The Big Idea: M. A. Carrick
In today’s Big Idea, the authors behind The Mask of Mirrors are going to tell you the truth, about the fact they’re not going to tell you the truth. Truly. Should you believe them? Read on and decide!
M. A. CARRICK:
We’re going to lie to you.
It’s what you pay us for, after all. Fiction is lies, told for the purpose of entertainment. You agree to play the game of believing, and if we do our job well enough, then for a little while, you may even forget it’s a game.
Our Big Idea for this book is an accomplished liar. Although we have multiple points of view and strands of narrative, the most central one is Ren — aka Renata Viraudax, aka Arenza Lenskaya, aka some other aliases we won’t spoil for you — a half-Vraszenian con artist in the colonized city of Nadežra. The title of the book is The Mask of Mirrors because in the divinatory pattern deck used by Vraszenians, that’s the card of secrets and lies . . . and this book is a layer cake of deception so complex, at one point we had to make a chart of which characters knew which bits of the plot, and which personas of theirs could admit to knowing it.
People lie for many reasons, some good, some bad. You might lie to protect yourself: from embarrassment, from anger, from violence. Or to protect someone else. You might lie to gain an advantage over the listener, pretending you’re in a stronger position than you are, or luring them into an unwise move. You might lie out of sheer malice. You might lie to preserve the peace, or to break it into pieces.
In stories, we often enjoy watching liars do their thing. It’s fun to be “in the know,” aware of truths the other characters don’t see. And competence of any sort can be sexy, whether that’s athleticism, intellectual agility, or the ability to weave an intricate web of deceit. Con artists make for fun characters, the audience breathlessly wondering how their house of cards will stand up — or whether it will come crashing down.
On the other hand . . .
Anybody who’s ever been taken in by a scammer knows the horrible jolt that comes with realizing you’ve been had. Con artists stop seeming quite so sexy when you’re the one biting the hook. Lies can destroy relationships, or leave someone so scarred they have difficulty trusting like they used to.
And that’s part of our Big Idea, too. When we set out to have Ren con the noble Traementis family into believing she’s the daughter of an estranged relative, we also vowed to keep our eye on the other side of that story. The Traementis aren’t a faceless evil corporation in an episode of Leverage, deserving every fall they take; they’re people with their own history and problems, who might have feelings about finding an imposter in their midst.
Nor is Ren the only liar in Nadežra. And nobody hates being played more than a player.
There’s a lot of deception in this book. A lot of games being played simultaneously, some of them at cross-purposes. Not all of the falsehoods here are being told for good reasons, and depending on your feelings about this topic, you may draw the line between them in different places.
But if we’ve done our job right, you’ll thank us for the entertaining lie.