Guest Author—J. Scott Coatsworth—Fuzzing the Line with The Great North
Please welcome to the Land of Make Believe, J Scott Coatsworth. I’ve mentioned before, Scott is trying to single handedly bring Queer Sci-fi (and Fantasy) to the masses. He stops by today to give talk about blurring the lines between genres in his writing. Did we mention he has a new release? He does! The Great North is now available everywhere. With that, the blog is yours, Scott.
J. Scott Coatsworth: Fuzzing the Line
I’m notorious for coloring outside the line in my stories. I especially like mixing my fantasy and sci fi hues – see “The Autumn Lands”, “Skythane”, “Through the Veil”, “Wonderland”, and “Homecoming” for examples.
For my latest story, “The Great North”, I was asked to choose a myth to recast as an MM story. I could have chosen to place it in any time period – ancient Greece, present day Boston, or the eve the rings of Saturn in 2743.
For my subject matter, I picked a story I’d never heard of before – the Welsh tale of Dwynwen. It’s about the woman who inspired Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh Valentine’s Day, and her doomed lover Maelon.
I decided to set it on a future Earth, after the worst effects of climate change and mankind’s own greed have destroyed much of the planet. In that sense, it clearly has sci fi roots. But the world is much reduced for my characters, and the village of Manicouga bears much more of a resemblance to a town from the middle ages than to the sci-fi Capitol in the Hunger games.
Arthur C. Clarke once posited that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I’d suggest a corollary – “any sufficiently devolved society begins to approach fantasy.” At some point, we give up our rules and logic and scientific inquiry, and once again begin to assign the ways of the universe to the whims of gods and monsters.
With “The Great North”, I got to play around with the idea that these supernatural beings are real, and when we begin to believe in them, they begin to have more power in our own world.
In any great “future Earth” story, there are bits of the old Earth we can still recognize – think the Statue of Liberty in the pivotal scene of the original “Planet of the Apes.” And that’s true here. Bits of the old world still litter the world of Manicouga and its environs, and bits of old world ideas too.
So is it sci fi? Or is it fantasy?
I’ll let you decide.
About the Book:
Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.
Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.
Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.
The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day:
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay
Release Date: 6/14/17
Genre: MM, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Myths, Legends, Gods, Post-Apocalyptic
“We celebrate Dwyn’s Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It’s a remembrance of the way things were and the way they’ve come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love.”
—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn
The gray clouds scudded by overhead, blowing in quickly from the east.
Dwyn shivered and pulled on his woolen cap. It was cold out, unusual for so early in the fall. The rains had been heavy this season, the wettest in a generation, and Circle Lake was close to overflowing its banks. If he stretched to look over the rows of corn plants, he could see the waters lapping at the shore far below, as if hungry to consume his village of Manicouga.
His father had consulted the elders, some of whom had seen more than fifty summers, and everyone agreed things were changing. Whether that augured good or ill was anyone’s guess.
He shrugged and moved along the row of plants, breaking off ears of corn and throwing them into the jute sack that hung from his shoulder.
Ahead of him, two of his age-mates, Declan and Baia, were working their way down the next two rows.
Dwyn frowned. He got distracted easily, and he’d let the two of them get a jump on him. That wouldn’t do.
He redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.
“Someone’s being chased by a lion,” Baia said with a laugh.
“Or a tiger.” Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.
Dwyn grinned. “Or a bear?” Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, “The Girl and the Aus.” He had no idea what an Aus was, either.
Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.
A shout went up from ahead of them. Dwyn craned his neck to see what the ruckus was, but he couldn’t make out anything. “What’s going on?”
Declan, who was half a head taller, looked toward the commotion. “Hard to tell. Something down by the road.”
Dwyn laid down his sack carefully and ran up the hill to one of the old elms that dotted the field. He climbed into the tree, scurrying up through the leaves and branches until he had a clear view of the Old Road. It ran from up north to somewhere down south, maybe near the ruins of old Quebec if the merchant tales held any truth. Hardly anyone from Manicouga ever followed it, but occasionally traders would follow it to town, bringing exotic wares and news from the other villages that were scattered up and down its length.
They swore it went all the way down to the Heat, the great desert that had consumed much of the world after the Reckoning.
“What’s going on down there?” Baia called from below.
Dwyn tried to make sense of it. “There are three wagons coming down the pass. They’re loaded up with all sorts of things. They don’t look like traders though.”
The first of the horse-drawn wagons had just reached the field above the main township. It stopped, and someone hopped off to talk with the villagers who had gathered from the fields.
“We need to get down there,” Dwyn said, scrambling down the tree trunk. “Something’s happening.” Nothing new ever happened in Manicouga, and he wasn’t going to miss it.
He grabbed his sack and sprinted toward the Old Road, not waiting to see if Declan and Baia followed.
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About the Author:
Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.
He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.