To see the full interview in video, click here.
This transcript has not been edited for clarity and includes some vulgar language.
Greetings, and welcome to The Tel Mora Independent Press interview! I am Andrew, also known as The White Guar, Editor-in-chief of the Tel Mora Independent Press. Today we have with us IceFireWarden!
TWG: So LJ, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
IFW: Okey dokey, real-life name is Lajaveyon Saunders, but everyone just calls me LJ or Warden in the community. I’ve been part of the greater lore community since around 2014, so when I was like a Junior or Sophomore in high school.
TWG: How did you first make your way into The Elder Scrolls series? What brought you here?
IFW: Well I first played Arena way way back when I was a little kid on this old-ass Windows 98 computer that my family kinda scrounged/stole/whatever, idk can’t remember the details- from school and as my first Elder Scrolls game, couldn’t really understand it, but I played it and it was fun. Pretty much speed up a little bit – couple years later, and after Skyrim came out, everything was pretty famous and everything, I got back into the series a little bit. I played the other games before then just off and on, wasn’t really too interested and that’s when I really kinda just got into the lore of the series, with Skyrim.
TWG: How do you personally interact with the community? What are you known for?
IFW: The big ol’ green dragon himself – Peryite. Even though my first post was about the Hist and Argonians – I still remember, it was pretty fuckin bad, it was like “quantum equations of something” – but I’ve always love Argonians, that’s why my profile pic is still an Argonian, even though I don’t talk about it that much. And afterwards, I was like “well, what’s something in the community that no one ever talks about or dislikes” then I looked up the Daedric Princes and I was like “Peryite, he’s pretty cool” So I got into Peryite and started writing about the Songs of Peralkeluin, about how Peryite was a part of the AKA oversoul, ever since then I just kinda took off with it. Actually, he’s my favorite character in the entire series now.
TWG: Okay, so is there anything else that you’ve worked on that viewers or readers might be familiar with?
IFW: Argonians, Hist… Peryite… I’ve done some stuff on Sutch, I did world-building on Hjaalmarch, I did a world-building project known as the Uutak Mythos, that I worked on for a couple years, I’ve helped other people out with some stuff, me and Michael Zeigler aka scourgicus did a novel a couple- like a year or two ago, about an Echmer and a Khajiit and their travels during post-C0DA Aurbis, which was pretty fun. I kinda dabble in a little bit of everything, but I think those are the ones I’m most known for.
TWG: You mentioned the Uutak Mythos, tell me about that.
IFW: The Utak mythos was a pretty slightly mid-c0da thing that came out after, while I was still in high school. Yeah, the launch was pretty terrible, and it was basically about how there’s a race of bat-elves that live on the island archipelago of Yneslea, and how they were accidentally created by the Dwemer due to their tonal manipulations.
TWG: You mentioned the Echmer, is this something that’s been met with a lot of success? How big is this project?
IFW: It’s technically ended now, but it actually got pretty large for a while. I had some art done for it, it had a map that’s still floating around somewhere… at first I did a couple stories about these crazy forgotten mysterious race that lived in the Padomaic Ocean and no one talked about, and I just turned it into their own culture, their own world, started retconning some things, revising some other things, created their own pantheon, their own sorceries, characters, it pretty much took on a life of its own. I wanna say it was quite successful in the sense that it was never particularly popular with a lot of people in the community. It got a lot of hate at first, and still does. Which is understandable, I didn’t do an especially good job like I hoped I could have. I still look back and wish I could do some changes to it every now and again, but I mean I know that way back when ZOS did their first writers AMA, someone asked if the Echmer would ever be in the series, and I know Schick mentioned that he thought the theory a lot of fun, which I personally took that as a win –
TWG: Well yeah, why wouldn’t you?
IFW: I mean Michael Kirkbride helped me write the Uutak Mythos in the first stages of it and then I had Schick tell me that he thought it was cool, so fuck yeah, of course I’m going to ride that high horse all the way down.
TWG: You’ve got some very well-known lore names getting involved in your project, which – that’s really cool. So what influences sparked the creation of the Echmer? Where’d the idea come from?
IFW: Batman jokes, for the most part, actually, was the first Echmer thing that was ever posted on the BethSoft forums. It was just me and MK making a Batman joke–it was just like “fear the night!” and it’s like this picture of fucking bats hanging out with Vivec and shit and then of course people are like, “what the fuck is this?” and we’re just sitting there laughing about it, but… Batman jokes, a little bit Bionicle, of course steampunk… I always want to make the Echmer a little bit more Victorian by never really got around the really good at conveying that; they became more like Caribbean… slightly Jamaican-German people which was a really weird mixture.
I don’t know if anyone has read these books but the F. Scott Fitzgerald trilogy called Leviathan, which is like a World War Two alternate history, where it’s basically Axis powers have mechas and the Central Power and the Allies had like weird bio-organic mechanical creatures that they fought each other with, which influenced that a lot, because I was reading that back then.
