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Modeling Western Fantasy
Paul Bingham and The Crackpot Discuss Sorcerer! The Novel: 4/4/22, Denver
“Good afternoon sir.
“We are working to prepare for your visit. I’m reading through Wake Christopher at this time. I bought a fairly decent camera from a homeless man in Harrison Arkansas last week. My plan is to record the interviews with you on this camera and forward the files to Lynn for publication at yours and her descretion. “
-Paul Bingham, Saturday March 19, 2022, by text
“As a child with limited access to literature, I used to rummage through attics and sometimes garbage dumps, looking for reading material. Turns out Sorcerer! Was the book I was looking for, much unbenknownst to me.”
-Paul Bingham by text, Monday, March 28, 2022
Paul, thank you… and tank ye.
I always wanted to do a western fantasy, as in in the tradition of the Western World, a serious work of swords and sorcery in a plausible, realistic setting, not a realm of folk and fairy, but one haunted on the margins by things of wonder and nightmare, rotten at its core and redemptive on its extremities.
However, I stress a lot as a writer depicting in fiction places where I have not been. Bob and the Colonel brought me out west so that I could write authentically about their world’s past. Bad Medicine, Wendigo Way and Kettle of Bones are three historical adventure yarns I wish to write set in the Old West. I have also written Uprising and the Filthy Few set in the real west I have visited and have outlined Up Shingle Creek, set in a canyon above Kamas Valley, Utah in Elder Earth, the world I imagined for it as a one-off short novel, and then employed to write Sorcerer!
I had scrapped Sorcerer, a story to be set in the mountains above Saragossa Spain in the time of The Cid. It could have been set anywhere, and I considered a one-off setting along the lines of Moorcock’s Castle Brass. I didn’t want to do any history work or development, so decided on a myopic narrative.
As a default I decided to write it as the last story in the saga of Yusef, the sawed-off hero of the historical horror novels Fruit of the Deceiver and Forty Hands of Night, which became the omnibus The Jericho Bone. I decided to do a sequel around the fate of Yusef, who is in dire, unresolved plight at the end of The Jericho Bone. That novel, I think, was quite good and is titled Yusef of the Dusk. In the final act of his life he would return to Northeastern Spain in Sorcerer. I’m driven as a writer, but at heart I am a quitter, so scrapping projects is not hard for me.
I was just too weary so put that all away.
Then, in the last week of December of 2021, as the puss in my lungs and the fever in my blood started making me hallucinate in bed, and also while shoveling snow, hauling wood and digging ditches, I recalled the vision quest of Washaki, The Rattler, Great Chief of the Shoshone Nation. He went for guidance to Medicine Wheel Mountain, a place I have been lucky enough to visit. On his return back west from the pipe stone area near lake Michigan, around about 1840, he found that both the Medicine Wheel Man, the wise man of the mountain, and his servant, had vanished, most likely swept away in their old age by the fierce winter.
As I dug the ditch as the snow fell, wanting to get the job done before the ground froze, and then shoveled snow so to bring wood to the house with the other men gone for the week, then hauling the wood and curling up feverish in bed wanting to die—I imagined myself in the double moccasins of Medicine Wheel Man’s servant.
It was a double infirmity, the Captain’s Wife and the Colonel’s Wife literally keeping me alive and making me take the medicine, rolling me over, bringing broth, drying my wet clothes, reminding me to cough, turning the heater on I had forgotten to ignite… all this after I had quit and wanted nothing more than not to wake to the world another time.
The story was completely unplanned and not outlined until I wrote five chapters I think, and then came up with titles for the next dozen or chapters, determined not to break the outline, but abide by it. I was equally committed to not plotting the story and letting it come to me in fever and while working, to write the end that made sense when I got there. It was method writing of the crudest kind. I tried to use everything that The Colonel and Bob had told me about the wood types and uses and necessities of a winter in the Rockies.
The alternative history was an attempt to chart conditions in European history, beginning after the High Middle Ages, that would have prevented the rise of Protestant Christianity in Western Europe, the dominance of Islam in Eastern Europe and prevent the Industrial Revolution. The goal was a realistic reversal of a few rare events that turned out to be the cornerstones of Modernity, in a bid to render an authentic feeling New England, in 2031, with praying and wild Indian tribes on the frontier, patrolled by knightly orders armored like the men of the 1500s who actually conquered New Spain—a world with yet no printing press or steam engine, a place of alchemy, where Guttenberg, Galilleo and Copernicus were slain by the Church, where Martin Luther [who historically was a power player rather than a radical, had the patronage of a great prince] became Pope, where Henry the Eight had sons, and where Issac Newton published his religious work and did a definitive translation of the Bible and suppressed his own scientific work.
The sorcery is based on Voodoo Fire In Haiti, an obscure 1930s travel book and supposes that in the Late Medieval America of 2031, that real American monsters such as Sasquatch, Skunk Apes, Skin Walkers and Stonish Giants rise to challenge man as the next Ice Age roars in.
The politics are based on:
-A Jesuit insurrection against the Pope in Canada—something that very nearly happened in Paraguay,
-My Plantation America research,
-Lothrop Stoddard’s French Revolution in San Domingo,
-The piney woods horror of Robert E. Howard, such as Black Canaan
-The Death of Arthur, Beowulf and the Song of Roland,
-The lives of the tribes and mountain men I have read about since a boy, specifically Mystic Warriors of the Plains by T. E. Mails, Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, and the biography of Washaki.
I well endeavor to complete Noose Gun’s tale covered in Sorcerer! The Acts of Awes West, and write also:
Ranger? The Acts of Awes South
Up Shingle Creek: An Act of Awes West
and
Knight: The Acts of Awes North, within the next year.
Thanks again.
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