Subverting Genres One Bug at a Time

Reception of the Stormblade Saga has been good so far – most reviews falling around four or five stars. I’ve given away hundreds of copies of the first book, Pilgrim of the Storm. It’s an inexpensive marketing tactic for us independent publishers. As a relative newcomer to the well-established world of fantasy and science fiction, it lets the reader sample my style and decide if they’re off-kilter enough to carry on.

One thing I hoped to do with the saga was subvert the normal genre conventions like with my Crimson Son Universe superhero series. Tweak those expectations traditional publishers have drilled into you. It’s a risk for sure, but I wouldn’t be publishing independently if I wasn’t willing to take them.

The primary protagonist in the Stormblade Saga is a bug. Humanoid, so the territory isn’t completely unfamiliar to the reader, but there are complexities you may not notice at first. He emotes with his antennae, mandibles, and even his wings. There are no muscles in his face to form a smile, so he spreads his jaw wide – much to the horror of strangers.

He isn’t a hero. He isn’t even very sure of himself. Born in a human temple and raised by a kindly yet brash mentor, he’s even confused as to what he is. I fretted over the opening scene quite a bit because it isn’t evident immediately what Sidge is but it was necessary to share his identity confusion from the start. It’s perhaps the crux of the entire Saga.

Kaaliya, who emerges as a secondary but equally important protagonist is a female – another rare thing in traditional fantasy. Strong, resourceful, and confident, she’s everything Sidge isn’t. But he needs her and she needs him to complete this epic journey. It’s the balance of the scales of creation weighted long before the daily political rants in your Facebook feed or squabbles over literary trophies. She wasn’t added to satisfy a quota. She’s there because the story needed her and she stands strongly on the page as her own character.

There are other oddities about the world which may or may not jump out at you while reading:

The world has no name. This isn’t an oversight, it’s intentional. At best, the known lands are referred to as the Attarah’s Realm. But at the heart of things, this is something of an ante-deluvian tale set in a stagnant world with a future yet to be written.

The setting is a mutt. To borrow a phrase from board gaming, I’ll call it Ameritrash Fantasy. At the risk of being accused of cultural appropriation, I’ve taken my influences from Indus River Valley civilizations in everything from setting to plot. However, the characters, the dialogue, should be easily recognizable to a Western audience.

The people have no formal written language. You won’t see the typical references to scrolls, books, or any written work. In fact, I did my best to avoid any even descriptive words such as “papery” (I did allow myself “inky”, twice.) Why? There is no known system of writing in the Attarah’s Realm. The Mantras are just that – spoken phrases passed down generation to generation.

Magic is, well, complicated. Magic appears to follow both set, natural rules and it doesn’t. The copper and other conductive metals on the roofs of the Cloud Born’s wagons for instance. You could almost explain away storm calling magic as accidental science. But then, the Cloud Born also seek visions by bathing themselves in lightning and appear to call it directly from the source – the massive storm-riding dragon god, Vasheru.

It’s an odd entry in the fantasy shelf, for sure. With the alien race of the Ek’kiru, (explored more in Forge of the Jadugar) it maybe even incorporates a touch of science fiction. Plus, as you’ll see in Wake of Alshasra’a, the conclusion has a very unconventional quest “reward”.

Odd, but a journey I know you’ll enjoy if you give it a chance. For now, the first book’s free! What have you got to lose?

 

 

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