TWG: Changing subject here, a little bit, what’s what’s a direction that you would like The Elder Scrolls to take in the future?
IFW: In regards to the games, or the lore, or both?
TWG: Dealer’s choice.
IFW: Well games I would say personally, I know that Todd Howard has come out and commented on that he doesn’t want any of the Elder Scrolls games to be remastered anytime soon because he just doesn’t like remasters in general, well I would personally, game wise, I would enjoy at least if Daggerfall, Redguard, Battlespire got remade for the current era, because those are the three games that are very forgotten about. Arena too, but it’s too big to really get remade, unless they really made a super light and I think that takes the fun out of Arena. But Daggerfall, Battlespire, Redguard, especially the Redguard and Battlespire, which were very phenomenal story-wise and introduced a lot of the shit that we talk about in the lore community today, deserve a remake, especially so. Probably not gonna happen, but that would be fun.
TWG: So basically you’d just like to see these older games kind of given given new life.
IFW: I know everybody’s always talking about going forward and seeing what’s going on in the next game, but personally, the older games always had their own unique charm that the newer ones don’t really measure up to. They make fun of themselves they had more wackier NPCs, they weren’t really afraid to be weird, or being a little bit too mature for gamers nowadays to really get into. For example, Battlespire, the Daedra in that game were fucking terrifying. They were weird, they were honestly kind of rapey, they actually felt like eldritch cosmic demon dudes that were gonna fuck your shit up. That game was basically about you making them your friends, or making them your bitch, either way.
TWG: It kind of had some DOOM sort of qualities to it.
IFW: yeah basically an Elder Scrolls version of DOOM mixed with Dark Souls, pretty much.
TWG: So you said you really got involved in the community around 2014 or so. Has the community changed over time, or has your influence and the community changed since 2014?
IFW: Both, definitely. Ever since C0DA came out, and that sort of started off the “Canon Wars” that’s kind of divided the community up a lot, from website to website, and group to group, and personally I don’t really make any sense of it, because Elder Scrolls as a whole was built up on the value of the things to fans write, some of which has made it into the games, and still continue to do so in smaller quantities or subtle ways that people don’t recognize. But that this kind of aversion and over-aggression towards the lore in itself and the people who love the deeper aspects or out-of-game sources of the lore is in my opinion just a little bit kind of fucked up. It’s very noticeable, it’s very detrimental to the community as a whole, it’s strange, it’s- you know you look at other fandoms, and it’s not really a big problem in those, like Halo, to Lord of rings, to Star Wars–well I’ll take the Star Wars one back…
TWG: Yeah Star Wars is pretty famous for its Canon Wars.
IFW: Yeah… I think it’s mainly because TES’s double-edged sword is the Unreliable Narrator. Everything could be true, everything can possibly not be true… Some people take it too literally, some people don’t take it literally enough, some people just completely ignore it, that causes issues that you don’t really know what sources you can trust. Technically all of us are really just lying to each other. “Oh, this is what’s going on the lore,” because we really don’t know what’s actually going on in lore.
TWG: See, you could almost say that the amount of subjectivity in the lore is subjective in and of itself…
TWG: …and that subjectivity, that sort of meta subjectivity, causes its own problems in the community. Okay, so you often write fantasy pieces–I know we talked about the Uutak Mythos and your Peryite works–what’s the appeal for you in writing fantasy? What what is it about it that you enjoy?
IFW: It mainly stretches back to when I was a kid, because I don’t really have that many people to talk to or have people to go out and hang out with, and I had a really weird kind of rough home life, so fantasy always appealed to me as a kind of escape, kind of like a freedom measure and everything like that, which is partly why I latched onto the Prisoner concept in my later years of being in the lore community, as it’s all about freedom and reaching your overall goals and doing what you want to do. So for me, writing about fantasy, it’s just kind of a metaphor, just finding what you want to do in your life, and making something of it. Doesn’t matter if it’s working on a book, finding a job, making new friends, just all that links together and the whole fantasy outlook on life.
TWG: What do you think has been the biggest inspiration in your writing? What what do you draw on?
IFW: Mainly just for Uutak, it was… well actually, for all my pieces–I actually realized the connection like a year ago–that I write about a lot of things I heard people don’t like to write about. The more forgotten or neglected things which, like Peryite, Hjalmarch, you know, little islands in the Padomaic nobody even talks about and stuff like that. My biggest inspiration is taking something that no one else cares about, and turning it into something that everyone can care about, or at least everyone knows about.Like, the Yneslea part is never discussed in an actual game, but because of the Uutak Mythos, everybody knows what Yneslea is, or there’s a idea of what Yneslea can be. Same with Peryite–no one actually knows anything about Peryite, really, because he’s always neglected in every single game, especially ESO. My biggest thing to say to anybody wants to write in the lore community is just find something that no one else talks about, and then make it your niche. Just roll with it, make it fun, make it believable, and make it yours.
