The more astute amongst you may have noticed that so far I’ve told you about a short story I wrote, and a TV series I wrote, but not so much about the pentalogy of books I’m writing. They were born in my doctorate.
See, the way a creative arts doctorate works at Curtin is that you explore your research topic through a classical exegesis and through a creative form, the two of which are meant to work together and inform one another. In my case that meant that the book and the essay ought to reflect one another thematically, that reading both would increase your understanding of the subject matter, improve and broaden your way of thinking about in a way beyond what could be achieved by just one or the other.
And the basic idea behind this piece of ridiculousness I’d shoved in a drawer was kind of perfect for exploring the kind of ideas I wanted to look at. But what I had at that point was a ridiculous melodrama with a world that had potential and characters I wasn’t using. And what I needed was a novel.
I could have just format-shifted and gone from there, I suppose. But I didn’t want to write a novel-length melodrama. The very idea of trying to maintain that level of manic enthusiasm for that lack is tiring. (Besides melodrama doesn’t have the same potential to emotional gut you. And I like doing that…) So I decided to rewrite it from scratch to see if I could make it something you could care about.
In the end there are only two scenes that existed in the series that also exist in the book; the characters have morphed, split and evolved; the heroes aren’t even the same people; and the story they wove around themselves is a long way from the place it started out. But the core of it is the same.
Because the dream and the story and the joke all started with the same basic idea — this concept of traditional characters who weren’t quite who you thought they were going to be. What if this character who looks like a traditional fantasy hero isn’t? What if the monster isn’t a bad guy? What if the hero becomes a monster?
My thesis was about exploring the self and the other and how we form our identities, and about using fiction to challenge the assumptions we make about ourselves and about others. And while it’s in there, the book isn’t really about that. Neither was the TV series or the short story.
If I want to I can say the whole thing goes back to a joke, a dream, and a what the hell decision to do something I hate, just this once. I can say the story was about a flirtatious dragon-slayer and the series about a group of boys who couldn’t ride a horse, couldn’t light a fire, and had a tendency to get into fights. And all of that is true. But they’re also about something else. They share the same underlying theme, attempt to answer the same questions.
The Path of the Monster is about loyalty and choice. About trolls, and dragons, and unexpected magic and fighting with swords. It’s about taking responsibility for a larger world. About running away and drinking and really awful plans. And it’s about the things we’re willing to do for the people we probably shouldn’t love. But it’s also about the difference between heroes and monsters and wondering if the line between the two really exists at all.