Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Spoiler Space: "The Wise Foolish Son"
As much as cultures get diluted, assimilated and even annihilated, they resist too: the Chinese under the Manchus, the Tibetans under the Chinese, even the English under the Normans, but I don't know any other cases where the founding dynasty of a nation was completely absorbed into the culture of the subject people. So this is a story about someone who tries to bring his culture (though it hasn't done him any favours) to a "savage" people and, though they're changed as a result, winds up one of them in memory.
It's also a story about growing up in Canada, and in Ottawa in particular. Like a lot of cities on rivers, Ottawa has a twin across the water, Hull (now technically part of the amalgamated city of Gatineau) but the division is greater than in most such cases because the two cities literally speak different languages. Though like most Ottawans of my generation I learned French growing up, Hull always seemed like a foreign country -- something only exacerbated by the fact that I my early childhood was spent during the leadup to the Quebec separation referendum of 1980. The landscape that Dasatan moves through is also very much like the country I spent my summers exploring in the Gatineau region of Quebec. In some ways this story is a twin to "The Coldest War": while that one is about surviving winter, this one is about how "summer pays for all."
Russian Fairy Tales for years before I wrote this story, and both the text and the images were a huge influence on it. I've also always been a fan of those big Time-Life Great Ages of Man books -- I wouldn't necessarily recommend them as history but they're great for writers since they're crammed with visual material and fascinating little details: I mostly used the Barbarian Europe and Rise of Russia volumes for this story.
The material about how you find amber is all true, but I don't remember where I found it. Sorry!