Tor.com content by

Ryan Van Loan

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

The Role of Ego (No, Not the Living Planet) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Ego is a motherfucker. At least it can be if you aren’t too careful. I say this as someone whose profession (fantasy author) requires ego to function. You have to be egotistical enough to believe that what you’re putting down on the page is something special enough that someone else (hopefully a lot of someones) is going to want to read. Let that ego consume you though, and your work will suffer. You won’t see the flaws in your writing that need to be improved, you won’t be able to take feedback or apply it to the page. To be a good writer, in my opinion, you need a perfect blend of ego and empathy. Empathy drives good character writing and while folks might come for the story, they stay for the characters. That blend of ego and empathy is something I think about a lot, because it doesn’t maintain balance, it oscillates and you have to be ever vigilant to make sure ego doesn’t tip the scales over.

Like pretty much everyone else, I had a lot of at-home time this past eighteen months and one of the more constructive things I did was rewatch the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in preparation for WandaVision. What struck me throughout was the ways in which ego plays a pivotal role from the very first scene in Iron Man through to the penultimate climax of Avengers: Infinity War and finally, that incredible scene with Tony Stark and Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. I could write an entire series on ego and the MCU, but three heroes really stood out to me in the ways ego did (or didn’t) impact their character arcs and the world around them. Peter Quill, that 80s wannabe-David Hasselhoff meets Kevin Bacon; Wanda Maximoff our sitcom, spell-slinging heroine; and the figure that kicked things off and snapped his fingers on the curtain call: Tony Stark.

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Read an Excerpt From Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping…

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge, book two in the Fall of the Gods series. Expect boardroom intrigue, masquerade balls, gondola chases, street gangs, and shapeshifting mages in this fantasy adventure, publishing July 13th with Tor Books. Start here with chapters one and two, or jump in below!

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Beyond Excalibur: Swords as the Great Leveler in The Wheel of Time

Swords in fantasy are as old as time itself. From Gilgamesh and Enkidu slaying the demi-god Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven (spoiler: doesn’t end great for Enkidu as it turns out) to Susanno, a kami (a spirit possessing holy powers) who slays Yamata no Orochi, an 8-headed serpent (hiding a few swords within its coils) to Beowulf, swords have been there from the beginning. While some of those swords were named, in the Arthurian mythos we begin to see swords choosing their owners, and in that choice, granting “Chosen One” status upon them.

Tolkien really ate that up in his own works, with Narsil not content to be just the Sauron-killer, but waiting for Isildur’s heir to reforge it (bigger and brighter) as Anduril so Aragorn could be recognized as the King of Gondor. Tolkien, being the sometime (but not the ALL) father of fantasy, heralded in a golden era of magic swords. They often function as the blazing “Chosen One” symbol, from Gonturan choosing Harry in The Blue Sword to By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey and beyond.

The Wheel of Time has its own Chosen One (several, in fact) plucked from another fantasy favorite: prophecy. But swords serve a different function in the world Robert Jordan created: they are the Great Leveler. They don’t choose their owner (despite what Callandor would have you believe, that was about a sa’angreal not a sword), they don’t convey special powers, and they don’t make someone a badass the instant they touch the hilt of one of Jordan’s characteristic, long-hilted, single-edged, katana-like blades.

[Don’t believe me? Look no further than Mr. Dragon Reborn himself.]

The Magic of Travel and Exploring Fantasy Cultures

The first thing my parents taught me, more by accident than intention, was that travel gets into your blood. It’s a drug. It’s magic. I was born on the northern edge of Montana where on cold, clear nights you could glimpse the auroras stretching through the night sky, like psychedelic fingers clutching at the fabric of the universe. By the time I was four we’d already lived in a dozen places crossing multiple states and geographic regions. My earliest memories are divided between the American West and the azure beauty of the Caribbean, spending a year of my life on a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, running along sunny, sandy beaches with my dog Chewie (short for Chewbacca of course), both of us pups still.

A few decades, over a dozen countries, and several continents into this journey, worshiping at the Church of Bourdain (who made me and many, many others believe that traveling across this beautiful planet was not only possible, but required), and I’m still chasing that feeling of sitting in a bar overlooking a never-before-seen view, the smells of the kitchen wafting over me along with the soft buzz of languages I don’t understand. It’s that shot of simultaneous contentment and exhilaration that comes from new soil beneath my feet, fascinating unexplored architecture, the ebb and flow of conversation in the local dialect. In the air and in a word: culture.

The second lesson my parents taught me, again more by accident than anything else, was that books are constructed of the same magic that travel is imbued with.

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Explore the Maps of Ryan Van Loan’s The Sin in the Steel!

Science fiction and fantasy and maps go together like peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and bananas which I much prefer). I fell in love with maps in science fiction and fantasy books from page one and while I can’t remember which was my first, it was probably through C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia or Brian Jacques’ Martin the Warrior? I know maps aren’t for everyone, while for others too much is never enough—but I’ve always enjoyed opening a book to the maps page, seeing this new, foreign (to me) world that I was about to explore and then, later, going back and seeing where our intrepid cast had gone.

[As a writer, maps perform another function…]

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