Student of History and RPG Gamer, Obsessive Reader, plus a Riddle-maker, M.Ed and Museum Gallery Guide, plus a Storyteller on the side.
My name is Ian E.S. Adler the Riddle Master, the son of librarians and born and bred in Cambridge Massachusetts (despite many people thinking I have an accent). Now imagine being able to read your DNA as a piece of literature. Imagine being able to read the root out of which grew many of your basic interests as well as patterns of speech and thought and writing style. Imagine somebody who, until the 4th grade, disliked and once upon a time hated reading, until his Dad practically compelled him to read The Hobbit and then, a few years later, The Lord of the Rings. It was the first big, adult, and truly intelligent book I had read and the impact it had upon me could not have been greater. Simply put, I jumped into the genre with both feet – became perpetually hooked after reading Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle – reading Fantasy series after Fantasy series – constantly and without ever switching genres or getting bored. The Bookshelf section of my Stars Uncounted blog lists all the Fantasies I have read (and liked) to date.
My morality, manner of speech, style of writing, and building blocks of thought may all be traced to Middle-earth (and other subsequent worlds I have visited, but Tolkien had and has the greater influence over me). And before somebody asks, yes, I was part of the Harry Potter generation – growing up as the books came out. Part and not a part, for I actually did not read Harry Potter until after the last book came out (technically I did read the Sorcerer’s Stone and loved it, but was put off from reading further after the Chamber of Secrets movie scared me half to death twice over). As such, I am a child of Fantasy at large, my love for the genre balanced by my passion for history and mythology & folklore. Upon joining the Pottermore (officially created and sponsored by J.K. Rowling) website, I was sorted into Ravenclaw House at Hogwarts and the Horned Serpent at the North American school of Ilvermorny. My wand is Pine wood with a Phoenix feather core 10 ¾” and Supple flexibility, and my Patronus is a dolphin. When asked where in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, or any Fantasy world for that matter (though naturally barring worlds of my own creation), I would like to live, I think the answer would be Dol Amroth in southern Gondor.
Yet while Tolkien is the nexus of my reading, I owe my Fantasy writing to another. To the late Ursula K. Le Guin, whose Archipelago inspired me to create my own. This statement probably surprises many of friends, and for good reason as I have always been a vocal disciple of J.R.R. Tolkien; for example, on re-reading The Lord of the Rings for likely the tenth time, I wrote both on my Stars Uncounted blog and Facebook page what I wrote above: “Imagine being able to read your DNA as a piece of literature. Imagine being able to read the root out of which grew many of your basic interests as well as patterns of speech and thought and writing style. Luckily, I do not have to imagine. I can do it.” I do not retract these words at all, but the impact that Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle had on me was no less great even if it was so subtle that I hardly thought of it. She was one of the best. I remember first reading The Earthsea Cycle in elementary school, hearing the mage Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I still remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time, years later. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged. Isn’t that interesting? I openly and sincerely adored Middle-earth and idolized the wizard Gandalf, but it was Ogion the Silent who I related to: “He spoke seldom, ate little, slept less. His eyes and ears were very keen, and often there was a listening look on his face.” I also remember being struck with the fact that Earthsea was an Archipelago, the first I had ever encountered in a Fantasy, with no true main continent to journey across; rather the journeying was done by ship, in the soul, and on different Isles each of which had a special distinction. I was so struck that even at so young an age I decided that if I were ever to write a Fantasy book then it would take place upon an Archipelago. Interesting is it not? I idolize The Lord of the Rings, yet never felt the need to create my own Middle-earth.
Why? Because I know the common (and uncommon but still recognizable) tropes and tricks of Fantasy literature and so do my best in my own work to either move past them or give them a new coat of paint so as to make them fresh, enjoyable, and unpredictable. Again, Cynnahu is an Archipelago because I noted while reading Earthsea that few other Fantasies feature them, and none in the way Ursula K. Le Guin did. I write Epic Fantasy, yes, but not with the Tolkienesque approach for the simple reason that Middle-earth is perfect.
With an M.Ed and bachelor’s degree in History, my writing reflects an optimism regarding the human potential for peace and goodness despite of and acknowledging history’s grimmest, bloodiest moments. The pen is mightier than the sword, but swords guided by pens have the power to win the world from the clenched fists of war. Notice the plural for swords and pens, as I avoid the by now over-used Chosen One archetype. Being Chosen is fine, but the One leaves little authorial room to maneuver. So sail with me now upon seas uncharted, fly on the fifth wind.
“It is marvelous to see them: the new lands rising from the sea as your boat comes toward them. The farmlands and forests, the cities with their harbors and palaces, the marketplaces where they sell everything in the world.”– Ursula K. Le Guin