My Kingkiller Conundrum - Part 1: The Obsession
How Patrick Rothfuss' "Name of the Wind" & Kingkiller Chronicle spawned my biggest dance project EVER.
If I’m going to introduce you to my Hyperfixator’s Haven, the home of my most passionate and longstanding, burning and all-consuming obsessions—
“We call those ‘special interests.’”
Oh. Goodie. I’m glad you like your term. Me? I call them my passions and obsessions, and we need to discuss the elephant in the room regarding the one that has mutated, spawned, and overtaken my dance world. (Things spawn and mutate a lot around here. Wut? It’s a lab.)
ADMITTING I HAVE A PROBLEM
(possessed by demons. demons named Disaster, MoonFae & Friends. we do not speak their names)
*tapping microphone* Um…hi? I’m Izzy, my nickname is BellaDancer, I’m new to Substack, and I have an addiction. No, I’m legit-serious here. My delivery may be light-hearted and poking fun at myself, but I am not at all making light of the very serious issue of dependency or its neurological cousins. If you don’t know about neurodivergent hyperfixations and special interests, or their ability to hijack a life for good and for harm…well…if you plan to stick around on this Stack, and especially this Section, you probably need to.
Here…just open 👆 that article 👆 in a new tab if you need to and…I’ll wait… Okay, are we good to go? Cool.
THE GATEWAY BOOK
It all started with a perfectly innocent trip to find a new read at the fantasy/sci-fi book and gaming store in 2011. Nothing was blowing my skirts up, so I asked the dealer—I mean, the owner for a recommendation.
I swear, it was just one little book. Okay-okay, it was a quite hefty book, but I like them that way, and I admit it. The guy warned me. He told me not to get attached, because Book 3 was not out yet and it might not be anytime soon.
“No problem,” I chirped.
Pffft, what was the big deal? I don’t get SO attached to books that I require a warning, yo. And besides, there are always plenty of other books in the sea to tide me over in the meanwhile. Right?
Unfortunately, he neglected to warn me of the more debilitating issues with this “innocent” gateway book. Which brings me to my problem. (Okay, it brings me to my initial problem. Others have developed since...)
So I read the book. No. I devoured the motherflocker. For the next three days, I was rendered 100% worthless to all life tasks beyond flipping pages. I propped my eyes open with toothpicks in bed. I ate with this book open at the table, mindlessly chewing cud because my brains had better things to do. At one point, I had throw this book.
Not across the room. Nope. I had to throw it down on the couch and bawl. I mean straight up, grief-vomiting sobs. (I am an HSP, remember. So neurotypical grief is what “sad” feels like to me, and this story hit me hard. I also wasn’t only mourning for the character, but for all the long-suppressed things inside me this book brought roiling to the surface.) Afterwards, I curled up and stared into space for a time, bereft and swooning at such literary demon-magic. Another time, I accidentally dropped the thing because I was laughing so hard.
Are there issues with the book, like there are with every book? Of course. Did I care?
I truly did not give a jot.
I finished the book. I closed the book. I set the book on the couch and float-walked off to bed. I stared at the ceiling for quite some time, and finally fell asleep where a gazillion Temerantish visions danced through my head. (Temerant: the name of the fantasy world in question.) I awoke the next morning and beelined to the couch where I opened the book back up to Page 1 to devour the thing again.
This had NEVER happened to me before, and has never happened since.
With the exception of children’s tales, I’d never even read a book more than twice in my life, and never back-to-back.
By now you may be wondering what this book is. I’ll tell you, but remember my bookstore craic dealer’s warnings. Don’t Get Attached.
Or do, and come suffer with the rest of us.
My bookly addiction is called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It is the introduction to his Kingkiller Chronicle.When I first read it I did not know that my reaction to this book is common. Oh, to be certain, some people despise it rabidly, either for its writing style, its protagonist, its fantasy-trope mishmash, its love-obsession—I mean love-interest, its pretentious reputation that cannot possibly live up to—
I am one of the people for whom this story and these characters were absolutely written.
I tore through Name of the Wind for the second time. I ate. I slept. I awoke and opened an excel spreadsheet. Overthinking, hyperfixating, rabbit-holing chickenplucker that I am, I read through the book for the third time, but more slowly while sitting at my computer, compiling data about WHY in the scrael-hill I was so obsessed.
Many things became clear. Many things remained elusive. Once I had finished the final word, I went directly to my Barnes & Noble profile and ordered the cursed, confounded, infernal second book for my Nook, because six days is too long and there was no tending, mending, finding, binding or any other proper projects that could have tided me over until The Wise Man’s Fear arrived at the book store.
I devoured the second book. I bawled. I fell off the couch laughing. I lost more sleep just like I had with the first book. It was almost twice as long as NotW, and sure, it suffers from classic Book 2 Syndrome—it didn’t get nearly the editing and polishing time as the first book.
Again, I did not give a plum’s bob.
After closing it, I needed to ferment. I just could not take anymore. And then it happened.
When I finish an incredible book, especially if it’s a book series, I get a little wistful. A little mopey that it’s done.
