In the past, when I read CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner Universe books, I read them for pleasure. Immersing myself in the world of the atevi, seeing and hearing it in my mind, always I read them for pleasure.
Had I been told ten years ago, even three years ago, that I would be adapting the first trilogy for a full-cast audio production I wouldn’t have believed it. But I am.
And so, as I work on the adaptation I re-read the books, this time paying extra attention to the sounds that I hear in my mind and putting them down for the Sound Designer to hear also. Tonight I am attempting to write those instructions for the Sound Designer so he can capture the cries of the Wi’itkitiin.
CJ described them so: “The dragonette dived down the face of the cliff, membranous wings spread against the sun, and swept upward again, with something in its claws.”
The character Ilisidi, the aiji-dowager, describes them as bandits, vermin that she chooses to preserve. Her people, the atevi, value them for their stubbornness in insisting on flying. Once they fly down a cliff the only way they can get back up to their nest is by clawing their way back. As CJ puts it: “Predator on the wing and potential prey on the return.”
When I first read the books the cry of the Wi’itkitiin was probably the same type of cry you hear in a variety of fantasy-type movies. A bit of a cross between an eagle and a … and something. In the book Ilisidi says they are called Wi’itkitin because that is the sound they make and nothing else on the atevi world makes that sound. But what is it, really? What do I put in the script to give the Sound Designer a better idea of what I’m hearing? Not only of what I’m hearing but what CJ’s many fans hear when they read the books.
This is something I will have to think on, for more than a few hours or even a few days. It’s not a door shutting, or a boot stepping off gravel onto concrete or even the crash of thunder on an alien world. It is an alien creature, alive, real and valued by the people of the world they populate.
Fortunately CJ has a staunch following with many fans of this series so I’ve put out a call to them.
Tell me, what do you think the Wi’itkitiin sound like? Not only when they fly and dive and glide, but when they’re at rest with their young, too. Do they chirrup? Do they give a bit of a purr? Do they click? The creature is both scaled and feathered. How do they make the “Wi’itkitiin” sound? In what cadence is it? In what pitch?
What do you think?
(c) 2012 Sable Jak