Saturday, July 09, 2016

Asphodel Meets Modern Fantasy

As I get ready to release the last Asphodel reissue, I'm starting to get excited about the publication of the sequel series. It will be interesting to see how fans of the first series respond to the second. 

Writers mature just like any other professional. As you progress, your writing changes. The Asphodel Cycle was my first fantasy series. The Black Dream is my latest. It was strange, to say the least, to revisit a world I first created as a teenager and wrote in the early 2000s. My voice is stronger, I think, and over a decade as a professional editor has made the writing tighter and cleaner. 

But just as the author matured, so too have my characters. I thought it best to keep the spread of time roughly equal to my own. So my protagonist, who was 18-20 in the first series, is 32-35 in the second, a mother of three, a ruler who's not had to deal with much turmoil since the end of the Ilian War. Fortunately, she's also an Elf so that decade hasn't really aged her all that much. 

Unfortunately for Tamsen, this second series will be punishing. 

I'm older and wiser in the ways of fantasy, and fantasy itself has changed. I literally used to get hate mail when readers thought I was being "mean" to their favorite characters.  Which, to a writer, is a great compliment. But the fact of the matter is that in old school fantasy, a group of heroes could get through an epic quest and emerge relatively unscathed. look at the Belgariad by David Eddings, for example. Only one major character was killed, and he was only dead for less than an hour. Otherwise, there were no consequences for any of those main characters except happily ever afters. 

Don't get me wrong--I love Eddings. Eddings was the first fantasy author I read back in high school, and in fact the world of Asphodel was created as a result. Not because I wanted to emulate Eddings, but because I wanted to see a female protagonist leading a fantasy quest. 

But now, revisiting Asphodel after more than a decade, I knew things would be very different. 

For one thing, Asphodel is Greco-Roman mythology re-imagined in a traditional fantasy setting. Anyone who knows anything about classical mythology knows that there are terrible consequences for mortals who oppose the gods. Tamsen has been living for a decade and a half as the most powerful mortal in the world. The only way to make a second series work is to make that no longer the case. And if her power is challenged on that level, there must be consequences indeed, not just for her but everyone. 

So for those of you asking if characters die in The Black Dream? Don't ask silly questions. Lots of people die. Lots of people are grievously injured. Lots of people suffer. 

In The Asphodel Cycle, the Huntress posed a single question: What gift can buy the redemption of the Elves? The answer hasn't changed. The answer is still everything.  And prepare yourselves--these characters will be asked to give everything they are, everything they cherish, everything they protect for a greater cause. They have to, or else there's no story. 

And, well--there's a reason this blog is called Elf-Killing and Other Hobbies. 

The Black Dream is darker, grittier, bloodier--more like the Greco-Roman world of its foundation than the fantasy idealism of its setting. The stakes are higher. The characters more dangerous...and in more danger. 

Yes, there will be consequences. Many of them. 

As a devotee of Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey monomyth, I firmly believe in the development of a hero through adversity and fear. But I think the monomyth is changing in current fantasy, and The Black Dream takes the hero's journey and goes several steps past it. 

So prepare yourselves, Asphodel readers. When Tamsen enters the modern twists of fantasy, the journey itself becomes a consequence. 

You have been warned.