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You probably shouldn't read these notes until you've read the story! As a whole, "Down from the Red Hills" is rated NC-17. The first part is here.

Rock formations of the Red Hills, adapted from a photo of the Mongolian desert.

The bathing pool in the canyon near Hakkai and Gojyo's cave (actually, a creek off the Grand Canyon).

The striped cliffs in the next valley (a/k/a part of Coconino National Forest near Sedona).

The Red Hills are very much based on what I saw of the desert country around Sedona, Arizona, when my family traveled there two years ago. The rock formations are taken from Sedona's famous "Red Rocks," and the valley next door, where Hakkai takes Gojyo hunting, is based on the Verde Valley, which is not far from Sedona. The landscape was very beautiful, but to my eyes, used to the lush vegetation of the Washington, DC, area, it was very bare and dry.

Of course, Saiyuki takes place in China - sort of! But that part of Asia is so similar to North America, in a way - the climate on the east coast is similar to U.S. climates at the same latitude, for example - that I took the gamble that there would be similar arid country somewhere in China and the regions just west of it. After the story was mostly written, I actually did some photo research and found that (fortunately for my nitpicky little heart) yes - there are similar landscapes in that part of the world.

I actually did a little research on the animals, too, which is why Hakkai is tormenting onagers rather than something else during the hunting trip. They are actually big enough to be dangerous, so Gojyo wasn't being stupid when he got all worried. I tried to research edible plants, too - but that was much harder, and so I ended up sort of fudging that part. The wild plums are a nod to the fact that a lot of fruit is grown on the margins of that region of China, although it needs irrigation.

The rural houses in the area are very simple. The farmhouse that Sanzo and Goku stay in while Gojyo is trying to get Hakkai back from his journey would have a rectangular plan and maybe two rooms. In some areas they are even made of adobe, and look a lot like traditional Mexican/U.S. southwest adobe houses, but my Red Hills get enough rain that the house was probably made mostly of wood.

Thanks for reading ...

ETA: One More Thing ...

While this was in progress, just after I'd outlined the scene in the pool with the shooting stars overhead, smillaraaq told me that she'd found a song that really went with the story. And she was right. It's "Where the World Divides" by the Oyster Band:

Saints are drawn to the desert
Moths to the candle flame
You know there's gonna be trouble
But you go there just the same

And I'll meet you there
I'll meet you there
I'll meet you there
Where the world divides

I went down to find you
I went down alone
The sky was a net of diamonds
The moon a washed-up bone

And I'll meet you there ...

I said to myself, "be patient"
I said to my soul, "beware"
What was that in the distance
Like a wild thing caught in a snare?

And I'll meet you there ...

What I want is...
What I want is...
What I want is...
What I want is...

What I want is judgment
Is it mercy or the rope?
In the court of hopeless causes
Won't you let me live in hope?

But I'll meet you there ...

Saints are drawn to the desert
Moths to the candle flame
You know there's gonna be trouble
But you go there just the same

And I'll meet you there ...
Where the world divides

And you can watch and listen to it on YouTube.

- opalmatrix


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Hee...it's a good thing you mentioned the edit here over lunch, because otherwise I might never have checked back in to see that you'd added in the soundtrack! *hearts* (And I subscribe to that Oysters channel, dunno how I missed that one when it first got posted...must have gotten lost in a flurry of updates or something.)

So, are there enough glowing reviews yet for me to start doing the "I told you so" dance? :)
Nov. 19th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)

You may always say that to me, smilla-san!

As to "enough" - "More! More! I'm still not satisfied!" I'm terribly touched that so many people like it so much, but then, there's also a reason why I feel so close to Gojyo ... that hole in the heart that never gets filled ... .

(I just adjusted the line height on the lyrics so that the layout will be more consistent between Mac and PC.)

Aug. 22nd, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'm commenting here, since here is where I ended up after following your a/n. I am not surprised at all to see how much research you did--the sense of the land and of being in a real place was very strong in Down From the Read Hills. There was also an equal emotional truth to the characterizations. Your Hakkai was especially thought-provoking. Sanzo at the end has it on the nose.

I am so glad I read this (staying up way past a sane hour to do so). Thank you for posting it.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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