Dennis L. McKiernan's Official Homepage
About the Author, Dennis L. McKiernan
(text from Tales of Mithgar and Into the Fire, author photo by Cubberly Studios)
From Tales of Mithgar...
Dennis L. Mckiernan was born April 4, 1932, in Moberly, Missouri,where he lived until age eighteen, when he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving four years spanning the Korean War. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Missouri in 1958 and an M.S. in the same field from Duke University in 1964. Dennis spent thirty-one years as one of AT&T Bell Laboratories whiz kids in research and development - in anti-ballistic missile defense systems, in software for telephone systems, and in various management think-tank activities - before changing careers to be a full-time writer.
Currently living in Tuscon, Arizona, Dennis began writing novels in 1977 while recuperating from a close encounter of the crunch kind with a 1967 red and black Plymouth Fury (Dennis lost: it ran over him: Plymouth 1, Dennis 0).
Among other hobbies, Dennis enjoys SCUBA diving, dirt-bike riding, and motorcycle touring - all enthusiasms shared by his wife. An internationally bestselling author, his critically acclaimed fantasy novels include Voyage of the Fox Rider, The Eye of the Hunter, Dragondoom, The Silver Call Duology, The Iron Tower Trilogy, and now the story collection Tales of Mithgar. Never one to sit idle too long, Dennis has also written The Vulgmaster (a graphic novel) and several short stories and novelettes which have appeared in various anthologies. He is presently working on his next opus.
From Into the Fire...
I was born April 4, 1932, in Moberly, Missouri, in the depths of the Great Depression. My dad and mom were factory workers, struggling to make ends meet. Yet my brother and sister and I didn't feel any neglect, for both of our parents loved to read and to read aloud, and both loved to play many games. And they included us in these pastimes.
When I was nine, may dad gave me a pulp magazine: it featured Captain Future, the quintessential science fiction pulp hero; I devoured the tale. This magazine more than anything else launched me into omnivorous reading: science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, Oz books, and whatever else I could lay my hands on: westerns, mysteries, romances, the classics, and more: I read them all, and all was triggered by a magazine my dad gave me back when I was but nine.
Thank you, Mom; I really appreciate what you did. And thank you as well, Dad, wherever you are in that great beyond; that magazine you gave me when I was nine was a priceless gift. Thank you, Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett, as well as a myriad others; you helped launch me into my engineering career, and the literary career which followed. Thank you, too, Captain Future . . . and Grag and Otho and the Brain, and Eek and Oog and all the others who helped that remarkable man. Without all of you and the Comet flying across vast reaches of space and doing in evil throughout the whole universe, perhaps this biography at the end of this book would never have been. . . . It is all connected, you know.
(D. L. McKiernan has also recently written Caverns of Socrates, a SF/Fantasy novel)
Other Short Stories by Dennis L. McKiernan
The Halfling House - After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, TOR Books, January '92
Straw Into Gold: Part II - Dragon Fantastic, DAW Books, May '92 (co-authored w/Mark Kreighbaum)
The Ornament - The Magic of Christmas, ROC Books, November '92
The Source of it All - Alien Pregnant by Elvis, DAW Books, June '94
I Sing the Dark Riders - Elf Fantastic, DAW Books, April '97
The Lesser of... - Highwaymen: Robbers & Rogues, DAW Books, June '97
In the Service of Mages - Wizard Fantastic, DAW Books, November '97
Of Tides and Time - Wizard Fantastic, DAW Books, Novemeber '97
The Divine Comedy - Olympus, DAW Books, Spring '98
Final Conquest - Legends #1-Tales from the Eternal Archives. DAW Books, January '99
A Perilous Place to Be...
