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Gork

4 December 2017

From Bomb:

Alex Gilvarry  How did you go from writing Dear Mr. President, a book of short stories about war veterans, to Gork, the Teenage Dragon, a coming of age love story about a dragon who attends a military academy in outer space?

Gabe Hudson  There’s a tiny shelf of mind-bending writers that I feel a connection with, including Franz Kafka, Lewis Carroll, Philip K. Dick, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut. Their weird imaginative prowess and potent truth-telling feel like they came at great risk to their psychic well-being. For a long time now I’ve felt a calling to produce work in that mode. And I very deliberately set out to do that with Gork.

AG  So why a dragon? And why a dragon in outer space?

GH  I’m drawn to monster myths and my writing is a way to unearth the humanity therein. I’d say that both dragons and Marines have reputations imbued with monster mythology. In the case of the Marines, it’s self-perpetuated, part of the culture. When I was in the Marines, we called ourselves devil-dogs and sang old songs filled with battlefield lore.

In the Western narrative tradition, I’ve long felt there was an accepted bigotry toward dragons. Dragons either play the role of monsters or servant-buddies where they fly around with some dumb human on their back. It’s been the great narrative pile-on. Even all these schmucks talking about how they loved Dungeons & Dragons as kids and how it taught them to “imagine,” were playing a game where dragons literally cannot be a “player character.” What they’re saying is they learned how to band together as a group and decree that this entity who looks different than they do can only be a monster – the killing of which is something to be celebrated. From Gary Gygax, the creator of that game, to J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s this procession of white guys who’ve made a fortune from composing narratives where the red dragon is portrayed as some sort of depraved savage.

So I thought: considering the thousands of dragons that have appeared in western narratives, why has there never once been a tale told from the dragon’s perspective? For one very clear reason: a paucity of empathy. With Gork, I wanted to flip the script. Let the dragons tell their side of the story for once. And lo, it turns out dragons are a great deal more complex and evolved than anyone would’ve ever imagined.

Link to the rest at Bomb

Fantasy/SciFi

20 Comments to “Gork”

  1. Gordon R. Dickson The Dragon and the George came immediately to my mind. There are also several indie writers who do shapeshifting dragons. This dude apparently doesn’t read in the SFF field.

    • Love Dickson’s Dragon books!

      • Hello Fellow Writers and Readers:

        I’m the author quoted in the interview. Thanks for your spirited comments. I hope I might offer some clarification.

        To Anonymous and Stephen Del Mar: I am familiar with Gordon R. Dickson’s The Dragon and The George – though it’s been a minute since I read that book.
        If I’m not mistaken, this book is about a human that shapeshifted into a dragon, yes?

        To me, that still then gives the book a human-centric lens through which the reader experiences that world.

        Also, isn’t that book written in the third-person?

        The point I was trying to make in the interview, and in writing my novel:
        Why are there no novels narrated by a dragon?
        In the first-person, so to speak?
        Exclusively from a dragon’s point of view?
        In my novel, there are no human characters – it is an entire society of dragons.
        The novel is narrated by a dragon named Gork.

        Peace and respect.

        • Do no engage with critics and commentators.

          Especially after calling us schmucks and inferring Gygax and Tolkien were bigoted white guys for including dragons in the monster manual. -Eyeroll-.

        • Dragon-centric narratives are an entire subgenre.

          First person everything is a relatively recent trend, but I assume there are a fair number of those.

          (Now that I think about it, I know there are. Dragon paranormal romance is a thing.)

          Rachel Aaron’s bestselling “Good Dragon” novels are more recent… there’s also Sparrowind, which is about a bookworm dragon. I’m sure I could think of more examples if I were more dragon-mad, but alas, I’m much more up on other monster subgenres.

          And of course, you could hardly call “The Reluctant Dragon” a savage (jokes about taking classics in school are the whole point of the story, which derives from the “dracones reluctantes”, or Chrysophylax of Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham.

          Similarly, Smaug is older, wiser, and more civilized than any dwarf, hobbit, or man in The Hobbit. If anything, Smaug represents ancient, civilized evil, whereas the good guys are bumpkins.

          Which isn’t to say that Gork doesn’t sound both cute and unusual. Just not unprecedented. Everybody is in the story pot, as Tolkien pointed out, and that’s proof that you are part of humanity! 🙂

  2. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series has wonderfully developed dragon characters who are certainly neither monsters nor servants.

