Sdhlain: Frequently Asked
All right. The title is a definite misnomer. None
of these questions are 'frequently asked;' there aren't enough
people who know about this website for any questions to be
frequent. Nonetheless, I've had some people ask about some
particulars with regards to the sdhlain. I'll try to answer those
below. If you have any other questions, or want to join in, please
- What is a 'sdhlai?' A 'sdhlain?' Who are the
As stated elsewhere on the site, a sdhlain is something
similar, but not quite equivalent, to a bardic story cycle. Some
number of people, more than one but not so many as to be
unmanageable, get together and tell a story. Each kher, or
storyteller, adds to the story in turn. Unlike many bardic
competitions in our world, the Feresen act of weaving a sdhlain is
not competitive in any direct sense. While interesting and unique
situations are considered good, forcing the others into a narrow
lane of storytelling or killing off characters in the sdhlain
indiscriminately is seriously frowned upon. It is meant to be a
creative process, not a destructive one, and can serve as a sort of
morale-boosting activity, a group therapy. [Not that the Feresen
know the particulars of psychology.] A sdhlai is one 'round'
of a sdhlain, in which each participant has one part of the story.
A sdhlain is composed of some number of sdhlai.
The Feresen are a race in a fictional world of mine. The
only pertinent information for this particular project is that they
are a compassionate race, and they enjoy stories very much.
- Wait. How can you write stories about a race with no
information to go on?
We're not. I used the word 'sdhlain' to describe what's going on
here because no word or grouping of words in English quite conveyed
what I wanted to do. So, in proper authorial tradition, I added a
word to the Feresen tongue that meant what I wanted it to
mean. [Technically, I added three--'sdhlai' and 'kher' are new as
well.] The stories themselves do not need to be fantasy or science
fiction. The only strictures on them are those of sense and
- How do you pronounce 'sdhlai?'
The sdh is pronounced with a slur between and including the
'd.' The closest English approximation that I can type for the
starting sound is something like 'shldh,' which isn't particularly
helpful at all, so I won't bother. It's not that hard to pronounce
once you've heard it, though.
You didn't ask, but 'Feresen' is prounounced with the 'r' sounding
more like a traditional 'dh'. Aren't constructed languages
- What's up with the different colours?
Ah, an easy one. Each colour is a different author.
- All right. You've got me interested. Now, what are
There aren't many. As stated above, this isn't a competition or
an attempt to frustrate people with unsatisfying endings and
non sequiturs. Common sense and propriety are all that you
generally need to go by when you work on a sdhlai.
As for specifics, there are a few things that will be enforced,
and others that are highly suggested if you don't want me to
kill you. [Kidding. Mostly.] The main thing that will be
enforced is that no back-editing is allowed. If something is
mistakenly italicized (or mistakenly not italicized),
or if there are any grammar or spelling errors that need to
be fixed, I'll be more than happy to edit those out. But
actual content changes, such as rearranging sentences or
adding or deleting portions of the story simply aren't allowed.
You didn't let me finish, Nonexistent Person Asking Me These Questions.
I'll answer you nonetheless.
The tradition of sdhlain is an oral tradition. Feresen sitting around
campfires, telling their stories and enjoying the company. When telling
a story with other people involved in such a manner, you're not allowed
to go back and add or remove content. The idea is to work with what's
given--if something is incongruous, part of the challenge of a sdhlain
is working it on, or at least explaining it away. Not only that, but
part of the experience of writing sdhlain is not going on future
knowledge; the fact that other people after you are going to inevitably
change your meaning is part of the excitement. Altering the past to
match the future deemphasizes the . . . cycleness, if you will . . . of
All right. Continue.
The only other real important thing--at least to me--is that you preformat
your entries. Take a look at the source of the sdhlai already posted.
The framing stuff--the headers and so on--are irrelevant. What's important
is the way the stories themselves are marked up. Use of bold, italics, and
two breaks per paragraph are the norm. If you need to be fancier with the
HTML, that's quite all right, as long as it's not changing colour or making
it unreadably huge or tiny or anything annoying of that sort. The markup
needs to be very human-readable, even by someone who doesn't necessarily
understand this new-fangled Internet thing. As you can probably tell by
the minimalist design of these pages, I'm not one for fancy-schmancy effects.
Oh. And absolutely no graphics. The Feresen don't have Photoshop, so you
don't need it either.
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Last Updated: 2002.09.30.2329