This post follows a writing-group discussion about stories with several parallel protagonists. Epic fantasy examples were easy; then we wondered about other genres.
I found a few on my bookshelf, someone asked for a list, and somehow I’ve ended up writing an analysis. This took longer than I planned, so I’ve only covered a couple of examples for now:
I’ve just finished reading Floating Worlds, by Cecilia Holland. The novel follows an anarchist, Paula Mendoza, negotiating a peace treaty with what are basically “space orcs”.
There were a few things that really impressed me about this book.
Tall stands the hall of the heroes high
Lights tower bright against the sky
in a mason’s hand
Loud the trumpets, proud the bells
Each from its tower a tale tells
and are no more
Rich the sculptures, gold and gems
Raised in praise by wealthy men
Tell of deeds that
shall not fade.
Deep foundations keep concealed
Shrines the heroes lived to build
we fought to slay”
A shot glass, half empty.
Emerald green liquid glints, in
A stopped gold watch.
Here were the towers tall, their burnished domes
Brazed mirror-bright against the wild horde.
Here we learned strength. Faced fire, trial, and woes,
Wrought wonders, and the grave was our reward.
But what a grave! A temple to the few,
With golden statues to each lost, last stand.
Our legends glorious, or tales true
Inscribed on every stone eternal stand.
Still, we its wardens take today our leave.
The war has shifted. Now strategic plans,
Too grand for blooded blades, demand we grieve.
Our fort, unconquered, falls to lesser hands.
So raze the glories! Snuff the burnished glow!
From gilded rubble nightmares, now we go.
Once there were daisies and butterflies.
Goldfish glowed in the stream.
Now there are soldiers,
Bases and rations,
Wheat, and nothing else green.
Peace is the talk of the table.
“Peace” is the word on the signs.
Councils of protest;
A march, a petition.
A child, left home: “Stay behind!”
Whispers of horror.
The months become years.
Still no sign.
A letter, unopened.
“One day, when you’re older.”
Sneaking out with a torch, to know why.
Once there were roses to dream of.
Trysts on the grass, by the stream.
Now, there are letters,
Lawyers, and archives.
Now there are things to achieve.
Knight in the image of knighthood,
Sword of the peaceful and poor.
Light to the lowly,
Shield of the suffering,
Life, laid down for the law.
Hero of tales at bed-time?
Faith, given flesh in the square!
Voice of our virtues,
Check to our passions,
Champion, in our despair.
Friend to our face — to the faceless.
Ally, above and below.
Grace of recovery,
Great, yet fated to go.
It seems the duty of a poet, now
To set in solemn phrases, words of weight:
Discourse on love — or oftener, on hate —
But always with a high and furrowed brow.
It seems the place for poets nowadays
Is either in the gallery, or pub:
The one, too fine for tainted mortal taste;
The other only fit for sweat and mud.
Our gift, too grave for light and lying tongues,
Too ancient for the fashions of today,
We’ll leave to more aesthetic lips and lungs:
Re-gift our hymns to souls that lift away.
Don’t think of those who fall! That sinful sound?
The fruit of labours profane, not profound.
The reed stands tall,
Smokes a last cigar, then
Bends before the flood.
A belated response to Monday’s Daily Prompt
Upon your friends list, leave an empty line
In memory of the voices stuck on mute,
Whose cause the imp and angel both malign —
Yet neither knows — yet neither needs refute.
Once statesmen spoke, and papers spread their words
To frame, in every soul, a fixed debate.
Now headless feeds writhe into forms absurd,
To mock, appeal, cajole, and obfuscate.
Where once the papers came by ones and twos,
And all the village knew what each decreed,
The screen hides hydra-headed multitudes
Behind a name that swears to every creed
And yet is silent where it matters most.
What choice, what balance, in the screaming host?