An Interview with eluki bes shahar

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Title: An Interview with eluki bes shahar
Interviewee: eluki bes shahar
Date(s): 1998
Medium: online
Fandom(s): X-Men
External Links: An Interview with eluki bes shahar, Archived version (okay! the interview has a "starry" background and the text appears to be invisible - you have to highlight it with the cursor to read it.)
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An Interview with eluki bes shahar was conducted in 1998 for "Connections."

In it, the names "eluki bes shahar" and "Rosemary Edghill" are officially connected.

"Summer and Robin have long had a love affair with eluki's mystery series which features Bast, a New York Witch. Those titles were written under the name Rosemary Edghill, and quickly became the rage within our local group. When we searched for more titles, we discovered other non de plumes, and a marvelous website. When imposed upon with appropriate pleas, eluki graciously agreed to do an interview with us."


Connections - Most of us are more familiar with your writing under Rosemary Edghill. But I understand that eluki is your legal name, and I keep seeing it all in lower case. Is there a story behind the name?

eluki - Well, about the capitalization, it's just that I didn't want the "b" in the middle to get lonely. As for my picking the name Rosemary Edghill to write under, when I made my first sale, a Regency Romance, the editor informed me that their audience believed that all these books were written by dead English women, so I would have to come up with a dead Englishwoman name. So I did.

c - I saw that you had written X-Men stories. How did that come about?

e - I've been a major X-Men fan since issue #1, and Keith (de Candido, who edits the series under license from Marvel) knew that, and asked if I'd like to write an X-Men novel. Smoke and Mirrors generated a lot of fan mail, and I've actually sold three of them now; the second is out this summer and I'm delivering the third one next April. So basically everybody who said reading comics would never get me anywhere has been dead wrong.

c - Do you see a mix of these different genres? It seems like these days romance, time travel, mystery, and science fiction are pretty well entwined. Do you tend to cross over lines?

e - Oh, all the time, but I'm trying to curb those tendencies, because in terms of the marketplace, crossovers don't tend to do that well. Except for romance readers (where time-travel is a recognized romance sub-genre), who are adventurous and read pretty widely, genre readers tend to like their fiction straight up. There's been a lot of discussion as to whether Bast is a crossover mystery (Locus regularly reviews them as "associational" books, meaning they contain elements of interest to an SF readership), but my position is that they are ecclesiastical mysteries, belonging to the same genre as the books about Father Brown or Rabbi Small.

c - The underlying theme of the X-Men comics has always been honor and duty. Do you see that as relevant to today's kids, and adults? I was particularly thinking of WOLVERINE.

e - Honor and duty, while rather unfashionable these days, are necessary to any civilized society. My take on the X-Men is that here are these people who are special, who are different, and who aren't in the mainstream. They didn't ask to be singled out, but they have been, and that gives them a responsibility to "normal" people to use their special abilities to protect them, no matter how often or how brutally they're attacked for it. It's very much a 20th century knightly code, and if you look around you today, you can see that what people hunger for isn't ease and convenience, but a job worth doing and a goal worth sacrificing for. You can tell that from the spike in membership in the Christian sects that are chock-full of "thou shalt nots". People wouldn't be joining those groups in the numbers they do if what people really wanted was to have everything their own way. What they want is something to believe in.

c - Wolverine has always been a favorite of mine, kind of a modern day Pan figure, balancing his animal nature against his social duties and commitments. What were the challenges of writing for such a complex character?

e - Well, Logan and I go back a long way, so in a lot of ways it was like resuming an interrupted conversation with an old friend. Logan is the embodiment of the Cowboy Way, just as Philip Marlowe and Mack Bolan are. The Cowboy Way can be summed up as "play the hand you were dealt, and don't whine when your luck goes cold." Logan's a really stand-up guy with a personal code of right and wrong that he'll stick to no matter what kind of outside pressure he's subjected to. In a lot of ways, I see him as an Odin figure: he's made enormous sacrifices to be what he is, and you cross him at your peril. When I wrote him in Smoke and Mirrors, and again in Time's Arrow Book Three, I just had to remember that no matter the cost, he wasn't going to take the easy way out or back down.

c - Who is stalking Mercedes Lackey - Christian weirdos or Pagan weirdos? Over-zealous fans?

e - Pseudo-Pagan wackos. It's pretty complicated. She produced a position statement about the stuff once, which is probably still somewhere out on the Net. But as near as I can figure it, the problem goes like this: somewhere out there are a bunch of people who think she was telling the flat-out literal truth about the Guardians of the Path. (Hint: she wasn't.) These people have decided that they themselves are Guardians of the Path. (Hint: they aren't) Next (and here is where I get hopelessly confused) they have decided that poor Misty is the leader of a "young Turks" party in the Guardians who are trying to overthrow the established order (Like she'd be spending all her time writing if she was that powerful a wizard). I'm not sure how they get from there to wanting to do her grievous bodily harm, but at DragonCon in Atlanta last year (which she attended) these people made a serious attempt on her and beat one of her bodyguards up pretty badly. Now she doesn't go to conventions. Period.

c - Have you encountered any of that kind of attention or harassment stemming from your books?

