I’ve been corresponding with an old friend recently, now living in Japan, and we’ve been sharing our respective books with each other. He is an extraordinarily talented writer with a penchant for the macabre and, dare I say it, nihilism. He brilliantly deconstructs our humanity, creating a strong sense of unease…which then grows into horror…then sublimes into a very primal fear. In the end, his book makes the case for the meaninglessness of all the trappings of civilized life.
Really, it’s a helluva read. But personally, as a writer, I can’t go there.
I’ve always been sunnier than my friend. And since becoming a parent almost eight years ago, I’ve felt the need to hold on even tighter to a sense of hope for the world. I know that people can be godawful to each other, and often are. I know that honest-to-God evil exists — just look at the evening news. But for my kid’s sake, I have to hope for a brighter future, not a darker one.
Spacebuckler is unapologetically hero-centric. Flawed heroes, sure. Mistake-prone, angry, utterly fallible. They’re complex and conflicted, and they wrestle with questions of morality and ethics just like any of us, albeit on a larger scale. But in the end they are heroes, not anti-heroes or mere protagonists. They’re normal people in extraordinary circumstances who ultimately hunker down and get it done because they believe in what they’re doing. Yes, there’s darkness. But there’s also light.
My friend astutely pointed out the parallels to Joseph Campbell in Spacebuckler, which was no accident. Myths aren’t just stories. They serve a purpose in showing the reader (or listener, back in the day) what made the good guys…good. They go through the crucible and come out the other side having done something important and positive. Sure, they may not come out 100% intact. Some might not come out at all. But there’s meaning to what they did.
I’ll leave the deconstruction of humanity and morality to my friend. It’s what he does best — and that’s a real compliment, I promise. I enjoyed his book immensely, and I hope everyone reading this will one day get the chance to read it as well. But for me, I need a hero.
Cue the music!