Like, I mean the idea that they charged into Oblivion and pushed all the Oblivion Gates closed and stuff. I always thought that was really cool. But yeah, how do you go from fun, pastoral kind of lay in the mud, everything’s cool and groovy, to we’re gonna become this incredibly warlike people, and I think that some of it has got to do with the Hist, right? I mean, either the Hist thought that that needed to happen for whatever reason. Or maybe there was a concerted effort to ignore what the Hist was saying? I don’t know. But it’s really interesting. It’s a very interesting period in Argonian history. I’m really interested to see where that goes if we keep moving forward in the timeline.

A: Well, there’s there’s part of me that’s pessimistic about that, because I’m convinced TES:6 is happening on the other side of Tamriel. But that’s the future, so we’ll probably have to get glimpses of that. I did have a train of thought that I was going to go on for that with the Hist, but no, it’s gone.

LT: That’s okay.

A: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s pretty much everything I kind of wanted to run through. It feels like we’ve just gone through it out of a break a bit of a breakneck pace. Is there anything else you wanted to go through?

LT: Yeah, well, no, I mean, if we had the whole thing about, in your podcast, I thought it was really interesting that the whole thing about the contrast between kind of the Padomaic values of the Chimer and Velothi stuff versus the Anuic stuff, in Clockwork City so I’m happy to talk about that too, because I thought that I think it’s really interesting.

A: Okay, just to pick up all that whole Anuic-Padomaic thread then. But I think that’s always the time that it’s all it’s always a term that I don’t like the Anuic versus Padomaic side of things. Because in my opinion, Anu doesn’t act Anuic, and Padomay doesn’t act Padomaic

LT: [laughs] In what way?

A: In the Anuad, Anu is desperate to get back to how things were, he wants to recreate Nir, as close as he can, or what Nir created, which was the Twelve Worlds. And so he’s not wanting things to be static, he’s trying to go backwards. Whereas Padomay, he doesn’t particularly want change, Padomay just wants Nir for himself. Being Padomaic is being selfish, in my opinion, if we’re going to go with what Padomay actually did, as opposed to actually wanting change. I don’t know, I’m just not happy with Anuic and Padomaic as descriptive of stasis and change.

LT: I know they’re meant to be cosmic forces, right? It’s tough. I mean, all those dualisms, just by virtue of the fact that the dualisms, 99 times out of 100, it’s BS, right? It’s sloppy thinking, it’s basically saying, “I’m going to take this incredibly complex world or these incredibly complex concepts, I’m going to distill them down to these two opposite things, and then that’s how the world works”. I think it’s always more complicated than that. It has to be. I think it makes complete sense that Anu and Padomay might be behaving oddly, because I think they’re they’re bigger than what we say they are. But I think that stasis and change are important concepts, even if they don’t necessarily correspond with how those forces work in practice, I feel like that there’s two competing ideas [that] really inform a lot of the cultures for sure. So yeah, I think it’s one of those useful binaries that isn’t necessarily true.

A: Yeah, it’s, it’s a useful tool.

LT: Right. Exactly. So with with Sotha Sil, he comes from a quote-unquote Padomaic tradition, because he was a Chimer right, that was their bag. And I think there’s a specific rejection of Azura at one point, where he’s basically like, “we’re done with that, we’re gonna be the gods that you guys can’t be or won’t be” or whatever. I think that in and of itself means turning their back on those forces., I don’t know, I think that that pushes him… I think Sotha Sil’s story, for me, personally, is I’ve always had a hard time reconciling the idea of Clockwork City or the idea of order, or kind of a unified purpose, or any of that stuff. I had a really hard time getting that to work in a Padomaic context. It’s tough. I don’t know how you do that. And, like, I mean, the idea of a clock, right, just like a clock is when I was thinking about it, I was like, that’s a really cool thought experiment for Anu and Padomay, generally, because it’s this thing that always goes in circles, and it doesn’t move of its own accord, but there are things that are always moving in it. There’s change built into the system constantly, but it’s like change that doesn’t change. It’s change that’s reliable, or that just kind of keeps going in circles. And I think there’s there’s something really fascinating about that.

A: It’s a paradox machine.

LT: Yeah, exactly. So that I think that idea gets into most of this stuff with Sotha Sil is this weird kind of paradoxical binding of change and stasis and trying to try to make some sort of coherent whole out of those ideas. Tamriel Final, for me, at least, is the idea of taking a mess and turning it into something that’s whole and perfect and works exactly the right way. And, and I mean, I said that I thought about Republic a lot when I was reading some of the stuff. And I mean, the idea of Republic is a tremendously Anuic enterprise, right? I mean, you can’t have utopia, because if utopia changes is not utopia anymore, right? Like, because it’s already… you can’t get better than that. So I think that just just when you talk about clocks, when you talk about perfect order and things winding and working in the right way, I think that you can’t talk about that without a degree of Anuic language. And I think that, the idea is that you can bind those ideas together if you can pull in a very Anuic idea, but still preserve the idea of change, the necessity of change. you get a cool outlook.

