Werewolves and Vampires and Peasants, Oh My!
Werewolves and Vampires and Peasants, Oh My!
By Edward Willett
Writers shape words in order to shape worlds—worlds that may bear a resemblance to our own, or may not, because words are the most amazing, malleable building material imaginable, one that allows you to create things that have never existed and can never exist in the real world . . .
. . . things like werewolves and vampires.
It’s generally fortunate for us authors that we are not forced to live in the worlds we shape with our words. Most of mine have been dystopian to a greater or lesser degree, and the things I put my characters through can be pretty . . . okay, very . . . unpleasant.
On the other hand, what if authors knew they were shaping worlds that would not only become real but they would then be moving into to live? What kind of worlds might they craft then?
That, in a way, is the premise of my current series for DAW Books, Worldshapers. It posits a Labyrinth of worlds, each shaped by a Shaper from our world, who now lives within it.
My main character, Shawna Keys, Shaped a world very much like our own (albeit with a few differences—for example, in her world, The Da Vinci Code became a Broadway musical starring Hugh Jackman, who did his best in the title role but just couldn’t save the show) and forgot she had done so. She thought her Shaped world was the only world, until a brutal attack she somehow unmade revealed, to her own surprise, her ability to still Shape it.
A mysterious stranger, Karl Yatsar, showed up and explained some of this to her, along with the fact that the leader of the attack, The Adversary, has now stolen from her the key to Shaping her world and will begin to change it around her as he seeks to kill her and cement his control. The Adversary, Karl says, wants to destroy all the Shaped worlds and eventually kill the woman at the Labyrinth’s center, Ygrair, who first opened the Labyrinth a century ago and has been releasing Shapers into it to Shaper their own unique worlds ever since.
Karl tells Shawna he believes she has enough Shaping power to save the Labyrinth by traveling with him from world to world, finding the Shapers of each world, gathering from them the knowledge of the Shaping of their worlds, and transporting it to Ygrair, who will then be able to strengthen the Labyrinth enough to save it from the Adversary.
In the rest of Book 1, Worldshaper, Shawna and Karl must stay one step ahead of The Adversary as he seizes control of every aspect of her world and escape through a Portal into the next world over.
In Book 2, Master of the World, Shawna must navigate a world Shaped by someone with a deep love of Jules Verne, which means it’s a world of strange airships and submarines and floating islands and all the other things of which Verne wrote.
And that brings us to Book 3, The Moonlit World, set in a world where an extra-large full moon hangs motionless in the sky night after night, and a tiny remnant of humanity lives in a single, 150-mile-long valley.
Shawna quickly learns that this world was Shaped by someone with a great fondness for the classic horror tropes of werewolves and vampires. The first castle she and Karl see discharges flying vampires they must flee, only to run headlong into a pack of werewolves. Fortunately, the vampires and werewolves seem to hate each other, and Shawna is able to escape while they battle, although Karl . . .
Well, I don’t want to give too much away.
The Moonlit World was great fun for me to write because, of course, I am the real Shaper of that world, and I’ve long enjoyed tales of vampires and werewolves myself. (And ghost stories. I loved reading collections of ghost stories as a kid.) It was interesting to imagine how you would Shape such a world if you were going to be living within it. After all, you wouldn’t want to be a mere human peasant in a world roamed by creatures of the night; you’d want to be either a vampire or a werewolf. But how could such a society be structured to survive long-term?
It was a challenging worldbuilding exercise for me and also allowed me to play with all the classic elements of horror that werewolves and vampires imply. It was also fun because Shawna is as steeped in pop-culture tropes and geeky pursuits as I am, and shares my sense of humor (funny, that). Shawna has watched all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s read Dracula. She’s seen An American Werewolf in Paris. She is, in short, as steeped in all the variations and iterations of shapeshifting and bloodsucking adventure as readers of this blog.
This means, of course, that she well knows the traditional lore surrounding these creatures—which gets her into trouble, because the other fun thing about writing The Moonlit World was that nothing was set in stone. This world was Shaped by someone who also knew all that stuff and decided what to keep and what to discard to make their world function the way they wanted. The vampires she encounters don’t burst into flames or poof into dust at the touch of sunlight, for instance—they simply become ordinary humans, which makes them feel so vulnerable they hide away during the day all the same.
Throughout The Moonlit World, I stuck in as many jokes and puns and pop-culture references as I could while still keeping the action deadly serious. Despite the generally light tone, Shawna and Karl are in mortal danger (or worse) throughout, and the world itself has fallen from the original Shaping to become a far-less settled place than it was intended to be. There’s a mystery at the heart of the world Shawna and Karl must uncover, and, along the way, Shawna becomes more powerful and, indeed, dangerous.
One of the great things about the Worldshapers series is that it allows me to tell any kind of story, in any kind of world. This novel is my love letter to all the tales of lycanthropes and the undead I’ve enjoyed over the years, in novels, TV shows, and movies.
But despite my overall premise, I have to say . . . The Moonlit World is a nice place to visit, but I really wouldn’t want to live there.
Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages. The Moonlit World, Book 3 in the Worldshapers series, is his eleventh novel published by New York’s DAW Books. He’s currently writing his twelfth, an epic space-opera adventure entitled The Tangled Stars, due out in 2022.
Ed is the host of the Aurora Award-winning podcast The Worldshapers (www.theworldshapers.com), featuring interviews with other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. He recently Kickstarted, edited, and published an anthology, Shapers of Worlds, which features stories by first-year guests of the podcast, many of them international bestselling and award-winning authors. (There’s even a werewolf story in it, by Tanya Huff.) Shapers of Worlds was published by Ed’s own publishing company, Shadowpaw Press (www.shadowpawpress.com), which has also re-issued many of Ed’s older novels.
\Ed lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his wife, daughter, and black Siberian cat, Shadowpaw—and, yes, the publishing company is named after the cat.
Ed’s website is www.edwardwillett.com. He’s on Twitter @ewillett and on Facebook @edward.willett.
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