Mithgar is a wondrous world, or so I have been told... and yet... People cite the folk who live there: the Elves and Dwarves and Baeron and Humans and Warrows of the world, as well as Fox Riders and Children of the Sea and Groaning Stones and Living Mounds and Tomte and Woodwers and other Hidden Ones. They talk of the places wherein folk do dwell: the Boskydells, a rolling farmland dotted with small villages and surrounded by the Thornring, a barrier of living stilettos fifty feet high and miles wide and so thick that even birds and small animals find it difficult to make their way through; the forests and glens of the Elves, some where twilight ever cloaks the land; the living stone of the mountains wherein the Dwarven folk abide; endless grassy plains across which the Vanadurin ride fiery steeds; deep fjords sheltering Fjordsmen and their roving Dragonships; the Greatwood of the Baeron, some of whom at times take on the shapes or Wolves and Bears; Black Mountain, wherein Wizards reside; and more, much more of these remarkable places wherein the folk do dwell. They cite the friendly taverns, where Elven Bards sing and ale is plentiful along with mulled spice wine, where tales are told over a brew and a roast, and laughter fills the air. They speak of marvelous sights: the thousand-foot-high Great Escarpment down which Bellon Falls roars into the Cauldron below; Darda Galion, a forest of mighty trees towering upwards hundreds of feet where Silverlarks herald the dawn and dusk; the Wolfwood, wherein creatures of legend shelter; Dragonslair Mountain, spewing out molten fire; the incredible Avagon Sea with its indigo waters blue... just to name a few. And they say they would like to live there, drink the beer, speak with the remarkable variety of folks, hear the tales, listen to Elven Bards sing, sit at a simple campfire beneath a silver-bright moon, or pace through the Elven ritual of the changing of the seasons. These are the things they dream of in Mithgar...
...yet 'tis a perilous place as well, where Rucks and Hloks plunder and pillage and dreadful Ghuls astride hideous Helsteeds seek ride over all. It is a land of massive Trolls and appalling Gargons, Fearcasters to freeze the blood... and Dragons and Krakens and the Great Maelstrom, and the Great Swirl in the Sindhu Sea, where many a ship has been trapped in the clinging weed. There are Black Mages and Cold Iron Towers, and ghastly things beneath the land, and tombs and temples of death, and many a terrible foe...
...and more, much more, in this land of heroes and villains, of peace and peril, of sights and sounds and tastes and smells to bring both wonder and dread to the heart, this place where at any moment an adventure can grab you by the throat and drag you from here to there, at times laughing, a times screaming, at times weeping copious tears...
...and yet, even though Mithgar is at times a perilous place to be, I hope you visit here often to travel across these wondrous lands with me.
-Dennis L. McKiernan ~ 1998
War in Mithgar...
There's plenty of conflict among humans in the Mithgarian mythos: Jutes and Fjordlanders (over raids); Jordians and Kathians (over disputed territory); Avenians and Garians (over various feuds); the High King's realms versus the Southerlings (Fists of Rakka; Rovers of Kistan; Hyrinian Jihad; and so on).
Then there's Dwarves versus Foul Folk (a war started when Grg hurled Durek into the Vorvor); Elves versus Foul Folk; in fact, lots of people versus Foul Folk.
There's Mage against Black Mage (they're Mages all).
But Elves no longer fight Elves (the philosophy of "Let it begin with me" stopped that).
Dwarves have some conflict among themselves, but only on a personal basis, for they revere "honor" above all.
Warrows only have small tiffs among themselves. They are simply too pastoral and too optimistic to fall into great struggles among themselves.
When you think of it, most big fights start over: water; religion; resources; land. In Mithgar, there's lots of unoccupied land, lots of water, resources (such as iron, gold, other minerals, oil, etc.) only become real important when the technology reaches a certain point.
Also, Dwarves occupy a certain niche that others do not want for themselves. Elves occupy a different niche. Warrows, even a different niche. Hidden Ones are quite lethal, and so no one messes with them.
Hence, it's humans who struggle against humans (for various causes, some of which are listed above).
Finally, beyond the strictly human conflicts, religion is the main source of war on Mithgar which sweeps nearly everyone up on it's cruel embrace, and then it's primarily the forces of Gyphon versus those of Adon.
Let me add a post script: The stories in the Mithgarian Mythos are all connected by an overall theme. The conflicts among humans simply don't fall into the overall theme I was writing about.
Someone asked me awhile back, why didn't I write about the War of the Usurper. My reply is that that war was about who should be the rightful High King, and it didn't fit into the overall story arc. That tale, by the way, has plenty of treachery and treason involved, but it wasn't one I wanted to tell.
As far as everyone getting along in my stories (that is, the "good guys" getting along with one another), generally speaking, when faced with a common threat (a really big common threat), folks do indeed "get along" until that threat is dealt with.
