Author Archives: Adele

Cover Reveal : Hobgoblin’s Herald

This summer has a couple of fantastic new releases coming. One of which is the fantasy novel ‘Hobgoblin’s Herald’ by A.R. Aston. 

The book will be launched on 1st July so there will be plenty of time to grab a copy before Edge.Lit and get Andrew to sign it. 

In the mean time, here is the cover by the fantastic Tabitha Sterling mudlarkdesign.tumblr.com and for your enjoyment, the Prologue. 

‘The fetters of the Aelf were made of sapphires, the walls of their cells silver and ivory. It was nothing like the dank black dungeons of menfolk, or the festering oubliettes of Hezra Half-Gremlin. This cell was bright, and cold and austere. It hurt her eyes to look upon the mirror-polished star metal that entombed her here. And so the Herald dangled in a darkness of her own imposing, eyes screwed shut.
Her shackles rubbed unpleasantly against her flesh, and when she cried out, the sound was without echo. The walls
seemed to consume her screams and nullify her protests. Her captors had no desire to listen to her entreaties. Everything she said would be considered a lie by the Fated Ones. Thus she was doomed to suffer an ignoble, yet relatively painless death by their hands. She had days at most, but it was impossible to judge just how long that would be, for days were meaningless in a realm without night to mark the cycles.
They’d taken her bone-threaded war braids, and stripped the Herald of her rune-etched armour of boiled leather and
foraged steel. Upon capture, they’d even scrubbed her face of the blood marks, leaving only the silvery scars that formed their base behind. Like a cat declawed, the Aelf divested her of her scimitar, her daggers, and her sling. Now she wore a simple habit of pale blue silk, but this did nothing to disguise the fact she was a reviled heathen fated to die. She dangled from the ceiling by her hands, a flank of beef hung for smoking. Her bare feet dangled helplessly beneath her. They were the palest they’d been in years. The Aelf could not tolerate filth, not a single gram of it, not even caking their prisoners’ soles.
They had kept her fed with bland wafers and crystal still water, which seemed to sap her strength and will to fight with every mouthful. They could have poisoned her by slipping something odourless and colourless into the daily rations, but she suspected not. They simply had no need to nourish her or poison her. That was the worst thing of all, they didn’t hate her. She meant nothing to the tall, gleaming nightmares. She was an obstruction to remove and her captors would carry out her sentence with a workmanlike efficiency.
The Herald wondered where her allies were now. Were they even alive? She didn’t even entertain the notion they’d
be coming to save her. These were not those kinds of allies. Polder might have helped, but that passive psychotic was next to useless in a scrap.
The Fated Ones would kill her, unless she fought for herself. That was always the way it went.
Each day, she felt her resolve weakening. Her will was maintained now by hate and fear. Curse them for their indifference! 
With her eyes closed, she dreamt of the spiralling nightmare which had brought her to this ignominious terminus.
The five-limbed leviathans of Ashebos, the flying cities, the incandescent Lance of Rael, the black naga, the Djinncallers, the Eater of Names; all these things she had seen, all that pain and wonderment she had experienced, had sprung from a singular event, back in a different life, a different world.
It had been an act of mercy, for one who did not deserve an ounce of it.
She heard the whisper-quiet footsteps of her gaoler in the corridor outside. The lock on the door rattled, as simultaneously the bolts barring it were thrown open one by one. The prisoner clenched her fists, bared her teeth, and drew her feet up to her chest, like an animal tensing for the pounce. She spat bloody phlegm on their pristine floor, which made her smile. If the Aelf wanted her dead, they would need to get their hands dirty. She’d tear at them like a mad shrike. She’d make them work for their kill. She would teach them hate.’

 

Waxing Lyrical : Asexuality in Fantasy

Images added by Aunty Fox, also check this out for some illustrations of asexuality and dumb things people say.

Asexuality in Fantasy

By Joel Cornah

Writing characters is so often about letting the reader know what they are, rather than what they are not. In our world, so much of how people’s identities are perceived is bound up in ideas of sexuality and romance that, in the words of comedian Charlie Brooker;

We’ve become so accustomed to seeing characters pairing off with one another that it’s now almost impossible to see a man and a woman together on screen at once without internally speculating about whether they’re going to have sex or not.”

