Saturday, August 22, 2015

Guest Post: Yordan Zhelyazkov

Escapism – A heavenly pill or an ordinary drug?

Well, a heavenly pill, of course – we’re in website about books after all, so what else could it be? Oh, wait – I think I should first explain a bit further what I’m talking about.
As a reader and writer of fantasy literature I’ve heard one thing quite often and I’m sure many of you have heard it too – “Reading fantasy is just a pathetic escapism for people who can’t deal with their own lives”.
Escapism? Yes. Those other things you just said? Sorry but, no.
Escapism as a whole has quite a bad reputation. It’s viewed as something that just people who can’t get their lives in order do so they can feel better for at least a while. We’ve seen and read countless sci-fi movies and books on the matter – a dystopian future where most of the population (particularly the young generations, which is silly because it is way in the future and all generations should be doing it) spends their entire lives in a virtual reality, while the world and the society crumble around them.
And there’s a grain of truth in this – there are people today who spend most of their time in front of the gaming monitor or the TV set or between towers of books and prefer to live lives that are not their own. However, saying that all escapism is bad because some loose themselves into such things is a gross overgeneralization, similar to any form of racism, sexism or telling me that because your neighbor’s cat is smelly, then mine’s surely smelly too, even though you’ve never seen it yourself (the worst kind of overgeneralization!).
And from people’s tendency for overgeneralization, we jump right to their often staggering inability to … well, generalize. Because, yes, fantasy (and some other-worldly sci-fi) literature provides escapism on a level that most other literature can’t reach. Much like video games, fantasy novels don’t just let you live someone else’s life – they let you live in someone else’s universe and reality. But still, it’s not just fantasy literature that provides escapism. I said about video games, movies and TV, but it’s far more than that – every form of entertainment is nothing more than escapism. Listening to/playing music, watching/playing sports, aimless browsing, going out, playing with your pet, cooking (for those that love cooking (something way beyond my comprehension (sorry))), etc, etc. Heck, even work is escapism if you’re a workaholic. And let’s not talk about drugs (even though I kind of put those in the title …).
If you think about it – even sleep is escapism. It’s your mind going “To hell with all this, I can’t take it anymore – I need to plug off for a while.” And here’s the thing – once your mind gets its craving for escapism satisfied (and after 2-3 coffees in the morning) it is once again on 100% and ready to rock! And that’s exactly what any other form of escapism does too. When I say “Pff, I can’t tackle this shi – err, “problem” – anymore, I’m going to read a couple chapters of X novel” I’m not “running away from my responsibilities” or “hiding from my hateful life” – I’m just taking a break. And much like with sleep, once I’ve had my break, I’m up and running again.
Also – you know those moments in movies when the main character’s been struggling with one problem for 60-90 minutes and then in a simple conversation on an unrelated subject he just “Gets it” (The one that’s on everyone’s “Top 3 movie clichés” list)? That’s escapism for ya – getting away from the problem and thus figuring it out. And that’s exactly what makes fantasy literature not just escapism, but the best of them all – by getting away not just from your life, but from your reality as well, you can see things that you couldn’t see before. Say someone is a racist – giving him a historical novel about a racism-based conflict near him is unlikely to do anything to his mindset because he’ll just think “those brown/red/yellow/white/black bastards!!” and move on. Giving him a fantasy novel about a (well-written) racism-based conflict between … “Annars” and “Tasals” for example has a much higher chance to invoke a “wait a minute” type of thought – a thought that happens way too rarely when you’re “in” your life and don’t step away from it every once and while.
Plus, in fantasy there be dragons. And elfs, dwarves and orcs. So there’s that too.


Book description:

A character-driven fantasy novel, exploring the theme of loss and how we try to deal with it even when there is no way to do so.

Korsak Dryshore, a middle-aged war veteran, is being held directly responsible for the invasion of his home town of Seten. Everyone in Seten, including his family, blames him for losing the last ditch defense against the aggressors. Utterly defeated, and mourning the loss of his eldest son in the conflict, he has spent the last months following the battle away from home. Upon his return, he has to confront the animosity of the populace, made even worse by his bringing a heathen girl back with him.

Beaten, downcast and in despair, he is resigned to merely spending the remainder of his days in meek quietude. That would prove impossible, however, as he's soon implicated in an escalating political and religious conflict within the city. To make matters worse, his youngest son and the foreign girl are dragged deep into the whirlwind of the crisis.

And in the meantime, They are about to set over Seten."

While a standalone, “When They Shine Brightest” is also a first book in a new and vast fantasy world and gives the start of events that are yet to reach all of its corners.

Author’s bio

Yordan Zhelyazkov was born 1988 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Actively reading since he was 4 years old, he fell in love with fantasy and sci-fi later, in school, when he started going to the city library by himself. That love didn’t let him go and he had several attempts at writing while growing up, including game-books, short stories and even an encyclopedia. All of those were, of course, fiascos.

That changed in his early 20s when he decided to turn writing into a career, began his Creative Writing Masters degree in New Bulgarian University and also started working on his fantasy novel, “When They Shine Brightest”.

Soon after he finished his work on the novel, he signed a contract for its publication with publishing house "Enthusiast" in Bulgaria. In the meantime he also gave the book for translation into English to professional translator Alexander Gurovski and made a successful IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign with which he funded the enterprise. The book also went through intensive editing by the likes of famous Bulgarian SFF writer Luben Dilov-juniour and award-winner Tia Bach. “When They Shine Brightest” will be published in Bulgaria in October, 2015 and self-published in English on August 17, 2015.

At the moment Yordan is working on his next fantasy novel.


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