That, plus the fact that the niches the various races fit into are sufficiently different that one race doesn't envy another, nor lust after the other's possessions, etc. Besides, they know that going after something of the other's goods, well, they'd be at a helluva disadvantage. For example, if Elves invaded a Dwarvenholt, the Elves'd be toast. Same with the Dwarves invading an Elven realm: Dwarf toast, anyone? Likewise, the same holds with Hidden Ones and other such. And Warrows when riled are quite devastating. As for Magekind, what would they want from others that they can't have on their own; for Black mages, it's "fire." I believe that only Dragons and Utruni have the power to take down almost anyone they would go up against, but again I ask, what would they like to gain? Treasure for the Dragons, perhaps. For the Utruni ... who can say?
That's enough for now.
Yes, there is a limit, otherwise a Mage would become godlike. If a Mage has a special artifact, though, like, say, Krystallopyr, then s/he may be able to store up _fire_ in that artifact and use it without losing life force. Tokens of power are essentially artifacts which allow a person to use them without expending life force, however, many tokens of power have destinies to fulfill and may not always react in a manner the wielder expects. Krystallopyr is one such token of power ... with a destiny you will find quite surprising, I think. There are many small tokens of power which occupy Mithgar, and their purposes are quite contained (such as Aravan's blue amulet which detects some things of perilous intent, or Bane or Bale, or Dunamis), but there are also some tokens of power with quite powerful purposes (such as the Silver Sword, the Kammerling, and Krystallopyr). In any event, to answer the question posed: yes there are limits on the amount of force a Mage can draw from himself and/or from others, unless, of course, a token of power is present to augment what the Mage can do. As to just exactly what those limits are, that I cannot say since I haven't come across any lost Mithgarian scrolls which explain where the utmost extremes are.
Anyway, the amount of _fire_ that a Mage has can be likened to the "life force" that he has. One might liken it to the years left in his/her life, since casting spells causes a Mage to age. A small spell, like, say, "light" would seem to me to take only a minor amount of life force away from the Mage ... say the equivalent of, oh, minutes from his/her span of years. But a big spell, like, say, blowing up a fortress would take years from the Mage. So, think of casting spells as stealing minutes/hours/days/months/years from the life of the caster. As far as Black Mages go, they steal life force from others to power their spells. And the more horrific way they kill the victim, the more _power_, the more _fire_ they manage to take from that poor unfortunate soul.
PS: That's why Black Mages do such horrible things to their prey, simply to gain as much _fire_ from them as they can get.
PPS: That's also why the good Mages cast few spells ... I mean, it's their own _life_ they're draining away, and although they can recover their own life force, they are out of action for a long while ... especially on Mithgar. On Vadaria (the Mage world) they recover much faster.
I figure that a Mage can never contain more _fire_ than that which s/he would naturally have when s/he is at the peak of life ... probably equivalent to the _fire_ s/he had at the age of, oh, 25 or so, assuming perfect health and at 100% of _fire_. When Mages rest they do recover _fire_ (and youth), and when they _rest_ long enough to restore _all_ their _fire_, they will then be biologically about 25 years old ... though chronologically they could be millennia old. As to how long a Mage needs to _rest_, it takes several millennia on Mithgar for a Mage who has spent nearly all his _fire_ to recover fully back to 100%. On Vadaria, it takes much less time. My best judgement would be that it takes about 1000 years of rest on Mithgar to recover each ten (10) years of spent life force. Hence, given that Mages would die after spending, oh, say, 75 or so equivalent years of life force (since the max life force occurs at the equivalent of 25 years of age, then spending another 75 years worth means that a Mage will die at the equivalent of 100 years old ... 25 + 75 = 100). This means that it will take a fully spent Mage about 7,500 years on Mithgar to recover full power, whereas on Vadaria it will take much less years of rest to recover from being fully spent to being at 100% again. Most Mages, though, do not spend 99% of their life force before resting. It is my leaning to have the recovery time on Vadaria be somewhere around a tenth to a hundredth of that on Mithgar, and so, instead of taking 7,500 years to go from completely spent to 100% recharged, on Vadaria it would take somewhere between 75 and 750 years. I have not yet made up my mind on this, but I do think that "magic" should be a costly thing, and being out of action for looooong periods of time is indeed a high cost. What this does is make it very hard for a Mage to decide to use a lot of "magic" to resolve his/her problems, and almost forces them to depend on cunning and guile to achieve success. Using life force to cast magic is therefore something to not be entered into lightly, for the consequences can be quite extreme. Some artifacts allow Mages to store _fire_ in them (the crystal of Krystallopyr was one of these). Black Mages draw _fire_ from others ... via pain, fear, hatred, etc., and so Black Mages are quite prolific in their use of "magic."
