Echoes from Amalcross: Andrew Greene Q&A, the Salavaster Creation Myth
The Dance of Night and Day that gave birth to the world…
One of the great pleasures of this project has been getting to meet so many people — writers, artists and readers alike. We recently had the opportunity to gather in person in Brooklyn for a few drinks and tater tots with some of our new paid subscribers, as well as our fantastic writers. It feels like a community is beginning to spring forth around Ballads of the Distant Reaches. Not only is it good to feel this sense of connection, but also, in talking with our readers, we were able to learn more about what they love and what they want more of.
Strikingly, one reader (a national political journalist) noted that what he has enjoyed most so far has been how many of our characters have faced challenges and adversity that are an outgrowth of bureaucratic or economic circumstances. Indeed, the pressures created by bureaucracy and economics were two of our core interests in building this world, and many of our writers have gravitated to them as rich topics as well.
Our most recent story, Andrew Sanford’s How to Raze a Family, connects the two in its exploration of debt, family, lies, and ambition. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do so immediately. It’s a story that, while very much a part of the Distant Reaches, feels like it could have taken place just yesterday.
Likewise, Andrew Greene’s Wash Away the Plague — a tale of science, corruption and epidemic — could have easily taken place in New York City or Los Angeles. The struggles of the characters are recognizable and familiar, although their circumstances may be different from our own. Stories like these are what give fantasy its power. We hope you agree.
— Benjamin Reeves
Recently published on DistantReaches.com:
Issue VII: “How to Raze a Family,” by Andrew Sanford
Secrets of Amal: “On the Greatness of Great Houses”
Secrets of Amal: Undated Correspondence from Executor of the Imperial Catechism Carice ‘ja Tordren
Issue VI: “Wash Away the Plague,” by Andrew Greene
Media: My Views Are My Own
Doug McDonald’s My Views Are My Own podcast is dedicated to culture, comedy, adventure, and the interviewing of “smart people, funny people, creative people, and other types of people.” Creator/co-editor Benjamin Reeves was one of those people!
Listen to Benjamin’s interview on the podcast here.
Ask the Author: Andrew Greene
Andrew Greene’s story, Wash Away the Plague, is a thrilling and heartfelt journey into the bureaucracy — and sewers — of Amalcross. He hosts The Naked Man podcast and publishes his own newsletter, Wanderings. Creator/co-editor Benjamin Reeves spoke with Andrew about his inspiration for the story, his love for underdogs, and his fantastical relationship with sports.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Benjamin Reeves: What inspired this story?
When I was asked what I was interested in exploring, the Blue Plague stood out, maybe because we’re in a plague ourselves. The reconstruction from the Great Quake and the arrival of the Blue Plague felt like really interesting timing to me, and they were obviously connected because in the lore it was the wood [for rebuilding the city] that had brought the mosquitos. I just love the idea of rebuilding bringing the plague. In my mind, I was seeing a political state where rebuilding had probably screwed over the poor in Pauper’s Notch. Let’s go into this more impoverished neighborhood, and this is definitely an underdog story.
I love a good underdog story.
Growing up, I had this mentality of always loving losing teams. Also I love the idea of just going into the sewers.
Your story felt a bit like if someone had written Chinatown, but set in the Distant Reaches.
In terms of a short story, it was hard to completely have this really big, investigative thing and more of the seedy bureaucracy in there. But my hope was that we would know that this town makes it hard to help the town. That’s what the world is. It’s so frustrating to me on a daily basis that, like, the infrastructure is there to prevent us from helping.
It feels really relevant to the world we’re living in right now.
I was like, let’s get magic in there. Let’s get all these different things. But yeah, it became more about bureaucracy and science.
We’re really interested — throughout this project — in the tension between industry and magic and technology in an early industrial world, and you really went with that.
It feels sort of timeless, and that’s a cool place to be. You know, this industrial period can be anything. So, what are roads like? Do they have road signs or is it that just me assuming it’s the same as our world? So I was catching myself and remembering, okay, we can break every rule here.
What were the biggest influences on your writing?
