I'm pleased to have Christian A. Brown return to share with my readers. He's talking about why writing fantasy, more specifically highly speculative fiction, is fun for him. Be sure to check out his wonderful new release, Feast of Dreams.
by Christian A. Brown
Most fantasy writers get asked this question a lot. Moving into the discussion with a stance that I am not a fantasy writer, as much as a person who writes speculative—highly speculative—fiction, let’s look at what it is about creating new, strange worlds that appeals to me (and the people who love to read and live in those worlds, too). So, why fantasy?
First off, in a Science Fiction and Fantasy world anything can happen. I don’t mean Deus Ex Machina kind of stuff; writers and readers should steer clear of that, no matter the genre. I’m talking about your aliens, wizards, and dragons. Maybe a chalice that can pervert the course of nature by raising the dead or granting eternal youth. Incredible stuff, the stuff of which we—humans—dream.
As to why I—and others—lump Fantasy and Science Fiction together, I propose that’s because the best fantasy is almost identical to Science Fiction, in that you have created a believable world and a mythos. Next, plop in some specific citizens of that realm/ starship/ whatever, and you’ve just started your story, your narrative on life. A good story is a good story, no matter the genre. Legions of folks are into Game of Thrones, for example, and that’s not because it has dragons and ancient forces warring in the shadows. Sure, some of us like those additions to the narrative. Still, I’d safely bet that the “mainstream” appeal of that show comes from its human element. GoT resonates with readers and fans because its people—as despicable as some of them can be—are just as despicable, humorous and convincing as the folks that we can find here on Earth. We can see our triumphs and failings by watching these characters.
Besides the enjoyment of world-building, I write fantasy because I am a child of imagination. I love magic, wonder and mystery. I believe in the concepts of honor and heroism. In our age, I feel that we’ve lost the ability to perceive these elements. For there are heroes in the real world, women and men working together in a thousand different societies toward the goal of bettering humanity. (Happy International Women’s Day, by the way!) But we don’t talk about or recognize these people all that much. Instead we deify the Kardashians. And with our laser focus on superficial media, I feel that we’ve traded our reverence for what’s greater in the universe: our sense of the divine. I fear mysterious and wicked things much grander than ourselves. I fear Gods and monsters, even if my rational mind denies the existence of these entities. I believe that wonder, hope and fear are all part of the package of being human. Thus, I like to remind myself and my readers, of darkness and light, of horror and hope.
Touching back to what I intimated with the GoT world building bit, I’ve always believed that we see ourselves much clearer through a different set of eyes and perspectives. From the outside looking in. That’s why I tend to write a story from a lot of different heads, which isn’t the popular trend in modern fiction, where everything reads first-person like a diary entry. I understand that style, since it’s reflective of our current social climate, and it can be quite engaging to a reader. However, it’s not reflective of how the world actually functions, which is a tremendous battle of voices, wishes and opinions. We are not individuals, we are a series of individuals making up a society.
Taking everything into account: world building, characterization, multiple viewpoints, epic themes, explorations on love, death, war and all the meaty bits of human existence—there’s not one reason alone that I choose to write speculative fiction that happens to have supernatural elements. I would make a terrible anthropologist; too much schooling involved and my attention span is…What…Who…Oh right. I’m half a philosopher, an occasional activist, and only a therapist when I’ve had a glass of wine and someone has asked for my candid opinion. Therefore, while I’m not particularly good at any one of these things, I have managed to find a vocation, and a genre—fiction/ fantasy/ weird—that I feel fits my credentials and my desire to explore perceptions. I write to inspire. Personally, there is nothing more inspiring than worlds like our own, worlds where we can look to the faults and struggles of people—even though they’re imaginary—and learn from their experience how to better ourselves.
Feast of Dreams
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Christian A. Brown
Genre: Fantasy Romance
As King Brutus licks his wounds and gathers new strength, two rival queens vow to destroy each other’s nations.
Lila of Eod, sliding into madness, risks everything in the search for a powerful relic, while Queen Gloriatrix threatens Eod with military might—including three monstrous technomagikal warships.
Far from this clash of queens, Morigan and the Wolf scour Alabion, hunting for the mad king’s hidden weakness. Their quest brings them face to face with their own pasts, their dark futures…and the Sisters Three themselves.
Unbeknownst to all, a third thread in Geadhain’s tapestry begins to move in the wastes of Mor’Khul. There, a father and son scavenge to survive as they travel south toward a new chapter in Geadhain history.
