Copyright 2012 by Paula S. Jordan
“Any sufficiently advanced mortal being will appear as a god to lesser mortals.”
I propose this corollary to Clarke’s Law* on the basis of two stunningly good recent reads. Both The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish and Secrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker achieve fantasy of extraordinary richness and power through the presence of god-like mortal or mortal-born beings both as characters and as influences on the lives of the books’ ordinary folk.
Secrets of the Sands, set in part among the subtly beautiful hues and contours of a great desert, features a human culture in the Arabian tradition. Unknown to most of them, their world is also home to remnants of a highly advanced alien species. These beings interact in ways both veiled and direct with select desert-dwelling families and an unknown number of gifted alien-human offspring.
The Shadow of the Sun features magic-using Irish/Celtic/Druid human and faery cultures reaching far back into their world’s antiquity. Most if not all their gods are exceptionally gifted magicians whose capabilities have allowed them to achieve surpassing power and immortality.
Such beings would seem to violate a fundamental tenet of good fantasy, that magic must have limits, that power sufficient to resolve any conflict would destroy the story. But in these books it is the presence and power of the gods that generate the conflict: the power struggles between old (false?) and new (true?) gods, or the unintended or careless consequences of their actions, that can severely impact the lives of mere mortals through conflicting belief systems, religious/political intrigues, or devastating wars.
But there is wonder, too, in the presence of gods. The exceptional pleasure in these books lies not only in the well crafted plots and storytelling skills of the authors, but also in the quality, the intensity of the vicarious fantastical experience they provide through brief, tantalizing encounters with godlike power. As when the POV wizard in Shadow of the Sun eavesdrops on the breathtaking beauty of a god’s transcendent view of reality.
Both these splendid books, plus their sequels both present and in the works, are the products of Mercury Retrograde Press, publishers of fantasy, science fiction, and interstitial works. www.MercuryRetrogradePress.com.
* “Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic to the uninitiated.” Arthur C. Clarke.