Megan Lindholm: The City Primeval

There are many factors for writing a dream. With Wizard, I felt there was an unacknowledged tank of power and strength in the veterans I was seeing on the street. Damaged and baffled, but somehow progressing. I desired to discuss that. And, in many ways, my dream fulfillment was to try to write an ending for among them that acknowledged that core of strength. I wrote my story of the City Primeval, and those who wielded the power to both secure that city, and to save their own lives.

Seeing young guys in worn fatigue coats intoxicated in the park in mid-morning or huddled, back to a dumpster, in a street as evening came on made me wonder. There were also minutes of seeing a couple of them sharing a cigarette on a park bench. Moments that revealed me that in some ways, they were moving in circles that I would never be able to gain access to, forming alliances and moving forwards in ways I would never see.

Why, yes. Yes, I do know what primeval means. Ancient. Original. Prehistoric.

And not an ancient, forgotten city, but a modern-day one. Cities have actually constantly defied me; my sense of direction fails me when I can not see the sun or moon. And a huge city, where the foot traffic remains dynamic all night?

It is an outright pleasure to host a guest post by one of my favorite authors– Megan Lindholm (who you might have checked out as Robin Hobb), who is here to talk about the story of the City Primeval– and the 35th anniversary of her book, Wizard of the Pigeons.

***

There is a natural law that Ive never ever seen broken. Check out a huge city bus station, or park outside a homeless warming shelter, or a soup cooking area. You will not need binoculars to see them.

I wrote Wizard of the Pigeons over 35 years back. Seattle was the first big city that I visited on a routine basis. To me, it felt even more dangerous than the forests I had understood. The Seattle Freeze, the idea that Seattleites are normally stand chilly and offish toward newcomers was in proof. The growing homeless population that now shelters in our parks and means and street corners with their little dome camping tents and blue tarps was not apparent then. It was starting. The signs existed: the sleeping bags that were tucked up under the scant concrete shelter of an overpass, the guys sleeping on the park benches during the day when it was much safer to be unconscious in a public location. I saw a scattering of beggars on street corners with their softening cardboard indications. It was a time when Vietnam veterans were still badly dealt with, and there were much of them among the street individuals of that age.

A huge city is the location where our most ancient predators prevail. We are stalked by the animal that have constantly represented the biggest risk to anybody: our fellow people. And unlike a cougar or a skunk or a snake, the motive for attack can be completely incomprehensible. In the forest, one does not fear rape or break-in or harassment. But in a city?

In fantasy, there are various primeval cities, ones constructed so long ago that everyone has actually forgotten them. A rediscovered city is one of the tropes of our genre, the ideal setting for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, or a tale of awakening old magic, or a Leiber or Howard yarn of Swords and Sorcery.

Have you ever been in an unknown forest, with night beginning, unpredictable of which instructions will lead you back to your camp or a well-marked path? You may question what else is out there with you, and you will listen, and strain your eyes to translucent the darkness, fearing that you have messed up into the area of an unknown predator, something that operates on rules that you can not understand. Something that sees you only as victim.

For me, the primeval predators and their ancient hazards to humans are what make contemporary urban dream so attractive. That piece of the dream category acknowledges what all of us know on a gut level. The creatures that preyed on us through middle ages times are still with us.

So how can a city be any of those things? A city is built by humans, numerous humans, and it takes years of habitation before it can be called a city. Even if its deserted and falls into mess up, even if the jungle or sands surpass it, or later on generations rob it of its memorials, and haul away its bricks and stonework to be used somewhere else, it still cant be primeval, can it?

Wizard of the Pigeons, 35th Anniversary Illustrated Edition: Bookshop

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A city is built by people, many human beings, and it takes years of habitation before it can be called a city. In fantasy, there are many primeval cities, ones built so long ago that everybody has actually forgotten them. And not an ancient, forgotten city, but a modern-day one. Cities have always defied me; my sense of direction fails me when I can not see the sun or moon. I composed my story of the City Primeval, and those who wielded the power to both protect that city, and to save their own lives.

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