    • Miss Cranky Pants

      My first thought as well; what about Temeraire and his fabulous cohorts? Anyone who might think Lien or Isakira exist just to be killed or villified hasn’t realized that that both definitely have their own agendas, which have little to do with the humans nearby :).

      • Hello Fellow Writers and Readers:

        I’m the author quoted in the interview. Thanks for your spirited comments. I hope I might offer some clarification.

        To Kathleen and Miss Cranky Pants: I’m a BIG fan of Naomi Novik’s series.
        But those books are written in the third-person, yes?
        In the interview, I was stating why are there no books narrated exclusively by a dragon?
        In the first-person, so to speak.

        Also, in that series, do you think there are any dragons that are being ridden by humans or doing the bidding of humans against their will?
        Are there any dragons for whom this life of flying a human around or being involved in human affairs would not be their first choice?
        Do the dragons have complete autonomy?
        In the natural world, can we think of any animal that would instinctively prefer a life spent in cahoots with humans, versus a life free of the burdensome needs of humans?

        Framed another way: If a member of another species spent a fair bit of time riding around on your back. And ascribed value to you only to the extent that you participated in and influenced the outcome of events related to that species’ history – would you feel like a servant-buddy?

        Also, are those novels not principally concerned with human affairs, and the events of human history?

        Peace and respect.

  3. As is so common with non-players of the game, this guy gets his facts wrong about D&D–and calls players (his potential readers, by the way) “schmucks” to boot.

    “Even all these schmucks talking about how they loved Dungeons & Dragons as kids and how it taught them to “imagine,” were playing a game where dragons literally cannot be a “player character.” –he says.

    Here’s Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, in the Men and Magic supplement:

    “Other Character Types: There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee (p. 8).”

    Frankly, I’m appalled to see a fellow sci-fi author blathering and insulting readers like this.

    • There are books on dragon PC in 2n edition. They’re at their fifth. 3rd edition had them, too, and I very much doubt they’ve stopped that. I went Pathfinder myself where you can play queer dragons if you so wish.

      Take care

    • Hello Fellow Writer and Reader:

      I’m the author quoted in the interview. Thanks for your spirited comments. I hope I might offer some clarification.

      To David Van Dyke: I have my D&D Monster Manual right here – it is filled with dragons.
      I have my D&D Player’s Handbook right here – there are no dragons cast as players in this book.
      Am I missing something?

      The point I was trying to make is about optics, from a dragon’s perspective.
      If a young dragon wanted to join in a D&D campaign – what conclusion would the dragon come to after examining the materials?
      The dragon would reasonably conclude that it was a monster. That it was a thing to be slaughtered, slain.

      In the history of D&D campaigns, how many dragons have been killed, approximately?
      Versus how many players have opted to take their cue from Gygax’s Men and Magic Supplement and play as a dragon?

      Would you agree that the rhetoric Gygax employs in the Men and Magic supplement belies the fact that a player wishing to be a Dragon is in itself an anomaly?

      Would it be reasonable to say that approximately 95% of all people who’ve have played D&D have participated in or been connected to the killing of a dragon?
      Would it be reasonable to also say that approximately 95% of people who’ve played D&D have NEVER played as a Dragon?

      ALSO: perhaps this is a key part from Gygax’s Men and Magic supplement you quoted: “…steps being predetermined by the campaign referee.”

      If I’m interpreting this correctly – this means that a dragon playing D&D can only advance and evolve in accordance with a human referee?

      So for dragons in D&D, mostly you’re just going to get slaughtered. But every so often you might also get to be a player, but only in accordance with the wishes of a member of the species who has historically celebrated the killing of your kind?

      Again, thanks for your comments. Peace and respect.

      • Wait are you pretending to play D&D or just saying you own the books? Playing nonhumanoid causes game problems, narrative issues when one player is huge and can’t speak.

        And why do you continue to engage with us schmucks? Do you really think this is going to go well?

        Tons of people play non-human characters, and slaughter humans and monsters alike. My first character was a dire wolf. Also Dragonborn are one of the core races you can play, at least in the newest edition (which I haven’t played).

