Boy, lots of good movies coming up in the next couple of months. I’m all in on Pacific Rim Uprising; I know smart people who say that the first Pacific Rim was not a good movie, and I literally don’t understand the words that are coming out of their mouths. Giant robots and giant monsters? What’s not to like? I’m also stoked about Ready Player One. And I’m kind of curious about Isle of Dogs, just because my daughter Alex is converting me into a Wes Anderson fan. Then we’ve got Infinity War next month, which Marvel Studios has been building up toward for five years now. If anyone’s ever tried a more ambitious multiple-movie, multiple-character, multiple-year project than Marvel’s grand plan since Iron Man hit the screen in 2008 (ten years ago!), I don’t know what it is. Even more amazing is that, by and large, it’s been generally good, and fantastically successful at the box office.
I guess that’s step one in a twenty-movie plan: Don’t make a turkey, or you’re not going to get a chance to make twenty movies.
Okay, on to the next part in my blog post miniseries: Farthest Reach.
Book 2 of The Last Mythal trilogy, Farthest Reach continues the story of the elf mage Araevin and his companions as they confront the evil of the daemonfey. After the Elven Crusade from Evermeet succeeded in repelling the daemonfey attack on Evereska in book one, the daemonfey retreated and regrouped; the leaders of the Crusade decide to follow their enemies to their long-abandoned homeland in Myth Drannor. Meanwhile, Araevin’s search for the secrets of elven high magic takes him to remote and exotic lands that are mere legends to most people. You pretty much need to have read Forsaken House to have a real stake in what’s going on in Farthest Reach.
When I’m working on a novel, it’s not unusual for me to consciously look for a little inspiration and influence in other writers I enjoy reading. I try not to be overly obvious about it—after all, I’m trying to tell original stories in my own voice, not write the Lord of the Rings sequel I wish Tolkien had somehow gotten around to—but it’s an important part of my creative process. We are the sum of all the books we’ve ever read, after all. City of Ravens is a good example: I love the dialogue in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, so in City of Ravens I made a real effort to work some Vancian dialogue patterns into Jack Ravenwild’s lines. In Farthest Reach, I found myself channeling my inner A. Merritt fan.
Abraham Merritt is not someone who’s much read these days. He was a sci-fi and fantasy writer of the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike contemporaries such as Robert Howard or H.P. Lovecraft, his work hasn’t really lingered on in pop culture the way Conan or Cthulhu have. His best-known story is probably The Moon Pool, and I don’t know anyone in my circles other than me who’s ever read it. Merritt’s specialty was lost worlds—forgotten places on Earth, empty spots on the map where strange or impossible things linger from past ages. The Face in the Abyss, The People of the Pit, The Metal Monster, and Dwellers in the Mirage all use this device to great effect.
So, Farthest Reach is the book where I played around with lost worlds and settings fantastic to the characters experiencing them, even though they’re already heroes in a fantasy world. In this case, it was the ethereal realm of Sildeyuir, domain of the star elves. At the same time, I delved deep into the world lore about elven high magic and elven artifacts—Forgotten Realms game products are filled with interesting ideas about portal magic and lore-gems and such, and I wanted to make sure my story really “paid off” on all that groundwork laid down by other writers and game designers before I came along.
One last thought I’ll share: You may have noticed that there’s a bit of alliteration going on in The Last Mythal book titles. That was deliberate; for whatever reason, the WotC marketing folks had decided that the Realms-shaking Event stories needed a gimmick like that to tie each series together. Richard Lee Byers got stuck with The Rage, The Rite, and The Ruin for his Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy, and Troy Denning wound up with The Summoning, The Siege and The Sorcerer. Fortunately I came up with a reasonably good set of punchy titles that met the criteria, but I’m glad they eventually lost interest in that naming convention. Good titles are hard enough to come by already!
Tune in next time for Final Gate, the conclusion of The Last Mythal!