A little secret: for this book I originally pitched for the Merceres. There was a better offer in the ring, and so I put together a brief pitch for Tremere and was fortunate enough to have it accepted. I wanted to change the Tremere so that they were no longer the  default villans for every story. The way they were being used seemed so weak, so unchallenging. They were the evil guys: you could tell because they wore black and did pointless things while ranting about power.

I thought that we needed to move to villains with realistic motives. In some part, that’s happened, although House Tytalus seems to have developed a pathological taste for meddling in House Tremere’s stead. 8) At least the Tytalus stick their thumbs in due to a sort of philosophical derangement. They don’t do it to gain ill-specified power.

So, what else could the Tremere do? At the time I was reading a lot of military fiction, and was looking for a way to simulate the genre in Ars Magica. I liked that: it gave the writing a structure. I liked the idea that since Tremere are never the best at anything, they co-operate more. So, an army then, with roles, and doctrine. This makes the Tremere a distinctly physical house.

The Australian War Experience as a model for the Tremere experience of the Schism War

I used the Australian war experience as my foundation for the attitude to war of the Tremere. The Australian experience of the First World War was that we suffered greater casualties, as a percentage of our population, than any other combatant state. Every little town has a hall for returned soldiers. Every town has a cenotaph for those that didn’t come home. I know that people from other countries often want to say “Oh, we commemorate that too..”, but no, not like us. Gathering around cenotaphic stones, at dawn, in the dark, and promising not to forget what happened is the defining ritual of Australian citizenship.

This is perhaps the single defining action which Australians recognise as the thing that we do to express who we are.  We do not have flag oaths. We deliberately mumble the second verse of our anthem, and would not have chosen it had the vote been free. We had to change our national colours because we didn’t know what they were, and so used the wrong ones for decades. Our system of government is not the one we would have chosen, if given a free choice.  Australia Day and Federation Day are just holidays: the sacred day for Australians is ANZAC Day. The pilgrimage for young Australians is to ANZAC Cove. This is something we, without any prompting from our government, have chosen as the thing which represents the core of us. Our big day as a country is the day we remember.

It is not like the 4th of July. It is utterly different from the way American celebrate their war history. Americans win: their national story is about victory, and perhaps, about destiny.

The ANZAC Cove landings were disastrous and futile. We choose to commemorate this day, rather than say, the victory on the Kokoda Track, precisely because it tore a hole through the middle of our communities that did not heal for generations. We are one of the few countries that chooses not to celebrate its victories. We are one of the few that chooses to celebrate in tandem with neighbouring countries (NZ). We are one of the few that lets veterans of the opposing army march in our commemorative parades.

I tried to get across this feeling in the Tremere chapter, much as I try to get across other bits of Australianess in my other work, because it makes my writing different from material foreign readers may have seen before.

I think some of the moral ambivalence turns up in the end work. Should we have landed in Turkey or stayed home? Was it right to go so far away and fight? Were they really killing the Armenians? If we’d let more of our people die, would we have been able to stop the Armenian genocide? What if they really hadn’t been killing Armenians? What if our invasion had made them kill Armenians? The Armenian Genocide is our equivalent of the equivalent of Deidne infernalism. Are they doing it? Why won’t they let observers check? If they did do it, did we stop it? Did our attack make them go off the deep end and start it?

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4 replies on “Houses of Hermes : True Lineages

  1. That’s deep and flavoursome – nice work.

    The ABC recently reported that a few people in Australia and Papua New Guinea have started celebrating the day of victory at Kokoda as an “unofficial holiday”. That’s taken a lot longer than I expected (though I spent my gap year in PNG and am probably biased). Do Australians not celebrate their victories because they want to continue to see themselves as underdogs?

    This train of thought leads me to wonder whether the British (for which read English!) identity is in trouble. We too mumble our national anthem’s second and following verses, when we sing them at all. “Advance Australia Fair” is a much clearer and more relevant statement of intent than “God Save the Queen”; the typical joke told continues with “because no-0ne else will”. Is being English about being British but not Scottish, Welsh or Protestant Northern Irish?

    Hmmm. Ambivalence abounds here also. Thanks for making me think.

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  2. This is really interesting insight, and one of the reasons I have enjoyed all of your postings here on your site. I can never known what it is like to experience the attitude that growing up Australian fosters in a person or the societal impact that such events must create, but thanks to your page here I can wrap my head around that mental space a bit, and feel the difference and pervasive impact that such a shared foundation must leave. Thank you very much for posting this. The closest I can think to my experience that I can come up with is moving to the East Coast three years ago, and seeing how 9/11 had impacted the local area. Every town has a memorial near where I live, due to New York being the work commute destination for so many, and thus the loss is spread out across a wide area and many people are connected to it, and it definitely colors how this part of the East Coast of the U.S. feels about certain subjects.

    Not directly a parallel to the Australian experience you describe, but I see some of the same mechanisms at play on a societal level.

    That said, your page also helped give a lot of “a-ha” to the portrayal of Tremere you have put forth. It’s one thing to read your words in TL, and another entirely to read this and “get it” on a more humanly resonant level.

    Now that a new player has chosen to create a Tremere scout, it will all go to good use and be the better for my reading this page.

    Thanks again!

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  3. Thanks for this insight. For my part the ‘new’ Tremere were perhaps my most favorite of the ‘reboots’ in the line ever. When describing the distinction to my friends who have been familiar with the line for many years but didn’t take the time to fully ‘take in’ the new Tremere, I often times describe them as like U.S. Marines. They have a sense of ‘nationalism’ (the most analogous term I can think of) toward their house, with loyalty and service being highly ingrained ethics. Moreover, their ‘nationalism’ isn’t born out of mere pride (although there is plenty of that), but out of a confidence in their system of education. They have confidence in their leaders and that their house is lead by the wisest magi because promotion is based on merit (in a way that no other house truly emulates).

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