A note from the author(s)
This story’s roots can be traced back the January of 2014, which was the first night Diana and I sat down at her kitchen table (with Whisky and bad Russian accents) and wrote down some of the broader strokes of this story we wanted to tell. That’s the story I’d like to, at least, try to present on my behalf, and her behalf as well, as the embryology of this anthology began with an accidental message.
I was working on a book on physics, Undressing Gaia (2013), and I sent a message to a former classmate, who I thought to be Julia. Julia had been a fellow-classmate in high-school, and I was trying to advertise this book and, accidentally, I sent the link to Diana and, despite not being the person I had intended to speak to, she spoke to me quite a bit, and at length, about the story I was trying to write. And, within a few months, we were sharing our favorite stories. She got me a wonderful volume of Shakespeare’s collected works, and I introduced her to Marcel Proust, and that really bonded our writing sensibilities, with a sort of aspiration that percolates in people.
In the year after that first message we resolved to tell a story of War, A Flag Carrier’s War was the original idea, and all we really had, material wise, was this idea that in war, there are often flag carrier’s, standard bearers, the people who are there to beat the drum and to spur the soldiers on, to coordinate troop movements as well. And we thought, this idea, of the ordinary, non-heroic people within war, within total war, has never been shown, at least not to great effect, in extent fiction. A look at war from the perspective of those who would, in a heroic film, simply be a pile of rubble seen from above, along with long lines of similarly gutted houses, and it’d never come back up. What it was that had happened to the individuals was something we rarely saw, and thought that we could write a series that would show war from all perspectives. From the perspective of men and women from different countries, with different personal histories and of different cultures, and of different generations, mothers and their children, and the perspective would change as someone died.
The first idea was to write an epistolary novel, a collection of letters sent from warzones, from battles, and the bulk of the war would be told from the perspective of the people writing letters back to their homes and wives and children and fathers and mothers, and we would take all of these perspectives and put together something that looked like a sufficiently broad analysis of the crisis of human conscience in all contexts during total war, the warmaking of an entire population versus another.
This developed from a few conversations Diana and I had about where we wanted to take this story, how we wanted to present it, and everthing I’ve described to try to describe this story has been the weird, sprawling flowering of those initial ideas we discussed in 2014 to write a story about war. The idea germinated over the next two years, as we moved onto other projects, and we decided to pick it back up in July of 2016, when we hired the editor Sarah Macklin (nee Elsley) to work on research and drafting, and since those conversations, about having Dlina and Leonid and Nadia, all of this has come from that, naturally enough, hopefully to tell a story of one that doesn’t, through limitation of perspective, tell a multifaceted story through the tinted lenses of a specific nationality, whether by patriotism or how nativists view history, often limits our understanding of the effects of war on regular people, while the people of great influence, like Napoleon and Caesar, as well as people who would be peasants or otherwise unremarkable. The kind of people that Proust might describe, plain people doing boring, agonizing things, and that is war, absolutely, the war of entire worlds. It cannot be told by sides, for it is all sides on each other. Total war has only happened once in American history. Sherman inflicted it on Georgia after Joe fell outside of Atlanta, the war against a civilian population. This, then, is a civilian’s war, where soldiers and civilians do similar things. In the end, do you want to live? How hard would you work for that? How much do you want that next breath of air? Now earn it. The Chinese had a total war among the Qing and Taiping under Hung, the entire population carried swords, and those who didn’t got buried by them. The war against a civilian population is subtle, it’s something you have to do to break the will of someone, you break the wheels of order, give everyone a gun who’s on your side, and destroy the population, as Rome destroyed Carthage in the Third Punic War. Mercy is all good for films and stories, but mercy gets you murdered. Termites eat from the inside out. There is no glory, but there’s beauty in that helplessness, in that it inspires the absolute best and the absolute worst in people, and the working out of those upheavals reveals more about our nature than the study of any other discipline, and the exploration of that nature is in conquest and in blood. It’s not always poetic. The fire, it’s beautiful from a far, but not when it licks your face. Theory goes out the window when you get shot. I want to show that precariousness of life in such a state, more so than any other, in its upheavals and failures and struggles, and ultimately, what success there has been. If in wisdom, not in health, we survive. Some thrive. Some become monsters, petite and major, and some very decent indeed, polite monsters shooing off the others.
Heir to Ruin would be in trade paperback an estimated five hundred fifty pages, the second book a bit less. They’re different approaches to looking at these events, first through perspective then through correspondence between peoples, spread over generations. Generations, that’s worth dedication, to bring characters up in the background from childhood then introduce them into the story in a more dynamic way as other characters in that sphere resolve their storylines or are killed. The children inherit the ruins of former lives, as title characters and the lowest of the low, the cowards, they fight too. They fight fear. Fear is the crucible through which we are judged moral, immoral, or amoral in action. If you’d actually like to read a brief outline of the series as I see it, you may click on the link below this sentence when it appears. If it doesn’t, annoy me on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/MrBrandonNobles
11 September 2016
Brandon K. Nobles,