Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

Bringing Ragnarok: An Introduction

So I've written this book. I call it Bringing Ragnarok. And I think (others are now confirming this belief) that it is a pretty darn good bit of science fiction.

So I've decided to publish it. Still working out the details, but I am quite strongly considering publishing it on Kindle through Amazon. Which means I should probably start doing some writing about Bringing Ragnarok, to convince people to actually read the thing.

I am actually a deeply introverted, even shy person. I was also raised in a culture where "bragging" was a basic sin. So my inclination is rarely to talk/write about things I do or my accomplishments. But I believe so much in the quality of the work that I think the time has come to go beyond my comfort zone. To actually lay out why I think this book is important, and worth your attention.

Bringing Ragnarok is an apocalyptic, dystopic bit of science fiction, because these are dystopic, apocalyptic times.

At the core, it is a Saga, directly inspired by the old Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology (itself being one realization, or flavor, of a deeper pan-Eurasian mythological tradition). It is a story of Six Friends, who are taken from the world they know and thrust into a nightmare. They go hiking in northern Iceland, and unwittingly cross a dimensional barrier where they meet the trickster 'god' Loke (I prefer the Swedish spelling, sue me!). In the Norse myths, he is busy spending eternity chained to a rock and tortured by snake venom as punishment for crimes committed against the other Norse 'gods'. In Bringing Ragnarok, he's gotten bored. And decides the time has come to burn down the Universe. Well, all of them, in point of fact.

The six friends get scattered across time and space, and are used by Loke to trigger a paradox in the multiverse, that will ultimately culminate in the destruction of reality. Eventually, their story will bring them into a position where they get to try and alter the outcome - but not in the first book. Book 1 is the story of their sudden removal to the midst of three rather horrible human conflicts, where they are forced to do what they can just to survive, and their discovery of a way to meet up in a dimensional space where they can get advice from other members of the Norse pantheon.

So the story is actually three different stories woven together, with the ability of the six to meet together and coordinate actions basically constituting the meta-story.

One thread of the tale is set in Germany at the end of the Second World War, where the main character (Eryn) finds herself in the midst of the July 20th plot against Adolf Hitler and the rest of his Nazi cronies. It is heavily inspired by alternative history, and asks a fundamental question: if the German Resistance had taken over Germany in 1944, would the outcome of the war have been any different? It is just extra fun (and lets me explore feminist themes) to have the main character (who, spoiler alert, chooses to kill Hitler) be a 20-something geology grad student from Canada. And, readers get to go on tour in war-torn Europe, just like our grandfathers were once forced to in order to defeat the evils of Nazism.

Another thread is set in Western North America in 2041, where three characters (Kim, Timur, Patrick) appear in the middle of a battle being waged in Eastern Idaho, and are subsequently press-ganged (recruited) by a paramilitary organization called the Missoula Regiment, which is tasked with preventing any of the post-USA successor states from controlling the 150 nuclear missiles hidden away (they actually exist there at this very moment) under the rugged mountains of Montana. This story is heavily inspired by near-future dystopic fiction with a dose of military fiction, and explores the consequences of the United States' collapse for those living 20+ years into our future.

The third thread is set in space in 2147 (in spaaaaaaaaaaaace!), where siblings Yarielis and Loucas appear on a space ship moving about through the colonized Solar System. She, being autistic, gets 'integrated' into another space ship's computer systems where she partners with a machine intelligence to help pilot it. Loucas, being just some guy, gets sent to deliver a package to a space station... that turns out to be a bomb. Because in 2147, wealthy humans have banded together to "save" Earth's deteriorating climate by warehousing the poorer 2/3 of the human population in giant space stations. And, like most people forced to leave their homes at the point of a gun, they're none-too-happy with their predicament, and are starting to fight back. With sentient robots backing them up.

Sound complicated? I promise, it flows better as narrative than in a description! The style I've chosen for the story is chained to each character's individual perspective: each chapter advances the story by showing what a given character is seeing and thinking and hearing. I work to minimize editorializing or writing as an omniscient narrator, and let the characters - primary and supporting - describe their world in their own words. Which, as I'm going back through on the final round of edits before publication, I'm finding actually works.

I'm glad of this, because under the hood Bringing Ragnarok is doing quite a lot. I have only now started to realize that this is the story I've wanted to write since I was a teenager. Elements of the plot first popped into my brain almost 20 years ago, in those long hours I spent sitting in front of a hydraulic logsplitter, turning big rounds of oak into smaller pieces, loading them onto a truck for delivery to clients. When you spend 4 hours a day moving wood around, you need something to think about. And being a bit strange (autistic), I spent a lot of time thinking about other worlds, and the characters who populated them.

But as much as I've always wanted to be a writer, I never really put all the disparate threads of what I like to write together until recently. Bringing Ragnarok's actual plot, characters, and setting have been in development for some time, but it was my experiences as a doctoral student that really brought life to it.

One summer, I was given the chance to teach a course on sustainability to undergrads. I ended up learning as much from them as from my own studies. I'm now absolutely certain that contemporary narratives about the digital generations, late X-ers, Millenials, and whatever they name the cohort after, are mostly bunk. So many older writers and professors want to cast today's youth as distracted, lazy, uncreative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's 20-somethings, just a decade younger than me, are already more sophisticated and used to thinking creatively than I am now, let alone how I was when I was a 20-something. They have grown up in a qualitatively different world than their parents. They actually understand it better than their parents do. And, as their parents have managed to lead the world over a cliff, they are going to be the ones who will have to repair the damage, and right the many wrongs.

Bringing Ragnarok is at heart a story for people who want to understand what is happening in our world and how to handle it. Which is why war is a major theme throughout the work. I use war as a lens for understanding humanity at large. But I work very hard not to simply reiterate stale tropes about war: This is a work rooted in critical and postcolonial theory. Where I try to give voice to the voiceless, and represent the justified rage so many people feel when they look at how unequal and hidebound our political, economic, and social systems have become. Understanding war, as one of the oldest and most consequential of human activities, is essential to our collectively understanding ourselves, what we're capable of, and how to build a better world.

But the story is, first and foremost, a story. All the philosophy, science, and ideas that make their way into the narrative are intended to add depth to what is essentially a tale about what a small group of dedicated friends can achieve when their backs are to the wall and they have only one another to rely on.

If this sounds at all interesting, stay tuned. More details to come.