We couldn’t be happier to welcome Edmond as our guest today to help celebrate the release of his latest novel King Mai.
In honor of Mai’s coronation, Edmond is offering one lucky reader the chance to win an Ecopy of the book! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment right here, and you’ll automatically be eligible to win.
All entries must be received by by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Friday, July 19, 2013. The drawing will be held on July 20 and the winner notified via email.
Once there was a tribe of men, a tribe populated entirely of kings. Odd, you may think, and wonder how any work got done in such a society with everyone making rules. But these were not those kinds of kings.
While corresponding via email, Lisa recently asked me, ‘Where did all this come from? Every man is the one true king? Every woman is the one true queen?’ She wanted to know the inspiration, the true origins.
Gosh, I wish I knew.
Oh sure, I know some details. I know how the story came into my life through a tangle of interests that converged on my modern-day narrator, Vin Vanbly, and his sexually manipulative King Weekends. But the origin of The Lost and Founds is older, so much older than my most recent fictional invention.
Think Greek, but older.
Think Egyptian but older.
Ancient stories tell of warriors striding into a troubled world to overcome impossibilities. These warriors rise into legend. They destroy nine-headed beasts. Drink entire lakes dry. They rescue villages from impossible evils. Yes, their achievements were insane and worthy of song, but beyond the epic adventure itself, the stories articulated what happens to men, who they become, when they are pushed to their limits…and win.
Look at the stories of Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and any number of Old Testament tales. These men are men on king weekends (metaphorically at least), mired in grief and human limitations while trying to uncover a greater truth: I might be something more, maybe even a king.
Hell, cave drawings were trying to tell these stories, who we are as men.
Although the ancient stories name kingship pretty literally – the hero gets a gold crown and a fancy scepter to, you know, take to parties and such—modern interpreters (Joseph Campbell and five hundred Jungian doctoral students) suggest kingship, even in those days, was an attempt to express the inner nature of four major masculine archetypes: warrior, lover, magician, and king.
They would argue that all men are kings, all women are queens, all of us ready for our majesty to awaken. Unfortunately, queenship tales have not traditionally been valued historically as they should have been, so we’re left with mostly the male kings. This is a serious omission, this disservice. But it does not change that we are all – men and women – powerful warriors, waiting for someone to call us into service. Fallen Leaf was a powerful Crow warrior who served her people. We need her. We need Gilgamesh to remind us to grieve death with a lover’s heart. We need the story of the Greek Odysseus to remind us that we are all lost kings, far from home while strangers feast in our living rooms, enjoying roasted mutton, drinking our wine.
Well, maybe not that last part.
I hope there aren’t guys eating mutton in my living room right now. If there are, I hope they’re using napkins and plates. And quit drinking my wine.
Point being, we tell ourselves heroic stories to remember what our forbearers thought we should remember: we are powerful. Don’t forget that. We achieve greatness. Don’t forget that also. We make dumb-ass mistakes often stemming from pride. Seriously, don’t forget that either.
Past generations had books. Before that, ornate, gold two-dimensional hieroglyphics. But ancient people could not predict which creations would survive thousands of years, no better than we can know how much of the internet will exist in eight hundred years. Will YouTube exist 1,000 years from now, telling the stories of who we were and what we valued? Maybe but probably not.
Ancient peoples attempted time travel by encoding their wisdom inside stories they hoped would reach us in the future. It worked.
I’ve received emails from people who have said things like, “I don’t understand what happened to me when I read King Perry. Things were stirred up in me I can’t put into words.”
Stories do that –the ones that touch who we are as a people.
I love there are feelings and experiences too deep to name. Too raw and beautiful to tame with adjectives, and rope into submission with clever verbs. As much as I do not love grief, I love that an ancient Egyptian man the same age as I was, once wept for his father’s death the same way I wept for mine. Thousands of ancient Egyptians probably loved their parents the way I love mine. Perhaps they tried to send comfort to me in the form of tales of Ra, the Father God.
