Guest Post by Max Gladstone + Giveaway!
Today I’m very excited to welcome Max Gladstone, author of the Craft Sequence (which you should read asap!), as he discusses an idea behind his upcoming book Last First Snow. If you aren’t compelled to immediately order Last First Snow after reading this post, you can enter to win a copy as well :D. Also spoilers for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings below!
We have young champions aplenty—the boy wizard and the girl knight stand up to the Dark Lord, sacrifice what’s dearest to them, and save the world. So far, so good. We end up less a ring finger, an ancestral sword, an elder wand, a mentor or a parent or even two, but we can rebuild. We can make a better world out of the damage we inherited.
At least, that’s the idea.
But we don’t often see what happens next. We’re granted glimpses of the future, sometimes, in the form of an epilogue or concluding chapter. Harry and Ginny bring their son to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and chat about their old friends’ successes.
We even tend to forget those few stories that do draw us past the Happily Ever After. I smile and shake my head when I hear people describe Tolkien’s ending to The Lord of the Rings as optimistic or polyanna-ish, forgetting that the hobbits return wounded to a burnt-out Shire, that elves leave and magic seeps out of the world, that Frodo himself lives on in pain until at last he must follow his old friends into the West and leave Sam behind (for now). Arwen wanders the world after Aragorn’s death. The Middle Earth that remains is better than the Middle Earth that would have been had Sauron won—but it’s changed all the same.
I’m drawn to tales of survival and aftermath, of dealing with the consequences of heroism or villainy. For years I didn’t understand quite what attracted me to Cowboy Bebop, for example—I mean, there’s the obvious stuff, Yoko Kanno’s fantastic score, the brilliant animation, the tight, sharp storytelling, but accounting for all that I was still missing something—until a friend pointed out that the story’s already over long before the series starts. Spike, Jet, and Faye are survivors. Their story’s what happens after the story.
You don’t have to be too much of a Campbellian to see that the traditional hero story ushers children into adulthood. YA Dystopias in their hosts and hordes confront kids with the exploitative underpinnings of their worlds, and the most eyerollingly traditional epic fantasy hinges on the development from “farmboy” or “farmgirl”—note diminutives—to… well, anything, really. King. Hero. Knight. Starship pilot. Insert adult profession here. (Someday, someone really should write the story of the hero who quests her way from “farm girl” to “farm woman.”) (Actually, I guess that’s kind of Uprooted after a fashion, isn’t it?) (Note from Anya: yes! OMG READ IT EVERYONE)
In the quest for adulthood, we grow deeper in our sacrifice, in our guilt, and maybe even in our innocence. That’s why you have so many dead parents in fantasy I think: the kid’s journey to adulthood involves learning who she is without her parents. The quest for the absent father or mother (like in A Wrinkle in Time) is just the same problem seen from its other side: as kids we first learn our parents as roles, as structures. (The missing father, the dark father, the wicked stepmother.) To become adults we need to find them as breathing, vulnerable, often screwed-up people. Whatever we’re questing for—parents, firebirds, secret rings—we come back different, if we come back at all, as Nancy Griffith sings.
And then what?
Okay, so we’re the kings and queens of Narnia, we are all Jedi Knights, we have taken our place among the stars. How do we do better than the people who came before us? How do we do even half so well? How do we live with, and live beyond, the wounds that shaped us into the heroes we’ve become? How do we learn to laugh, or love, or fight again?
The main characters of my new book, Last First Snow, were all heroes when they were younger. Craftswoman Elayne Kevarian and high priest Temoc fought on opposite sides of the God Wars. That conflict shaped them, and they shaped it. Their worlds changed—saved or destroyed depending on your perspective.
Now they’re trying to build.
They won’t have an easy time.
Now that you’re completely hooked, I’m very happy to be giving away a copy of Last First Snow courtesy of Tor! As per Tor’s rules this giveaway will need to be US/Canada only, the winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email, and I’ll be checking entries so please don’t cheat!
Last First Snow is out now along with the first three books of the Craft Sequence so go go go! If you’d like to help the blog, feel free to order Last First Snow from Amazon here and I’ll get a small commission to fund giveaways.
© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.