Out of the Waters is the second in the Books of the Elements fantasy series from Tor.
Out of the Waters is set in a fictional city named Carce (pronounced CAR-see). Things occur in this novel and in all The Books of the Elements which did not happen and could not have happened in the historical Rome in 30 ad. This is a fantasy novel, not a historical novel with fantasy elements. I’m trying to keep that fact at the front of readers’ minds by referring to Carce (in homage to The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison, by the way).
That said, I have hewed closely to Roman culture and to events from Roman history in creating the background of the series. The literary works which occur in the series (including the Sibylline Books and The Book of the Dead), and the quotes from them, are real.
The Native American myths which form the core of Out of the Waters are real also. I found the story of Uktena very powerful when I first read it. In reworking the story for my use here, I at last understood why it resonated so strongly with me.
While you should not assume that everything in the series is historical truth–it isn’t–you can be sure that I research the details which go into my fiction. This brings me to another reason for setting The Books of the Elements in Carce, not Rome.
Most educated people have an idea of what Ancient Rome was like. Much of what they think they know is false. I find it distressing to have folks write (and even phone!) me to complain about some “mistake” in my fiction when in fact my statement was correct.
For example, I’ve learned not to refer to Roman shields as being plywood, though in fact they were plywood and archeologists use “plywood” to describe the material from which they were molded. If I say the shields were “laminated wood,” people don’t complain (and I hope that I avoid breaking their suspension of disbelief).
Whereas I could say that the legions of Carce go to war wearing topcoats and tails without anybody claiming I was historically wrong. (They might think I was a complete twit–I would think I was a complete twit if I did something so silly–but that’s a separate matter.)
My purpose in writing is to tell interesting, exciting stories that many people will take pleasure in reading; my role is not to educate readers. I hope, however, that those who read The Books of the Elements will get glimpses of a culture very different from our own–but which is nonetheless one of the major supports on which our culture has been built.
Still, I’ll be satisfied if you tell me that you had a good time reading Out of the Waters. I certainly hope that you do.
Out of the Waters. Books of the Elements Series. 2011, New York, NY: Tor. 400 p. 978-0765320797 (hc). $25.99
Paperback May 2012 ISBN: 978-0765360465