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Catch Tom Doyle at Soho Gallery

For NYC-area friends, Tom Doyle will be reading from his new novel Tuesday night, June 3, 6:30 p.m.  at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art 138 Sullivan St. He invites everyone to come for all or part of the event:

“I completely understand if you’d rather attend Karen Bergreen’s show, because that sounds more fun to me too–curse the fates for this scheduling. But there’ll be a post-reading gathering down the street at the Soho Room starting about 9 if you’d like to double-book your evening.”

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE’s writing as “beautiful & brilliant.”

Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.”

A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop (and Harvard), Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest.


LitVote: We’re going to discuss the role that environment can play in the fantasy genre. But first, could you tell us a little about your book?

Tom: My debut novel, American Craftsmen, is a modern-day fantasy of military intrigue. The craftsmen of the title are magician soldiers and psychic spies descended from the founding families of the country. Their history was chronicled in the thinly veiled accounts of Hawthorne, Poe, and other early American authors of the fantastic. In the present, two craft soldiers from rival families, Dale Morton and Michael Endicott, fight against a treasonous cabal in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks.

LitVote: So, what does this action-oriented story have to do with the environment?

Tom: Good question. My book has very little political commentary; for most of it, my characters are concerned with immediate threats to their survival. But here’s an excerpt of part of my story set in a place called the Sanctuary, a hidden land within our country. Thomas Morton, Dale’s ancestor in a colonial America still dominated by wilderness, is first introduced to the Sanctuary by Guardian, his Native American mentor. Thomas sees a woolly mammoth and other extinct creatures, though he doesn’t recognize them for what they are. Guardian tries to explain:

“This is the place of lost things,” said Guardian.

Thomas thought the animals looked a little crowded. “It’s not very large.”

Guardian sighed. “It will grow.” He stretched his arms wide. “When your people turn against you, this place will protect you. Will you protect it?”

A stillness fell over the Sanctuary. In the hush, Thomas felt the right words. “I swear it, for me, for my children, and for all my descendants until the land is no more.”

LitVote: And this Sanctuary grows?

Tom: Yes. In my present-day story, Dale Morton takes advantage of this compact and flees from his enemies to the Sanctuary. As predicted, the hidden land has expanded, filling with more of the lost. It is a shelter for the spirits of craft war veterans, for disappearing Americana (covered bridges, Edsels), and for the far-too-many animals and plants that have been greatly diminished (American chestnuts) or have gone extinct (ivory-billed woodpeckers) in the mundane world.

LitVote: What do the bad guys think of the Sanctuary?

Tom: As you’d expect, Dale’s opponents don’t like the Sanctuary. It runs contrary to their view of themselves and America as forward moving, not backward looking. They also resent it for representing a guilt they consider useless.

LitVote: Do they have a point?

Tom: Sure. It agrees with some of the criticism of fantasy as a genre. The nostalgia in fantasy for an earlier natural landscape isn’t new. Tolkien’s work is replete with it, and he explicitly ties the industrial destruction of that landscape to the forces of Evil in his world. Though it’s not on the same level of malignity, Tolkien views the slower destruction of forests by dwarves and men with axes with mournful sadness. Critics have argued that this environmental nostalgia in some fantasy is part of its general conservative nature. Do we really want to return to a time of feudal monarchy prior to antibiotics? But at least in the case of Tolkien, his implicit environmentalism was more than a dirge for a lost past. Particularly in the 1960s, The Lord of the Rings helped to inspire many readers to forward-looking environmental action.

LitVote: Isn’t science fiction better suited for ecological warnings?

Tom: Perhaps, but not always. Fantasy may not have, for example, the warnings of a dire overpopulated future that science fiction provides, but by reminding us of what we’ve lost, it can refocus us on what is left to save. My second book will have another environmental grace note amidst the thriller plot when my characters visit one of the great disaster zones of the twentieth century. I didn’t set out in either book to make an ecological statement. Rather, I think that our current difficulties are reaching the point where environmental conditions are no longer the province of any particular genre, but instead are a frequent component of realistic setting generally.

LitVote: Where can people find out more about your book and other work?

Tom: My website is at www.tomdoylewriter.com. There, you can find out more about American Craftsmen as well as read or listen to my short fiction.

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