“War as a moral metaphor is limited, limiting, and dangerous. By reducing the choices of action to “a war against” whatever-it-is, you divide the world into Me or Us (good) and Them or It (bad) and reduce the ethical complexity and moral richness of our life to yes/no, on/off.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
In the last couple of years, nothing has resonated with me more than this quote by one of the greatest writers of our time. For years, when I wrote my stories, when I plotted them, it was always with a good vs. evil plot (hell, The Forger still follows that). I always liked the idea of dark against light, it vs. them, and so on.
And then I read The Wizard of Earthsea and the afterword that Le Guinn had written. It opened my eyes to a whole slew of story possibilities and made me realize that the vast majority of my work followed the same “war against” structure. That’s something embedded in fantasy and science fiction, and there are many fantastic stories. But Earthsea and Le Guin’s own view on “the war against” helped me to shift my perspective; it challenged me to think outside the box.
Thus, The Walker and the Doe was born. It’s a novelette (possibly a novella) that I’m currently writing and extremely excited about. It’s the first story I’ve written where there is no war to be fought. Instead, it deals with the character’s reservations about the task he is given—taking a doe to a shrine to be sacrificed to the gods of his people. And for what? A good season’s hunt.
My story focuses on the morality of sacrificial offerings, the guilt that Révin (my protagonist) harbors as he makes the month-long journey toward the shrine. I wanted a reluctant “hero” with whom I could sympathize, and I think I’ve created that.
Earthsea and Le Guin helped me create that.
I am grateful.