I think my first fantasy series was Redwall by Brian Jacques. I still remember the feasts: Thirteen pages talking about the berries and the nuts and these mice. And the battles were so intense. It was basically kid Game of Thrones, but with animals. And animals are the coolest thing. There were badger warriors!
I remember the badgers vividly.
Badgers were always very badass, right? The idea of a badger fighting a mouse is like, I mean, there’s something ridiculous about that, but also really cool. The underdog moment of a mouse actually, maybe winning. It was such a sprawling epic in my mind. And later on, in high school or college, there’s this book called The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach that I really loved. It just really resonated, like the failures of playing sports and the anxiety. That was me, for sure.
I just watched the Mets get brutally destroyed by the Padres. And you’re a Seattle fan. Are you watching the Mariners?
Yeah, I wrote a piece in my newsletter about how I haven’t seen them play in the postseason since I was thirteen years old, basically when I was reading the books I’m telling you about. As a fan of the Mets, I’m sure you can commiserate.
I don’t want to be the mouse fighting the badger, but this postseason is a real underdog story for sure.
Yes. And it’s weird how that really inspires me. It’s a very, sort of, guy thing to put yourself into a sports scenario. But I’ve been thinking a lot about how that is in some ways one of the few places where men can experience joy and show joy and where I can be emotional or translate my dreams onto what’s happening. I think the best times in my life have happened when sports team I follow are doing the best. I don’t want that to be the case. It seems like a codependent relationship, but it’s true. When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, that was one of my more formative years. It was the second year after I moved to LA, and I feel like I rebooted my life and started saying “yes” to things I never would.
There’s a fanciful connection to sports sometimes. When the Mets lost on Friday, it rained for a moment right after the final out, and it was like all of New York was weeping. The city was crying.
There is magical thinking in sports. And you can believe, especially — well, I don’t know if Yankees fans believe.
They’re a bit soulless. They’re like wraiths.
Yeah, I don’t know if they have the same sort of fantasy elements, although maybe there’s this tall-tale mythology. Aaron Judge is another version of Paul Bunyan. There’s something there that would be their fantasy. Where it’s just these legends. But I don’t feel like Yankees fans can ever feel like questioning whether they will lose or have hopelessness. I don’t now if that’s in their lexicon.
Readers’ Choice: Blue Siwaar’s House of Rarities
A reading of the Salavaster creation myth.
Hello and greetings, human one!
Welcome back to my shop. Your return is a true compliment. Please, browse my wares. Do you seek another map? I have an antique map of Sunset Valley, marked with Jermaine ‘ja Gedworth’s exploration notes. I also have brand new varietals of diffwrych spice for prices you will find nowhere else.
Ah, I see where your eye draws. That is a collection of Salavaster creation myths, in translation to the human tongue. Very different from your own theogony. And your language does lose much of the resplendent… “nuance” is the word, yes? But fascinating, nonetheless. Shall I read you a passage?
This is the story of A’qulmu and Umluq’a.
First there was only A’qulmu, the Night. But A’qulmu grew bored. So from itself it hatched the Day and called it “Umluq’a,” because Day revealed the colors hidden to Night.
But in Umluq’a’s shine A’qulmu knew its grandchildren, the Shadows, resided. Try as it might, A’qulmu could never see them. Jealous of Umluq’a’s boon, A’qulmu banished Umluq’a, and the world returned to darkness.
A’qulmu cried out for its grandchildren, but away from Umluq’a the Shadows died. A’qulmu grew despondent and lonely. It wept, and its tears became the stars.
Umluq’a heard A’qulmu’s sadness and proposed a deal: They could share the world, so the Shadows could be reborn each cycle, and A’qulmu could be there to celebrate their birth in the dawn and comfort them at dusk.
A’qulmu agreed, and now the world is shared by light and dark.
A touching story. Were it not for A’qulmu and Umluq’a, no Salavaster could hatch. Now, what price do you offer for purchase?
I am sorry. You cannot afford the book. You may return to admire it as often as you wish.
Until it is sold, of course.
I hope to see you again. Good-day to you.