 Indeed, the trope of having two people (often of different genders) who do little but argue and despise one another but end up falling madly in love is incredibly prominent. I might even go so far as to say that for a lot of people, seeing two characters bicker has become an almost sure-fire way of predicting if they’ll end up together. But even in these cases, the writers will often tie them together through some reconciliation scene that ends with physical intimacy of some sort. Just to hammer home the point.

When it comes to writing asexual characters, those who lack sexual attraction, it can be somewhat jarring to audiences who are used to characters getting off with one another simply by being in the same room. I think this might be the source of some anti-ace feeling some publishers may have, especially as a sexual or romantic subplot is expected of most stories as a matter of course.

With the world I created for The Sea-Stone Sword and The Sky Slayer, I decided that prejudices based on sexuality were not really a thing in most societies. It made the writing process a lot more open and gave me much more creative freedom. Openly gay and bisexual characters are comparatively easy to show through the relationships and romances the characters endure and pursue. The age old ‘show don’t tell’ rule runs smoothly in these cases. But when it comes to asexual characters it’s much harder to make it explicit.

So how do you address it in a way that can be easily grasped? Is it as simple as having characters who just never experience sexual attraction or is it something we should actively point out in a character? Should they internally reflect on their lack of attraction, should they explain it to others, should it be discussed openly or simply allowed to exist.

I have one ace character in The Sea-Stone Sword, but it is not explicit because the issue doesn’t come up. She is quite young, and there were also other aspects to her character that were a lot more active and so became the focal point.

For asexual characters, the temptation for me was to simply never address it at all, and to delve into nonsexual aspects of their relationships. I wanted to explore the friendships they made, the loyalties they formed and causes for which they fought. It was important to me to flesh them out as characters and how they related to others and have that be the focus.

However, asexuality is, perhaps by its nature, something of an invisible identity. Easily overlooked, easily ignored. As such, many of us feel decidedly alone, left out, and isolated. Rarely do we see explicate representation of people who feel the way we feel and experience the world as we do. Part of this is down to social assumptions where we automatically expect characters to be sexual in some way. This worried me as I continued to write.

In my second novel, The Sky Slayer, there is another ace character, but this time I made it explicit. She’s a smartass, a sarcastic brains-of-the-outfit who pulls everyone’s strings. As a result, other character slowly start asking her advice. Once you get past the put-downs and jibes, she can be quite wise, so it made sense to me. This I immediately saw as a way in to give her sexuality some notice. When asked for relationship advice, she raises an eyebrow and informs them, “Ask the Doctor. I have no interest or experience with these carnal matters.”

It was also important to me that the character accept this, rather than pressing her into something with the old ‘go on just try it!’ routine. When another character shows an interest in her, they are told, “She doesn’t feel that kind of attraction.” and all parties accept this as a real answer, rather than objecting or insisting on pushing her.

I think it is important to have multiple ace characters, to explore the variety of ways asexuality can be experienced. As with any demographic, the less characters within it you have, the less fairly you will represent it.

But even these examples from my own work sometimes make me cringe a little and I feel uncertain about whether I took the right path. On the one hand, I want it to be respected and given a real place in a characters’ identity. But on the other hand, I don’t want to bring it up for the sake of bringing it up. So how do we tackle this issue?

Being asexual myself, it isn’t an issue that comes up terribly often. I don’t have conversations about it, I don’t go out and tell my story precisely because, so often, if feels like there isn’t a story to tell. How many ways can you say, ‘nothing happened’ and have it be interesting? Except by way of contrast to the expected norm, it has rarely felt like an aspect of my life that is ripe for creative exploration.

The obvious answer is to look to other people’s experiences. Talking to other asexual people from different background and cultures grants a view into the wide range of stories that are there. The struggles and triumphs, the attitudes and fears, and the whole spectrum of people. That is where the spark of creativity lies.

I think this allies to a lot of aspects of writing, not just regarding sexuality. Our own life can seem mundane to us simply because we experience them every day and end up thinking they are unremarkable. The remarkable only becomes so when compared to other things, and if we don’t seek out other experiences and stories, we might not find the spark at all.

 

Links for books;

The Sea-Stone Sword

The Sky Slayer

Monster Writing Competition

Monster writing competition – We want your monster stories!

We published volume three of our Fox Spirit Books of Monsters: Asian Monsters a few months back and Margret Helgadottir is now working on editing volume four: Pacific Monsters, to be released in November. The mission with the series is to give the monsters their comeback, to reestablish their dark and grim reputation, and to bring into the spotlight the monsters hiding in the far corners of the world. To celebrate the monsters, we’re having a writing competition.