A: And the one of the big things about that is kind of totalitarianism, and that sort of thing. I’m, I’m thinking back to an article that I read years ago, but I’m talking decades, but well, not decades, plural yet. It was about the philosophy of the colors in Magic: the Gathering, if I can just diverge entirely. Are you familiar with that world setup?

LT: Yeah, 

A: Cool. The idea was that, having order in saving everyone the common good, and all that wholesome stuff that and just finding a place for everyone is very, very white. But fascism is also very, very white. Right? Because there will be this perfect order, everyone will be in their place, and everyone working towards the common good. Kind of soldiering on towards the volk, and all that sort of stuff.

LT: Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

A: Sotha Sil feels to be of that similar mould, a kind of  that kind of white villain, if you like.

LT: Yeah, I was surprised by… I mean, I’m not surprised that people like him, because he’s a cool character, but I am sort of surprised that people think he’s such a great guy. You could make an argument that he’s preferable to the other two, kind of, but he’s… I don’t know. I think that he’s tremendously flawed. And I think that some of the things that he does, are not great. Not at all, and it’s always surprised me that people I mean, people come down so hard on Almalexia.

A: Yes

LT: Like, so hard. I feel so bad for her because she’s she’s busting her ass for so long, trying to make everything cool for everybody, and actually acting like someone who actually cares about what’s going on and trying to do the best for people and stuff. And, and then….

A: Can I pick you up on a word, there?

LT: Yeah. I think I know what it is!

A: You said she was acting like she cares.

LT: Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I’m very keen on Almalexia, I think she gets a bad rap. But I think, if you really think about what Sotha Sil was up to or think about the way that he lives? I think it’s less… I mean, he’s absolutely prepared to let people die in pursuit of what he sees as the good. And I mean, the jury’s out, right. Is what he thinks is the good actually the good? I don’t know. I mean, I can’t see that far into the future. I mean, you know, what happened, the Clockwork City, and what happens with the Dunmer might become instrumental to something at some point. But this washing his hands of all the various crimes that he needs to commit in order to do that. I mean, he’s, he feels bad about it, but he’s still doing it. So I think Almalexia gets a really bad rap, and I think he gets off a little too easy. That being said, I love both of them. That’s part of the reason I love the tribunal so much is because they are so thoroughly flawed.

A: Yeah. I’d almost say I’d like to see what Almalexia’s long form books would be but I think we more or less already have them. We have like the homilies and all the little fables and stuff that get attributed to her. She’s more cultural, if I can put it that way, And she’s trying to get under the skin of your average Joe in a way that Sotha Sil and Vivec don’t really try to.

LT: Exactly yeah, I think she’s of the hoi polloi, right. Like, yes, it’s kind of trying to… and I think there’s value to that, right? I mean, you can’t… as much as I love the 36 Lessons, you’re not going to hand that to some Dunmer kid and say, hey, this is everything you need to know about the world. She’s there to actually provide a foundation for people to build on. The only thing with her is, I think that she’s fundamentally incapable of telling the truth in a way that Sotha Sil and Vivec can. I think partially because the truth is really scary, and also because when you tell if you’re if you’ve appointed yourself to be the guardian of the common people and you live in this incredibly horrifying existence that could be infiltrated by Daedric forces anytime or whatever. you’re not you don’t want to… again, you don’t want to hand that to some Dunmer kid and say “yeah” [laughs]. So, I think that she’s not as she’s not as truthful. But I think that she’s still working her ass off and and really, you know, doing the work. She’s putting in the work in a way that the other two don’t. So I’m very keen on Almalexia, everybody give Almalexia, give her a break!

A: Yes! absolutely. I think unless you want to go off on huge great tangents, I think that’s probably about it, but I could quite happily pluck some more things out of the air and we will be here for another two or three hours.

LT: I can tell you there’s stuff in the books nobody’s seen yet.

A: [Laughs] Oh, yeah?

LT: Yeah, there are things in those books that nobody found. And I’m really I’m really surprised. Like, really surprised. And yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s funny, I keep one every day I wake up and I’m like, I wonder I wonder if I wonder if they’re gonna figure that out yet. And nobody has. So given another given another glance, you might find something.

A: Ooooh, yeah, ok. So we need we need to go through with a bit with a bigger.. Or rather, a finer-toothed comb on it. Words! Yeah, actually, that’s that’s another thing. What sort of ideas have you seen out there that you haven’t expected? I know, you’ve mentioned the idea that you’re ambiguous in order to generate those ideas. But what sort of stuff has totally blindsided you, from what you seen? 

LT: Oh, boy. There’s, you know, the Truth in Sequence seems kind of fallen off the radar recently, because we just have so much other stuff going on. But there was a lot about it early on. But yeah, I mean, a lot of stuff. IceFireWarden wrote a like, I don’t know, it was like a doctoral thesis on it. And it was it was tremendous. There’s so much so much stuff in there that That made me kind of look at it again and say, Wow, you know, gosh you totally could totally get some of that stuff out of there! And, you know, some of the talks on the teslore, Reddit…

…and that’s where the technology cut out.

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