My fascination with mythology and masculine archetypes swirl together in my series, The Lost and Founds. I find myself inventing new mythology as much as drawing on the ancients. I try to add my own twists (I am a storyteller, after all) but I also honor the ancients by following some conventional guidelines for masculine mythology.
The north is wisdom, the king.
The east is new beginnings, the lover.
The west is death and transformation, the magician.
The south is service to the realm, the warrior.
When narrator Vin Vanbly describes the mythical kingdom’s southern gates, he channels ancient ideas about the energetic world beyond our own while describing modern-day warriors. Kings who leave the kingdom on quests always leave by the southern gates. They are beautiful but hint at danger.
“The southern gates had been crafted into existence by metalworking kings, twisted gold, fashioned into tangled vines and flat, broad leaves reflecting every gleam of sunlight. Intertwining the gold, flowed brown copper vines, alive with barbaric intention. As the dawn re-painted the black grass to spring green and the gold metal leaves began to shine, two questions were always asked of the departing brother. The first was this: ‘What would you risk to find a lost king?’ Each king answered with what he was willing to sacrifice, and it was always worth more than anyone knew.”
In the newest book, King Mai, the narrator, Vin, describes the western gates and true to the power of the magician, these gates are murky and cryptic.
“Nobody arrives (in the kingdom) through the western gates, not ever. In the west, the actual gates themselves are completely submerged under water, a glowing maze of sculpted, pink coral. Men leave the kingdom through the western gates only to lunch with Death or to discover secrets guaranteed to stripe them with grief for their remaining lives. An impenetrable fog smothers the water’s surface and only a pinkish hue occasionally leaks through. Creatures swim in that pink, foggy water and hunt at the surface. Big things. Dangerous things.”
The west offers transformational knowledge, but there is always a price — your vulnerability or perhaps to be striped with grief. In other words, you don’t fuck with the western gates unless you’re ready to get fucked with yourself.
On each King Weekend, the main character greets his kingship in the east, the direction of the lover. You would think that a new king would greet the north, the direction of kingship itself. But the east represents new beginnings, the return of the sun, opening the heart to the fullest love, the fullest grief. As Vin’s new kings face a new way of existing in the world, become a new man, they must come home through the east.
The function of those northern gates will reveal themselves, perhaps in the next book or the one after that.
Women have their own parallel archetypes, the lover, mother, amazon, and Wise Woman (or sometimes Crone). A few readers have emailed me ‘when are we going to see a woman get queened?’
I am lucky enough to love women in my life, very lucky, but as a man who doesn’t physically make love to women, my vantage point has a serious limitation. As a writer, I must somehow figure out how to honor—in a realistic way—a woman’s sexual power. When I can do that, I can write that Queen book. Maybe I’m not supposed to create Queen Weekends. Maybe a straight man should write those books. I dunno.
I will keep asking for wisdom on that topic. And I trust the Sparkling Spirit to provide me confirmation some day when I am shopping for milk or giggling with my best friend, Ann, or perhaps staring into space and the quiet voice whispers to me, “Queen her.”
But in the meantime, I hope to tap into such universal stories, stories of grief and forgiveness, that readers temporarily forget gender identities and instead remember all we have in common, men, women, and everything in between.
The world of The Lost and Founds is ancient and modern, lusty and agape, grief and joy. It’s the story of people who have lost and then somehow won. It’s the story of why it’s hard and amazing to be a man. Our goofy stupidity, our loveable quirks, and how any of us in the world, men and women, might possibly be spectacular if someone believed, just for one weekend, that I was the one true king. The one true queen.
What if some folks from long-gone Mesopotamia wanted us to know they knew us, they knew us, so they encoded their findings in myth and legend, a thousand myths, a thousand stories from every African nation and dared us to meet them on the ancestral field? Their stories say, come meet us. And remember.
Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry and most recently (July 15, 2013), King Mai. You need not have read that first book to enjoy King Mai. Feel free to email Edmond: