From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Blog for a Bete-Noire

In last week’s Blog for a Bindlestiff, we raised the topic of fantasy and travel, asking, “What fantastic journeys would you like to take – and which would you avoid at all costs? What would you pack to take along?”

In the course of discussion we came up with a possible new fantasy series of novels in which the messengers are the heroes. Chuck noted:

I’ve always wanted to solve the “kill the messenger” problem with heavily armed messengers who are thoroughly trained in the combative arts (naturally, they’ll also be trained in message delivery … or something).

He went on to describe the plot arc:

Book 1 (perhaps titled “KILL THE MESSENGER”): The messenger delivers a message. Someone tries to kill him. What follows is a pages-long account of flight (not by dragon) and survival as the recipients scour the land and try to kill him. (Or are they trying to silence him? Perhaps shades of conspiracy to reveal themselves later, but our messenger is too young and naive to realize this at the time.) Stumbling around on his last legs, he happens upon a mysterious old man (will there be a “mysterious woman” later?) living alone in the forest. The old man (who maaaaaaaybe is the last of a shadowy, secretive order of messengers) instructs the young messenger in the combative arts. The messenger vows that neither he nor anyone else in his profession will never be pushed around again.
Despite the charm of Randy Henderson’s description of Adult Dragon Deficit Disorder, last week’s prize goes to Chuck – how could it not? As always, Chuck, mail us with your Paypal address so we can send your Fabulous Prize of ten dollars along.

Book 2: The messenger begins teaching other messengers everything he learned, and they slowly become a formidable delivery force, successfully defending themselves in both individual combat and smaller melees after delivering their messages. (Although some of the messengers find themselves coming under mysterious attacks away from their delivery duties — assassination attempts?) The messengers score greater and greater victories … er, I mean deliveries, even as the hostility to the messages themselves grow. (Although, perhaps — as you insinuated — the ultimate meaning and importance derived from the messages may be diminished with the higher survival rate achieved by the messengers. But this isn’t stated outright at the time.)

Book 3: Despite their successes (and survival), the messenger find that greater and greater forces are being mobilized against them. Shadows are moving behind the scenes. The messengers accept strange assignments, commissioned by agents of other shadowy figures, to deliver messages into what places and situations that appear to be obvious traps. But, of course, the messengers have a duty to perform. In other cases, recipients of seemingly harmless message fly into what looks like feigned outrage, and attack the messengers. At some point the head messenger, who we met in the first book, comes home at night to find that a leader from the enemy camp (also shadowy) has sneaked into his home; but rather than start a fight, this shadowy leader begins giving a strange relating to your idea about how sometimes the messenger has to die.

Book 4: Is this where the messenger dies and comes back from the dead? Or will he come back from the dead in Book 5?

So this week, we’ve taken our cue from Marshall Payne’s interview with J. Kathleen Cheney about her story, Early Winter, Near Jenli Village, and her declaration that “I’ve never wanted to be mythical.” What fantasy tropes do you want to avoid, what sends you screaming from the room? Go ahead – tell us your darkest fears. We promise not to capitalize on them (much).

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