Feast of Dreams Excerpt:
“My queen, it grows late.”
Queen Lila was about to address the enormous man casting his silver-hued shadow over her as Rowena. But no. Her sword was gone and neck-deep in espionage with the master of the East Watch, and a hammer named Erik was her guardian these days. What sad eyes the man had, more black than blue—as morose as those of an owl perched over a graveyard. She could see them glinting from beneath his darkened visor. Rarely did she spot the hard, hidden handsomeness of the man—his black hair, broken but appealing face, and stubble crisscrossed in scars. Come to think of it, aside from the moment his naked, scorched self had abruptly manifested in a cindery puff within the Chamber of Echoes some weeks ago, she hadn’t seen him without his helm. He was hiding then from the absence of his king or another private torment. She had been staring at him rather unabashedly for quite a spell. The sparkle of fiery colors off the immaculate polish of his pristine armor hypnotized her. His voice snapped her out of her trance. How quickly evening’s shroud had fallen.
“Time has escaped us,” commented the queen.
Erik gently led her from the bedside she attended. As they passed the hospice’s cots and floor pallets, the hands and voices of the wounded reached for her. Erik watched the queen’s remorseful looks and the aching way she touched the feet of certain sufferers or the backs of weeping kin. These days she was cold and ruthless in her judgments within the palace. She had become a steel queen to stand metal for mettle against the Iron Queen rising in the East. In these particular confines, however, where the faltering breath of the ailing made the air humid, and it was thick with the stench of eucalyptus poultices and incense to mask the rot magik would not heal, the queen’s mask cracked or was simply cast off. Genuine pity replaced it. She had come here each day for the past fortnight since the storm of frostfire had struck Eod. “The day of ruin,” the people called it—when first the skies were bare and then suddenly forked with red lightning, spitting shards of ice and arrows of flame to the earth. None of sound mind could have prepared for that wailing apocalypse. Thousands were killed instantly. They were boiled inside tarry craters the earthspeakers were still working to fill or entombed in buildings that could not hold against the storm’s wrath. The injuries were uncountable, and they were still being reported. Those with only singed or frostbitten flesh dismissed the pettiness of their wounds and carried on with tourniquets and grimaces. Others had to be scraped from streets or, if mauled but living, extracted from rubble and taken to a growing encampment of emergency sites erected near the palace. Here was where the queen always found herself once the details of war, supply lines, allies, enemies, and stratagems had worn her patience to a snappy disinterest. Somehow in these miserable hospices, the queen seemed peaceful, albeit sad.
Time and again Erik made one-sided conversation as he guarded his new charge—he never managed to say these words. You blame yourself for this or for my kingfather’s fate. You see these sins as your own. You feel the weight and needs of this entire nation upon yourself, and what a terrible weight that must be to bear. You are not alone, though, my queen. As adrift as you might be, I am here. I shall be the rock you need. I have made a promise to the great man who speaks to us no more.
The night he had appeared so rudely at her side, she held him and told him she could not sense the king anymore. The icy flame of Magnus’s soul had gone as cold as a forgotten hearth.
“What does it mean? What does it all mean?”she’d sobbed.
She was without her lover and partner in eternity, and he was without his father. They were agonizingly alone. Only on that night did she cry for the king and never since—as far as Erik had witnessed. He and the queen did not speak of their grief again or further pursue the reality that the Immortal King—missing and utterly quiet in his queen’s mind since the battle with his mad brother in Zioch—was quite possibly dead.
At the hospice exit, Queen Lila stopped so suddenly that Erik almost elbowed his liege. With what Erik perceived as a speck of wariness, she half glanced over her shoulder, and her gaze swelled wide with fear. She was staring at something behind them. Erik looked as well and reached a hand to his weapon. However, he saw nothing aside from the rows of squirming sufferers moving on their bloody, sweat-soaked cots like man-size maggots. What horrible times these were.
“Have you forgotten something?” he asked.
Queen Lila wished she could explain the hairs that prickled on her neck or the chill of Mother Winter’s mouth that blew the humidity from the chamber, but no one else seemed to feel it. Most of all, she wanted to find a less hysterical explanation for the shadow—tall as a mountain, black, and somehow bright—that hovered in the corner of her eye. She would not turn around and look at it. She could not. She was afraid that if she opened her mouth, she would involuntarily scream. What do you want, shadow? Why do you haunt me? Why do you come to me in dreams?
“No. I need nothing more,” she answered curtly and moved ahead, trembling.
About the Author
Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.