fantasy

Thank You, and I Hate You Forever

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Today’s Secret Origin installment is a reprint of a guest post I did last year in support of my weird-western novella, WILD.

Today, for Sue’s fans and readers (and hopefully a few of my own!), I offer up one of my darkest secrets. One so dark and so secret I myself didn’t know it myself until recently, though it’s been with me over half my life. When it hit me, I’m pretty sure I got a taste of what Paul did on the road to Damascus.

I owe everything I am today, to include all my creative successes and joys, to a man whose grave I’d cheerfully piss on every day for the rest of my life.

When I was eight or nine my mother started dating this guy, Russ. He was a friend of the guy she’d been dating before, and before him there was nothing and before that was my dad, who’d gotten loaded at a party hosted by one of my friends’ parents, checked into rehab and never came back (except for the occasional weekend, which looking back, I kinda sorta miss). My mom really knew how to pick ‘em: my old man liked the occasional impromptu boxing match with the old lady after a few beers and her first boyfriend after he left was a pothead, an unemployed waste and, apparently, allergic to soap. Russ liked to smoke up, but at least he washed his ass. And he worked, at least some of the time.

Shortly after they started dating, my mother could no longer afford the rent on the half-house she and my father had been renting and they moved in with some friends of Russ’. I lived with my aunt and her girlfriend for a few months, to give me some sort of stability. I really miss those days, too, incidentally, and maintain that even though my father died after not seeing me for ten years (and only missed me by an hour, too), he’s smiling down through the clouds (or up through the flames, perhaps) every time I visit his side of the family again, since being reunited at his funeral after more than a decade apart. Long story short, a few months later my mother and Russ got an apartment, and then they got me. And that’s where the adventure begins.

Besides God and my family, the only things that really matter to me in life are reading, writing and music. I played music on and off for seventeen years; in school bands, garage bands and church bands. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and getting published, in school magazines, community magazines, school newspapers, real newspapers, and books. I always have a book or two around and have been reading on my own since about the age of three. If somehow music, books, or writing were removed from my life I would cease to be Lincoln Crisler. This holds true now and at any point in my life to date. Those three things have always been there, whether I was full or starving, clean or dirty, married, divorced or separated, living with my family, my friends or on my own. Forever and ever amen.

Now here’s the kicker: Russ gave me those things. He was into all the seventies and eighties rock you could think of. There was always rock and roll playing in the house. He brought home recordings of Nik and the Nice Guys shows when they went out of town and brought me to local shows. I even played on stage one time, strumming a beat-to-hell guitar as part of the Air Guitar Army. My birthday and Christmas gifts always consisted, at least in part, of bootleg cassettes of albums by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Reo Speedwagon and many other bands. Most importantly, he introduced me to the music of Rush. To this day, they’re my favorite band. If I woke up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys missing, I’d call it good as long as the bathtub was center-stage front row at a Rush concert. To this day if I were to come up with a setlist to play on a half-hour’s notice, most of it would be music I first listened to while my mother and I lived with Russ.

He introduced me to all of my favorite authors. He gave me Piers Anthony’s Incarnations and Mode series’. He gave me the first seven books of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. He gave me Eddings’ Belgariad, Elenium and Tamuli (though not the Mallorean, and though I now own it, I still haven’t read it). He gave me my first Poul Anderson, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffery and Stephen King books. He bought me my first copy of The Lord of the Rings. I pick up new books by most of these authors to this day. I still read the old ones he gave me seventeen years ago. Today I write and publish science fiction, fantasy and horror almost exclusively, and I think most of that comes from all the great books from those genres I read when I was young and impressionable.

The monster of my childhood created a monster himself. In his own image, but better in some ways. Perhaps in the way that Frankenstein’s monster could be said to be better than the Doctor. I don’t beat women, for instance, but I definitely write about worse things than he ever acted out. Instead of working behind the scenes, I’ve been on the stage. If I saw him right now, I can’t say with any certainty whether I’d hit my knees and thank him or kick him in the scrotum.

So much damned gray area. Such is life.

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The Fantasy Series Fête

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Those familiar with my writing would most likely guess the books nearest and dearest to my heart, read during my formative years, would be the works of Stephen King. Now, the King of Horror is fundamental to my existence as a author and gets his very own Secret Origin installment next week, but before I ever cracked open a horror book, I was irrevocably altered by several series’ of books by fantasy authors.

Here are three that will always mean the world to me. I’m not sure you can call them obscure, but I do get a good amount of blank stares when I mention them to other people my age—even avid readers. When you read my books and wonder where I may have drawn some of my inspiration—this stuff here is some of the earliest. The first time I cracked into these books, I was between the ages of ten and twelve.

The Magic Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks in some ways surpasses the Shannara series he’s better known for—not least of all because he quit writing them before they stopped being interesting–he waited fourteen years before releasing the sixth in 2009. The first three books: Magic Kingdom for sale-SOLD(1986); The Black Unicorn(1987) and Wizard at Large(1988) were released within a year or so of each other and are the best of the six, in my estimation. The main character is a middle-aged trial lawyer from our world who buys the throne of an actual magic kingdom from a mail order catalog. The plot of each book is rooted in both Earth and Landover, which makes for an exciting and novel read. High King Ben Holiday deals with such crises as a demon knight who seeks the throne, a group of disloyal barons, the seduction of his young daughter to the dark side by a vengeful witch and the twisted schemes of the exiled former Court Wizard who sold him the kingdom in the first place. His companions include a scribe who was magically transformed into a dog, a Court Wizard who isn’t always in full command of his magic and his wife, a sprite who turns into a tree a few days of every month.

 

The Tower and the Hive by Anne McAffery is a science-fantasy sort of series. Its set in outer space, and the planets are connected to each other by the mental powers of Prime Talents—powerful telepaths and telekinetics in the employ of FT&T. The Primes move spaceships and cargo and deliver messages with the speed of thought. The first three books: The Rowan; Damia and Damia’s Children, each deal with subsequent generations of a family began by the pairing of Talented orphan Rowan and untrained Prime Jeff Raven. The last two books pick up right where Children leaves off, continuing the story of Damia and Afra Lyon’s eight Prime-talented children and their fight against the alien invaders first faced by The Rowan and Jeff in the first novel. These aren’t detail-oriented, hard science novels, but instead are driven by characterization, romance and action.

 

 

 

 

The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony was originally intended as an five-book series, and expanded to seven a few years later, with the edition of an eighth book over a decade after that. The first five deal with regular human beings assuming the physical aspects of Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature from their prior office-holders. The latter three books deal with changing of the guard of Good, Evil and Night, a popular and intriguing supporting character from the series. While the series isn’t airtight (I thought Time’s book kinda sucked, having more to do with the main character playing out fantasy story arcs than anything else), taken as a whole, its altogether fun. I enjoyed discovering the Incarnations’ powers along with their office-holders, and Anthony makes even Satan seem sympathetic in his own book despite the dastardly tricks and challenges he presents to the other Incarnations in their books. An added bit of intricacy is the manner in which the Incarnations are related to each other: by the end of the series, Death is the lover of Nature’s cousin, Nature is married to Satan and is a former lover of War, Nature and War’s daughter becomes God and is the former lover of Time and Fate is Nature’s mother. I’m not sure how Night figures into the picture, as I’ve yet to read her book.

Come back next week for a discussion of my first-ever Stephen King book and my solitary year of Catholic education.

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