Understanding what drives me to create fiction can sometimes be more difficult than the craft itself. Spontaneous as it is, there must be some reason why I’m compelled to browse over this world or that, sorting through foreign environs and alien lives for experiences to retell. Why should one bother with worlds rife with ancient lords and modern warlocks, strange histories and impossible universal mechanics, when such specificity in its alternate designs doesn’t concern us? The answer isn’t always immediately transparent. As someone who craves new perspective, it’s all too easy to be enthralled by earths seen through a twisted mirror, overflowing with the exciting and unorthodox. There’s no scarcity of these Pangaeas, nor want of interesting strangers.

I find a cocky high school student for whom a normal life is but a mask, his blood blazing with an ancestral hunger for the monsters that hide in the night, and I follow him, like an overeager admirer. I take notes as he brandishes his scythe and sharpens his might in a Montoyan quest for revenge against a mythical opponent. His wit is cutting, his bravado unmatched, and his tempered rage frightening. But as I insist in my stalking documentation, I slowly notice something else. The friendships he plays at become more real as time goes on. He realizes that his performance of noble Beowulf is turning him into ravenous Grendel. The world he thought his, a world of beasts, struggle, and glory, is but a short-lived drug. He is human, we both realize, and not made for legends of black-and-white heroism.

I spy a boy in rags, forced to survive in medieval streets by his animal cunning and the edge of a knife. He is saved by a man of war and knightly tradition. I’m fascinated as the man teaches him of family and nobility. The boy becomes a soldier, and like a curious page, I witness his newfound righteousness pitted against the horrors of the war that orphaned him. Yet I find kinship in him, as the boy is pulled between the idealism of his upbringing and the horrors of the battlefield. His past is bitter and bloody, and sheer virtue is not enough to comfort him. He is torn between shame and anger, his palatine lessons and his selfish desires, as his worldview expands.

I fancy a young witch, desperate to save a world caught in a torrent of military progress and civil turmoil, as she tries to conjure the presence of the legendary Freischütz, but succeeds only in summoning a single-minded homunculus. I am horrified at the mockery of Der Freischütz as he hunts down a nemesis that is not his, and guns down the very people his title should compel him to protect, in a civil war he should be sworn to prevent. Yet even this character fabricated by a character has his questions, and his actions begin to turn complex. To what extent can a human be stripped of knowledge and experience and still be human? Where do we find value in life? Does it lie within purpose, or in something else?

Though I indulge in myriad worlds, it is the fundamental experience of their characters that I strive to portray. In crafting fiction, I hope to capture that which binds us and pushes us to discover something about ourselves, even from universes away.


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José Colón is a fifth year student at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. He enjoys spicy things, speaking boisterously in a deep voice, and insists walking helps him think.