As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot. I am very excited andthe author of
Is due out March 30, 2017!
So go preorder your copy!
Why did I write about a golem?
by Ben Galley
My newest book, The Heart of Stone, is the first time I’ve experimented with a non-human protagonist, and the first time I’ve ever written about a golem. As an enthusiast of all things mythical, in previous books I’ve scribbled about dragons, gryphons, minotaurs, a rock-troll, and even a savage bunch of faeries, but never a golem.
Task, our stony main character, hooked me as soon as I wrote him trudging across a grey and rainy beach. Now, I’m a planner, so he wasn’t just decided upon in a whim. There were quite a few reasons behind choosing a golem, but I knew at that moment I’d made the right decision in casting this particular beast. Seeing as James has kindly invited me onto his site to write about The Heart of Stone, I thought I’d talk about how I came to that decision.
First and foremost, I needed a character that could pack a sizeable wallop in a fight. And not with a dirty great big axe, or grandiose spell, but with its fists. Its bare fists. I knew I wanted The Heart of Stone to be about war – a filthy, bitter, long-raging civil war between stubborn factions. What I was in need of was a beast that could change the tide; that would run a cold shiver down the enemy’s spine. A war-machine of epic, but believable proportions. So I invented a world where, hundreds of years before the story, people fought battles with hulking golems made of half-sentient stone, wood, bone, iron clay, even flesh. With any craft, there are always masters of it, and mine are the Windtrickers, who cut stone using rushing air and craft the finest “Wind-Cut” golems.
Task is one such golem; almost twice the height of a man, immortal, unbelievably strong, impervious to anything but catastrophic damage, trained, cold, and to put it bluntly, the perfect killing machine. I wanted something human-wrought, mighty, but not completely outlandish, with little reliance on magic aside from the method of its construction. Indestructible, yet still believable. A golem was starting to look like a perfect fit.
The Heart of Stone is also about human nature, and what we “skinbags”, as Task calls us, are driven to in wartime. As I was commenting on this through non-human eyes, I also needed a creature that could relate to humans, in both appearance and struggle. When it comes to a mighty dragon, it’s tough for anyone to bully it, but Task needed to be shown cruelty. Golems are always bound to a master, who exercises control over it. Task is slaved in the same way, and has been for over 400 years, fighting war after war.
Having a master or creator gives a golem a fragility. In early Judaism, old Polish folklore, and some Brothers Grimm tales, they often lacked speech, and they could be destroyed just be changing an inscription on its forehead or removing a “shem” from its mouth. Despite their size—one creator of a golem thought his creation would destroy the universe—they can be reduced to rubble or dust in one movement, and I think that’s unique to a very few magical creatures.
Their fragility also comes from their tantalising closeness to being human, and yet at the same they are undeniably inhuman. Throughout mythology, although cobbled together from all sorts of materials, often wildly imperfect, they are still created in our image. That immediately gives them a human quality; a relatedness. In turn, it creates unpredictability through an inherited desire to be more, and jump that gap to real human.
In a version of The Golem of Prague, a clay golem falls in love, and when rejected it goes on a murderous rampage. It’s a similar theme to Frankenstein’s Monster, where there’s a fine line to be walked between proud creation and creator’s downfall. Between machine and monster. It all comes from being created in our image, and yet not to our standard. That breeds a loneliness, especially as golems, like the Monster, are often one-offs or the sole member of their kind. My golem happens to be one of the last, and that has the same effect.
Task constantly walks this line. I wanted my protagonist to have the same fragility, to add both personal conflict as well as a savagery on the battlefield. As for the former, Task’s character and circumstances led the way on that one. I was just around to write it down. And as for the latter, I can safely say Task does the job of monster quite admirably. (I think the skull-crushing and cannon-hurling seems to speak for itself.)
Sure, I toyed with mythology. What author can’t resist doing that? I made Task less coarse than other golems of literature and film, making him more of a cracked statue than Marvel’s Thing. Task has no “shem” or forehead inscription, but instead his tongue has to be removed, and that’s caged behind sharp jaws of grey granite. He can mentally summon anything that’s been hacked from him his body. I pitted him against 17th century cannons and muskets. He sleeps, even dreams. The big lump even likes to gamble. He can also speak, which, being the main character, did sort of demand. At the same time, it lets me voice his fragility, his frustration, and his cynicisms concerning us skinbags.
There we have it. That’s why I chose to write about a golem, and have him pass judgement on his human creators. It was thoroughly enjoyable to write his battle scenes, and have him wading through flesh and armour as if they were wheat, but at the same time it was a pleasure to get inside a non-human head, imagine a life cast in stone and servitude, and see where the mind of a mythical beast can lead. Here’s hoping you readers enjoy the experience as well!
Thanks for reading.
The Heart of Stone will be released on the 30th of March 2017, and is currently up for pre-order in eBook and paperback at Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play. All the links can be found at.
Mercenary. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.
Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.
Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.
Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.
Every fighter faces his final fight. Even one made of stone.
Ben Galley is a best-selling purveyor of tall tales and dark fantasy from the UK. He is the author behind the gritty and epic Emaneska Series, as well as the new western fantasy series, the Scarlet Star Trilogy.
Aside from writing and dreaming up lies to tell his readers, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant and tutor, helping fellow authors from all over the world to publish and sell books. His website Shelf Help will tell you all you need to know about DIY self-publishing.
Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley), Facebook (/BenGalleyAuthor) or at his website http://www.bengalley.com.