My reading of “The Final Blow” tells me that this story is about survival and desperate, difficult choices. What is the inspiration or catalyst behind this story?
“The Final Blow” is the first-ever story in my “The Gods Have Gone” universe. As a fan of fantasy, I’ve always wanted to create a fantasy setting where there is no metal. Development of metal opens up the inevitability of advanced technical development, so what kind of stories could be told in a setting without metal? I’ve played with this concept in my “New World” mythos, which consists of two stories (“Victim with a Capital V” and “Throwdown,” which are in the anthologies Unfettered II and Unfettered III, respectively). Those stories are set in our world, but one set 2,000 years after bioengineered bacteria destroy all metal. The New World setting examines what might happen to our current Western culture when technology collapses, i.e., a fantasy setting based on North American cultures and values rather than the de facto Ancient Western European settings.
In “The Gods Have Gone” setting, on the other hand, I’m trying to create original cultures largely from scratch. It’s going to be a grimdark playground.
Uncle Janeed is a worldly man, though he is someone who is a survivor himself. But he also has a fondness for his nephew Manil, a fondness that he is either trying to use for his own safety or out of actual concern for the boy. The story is about Manil, but I found that Janeed was the most complex, most interesting character in the story, albeit one who possibly did some reprehensible acts in the implied killing of Manil’s mother. Obviously, you can leave the severity of his actions for the reader to decide, but do you, as the writer, believe that Janeed is a good man? I get the sense that he’s someone who understands that good men don’t live very long in this world, that he’s someone who will do anything to survive.
Janeed is both good and bad, like most people. He’s done wonderful things. He’s escaped his rural upbringing and seen much of the world, a rare accomplishment for his people. However, he’s also done bad things, both to survive and to get ahead. It’s his knowledge of the wider world that lets him understand he cannot escape this situation, nor can Manil’s mother. He will die, she will be enslaved and treated with brutality for which she is not prepared. He takes it upon himself to show her “mercy” he thinks she would not otherwise get. Janeed knows the Sectels, their traditions, and what they do to captives. It is this knowledge that lets Janeed determine only one person has a chance at survival—his nephew. Janeed has to think quickly to find a way for his blood to survive.
In a short time, you’re able to really add color to this world. Crystal swords and whispers of place called “the continent” make this place feel alive and different, and that juxtaposes nicely with the apocalyptic nature of the story. I would hope that Manil’s journey doesn’t end here! Do you have a sequel planned, or any other stories set in this world?
I have plans for stories and novels in “The Gods Have Gone” settings. I don’t know when I will get to them, but I have quite a world lined up.
What’s next for you? Are there any projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share?
We have so much coming up! My short story collection Fire is Orange should be out in August 2019. Book VI of my Galactic Football League series will be out in the first quarter of 2020, as will Mount Fitz Roy, the sequel to my best-selling SF/horror novel Earthcore. We just released The Reef, a GFL novella, in ebook and audiobook, as well as Kissyman & The Gentleman, a two-fisted noir tale set in 1946.
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