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Short story - THE DEATHBROKER

A letter of introduction from C.M. Shigeta, a new dark fantasy author

Hello, would-be reader,

I am C.M. Shigeta, and I am a dark fantasy author. I have spent the last few years in the shadows forging myself — revisiting my influences, honing my craft, finding my voice.

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I’ve spent the last few years in the shadows, and now I emerge to introduce myself that you might know me.

Here it goes.

I write dark fantasy in the American literary tradition. You could also call it Gothic dark fantasy, or even literary dark fantasy. The truth is, I don’t really like labels.

I’m starting to sound like a snob so let me rein it a little.

What if Cormac McCarthy were into Warhammer Fantasy and Dark Souls?

That’s what I seek to create.

It might sound forced, but that’s what I think it is. It was a gradual progression that brought me here.

As a kid, I always had long trips to school and so I killed the time with books and later heavy metal. Classics by day and SF/F by dark.

I’d read a fantasy book and think, why can’t this be more like that good stuff we were reading in class earlier?

I would beg the classics to shed more blood within their pages.

I wrote from time to time. Never seriously, and never anything worth the allotment of any space in memory’s annals.

Growing up in Philadelphia imparted a deep respect of history and revolution and, yes, rebellion. Later, I became drawn to themes of urban decay and Gothic settings.

As adolescence waned, I inevitably matured. I studied more history and philosophy. I learned how little I knew, a sentiment that I suspect will haunt me ‘til death.

I dared to write between the lines.

I began to see unflattering parallels between Conrad’s depiction of African people in Heart of Darkness and Tolkein’s orcs.

In games that provided the choice, I would choose the “evil.” To me, the paladins in their shining armor began to reek of manifest destiny and imperialism. The Jedi, too, seemed oppressive to me.

I gaze on such characters with baleful eyes. I believe that they are a lie.

No heroes.

I revisited everything I’d watched and read before, seeing it all with newly skeptical eyes.

I fell in love with Akira Kurosawa’s work and after many viewings of Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai I learned that there is an inextricable Japanese edge to my voice and self. (In retrospect, it might seem obvious given that I am a second-generation Japanese-American; mixed-race identity is often a complicated thing)

The Eurocentric fantasy setting lost what little glimmer it had for me. I never cared at all for tales of Camelot or Albion, and at some point I even became a Tolkein / Martin reactionary.

I eschew the detailed histories and generation-by-generation dynasties. I reject the emphasis placed on those favored by power structures. I lean toward low fantasy, favoring esotericism over hard magic systems, and always retaining a certain historical edge. I might lean one way or another at times, but I am no ideologue.

Why I write

Two reasons.

The first is shallow - the stories that my heart desires do not exist.

The second is existential. We cannot choose whether we die, but we can choose what we leave behind. I believe Faulkner said something to the effect that a book is a fitting monument for one to leave behind.

What I’m working on

If you’ve read this far, I imagine there’s a miniscule chance that you’ll want to read some of my writing. Please allow me to note that anything in progress is subject to change.

THE DEATHBROKER

The Carcosan necromancer travels west, seeking the abundance plague brings.

I wrote this short story as something of an introduction - I present it without further comment.

Read THE DEATHBROKER for free here.

TYRANTSBANE

Senator’s daughter, sworn to arms — except hardly at arms, and no true daughter.

Tyrantsbane: A Heretical Dark Fantasy will be my debut novel, and the start of the Tyranny of Heaven Trilogy. I’m nearing completion on the semifinal draft, but a completion percentage is not a timeline. Nonetheless, I want to tell you about it.

It’s certainly not ready to pitch yet, but I’m using “The Witcher meets Blood Meridian” as a rough beacon, especially in regards to blending medieval and Western settings. I wouldn’t argue with the label preapocalyptic.

It’s set in an anachronistic echo of our own world and centers on Sofia Arcta, a woman who turns traitor against the Lucent Empire and all that is holy because it is the only moral choice. Far from the bastion of order she knows, in a land as holy as it is savage and barbarous, where an immortal queen rules by silver and lead, the girl becomes the woman she was always meant to be.

Tyrantsbane also features an antiheroic deuteragonist on a blood-drenched path of vengeance. Fans of Geralt and Elric of Melniboné are likely to appreciate him.

Unspeakable crimes beget unspeakable retribution.

I promise to tell you more about Sofia and Helseth in time. For now, I hope this excerpt suffices.

The traitor burst into the catacombs and slammed shut the stone door to sepulcher herself away from the death outside. Only now was the woman divested of the girl she had been, of all that she had been. Senator’s daughter, soldier of the Light, all of it. With her dead friend’s sword on her back, with bloodslick hands, with whispers of heresy dripping from her lips, she descended. Only fingertips upon agesmoothed skulls guided her way. Somewhere deep and distant burned a torch, and hints of its light began to creep out. Not enough to rely on. Instead she closed her eyes and trusted herself amidst the darkness.

 

DEEP PLACES

A short story centering on the unnamed Inquisitor who serves as the antagonist of Tyrantsbane, and the forbidden discovery that drives his quest. I’ll be releasing this for free in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for announcements.

 

THE BOOK OF PERSEVERANCE

Elijah trudged on in search of something better.

This is post-apocalyptic dark fantasy through and through. Its roots lay in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, Dark Souls, and a little Mad Max mixed in. Right now, I’m thinking this is going to be a novella series. I’m allowing myself to lean a little more heavily on fantasy tropes here, and this story lends itself nicely to serialization. Whatever format it ends up taking, I’ll knock it out between the semifinal and final drafts of Tyrantsbane.

The cold seemed to worsen every day since the Fall. The crumbling old wayshrine ahead glittered in the final twilight’s roseate light. This last of meeting places might have been the only shelter standing in this part of the wastes, and even marauders held some semblance of respect for the laws of old when it came to the Everflames.

Ultimately, it is a humanist story of survival and…ahem… perseverance. Elijah is a temple-knight who tries to go on as the world itself breathes its last, in a world where survivors at best shun him for the Lucent Empire’s failure to avert cataclysm.

Some of you may recognize a Biblical allusion or two.

“And old and powerful man. The Wizard,” said the woodhewer. He let the epithet hang in the air. “They say he holds court in the ruins of the Great Temple. And they say he’ll take you with him. Carry you to another world on a chariot of fire — but only if you help him find it, and there can only be a few.”

With no god’s protection, Elijah seeks to carry on humanity’s flame beneath a dying sun… perhaps more purely than the Temple itself ever did.

The Wizard nodded. “Ruin like this comes and goes like waves on the shore. It has done so since Eden’s first making, but she found a way to end it. It’s beautiful, really. Only with this Creation undone are we free to go forth and forge our own. Now we will chase the stars as was always our destiny. We needn’t stay and listen to the whimper of this world’s end. Per aspera ad astra, as they once said in my cycle.”

 I have a number of other works slated, but they are not yet ready to leave the shadows. All in time.

Final Note

Thank you for reading my introduction. I promise that I’m a friendly fellow, and I’m certainly looking to make connections with readers and writers. Get in touch with my via any of the links below and I’d love to chat!

And above all, my sincerest thanks to anyone who chooses to go on this journey with me.

With humility,

C.M. Shigeta

My Plans for 2019 (and introducing TYRANTSBANE)