To say that this year’s first months have been difficult, it would be an understatement. Massive fires, the menace of war and the threat of a pandemic on a global scale, would make you think that these guys are riding again.
Yes, I choose a Simpsons’ image on purpose. For levity’s sake.
In the personal front, I’ve been going through a really rough patch, from depression to financial stress, to see how my country is sinking at the hands of a moron, to the fact that I’m unable to work as the school where I work was taken by students and we are unable to enter (look, it’s a long story about a just cause and good intentions paving the way to hell through poor decision management by both sides of the conflict, so it’s not part of the topic here). So, I’ve been able to keep me busy with two things: doing house chores and writing.
And it’s on the writing front that this entry will deal with. In the past decades, probably since 2001, there has been a marked trend in media and literature to portray bleak worlds where cynism is the rule. There are debates about whether 9/11 dispelled any sense of hope for the new Millenium, or whether South Park has created a generation of cynics and people lacking empathy. This trend about the crappiness of the world is compounded by the lack of prospects for younger generations, lousy political systems that have failed those they should serve, and the existential threat of climate change.
This has resulted in a slew of stories in which the best the main character can hope for is surviving, for pyrrhic victories. Worlds where everyone is an asshole. And while that can lead to compelling, heart-wrenching plot lines -such as in Castlevania or Breaking Bad- it’s my opinion that most stories of the so-called grimdark inclination have become a retelling of how awful human beings are. That the Hobbes-Rousseau debate about the nature of man is being tested for final proof that we are all bastards. And if media is telling you that all around you are assholes and the world is going to hell in a handbasket, your natural predisposition is to think on those lines. And that is a dangerous proposition as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with consequences both at a personal and societal level. I know this personally because my personal opinion of humans, in general, is not very good.
And I want to change that.
Look, I don’t have anything against those that enjoy writing and reading grimdark stories. I grew up with the gritty 90s comic book storylines. And when well written, as I said, make for a compelling narrative. But it’s my belief that we, as writers, have also to buck the trend. To offer readers something that makes them still believe that things can get better, not through miracles, but through hard work. Things will never be easy, there always be serious challenges and dangers around the corner. But we have to believe that changing the world is possible if we change our mindset.
I still believe that we can change things around, that we can achieve a better world. But we need to spread the message. In my opinion, there is a growing need for it. And we, as writers, as story crafters, have a moral imperative to do so. It’s the fight from our trench.
You know why I think Avengers Endgame was such a blockbuster? It’ wasn’t only due to the fancy FX or the geek’s dream about seeing so many characters together in scree. Underneath that corporative behemoth, there was a message -put there on purpose or not- about hope and how even in the bleakest circumstances, there was still a way to fix things. The scene of Cap hearing Falcon to his left during the darkest hour is that: Hope.
Even Game of Thrones, with all its bleakness, had a lingering sense of hope. That Jon would save the day (it was Arya, in fact), that a good ruler would take charge of Westeros (Tyrion will be the de facto ruler, because c’mon, Bran is busy being the fantasy equivalent of Google and Tyrion has proven to be a decent Hand of the King). Even with all its failings and horrible characters like Ramsay Bolton, the story was one about hope defeating darkness.
Hope, like in the myth about Pandora, is the last thing that remains when everything is falling apart. Hope is what keeps us moving, keeps us fighting. Hope is the fuel of our dreams and the shield that guards our hearts and souls while we find a way to get out of a problem. Hope dies last because it’s light is inextinguishable. Hope is powerful if we let it grow. Hope is what makes us humans.
Maria Haskins, who is one of the best writers I’ve had the pleasure to known and talk with, put it in better words than I could even aspire too, so I’m taking the liberty to quote her tweet (which incidentally inspired this entry).
Like anything Maria writes, this is awe-inspiring and beautiful.
Last year, one of my ARC novel’s reviewers told me that my story could count as HopePunk. Because apparently due the characters banding together and pushing aside their differences, manage to rise from a bleak scenario to save the day through sheer willpower and cooperation. I’m not sure if I’m qualified to declare my novel HopePunk. But it left me thinking about it and more importantly, I’m incorporating more of it in the sequel, both in Alex’s arc -who is this time the MC- and the world’s arc.
In one front, Alex will be fighting against his inner demons, his depression, realizing that he is not alone. And on the other, Harland is trying to show to the world that is through cooperation, through accepting the other for their differences, rather than shunning them, that the planet can be saved when is faced with dire dangers. I’m not sure if the first book is HopePunk, and I’m not sure the second will be. But I’m sure as hell that I’m trying to add more hope to my stories. There was a time where I tried to write Tempest Blades as a more grimdark story. But I failed miserably. Because a voice in my head kept telling me that it was not the way. And I’m happy to have listened to that voice. The way was, to add hope. Yes, life goes on, difficulties are always present. But is through hope that we can overcome said difficulties.
So it’s high time we write more hopeful stories. For the sake of our mental health and for the sake of the wider community. Writers can conjure through their imagination a more hopeful outlook of life, one that will help us to face reality and strive to change it for something better.
And this would be the most Punk thing we can do these days. Why? Punk is defined by being anti-establishment. And in a world where the establishment tells you that everything sucks and you should conform, in a world where everything seems bleak, having hope for a better future is the most punk thing you can do. Even if it’s a sliver of hope. Revolutions have started with less.
It’s time for a revolution of hope so we can muster the strength to fix this world before it’s too late.
Hello there, world. This is the first time I write one of these posts (as I have only been nominated once for an award and I wasn’t the one promoting it). But given that this was a seminal year for me as a writer, it was due time to create one. So here there are my award-eligible stories for 2019. Here are in order of length.
“Tempest Blades: The Withered King.” Shadow Dragon Press. August 2019. Approx. 97,500 words.
What’s about? Fionn thought that his days as a warrior were over. Gaby & Alex never expected to become heroes. Now they must join forces to stop an ancient evil. In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible. Including second chances.
What others have said about it:
“An action-packed blend of magic and mayhem, sword and sorcery, science fiction and fantasy. The book is full of entertaining characters, has a sense of humor and adventure, and there’s a crackling video-game vibe added for good measure.” —Maria Haskins, author, and B&N Blogger
“A glorious sci-fi adventure for any reader of the fandom of the classic video game ‘Soul Blade'” —Booklist
“It was a fun, fast book, full of action beats. It was also surprisingly introspective and deep. As entertaining as it was, this is ultimately a book about second chances. I found it highly enjoyable.” – Jodie Crump. Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub
“It’s a science fantasy epic that bursts with originality. It is new, it is fresh, and it makes the imagination soar. In short, this is not something you’ve read before.”– Leo McBride at Altered Instinct
“There’s a some portals and a spaceship, a lizard pilot dude and a good deal of magick, a 133 yr old father-mentor guy and lottsa swords. A total mashup spanning the spacepunk, fantasy, scifi, and LitRPG genres, The Withered King looks to surprise you on every page…
…The Withered King is an impressive debut that any reader of speculative fiction should enjoy.” –Paul at Paul’s Picks
“Asherah’s Pilgrimage.” in the anthology Tales of Magic & Destiny (Inklings Press). Edited by Leo McBride & Rob Edwards. July 2019. Approx. 9,100 words.
What’s about? A girl, the first with the gift of magic, has to step up and lead her people into a new world in finding a place to settle. But the perilous journey will mean for the freefolk to leave behind what remains of their old ways. And for Asherah to succeed, it will mean sacrificing everything she is and find her new place in the world.
What others have said about it:
“A story that has high-stakes and drama, personal courage and friendship, action and introspection, humour and pathos. For me, it captures the essence of what it is to be an individual overcoming their own limitations to achieve something that really matters.”–E.M. Swift-Hook at Working Title.
