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?