Marlon James Opens Up on His Epic Fantasy Trilogy

by Sharon Browning

In an Entertainment Weekly interview published this week, Man Booker prize winner Marlon James opened up about the epic fantasy series he is currently working on, to be known as the Dark Star Trilogy. And get this – it’s going to be based in African mythology. An African Lord of the Rings?  Yes, please!

This from the EW interview:

Titled The Dark Star Trilogy, the three novels (Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Moon Witch, Night Devil; The Boy and the Dark Star) follow three characters — the Tracker, the Moon Witch, and the Boy. According to the official summary, they 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.” The three novels will unravel each character’s tale of what happened over those nine years — one perspective per book — as James builds a rich world brimming with African myths and legends, fantastical creatures, and other accouterments of his own imagination.

Mr. James, who hails from Jamaica but now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota (while teaching at St. Paul’s Macalester College), has been working on the series since before his A Brief History of Seven Killings won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2015; apparently, he started researching his new idea in 2014, right after turning in the finished manuscript for what was to become his fame-inducing novel (although he was considered a rising star in the literary field before winning the Man Booker).

This isn’t the first time this self-professed “big sci-fi geek” has talked about the upcoming series.  A year ago he told Alex Morris of Rolling Stone that in his next project he was going to “geek the f**k out. Am I going to write 200 pages about some obscure village that has nothing to do with the story? Yes. Talk about giant serpents and have an encyclopedia at the back? F**k, yes. Invent a language, probably based on Yoruba or Swahili or Fang? Totally.”

But now we have some details to ruminate on. He tells EW:

[The setting] is still a made-up place. It’s more Middle Earth than say, Mogadishu. It’s all these imagined spaces, and all these imagined worlds, but still playing on a lot of African culture. But also, sort of recapturing some of the glories of empires — a lot of which the British just kind of burnt to the ground, which is why we don’t talk about them now. Going way back, the touch point for this story would probably be just after the dawn of the Iron Age.

There’s some other wonderful insight in the Entertainment Weekly article – make sure you click over and read the whole thing.   (And here’s a link to his Rolling Stone interview, as well.)

You can bet we’ll keep on top of this one! The first book isn’t due out until the Fall of 2018, but that’s not so long away now, is it?  And it certainly gives us something to look forward to!

~ Sharon Browning

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