        What are you doing here? Coming in giving everyone a list of questions, thinking the answers are obvious or relevant. I’ve rarely seen an author insult their audience, and even more rarely seen them show up to double down.

        Fascinating.

      • Adding “peace and respect” while doubling down on your inaccuracies doesn’t make for actual peace and respect.

        You said: “…playing a game where dragons literally cannot be a “player character.””

        “Literally.”

        Supposedly you’re an author, by definition a writer and a supposed expert user of language. You claim dragons “literally cannot” be player characters.

        I refuted that lazy, inaccurate statement with one simple published Gygax quote. Tapdancing and trying to move the goalposts doesn’t change your mistake. If you want “peace and respect,” own your error, correct it and move on.

        Doubling down, then, you reveal that you know almost nothing about actual D&D or tabletop roleplaying in general (maybe you think they’re the same as computer RPGs? Nope) by asserting it’s somehow unusual to work with the DM/GM to do something outside the scope of the usual rules?

        Then your reply gets even sillier by suggesting having a human as a referee is, what, an example of human privilege?

        News flash: there’s only humans here, pal. There ain’t no dragons available to ref a game. If your statement had any substance whatsoever, you’d have to accept that you as a human author have no standing to write fiction from a dragon’s perspective. Doing so would constitute cultural appropriation of the worst sort.

        We’re now deep into the Monty Python’s Life of Brian territory, the bit where Stan/Rebecca wants to have babies, a prima facie humorous example of why courts do not hear lawsuits regarding hypotheticals, only about concrete situations.

        When sentient dragons come to walk the Earth, your absurd assertions might make some sense. Let us know when that happens. Until then, dude, just write fiction and entertain those “schmucks.”

        • Lol, David. I was hoping you’d come back.

          The Socratic Method condescension is just too much!

          And the oppression narrative? Haha. It’s like he’s lampooning current politics. Oh the poor hypothetically oppressed peoples of Dragonville.

          I don’t want to assume, but it looks like he thinks Dungeons and Dragons is a descriptive name. Like, it’s all about going into a dungeon and killing a dragon? That gives me a real chuckle.

  4. I thought the “dragons are always evil” pattern ended with _The Dragon and the George_ and the Dragonriders series? Today it seems as if having a Smaug-like EVIL!!! dragon would be the unusual way to go.

    Disclaimer – I have not read much mass-market fantasy in the past three years, so I could be way behind. The only nasty, evil dragons I recall are from _The Dragon Engine_ and its sequel.

  5. Jo Walton’s Trollope pastiche Tooth and Claw is set in a world where everyone is a dragon. Ok, there’s a passing mention of others that are probably human, but the main characters don’t have anything to do with them.

  6. Positive thing: Fantasy and science fiction is a huge genre and nobody has read all the notable books in it. Same thing for role-playing games; nobody has played all the games and all the home-brew rules.

    Second positive thing: This often encourages originality, whereas knowing everything that’s out there often encourages being too intimidated to write anything. Things don’t have to be absolutely unique, and surrounded by a Fortress of Uniqueness Solitude, to strike the reader as being fresh and good.

    Third positive thing: Every subject has somebody who knows more about it than the author, so a lot of authors learn to make allowances for this in public statements. Personally, I know not to say anything about guns unless I check with my brother and several other folks who love guns. It doesn’t make me stupid or ignorant; it means I know my limits. of knowledge.

    Fourth positive thing: Gork sounds cute, fresh, fun, and interesting. Plus it’s YA. I bet it sells like hotcakes.

  7. This guy talks like he doesn’t realize dragons are imaginary creatures.

  8. I’m not even plankton in the Amazon market, but the underlying topic in my own dragon series is the struggle between people who treat dragons as winged beasts, and people who treat dragons as people. And I wrote scenes told from a dragon’s PoV.

    And yes, I played a shape-shifting dragon in D&D once.

    I like the idea of a dragon attending a miliary academy in outer space. It’s a fresh new take. But seriously, there are many, many more dragon tales out there that do not follow the old “faithful winged and fire-breathing horse carrying their human warrior around” trope.

    I can understand how having a sense of that tired old trope would trigger ideas for a new story. And how marketing purposes make it easy to carry that claim around in order to make one’s own book stand out.

    But that is rather narrow-minded and unfair to all other authors out there who also create different dragons.

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