And They Lived Happily Ever After...
“You can’t deny myth. It’s too powerful. You have to embrace it.”
I didn’t come to writing through literature and creative writing courses. I was a singer and then a lawyer before I turned to writing. I had an instinctive sense of what was satisfying, (and really writing is about telling a story you’d like to read), but actually analyzing how you make something engaging and emotionally satisfying is a long process, and you never stop learning. This little essay on myth represents where I am in the journey of learning and refining upon which I’ve embarked.
So how did this musing about myth and to some degree fairy tales all start? It was because of a movie script and a video game.
I’ve been writing a movie for Universal Pictures based on the Wild Card books that I co-edit with George R.R. Martin, and there’s a father/son situation in the script. My protagonist was a man trying to live up to the legend of a deceased father and this shows up on about page three of the script. The world is filled with images and comments about this father. Ultimately my hero discovers his father’s not dead, and then I had to figure out how Frank was going to react emotionally. What would he actually do? Continue reading
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series
Welcome to the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Aidan Moher (your humble editor/blogger) and Kate Elliott (author of lots and lots of cool novels)! We thought it would be fun to bring two different perspectives (someone who’s read the series, someone who hasn’t), and explore Daggerspell together, comparing notes and reflecting on a series and world that are held dearly by many readers. We’re also hoping that, if you’re not familiar with Kerr, you might discover a new favourite author.
Daggerspell is the first volume in Katharine Kerr‘s Deverry Cycle, which Kate describes as her, “favorite post-Tolkien epic fantasy series.” Big words. She also says, “I believe Deverry could exist somewhere. After reading the books, I feel as if I have been there. I still think about events and dramatic moments in this series frequently, rather as I do memories from my actual life. That’s how much the narrative worked its way into my mind and heart.” Continue reading
'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative
I’m going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story you’ve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they eat their young if not raised properly; and how, at the end of their lives, they hurl themselves – lemming-like- over cliffs to drown in the surging sea. They are, at heart, sea creatures, birthed from the sea, married to it like the fishing people who make their livelihood there.
Every story you hear about llamas is the same. You see it in books: the poor doomed baby llama getting chomped up by its intemperate parent. On television: the massive tide of scaly llamas falling in a great, majestic herd into the sea below. In the movies: bad-ass llamas smoking cigars and painting their scales in jungle camouflage.
Because you’ve seen this story so many times, because you already know the nature and history of llamas, it sometimes shocks you, of course, to see a llama outside of these media spaces. The llamas you see don’t have scales. So you doubt what you see, and you joke with your friends about “those scaly llamas” and they laugh and say, “Yes, llamas sure are scaly!” and you forget your actual experience. Continue reading
The Many Faces of an Alien
Aidan was kind of enough to give me the pulpit and asked me to share my thoughts on why I think aliens make such great enemies/sources of conflict in science fiction. Now, before I delve deeper into this, I believe it is important to break down the roles of aliens within the science fiction genre.
I find that these truly alien “Aliens” tend to make poor primary plot devices since readers need to make some sort of connection with antagonists in order for them to be effective enemies.
Aliens are portrayed usually in one of two ways. First, in the true sense, they are introduced as something completely foreign to Earth and our way of thinking. We tend to have a difficult time grasping their physiology, method of thinking, and purpose behind their logic. I find that these truly alien “Aliens” tend to make poor primary plot devices since readers need to make some sort of connection with antagonists in order for them to be effective enemies. Good storytelling requires the reader to sympathize or understand the characters in a book. Otherwise, the alien just devolves into being an antagonist for antagonists’ sake. Or in the words of Tropic Thunder, it’s like going “full retard.” The exception to that is if these antagonists are there only to serve as a plot device to reflect the focus of the story back onto the protagonist. It’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey sort of storytelling.
The second way that aliens are portrayed in science fiction is to make them not alien at all and uses them as a literary vehicle to explore social issues within our culture and society. Usually, the author does this a safe distance by hiding behind the façade of portraying an alien culture, but can delve deeply into lingering prejudices and social stereotypes. Continue reading
Rinse and Repeat?
The idea behind my recent series, the Aetherial Tales, is simple: I wanted to write my own version of the “other-race living among us” trope, but in my own individual way. Although each novel can be read as a stand-alone, the most recent volume, Grail of the Summer Stars, completes a bigger story arc that was simmering in the background of Elfland and Midsummer Night. And that set me thinking about the themes – conscious or otherwise – that keep cropping up in an author’s work.
For years I had this idea in my head that every new book I wrote had to be completely different from the last, different from anything else that’s ever been written! Sigh. It took a while, but eventually I accepted that this is impossible. Well – at least incredibly rare and not always desirable. (Readers often want “more of the same”, and why not?) Virtually everything that can be written about already has been, and will be again, over and over. And that’s fine: many themes are universal because we can all relate to them. Love, birth, death, survival, finding the place we truly belong, war, crime and justice, the hero’s journey, and so on, are timeless and resonant. They don’t have to become clichés, as long as the author can bring an individual voice, pull something fresh from a well of compassion, wit or wisdom that engages the reader. Continue reading