Aenya News: 3/28/2014

Princess Radia Noora of Tyrnael

My wife says my brain must be on fire. I am hard at work on the second novel set in the Aenya universe, The Princess of Aenya, and I am excited to announce plans for TWO more Aenya books. Tentatively titled, Skyclad Warriors, the direct sequel to Ages of Aenya will continue the adventures of Xandr and Thelana. You can check out the excerpts here: Skyclad Warriors and Gods of the Ilmar. My other project, The Naked Huntress, will be an e-book novella exclusive, starring Thelana, set in the same time frame as the original.

So far, feedback from Beta Readers has been positive, and I am learning to produce better work faster. By the end of this year, I should have a completed draft of Princess ready for publishers. If you have not signed up to become a Beta Reader yet, don’t miss your chance! Click here to join in the adventures of Princess Radia Noora of Tyrnael!

On the Ages of Aenya front, I am likely becoming an independent, which means that, one way or another, I will finally have a product to market. Nearly every agent has responded to my query with, “Sorry, this kind of story is not trending now.” Basically, they want another dystopian teenage romance, a Hunger Games, Twilight or Divergent. I suppose it’s pointless arguing from the position of the artiste, trying to explain that great stories with unique characters (they’re naked!) is always in vogue. Many agents lack the foresight as to what may become all the rage (I think it’s naturism, to be quite honest) or what may turn out to be a classic. The emphasis on turning a quick profit stifles creativity and limits what writers can achieve. Ages of Aenya is a hard sell specifically because it defies convention. Or it may be that it sucks. But reader feedback, and interest in Aenya, continues to grow, and I am encouraged by the free body movement, a new found interest in feminism/equality/environmentalism, which is synonymous with naturism and the Ilmar. The time for Ages of Aenya is now! 

I have been avoiding independent publishing since failing with The Dark Age of Enya in 2004; but even then I knew that the story and the characters needed further development. More importantly, DIY publishing is losing its stigma, and the advent of e-books is fueling the trend. The Nook and Kindle provides a great new way to reach consumers looking to escape the cliche/formula driven fantasy novels found on so many shelves today. Want proof? My friend and fellow author Michael Sullivan made between 40-50K a month selling e-books as an independent.

To test the e-book waters, The Naked Huntress: An Aenya Story (working title) will only be available for download. This novella will expand on the story of Thelana, from after she finds her home abandoned to before she meets Xandr in Hedonia. Inspired by the hit show, Naked and Afraid, Thelana will be fighting for survival deep in the rain-forests of Aenya, a place of great beauty and unearthly horrors, with nothing but her wits and determination and a quiver on her back! Look for new story-specific artwork to come!

Noora’s Song

I sing the Goddess that is in all,
who gilds the wheat and sun born rye,
who, in dreaming plains we seek her call
In the greenwood, in the elms that fall
from sundered root to shaken ply
Her eternal verse brings breath to all 
In the hornèd moons that nightly rule
her silver sisters dance the sky
and from dreaming plains attend her hall
Even in the sore and weeping gall
there is the ballad which brings release
there is the Goddess of great and small
In streams deep and mountains tall
from lover’s rage to felled knight’s wreath 
Zöe sings her song, who is in all 
Do not dread and shrink from winter’s pall
or of Luna’s chill bite be dismayed
For Zöe, dying, sleeps in snowy shawl
And Springs born to sing the gilded corn
so broken hearts are once more allayed
when mourning moons break to Sun of Morn

— Nick Alimonos with Michael-Israel Jarvis 
Excerpt from The Princess of Aenya

Inverted World

What the heck is that supposed to be?

