Friday, March 6, 2015

How Does One Epic?

My last blog post was all about my epic intentions and that's going about as well as I expected: not great. I'm struggling to get traction in my writing right now. Work is a grind and when I get home I just want to not use my brain for a while. So, I'm desperate to get back on track and continue what I was intending to be an "epic" 2015. I started to think about what that meant and I came to the realization that the word epic has become devalued in this day and age. Phrases like "epic fail" and that was "epic" have become commonplace in our vernacular and I think that's a problem. I blame young people but that's just because I'm transitioning into being the old guy yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn.

I've been thinking a lot about epic, and a by product of that myth, in the past few weeks. Obviously, there is my previous post about trying to be epic in my writing and reading, but other things have me thinking about it as well.

A blogged about how one of my writing projects stalled because as much as I wanted it to be an adventure story, it needed to be more epic than it was. SEASONS is already epic enough and as much I love the contemp I'm writing, I'm having some problems with it, one of which is that I miss writing fantasy. Seriously. It's not the only reason I'm thinking about epic, though.

If you haven't been paying attention to the news for the last three months, we have been in the grips of the longest cold snap that I can remember in my life. If you'll pardon the expression, it's been epic. So much so that it inspired me to start thinking about my own "snowy" epic. (At some point I'm going to blog about my epic space opera I wrote as a 6th grader called "Drift" that was a total rip off of DUNE. If I could only find those notebooks.) It's really quite mythic as I tried to think what someone without the technological trapping that we have would think of all this snow and the storms that brought it. It would be pretty darn epic with all the trappings of a good myth. This has been an epic winter, the kind of winter that will be repeated in tales. Like the Blizzard of 93. I remember that vividly and that was epic. The entire city of Syracuse, along with pretty much the entire eastern seaboard was shut down for several days. There were stories by the dozens and even hundreds of the feats performed by people all over to overcome an almost vengeful act of God. Seriously. Google it. It was awful.

I was fortunate enough to receive and advanced copy of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings and it got me thinking about what epic means, because it is epic in every way that I've come to understand what epic is. Now, this isn't going to turn into a book review because I haven't finished it, but I've been struck by some of the things Liu is doing with the book that fascinate me as a writer. As I've been reading it, I couldn't help but notice the mythic feel of Liu's style. Now I don't know if that's the way he writes or it was a conscious decision he made as he wrote, but as I tell my students, "No writer worth their salt puts something in their work on accident." (A quote stolen from my friend Andy King.) Liu weaves a lot into his book and a big part of that is what reads the way mythology reads. I think of the old Bullfinch's Mythology or the mythology book that was part of my SUPA classes back in high school...very narrative retellings of the myths. And it works. You all know how much I love a good genre mash-up and in it's own strange way that's what this is, but I'll save that for the formal review when I finish it. Max Gladstone actually articulated my thoughts much clearer and infinitely more articulate than I thought that I could in his blog a few days ago and that also partially inspired this post. It also makes me want to sit down and read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. That would be epic.