The 6th Ratha tale - Idealism and its Discontents
Back in the days when all was rosy, Courage was written, turned in, eagerly accepted, and the Named Series appeared to be on the verge of a boom that could rival Harry Potter or Warriors, Sharyn November asked me to do a Ratha short story for her Firebirds Soaring anthology. So, I did. And she liked it and bought it. Firebirds Soaring will be out in December, and in it you will find, among many fine tales by Firebird Books authors, one called "Bonechewer's Legacy".
Actually, "Legacy" should be called the 4 1/2th Ratha tale, because, time-wise, it takes place after Challenge (#4) and before Courage (#5).
Why Bonechewer? I mean, he's long gone, since he died in the first book. But he was such a strong and unique being ("character" doesn't sound like the right word - as if I pasted him together out of construction paper and popsicle sticks) that Ratha can't forget him and I can't either. He was possibly my best creation in all the books, described by reviewers as as "brilliant", "irreverent", "flip", "sardonic" and unforgettable. So I decided to have some fun with him before I finally let him go, and the result is "Legacy".
I got the advanced reading copy of Firebirds Soaring a few days ago. After a brief worry-flurry about whether my emailed corrections ("Bonechewer", not Bone-chewer") got in (they did, thank you, Sharyn), I checked out how "Legacy" looked in print. The accompanying artwork by Mike Dringenberg brings out the spirit of the story and is just plain beautiful, so thank you, Mike. I've seen Dringenberg's work in the various Neil Gamen "Sandman" comics and compilations, and admired it, but never thought that one of Mike's illustrations would grace one of my stories.
Though I am not new to short stories, most of my works are novels. I have had short non-Ratha tales in such collections as Tales of the Witchworld ("The Hunting of Lord Etsalian's Daughter") and Catfantastic ("The Damcat", "Bomber and the Bismarck", "A Tangled Tahitian Tale"). Putting the world of the Named clan-cats into a shorter format was a challenge. Luckily I already had a theme in mind based on some recent rough times in my life. I won't name the individuals or companies who gave me the bumpy ride, but their efforts to dishearten me ended up inspiring me. (Note: these guys were not in the publishing industry.) Funny how that works, isn't it?
I was raised as a progressive idealist and I have been one all my life. As a youngster, I went to the early 1960's anti-war marches with my then-stepfather Donald Stewerd. I now consider him to be my real father, and his ideas about peace, social justice, non-violence, and conflict resolution influenced me then and still do. The upside to being an idealist is that doing what you think is right for the world generates a sense of purpose and a huge amount of energy. I got a real high out of marching in the anti-Vietnam War Moratoriums, "bird-dogging" for peace candidates, such as Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern," and being professionally employed in developing various electric vehicles, such as the Think and Corbin Sparrow.
The down side of being an idealist is that other people see that energy and think only "how can I harness that to benefit myself and my company?" They will, and have, taken advantage of an idealist's good nature and tremendous drive. However, if idealism and money clash, you can bet who loses. "It will only take a $50 per car investment to make sure that the customer doesn't get a 156V DC electrical shock? No, I'm sorry. That will cut too far into my profits and my $100 bottles of wine at dinner."
Having been seduced down that road too many times, I quit the field and turned my experiences into themes in my fiction. Ratha is becoming a visionary, starting to look beyond the immediate needs of the Named. Instead of meeting the UnNamed or other outsiders with the fierceness of fire, she wants instead to extend friendship. It is her dream to gather in the struggling and suffering and become a benevolent leader who is loved instead of feared. That makes her (as it made me) vulnerable to exploitation by others who care nothing for her vision and want only to manipulate and destroy her.
Being victimized in such a way makes the wounded idealist think that his or her dedication was misguided. Depression, retreat and cynicsm follow. How does one recover and find the enthusiasm once again? Many never do, and their talents are lost. This is tragic, considering how badly such people are needed, especially now.
When someone else grabs you by your dreams and throws you into a pit, how do you struggle out? Read "Bonechewer's Legacy" and let me know what you think of the story.
In other news...
Please visit the Brightspirit Disaster Relief Fund Auction, which is being held in memory of the Warrior fan and Wands and Worlds member, Brightspirit,
Emily Cherry. She and her parents were both killed in a tornado and her grandmothers are honoring her with this event. The Erin Hunter authors of the Warriors series have donated many items to this auction. Other authors have also contributed. Here's the link:
I've donated a set of the Named series novels (signed and kitty-face doodled) to the auction and the direct link to those items is:
Check out the auction, do some good and get some neat books!