January 2020 Archives

I watch as little television as I can, and most of it by accident.

Whenever I do catch an eyeful, it usually consists of one of three things: a talking heads news channel, organized sportsball, or a Reality TV show. The first I try to ignore (they're usually triangulated on the tabloid newspapers with added eye candy, then dumbed down: as information sources this century, TV news channels are useless). The sportsball I leave to my spouse (who is prone to lecturing me interminably about Manchester City). But the latter phenomenon—Reality TV—has all the grisly attention-grabbing potential of a flaming school bus careening out of control into a public execution: I basically have to leave the room in a hurry to avoid having my eyeballs sucked right out of my head by the visual media equivalent of internet clickbait. (Luckily, my glimpses into this surreal hell-world are usually transient, a side-effect of my spouse channel-hopping between football matches.)

What makes Reality TV shows so addictive?

In one of my previous guest stints on Charlie's blog, I wrote a post about low thrillers and high thrillers. If you don't want to click through and read the whole thing, here's the Twitter version: high thrillers deal with seats of power and show the inner workings of government agencies/other powerful organizations as they deal with large scale dangers like coups d'etat or bio-terrorism, while low thrillers deal with ordinary citizens facing smaller threats, like professional criminals or a serial killer.

Those distinctions were at the front of my mind when I sat down to write One Man: a City of Fallen Gods Novel. I wanted to try an experiment, to create a fantasy that felt huge, but had very small stakes. No Dark Lord. No invading demon army. No impending magical cataclysm.

I wanted to write a story about a nine-year-old girl who gets kidnapped by gangsters because of something stupid her mother did, and about her neighbor--a man bearing many old scars, not all of them visible--who tries to rescue her. That was it. The stakes are one life, an orphaned little girl in a city full of them. A girl with only one person left in the world who cares what happens to her. But, with magic. A fantasy version of a low thriller.



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