Monday, July 26, 2010

Wait – I Dropped my Weapon by R Scott Mitchell

Some find it curious that I should pen a book or two about swordplay and heroes conquering those little nasties that lurk in the corners when I keep a collection of swords myself. It’s not at all that I fancy myself a hero or anything; I simply have an appreciation for the complex dance involved in really good swordplay. A hero can wield his sword with great flair and talent, filling the air with the hum and hiss of razor-steel. A non-hero? Well, they might just drop the damn thing. Or cut themselves. Or worse.

I had intended Black Pawn to be a simple fantasy piece set in a fictional pseudo-medieval era, ripe with castles and war, triumph and tragedy. I could have spun a spell or two here and there but I steered clear of that (well, not entirely). I am always very leery about touching on the ‘pixie shit’ fantasy that so saturates our culture today. (Michael Moorcock used the term ‘pixie shit’ to describe those fantasy elements almost considered cliché now: belching dwarves, elves in the trees and a dragon curled around a pile of gold). Don’t get me wrong – I love that kind of stuff. I enjoy it and I appreciate the contributions that genre made to modern literature. But it is not what I tend to write.

In so much of my writing, I find myself exploring the complex relationships between brothers: the growth and rivalry, the competition, the bonds and the betrayals. I know that this has particular relevance to me as my own brother was born with profound physical and developmental disabilities. The connection that he and I share is an enigmatic one and one that I explore through writing.

This exploration continues in Black Pawn and its forthcoming sequel: one brother is raised in a glorious, wealthy upbringing; the other grows to immeasurable power alone and squandering in the darkness. What draws them together is a combination of the changes in the physical and political landscapes of the continent they inhabit. Both are caught on the tides of war inexorably destined to collide, for the better of one over the other.

I make no claims that what I write is innovative or new in the genre of heroic fantasy. Mine is a new recipe using common ingredients: a new texture and experience on very familiar elements. In Black Pawn, the heroes are those who depend solely on wit and skill to circumvent tragedy and emerge alive and victorious. The villains are those who have access to a dirtier bowl of tricks. They can harness a twisted spiritual power, a quicker fix to get the job done. For I believe this to be true: it is easier to be irresponsible, lazy and downright mean than it is to remain governed by good moral values. Far easier to hit a puppy than to teach it. Basically, it is less of a challenge to be a villain than a hero; hence, my villains have access to a power the others don’t have. Yes, that is magic of a sort. I broke my rule, didn’t I. Oh well.

I continue to write heroic fantasy and historical fiction (I think Joan of Arc is due for an epic retelling worthy of the woman). Writing is my own catharsis and affirmation to examine what could have been, where things are now and where they might go. I write because I have a story to tell, more than one in fact. I draw upon any number of resources: reading, music, discussions and arguments. I am encouraged by those people I know and those I wish I could have known. Even the odd video game has inspired a chapter or two from me.

The landscape of fantasy and speculative fiction is expanding daily. Perhaps as more and more people feel constricted in their own lives, they crave a healthier type of escape. JRR Tolkien, arguably the father of fantasy fiction, might be quite surprised to see how far we’ve come. He might even be a little embarrassed considering he had originally intended his own work to entertain children. Better to remain young and impulsive than to grow up too fast and too bitter, I suppose.

As for my heroes? In Black Pawn, the characters of Windiin, Shander, Kia and Lycien are all heroes of their own. What better defines heroism than the characteristics of fighting for what you believe and compromising for no one? This also means there really is nothing special about a hero since each and every one of us radiates these characteristics from time to time.

Now, just let me pick up my weapon here … there we go.

For a teaser of the novel and other little tidbits I have written, check my website at . Thank you for the opportunity, Ms. Howell – I appreciate it.

R. Scott Mitchell

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