Speakers and Kings
Speakers and Kings is the first book by M. Keaton.† Dedicated to the men and women of the United States of Americaís Armed Forces who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedoms, the nature of the book is best described its own back cover:
The definitions and origins of a culture inescapably mold the future of a people.† The seeds sown by generations long buried grow to bear unexpected fruit in the present.† What if a people, with no language and no history, joined a world already in progress?
On the island of Mirabalpur, sheltered by Qaiyore's vast inland sea, the magi of Mir struggle to find a future and escape the ghosts of their past.† Once a mighty empire now fallen into civil disarray, Mir finds itself confronted with grim reminders of the atrocities of its imperial history.
Beneath the floating city of Annaeyana, Sinari nomads amass in the northern deserts.† Believing the city to be the prison home of their god Sin-Alb, they prepare for jyhad.
In the fertile lands to the south, rival kingdoms struggle for dominance and survival.† Located on the Qaiyore's great rivers rich with trade and agriculture, would-be empire builders are caught in a brutal maelstrom not of their own making.
Throughout Qaiyore drift the Eerith, spirit beings and living history lessons.† Once a race of slaves, these normally passive ancients have begun to actóand neither race will ever be the same again.
"These bones are not my children."
Hope, C.E. 1433
An epic fantasy tale of war and cultural strife, while the book is heavily underscored with the themes of military virtues of duty and honor, it is equally influenced by the concerns of language and its influence on society and the individual.† Speakers and Kings may well be the first serious meeting of language and high fantasy since the works of Tolkien.† The Prologue and first section of the book can be previewed below along with the full color map of Qaiyore which could not be included in the book.
Ask your local bookstore or library for a copy of Speakers and Kings by M. Keaton, ISBN 0-595-25825-5, or order directly from the publisher at (Paperback) or (Hardback).† Contact AAP and the author directly for signed copies (great as gifts).† [Archangel Press, Remote Office].
Presented for your consideration, excerpts from the book:
Canto of Fire:† The Canto of Fire, Opus One
The Map That Would Not Fit Within The Book:
An Interview With the Author of Speakers and Kings, M. Keaton
Q:† To start with, what is Speakers and Kings about?
A:† The short answer is: wartime epic fantasy in a medieval, quasi-Arabic context.† The long answer is, well, longer.† The ďwhat ifĒ premise is a race of spirit beings (called the Eerith) that are telepathic, which means they have no language, and are ex-slaves with no history; they joined the world Ďin progressí and were immediately enslaved.† With no history and no language, what kind of people are they?† What do they do?† Thatís where it all starts.† How important is the past to the present?† How important is history and a physical body to language and how important is language to individuality?
Q:† So, pretty heavy philosophy?
A:† No, yes, a little.† Those are the underlying themes that drive the actions and the story is about the actions.† The book really covers the decade or so of jyhad with these spirits being caught in the middle of the war.† Thereís plenty of action.† Let me try it again:† the book is the story of a war and the focus is the people caught in the middle of this war.† The deeper themes come into play with the actions of the Eerith on both sides.† The story is on two levels.† There are some parts that can get deep if the reader wants to really dwell on them but if the reader doesnít want to, they donít have to, the action moves things along on its own.
Q:† You dedicated the book to the men and women of the armed forces.† Why?
A:† First off, the fact that they are out there defending my country is always sufficient reason to dedicate something to them.† In this case, there was a little more to it.†
A lot of my Ďbeta-readersí, the folks I run my rough drafts past, are in the military and they were a lot of help to begin with since this book is about a war.† But, while I wrote it, there was the attack on the USS Cole and the embassy bombings and then 9-11.† I was about halfway through the final version when the US was attacked and I just froze.† It just didnít seem right to be writing about a made up war when we were in the middle of the real one.†
Now the humbling thing occurs.† These guys out there, going off to fight and die, start e-mailing me to see if Iím all right.† Thatís the kind of men and women we have in this countryís military, that kind of selflessness.† They tell me, to paraphrase, ďWrite the book.† We need it.† Distract us and tell us a story of honor and nobility, good versus evil.Ē† The book became a lot deeper, a lot more personal, and a lot more important then because it really became for them.† I went to press right before we rolled into Iraq.
