Excerpt and Essay from The Given Sacrifice, by S. M. Stirling.
In The Given Sacrifice , the postapocalyptic story begun in Dies the Fire moves to a new level. Read what the author has to say about the transition.
Like most fantasy and Sci-Fi writers, I read the works of Robert E. Howard at an impressionable age, and along with Tolkein and Anderson and the other greats he was influential in shaping my imaginarium. Howard is one of those writers whose reputation has been damaged by his own success the limited corpus of his own work has been diluted by an ocean of wellmeaning (or simply mercenary) pastiche. Howard himself was purely selftaught, but at its best his writing style is surprisingly spare, with a headlong impetus and a brooding romanticism. While he was writing, he believed.
One of the things that impressed me back in those longgone days was his worldbuilding. Howard wanted a playpen where he could have all the most gorgeous settings of historical adventure from Vikings to ancient Egypt to Spanish Main pirates in one massive savory salmagundi, and he came up with one in his Hyborian Age.
Of course, being a pioneer, and being stuck in rural Texas in the 1920's and 30's with all the limitations on research material that implies, his effort was crude in some respects. The stitching shows.
When I was designing the background for the Change World series, I wanted something with comparable amplitude, but smoother design. I wanted (among other things) a world with the amplitude to tell wideranging stories with an interesting mix of peoples and cultures. This being a postapocalyptic tale of a particular type, these would be new cultures, based on existing ones but scrambled by the Change, the removal of highenergy technologies and the catastrophes which followed... and also influenced by memories of the past. Including folkmemories and myths.
History is not truly cyclical; the past is irrecoverably gone. But ideas about the past are enormously influential; we cannot inhabit the past, but we cannot escape from it either, any more than you can outrun your own sweat.
Just to take one example, the Puritans who created New England were convinced that they were “returning“ to a primitive Christianity very like that of the time of the Apostles. They were wrong; what they created was largely new, and suffused with fifteen hundred years of religious and cultural history. But the myth of a return to the origins was extremely powerful and had realworld consequences not least a tendency to return to the Old Testament for inspiration.
Likewise, many of the peoples and cultures which form in a process of “ethnogensis“ after the Change think they're returning to the remote past, but they're not.
On of the things that happens in the real world is that time goes on and one generation succeeds another; nothing makes a secondary world feel thinner and more artificial than neglecting this.
In The Given Sacrifice, the world the Change made is passing from its first heroic age into a more settled existence. Things are no longer so fluid; cultures and kingdoms are taking shape, and slowly the different parts of the world are coming into contact once more. The children of the survivors are the parents of a new generation, one that never knew the people who knew the world before the Change. To them, the new world is simply natural the only existence they have ever known. The events of the Change and its aftermath are receding into myth themselves.
The Given Sacrifice is a story of this transition. The towering figures of the postChange generation, such as Rudi Mackenzie also known as Artos the First, High King of Montival overshadow their world. But their children, first and foremost his daughter Orlaith, are stepping onto the stage.