e - No, fortunately. The only attention or harassment I've ever gotten (and it was really mild) was from writing the Wombat Wicca liturgy and performing it (way back in the late seventies, when dinosaurs ruled the earth...). I note that the Wombat Laws are still circulating out there on the net, so at least one thing I've written will never die. I'm looking through my papers to find the Charge of the Lightbrigoddess Talking Blues, and when I do, I'll put that up somewhere on my page as well. So much of my early stuff has been lost or destroyed over the years; I don't even have copies of all my black & white work for the Warren Magazine Group, or file copies of Robin Hood's Barn (which later became Pagana, the journal of the Wiccan/Pagan/Occult Special Interest Group of Mensa). So future biographers will have a lot of hunting ahead of them....

c - We've been watching more and more fantasy books with Pagan and Wiccan themes. Is this the result of the demands of the market, or the interests of the writers?

e - I'd say the interests of the writers, since a lot of writers are interested in the New Age community in general and Wicca in particular. You don't run into the same kind of trouble putting Wiccans into a fantasy setting as you do in writing fiction set in the real world about them for some reason. Maybe it's not as threatening to the non-Wiccan audience. I don't know.

c - I was so intrigued with your description of the Klingon Wiccans. Do you see much of our science fiction intertwined with Wiccan practices? What do you think about that?

e - Well, starting with the founding of Church of All Worlds, which was inspired by Stranger in a Strange Land by SF Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein, the border between Wiccans and SF fans has been pretty elastic. I think that the same kind of people are attracted to both SF and Wicca, in many cases, which is okay if they don't get them muddled up. One is fiction, and is for fun. The other is religion, and it's for life.

c - Many people's religious philosophies were created and shaped by writers such as Heinlein and Robert E. Howard's Conan. With media the force it is today, how do people differentiate between religion and fantasy/fiction?

e - A lot of them don't, which is the sad thing, because a fantasy religion will only get you through the up times in your life. But what a real religion does is provide a guiding code of ethics and standards by which to measure your behavior, and a higher power to communicate with when life really sucks. As for me, whether She says "no" or "work it out yourself", the Goddess has always talked to me, and that's the most important thing in my life. The thing is, religion is always going to make demands on you, and sometimes it will require you to do things the hard way rather than the easy way. And I think that duty and self-denial are concepts that are pretty alien to most members of this generation of Americans. As for how you can differentiate between candy-coated tangerine-flake fantasy and the red meat of gnosis, there's only the same old way there's been for the last 9,000 years: you meditate, you do ritual, you listen. And you make contact.

c - Obviously the Church of All Worlds is now well established. And there is the Guardian Path that sprang up from the Mercedes Lackey's books. How do you feel about new religions that may develop from your books or creations?

e - I honestly don't think any will, considering the kind of stuff I write. But if it were to happen, I think I'd be enormously stunned and bewildered and would hope that it would end up being only a gateway to the real thing for them. Every writer loves to have fans, and if one of my books took off the way Darkover or Pern or Valdemar have for their authors, I'd be delighted. But having them make a religion out of a work of fiction that I'd written . . . no.

c - Are they valid spiritual paths?

e - Well, CAW has moved pretty far from its initial impetus, to become really a syncretic self-created tradition that actually has made the spiritual connection that a religion must make. So I'd say that yeah, CAW passes the litmus test for being a valid path. I don't know anything at all about these Guardians, but if they're spending their time stalking Misty and beating up her friends, just how valid can they be? I knew a woman once who was a ritual magician and a fan, and when Star Wars came out it really blew her away and she decided to become a Jedi. And that worked for her, because she not only already had a solid grounding in the Western Mystery Tradition, but she was widely-read enough to be able to go back to the same sources as George Lucas had drawn from and work with them. So no problem: Star Wars is full of archetypal forms and archetypes are what we work with. But if you take someone who is not widely read and practiced, and they get the same desire to "become a Jedi", they're going to crash and burn because they don't have the same foundation or experience. I knew of someone like that, too; she was a knee-jerk Baptist, but a natural medium, and she screwed herself up bigtime when she decided to "use the Force". So I guess my basic take in this is that pop culture can sometimes be an amusing icing on the spiritual cupcake, but it's much better to find your way down the spiral path through one of the more conventional means. There's a lot of reading and study that you can do on your own.

c - We always like to offer the opportunity for people to include and cover anything that is important or that we have missed.

e - You know, I've never considered myself as a really private person (my motto being "Everyone's Entitled To My Opinion"), but I'm not sure I have a lot to say outside of my books, and when I come up against questions like this I find myself struck mute - which followers of my newsgroups know is an unusual condition. The main other thing I do with my time besides writing and preparing to write is coaching beginning writers. Oh, and adding to my perilously huge collection of folk and filk. At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Michael Longcor and Stan Rogers, and actually each of my books has a secret soundtrack, based on what I was listening to at the time. For The Sword of Maiden's Tears it's the Doors, and for The Cup of Morning Shadows it's Another Way to Travel by Cats Laughing. The Bast books are usually written to Steeleye Span and Freeport Convention. When I hit rock-bottom and am sitting around exhausted and up against a killer deadline, though, I reach for my Aerosmith and George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers CDs, put on the earphones, and crank 'em all the way up.