I could have chosen anything for the setting of Drakon. A young man growing up in a barbaric or totalitarian regime. Unfortunately, I had too many choices.
A twelve-year-old Cambodian raised in Pol Pot’s youth camps.
A very smart and ambitious young German born in 1918, his father dying in WWI. The boy is twenty-one when WWII starts. His two uncles are in Wehrmacht. What chance does he have? He is doomed, you say. And damned. Most of them would be. But maybe there is a chance. A small one. Maybe one thinks differently. Who? Why? How does one escape the trap, when that trap is the only world he has ever known? And what if he rejects his only world? What is the price he’ll pay?
A twelve-year-old suicide bomber in the middle-east. A ten-year-old joining the military in Africa.
I didn’t choose any of these settings. Instead, I chose to go way back. Back many centuries, even before knights and kings, to the age of barbarians. Somewhere archetypal enough, and safely detached from recent history and the burdens its interpretation carries. Where men survive a long journey by drinking the blood of their horse and women wish they were that lucky.
In all these cases whether it is twentieth-century, fifth-century or a fantasy world, I see a common pattern. People are possessed by a supreme evil and that evil is nothing else than a very effective and poisonous story, that has turned into a code to live life by. The young are growing up, fed with stories that have been tested and improved over centuries, superior works of fiction that were so good that they evolved into religions, doctrines, extremist political manifestos, or whatevers. These stories are true black magic. They are just too potent for a young man (and it is usually men who are the recruits) to resist.
Saving humanity one page at a time.
That is what we are fighting with fiction. Older, powerful, effective fiction that has joined the dark side and became un-fiction. Fiction that is written not to entertain but to proselytize (Greek word, don’t think my vocabulary is so advanced).
We are Harry Potter fighting Voldemort.
How does one escape evil un-fiction? Today in the Western world it has become too easy for us educated folks to escape stupid doctrines. There are so many good stories that fight the hatred stories, not to mention that we are not eager to join any fanatical faction. But in a barbaric or totalitarian world, one doesn’t have access to the good stories. His only chance is to build his own story, a story of love that prevails over those of hatred.
So here is the deal: The best writers in the world wrote some amazing works of fiction, and these have been carefully edited hundreds of times. So they became religions. The young man raised in the barbaric world has only a few years at best to build his own story of love that overpowers the greatest fictions of his tribe before his mind is totally messed up or he is dead. And worse, he doesn’t even know that that’s his only chance.
Does it sound hard? The funny thing is that it is the same impossible task an aspiring writer faces. Do you want someone to read your story? Somehow it has to overpower the obvious choice of reading any of the thousands of books with awards and decades or even centuries of praise.
Sounds impossible, yet that’s all life will give you. Be happy for it and take the plunge. At least be thankful that you did not grow up in Pol Pot’s camps.
The pictures to use if I had the rights could be found here. Check them out. Great work.