#atozchallenge: S is for Saisshalé

Saisshalé - Andrew WKQ:  Okay, wait, I gotta ask this first:  Really?  Andrew WK as the villain?

A: Heh.  Yes, and no.

Yes, Andrew WK!  When I picked the Bridgetown Trilogy back up in 2010 and started rewriting and revising it, it occurred to me that my original physical description of the character wasn’t quite working.  I’d originally envisioned Saisshalé as a cross between a beefcakey dude, a bouncer, and that crazy guy you cross the street to avoid.  That didn’t quite jive with his true nature, though, so I started thinking about it a bit more.  A short time later, I’m listening to one of my older mixes and “Party Hard” comes on, and it dawns on me: AWK is actually a SPOT-ON physical match!  So I ran with it, and come to find out, the more I saw him playing the role, the better my revision of the character started to be.  So it all worked out just fine.

And no, he’s not the villain.  He’s merely the spiritual opposite of the One of All Sacred.  He gets a few unnamed cameos in A Division of Souls, but he’s in quite a few scenes in both The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light.

[As an aside: it really is hard to find a serious picture of Andrew WK online that doesn’t involve him partying hard, making faces or jamming with his pizza guitar!]

Q: What’s the origin of Saisshalé?

A: Saisshalé [say-SHAH-ley], as mentioned above, is the spiritual opposite of the One of All Sacred.  I came up with him around late 2001 when I needed to have someone just as strong spiritually as Denni was.  He was to be her equal across the board: whatever action Denni took, he would respond with equal force.  This presents a serious conflict between the two, because they’re both refusing to back down from what they believe is the right thing to do.

He originally had a much longer, more tongue-twisty name, but during the 2010 reboot I chose to change it.  I wanted to hint at a kiralla background, so I chose to go with the very sibilant sounds, and referred to my Anjshé glossary.  It comes from the words sa’im (sah’EEM, a qualifier used to add grandeur or excitement) and D’haff Sshalé (djaff SHAH-ley, lit. ‘dark-minded reptile’ but usually refers to someone stubborn and/or cruel).  In short, sa’im + Sshalé = Saisshalé.  In a way, his name translates to ‘Grand Reptile’, a rather cocky reference to his spiritual history.

Q: What is his history?  He’s kind of a weird character.

A: He is that, but I love writing him, because he’s a let’s see how far I can take this kind of guy.  I go into more detail in TPoM, but the short version: he was known as a vengeance deity during Trisanda’s very early spacefaring years: he was known as a brilliant tactician who was able to plan out and execute incredibly complex war plans.  He ascended to deity status similar to Denni, actually.  However, just like Denni, he hasn’t completely ascended yet.

Q: Why is he feared?

A: Basically because he projects the personality of a sociopath.  He can be extremely friendly, but his actions can very frequently be seen as amoral.  He often claims that he only acts this way ‘because he must’.  [And here’s the rub: if you actually sat down and analyzed his actions with what incited them, especially with comparing his actions to the One of All Sacred’s, he’s 100% correct in saying that.]  That’s not to say he’ll tear off your head for no reason; he would never do such a thing, and would be offended by such an accusation.  In short: he’s a pure Shenaihu, driven completely by spirit and reason, even if that reason goes against expected social mores.

Q: Anything else?

A: Saisshalé is quite tall, about the same height as Governor Rieflin.  His connection to the One of All Sacred goes a bit deeper than anyone knows or expects…and we’ll see more about that in The Balance of Light.  His voice is low in range, but not quite bass; when he speaks, he uses both vocal and innerspeak at the same time, so his words hit you especially close.  He also uses both his muscles and Lightwork for his physical actions, so he comes off as frighteningly strong.  Despite his reputation, he can actually be quite friendly and chatty.  And absolutely no one knows what he does during his down time, not even me.

#atozchallenge: R is for Anton Rieflin

Q: What’s the Governor’s origin?

A: Provincial Governor Anton Rieflin originally started out in The Phoenix Effect as more of an obstacle for Caren and Alec, as he’d originally been slated to be the token ‘guy in charge who obviously doesn’t know what’s really going on.’  That kind of character frustrated me, however, because it could be so predictable.  His character expanded significantly when I started A Division of Souls, when I decided he’d be a lot smarter than he let on.  I also gave him his own subplot, having to deal with the frustrations of city politics while something completely non-political was affecting his city.

Q: How is he connected to the Mendaihu Universe?

A: As soon as Nehalé Usarai’s mas awakening ritual calmed down, I started to think: the governor’s not going to like this.  This kind of ties in with things I notice with this kind of story: something huge happens that affects thousands of people…and either the government is nonexistent, or they’re the stubborn wrench in the works that keeps our heroes from getting things done.  I chose to play it a little more realistically:  the government is well aware of what just happened and want to do something about it.  Rieflin’s conflict is that his councilors have stalemated: half want to follow the Mendaihu request of remaining hands-off for now, but the other half want to get involved and stop it by force if they have to.
As far as he knows, he’s neither Mendaihu nor Shenaihu, so he has the added conflict of not exactly understanding what’s going on in the spiritual realm…but he’s open minded and willing to learn.

Q: Is he based on anyone in particular?

A: No, just someone who makes an impression on you partly because of his size (he’s quite tall at nearly seven feet, and is often mistaken for being Meraladian, which he’s not), and partly because of his personality.  He honestly does have the best of intentions, and is well aware of the intentions of the citizens he governs.  He’s just an all around nice guy, even despite what the naysayers and the cynics say.  His name is a Tuckerization of two drummers:  Anton Fig (David Letterman’s house band) and Bill Rieflin (Ministry, KMFDM, etc).  In my head, his last name is pronounced RYE-flinn.

Q: Even though he’s the province’s leader, he defers quite often to Nandahya Mirades, his Meraladian second in command.  Is that regular protocol?

A: Yes, it is.  The Provincial Governor’s Council is set up with a certain amount of balance: each councilor represents a specific department, and there is also a corresponding councilor for a related department.  For instance, we have Commissioner Allen Tatreaux of the Alien Relations Unit balancing out General Stephen Phillips of the Special Forces Guard.  Nandahya Mirades [Nahn-DAH-yah MEE-rah-dees] is considered Rieflin’s balance, so whenever a deciding vote is needed from the leader, it must come from both of them.

Q: Anything else?

A: As Provincial Governor, he has living quarters in the Mirades Tower, not far from his offices, but he also owns a house on Sachers Island.  He’s single and has no children at this time, but his parents and siblings live across the river in the suburbs.  He’s a very intelligent and curious person; he holds degrees in business, political theory and history, all acquired at Bridgetown University.  He’s well aware that some citizens view him as a puppet and/or an idiot, and he likes to use that to his advantage…that way he will often surprise them by doing exactly the right thing at the right time.  He likes to be able to trust those he works with, without needing to constantly monitor them or question their motives.  He has a very low tolerance level for bullshit and will call people on it without holding back.  He has a very high appreciation for art, and isn’t so bad an artist himself.  Among the few paintings he has hung in his Tower office, he also has a framed painting he did himself, of Bridgetown as seen from the Crest at Breed’s Hill.