Paying Homage to Fantasy Great David Eddings

As we are getting closer to the release of our first round of novellas, I have been thinking a lot about the writers I grew up reading and loving.  At the top of that list has to be David Eddings.  Eddings was a huge influence on me, and I can hear echoes of his voice in a lot of my writing.  As we’ve gotten more active on social media, one of the things I did was look for the twitter accounts of authors i really liked.  I was disappointed to find that Eddings did not have one.

It was then that I learned that Eddings had passed away in 2009.  I was incredibly saddened by this, not only because I was unaware of his passing, but also because as we are taking beginning to connect with some of those great authors who influenced us, I will never have the chance to connect with the man.

In his later works, Eddings credited his wife Leigh as co-writer.  It seems that his publisher had recommended that a single name would sell better than a co-authorship.  Joe and I are sure hoping he is wrong on that.  Leigh was responsible for much of the work, and I wanted to credit that here.

I first discovered Eddings work when I was in high school.  His epic fantasy series, the Belgariad was something that immediately clicked with me.  It had the magic and excitement that I loved in fantasy, but it also had a lightness, and a sense of fun to it that the denser, weightier tomes of fantasy, like Tolkien, didn’t.

Now, among modern fantasy readers, Eddings kind of gets a bad rap.  In a world where the majority of fantasy now leans more towards the darker side of the spectrum dominated by George R.R. Martin (who is admittedly great) and Joe Abercrombie (who is actually even greater), Eddings comes across as distinctly light.  His work is heavy on tropes, almost to the point of cliche.  And yet, I always found these things to be part of the charm of his work.  His world is not terribly revolutionary or rich.  His magic system is almost overly simplistic.  None of that mattered to me.

But the one thing that defined David Eddings work for me was the way he made characters that you didn’t just care about, you learned to love.  To cherish.  This is what defined Eddings as a writer for me then, and continues to influence me now.  Right now, Joe and I are working on our fourth novella, a sort of fantasy noir mystery following one of our orphans, Alys.  There is a lot to Alys that owes a debt to Eddings memorable character Prince Kheldar, better known as Silk.  To this day, the heroic spy/merchant/rogue remains one of my favorite characters in fantasy literature.

On a more poignant note, I never fully realized it before, but there was a lot of Polgara the sorceress, the aunt and mother figure for the series young protagonist that always reminded me of my own mom.  The way she would phrase certain things, or the way Eddings would describe a look that she gave.  Little things like that.  As a kid, I just noticed that they felt familiar and understandable.  But now that my mother is gone, this realization makes me want to revisit these old books even more, to recapture a little bit of that similarity.

The final thing that Eddings brought to the table was wit.  There was a love of witty repartee that dripped from each page of his books.  I was discovering the Belgariad series around the same time I was watching Moonlighting, and reading the Taming of the Shrew, and all of them had that love of word play and banter, and smart people talking to other smart people and using language as tool and weapon and gift all at the same time.  It would be the same thing that would later draw me so closely to the works of Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin.

When I first mentioned that I wanted to talk about Eddings, Joe immediately responded with “You have to talk about the ending.”  Of course he was right, as the anecdote he was referencing perfectly encapsulates how much these books meant to me.  And mean to me still.  Eddings’s two main series are the Belgariad and its follow up, the Malloreon.  I devoured the Belgariad, one book after the other.  Then, when the Malloreon came out, I bought each of those books in hardback.  I have read each and every book in those two series at least three times.

Except for one.

The final book of the Malloreon, The Seeress of Kell.  I have never actually read it.  I couldn’t bring myself to, you see.  Knowing it was the last one, the last installment of the adventures of these characters I had grown to love so much, I couldn’t do it.  To this day, almost a quarter of a century later, I still haven’t read the book, and as I write this, I don’t really have desire to do so.

I never wanted the series to end, you see.  It was more than the modern, jaded sentiment of being disappointed with endings and the series finales of books and television shows.  This was different.  I didn’t want to have to face the idea that the grand quest, the camaraderie and adventure those characters were sharing might come to an end.  The idea that the characters continued on was more important to me than the resolution of the actual narrative.  Even now, I don’t want to read that final book.

I do have a hankering to read the other books something fierce right now, though.

If you have never read Eddings, check out this collected edition of the first three books of the Belgariad. Yes, it may feel a little old-fashioned now, but classics are old-fashioned.  Doesn’t mean they aren’t great.  All I ask is that if you get hooked, don’t ever tell me how the series ends.  I’m happier just having it keep going.

-Mark

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