We hereby invite you to write your best monster flash story and send it to us before July 1st 2017 midnight (GMT). We want speculative and dark flash stories with full plot. We ask that the stories take place on Earth. We are not looking for fanfiction, satire, erotica, paranormal romance, splatter or overly gory stories. The stories must be written in English.

Only one entry per author. No simultaneous submissions allowed. All entries must be original and unpublished elsewhere, including your blog. We ask that the stories are at a minimum of 500 words, but no longer than 1500 words. Paste story in body of email and send to: ‘narjegerredaktor at gmail dot com’ and title the email with ‘Monster writing competition.’ Margret will read all the stories and select the winning story and to runners up.

The winning story will be published on Fox Spirit Books’ webpage. The winner also receives a copy of the three first monster volumes, plus a Fox Spirit Tote bag with awesome notebook and pen.

Story number two and three will also be published on Fox Spirit Books’ webpage plus win notebook and pen.

If any questions, contact Margret on the email address above.

Starfang Launch Day

And it’s a space opera so we can make rocket jokes! Now count with me 5.4..3..2..1..Blastoff! 

Is a clan captain going to sacrifice everything for her clan? Tasked to kill Yeung Leung by her parents, powerful rival clan leader of the Amber Eyes, Captain Francesca Min Yue sets out across the galaxy to hunt her prey, only to be thrown into a web of political intrigue spreading across the stars. Is Yeung Leung collaborating with the reptilian shishini and playing a bigger game with the galaxy as a price? Is Francesca’s clan at stake? Welcome to Starfang: Rise of the Clan, where merchants and starship captains are also wolves.

“Wolves should not be in space, but here we were, a clan of wolves and merchants. Instead of the preserved forests of New Earth and Noah’s Ark, we were in ships of steel and armor, reading data scans and commanding officers on the bridge. Wolves within the uniform of merchants and mercenaries, human seeming, claws and teeth sheathed.”

– Captain Francesca Ming Yue, of the warship Starfang.

Welcome to Starfang, a space opera with werewolves, politics and intrigue.

 

Joyce Chng is a Singaporean writer and we are pleased to be publishing Starfang is its full glory, complete with gorgeous cover art by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein. Joyce also writes as J. Damask

This book was previously available as a serial on our website but we think it’s well worth getting a copy for your shelves. 

Aunty Fox Reads…. quite a bit really

I have been asked about books. Not the ones we publish, but what I buy outside of Fox Spirit and specifically what other small presses I look to for my reading material.

I went for quite a long time since starting FS without reading much outside of it, then I changed jobs. Just over six months ago I found myself with a commute by train and it has been heaven. So let’s start with a list of books I have read and enjoyed since August and the reasons I read them.

A note before I start, every one of these books was excellent and I would recommend them all so assume high stars all round. I am bad at reading books that don’t draw me in quickly.

books delicious books

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough – I know Sarah a little and have read her work before, so was happy to buy and read her recent releases, confident I would enjoy them.
The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Zen did a story for us which was superb. I like to support writers who have supported us with their stories by buying their books, add to which, I really like reading all the writers we work with so it’s a low risk strategy.
Burning Embers by James Bennett – James is a friend, a Fox Spirit writer and a fantastic story teller. No brainer.
Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold – I loved Gaie’s earlier novels, I nearly died of squee when she did a story for us so obviously I had to have this.
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Adrian is a fantastic writer and again, has worked with FS.
Alice by Christina Henry – The original Alice always struck me as darker than people think, I was intrigued. I was also looking for interesting novels by women.
Lost Girl by Adam Nevill – Apt 16 terrified me, Adam is a great writer and a lovely man, we must try and weedle a story from him one day.
Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney – this one just looked interesting and Paul’s name is one of those where I am always a bit, have we met? Or have I just come across his name so many times I think we have met?
How to be Dull by Basil Morley Esq – Basil Morely is actually K.A. Laity who writes and edits for FS among others and never fails to entertain me.
The Red Tree By Caitlin Kearnan – Picked this up years ago because it looked interesting, and it languished on the shelf. I thought I would give it a try as part of my bid to make my reading more diverse and I was rewarded richly.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston – recommended and indeed supplied by a publicist friend who knows what I like
Escapology by Ren Warom – Ren is amazing, which I know because we published her novella so obviously I had to read this.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Rare occasion where I actually got around to the book group choice but a fantastic book that has set me off collecting up more feminist non fic.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – Part of my personal challenge to be more diverse in my reading. Joseph is a Native American writer and I loved the sound of this particular book. It’s great btw.
Nemesis by Agatha Christie – I love Christie, I love this story, charity shop comfort read.
Clockwork Heart by Dru Paliassotti – Bought this forever ago, and it appealed when I did a shelf search.
Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs– enjoyed the film but was curious as a friend who loves the books was very cross about the changes.
Love across a Broken Map by The Whole Kahini – A friend was involved in editing and producing this and so I had great confidence in it being excellent. It was.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – see previous Pinborough. Also one of the main characters is called Adele, how could I resist?
The Red Queen by Christina Henry – Sequel to Alice which I loved.
The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – again it’s been on the shelf a while, but I have read a number of Gaiman’s books over the years and had no doubt I would enjoy it. 
The Stars and Legion by Kameron Hurley – Read God’s War as a BFS judge, loved it, read the next one, love Kameron’s fiction and will just keep buying and reading them.

