Mark Chadbourn Guest Post on the Age of Misrule Series: "The Invisible Hand of the Gods of Writing"
(The stunning covers for the Age of Misrule series, art by John Picacio, design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht)
Mark Chadbourn is a wonderfully talented fantasy writer just coming to the attention of a U.S. audience through his Age of Misrule series, which Pyr Books has released in three volumes spaced over the months of May, June, and July. Epic, substantial, and massively entertaining, World's End, Darkest Hour, and Always Forever are excellent examples of those blessed hybrids that make for excellent beach reading even as they manage to make you think. Chadbourn's premise? That the gods of Celtic mythology have returned, along with creatures like dragons, to our modern reality. The resulting clash takes place on a broad canvas while focusing on five flawed characters guided by a legendary champion to seek a resolution to the conflict, even as science begins to fail. It's a nice subversion of standard fantasy tropes.
Check out this nicely atmospheric prologue to the first book:
"And now the world turns slowly from the light. Not with the cymbal clash of guns and tanks, but with the gently plucked harp of shifting moods and oddly lengthening shadows, the soft tread of a subtle invasion, not here, then here, and none the wiser. Each morning the sun still rises on supermarket worlds of plastic and glass, on industrial estates where slow trucks lumber in belches of diesel, on cities lulled by the whirring of disk drives breaking existence down into digitised order. People still move through their lives with the arrogance of rulers who know their realm will never fall. Several weeks into the new Dark Age, life goes on as it always has, oblivious to the passing of the Age of Reason, of Socratic thought and Apollonian logic...No one had noticed. But they would. And soon.
For once, too, a book's press release is correct, describing the Age of Misrule series as "one part Lord of the Rings, one part Illuminatus!, one part Arthurian romance, one part Harry Potter--100% original!"
A fascination with secret places, mythology, and the supernatural infuses the Age of Misrule, and Chadbourn has been kind enough to give Amazon readers an exclusive glimpse at some of the real underpinnings of his books. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll run two more pieces from Chadbourn, one on "Mysterious Britain" and the other on "The Real-World Roots of Fantasy." For now, though...
THE INVISIBLE HAND OF THE GODS OF WRITING
by Mark Chadbourn
When the author and poet Robert Graves embarked on a study of ancient myth, he found an unsettling world opening up to him. The work in question, The White Goddess, proposed the existence of a long-forgotten cult dedicated to a moon goddess who was the root of most pre-Christian religions--Greek, Phoenician, Celtic, Roman, Scandinavian Hindu, even African.
The more Graves studied the age-old stories for evidence of the goddess, the more he was plagued by mysterious events, dreams and coincidences. He was bequeathed a carnelian ring bearing the cult’s three symbols--a stag, a moon and a thicket. Other artefacts that filled gaps in his research turned up as gifts. Important information continually fell into his lap--quite literally on one occasion, when a book with a vital piece of evidence fell from a shelf, open at exactly the page he needed.
Graves was not superstitious man. But after all this, the author famed for the historical novel, I, Claudius, said, “Chains of more than coincidence happen so often in my life that if I am forbidden to call them supernatural hauntings, I must call them a habit.”
Get a group of writers together and with a little subtle prompting, they will all--I guarantee--have similar tales.
Researching my own book--World’s End, Age of Misrule Book One--I encountered these kinds of occurrences regularly. Like Graves, the story demanded I immerse myself in myths, old gods and their continued effect on the modern world, archetypes and symbols from long-gone times, mysterious sites like Avebury stone circle and Tintagel Castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.
On a six-month research trip that took in many of the UK’s mystical locations and oldest myths, it wasn’t long before the weird started to dog my every step. In the plot I was building, the characters had to uncover an ancient secret encoded in the floor-design of Glastonbury Abbey (this was way before The Da Vinci Code). I thought I’d made it up--until I was handed a book in Glastonbury shop that opened to a section about an ancient secret encoded in the now-lost floor-design of the Abbey, which then led to a vital piece of information I was missing in my other research.
It was a disconcertingly spooky moment, but it was followed by so many more--books given by chance, information passed on by strangers, seemingly random events that became hugely important--that I fully understood Graves’ chill at the feeling that he was being guided in some way. Maybe it’s just the unconscious, or Jung’s collective mind. Maybe it’s the old gods. Who knows? It doesn’t make it any less unsettling, and that goes for every author who’s spoken to me privately, or publicly, about this phenomenon.
But when you’re waist-deep in the swamp of completing a book, you’ll take any help you can get--even if it does leave you with the unnerving feeling that you are never alone.