Thursday, May 25, 2006

The problem of evil.

Evil needs better public relations. For something present in each and every human being it certainly gets a lot of bad press. Most of us manage to convince ourselves, not only that we are good people by and large -- with which I would mostly agree -- but also that I am not capable of real evil. Oh, to be sure, I can be mean, and petty, and vindictive, but mostly what I do is done for the best of reasons, with the best of intentions. But evil? Not me. Evil is the definitive other and, as such, has no defense to humankind's constant demonization.

Nowhere has this absolutist dichotomy more evident than in epic fantasy fiction. From Melkor and Sauron, to Lord Foul, to Torak and Shai'tan, the bad guys of epic fantasy are bad, really bad, yes ultimately bad. Evil is external, insatiable, and irredeemable. Evil is incarnate. The good guys sometimes display slightly more complexity, usually in the form of confronting and overcoming the temptation to join the evil fun. The great evil of the ring, after all, is seduction. Nevertheless, in the end, the good guys remain ultimately good and ultimately conquer the evil despite overwhelming odds. This opposition of good-vs-evil so dominates the genre that it is now often the target of reaction and even parody.

This archetypical opposition poses a number of serious problems for the aspiring writer in the genre. First, the slightly-flawed-but-essentially-good hero overcoming the deliciously-despicable incarnation of evil has been done to death. What can a new spin on the old formulation add to the canon? Second, there is still, apparently, a great thirst among readers for more of the same old story. Someone is going to write the old cliches over again because the large numbers will buy it, and who can resist large numbers -- especially when there are dollar signs in front of them? Can the hungry, unknown writer resist this temptation, irony be damned? Should she? Third, having rejected seduction and having rejected the soul-numbing labor of spewing more of the same, the aspiring writer must battle the powers that be. Absolutist good-vs-evil epics dominate sales in the fantasy genre, and therefore dominate the time, effort and money of agents, editors, publishers, booksellers and all the other cogs in the machine. How does a little guy say anything above all the noise? Would it not be much easier to sell yet another three or four book epic series wherein an orphan farm boy discovers that he is truly a (pick one) prince/heir of an ancient hero/dragon rider/powerful wizard destined by prophecy to defeat Evil Incarnate? The blurbs practically write themselves, not to mention the invocations of Tolkien. Fourth, turning the tables and writing the epic fantasy of the anti-hero, the brooding bad-guy-out-for-himself, is no solution. It has been done to death; the cliches will suck the marrow from your bones along with your soul; the machine, the machine will eat this as well.

But, so you break away from the same old thing, you still face the biggest problem yet. What now? If you do not write about good-vs-evil, then what do you write? Human beings are complex creatures. We are all good, and we are all evil. There is no incarnation of evil in our world, even in the great religions. Evil works through us. There is no Sauron; there is only the ring and it cannot be destroyed. That may be the solution of the aspiring writer: to write about the seduction of humanity by Evil Inchoate. Promise abounds in this, and it has not yet been killed by the machine.

There is, however, at least another solution. Us. Write about us, plain and simple. Write about humanity, our flaws, our failures, our own evil. There can still be swords, and magic, and goblins, trolls, and dragons. There can still be evil deeds and people given over to evil, but without the capital E. That sounds interesting to me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What it's all about, II.

So, RoseThorn begins with Adan at peace and the Adanae seemingly in the zenith of their power. War then comes to the neighboring kingdom of Arras, long-time allies, and the people of the city mobilize to their aid. The Adanae fear nothing, for in five thousand years nothing has challenged their might of arms or command of the Mahare. The army marches to Arras under the two eldest princes of the ruling house of Adan, Otheron and Cenith. But the unforseen appearance of the mysterious Black General bodes ill for Adan and Arras alike.

Caladon, the third son of the ruling family, however, travels away from battle on a quest--dangerous and secret. His success, or failure, may tip the tide of war. But there is a shadow at his heels, a shadow that watches and follows as Caladon travels alone into the wilderness.

What will happen?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This is what it's about.

RoseThorn tells the story of the Adanae, a people of extraordinary beauty, intellect and power, a people with a past and a secret hidden even from themselves. Twenty-five generations ago the Adanae were exiled, cast on the sea in seven ships and driven before a terrible storm to land on the shores of a strange land. There the Adanae found only primitive tribes, still with merely stone tools and weapons. And the tribesfolk did not have the Mahare, the magic that the people of Adan drew upon for their power. A few of the primitives befriended the Adanae, but most fled away from them to live on the edge of survival. The Adanae began to build a new city in the wilderness--Adan.

The crime committed by the exiles would remain hidden, for after landing on the new shores the Adanae fell under two curses: the Ban and the Forgetting. The Ban forbade any Adanae to ever sail beyond sight of their new lands. The few that defied the Ban perished in violent maelstroms that assaulted their ships. The Forgetting afflicted all of the people of Adan, causing them to lose all memory of who they had been or why they suffered exile.

Twenty-five generations passed and the city of Adan grew along the River Edara, a city of marble and granite, of temples, theaters and markets, parks and gardens. The Adanae poured the Mahare into everything they built, and the city grew, radiant and graceful, a city protected by a Wall that could never be breached. Within their city the Adanae became great again, a people of culture, of learning and art and philosophy. But as wondrous as they made their city, the world outside remained as it had been, wild, primitive, and brutal.

Untouchable. Unblemished. So the Adanae thought. But dark forces gather over time, and even the strongest may fail to weather the storm if caught unprepared. This is where the story of RoseThorn begins . . .

Friday, May 19, 2006

Am I kidding myself?

Okay, I realize that I haven't posted anything about the plot, the characters, the setting, etc, and I intend to (really, I do)--but I just have to get this off my chest now. The story is working up to the denouement and I've just finished a series of chapters building the tension and the emotion; I've killed off some characters and exiled others and now the protagnoist has nothing left to lose as he heads for the ultimate show down.

My worry is that the reader will not be fully invested in the protagnist's feelings of hatred and fury toward the antagonist. This section of the book needs to be a page turner. It needs to be so compelling that the reader can't put the book down--from this point on--until its finished. That is what will make this book memorable. That is what will make it good. I worry that I'm not up to the task.

Short story being published.

Flashspec Anthology is a collection of short-short stories (>1,000 words) being published by Equilibrium Books. If you pick up Volume One, you'll not only get lots of excellent SFF flash stories but one of them, The Shark God, will be by me. Link on the sidebar.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why this blog.

I am a writer. No, you haven't heard of me.


Primarily, this blog is a release valve, for the expelling of my thoughts and feelings, as I come dangerously close to inflicting my first novel RoseThorn upon the world. Anyone having created, or attempting to create, any lengthy work of literature knows what I mean by release valve.

This blog is my sanity. I fully realize that the internet does not care.