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Thursday, April 5, 2012

GUEST POST: On Monsters and Miracles by Aidan Harte


Mock the vanity of small differences all you like but they’re the ones that make the biggest difference. The closer two religious denominations resemble each other, the more they're going to hate each other. That’s because thetrue believer isn't worried about skepticism; he’s worried about Heresy. To the devout, the error most closely resembling The Truth is the most dangerous. That resemblance, then, is the germ of the Albigensian crusade, the Thirty Years’ war and Uncle Torquemada’s thumbscrews. If bloodshed was the only fruit of Faith, things would be simple. But the truth is that the possibility of a world unseen, along with all that cruelty, gives us Chartres cathedral, Bach’s Passion and Dante’s Comedy. The sleep of Reason, as well as monsters, brings forth miracles.

But that’s something every reader of Fantasy knows.

Fiction began as a magic circle and, within its enchanted borders, monsters and miracles occurred routinely. Genesis. The Odyssey. Beowulf. Then the world grew dull, and the circle where prodigies were permitted was encroached upon and finally invaded by grey shriveled men insisting that there ought to be rules and decorum, that suspension of disbelief is all very well but certain things are simply not done. Reason can be a form of sleep too. The circle where the spell is yet unbroken is called Fantasy.

Irenicon, my first Fantasy novel, is the first part of something called The Wave Trilogy. Naturally, it’s the story of a monster and a miracle. It’s set in 14th century Italy, a time of fractious politics, invention, social upheaval and, most of all, a time of war – a war between the city-states and a war between Reason and Faith. Irenicon's hero is Sofia Scaligeri, the young Contessa of Rasenna, a town divided by feuds and a river that shouldn't be there. Sofia has never been in love until she falls for the worst possible person: a Concordian engineer: After all, Concord’s Wave is the reason Rasenna is divided. The engineer has come to build a bridge and his example shows Sofia that Rasenna can overcome its social divisions too. But when Concord’s rulers discover one of their engineers has “gone native”, they determine to put a stop to the rebellion and the shadow of the Wave looms over Rasenna once more.

I wrote Irenicon, while studying sculpture in Florence. The super-weapon of the story was inspired by a real Italian tradition of using hydro-engineering in warfare. During the 13th and 14th century, there were various crack-brained schemes to flood neighboring cities by diverting rivers. They were never successful, not for want of trying. Machiavelli, Da Vinci and even the great Brunelleschi had a go.

Since I’m a Kung Fu fan, Irenicon had to have flamboyant fight scenes. The story has a lot of quarrels, and quite few murders, so I took inspiration from the pageantry that’s still a part of Tuscan life to evoke that heightened, operatic, Godfather-style violence. There’s a parade practically every second day in Florence. Italians can't queue but, boy, they love parading. It’s not unusual to run into the civic fathers playing dress-up and the rows of neighbourhood “Sbandieratori” throwing and twirling their red and purple flags. The martial art of Irenicon, the Arte Bandiera, is based on this traditional skill.

Irenicon's monster is the tyrant who created the Wave. Girolamo Bernoulli, a brilliant engineer who overthrew the Concordian Curia and installed a dictatorship of Natural Philosophers. He’s been dead for nearly twenty years but doesn’t plan to stay that way. As for the miracle, well, I don’t want to ruin the surprise…

AUTHOR INFORMATION – Aidan Harte was born in the late seventies, He studied in the Florence Academy of Art. He currently works as a sculptor in Dublin and his sculpture can be seen in Sol Art Gallery in Dublin. He works in the classical tradition informed by the early 20th century expressionists. He has also directed an IFTA winning, BAFTA nominated kids’ TV show, Skunk Fu, which was broadcast on BBC, Kids WB and Cartoon Network. This is his debut.



Yagiz said...

Thanks for the article. The book sounds very interesting. I'm adding this to my reading list.

ediFanoB said...

What an intriguing article. I could not withtand to add the book to my list.

The Reader said...

@ Yagiz

I've been enjoying the book so far. It's alternate history with a dash of K.J. Parker. Can't wait to see what the miracle is in the end.

@ EdiFanoB

I think you might enjoy it.



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