Interview with Ian Stuart Sharpe, Author of The All Father Paradox!
Q: What made you write The All Father Paradox?Ian Stuart Sharpe: I think it was preordained.
Not in a crazy way, you understand. You just learn to spot the signs, to realize that something is off-kilter. For example, in the year 793AD, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, there were plenty of foreboding omens. “Excessive whirlwinds”, lightning. Fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. As if that wasn’t bad enough “great famine followed.”
And then, at the beginning of another long, drizzle-bound British summer what should show up but a “ravaging of wretched heathen men” who promptly destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne and kickstarted the whole Viking Age. Some might argue that if the monks at Lindisfarne had been a little better at reading the tea leaves, we might not be here, discussing this book.
"Never before has such terror appeared in Britain...The heathens poured outthe blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets."
It must have seemed like the end of the world.
In my case, it was June 2016AD. My eSports company had just been ground into the dust by a doomstack of unfortunate events. Trump was already the presumptive nominee for the Republican party and then, to add to the sheer caprice of the moment, the UK voted for Brexit. I felt something like a monk at Lindisfarne, wondering which way the wind was blowing, and whether Norsemen might arrive on the tide. And that’s not a political comment, more a reflection of all the churn and change.
The world suddenly was full of "Holy F*ck!" moments. My reaction to it all was to become a new Anglo-Saxon Chronicler, to hold up a cracked mirror to the end of the world as we knew it.
Q: Why should others read the book?ISS: There is an early episode of the British TV series Doctor Who, in black and white from 1965. I remember it from reruns: a rogue Time Lord plans lure the Harald Hardrada’s Vikings to the coast and destroy their fleet with an atomic cannon. This Time Meddler insists his plan will stabilise England and benefit Western civilisation.
It’s a nice idea. The thought that you could make the world a better place. The notion that you could reclaim what was was rightfully yours. Change the past – kill Hitler before he rose to power and save a generation from slaughter. Save the world, resurrect the girl - it worked for Superman.
What if? It’s a question we should all ask. We should all walk a mile in another man’s shoes, open ourselves to a little alternative perspective. Or else the world is just little bits of history repeating.
Q: What makes this story unique?ISS: Who doesn’t like a nice Norse saga, full of Vikings raping and pillaging?!
Well, that’s not this book. Not all of it anyway. The fact is that the Scandinavian civilization had a rich and vibrant culture – unique art forms, a deep oral tradition, a sprawling trade network, a yearning for adventure and prestige. This is a book full of characters drawn from the pages of history, but it is really a story of a civilization.
On numerous occasions, the Norse came within a hair’s breadth of seizing the great cities of the age: London, Paris, Hamburg – and the greatest prize of all, Constantinople, the City of the World’s Desire. Imagine if the Trickster God had been with them, rather than against them. The What If in question isn’t far-fetched.
Those “wretched heathen men” could have ruled Europe, and likely the world.
Moreover, most Viking books dwell on the past, but I wanted to examine a Norse present. I wanted to transplant a warrior culture, built on slavery, but with a democratic bent and one where women were often heralded rather than hidden. And I wanted to examine how their myths and icons might grow without the influence of Christianity, the world of seidr and spirits, and see how it stretched over the centuries.
Q: How does it compare to other books like it in the genre?ISS: There aren’t that many perspectives on Norse culture and civilisation that really highlight their true legacy. I recently took my family on a tour on Denmark, visiting hill forts, museums and re-enactments. I was amazed at how little they knew about these people. Viking were the bad guys. (Just ask Doctor Who). They wore horned helmets. They were raiders and barbarians. Even the best “Viking literature” doesn’t do more than reinforce old tropes.
That’s because history is written by the victors, and the Vikings, for all their legendary heroics, well, they lost.
But the Vikings are still with us, if you know where to look. The Old Norse rót is still apparent among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr (birth) until we deyja (die) – the raw energy of the Norse shapes many of our words. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle.
For the more literary, even the word Kindle comes from the Norse kynda – to light a fire. And that’s an important part of the book. Just as Tolkien had his Elvish (and he borrowed much of his lore from Old Norse stories), the All Father Paradox is peppered with Old Norse. It might look strange. It might make you pause and think.
And that’s exactly why it is there.
So put the book on your Kindle, and set fire to what you think you know. It beats the other ways into Valhalla.
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