 

Books I am dipping into

They do the Same things Differently Here by Rob Shearman – Shearman is an incredible short story writer and possibly the loveliest man alive.
Nasty Women by various – Saw a lot about this and with the world as it is it felt like a must read.
Frazzled by Ruby Wax – Because I am basically.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla – Part of my efforts to challenge my reading habits. Enjoying this greatly.

So you will start to see a pattern.

I like to support writers I know, especially ones I have worked with or who I enjoy chatting with on online of F2F, which is helped by the fact that I am confident I will enjoy their work.

I buy from small presses and indie authors a lot at events, it’s not well represented here but I have a stack of books I have read or want to read from the likes of Grimbold, Kristell ink, Newcon and others both past and present. Things I look for in small presses tend to be that people running them I know share some of my tastes or values, or writers in common as that is a good sign I will enjoy the stuff they put out. Some of the presses I love, like Boo and Jurassic sadly closed, which I talk about at length in the Sisyphus post, so I won’t go back over it here. Not all indie presses are so small of course, Angry Robot and Titan, along with Abaddon and Solaris often make their way onto my shelves, I recently discovered Quirk and will be going back there again. Then there are specialists, like 404Ink and Dhalia who offer something more specific but from time to time overlap with my genre preferences or just hit my needs in the moment and who are doing high quality work. There are lots I haven’t mentioned but browse the dealer room at any genre con and you are surrounded by people I would buy from. 

At bookstores I have a system. Check for new books by people I know/like already either F2F or from reading their work. Then browse for writers that expand my reading, so at the moment looking for books by non white writers is a big part of my store search technique for or openly LGBTQIA writers, writers of colour or non fiction books. Finally, anything that just looks interesting or a bit different (harder than it sounds tbh). I have been known to purchase books for their covers, or indeed because of the cover artist.

Starfang : Rise of the Clan

We are delighted to announce that the next release from Fox Spirit will be Joyce Chng’s ‘Starfang : Rise of the Clan’.

We ran this as a serial a couple of years ago but it’s coming out soon as a complete novel. Werewolves in space!!

Cover art by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein

Opening Paragraphs of Starfang

‘Wolves should not be in space, but here we were, a clan of wolves and merchants. Instead of the preserved forests of New Earth and Noah’s Ark, we were in ships of steel and armour, reading data scans and commanding officers on the bridge. Wolves within the uniform of merchants and mercenaries, human seeming, claws and teeth sheathed.

Our genes kept us apart from the homo sapiens race. Some merchant clans tried to spread the rumour that we were the product of genetic engineering, a pact made between the secretive flesh engineers and our clan progenitors, in exchange for sacred information we didn’t know and care about. Some rumours were more far-fetched, bordering on the mythical and mystical and the alien, alleging raptor-like shishini or grey-tinged jukka involvement.’

 

Singaporean, but with a global outlook, Joyce Chng write science fiction and fantasy, YA and urban fantasy. Her fiction has appeared in theApex Book of World SF IIWe See A Different FrontierVisibility FictionCrossed Genres and Bards & Sages, to name a few. Her urban fantasy novels are written under her pseudonym, J. Damask (which she will tell you is a play on her Chinese name).

