THIS is the merriest day of all the glad New Year!
Years ago, my writing fell off a cliff. Even the sentences didn’t make sense, and I believed I’d never write again.
Then I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and I believed I’d never write again. Because I thought I would die.
The chemo worked, and I thought I might live. But there never is a way back. My confidence was destroyed. I felt forgotten by the whole world, and many I loved. Survival is a kind of loss. You can’t be the same person again, or do what you once did: if I pushed myself, I got sick and terrified. I had tie-in books that were an honor and a joy to be asked to write, but after many efforts and failures, I believed I’d never write my own books again.
Then Covid, and being shut away from illness, just like before. The whole world was shut away with me. Belief that anything might get better seemed impossible.
But I survive on stories. I grew up on the tales of storytellers long gone, whose voices could still reach me. I believe in stories even when I don’t believe in myself.
In a time of uncertainty and darkness, I hoped for guiding light. I tried to write a story to get lost in. A dying young woman, walking into her favorite fantasy novel and meeting her favorite characters—sending the plot spinning into chaos with her own wicked plot of unionizing the villains.
I was scared to death nobody would want this story, but Jenni Hill and Nivia Evans at Orbit did. I grew up reading Orbit books and carried on with delight to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. They’re dream publishers and dream editors.
I always loved stories where you go into the art, like in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the heroes travel to the magical land through a painting that looks a little magical itself. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Jumanji, A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Truman Show, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Extraordinary You. It’s a universal story, books and movies and plays and TV shows all about when the characters step over the line between the real and unreal, the longing to be inside imagination.
I love a merry band of outlaws who are actually an ensemble cast of evildoers, as in Six of Crows, and irreverent play with humor and language, as in Gideon the Ninth. I love a magical world you can see from inside and outside, how fans engage with the histories of Westeros and Middle Earth with such enduring passion and faith that their love makes the story live. I don’t believe the grim darkness is forever: I believe in laughter as a battle cry.
I love how much fun evil characters get to have, love analyzing the evil point of view, and the appeal of evil: romancing a villain as a power fantasy, or throwing caution and conscience to the wind as a fantasy of freedom. Whose sins are never forgiven, and why? Who grants that forgiveness, anyway? Die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain, they say. Being a survivor gets ugly. Who lives? Who dies? Who steals the story? It takes a team to change the course of a narrative, and just when you think you’re in control, consequences strike like a snake.
So I present to you a scheming harlot, a notorious playboy spy, an axe-wielding ice maid, and an extremely dishonorable bodyguard. In a castle at the edge of an abyss.
Long Live Evil. I lived, so this story will too. I hope you’ll walk into the story with me.