The Story Behind the Book
by Davis Bunn
Throughout my childhood, my first passion as a reader was science fiction and fantasy. These stories have remained of vital interest ever since. In the early days of writing as a new career path, my first mentor was Arthur C Clarke. But for the past several years, I have grown increasingly concerned over the all-pervading darkness that nowadays forms the core of both character development and story within these two genres.
Last autumn, Publishers Weekly held a global forum on where science fiction and fantasy were headed in New York publishing. Several key elements were brought to light by a panel that included some of the largest publishers and editors in these fields. Here are the four points I found of crucial importance.
First, in this last publishing cycle—from January to June 2014—not one book has been released in either fantasy or science fiction that hearkens back to the classical heroic structure of by-gone days.
Second, both of these genres have become redefined by the electronic game industry, which is soon expected to top Hollywood films in terms of both profit and revenue.
Third, the key impact of e-games on both character and story theme was described as ‘grey-scaling’. This means there is no longer room for either heroes or villains. This is important in e-games because the player is offered the chance to take on every role. None are deemed wrong, or bad. All are equally valid.
Fourth, the classical story structure has been deemed passé. This formed the basis for JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, and for CS Lewis and the Narnia series, and has its roots in the ancient Greek heroic structure, many of which were told as fantasies.
Long before this conference confirmed my growing suspicions, I felt the question these New York publishers overlooked was, What has happened to the readers of classical fantasy and science fiction? Are they all satisfied with the direction that New York has chosen to take? I do not disagree with the new direction as a concept. But I fundamentally dispute this mind-set of exclusively focusing on the new, the dark, and the hopeless.
Twenty months ago, I began working on a pair of new projects. They were so far removed from anything I had ever done before, I feared there would be no chance of finding a publisher. But the ideas ignited me to the point where I really needed to follow this creative passion.
Both of these projects adhere to the original Greek structure of inherent value, what in Hollywood today is referred to as ‘leave-behind’. In Emissary, the principal character rises from nothing to forge an alliance that has profound and far-reaching impact, simply by accepting the challenge of his own self-worth. The theme of Trial Run is that of hope through love, beyond time and earthly bonds, and finding strength where none exists on a logical basis. As you are no doubt aware, both the themes hearken back to the early classics.
These two novels will now form the basis for two ongoing series. Because this is such a new direction for me, and because of my level of output (I have written a minimum of four books per year for the past eighteen years), my publisher decided to use these stories as an opportunity to introduce a pen-name. My aim is to continue writing stories with a stronger evangelical component under my own name. Isabella came upon the name Thomas Locke in the Bunn family history; he was the adventurer who first brought our family from Wales to the New World.
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