My Norwegian friend, who is studying to become a philosophy professor, is currently taking a Science Fiction and Philosophy course, and I am intensely jealous. Where was that class when I attended USF? Despite the anti-philosophy taboo trending or perceived to be trending in fiction these days (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had to be re-dubbed the Sorcerer’s Stone for American readers) I have long argued that philosophy is not only desirable in science-fiction but an integral part of it, which is why I was elated to see the critically acclaimed novels listed on my friend’s curriculum. But it was the premise of Inverted World, a novel by Christopher Priest, that got me one-click buying on Amazon.

It has been said that there are truly no original ideas, and I have argued against using the term cliche, because what is or isn’t original is entirely subjective, and determining whether something is unique is impossible considering the near infinite pieces of fiction out there. When it comes to ‘novelty’, you can only describe things in terms of degrees, so I can say that Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot is much more original than any other story, possibly unique, but I can never prove it either way. Likewise, Inverted World may be about as unique a story as you will ever find. The premise is simple: there is a city built on railroad tracks, which extend less than a mile fore and aft, so a team of workers must continually transport the tracks from front to back for the city to be winched forward. After ten days, the city, called Earth, moves one mile, always to the north. If stationary, Earth and all its inhabitants will be destroyed. What is it they fear? Aliens? Monsters? Nothing so cliche, but if you really want to know the mind-bending secret: SPOILER ALERT: the ground is moving everything southward, like a conveyor belt, and the planet they live on isn’t spherical, but a flat parabolic plane, one that extends north and south into infinity. The further south one travels, the flatter the parabola and the world, so that everything: people, plants, mountains, are squashed by the geometry of the plane, somewhat like a black hole, until only subatomic particles remain.  

My copy of Inverted World is proof you should never judge a book by its cover. I’ll go so far as to call it, Worst Cover Ever, at least when compared to other traditionally published novels. My friend and I, after finishing the story, still can’t make heads or tails of the graphic. What’s worse, Inverted World falls into the This Book Could Never Get Published Today category, as the first one hundred pages lack any kind of narrative hook. The pacing is slow, the writing is dry and matter-of-fact, and the main character (and only character for the first half) is an “every man” to the point of being nondescript and devoid of personality; in fact, his name is Helward Mann. And yet, while this may sound like reasons to NOT read the book, everything the author does works brilliantly within the grand scheme of the story. The main character is a blank slate specifically to allow the reader to transpose himself into this nearly inexplicable setting. The slow, deliberate pacing cleverly reflects the city’s plodding movement. And while the first half is by no means riveting, I nevertheless felt compelled to continue reading. At one point, I said to my friend, “I don’t know why, but even though nothing is happening, I can’t put this book down.” It makes more sense to me upon reflection, because Priest’s world continually fascinates and the Sci-Fi mystery at the heart of Inverted World demands answers. What’s more, unlike J.J. Abrams’ Lost, the answers Priest gives not only satisfy, but are as remarkable as the questions.

When my friend and I sat down to compare notes, our first thought was, “Where was the philosophy?” Like any good work of science fiction, the more meaningful and allegorical aspects are subtle, never overt (and this is what, I believe, some agents have a problem with, overt proselytizing that beat readers over the head). Without going into detail (to do so would spoil the plot), Priest explores a number of questions, mostly dealing with the most fundamental philosophical inquiry, “How do we know what is true?” Reading his book, you are forced to reexamine your own assumptions about the universe you think you know. We are told, for instance, that the Earth orbits the Sun, but outside of trusting our scientists, how can we truly know this with certainty? How many people own a telescope to test the astronomical principles they are taught? Conversely, Inverted World deals with the question, “How do we deal with new evidence when it contradicts with our long held beliefs?” The novel does not deal with religion in any way, but I felt, though my friend did not share my view, that one could draw parallels between events in Inverted World and the recent clashes between evolution and creationism. 

Despite its slow pacing, dry prose and a lackluster protagonist, Inverted World is worth your time, owing to its near-unique premise, a fascinating setting and a compelling mystery, not to mention its philosophy, which, in keeping with the theme of the book, presents the reader with a new and different perspective. And that is, after all, what good science-fiction does best.