Marlon James, the 2015 winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, has spoken about his next project.
He is to release an epic trilogy of fantasy-themed novels, partly inspired by his admiration of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and his interest in African mythology.
The 46-year-old, gay writer was born and raised in Jamaica, but is now based in Minneapolis, US. He was the second Caribbean writer to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize when he scooped the accolade for 2014’s A Brief History.
He told Entertainment Weekly that the idea for the trilogy came about after arguing with a friend over the diversity of the casting in The Hobbit.
‘I remember saying, “You know, if an Asian or a black hobbit came out of the Shire, nobody would have cared. We would have just moved on.” And my friend said, “Well, Lord of the Rings is all this British and Celtic mythology.”
‘And I said, “Well, you know… Lord of the Rings isn’t real.” It just turned into one of these arguments we have about diversity and inclusion.
‘It made me realize that there was this huge universe of African history and mythology and crazy stories, these fantastic beasts and so on, that was just waiting there.
‘And I’m a big sci-fi geek—I love my Lord of the Rings, I love my Angela Carter and my Dragonslayer. I think the argument ended with me saying, “You know what? Keep your d— Hobbit.’
‘And it made me start to think about the fantastic African epic traditions—some of the stories I grew up with, like Anansi the Spider. I just realized that there’s this huge pool of fantastic stories to draw from.
‘It’s sort of like my being a scholar of African history and mythology, and my being a total sci-fi/fantasy geek who rereads things like The Mists of Avalon, they just sort of came together.’
Dark Star trilogy
The’Dark Star’ trilogy will be published by Riverhead Books. The novels will be called Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Moon Witch, Night Devil; The Boy and the Dark Star.
Each book will follow a different character, which, according to the official summary, are, ‘locked in a dungeon in the castle of a dying king, awaiting torture and trial for the death of a child.
‘They were three of eight mercenaries who had been hired to find the child; the search, expected to take two months, took nine years. In the end, five of the eight mercenaries, as well as the child, were dead.’
James said he had begun to think about writing a trilogy because he enjoys book series himself.
‘A lot of the books I read, whether it’s fantasy or not, tend to be multiple. Like Game of Thrones, which is still going, Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, which is a huge, huge influence on me. But also Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies — Hillary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy.’
He said he was working to a strict deadline of having the first novel completed by the end of 2017. Publication will hopefully follow in the fall of 2018.