Five Great Books About the Hidden World
I’m excited to welcome Michael Livingston to the blog today to discuss some of the books that inspired him to write The Shards of Heaven! There’s a giveaway at the bottom that you don’t want to miss too :D. The Shards of Heaven is on sale now if you can’t wait for a copy!
My new novel, The Shards of Heaven, is set against the fall of Antony and Cleopatra and the rise of the Roman Empire. It’s good ol’ historical fiction … except for those elements in which it’s (presumably) fantasy — as it is in imagining that the Trident of Poseidon might’ve had something to do with the battle of Actium. It’s historical fantasy, in other words, which is an odd but fun niche in which to write.
I’ve been repeatedly asked in interviews what authors inspired me to play these kinds of games with history, and there are many amazing writers I could point to, like Dan Simmons and Tim Powers, who have forged the path I’m following with extraordinary works of fiction.
Another of the most formative influences I have felt, though, has been Parke Godwin. He’s a relatively little known author these days, which I think is a real tragedy — because he was a truly talented writer. He died in 2013, before I could thank him personally for the stories that moved me, thus leaving me with a very much unpaid debt to his memory.
As but a small act of repayment, I thought I’d share with you all my five favorite novels by this master storyteller.
- Lord of Sunset (1998). The Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066, is one of the most important battles in the history of England: the conflict in which the Anglo-Saxon King Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror of Normandy. Godwin tells Harold’s story up to that horrific event largely through the love of his life, managing to paint a wonderful picture of a world that will be undone on a hillside on the southern coast.
- Waiting for the Galactic Bus (1988). This book almost defies explanation. Part Douglas Adams, part deep religious satire, part social satire of mid-80s America, it’s so bizarre I rather like it.
- The Tower of Beowulf (1999). Godwin loved the medieval world, and as a medievalist I can’t blame him one bit. You’ll see that four of the five novels on this list are re-imaginings of medieval history and legend. That includes this short novel, which attempts to historicize the story of Beowulf and Grendel. It’s not only one of my favorite Godwin novels, but it is easily in my top five retellings of Beowulf, too.
- Sherwood (1991). Godwin sets the Robin Hood legend against the Norman Conquest (making Lord of Sunset an interesting “prequel” to this novel), and he makes the period and the place come alive in beautiful prose. Even so many years later, I can still quote some passages almost from memory.
- Firelord (1980). The legend of King Arthur has been told and retold hundreds if not thousands of times, but I can count on one hand the number of Arthurian stories — medieval or modern — that would rank higher in my mind than this masterpiece. Godwin’s attention to character is sheer poetry in this novel, and it is one of the foundational texts for me personally when it comes to both binding fantasy within history and infusing history with fantasy. I cannot recommend it higher.
And there are so many more brilliant works from his pen! If you’ve not given Godwin a try, I really do encourage you to pick one of his volumes up. He’s well worth the read!
From Anya: Also since we’re on the subject, I have to throw in my recommendation for Masters of Solitude!
MICHAEL LIVINGSTON holds degrees in history, medieval studies, and English. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Citadel, specializing in the Middle Ages. His short fiction has been published in Black Gate, Shimmer, Paradox, and Nature. MichaelLivingston.com. @MedievalGuy.
Tor has wonderfully offered a copy of The Shards of Heaven for me to giveaway so you can try out this new novel for yourself! The giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses, as per Tor’s policy, the winner has 48 hours to respond to my email, and I’ll be checking entries so please make sure the information you enter is correct!
© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.