“…I loved the image of the freefolk and they seemed so intriguing and I loved the little glimpses of the world they left behind. I loved how the story grew to its close and I absolutely wasn’t ready for this one to end. The battle in the maze had some really great imagery. I haven’t read this one a second time yet (because I just read it this afternoon on my lunch break!) but I will definitely give it a second read.” – Reviewer at Amazon.
“No-Sell.” in the anthology Gunsmoke and Dragonfire. Edited by Diane Morrison. March 2019. Approx. 4,800 words.
What’s about? In a world where magic delayed the invention of firearms, an ex-spellslinger has taken up a career as a traveling sales being of a newfangled weapon called a “rifle”… and he has a few tricks under his coat.
What others have said about it:
“I also enjoyed No-Sell, from Ricardo Victoria, taking the theme and running with it, for in a Wild West world where magic is commonplace, what use is a gun? And what would the equivalent of a snake-oil salesman do with one if he had one?” – Leo McBride at Altered Instinct.
““No-Sell” by Ricardo Victoria was a fun story that reminded me very much of Dragonheart, but in a Western setting and blending in a bit of Aztec mythology. I really enjoyed the slow reveal on this story and the twist at the end.” – Geoff Habiger.
“Good Boys.” in the anthology Gods of Clay: A Sci Fi Roundtable Anthology. Edited by Eric Michael Craig & Ducky Smith. February 2019. Approx. 4,800 words.
What’s about? In the distant future, uplifted dogs and octopuses sent a mission back to a legendary place, a ‘lost’ planet, to find about a strange signal sent by their long-gone creators. The secrets they find there, the ancient enemies they will encounter, will shake their beliefs and their future.
It is no secret that Halloween is one of my favorite celebrations of the year. It has some mystical aura where you can mix the fun with the scary. And in this line of thought, I consider then one of the best ways to spend the day is with a movie marathon. Now, for me, not any movie makes it because let’s be frank, for the past decade most of the horror movies show gratuitous violence for the sake of it. Therefore I consider that a true Halloween movie must mix some elements of humor, suspense and horror or simply be a classic where a true horror is a tool used to narrate a good story. So no Saw, zombie fest (I hate zombie stories with passion, aside from the one mentioned here) nor gore classics in my list.
And to show my point, here is my list of recommendations for the day when the dead and the monsters walk the Earth in search of candies and horror. Bear in mind that most of these movies are meant to be seen in a family, so aside from one case, most are not as intense as ‘It’.
A true classic in all sense. One of my favorite movies. When I was a kid this movie made me laugh in the same amounts that it scared me (especially the library scene). Now it might not be at all scary, but more than two decades after, it is still pulling its weight. If you haven’t seen it, stop wasting your time on the internet and do it. If you don’t like it, then you are a soulless creature and I would like you to introduce my friends Stantz, Spengler, and Venkman, they might want to have a few words with you. And avoid marshmallows, trust me. The bottom line, if you don’t like this movie you are either dead or soulless. In either case, I know who I’m gonna call to deal with you.
2. Fright Night
Seductive vampires? Check. ‘Intrepid’ (in the loosest definition of the word) hunters? Check. Scary story? Hell yeah. Unlike the current crop of vampires, the Fright Night really delivered the goods. A forgotten classic by now, it is still an enjoyable piece of horror film from the 80’s. The remake is not bad (thanks mostly to David Tennant who is always awesome), but it doesn’t hold a candle to the original.
I know I said no zombie films and this is considered a zombie film. However, it is one of those movies that have become really good on the basis of being soooo bad. Inspired by a short story from a true master of horror, H.P Lovecraft. Maybe what makes this movie a classic is not the story nor the (excessive gore), but the large, ham-fisted acting of Jeffrey Combs (better known as The Question from JLU). He eats the scenery like a zombie eats a brain. If I have to break one of my movie rules for Halloween, it has to be for this one.
Unlike many of my friends, I’m not a fan of Mr. Burton’s work in general (my opinion is quite similar to Kevin Smith’s in that regard). However, I recognize that this particular work, always including the master of the strange that is Johnny Depp captures to a ‘t’ the spirit of the legend of the Headless Horseman like no one else did since Disney filmed that short movie with the narration of Bing Crosby (which you need to see as well).
Granted, the second one is funnier, but honestly? It is also kinda lame. But man the first one was really scary and good for the time it was released. It was at what I consider the peak of Spielberg’s work and whether you laughed at the antics of the green menaces or you were downright scared of them, this movie is a great fit for Halloween. Ironically enough, it was released as a Christmas movie. Take that as you wish.
Vampires have been part of the Halloween mystique from ages and what better than watching a movie inspired by the novel that practically launched the bloodsuckers to the stardom. This movie is ripe with good actors (yes even Keanu) and for what I remember, follows the book pretty well. Highly recommended, if only because of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the Count, sexy and scary at the same time. Or if you want to go for a more alternative route, watch The Shadow of the Vampire with Willem Defoe.
7. The Exorcist
C’mon, just the theme tune of this movie gives you the chills. The movie will leave you with nightmares. Just avoid the sequels and prequels. Nuff said.
9. Lost Boys
One of the best vampire movies, a classic with a stellar cast and bonafide jump scares. It’s a bit dated -very 80s’ as my wife would say- but the main theme ‘Cry, Little Sister’ is haunting and its plot twist still holds after all these years. Plus it gives you good tips to fight vampires. In a way, this movie is to vampires what ‘Zombieland’ is to the walking dead.
10. Pet shop of horrors
For the anime fans, now, while most anime fans would tell you that Mermaid’s Scar is the quintessential anime horror by excellence (amidst a very decent record of horror animes, man the Japanese writers know how to do scary stuff), I would argue that Pet Shop of Horrors is a good alternative, especially if like Brent, you are more into Twilight Zone kind of stories. This is an anthology of four bizarre short stories, that will keep you glued to your seat while realizing that more often than not, humans are the true monsters.
11. Event Horizon
My favorite proper horror movie: Event Horizon. A movie which is the result of mixing the old haunted house trope (lightning storm included) with the ghost ship trope and a heavy dose of Lovecraft. Most people in geekdom consider this an unofficial prequel to Warhammer 40k (if you don’t know what’s that, let’s say that is the most grimdark tabletop wargame known to man and wickedly fun); I consider it a sci-fi version of At the Mountain of Madness, but with a bit more gore. Also a good horror movie for dates (trust my teenager self on this one). Sam Neill aces it on this film.
12. 30 Days of Night.
I can’t believe I almost forgot to put this one. maybe it was because when I went to see it I was with a friend in a cinema in the middle of nowhere, mist all over the place (like is typical of UK) and it was the midnight release, but this movie made for a tense return to home and me starting to plan how to deal with something like this. Everything in this movie is pitch perfect to scare you. These are not sexy vampires, these are predators and we are their food. Also the design of the monsters is disturbing to say the least. And the music, eerie as hell.
13. The Addams Family (1991).
In my 13th entry of the list (very ad hoc), here is the ‘family movie’. My wife and I recently watched the animated film and we enjoyed it a lot. It was charming and had a lot of heart. The kind of family movie that can be enjoyed in these days. But, the 1991 film is a way better fit for this time of the year. It has a stellar cast, it’s very spooky kooky and a lot of heart. Besides, it is an opportunity to see late thespian Raul Julia chewing the scenery like a vampire chews a victim’s neck
Well, this is my list. Obviously, with the current output of films, this reads more like a classic list than a modern one. I know there are other movies worth watching today like Ringu or The Grudge, but I think this list captures pretty well the spirit of Halloween (not of Samhain, that is different, but I will talk about that later).