I do NOT become wracked with such horrible post-book depression that I don’t know what to do with myself! I do NOT feel like I just lost all my best friends and my dog to the same bus wreck. Part of this is that we don’t have an ending of the Kingkiller Chronicle yet, and we were left on a cliffhanger. (Curses of dastardly ratfinkery! Flippin’ writers, man.) But that is the lesser part of my reaction.
This, too, had never—and still has never—happened to me with any other book. The only thing that saw me through this mope was that these tales had awakened something inside me that had been deeply buried. That had festered long dormant. I’m a bit of a passionate being (ahem, if you haven’t noticed by now), so when I get woken up like that it’s volatile. It sends shockwaves through my life.
In this case, I told my husband I was leaving him, moved town, and then moved across the country.
Denna (the love-interest) had hit far too close to home about some things I no longer wanted to be—namely, financially dependent upon men who didn’t respect me, especially the kind of guys who give off tremors of violence. Or those who are downright violent, of which there have been too many.
What was more, I had been jarred awake by Kvothe (the musical prodigy, traveling trouper protagonist). I’ve never read a more apt description of the way my dance works through me than Kvothe’s relationship to his lute. Page after page, thought after emotion after reaction after thought—Kvothe reminded me who I am:
A being of earth and fire with music in place of blood.
See, I was that girl who ran away with the troupers at nineteen when they came to town. And no, I wasn’t lured by some gorgeous slick-string who plucked my heart and strummed my panties off like Kvothe’s mother. Nope, I was that girl who got snagged by Shandi (the troupe’s gorgeous, sexy dancer). Upon first exposure to her, I determined that I would be just like her when I grew up.
And lo, I did.
(Become like Shandi, not grow up. Not fully.)
To find myself immersed in so many fictional words that describe what music is to my soul…to be treated to such an accurate and intimate account of how I create my arts…to read such a scarily familiar experience of shoving horrific memories through the Second Door of Forgetting, then staggering through the Third Door into artistic dissociative madness, there to be consumed by the only thing that could have seen me through to base functionality…
For Kvothe it was music; for me, it was dance.
The way Kvothe weaves his surroundings and experiences into sound is precisely what I do with movement set to music. It’s how I created my Elements System. By listening and then dancing the FEEL of “Warm Grass” and “Cool Breeze.” Dancing “the Sound of Sad” and the comfort of “Mother Smiling.”
I had never met anyone else who operated under this phenomenon the way it’s described in these books. So naturally, I set out to meet the person who had created them.
MY SHAMELESS MESSAGE TO PATRICK ROTHFUSS
As I waited for Book 3 on well-baited hooks, I treaded water by following the blog of my new favorite author EVERRRR. There I discovered that he lived not far away from where I had grown up, and—DING!—also taught writing.
So I read all his FAQs and his blog as I mustered up the guts. It took a bit, but I wrote to him in 2012, wantonly informing him that I would stay with my family, travel to him, and pay his fee—however much it was, even if I had to put it on a credit card—for private tutoring in his arcane arts.
By this time, he really had become The Rothfuss, so I knew what his answer would most likely be. But if you possess a heart like mine, it is impossible to resist putting yourself straight up in Abenthy’s face the first time you witness someone do the kind of magic you most want to learn—real magic. Like…Taborlin the Great kind of magic. If you’re like me, you will be unable to resist pelting the guy with any and every question he will let you ask.
(Ahem. Toldja I resonate with Kvestioning Kvothe just a little.)
Well, my favorite author was extraordinarily gracious with me in delivering his NO. His reply was brief yet amiable—he replied to me himself—and he was a wise man, refusing to take a single kernel of corn onto his already over-stuffed plate, much less a new private student.
I was not offended in the least. I admired his graceful adherence to boundaries and self-care, in spite of my deep disappointment. (Remember that. It’ll be important as we progress.) I went back to following his blog, eventually followed his vlog on YouTube, and I read some other books in the sea, including one Pat had recommended: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
You’re killing’ me, Smalls!
Because I adored that book. Alas. This only gave me another unfinished series upon which to dangle in excruciating wait. Apparently I am a masochist. (Okay, okay, I’m equally sadistic. Just ask my dance students. Or my friends. Or the people with whom I train in martial arts. Or the people who have read my fiction…)
(Oh, you’re wondering where all those tales went? On my other Substack that is not under my dance name:)
A RUSTLE IN THE BUSHES…SIGNS OF BLUE FIRE FLICKERING IN THE FAR-OFF FOREST
In 2015, rumors started filtering into my awareness. Those rumors incited a hankerin’. A craving. I, like Kvothe, could not resist investigating these rumors. We’d heard of a possible release date for Book 3 and now they were even talking about putting our beloved Six-String onscreen!
So what did I do? Duh, I reread Book 1 for the fourth time and opened Book 2 for the second time.
Alas, two-thirds of the way through Wise Man’s Fear, I had to tap out. Reading comprehension had become really difficult for me since that year of chronic seizures in 2012. Although they had been wrangled into a dull roar, they had wreaked havoc on my ability to choreograph, memorize dances, and remember what I had read two paragraphs ago, much less the day before. The only reason I’d gotten as far as I did in my re-read was due to how many times I’d already consumed Name of the Wind.
