The wonderful Freda Warrington has the floor today with a guest post on Immortality to celebrate her release of the Aetherial Tales Trilogy, THE GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS (get a lod of that amazing cover.) Also, she kindly contributed to the SF Signal Mind Meld that I curated this week about Faerie, so be sure to give that a look as well if you get a chance!
We’ve also got 1 copy of THE GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS up for grabs to 1 reader, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
How to be Immortal by Freda Warrington
“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” – Susan Ertz
“Immortality. I notice that as soon as writers broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Okay, Mr Emerson. That’s me told. Immortality has to be one of the biggest and most-used tropes in fantasy fiction, and I’m as guilty as anyone of using it first and worrying about the consequences afterwards! As my new novel GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS comes out, I’ve been thinking over the ramifications of handling immortal characters in my books.
In my Aetherial Tales series – Elfland, Midsummer Night and Grail of the Summer Stars – I have a race of beings (a bit like elves, but really not) who are effectively immortal. Actually they describe themselves as “semi-mortal” because things can… happen to them. More of that later. Likewise, in my Blood Wine series of gothic vampire romances (A Taste of Blood Wine, Titan Books), my vampires apparently remain young and beautiful indefinitely. However, like the Aetherials, they can’t know what the future holds.
Writing characters who don’t die seems an awe-inspiring idea, but it comes with a mass of logistical problems. My feelings are mixed. In part, it’s a kind of wish-fulfillment – society and the media fixate on the young and lovely, and that’s understandable. They are attractive, dewy and full of energy and promise, often experiencing things for the first time. The young become “the norm” in film and TV, while anyone with a few wrinkles may appear out of place, past it. Who hasn’t gone through a phase of thinking it would be wonderful to stay young and live forever? I think my imagination was affected in youth by the image of Tolkien’s elves and other supernatural creatures who go on eternally in a state of dream-like beauty. So yes… I can’t resist playing with characters who are more than mortal.
At the same time, another part of me wants to face the harsh reality that we grow old and perish. In Midsummer Night, I have Juliana Flagg, a sixty-something grande dame who is still at the height of her powers, conscious that she’s ageing, yet determined to carry on as long as possible, remarking that when her time comes, they will have to fell her like a tree and lash her to the back of a truck. In Grail, my female protagonist Stevie confronts the decline of her foster-grandma, so she is very conscious of death – particularly as her own origins are a mysterious, frightening muddle, and this old lady is the only human who’s ever cared for her. Later, Stevie will meet Rufus – a charming, unmitigated rogue who’s been driven slightly crazy by the fact that he’s been alive for at least thirty thousand years.
That’s a long time – but still not forever. What kind of consciousness could go on for billions of years? Even if you believe in God, you might have a hard time imagining what it would be like. So, a writer has to find ways to work around the idea. If my characters are going to enjoy a greatly extended existence of great health, beauty, sex and adventure, there must be a price to pay.
For my Aetherials, part of the price is terrifying uncertainty. They can die and be reborn, or hibernate in “elemental” form – like a dryad haunting a tree – but they never know what kind of existence they’ll be returning to. Stevie meets Rufus’s brother, Mistangamesh, who has been through horrors that include the destruction of an ancient Aetherial city, and being murdered. In fact he has fought to “stay dead” in order to escape Rufus, only to find himself alive again (see Midsummer Night) as a human called Adam.
“What does it mean to be alive, or reborn?” Mist asks Stevie. “When I was elemental, I was conscious, but I had no thoughts or emotions. When I was Adam, I wasn’t myself. I was him, and he’s still part of me, but he’s not me. All that connects us is memory… Please don’t think that death means nothing to us. Being violently evicted from your body is never fun… Humans find eternal rest, or perhaps a timeless afterlife as some believe. But we never know what’s next, who or what we’ll be, if we’ll forget bliss or remember pain…”
He says a lot more. But – if you’re killed in the middle of a love affair, or an important mission, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever find your lover again, or find your way back to the crucial point you’d reached in your quest. Or even remember who you are. Worse, you might remember things you’d rather forget! So – I conclude that being (almost) immortal is not for the faint-hearted.
Well, I finally worked out a system to make immortality “work”, both for my Aetherials in Grail, and for my vampires in the Blood Wine series. There is horror and fear, wonder and uncertainty. But if you want to find out the answers… go on, read the books!
Keep up with Freda: Website
About THE GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS:
The climactic concluding novel in the spellbinding magical contemporary fantasy Aetherial Tales trilogy
A painting, depicting haunting scenes of a ruined palace and a scarlet-haired goddess in front of a fiery city, arrives unheralded in an art gallery with a cryptic note saying, “The world needs to see this.” The painting begins to change the lives of the woman who is the gallery’s curator and that of an ancient man of the fey Aetherial folk who has mysteriously risen from the depths of the ocean. Neither human nor fairy knows how they are connected, but when the painting is stolen, both are compelled to discover the meaning behind the painting and the key it holds to their future.
In Grail of the Summer Stars, a haunting, powerful tale of two worlds and those caught between, Freda Warrington weaves an exciting story of suspense, adventure and danger that fulfills the promise of the Aetherial Tales as only she can.
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS by Freda Warrington to 1 winner
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. You must enter on or before 5/18/13
5. Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
6. Please see my Giveaway Policy.