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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

GUEST POST: Stalin, Communism & Fantasy by Sarah Chorn


Order Seraphina's Lament over HERE

My first draft of Seraphina’s Lament did not have a communist government system. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to do my rewrite, and doing a ton of research in preparation for that, that I realized that the Sunset Lands really needed to be communist. How could I possibly tell a story even remotely related to the Holodomor without communism?

Furthermore, how could I do it without a Stalin.

It was impossible.

So, in my second rewrite I realized I had to almost completely rebuild the world I’d created. I also needed to create a Stalin, and then a magic system that fit into all of this.

I knew that communist government systems weren’t that common with fantasy books, but I don’t think I realized just how unique having a Stalinist communist system would actually be until people started commenting on it.

This required an incredible amount of research. I’ve got a few books totaling around 6,000 pages on Stalin sitting on my bookshelf at home, and that’s not taking into consideration all the books I’ve read at the library, or the ones I bought through Audible. The thing is, it’s pretty easy to create a world where communism is the government once you know enough about communism to be able to do that. After I’d done all my research, the whole story fell into place and I realized that communism was exactly what had been missing from that first draft that it had desperately needed. I also realized that my own character, Premier Eyad, who is patterned after Stalin in so many ways, really needed to be part of this book.

Stalin was a horrible person. There are no mincing words about that. He killed millions upon millions of people, passed policies that had dire impacts on just about everyone, and left a red-stained legacy behind him. Yet despite all of that, he still thought he was doing the right thing. I really hated doing it, but trying to capture that element of Stalin’s character was really important to me. Villains rarely think they are villains.

Once I stopped looking at Stalin as a hulking historical figure, but started to see the man that made him who he was, creating a character influenced by him was pretty easy.

Communism was really interesting to learn about, and even more interesting to write. Communism is pretty foreign to people located out here in the United States, and while we learn about it, a lot of the details are either glossed over in history class in high school, or just not touched on at all. Basically, from high school, I was left with the understanding that communism is bad, and not much else.

In order to build a realistic communist system in my world, I had to not just understand the policies, but the impacts of these policies and how they were implemented. I had to take the main points of Stalinist communism, and change it enough to fit into the Sunset Lands.

Communism itself has a lot of territory for an author to tinker with. Setting down the policies of this government system and figuring out the impact on society as a whole was really the groundwork for building my world. Once I had that figured out, everything else fell into place.

Going into this, I knew I wanted to create a magic system based on the elements. However, due to communism, and state ownership of both goods and labor, it had to be a magic system that could be utilized like any other skill. It needed to be something that could be worked, and create, or help create, goods and services. Therefore, I ended up deciding that the elemental magic system needed to be something that could be bartered and traded.

Due to the dying world, and the changing nature of magic, the magic in Seraphina’s Lament, is understated, but there are a few situations that show what I’m talking about here. One, early on in the book, where a woman who has a talent, is forcefully separated from her son and sent to a village, ordered to use her elemental talent to help people in that village work their land. Seraphina and her twin brother Neryan are slaves because their fire and water talents are incredibly rare and valuable. Every person in the Sunset Lands is tested at a certain age, and a mark is branded into their cheek that shows if they are null talents (no talent) or what talents they have, and then, depending on the results, are either sent into specialized schools, labor camps, or assigned to villages for labor.

While I chose to write this book with a government system based on Stalinism, I ended up being really surprised that there weren’t more fantasy books with communist government systems. It’s a form of government that has plenty for authors to draw on, and use in the books they write.

The world is a big place, and part of reading is discovering it, and exploring different ways of living. Part of doing that is straying away from the tried and true forms of rulers and leadership in fantasy, kings, queens, emperors and the like. There will always be a place for that in our books, but there are so many other governmental systems out there, and so many other ways that people have lived, and are living. For me, choosing to create a communist governmental system was natural to the story I was telling. I can’t imagine Seraphina’s Lament being told any other way.

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Official Author Website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

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