But then some Stuff in my life crumbled my ability to keep pushing. It also put me in no state to weather another post-book depression, so I set it aside.
I did not, however, forget.
Several times a year, I googled to see if there was a release date for Doors of Stone. We would hear that—yes! It was about to happen. But then The Rothfuss himself would tell us, no—that it was lies all lies. (BTW, if you’re looking for release dates, never chase rumors of blue fire in the brush. Always just go to Pat’s blog or his YouTube directly before you get your hopes up. He’ll have the first official announcement.) 👇
Sidenote: Auri’s Novella
I admit that, after my 2015 hopes were dashed by the delivery of—not Book 3 but a companion novella about a fabulous side character, it was like a stone dropped into my guts. Do you know the story of stones? Well, I didn’t want to dive into Auri’s story yet, dammit! I wanted to know what I wanted to know!
*foot-stomp and big bottom lip*
I also knew that I would buy The Slow Regard of Silent Things the next time I reread NotW and WMF, just like I knew I was being four years old. I simply was not in the right headspace to dive into Airy Fairy MoonFae via a week in the life of Auri. I needed fire, metal, and spit.
When I discovered Jorg Ancrath, he delivered that, and then some. (And yes, Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy is finished.)
So I allowed myself to throw this petulant fit while simultaneously allowing my favorite author to have his own creative process and take the time he needs to deliver the book he really wants to give. I made no judgment upon either of us. I (privately) threw my tantrum and got over it; Pat (publicly) took his time and put out a novella instead of the long-awaited salivation-inducer: Doors of Stone.
(That’s the name of Book 3, if you don’t know.)
The Small Obsession Mutates Into A Magnificent Monster
Toward the end of 2021, a friend did something awesome and nefarious. (This friend has named his precocious, fabulous, ornery ginger cat “Kvothe” BTW.)
Knowing of my obsession—ermmm…problem…okay, addiction, my friend (and Kvothe) sent me a video of Patrick Rothfuss reading a draft of his Book 3 Prologue. 👇
Crappy-frosted crappioka pudding on a crap cracker.
You know what happened. I know you do. I had to dive back in and reread the darn books. The classic post-book depression mutated into a ginormous Spotify playlist to nurse my tormented soul.Naturally, it had to be danced to. Everywhere.
And thus…the most monstrous dance project of which I have ever conceived was spawned.
I call it the KKC Dances. No, it’s not Kingkiller Chronicle Dances.
It’s Kingkiller Cosplay, and it has taken over my life. (As well as an entire rack in my bedroom. And another one in the sewing room. And the top of my dresser. More jewelry bins on the floor. There may also be an inspiration altar up next to the dance studio…)
Welcome to The Haven, where our ever-shifting hyperfixations feed the ever-ravenous beast of our lifelong special interests.
Sidenote 2: OMGs! I just realized as I typed that—“The Haven” is where they send the magicians who have gone crackpot from too much Phenomenal Cozmik Powaaah in an itty-bitty human living space. Bwahahaha! The subconscious nerding is strong with this one.
Sidenote 3: OMGs! As I was editing this, Pat literally just announced that he’s about to publish a new book. No, not DoS. Don’t get your panties get in a bunge. It’s about Bast!
MY NAME IS KVOTHE
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
~Back cover of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
UP NEXT: My Obsessive Dance Project, the Neil Gaiman Theory of unfinished series, and the Purple Draccus in the Room - That Notorious Promised Chapter. I know, I know. Because superfans do need to slowly regard things of this import.
Thanks for hyperfixating with me in the lab! (Laboratory…labyrinth…) Subscribe to Tinkerings of an Elemental Alchemist to receive new posts and support my work.
Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle and other geekery - seriously. Do NOT get attached to having your ending when you want it:
Book 1: The Name of the Wind
Book 2: The Wise Man’s Fear
The Slow Regard of Silent Things - a week in the life of darling Auri
The Lightning Tree - a day in the life of beloved Bast, short story in an anthology called Rogues (which Bast 100% is.)
Book 3: The Doors of Stone…
Fancy-schmansy 10th Anniversary edition of Book 1 (I prefer my ratty original paperback, thank you very much. BUT the illustrations by Dan dos Santos in this special version are stunning! And I can’t help drooling over the red-edged pages.)
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE:
Kingkiller Subreddit - you think I’m obsessed?! The amount of detail that some of these rabid readers know about this intricate world never ceases to stun me. Of course, we’ve had over a decade to scour the pages and come up with our crackpot theories of what we imagine Book 3 will entail, who the bad guys really are, who’s going to live and who’s going to get snuffed, what our intrepid hero (anti-hero? villain in the making?) did to kill a king and break the world…you know, little things like that. Seriously. THIS is really Hyperfixator’s Haven for KKC.
Captured In Words - My favorite YouTuber to take us down this and other rabbit holes
And of course, the official word: Patrick Rothfuss and The Eolian, his YouTube
Book 1 of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards - seriously, do NOT get attached to this either: The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence.