This week I have David Benem for you. David's novel What Remains of Heroes was one of the SPFBO finalists 2016. If you like epic fantasy with a dark edge, you should check it out!
Thanks, Timandra, for extending me the great honor of appearing on your site! Thank you, also, for posing the confounding questions of what makes me angry or excited or keeps me preoccupied and how that affects my writing.
Frankly I struggled to find an interesting answer (and still can’t promise I have—read at your own peril). The enraging things—most of which certainly influence my writing—came easily to mind, but that list is too long to put to paper these days. (If you’d like some clues, you can check a few of the quotes readers have highlighted from my book on its Goodreads page.) I’ve also been in many red-faced arguments the past few months over, well, things, and figured it’d be better for my blood pressure if I tried focusing on the positive. Always look on the bright side of life, as the Bard once said.
So here we are. Happy thoughts. Puppy dogs and rainbows.
Problem is, I’m a cynic and contrarian by nature, and I’m writing this at a pub where the person next to me has the most fucking annoying laugh ever.
Deep breaths. Happy thoughts.
What makes me, a middle-aged, angry son-of-a-bitch, happy? Beer, of course. No shit. But what else? This required some soul-searching, and I did indeed delve into that cold, hollow pit known as my soul. What came to mind (after my lovely and talented children, of course) were great books I’d read, great movies I’d seen, great videogames I’d played. Fiction: my happy place.
Soon I realized a common thread wound through many of those things. Through many of my favorites, particularly the recent favorites.
The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (yeah, I know I said “recent” but when you’ve reached middle-age anything that happened after your twentieth birthday is recent as far as I’m concerned), videogames like Skyrim and the forthcoming For Honor, television shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings.
Fantasy was, and is, becoming cooler. Indeed, it’s become an “it” thing. Game of Thrones dominates the Emmys, Lord of the Rings won a cartload of Oscars (YES it is still recent!!!), Skyrim captivated countless gamers who had no interest in fantasy before playing it, and For Honor looks to be one of the top games of 2017. There are also forthcoming movies like The Great Wall, King Arthur, and The Dark Tower. One could even include the resurgence of the Star Wars franchise in the argument, pointing out the fantasy elements of the Force and the Jedi. Fantasy seems to be owning genre fiction at the moment, and across many mediums.
From the hit series Stranger Things - makes me think the Duffer brothers play D&D, too
This makes me happy. It makes me happy because it’s so different from the way things seemed before.
I remember my first exposure to the genre. Dungeons & Dragons played in a corner of the school playground—I think I was in fifth grade at the time. We played Keep on the Borderlands and the idea, the story, the game, and even the dice all seemed mysterious and magical and wondrous. Over the course of several weeks we finished the adventure and we loved it.
But it wasn’t accepted. Kids looked at us with narrowed eyes because we’d not played football or soccer during recess. We’d rolled dice instead.
We were nerds.
But it was cool to us, and we kept playing. We kept playing and started watching all the fantasy we could find over the coming years. Movies like Excalibur, Dragonslayer, Ladyhawke, Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian and Highlander and on and on.
Now the genre has grown and become accepted. Now everyone—even the “cool kids”— knows Game of Thrones, so much so that when someone unfamiliar with most of the fantasy genre asks about my book I can say “It’s kind of like Game of Thrones.” Of course, the only things my book has in common with that one is that they are both on paper, contain words, and some of those words concern swords. But people get it now, and don’t seem as alarmed as those kids on the playground years ago. They seem genuinely interested.
Not that it ever really mattered—we loved fantasy when it wasn’t cool.
We were ahead of the game. Everybody else is late to the table.
There’s a whole lot of reasons for me to be excited about fantasy. The movies, the games, the books, the TV shows. But the indie publishing explosion is probably chief among them, and one for which I’m personally and deeply thankful. Not only has that helped my book achieve the successes it has, but also because of the many talented folks it’s helped me connect with. Does that influence what I write? I dunno, but it sure as hell makes me more excited about plunking at the keyboard these days.
And I think we’re still ahead of the game.
'I loved Fantasy before it was cool' - such a hipster that David Benem :p You can and should follow David on social media, and most definitely BUY HIS BOOK What Remains of Heroes (sequel Wrath of Heroes coming this year!)
Fantasy geeks unite! Enter your email address to join House Whitecastle