Themes

I don’t get to talk about themes in query letters. In my writing, the themes have to become apparent through the story.

I can talk about them here. I worked one of my primary themes into chapter one. It is the attraction we have to partially understood science and technology, the curiosity it invokes and the dangers (often ironic) that it contains.

When Heli first sees the stuffed bear in the sporting goods shop it scares him and he runs away, but he can’t stop thinking about it, so he makes his brother Riika take them back to the town and the store. The second time they enter the store Heli gets what he wants, the rifle that the hunter mannequin holds in his hands. Heli starts to mess with it. He searches the store until he finds cartridges that match, and then figures out how to load it, with disastrous consequences.

Riika is left alone, with the rifle as his responsibility. It becomes his albatross, necessary for him to save the linearists in Birrigat from the Teilarata. The linearists are about as ascetic as possible. They don’t even speak, and live simple lives of contemplation. The Teilarata also reject science because of its dangers. That is how they gained power. It is an unrealistic position; there are always those who will ignore danger to try and get an edge. In fact, Vladimir von de Veld started the downfall of the Teilarata by using Arlat to gain an edge for them, by creating the scaalites.

The rifle gives Riika a big edge, but it also leads to him becoming the “White Death”, a hunter of human beings, a sniper and silent killer. The fact that he does it for the good of his adopted family only makes it harder for him. Inspiration for his character came from Simo Häyhä, the Finnish hero of the Winter War against Russia, who had over five hundred confirmed kills with the Finnish equivalent of a Mosin-Nagant. The stresses experienced by snipers have recently become a popular topic, and our culture is fascinated with these men who kill others without ever confronting them.

I am also fascinated with that Winter War. It was Russia vs. Finland, David vs. Goliath, a perfect example of the very reason for the sisu stones. The Finns with the help of cross-country skis, better knowledge of the terrain, and snipers like Simo Häyhä kicked Russian ass.

There’s also the question of why the Finns were on the Axis side in World War II. It was to fight against Russia, not because of Nazi sympathies, but they also sided with those who perpetrated the Holocaust. They were also instrumental in the 3-year seige of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), cutting off the northern route into one of the largest cities in Russia. That little seige was responsible for the deaths of more civilians (over 1 million, through starvation, violence and disease) than the bombing and subsequent firestorm in Dresden (read Slaughterhouse 5) and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki all put together, which claimed at most 300,000 lives.

I think of my grandfather’s brothers, who both died in World War II fighting for the Allies. Of course, they were in the Pacific Theater, not the Russian Front, but they still chose to fight for the United States, their new home, against Finland, their ancestral one. They chose the new capitalist country, with its hope for ordinary people, over the home their father left to find a better life, and they both died fighting for it.

That’s another theme of these novels. There are not easy answers, or answers that are always clear and correct. Rather characters act in the way that they think is correct, and cultures have different viewpoints that are viable for them but come into conflict with personal needs and the needs of other cultures. This leads to war and death.

It’s a lot like our world.

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