 

The Curse of the Mouse and Minotaur

The virgins have been sacrificed, the sage burnt the incense lit and the libations poured.

I am delighted to announce that having done everything except raise the mummy (more luck than judgement tbh), we are finally releasing The Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur, the third and final volume of our Bushy Tales.

This series started with Tales of the Nun & Dragon which is the book that started Fox Spirit and it is the conclusion of our original project. As always a mixture of genres, with humour and darker stuff featuring greek myths and rodents, sometimes both. 

Stories from K.T. Davies, Chloe Yates, James Bennett, Nerine Dorman, Jay Faulkner, Sarah Cawkwell, Pat Kelleher, C C D Leijenaar , Joan De La Haye, Andrew Reid, Ben Stewart, Catherine Hill, Jan Siegel and T.J. Everley 

Waxing Lyrical : On Covers

Waxing Lyrical is an occasional series of blog posts. If you are interested in submitting an article please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk a small fee is paid. 
The images are added by Aunty Fox.

Waxing Lyrical :On Covers by Tabby Stirling

Hello Authors!

My name is Tabby Stirling and I am a book-cover designer and author.  I’ve been asked to jot down a few ideas about how to make your cover really stand out and look ultra professional.  So here goes!

It is true that everyone can design a book cover.  But it is also true that not everyone can design a ‘good’ cover?

What do I mean by ‘good’.  Well, of course, it is very subjective but I always try to design a cover that would sit well on a major bookshop’s shelf.   A design where font and graphics work together to demonstrate the themes of the book and something about the author too.  Where colour balances with everything and a few risks are taken in the spirit of artistic endeavor.

I don’t believe that you have to have been to Art school to get it right but an ‘eye’ is very useful and that, much like the ‘voice’ in writing, cannot be taught (in my opinion).

So how can you design a cover that will be the envy of your friends and appear professional and creative?

Here are a few tips that I’ve discovered during my time as a designer.

FONT

 

There are a rich variety of free fonts that are accessible to the designer so be bold and don’t just stick to the fonts that come with Word and I have put a couple of links down the bottom to start you off.

However, fonts can make or break a cover and just because you love the swirling, medieval capitals sprawling across the cover of your historical romance – it doesn’t mean they work.  

DESIGN PRINCIPLES

A good idea is to remember the old adage about women’s fashion.  You can show off your legs or cleavage but never both at the same time after a certain age.

This is also true of design.  If you want 1000-volt cover you can achieve this by using graphics that ‘pop’ with a plain font and colours that balance.

Experiment with graphic placing – sometimes a slightly off-centre graphic can distribute menace much better than those Horror Fonts that are great on a 40’s film poster but not much else.

Less is more.  Please go with your instincts.  Being bold doesn’t mean that you have to have outrageous fonts, colour and graphics simultaneously.  Experiment with colour and font. Always back away from something you are not quite sure of.  And don’t ever feel that something isn’t quite bright enough without the hot pink graphics (especially if it is a book on chemical engineering).

COLOUR

 

Probably the trickiest one to handle, at least for me.  I love colour and often find myself  cavorting with highly inappropriate pantone colours for long periods of times.  It’s good to experiment, this is how we achieve the final result, but don’t let your experiments get the better of you.  One of the easiest ways to spot an amateur cover is the colour scheme used (or not). 

Great roaring oceans of colour, spewing like a Finnish volcano is not always a positive thing.  Think about how it will be perceived by others.  Try to become less self-indulgent about what you like and what you think will sell. 

LASTLY

Be prepared to put time and effort into your design.  A full book-cover  may take me 12 hours just for the initial mock up before it goes back to the client.  And then the inevitable to and fro where ideas are discussed and the design begins to come to life.  This is one of my favourite bits – being creative with the client. 

What I start with is invariably nothing like the final, approved design and it can be frustrating at times.

I think it is important to treat the author with great respect because writing a book is no easy thing and their ‘baby’ deserves attention. 

However, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t gently point out an idea that I don’t think would work.  I will always try it, if the client insists, because book cover design is a collaboration and a journey.  A quite magical thing really. 

I hope this has been helpful.  Please feel free to email me with any questions – my portfolio can be found at tabathadesigns.tumblr.com  but not all my work is there by a long shot.

Tabby J

Free Fonts

www.fontsquirrel.com

www.dafont.com

Graphics Programmes

Adobe Indesign  (Paid)

Pic Monkey  (free)

Fennec gets Ghoulsome

The first title in our exciting new Fennec line for pre teens is released today!