TWG: So what’s what’s your favorite passion project? What project have you had in the past that’s been a highlight for you?
IFW: Uutak was the first, then I got out school and everything and just fell out of it. Right now, my biggest passion project is probably I Am Not the Hero, which is me and a little team of people working on a novel franchise, which is a little bit of Lovecraft, a little bit fantasy, a little bit of Gothic, and a little bit of sci-fi all rolled into one. That’s actually almost done, we just got a couple more hurdles to go through before we can start promoting and getting a website, actually marking the book off, but that’s pretty much my big thing right now.
If anyone wants to, I might like in a week or two, I might release something about it if I can get all of it finalized and talk to some people about it. I mean, it’s just- more or less, a synopsis of it is imagine that humanity throughout the entire iterations of this existence has been dealing with eldritch forces beyond its control, and at this key scale, wiped out because of that, and now you get into the genetic forebears of modern-day humanity and you get to see their story against fighting gets these deities–you can see these strange unknowable deities, and how they win, how they lose, and how they pretty much make sure that we actually exist in this modern day and age.
TWG: Would you say it’s that I Am Not the Hero has any Elder Scrolls influences?
IFW: I like to say no, but it’s impossible for me to completely ignore the fact that I spent a lot of my writing years in the Elder Scrolls community, and because of that, and because I’ve interacted with a lot of its writers and developers and ex-developers, there’s going to be a lot of TES bleed into I Am Not the Hero. There’s actually… I have made a few shoutouts to it in the work in some of the stories. There’s a similar writing pattern a little bit, but I’ve tried to make I Am Not the Hero a little bit more distinct, a little bit more I guess grounded? I intentionally kind of left Unreliable Narrator a little bit behind the door with this series because of what’s been going on in the community for the last couple years. But there’s definitely a huge Elder Scrolls influence on I Am Not the Hero, and I’m proud that it’s there.
TWG: So it’s it’s been noted in the last couple years that you’ve kind of distanced yourself from the elder scrolls, what’s what’s your reason for that?
IFW: Canon Wars. Well, I’m not gonna say it like that, because it’s not exactly the full reason, but I was going through a bunch of rough patches in my life, and still am a little bit, so I had to distance myself in the Elder Scrolls community several times to work things out, and after a while I came back and I just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. Try to write a couple stories, it’s kind of like I couldn’t finish them, try to rack up lore essays and articles, couldn’t finish them… I think like the last things I did for the community in regards to writing was Lore Interviews I was doing with Zenimax Online Studios, and I haven’t done one of those in a long-ass time, so I think just a mixture of this real life stuff, and the hurdles and stress of things I had to go through in my day-to-day life, and just also had to put time to I Am Not the Hero, which has really taken off nicely, and just really just a mixture of those things. I still love TES. I still love the lore, I still love Peryite, and I still love the Echmer, though they cost me a lot of fucking drama for a couple years. But with all the Canon Wars and their thing with how some of the people in the community have acted, it’s just… plus what others– outside influences, I just kind of had to take a step back and just go, “can’t do it anymore.”
TWG: Is there anything else that you want to do you want to say, let the readers or viewers know”
IFW: Not particularly… I do want to say that even though, you know, people still argue about canon and everything, about C0DA, about MK, about ESO, and stuff like that… I’ll just say that honestly it’s just the lore is what you make it to be, but the same time don’t use the lore to be a foundation of pretty much hating other people. the people who spent their time–developers, former developers, even the fans have spent years writing stuff for the lore–have really invested a lot their time, energy and pretty much their life and essence into making something that started off as a D&D campaign in someone’s basement into something that’s a believable breathable world. So I’ll just have to say that… treat the lore as you would treat your life, in a sense. It’s serious, it’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s loveable, but the same time, it’s not something to hate, and the people who put behind all that energy into it they did the best that they could to make sure that this is something that you can enjoy as a series, and as a fictional universe that you can put your mind into, and escape into as an outlet for your stress, for your annoyances, for your gaming pleasure. So don’t mistreat it, don’t use it to belittle others, don’t use it as a weapon, which is funny because and ironic because there’s a little quote in the series, “you wear lore as your armor and something as your weapon…” but you know just be kind to others and have fun really.
TWG: Alright well I’m gonna wrap it up here, so thank you very much for for talking with me
IFW: Always, man!
TWG: Alright, we’ll see you next time!
What’s a direction you would like TES to take?
Has the community changed over time? Has your influence in the community changed over time?
What is the Uutak Mythos?
What influences sparked the creation of the Echmer? Where did the idea come from?
How have you spread your concepts and made a name for yourself?
do they have TES influences?
What’s your favorite passion project?
You often write fantasy pieces – what’s the appeal for you?
What has been the biggest inspiration in your writing?
It’s been noted that in the last couple years you’ve distanced yourself from TES. What’s your reason for that?