Written by Elizabeth Haydon
In 1993, my fantasy series The Symphony of Ages was conceived, mostly unintentionally, on the hot metal balcony of NOLA, the epic restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter, during the American Library Association conference. The concept for the series came into existence in the sweltering heat with the help of an old editorial friend and way too much Dixie Blackened Voodoo, a clear black local beer which left me far worse for the wear the next morning, even though I had only imbibed about two fingers of it (I lost count of his full-glass intake at nine).
My seventy-five-year-old friend, who was preparing to collect for a new SF/F line, and I discussed what we thought would make for a good fantasy world. Tolkein began with language, and both of us had backgrounds in linguistics, so we discussed that aspect, but also talked about my friend’s doctoral-level expertise in history. In addition to other elements we chatted about, including our shared interests in herbalism, archaeology, medieval music, anthropology and String Theory of Physics, he suggested that a complete world view was important—if someone was going to write a fantasy series, s/he should know the origins of the universe it was to be set in, and that universe’s history, from birth to death.
So a few years later, after he had passed away, when I began work on The Symphony of Ages, before I wrote any text, I made an outline of my new universe, from its birth to its death, and the major events in each of the seven eras of history. The first arc of the story began for a few moments in the Third Age, known as The Death of Magic, then moved quickly to the Sixth Age, Twilight.
Which is now about to end.
As I write this, I have finished the second trilogy in the series, The War of the Known World, which was the last topic discussed at NOLA that night—what would have happened in WWII if the Allies and the Axis powers had the opposite geographic positions—the aggressors ringing a land-locked defensive Alliance? It’s a trilogy that had been started at a time in my own life when tragic events were occurring unceasingly, a trend which seems to have abated [knock wood] and, now that my own situation has improved, I have reached the time to bring this series arc to an end.
The death of a major era of the world I have loved was an easy thing to envision before I began writing any of it. The process of historical planning is a somewhat brutal one. Nations are born in hope and die in despair or surprise, but there is new life on the other side, as long as the rules established at the beginning still make sense.
That era, in my original plan, is called The Age of the Wyrm. The last book is Dirge.
What I’ve learned in doing this is that it is a blessing for an author to be in this place, to get to finish a big piece of a part of the world, to let some of my favorite characters go ‘into the West,’ even though I will miss them.
Back to work now.
From the Tor/Forge June 2nd newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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