Ghoulsome Graveyard by G. Clark Hellery

When the local graveyard is scheduled for redevelopment, journalist Catherine decides to help the residents. She decides to hold a fete and enlists the help of everyone living in the graveyard but with ghosts, zombies, witches and a werehuman, what could possibly go wrong? Come and join us for cake, games and more than a little magical chaos in the Ghoulsome Graveyard.

After accepting Ghoulsome and deciding to proceed with a pre teen line, we asked Geraldine Clark Hellery to curate the new line for younger foxes. 

Fennec will be an important part of the skulk moving forward as we get them hooked young encourage younger readers and make the kind of stories that we love here at Fox Spirit more accessible for those who are maybe not quite ready for our more adult content. 

Young adult novels will continue to form a part of the main Fox Spirit line so you can be sure anything bearing the Fennec logo, although still entertaining and awesome, will be suitable for readers as young as eight. 

Waxing Lyrical : Reading to Save your Soul

Reading to Save Your Soul
Alex Bean

A few nights ago I noticed a recent shift in my reading habits.  In a post on Facebook I mused that since the US Presidential election in November I had begun reading a lot more fiction than usual. My habit generally being rather massive works of non-fiction and history, this seemed notable. In the comments on my Facebook post a friend, himself a writer, told me to keep it up. “Read all the fictions. Fiction will save your soul, if not your life.”

That idea has really struck a chord with me, especially in a domestic political climate mired in the toxic racism and incompetent xenophobia of a populist demagogue. To that end, much of the fiction I’ve been consuming at a faster-than-usual pace has incidentally turned out to be the perfect antidote to the uninformed hatred and suspicion permeating from the White House.

In November, right after the election, I felt completely unmoored. My whole sense of the foundations that underlie my society felt undone. So I went all the way back to the source and re-read Gilgamesh. It’s always sort of awesome (in the Old Testament sense of the word) to go back and read texts from the very origins of human civilization. Glimpsing the formal and dramatic power of literature already being harnessed so far back in the fog of time is intimidating and impressive. I also couldn’t help but be amused that the city vs. country divide made so stark in the election can just as easily be found in the wrestling match between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

As I finished the work, one particular passage stuck out and seems especially relevant in the pursuit of saving my soul via fiction.

“What you seek you shall never find. 
For when the Gods made man, 
They kept immortality to themselves.
Fill your belly.
Day and night make merry.
Let Days be full of joy.
Love the child who holds your hand.
Let your wife delight in your embrace.
For these alone are the concerns of man.” 

Those lines echoed through my mind as I reflected on two pieces of fiction by people being actively persecuted by the short-fingered vulgarian in the Oval Office. One of them is The Moor’s Account, a novel by Moroccan-American author Laila Lalami, which I first read a few years ago. The moor in question is Estevanico, a once-successful slave trader in Morocco who sells himself into slavery in Spain and eventually becomes the first recorded African to immigrate to the Americas. \

Seeing the arrogance and violence inherent to European colonization of the Americas from the eyes of a Muslim from Morocco fundamentally alters the whole American idea. It lets the reader re-imagine this country means by finding the stories in the gaps and ellipses of history. I’d like to imagine that reflection like that might be enough to save the soul of my country if enough people read it and took it to heart.

The other work of fiction, which I started the week that Trump signed his odious Muslim Ban, was Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri. The Pultizer-winning short story collection mostly focuses on Indian immigrants to the United States.  What struck me, again and again, throughout the nine stories in the collection, is how Lahiri uses her understated prose to sketch out characters with thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams that are at once universal and highly specific. As with Gilgamesh, a quote (or two) may best illustrate her effusive powers.

“While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have travelled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”

“In those moments Mr. Kapasi used to believe that all was right with the world, that all struggles were rewarded, that all of life’s mistakes made sense in the end.”

We may be doomed to live in interesting times and I still find myself full of worry and outrage. But reading those lines made the whole sad, fearful displays which dominate the news shrink from my mind. Fiction, perhaps more than any other format, has the power to cut through the noise and make you look at yourself and the world in a new light. We’re all seekers like Gilgamesh and strangers in a strange land like Estevanico and ordinary people whose achievements are beyond imagination. No one man, no matter how foolish can steal that from us. That’s what will save our souls and that why I’m reading fiction right now.