Bookish Bits: view from the bunker
Welcome to Bookish Bits: quarantine edition. It would appear that the days of self-imposed isolation are drawing to a close, at least in my part of the country, but for now I’m still watching from the window of my little bunker and waiting to see when life will return to the good old days. And by good old days, I mean a month ago.
I know all of this isolation is designed to help in the long run, but with all these government pronouncements and drones floating through our cities, I predict a flood of dystopian novels will be coming out in about 6-9 months. Because writers no longer have to imagine what it’s like to live in a dystopian future, they’ve lived it.
It’s all so very strange.
The future isn’t what it used to be
Perhaps all of this dystopian atmosphere inspired me to finally release a boxed set of my science-fiction series The Chronotrace Sequence.
Not only did the digital boxed set come out, but all of the individual books moved to Kindle Unlimited, which means that if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can read them for free.
And not only that, but all of the paperback editions were recently re-typeset to fix some unfortunate issues which had been in the original editions. This increased the page count of each book by about 10% which, to me, makes the books feel all that much more weighty and significant.
But what about the past?
Though I’m thrilled with how the boxed set and the new paperback editions turned out, the real future, as in what I’m currently working on right now, is a book that looks not to what’s ahead but what’s past. So what’s coming is…the past.
I told you we were living in strange times.
Of course, what I mean, what I’m actually talking about, is my upcoming fantasy series, The Swordspeaker Saga. This book is set in the world of Warding, a fictionalized version of our own, set in an imaginary past.
That’s what fantasy is, really. It’s not dragons and wizards and all the set dressing, it’s fiction about an imaginary past. Science fiction, in contrast, is fiction about the future.
Fiction helps us make sense of the world
I recently read A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, which is about J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis’ experiences in World War I and how it affected their fiction. It’s a fascinating book, highly recommended, and I really ought to post a review of it here, but that’s beside the point. One of the many brilliant sections of the book detailed how Tolkien started writing the beginnings of his great epic, The Silmarillion, while in a hospital bed recovering from his injuries on the battlefield. That version, interestingly enough, was entitled, Morgoth and the Gnomes.
What Tolkien was doing was not just passing time. He was looking at the world around him with all the senseless killing and the destruction of cities and nature and…remembering. Remembering a time when battles were fought with honor. When heroes and monsters were well-defined. When nobility and bravery and sacrifice were not wasted on mortar shells and mass graves.
By recreating this fictional past, Tolkien was able to make sense of the world around him. “This is not what we were made for,” his story was saying. “We were made for something greater.” He was recovering a treasure from the past with its medieval knights and tales of dragon slaying and bequeathing it to the modern world. In a sense, he was showing a way out, a way home. He was giving us something to take back with us and strive for in the world we live in.
Bend in the road
That’s part of the reason I’m so looking forward to sharing this series with you. Because in times like these, indeed in all times, the best way forward is sometimes found by looking back. And the recovery of what was lost is one of the main themes of The Swordspeaker Saga.
I’m currently at a bit of a bend in the road with the series. I had intended on releasing the prequel, Bladewarden, later this year as a free download on my site. But the more I think about, the more I’m considering not going in that direction. Here’s why.
This novel was not part of the original arc of the story. So I don’t think it actually works the way this prequel needs to, and that is as an introduction to this story. It involves different characters and a different plot line. While it does a good job of introducing the world and depicting the main conflict it does little to pull the reader into wanting to read this series. At best, it introduces many characters who won’t be featured in the series itself and the tone is much more serious than in book one.
This book works best more as a background story for someone who has already read book one. It’s a little like “Star Wars: Rogue One” is to “Star Wars: A New Hope.” So what I plan on doing is making it available for a free download to anyone who buys book one. I will also still be giving away paperback copies of the book to people who are signed up for my newsletter.
For now, though, I’m busy with the final edits for Truesilver. I’m halfway there and hope to finish by the end of the week.
What’s on the nightstand?
And that’s the update as far as what I’m writing. A while back I used to do a series called “Nightstand Books” where I shared what books were currently on my nightstand. I no longer post my reading under that theme, but instead talk about what I’m reading here.
This year I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time and absolutely loved it. It instantly became one of my all time favorites. I also re-read The Silmarillion and The Trumpet of the Swan, and both are wonderful, though in completely different ways.
I also read Peter Pan and And Then There Were None and enjoyed both of them (again, both very different books), though not quite as much as the others I’ve mentioned.
I am currently re-reading Out of the Silent Planet and enjoying it greatly. It’s so different than most science fiction. Far more imaginative and straightforward.
I didn’t realize until I wrote this list how many re-reads I’ve had so far this year. But my next book will be a new one, The Story Peddler. I know almost nothing about it except that everyone I know who read it loved it.
Well, that’s the view from the bunker right now. Stay safe!
Until next time, I’ll see you between the pages…