Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Hubris and Its Wages

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Hubris and Its Wages

I put the last of the hand-annotated copies of Soulwoven for domestic Founder's Circle backers in the mail today. Still a few more copies to go overall, but for the most part, the mad sprint around the book's launch is now over, and I've got a few thoughts to share on hubris.

One of the wonderful things about creating these hand-annotated copies was that doing so let me go over the book again and again and again, moving through it at a pretty good clip and picking out themes and relationships between scenes and characters and chapters that I hadn't put in there consciously (there were also things I did put in there consciously, and I saw those too, but they were less interesting to me because I expected them).

In several copies, I found myself making the following note, or one very much like it:

A lot of the stories in the book are about hubris and its consequences.

This is quite true. Quay, the prince who leads his friends out of their homes without fully understanding his own limitations, is a lesson in hubris. Len, the Aleani who's spent his life hunting a necromancer and who continues that hunt in the face of everyone important in his life telling him to abandon it, is another. Leramis gets his own brief, painful lesson partway through the book.

I got my own lesson in hubris with these hand-annotated copies. I knew I could do them. But I'd never done them before, and in light of that, I probably ought to have set my sights a little lower than 26 copies for my first go. Today was the first day in about a month that I haven't had to spend three or four hours after work making one of those copies. I laughed aloud when five o'clock rolled around and I set down my normal work for the day, because I realized I felt like I was on vacation because I didn't have any work to do tonight.

I don't want to make it sound like I didn't enjoy making these books; I did. They're works of art (their quality is up for debate, but they're art nonetheless) in and of themselves, and each one's unique. I did about as many line drawings in the last month as I have in the rest of my life combined, and some of them turned out really beautifully. There's a depiction of the gull's feather in chapter 41 in someone's book that's among the best visual art I've ever made. I got to know the story I told more intimately as well; I realized that Dil's decisions shape the narrative perhaps more than any other character's and that hers is the only full hero's journey in the book, and I absolutely love that.

But I also got a lesson in my limitations while working on a book in which several characters receive painful lessons in their limitations. There's a certain irony in that that doesn't escape me.

Writer, beware thyself.

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