The Big Idea: Russell Davis
Posted on April 10, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 7 Comments
Russell Davis and I share a special bond: I am the current president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and he is my immediate predecessor in the position. As a result I’ve gotten to know him pretty well as a person (spoiler: cool dude). This makes me happy to introduce him to many of you as a writer, with a new collection of stories: The End of All Seasons, his first collection in nearly a decade. And, as Russell explains in his piece, what a decade it was.
The proper place to begin any journey is at the beginning, right? Let’s start there by me telling you right off that I’m not that Russell Davis. You’re thinking of Russell T. Davies, the guy who writes Dr. Who. It’s okay. I get that a lot. In fact, I get it so often that on at least one occasion, when we’ve been at the same conference, he took my room reservation.
I’m the other Russell Davis. The one you probably haven’t heard of, with perhaps the exception of conversations involving the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). And those conversations might have involved no small amount of cursing, raised fists, and general dismay. I’m the Russell Davis who started publishing back in the mid-90’s and has, to date, written and sold more than two dozen novels and over thirty short stories. The problem isn’t just my name, which is as common as old shoes, but that of all those novels, only three had my real name on them. The rest were written under various pseudonyms and house names. I won’t go into why here, but suffice it to say that if I can ever convince Amazon and Goodreads to combine pseudonyms with a single author page, it would make for a decent list.
All of this is a roundabout way of getting to why I’m here, and the big idea of my newest collection, The End of All Seasons. As avid readers, you already know that a great many stories follow the framework of the quest story or, as it’s often called, the Hero’s Journey. I’m no hero, not by any stretch of the imagination, but most writerly careers are quite a bit like a quest. I think most writers are on a journey, and their travels begin the first time they sit down to write. For most of us, the journey is ridiculously long and we spend an inordinate amount of time stuck in the Underworld, fending off demons and whatnot. Many of us discover that when we reach our goal, we set off down the road again, utterly unsatisfied with the work achieved so far.
The End of All Seasons isn’t a very traditional collection, but if there’s a unifying idea behind it, the journey is it. While I included a creative nonfiction piece, and even a handful of poems, the collection is organized around four stories, titled “The End of Winter”, “Spring”, “Summer”, and “Autumn,” respectively. I debated about this quite a bit, since “The End of Winter” was the first short story I ever sold at professional rates, and quite honestly, I’ve often felt that it could go quietly into the night, never to be seen again, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken. But to not include it would be a bit of a cheat, because once I started putting the collection together, the idea that I was on a part of my journey during the writing of all those pieces seemed too strong to ignore.
Most of the collection is stories that were written in the first decade of the new millennium, and thinking back to when and how they came to life, I’m struck by how much change was happening to me personally. During those ten years, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), got sick enough with it that I figured I’d be bedridden by now, got a divorce, got remarried, and had a new child. I came back to the world of the almost-well through the miracle of drugs, and the even bigger miracles of horses and my wife, Sherri. Despite having kids before all this started, I learned to be a father during that decade, and I might have learned something about being a husband. During those years, my father died, and with my mother already gone, I got the tiniest taste of what it might feel like to be an orphan. And along the way, I spent a couple of years as SFWA President, which is a task that ought to come with an automatic blood pressure prescription and an open bar.
And through all of it, I continued to write. Not always well, I suspect, but I believe many writers chronicle their journey through life in fiction. I believe we write what fascinates or obsesses us, we write what disturbs us, frightens us, what breaks our hearts and lifts us up. It all comes out in the pages somewhere, and to be honest, I’m lousy at hiding it. My stories are fiction, yes, but they are also therapy. The characters and situations as unreal as anything you might read by anyone else, but real enough to me to help me find the next step on the path – and the one after that, and so on – until eventually, I find my way back home. And then I leave again, because that’s what writers do.
We quest, we journey, through the seasons of our real lives and our fictional ones, all in an attempt I think, to understand the world and our place in it, just a little bit better. And that’s the big idea in this collection: the journey, for myself as a writer, and for my characters and the worlds I build around them. I hope you consider picking up the collection and seeing where those years and miles and words took me.
The End of All Seasons: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Powell’s
Visit the book’s page. Read an interview with Russell Davis. Follow him on Twitter.
I have to say that about 50% of the books I add to my Kindle are because I read The Big Idea.
I hope you took his room reservation in return!
Just downloaded the Kindle edition. Looking forward to it. Also, whoever did your cover art did a wonderful job.
That single sentence, alone out of all seven paragraphs, sold me because that is exactly what writing fiction is to me.
Bitchin’ cover art too…looks like it belongs on a great album, maybe a rock-opera rendition of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons.
Great cover and I like the idea as I am also one who sees life as a journey. Will obtain…
Thanks, everyone. I picked out the cover art. It’s from a Canadian artist, Vitaly S. Alexius. You can check out his work (which is amazing) at http://vs.darkfolio.com.
Just downloaded the Kindle edition. Thank you for contributing to my “To Read” stack, which is greater than my life expectancy. I am pretty sure I’ll get to this one before the end of the week though…
Damn, that’s a great cover!