Do you think a movie is missing? Want to talk about your personal list? Please go ahead and join the conversation in the comments below.
Every adventure, every setting needs a chronology, a history, an evolution of events that take the characters to the point the readers start getting acquainted with the world of the story they are reading. The passage of time gives more ‘realism’ to the world around the characters. Creating a timeline is also a useful tool for a writer to put in order their ideas.
Well, here is the timeline of the Tempest Blades Universe. Or at least an approximation. Now, this is a very spoilerific thing to read, but I’m NOT including the biggest spoilers.
BDoD = Before the Death of the Dragons
ADoD = After the Death of the Dragons
The Ages of the World
Time before timeNo measurable time
Kaan’a creates the Universe from a sea of entropic chaos. The universe becomes viable for life
The Lords of the Pits blink into existence. They really hate that.
The Akeleth are born
The Tempest that separates the spiritual from the material realm is created.
The Lost AgeFrom millions of years ago to 15,000 BDoD Note: Well, it is lost, so most of the information here is missing (for you, not for me). What did you expect?
The Proto Tempest Blade, the Serpent’s Wisdom is created and granted to the Samoharo. It is made from the metallic core of their homeworld
The exodus of surviving Samoharo, Humans and Freefolk begin.
Dawn Age (15 to 10 thousand years ago) From 15,000 to 10,000 BDoD
The Arrival of the Three Species (human, freefolk, samoharo) to Theia
The First Demon arrives, piercing reality in a bid to destroy Theia and open a pathway to Last Heaven, that would undo reality
The Trickster Goddess enters the world. The World Scar is created. The Twins are born from the Goddess and create weapons for the mortals
The Awakening of the Founding Parents. The Samoharo Shaman, the Human Iskandar and the Freefolk Magi –Asherah- The rumored First Gen Gifted
The forging of Yaha, the actual First Tempest Blade, born from a human soul, a piece of the Life Tree and meteoric iron
The Battle of the Life Tree and the birth of the Iskandars as tribe
The Punishment of the Demon: Split into the Crawling Chaos and the Golden King
Black Fang the Montoc Dragon arrives at Theia to help the Freefolk
The Diaspora of the Species across Theia
The Titans –proto Gifted people- are created to lead and protect Humans
Faes –sentient Akeleth A.I. are freed around the world
Samoharos retreat into their own continent and destroy most of their fleet to keep it from being used for war. They keep their technology secret to hide the planet from enemies
The atmosphere of Theia develops a highly ionized layer that allows for planetary cloaking
The Titanic Age (from 10 thousand to 7 thousand years) From 10,000 to 3,000 BDoD
The Titans Rule the land
The Golden King corrupts the Titans through the Curse. They create their fiefdoms and subjugate humans and freefolk. Only the Samoharo oppose them
The Titans break the Long Moon in their quest to obtain the Life Tree and true immortality
The Titans destroy almost all of the Iskandars and really hurt the Samoharo that spent much of their power to stop them
The Guardian God enters the world. The Life Tree is taken out of regular space
The Trickster Goddess trains a Second Gen Gifted: The Storm God, a surviving Iskandar
The Storm God uses Yaha to hunt down and kill ALL Titans
The binding of the Titans powers to the gem cores
The Kingdoms from the Grasslands fall
The Dragons arrive in mass during the Rain of Fire to police Theia
The forging of the Lost Tempest Blade Agni’s Fury
The Samoharo detect strange signals in deep space. They rehabilitate a few surviving ships to keep guard around the planet and mine the asteroids in the rings around Theia
The Age of the Dragons and Demons (from 7 thousand to 3 thousand) From 7,000 to 3,000 BDoD
The Crawling Chaos corrupts a healing terraforming ritual.
The Gates to the Pits are open. Demons flood the world through the first recorded incursions
The Judge God enters the world. The Haunted Peaks are raised in the Grasslands, to seal the spirits of the escaped demons.
The Storm God creates the order of the Demon Hunters among the Kuni in the West and then disappears. It’s rumored that he ‘ascended’
The creation of Titanfighters in the East
The Silver Riders, an alliance of Demonhunters, Titanfigthers, Magi. Samoharo Bloodtrackers and Dragons, is born to fight the Demons
The Silver Horn is created to close the Gates. The Crawling Chaos is trapped in a mortal form known as the Dark Father, walks the world not knowing who it is and without most of his power.
The Prophecy of the Tovainar is written
The roaming beasts that infest the roads are born
The minor species –such as the Felp Orcs- are created.
The Forging of the Tempest Blade Tidal Icebreaker
Almost all dragons die eradicating the demons
The Silver Horn is lost after closing the last Gate
START OF THE MODERN CALENDAR
The Age of Strife (from 2 thousand to 1 thousand years ago) Year 1 ADoD
The Modern Calendar is created the day the second to last dragon dies. The whole world is in mourning. (1 ADoD)
Black Fang, the Last Dragon is transformed into a human by the Trickster Goddess to teach him humility and keep him safe at the same time
The Dark Father reclaims his memories but not his power, joins the Meteora people and creates their technology
The Freefolk are at the peak of power. Ravenstone is founded.
The creation of the Major Kindgoms of Ionis
The Rise of the Empire of Meteora in Auris
The Kuni and the Straits keep a constant struggle to keep the Empire away
The Burning of Carpadocci and the appearance of the first Tovainar
The Intercontinental War of Magic and Technology
The Summoning of the Bestial
The Destruction of the Empire
The Fall of the Freefolk Kingdom of Umo
The Burning of Magick to save the world. The ability to use magick is lost to all but a few Freefolk tribes, in diminished power.
Black Fang, the last Montoc Dragon returns to his draconic form in order to stop the Bestial from destroying the surviving Freefolk and dies killing the Bestial.
The Forging of Black Fang the Last known Tempest Blade
The Kuni create their own Empire
The Samoharo teach the people of the Straits guerrilla tactics to free themselves from the grip of the Remnants of the Meteora Empire.
The Calm Age of Exploration (from 1 thousand to 180 years ago) Year 1000 ADoD to 1820ADoD
The Kuni Empire becomes a major power, Portis becomes a major city
The Culling: samoharo kill in secret anyone with power above a Demonhunter in order to avoid the resurgence of the Titans. They also gently sabotage any advanced technology to keep the signals from alerting the universe of their existence
Fragmented nations are created all over the world.
The Romances of Montsegur and the Starpendants shape the southern Ionis
Belger explores the world, founds the city of Belger’s Frost or Belfrost as is know today
Technology develops at a steady pace as a result of not having access to magick
Trade routes are established, exploration of the world becomes a job
Belger disappears after climbing one of the Haunted Peaks
The Bent Ear pirates fight against the theocracy ruling the Remnants of the Meteora Empire to return water to the Desert wastelands
Yokoyawa is born (1802 ADoD)
The Forging of the Unknown Tempest Blades Heartguard and Soulkeeper
Akeleth Ruins are found, their lost technology is started to be studied and incorporated into human technology)
The Onyx Orb is found. The creation of the Blood Horde and their ravaging of the Grasslands
Sid is born (1810 ADoD)
The Heroic Age (from 180 years ago to current time) Year 1820 ADoD to Present
The magick field regenerates. Powerful Magi are born
The Society of Wanderers is created
Fraog finds the Silver Horn and takes it to the Humbagoo Forest deep into the Mistlands to stop a reopening of the Gates.
Fraog meets Hikaru the Demonhunter
Fraog meets and marries the Freefolk Dawnstar, the last of the Wind Tribe
Fionn is born (1856 ADoD)
The Freefolk are chased away from their ancestral lands by the first wave of the Blood Horde. Fraog dies, Dawnstar settles her family in Skarabear with the help of Hikaru
Ywain is found as a baby, later to be adopted by CastleMartell. It’s later found that he is the First Gifted to exist in millennia. Samoharo wait and see instead of killing him
Hikaru trains Fionn and Izia. She disappears one day
The Blood Horde attacks Ionis. The Great War begins (1872 ADoD)
A scouting cell of the Blood Horde attacks Skarabear. Fionn reclaims Black Fang and kills every member of the Blood Horde
King CastleMartell of Emerald Island plans the counter-attack of the Blood Horde. The dreadnoughts start their construction
Fionn and Izia join CastleMartell army by killing a succubus. They are placed under Byron’s command
Byron is corrupted by the Golden King’s treasures, using his soul as an avatar
The Great War hits its apogee. The Twelve Swords are created. Joshua destroys the last weapon stored in Carpadocci
Fionn and Ywain destroy the Onyx Orb. Fionn becomes Gifted
Foundation of the Alliance (1879 ADoD)
Fionn marries Izia, travels the continent
Ywain finds Byron’s treachery, fights him and is presumed dead.
King CastleMartell falls ill, Byron is ready to take the throne
The Secret Rebellion begins. Byron kills most of the Twelve Swords, Izia sacrifices herself to save Fionn and separate Byron’s soul from his body.33 años
Fionn sleeps for a century (1889 ADoD)
The Foundation is created
Korbyworld is built in the Coyoli Archipelago. The Dark Father secretly returns (1955 ADoD)
Harland is born (1969 ADoD)
Gaby is born 1979 ADoD
Alex is born 1980 ADoD
Sam is born 1984 ADoD
Harland’s finds Fionn (1989 ADoD)
Fionn finds and adopts Sam after the death of her parents
Gaby becomes Gifted and escapes the Sisters of Mercy
The A.I Wanderer is developed by Issac, Alex’s friend
Alex becomes Gifted, first major demonic incursion takes place in ages (1995 ADoD)
Sid is banished, starts building the Figaro
The Withered King adventure takes place (2005 ADoD)
The Cursed Titans adventure takes place (2007 ADoD)
The Magick of Chaos adventures tale place (2009 ADoD)
Yes, this gap is left on purpose…
No, I won’t tell you what will happens here…
The Stellar Age (30 years from present time to the Future) (2030 ADoD)
The Fireraven is launched into space in the first mission to reclaim space from the species allied to the Lords of the Pits
The Fireraven witnesses the birth of the first dragon in millennia, from a Cosmic Egg
Colony Beta is established
Colony Beta is attacked while the FireRaven and most of the Allied Fleet was away. The Rebellion defeats the invasion
The arcanoarcheologist of Colony Beat find the Guardian Beast, a biocybernetic giant robot created by an extinct race to safe keep the planet where Colony Beta is in
Gloria bonds with the Guardian Beast. The Foundation creates a project to replicate it in order to provide the Three Species with a new defense system
Trigger warning: this entry discusses topics like depression and suicidal thoughts. Please refrain to read about it if you are triggered by them. Also, seek help. There is someone out there, a hotline, a support group, a therapist, a doctor, that can help you or at least offer you guidance to obtain it. You are not alone.
Disclaimer: I’m only talking about my own personal experience. I don’t claim to talk in the name of every person that goes through depressive episodes because I’m not an expert -just a fellow sufferer- and the experiences are particular to each person.
I know this might be an odd time to talk about this, it’s not a mental health awareness month, and I should be celebrating the recent release of my book. Regarding the former, I believe that mental health is a topic that should be addressed at any moment, not just during a month or a week. Mental health problems don’t disappear for the rest of the year. As for the latter, well, the way I’m feeling right now is not allowing me to enjoy the moment as it should. Thus, this blog post is a way to get things out of my chest, in some sort of therapy. Which goes to one of the roots of why I write: writing for me is my therapy and the way I have to express what dwells inside my head in a healthier manner, compared to other means. There is another reason why I’m writing this, but I will address it at the end. For now, just talk about what’s like to live with depression.
I have suffered from recurrent bouts of depression plus anxiety since I reached teenagehood (maybe earlier). I have gone to therapy and taken meds as prescribed by doctors. Writing so far has been the most effective way I’ve found to deal with it in a healthy manner. And now I’m writing how I feel when I’m in one of my down periods.
Now, imagine that you have a roommate inside your head, a voice that persists and nags you all the time. Most of the time you ignore it, or if you are lucky, keep it quiet. But then one morning, the voice becomes louder. You feel low on energy, so getting up from the bed feels like a bigger chore than usual. You drag your feet to get on with your day. Then something happens -a disagreement, an argument, a misunderstanding, bad news at your job- that increases the volume of the voice. And then it goes downhill from there.
Every mistake is magnified, take out of proportion even when your rational mind tells you it can be fixed. The voice won’t let you listen to reason. Every triumph gets minimized. No matter what you achieved that day (or the day before), it pales in comparison with your mistakes. No matter how much others try to cheer you up, to point out the good over the bad, you still feel down. And then the others feel frustrated, get angry even, and tell you off. Not out of malice -not always anyways- but because they don’t understand. Because for them, all the issue is in your head and you need to get over it. Because they are not feeling what you are feeling, because they lack empathy for the situation. Because they can’t hear the voice.
You don’t say anything, try to keep it down, a smile perhaps, to take the attention away from you and your issues. Because in our current culture -an in Mexican culture the situation is even more toxic- you are taught that you have to bottle up, buckle up and move one. And for the most part, you learn to move on, despite how shitty you are feeling. If you are lucky, you learn to be resilient or have a support group, or your therapist is good. Maybe the meds worked or the techniques you use to ‘build a ladder’ to get you out of the hole work this time.
But none of them will work all the time.
Some days the voice wins the arguments inside your head, presenting you with the worst scenario or making you feel like those close to you would be happier if you weren’t around. You start feeling like a nuisance. Everything you do, say or chose is a mistake. Like your mere presence annoys or hurts others and if you try to reach out, you only make matters worse -the so-called hedgehog dilemma-. You overreact to everything, you might become aggressive or seek conflict to five minutes later regret what you did and feel even worse. If you retreat, you end alone -and accused by insensible people- that because you want to be alone, you will end alone. If you couple that with your anxiety, you start imagining that you will die alone. And then is when the nasty thoughts as I call them appear: you muse how it would be if you simply walked away from home, to disappear from the life of those you feel -or make you feel- that you are hurting. And you start making plans to make that happen. Or you start thinking about how it would be if you died. If someone will miss you, someone will remember you. If someone would care. And then is when you start musing on how you would do the deed. Because who would want a failure around them?
And all of that chat with the voice happens inside your head, while you put a brave face to the rest of the world. It doesn’t have to be a smiling face. Maybe your face reflects the sadness you feel inside. You excuse yourself saying that you have a cold or migraine. You start searching for an excuse to be left alone, maybe sleep. But your sleep won’t be a refuge because the voice is still inside. You go to sleep wishing you never wake up again so you don’t have to hear the voice or feel like you are a waste of space or screwing up things. And the voice never leaves. You know why?
The voice is your own.
And it seems as it has control over your perspective… all the time.
That’s how I feel when I’m undergoing a depression bout. So far I’ve been lucky to learn to keep myself in check and after a good scare, reach for help or seek things that can cheer me up. To write down my feelings and allow myself to let go. But every day is a struggle. Depression is not something that goes away with your good wishes. It is something that has to be dealt with. You need to remind yourself every second that you are stronger than you think and you can get through this. That’s why this panel resonated so much with me the first time I read it and made me cry.
A few of the reviewers of my novel have pointed about Fionn’s feelings during the book, his depression, about how he feels like a failure. A writer writes about what they know, and I know how I feel like a failure every day. Maybe that’s why I push myself so hard, beyond what’s healthy for my body and mind. To stop feeling that way. Writing Fionn’s journey helped me to deal with a few issues that have made me feel like shit as an adult. However, it hasn’t been enough of late. This year, for multiple reasons I won’t bore you with, has been so tough and exhausting that I’ve been barely able to celebrate achieving the publication of my first novel.
So I’m gonna do what has worked for me so far to keep myself in check an avoid letting the voice win: go to therapy, reach out my support group and write. The sequel novel will be a more personal affair, as Alex -the character that’s more like the real me, annoying habits included- is a chronic depression sufferer, despite -or perhaps because of- of all the things he can do and has done. The first book gives hints of that. Now I will explore the issue in depth because basically, I will talking to myself about how I’ve been feeling all these years and about my unhealthy habits, about pushing myself into exhaustion and still feel like a failure. Don’t worry, the book won’t be a sad affair. I’m using the story to deal with my inner demons, not to make anyone feel sad or trigger someone -it won’t be 13 reasons why-. It will be still an adventure. Just one that will explore a personal topic because really, if I don’t do it, I feel like I’m gonna explode. So better to deal with it in a healthier way and if it helps someone else, cool.
No, I didn’t write this blogpost to call for sympathy or pity or plug my book. Rather I’m writing this to explain my rationale behind my writing, why it is taking me so long to get it done and why the next book will be more personal. Because it will be my therapy session. Hopefully, I will be able to pull it off. And hopefully, me talking about depression in a more open way helps to further the discussion, eliminate the stigma and show that everyone can suffer from it and it is not a sign of weakness. It is something very human, something that has to be talked about and more importantly, something for which people needs help and understanding, a lifelong condition that needs above all, better understanding.
After 5 years of writing, editing, cursing, looking for a home for it (rejection included), more editing, working with the cover artist, a life goal is finally achieved and here. My first novel is out. I can say that I have achieved the 3 goals I set for myself before I reached 40 (it was originally before 35, but I guess I’m a late bloomer). Those goals were:
Marrying the most beautiful girl in the world. Check
Publish a Book. Check
Get a Ph.D. while studying abroad. Check
Damn, I need new goals now.
Anyways, back to the book, it was getting good reviews so far, it has been called “imaginative”, “an epic that bursts with originality”, “highly enjoyable” & “an impressive debut” that “should appeal to readers looking for adventure and fun.”
For more detailed reviews, please visit the Goodreads page of the book. Hopefully, those will cross over to Amazon and help get sales. Because while I write for the love of the art, the extra money would be nice and it would give my publisher an incentive to publish the sequel I should be writing.
And this is the book blurb:
Fionn is the wielder of a legendary Tempest Blade, and he is blessed – or cursed – by the Gift. Though his days as a warrior are long over, his past leaves him full of guilt and regret. Life, however, has other plans for him, when he agrees to help a friend locate a missing person.
Gaby and Alex never expected to become heroes… until they met Fionn. As an ancient evil arises and consumes the land, Fionn must help them to master their own Gifts and Tempest Blades.
Together the three of them, and their friends, will chart a course aboard the flying ship Figaro to save the planet. Will Fionn’s past be an anchor, or will he overcome the one failure from his former life before time runs out?
In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible.
Including second chances.
Anyways, I hope you like the idea enough to buy it, read it and hopefully review it. You can get in Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indigo.
I will go to celebrate later with y wife and friends if the exhaustion from my day job doesn’t take a toll first.
With the release of “Tempest Blades: The Withered King” closing in, I thought it was fair to talk about one of my biggest influences in terms of writing and storytelling: Final Fantasy VI.
What? Were you expecting a book or a writer? Certainly, there is some of that. But I’m talking here about storytelling -and to a certain degree- concept development and cast management.
If you want to know why I consider Final Fantasy VI one of the best entry of the series, I remit you to this article at Kotaku. But for the purposes of this blog post, I will focus on how it influenced my writing and thus, influenced Tempest Blades.
I got to play the game, around 1996. A friend of a friend was selling his old SNES games and I wanted to buy Chrono Trigger, but my best friend got it first and I was left with FFVI and Secret of Mana. In hindsight, it all worked for the best as those two, along Turtles in Time remain my favorite videogames. And they were my first RPGs too. But I digress. The first thing that struck me when I started playing was the music. FFVI has orchestra level music. The second thing that struck me was the detailed story -in an admittedly barebones worldbuilding-, but I will talk about that later. The third thing was the cast. The MASSIVE cast.
I mean, the game has 14 characters, 12 main ones, and 2 optional. And every one of them, EVERYONE, has a character arc, backstory -as short as it might be- and a role to play in the story. You get to assemble the cast through beats of the story that feel like smaller episodes that build towards the overall plot. Innocuous comments at the start become a massive plot point, later on, e.g. The Figaro brothers story and relationship with certain coin, Relm’s relationship with dogs, Setzer and the flying ships, Shadow whole plot… Every character has aims, goals, dreams and a role to play. And while some might get more screen time than others, all feel like fully realized characters. Heck, each character has it’s own leifmotiv theme that works as a shorthand of what to expect from them.
When I was in the earlier stages of plotting Tempest Blades: The Withered King, I had a massive cast, which I had to rework in order to make the story work. Characters got merged with other, roles got reassigned, others were used in short stories and a couple had to be cut (but don’t worry, those two will be introduced in the sequel) and one was created exclusively for the version you will be reading in a few weeks. So with the remaining cast, I had to plot
Now the thing is, you can have a massive cast but if you are not careful, most of those characters will end being barely memorable at best, cardboard cutouts at worst. Their personal histories, interests, weaknesses, fears, goals, have to impact one way or another into the larger plot. It is said that every person is the hero of their own story. That’s true. Even if in this first novel Fionn’s story drives the overall plot, Gaby, Alex, Sam, and even Sid and Harland have desires, goals, skills to contribute with but more importantly, are the heroes of their own stories. That by being those heroes, the impact and contribution to the larger plot is palpable and thus, the readers come to know the characters and invest their emotions in them.
In summary, the lesson I learned from FFVI is that you need to ‘write’ the book several times in your head/notes from the perspective of each main character, as to see how their arc, personalities, and skills contribute to the plot like they are real people.
Diane Morrison, author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and one of the ARC reviewers of the novel, wrote this in her review at Goodreads:
Each of the characters is sympathetic, flawed and interesting, and each has their own character arc that is fun to follow. I don’t want to give you any spoilers (any more than I have) so I won’t get into the details. I will say that I came to care about the characters and their fates very much, and I was even a bit teary at the end.
I think I managed to achieve what I mentioned before. Phew.
Now, even if you have that solve, you need to find how to introduce the characters in a way that feels unobtrusive, but rather part of the plot and that contributes to the pacing. Introducing the characters in a forced manner will break the flow of the story. Because in real life, unless someone is setting you up to meet someone like in a date, you meet people in a seamless manner. FFVI, as I mentioned earlier, introduced its characters in ‘episodic’ manner. You start by playing with Terra, a mysterious girl, that soon finds herself into troubles. She is then aided by Locke, a treasure hunter that takes her to another character that can help her, King Edgar. And then, as you move forward you start meeting allies and enemies alike. You recruit Ceres after Locke has to run an undercover mission for vital data. You recruit Cyan and Gau after Sabin gets separated from the party and has to find a way back to the original crew. You are joined by Setzer after you trick him to lend you his airship because it is needed to reach a part of the map that’s way too far for the means of the characters. And so on.
Ricardo really handles the build-up of this team well – it reads like episodes of a series, each of which adds an extra layer to what has gone before. Before you know it, you have come to know a whole team of heroes, and care for each of them. Just in time for their world to start falling apart.
Another lesson learned and applied. By the time the big part of the plot hits your characters, they are already introduced and the reader is invested in their fate.
Now, at the start, I mentioned the storytelling in barebones worldbuilding. FFVI might be one of the best RPGs, but its worldbuilding is… simple. You have a few nations at conflict, a pretty basic legend about a magic war, and a rebellious group trying to topple an evil empire. Pretty basic, pretty common stuff in fantasy. Most of the first half of the game is about that. Then the evil guy wins, destroys the world and you need to find again all the cast to convince them not only to rebuild the world but the stop the madman transformed into a god, fulfilling the final parts of each character arc.
But even with that basic worldbuilding, the story is engaging because of the way the characters make it feel like a real place with small snippets in their comments. And the way the basic plot gets turned around into a new one with that middle game twist. You don’t need a complex plot with twists and turns to get your story done, nor a massive bible for every detail of the world. Those can grow with the story, as you find the need to solve plot points or hide Chekhov’s Gun. Every plot, as simple as it might be, can be useful if you create characters with arcs that strengthen it. Plot and characters need to play along, as that could help you to work your stories even if complexity is not your thing.
One needs to write and play to one’s strengths. FFVI is a fine example of it. I would like to think I learned that lesson.
A final note… pun not intended, is that the Final Fantasy games are known by their eclectic mix of magic and science. Mixing those things is easy. Doing it in a coherent way is tricky. Magic, even one with defined rules, will change how technology develops if it is relatively easy to use. Weapons, transport, communications, health care, and even fashion are influenced by the presence of magic and/or technology, or better known as Magitek. The rule of thumb is that people develop magic and/or science to solve problems or achieve things that aren’t able to do by the means at hand. That why technology has evolved the way it has in the real world. Add magic to the mix and you can imagine how things change. I might write more in detail about that particular subject later on.
In short, these are some of the lessons I learned from one of my favorite games on my path to becoming a writer. Next time I will explain how Secret of Mana taught me how to create magical objects that feel part of the plot and not just MacGuffins.
A frequent comment I’ve received from people that have read the book is that it has a vibe similar to Final Fantasy. Well, now you know why. Because of one of its games, that served as my very personal Creative Writing class. So if you, like me, are a fan of Final Fantasy, my book is for you.
I haven’t updated the blog in more than a month. As usual, life has been hectic. I got twice sick -once with a cold, another with a stomach flu-. I’m in the last stages of my research project at my day job -with very interesting results- and need to prepare a conference presentation about it.
And of course, I’ve been writing and promoting said writing. It takes time. In 2 days, a new Inklings anthology will be released: “Tales of Magic & Destiny“, with a story of mine that links with Tempest Blades.
I have made no secret that Game of Thrones is my all-time favorite tv show. I loved every second of the final season -despite a few flaws that could have been fixed by adding an episode or two-. I have plenty of ideas and theories about its finale. And plenty of opinions about its narrative influence. But while I put all of that in order inside my head, right now I want to talk about my favorite moments of the show. I was planning a Top Ten list, but as my wife -another big fan of the show- pointed out, ten is a limited number. So I will just list the moments as they come to mind, finishing with Number 1. This is a personal list, so it might not fit with yours (my wife and I disagree with some of them). And I’m talking about my favorite ones, not necessarily the most shocking, or story changing ones. And in a series as long as kick ass as this one, this list probably will be missing several. But hey, no list is perfect.
25. The Library. If you are a bookworm, like me, the sight of the Citadel’s library is a nerdgasm. And the gyroscope.
24. The Loot Train Assault. The sheer scope of the scene, the destruction, the cinematograpgy. All to show us what a terryfing force has Dany at her command. And we finally see the Dothraki in full action.
23. Now we know what Pod did. Don’t say anything, just listen.
22. Bronn saves Jaime.
Let’s face it, Bronn is an asshole. A backstabbing asshole at that. One that finally got what he wanted even if he didn’t deserve it. But from time to time, he showed that he was actually a loyal friend, no money involved.
21. Dany to the rescue. The sacrifice that came from this scene was high, but you can’t deny that this scenen should be the prime example of what ‘Big Damn Heroes’ moment is. Also you can see exactly the moment Jon fell for her.
20. Arya vs. Termiwaif. This scene could give any of Jason Bourne’s sequences a run for its money. This is when Arya decides that enough is enough. It’s frenetic, messy and all what a good chase should be.
19. Clegane Bowl. The fight in the making since the first episode, beautifully framed against Drogon/Dany’s path of destruction. It shows the realm culmination of those that embark in a vengeance quest: mutually assured destruction. Farewell Sandor, you were a hero.
18. Arya: Iron Chef edition. Vengeance is a dish served cold. Or in this case, a pastry made of your enemy’s children. This signaled the ascendancy of the Starks to right the wrongs the rest of the realm committed against them. And Arya finally avenges her mother, brother, sister in law and unborn nephew.
17. Tywin doesn’t shit gold. My only complain, if any, of this scene, is that is not longer. Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage sharing scenes was always a delight. But this parting shot not only changed Westeros irremediably, but it was also a true duel between thespians.
16. Tywin sends to sleep the king without supper. Tywing was an awful father and an even worse human being. But you can’t deny that it takes a special kind of man to send a psychopathic child king to bed without supper and not only live to tell the tale, but continue scheming as if nothing had happened while dismantling his family with well-placed put-downs. If you need something to establish who Tywin is, this scene is a good option.
15. Jaime knights Brienne. If you didn’t cry with this scene, there is something wrong with you. It’s the culmination and just reward for the only character that truly embodies the ideals of chivalry. If someone deserves to be the first female Ser of Westeros is Brienne. She is basically Galahad.
14. The whole Castle Black fight. This scene gives a run for its money to the one-shot scene of the first ‘Avengers’. And the one that established Jon as a bona-fine one man army.
13. Jon stupidily charges into Battle. Yes, Jon is pretty stupid at times. But no one can deny that a) you would do the same stupid thing if your family had been in Rickon’s position and b) it is an awesome sight to behold. This man earned his bannermen’s loyalty by being ballsy.
12. Sansa feeds Ramsay to the hounds. I’m glad it was Sansa the one that did the deed. This was a declaration from her that she was done being the ‘little bird’ and is now the ‘Red Wolf’, and future Queen. And the North was better for that.
11. Arya executes Littlefinger. After subjecting the realm and the Starks to his chaotic designs and power plays, Baelish finally finds a rival he can’t beat through trickery or sweet words: the combined smarts, clairvoyance and cold blood of the Stark’s siblings.
10. Jon beats the crap out of Ramsay. There is not much to say to this, except that it was cathartic. If any, Ramsay got off lightly. It released all the anger the Starks had bottled up after being mistreated and betrayal, in the strong fist of Jon Snow.
9. Dany’s final speech. Say what you want about the ultimate twist. But you can’t deny that from the moment she walked in -with Drogon’s wings at her back- to the moment she started to give his spine chilling speech in TWO different languages. Tyrion is often considered the best talker of the show. But I say that Dany is way better. She could command an army to the gates of Hell and make them win just by the strength of her oratory skills. If she was destined to be the final villain, she made a fine damn good villain.
8. Tyrion plays the Game. Tyrion has always been one of the cleverest men on the room -when he is not blinded by love- and proving that he is an apt player at the Game, right after arriving at King’s Landing, by tricking the Small Council is proof of that.
7. Tyrion calls out King’s Landing’s nobility bullshit. The trial was a sham, we all know. And to this day I don’t know who overplayed their hand, with calling Shae for testimony and pushing Tyrion to the edge, Tywin or Cersei. But Tyrion’s reply was cathartic and a proper exposition of why those nobles and courtiers sucked. How many of us wouldn’t wish to be able to tell off a lot of people?
6. Dracarys. This is the moment when Dany went, in the eyes of the audience and the whole Essos, from naive girl to astute conqueror, proving that if you want things done thoroughly, ask a woman to do it. It was also foreshadowing of what would come before, but at the time, as Tyrion recently put, felt good and we cheered on it because the victims were despicable people.
5. Cersei blows the Sept of Baelor. The whole sequence is a thing of beauty, narratively and cinematographically speaking. the score, as usual, sells it. It’s visceral, well-planned revenge. The scene that put Cersei on the map as a big villain. But more important, like the one you should not trifle with if you don’t have a well-trained dragon on your side.
4. Jon kills a White Walker. My favorite fight of all the show. Jon proves that the seemingly unbeatable foe is actually beatable. The sheer rawness of the fight, the sound edit to put you in the shoes of a concussed Jon and the surprise of the clash makes it for me. It actually inspired a fight I wrote.
3. Jon is named ‘King in the North’. After so much struggle, the Starks are back at home (at least Jon & Sansa) and the North feel finally avenged and reunited. Won’t last, but seeing a bastard being raised as a king on his merits -even if Sansa actually did part of the job- while juxtaposing his true heritage is what fantasy is made of.
2. Arya kills the Night King. Unexpected twist aside, this scene had me the whole time standing, tense, almost bitting my nails. The build-up, accompanied by the score makes you stop breathing and the conclusion allows you to breathe again in relief. This scene not only injected me with adrenaline, but it also showed us that saving the world is a team effort.
1. The final montage. This has always been a Stark show (pun intended), the rest were just there for the ride in a way. This is my favorite scene as it resonates on a personal level(I have an essay waiting to explain why). The score is beautiful and we say goodbye to the three Starks that changed the realm, hopefully for good. Jon in the True North with people that love him for who he is, Sansa leading an independent North, and Arya exploring unknown seas. But while for us the story is finished, for them life continues and we can only speculate what will come next for them. My personal theory? Jon will become the new King-Beyond-the-Wall, establish an alliance with Winterfell (duh!) and live his days in search of “some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find,” as narrated by Simon Graham in the Last Samurai.
Special mention: this scene, when Dany goes from hero to villain. You might not like how it happened, but you can’t deny Emilia Clarke’s powerful acting in these seconds. Without uttering a single word, just by facial expression in a scene without no one to react with and probably all CGI. Emilia says everything we need to know. The dragon has been awakened in full. And is a terrible sight to behold, especially from below. Emilia deserves an Emmy just for that.
So this is my list, but tell me, which ones are yours? Leave them in the comments.
Disclaimer: This blog post has spoilers from recent episodes of Game of Thrones. Read under your own peril.
Prophecies. A staple in fantasy and at times, science fiction (and science fantasy as a result). The guideline through which many stories live and die in the head of the audience. If the prophecy somehow is not fulfilled directly or through a twist -more on that later-, the audience tends to complain about how it was a cop-out, a plot hole or a mistake. As if the prophecy and the myth from where it is derived is a promise about how the story should develop, like a recipe. Perhaps is due to the tendency that humans have to create patterns and follow them to the letter, out of a sense of familiarity and comfort. Maybe because of personal headcanons make you, the audience to consider that a story should develop in a certain way to fit your interpretation of a prophecy. But prophecies are meant to be vague because they are trying to predict events in the future that are unfolding based on several decisions
I have to say, I’m not a fan of the whole prophecy thing, not a least as a guideline of how a story should develop. I don’t mind a prophecy here and there. I do mind the way it is used to railroad a story. In my humble opinion if you as writer follow to a T a prophecy you created for your story, then something went wrong. Same if as reader you expect a prophecy to work as stated and get angry when it doesn’t. Even in the real world, prophecies are unreliable and subject to interpretation. I mean, if prophecies were that literal, we would be using Nostradamus writings as an almanac, easily expecting what was going to happen and taking one of three options:
-You sit down and let thing happens without doing nothing, taking away your agency (which in storytelling makes for a really boring character and in real life veers in nihilism).
-You try to avert what’s gonna happen, thus changing the future and invalidating the prophecy (Vision of Escaflowne revolves around this, how Fate is actually a probability zone created by free will and changed by our decisions rather than a fixed outcome, which is what the villain wants to do, force the world into his fixed outcome).
-You fulfill said prophecy by setting in motion the causes and effects that will result in it (self-fulfilling prophecies, which sound to me a lot like determinism).
So the reason I’m not a big fan of prophecies as road map’ that populate fantasy is that I’m a firm believer of free will. As a relative once told me, during a philosophical/esoteric talk, you might have a destiny, as you have during a trip, but how you reach it, if at all, is entirely your choice. Prophecies are nice touches that lend depth and worldbuilding to a story, but using them as the blueprint for your story, negates character development and force you to end the narrative in a certain way that might not be entirely organic.
I will put it this way: my personal pet peeve with the last book of Harry Potter (disclaimer: my wife is a huge fan of the series, she actually cried when we visited the Wizarding World in Orlando) is that the ending and the whole quest felt so forced because Rowling had to follow this prophecy:
‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…’
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
To me, the plot collapsed under its own weight due to the adherence to the prophecy. Yes, Neville could have fulfilled it. But by half of the saga, it was clear that he was a red herring. The story fell into a pattern and the resolution felt contrived to me (you, of course, are free to disagree). The story was kinda predictable after a certain point. Harry had to die for Voldy to be gone. The challenge there was to see how the author would pull it off -killing the MC or finding a way to keep him alive-. I have been guilty of this on my stories, so I admit this post is also a learning experience for me.
Now, you can tell me that in fiction, prophecies have been not always followed to the letter, playing with the expectations of the reader. The earliest example I can think of is Lord of the Rings, in specific the death of the Witch King of Angmar:
Éowyn: Be gone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace! Nazgûl: Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye. Éowyn: Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may. Nazgûl: Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me! Éowyn: But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Be gone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.
-The Return of the King, Lord of the Rings
In this example, Eowyn -with a certain degree of help from Merry- kills an unkillable enemy by taking the prophecy to the letter “No living man can hinder me” and being literal with its interpretation. A woman did the deed. Helped by a hobbit. I wonder if an orc, dwarf or elf or an undead being could have done it too. In this case, the prophecy by Glorfindel was followed to the letter, but by sticking to it, presented the way it was going to be fulfilled: anyone besides a living man could have done it if we play a rules lawyer.
Now, here is one of the most controversial prophecies in fandom, one that’s still debated how it should have been interpreted, regardless to the fact that the original creator already said which interpretation was the right one. I present you with the Chosen One from Star Wars:
“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this…boy?”
―Mace Windu, to Qui-Gon Jinn about Anakin Skywalker
“If the prophecy is true, your apprentice is the only one who can bring the Force back into balance.”
―Mace Windu, to Obi-Wan Kenobi
“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Anakin Skywalker
How do you interpret ‘balance’? According to Lucas, balance meant to destroy the Sith for their use of the Dark Side was breaking the said balance. Then he introduced the Mortis family and well… things changed. The balance was meant to be achieved by destroying both Jedi and Sith? Or as the NT is kinda trying to imply in The Last Jedi, balance is accepting both the good and the bad of the Force as it is a reflection of the universe, life & death, good and evil? It kinda still fits with Lucas original version of balance because the Sith wanted to control those aspects and by doing it, corrupting the Force and breaking the balance of the natural order.
But I often wonder what would have happened if Lucas had eschewed the whole Chosen One thing and just stick to making Anakin a really powerful Force user that went bad like many talented people do in real life? Maybe we wouldn’t have to hear about ‘midichlorians’. The thing is Lucas kinda tied his hands by introducing the Chosen One thing and then tried to retrofit it with the previous lore established in the OT. I know, his biggest inspiration was the ‘Journey of the Hero’. But that is just a way to tell a story, not the only blueprint for it.
This takes me to the issue at hand, which is where this post gets spoilery: Game of Thrones. In particular, S8 Ep 3 ‘The Battle of Winterfell’ where everyone, including Kit Harington, were expecting a fateful duel between Jon and the Night King. A duel that never happened. Jon got stuck with an undead dragon, Dany was surrounded by wights and defended only by Ser Jorah and in a very interesting twist, Arya stabbed the mortal enemy of mankind and saved the day, enraging a lot of people that think that it invalidates the books and the prophecies about Azor Ahai, The Prince that was Promised, and so on.
But here is the thing, Martin has made a point of leaving said legends and prophecies open to interpretation. He describes himself as a ‘gardener’, which means he has a basic outline of how the story will go but is leaving himself room to create the story. And to do that, the legends and prophecies in the books -and by extention, the show- had to be kept vague.
So let’s examine this:
Complaint one: Jon/Dany was meant to be AA, TPtwP, etc. and the one that delivered the final blow to the NK. I admit I was of this mindset at first, until my wife told me, with reason, that no prophecy actually works literally in the real world. And GoT/ASOIAF is meant to be a fantasy story with a certain degree on real-world logic on it.
So the prophecy used for the show, as expressed in the book says:
“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”
–A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
If you notice, it never says that AA will kill the darkness, just that it will dispell it. I contend, and this is a personal interpretation, that Lightbringer is not meant to be a sword, but a coalition of people willing to stop the darkness. The first Lightbringer was the Night’s Watch:
I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.
So in a way, Jon & Dany did fulfill that part of the prophecy, because the set things in motion, gathered people willing to fight the darkness and did everything possible to allow for Arya to deliver the decisive blow. Heck, without Jon in the North as a king, Arya would have probably gone south to kill Cersei. The Battle of Winterfell is showing us a new Lightbringer: the coalition of the living created by Jon & Dany. The description of this bit from The World of Ice & Fire, about the Long Night mentions:
How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree it was only when a great warrior – known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser – arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.
– The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond.
It doesn’t mention the woman with a monkey’s tail that’s referred in another part of the text*, but that’s another point. Most people would assume that is a single warrior with different names. But what if is, in reality, a coalition of heroes from different parts of the world save it and with the pass of time, their figures got mixed into a single being. I mean, that’s the basis of the Faith of the Seven in a way.
Complaint two: by killing the NK so early, the show was left without a bigger villain and is back to petty squabbles for a throne. Well, the thing is, that it is actually consistent with the source material. The story of Westeros didn’t stop with the end of first Long Night nor will ‘stop’ with the end of the second one (a very short one actually). And here is why:
When the daughter of the Opal Emperor ascended to power as the Amethyst Empress, her envious brother cast her down and proclaimed himself the Bloodstone Emperor and began a reign of terror and slavery, in which he practiced dark arts and necromancy, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh and cast down the gods of Yi Ti to worship a black stone fallen from the sky. This Blood Betrayal, as it is known in the annals of the Further East, ushered in the Long Night, with the Maiden-Made-of-Light turning her back on the world, while the Lion of Night came forth to punish the wickedness of man. The darkness ended when a great warrior rose to lead the virtuous into battle with the sword Lightbringer in his hand. Light was restored, but the Great Empire was not reborn for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war, lust, and murder had endured.
–The World of Ice & Fire, Yi Ti.
G.R.R. Martin story has always been about humans being their own worst enemy (like in real life). An often overlooked part of the Azor Ahai/PtwP myth/prophecy says (and this is the part everyone is ignoring) that after the Long Night ended, the land was left in a state of constant war and chaos. So yes, a magical monster was killed, but the very real monster that hides inside every person is still there. Which if you think, fits with what the show is doing.
I know it’s kinda iffy to bring book canon to the show canon when in the show they had barely discussed the prophecy beyond that Azor Ahai will save the realm (it doesn’t really specify from whom, darkness can take many forms: ice zombies, mad queens…). But the theme seems to be consistent in both forms. The show might have taken liberties, but the theme remains: humanity is it’s own worst enemy. Jon still has time to become Azor Ahai, but it won’t be in the epic fantasy way we expect. It will be in one more set to a more ‘realistic’ world, or as realistic as a world with dragons and ice zombies can be. And he can become that (or Dany will, the coin is still in the air) because the evil hasn’t gone away, it is still there. And unlike with the White Walkers, this evil doesn’t go away immediately when you stab the leader. It never truly goes away. Darkness is always inside us. And every epic battle, real and in fiction, has consequences.
Or to put it this way: after WWII ended and the bigger evil was defeated, we were still left with a very dangerous monster (Stalin), a Cold War and the realm in disarray, with the threat of nuclear war looming over our heads. And it hasn’t really gone away. History is nothing but a long succession of smaller histories all linked together. In fantasy, we are preconditioned to stop reading after the hero takes down the bad guy, but we rarely stop to consider the aftermath. I mean, I have always wondered what happened to the orcs in LOTR after the fall of the Sauron. were they massacred? Or Were they free to create their own culture and perhaps someday become somewhat of a nation?
Bottom line, prophecies in the real world rarely come to happen as they are intended because the future is always in motion, thousands of small decisions change the outcomes of our day to day interactions. History seems to us, set in stone because we can see the logical chain of causes and effects that made certain events happen the way they did, but truth is that we see it in that way because we are living in the result of those interactions: for us to exist in the way we do, things had to happen in that way. But it doesn’t apply to future events. So I don’t see why prophecies have to be interpreted as the only way events have to unfold in a narrative. For us as writers, is hard to keep vague things because, in the way we are the gods of the worlds we create, we can see how things are gonna end. It is even more difficult if you are a plotter/architect. A pantser/gardener -kinda can allow themselves a certain degree of surprise. But the concept of the ending is usually set in stone, even if the road there is not laid out yet.
The problem with prophecies is that they are a double-edged sword when used in a story. Either you get railroaded by them or you leave them so open to interpretation that the audience will complain. Actually, in both cases, someone is gonna complain. Prophecies shouldn’t be used as the blueprint for your story. Otherwise, it becomes predictable or will contradict other parts of your story. Prophecies should be used as hints, as red herrings, as potential futures. And keeping them vague is really tricky.
Thus, prophecies should be used judiciously. Personally, I prefer the second option, both as audience and as a writer, as it gives more leeway to the imagination and clever twist, to represent the chaotic nature of our world instead of a deterministic one. Because living in a deterministic world must be the most soul-crushing experience ever.
That’s what I liked about what’s going on in Game of Thrones in its final episodes and the source material: the prophecies leave room for interpretation based on the cultural contexts of the characters and the audience. There is a myriad way everything can unfold. I don’t think I’m that good of a writer to pull it off in my stories -hence why I haven’t even attempted to write a prophecy for them- but I certainly can enjoy when others do it. Because it keeps my interest. I love not knowing whats’ gonna happen, to be in the edge of my seat screaming at Jon for not being able to reach the Night King on time and be pleasantly surprised that Arya did. And to me, that helps to make a good story a great one.
*“This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.” George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia & Linda Antonsson. “The World of Ice & Fire.”