Updated: July 16, 2018
When you think about it, few red-haired people share the same fame as the biblical Romeo cum Rambo - the archetypal good-guy Samson, whom I chose as the protagonist for my latest book, I Shall Slay the Dragon! Yes, I know what you're thinking. Of all the fantasy themes I could have picked, why this one?
Now that the book is out there, I thought about spending a moment or three talking about this idea. On one hand, it feels obvious: the quintessential tragic love story, the olden-day West Side Story, the best the mythology can give you - and the dragon, of course. On the other, each one of these motifs on their own has been told and resold numerous times. But I've never seen them blended together. That's how my book was born.
The challenger appears
As you may have guessed from my writing over the years - especially the Hillbilly physics section, I am not a religious guy. But the concept of religion shows up in many of my books, as it's a fascinating aspect of human psyche and people's fascination (no, obsession) with life, death and the determinism of their choices.
In between Linux distributions, fast cars, classical fantasy and sci-fi, I felt writing a love story - soppy me - but one that would put the question of life, death and determinism to the ultimate test. Going back to the origins always feels like the best way to explore the topic. Biblical works are full of interesting anecdotes, allegories and stories that touch upon love and faith - the choice between man and God. One that strikes the imagination quite vividly is that of an almost superhuman, red-haired Nazarite named Samson.
It's all there - courage, intrigue, forbidden love, and a tragic ending, the kind that would inspire Greek drama for centuries. Later on, it would inspire the story of pretty much any superhero, like for instance, the creation of Superman - a super-strong man with a flaw; his love for Lois Lane, his emotional Kryptonite - in addition to his physical weakness to the element - not unlike Samson's love for Delilah and the supernatural strength he derives from his red hair.
But that story has already been told. I had to amp it. Every good tale has at least two conflicts. The more the merrier. If a protagonist has to fight two or three or ten dilemma, then the story should be more exciting, more compelling. Love, and to some extent, faith are already part of the Samson & Delilah story. But it's not enough. Samson needs an enemy. THE enemy.
What's the best supernatural foe for a hero with supernatural abilities?
The dragon, of course.
And so I blended this love story with the story of Armageddon. It's all there - the dragon, the serpent, the Beast, the number of the Beast, the end of days, the final reckoning, Gog and Magog. I made Samson half-Ammonite, half-Israelite (his mother's identity is not known in the Bible, so I added my artistic flair there). Another conflict right there.
It's no longer just a question of forbidden love and betrayal, nor of Samson's identity crisis.
Our hero needs to save the world, too.
In the spirit of the old times
To make it even more interesting, I tried to give the story a genuine biblical feel.
One, the geographical locations mentioned in this novel are real; or, to be more accurate, as real as history books and the religious texts allow. However, with almost 3,000 years between the action in the novel and today, some of the places and names may appear obscure or unfamiliar. For instance, I have used 'City of David' for 'Jerusalem.' In general, the plot takes place in the region of ancient Israel and Babylon (known as Bavel in this novel.)
Two, I have tried to be true to the spirit of the languages spoken in the ancient period, and I chose Aramaic and Hebrew pronunciation over the contemporary English (and Greek) usages. Notably, there’s no letter J in the Hebrew language (except in loan words), and so Judea becomes Yehuda becomes Iehuda. Benjamin becomes Biniamin. Likewise, names of foods, spices, and monies are also written in the English transliteration of their Aramaic and Hebrew forms.
Three, I have also used Old Testament spellings for the names of the protagonists. While Samson and
Delilah ring a familiar bell in Western literature, the correct (original) forms of their names are
Shimshon and Dlila.
Lastly, the chapters are numbered using the Gematric alphanumeric code. As in Latin, letters double as numbers. Aleph is 1, Dalet is 4, Yod is 10, and so on. I have used the same notation as the Old Testament, including omitting the combinations of Yod-Hei (15) and Yod-Vav (16), as they were considered blasphemous, spelling out the name of God. Instead, I have used the Tet-Vav (9+6=15) and Tet-Zain (9+7=16) ciphers, which result in the same numerical values.
Well, that's a lot of antiquity to process. Hopefully, it's going to be fun.