As a nation, really as a culture, weíve lost the good wholesome stories.† Everything is about Ďsensitive cultural issuesí and angst and navel gazing and shades of gray.† Nobodyís telling the good tales of men being men and fighting the good fight.† Iíve always said that my writing was to balance that kind of thing, that Iíd tell the good pulp adventure and let other people worry about writing the great novels.† I really hope that with SK Iíve done that, for them.
Q:† Did you do anything different in this book than you would have otherwise because of that?
A:† Yes, but no one seems to have noticed it.† I broke a lot of the so-called rules of writing to cater to the real-world needs of my readers.† Iíve jokingly called myself the modern master of the serial because of the way I structured the book.† Every chapter is like an episode in the old movie reel serials.† Each chapter begins and ends and the reader can put the book down at the end of each chapter.† Like the old serials, there are cliff-hangers and the like but I break the rule that says never give the reader a good stopping point.† Also I tried to keep each chapter under fourteen thousand words so that it could be read in about an hour and I donít slow down or repeat myself or explain everything to death.† The reason is, these guy have a few hours a day of free time and then hours of duty at station, much of which is watching and waiting.† I tried to give them a book that they could read one chapter at a time, in the time window that they had, with enough meat on the bones that they could think and talk about it while they were on duty if it was a boring dayóand I pray that every day on duty is a boring day.
††††††† The one thing that I couldnít change that I wish I could is the price.† I truly wish that the economics were such that I could give the book to our soldiers for free.† Thatís part of why Iím such a proponent of the ASEs.† We pay fat toad Senators a small fortune to pass laws stealing our freedoms while we give the poor guys risking their lives to protect our freedoms a shiny nickel and a pat on the head.† Free books are the least we should do.
Q:† What about non-military people, is the book accessible to them?
A:† Oh yes.† Itís a solid book no matter where you come at it from.† In fact, Iíve gotten a lot of feedback from teenagers and women who really like it.† That surprised me because I figured that I was writing a very masculine book but I also have strong women as main characters too.† I think the, well, moral clarity of the characters and the fact that they struggle with themselves without selling out, angst without lapsing into self-pity; I think thatís really refreshing to a lot of people, especially young readers.
Q:† A required interview question, why buy your book?
A:† I need to buy groceries.† Seriously though, itís a good book, maybe a great one.† Thatís not me talking, I canít judge my own work.† Thatís what the readers are telling me.† They donít just like it; theyíre blown away.† I have a weird kind of second-hand confidence.† Enough people have told me itís good that I have to admit that it is.
Q:† Last question.† What is Dog?
A:† (laughs) Nope.† No way.† Iím not telling.
(This interview originally appeared in Kilimanjaro magazine, 2003)
Speakers and Kings was originally released 1999-2002 by M. Keaton as a serialized novel by e-mail.† With minor changes, the compilation contains the contents of the original series in their serialized format.† This version should be considered the author's preferred version.
††††††††† Though certainly not a complete list of all the wonderful people who have contributed to the development of this project, this author would like to acknowledge the following individuals for specific contributions which have enriched the work presented here:† Kenny Crowe (who first contemplated a people without force or voice), Joel Elfman, Sam Gorton, Jason Heaps (a steadfast source of support throughout the entire project), Aaron Nowack, Louis Pasztur, Brennan "Mad Hatter" Taylor, and, of course, the god-fathers of it all:† Juha "Juuso" Vesanto, Mike Harvey, and Dylan Martinez.† The author would like to apologize in advance to anyone who may have been missed in the above listing.† It is certainly not a complete list and this author is deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed to the Celandra project over the years.
††††††††† The author would also like to acknowledge the gracious internet hosting of the original series by the fine people of Phoenyx.net.
††††††††† Finally, a heartfelt personal thanks to The Mewses (the Archangel Press Beta readers).
††††††††† The author has drawn heavily from the non-fictional research of great historians, linguistic scholars, and physiologist.† If the reader finds himself drawn toward the deep philosophical waters in which this work treads shallowly, the writings of Dr. Rollo May, Sir Robert Graves, and Sir James G. Frazer are highly recommended.