A Natural History of Dragons / Marie Brennan / Fantasy / Tor Books / February 5 2013
You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . . All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day. Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever. Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.
I am really excited to be a part of the blog tour for this unique and inventive book. I have to admit I am a sucker for dragon books. It’s actually a big complaint of mine that there isn’t more dragon books out there. I actually started my current dragon related WIP because of it. But until my book is finished/published Marie Brennan has stepped up to fill the void in our reading life.
And in keeping with that theme – for today’s stop on the blog tour, Marie Brennan will be sharing what drew her to write about dragons! Welcome Marie!
Marie Brennan: On Dragons
It doesn’t look anything like it at first glance, but this series was actually inspired by a calendar and a Dungeons & Dragons book.
The book in question is the Draconomicon, a third edition supplement with information on — you guessed it — dragons. Now, although I’m a gamer, I tend to rag on D&D: its books are usually just new prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items, with a token bit of setting information dropped on top like a spring of limp parsley. (I prefer RPGs for their narrative aspects, not for the crunch of game mechanics.) The Draconomicon, however, is different. Sure, it has mechanics in there, but it also has lots of cool information about the life cycle of dragons, their language, their psychology, and so on.
As it happened, when I went browsing through that book for a game, I had a certain calendar on my wall: a Dragonology calendar, a bit of merchandise for the books of the same name. These take the conceit of being scholarly discussions of dragons, talking about different breeds in different parts of the world from the viewpoint of a natural historian.
You can probably see where this is going.
Actually, I don’t know whether my first thought was a novel. I know that in the space of a month or two, I flip-flopped half a dozen times as to whether I wanted to write a book about a natural historian of dragons, or run a game in which the player-characters were out to study them instead of killing them and taking their stuff (that being the usual mode of a D&D campaign). I played around with the beginning of the book for a little while, just to see how it went, and thirty thousand words fell out of my head; that seemed like a good sign. But that was right around the time that I started on the Onyx Court series, so this project got postponed for a good four years — four years in which I probably could have run the game, but didn’t. Isabella had staked out that territory in my head, and wasn’t letting go.
Besides, the dragons in my head weren’t D&D dragons anymore. The ones in the game system are intelligent creatures, capable of speech and magic; they defy anything like plausible biology, and they live for hundreds of years. The ones in Isabella’s world are animals, like tigers or bears; they may be a bit more complicated than mundane animals, but they’re not the godlike beings of D&D. And I’m trying, in my handwavy fantasy-science way, to make them vaguely plausible on the biological front.
But it still all stems from a roleplaying game and a calendar. The imagination, it works in mysterious ways.
About the Author
Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com.