(Dennis on the issue of mage biology.)
Like Elves (which Mages may be partly), following birth, (assuming they cast no spells) Mages age as do normal folk until they reach the age of about thirty, at which time the aging stops. In case you are wondering, all mature Elves are about thirty years old physically/biologically, no matter what their chronological age is. When Mages cast spells, they spend youth to do so--in the case of a Black Mage, they spend someone else's youth, whereas a Mage who hasn't succumbed to the dark side spends his/her own youth.
"Resting" is really a trancelike state, where the Mage's own immune/healing system kicks into "high" gear and begins repairing the ravages to the cells and system caused by spell casting. I put "high" in quotes, for it really is a slow process, especially on Mithgar where the aethyr is of a slightly different sort than on Vadaria (Mages regain youth much faster on Vadaria than on Mithgar, and that's why the loss of Rwn was so devastating to Magekind, for it held the only known crossing point).
During the time Mages are in this trancelike state, they seem to draw sustenance from the aethyr as well, hence, apparently no food or drink is needed. (I could be entirely wrong about this "sustenance" conjecture, but all the clues I have point that way.)
Anyway, the regaining of youth is a really slow thing on Vadaria, and even slower on Mithgar (though the immune/healing system is in high gear--I mean, regaining youth is a very difficult task for anyone's system).
PS: What I forgot to add was that when Mages regain their youth, they return to the age of thirty, and then are completely restored, at which time the biological restorative process stops, and the Mages come out of the trance (stop resting). Then they need to resume a normal existence (eating, sleeping, making love, etc.)
Of course, Black Mages on the other hand draw "fire" from those they torture, from those in agony nearby, from those in great emotional distress, hence they don't age but simply store up "fire" from others. This excess "fire" bleeds off slowly, hence if they don't use it to cast a spell in the time they yet have the stolen "fire" then they lose it and have to go to the trouble of finding or putting someone else in agony and distress. That's why they torture and flay and so on ... to steal "fire" to power their spells.
Black Mages can also restore their own youth by sucking up someone else's "fire."
But anyway, when Mages reach thirty, they come out of the trance. Oh, and this, too: if they spend all their own "fire", that's it, they're dead.
Dennis L. McKiernan's Favorites
Favorite Elf/Elves: Alor Aravan and Dara Riatha
I like these two because they thread throughout much of the history of Mithgar, and often are pivotal characters. Too, their personalities and long view on life and preserving the world and learning various arts and crafts I admire. I also like them because they are competant with weaponry, and manage to take out bad guys without too much reflection on the morality of such deeds, believing that evil should be quashed wherever it's found. When Raitha saved the party from the wyrm in the well at the cost of having to Truename Dunamis, it was devastating to her the effect Dunamis had upon the mortals in the party, and so it demonstrates that Riatha truly cares for the lives of others.
Favorite Chak: Brega
He seems to epotomize all of Chakkadom. Stalwart, loyal, quite savage at times yet caring, linear in his thinking, and one helluva fighter.
Favorite Warrow(s): ?
I believe that there are too many to pick just one. The team of Tuck, Danner, and Patrel, and later on Merrilee, really nails down just what Warrows are like: sensitive, caring, naive, yet tough to the core when toughness is needed. Virtually fearless even in the face of their own fears. Tip and Beau and Rynna show the same qualities, as do Gwylly and Faeril, and Gwylly showed another Warrow trait: curiosity.
Favorite Pysk: Jinnarin
Ah, almost a no-brainer for me. She never let Alamar get the better of her. And she followed her quest for Farrix to the end. I liked Farrix, too, but Jinnarin is and will probably always be my favorite.
Favorite Human(s): Galen and Laurelin
He was truly a High King, and Laurelin held up in the face of the most dreadful circumstances. Some of the Vanadurin are really neat: Brytta, Elyn, Ruric, and even Elgo (though his pride was his downfall). Here we have a magnificent nation of horsemen. And Elyn's quest and her humanity really stand out. Too, Aiko stands out as well: her stoic, no-nonsense approach to life, her skills as a warrior, and her tiger, all combine to make her a memorable and splendid character.
Favorite Baeron: ?
Some may wonder if Baeron are Human or not. Some are shapeshifters, hence, they may not be fully human. In any event, I really liked Urus and Ursor, and Nikki (Urus's adopted mom). These folk are really tough in battle, and they preserve the land.
Favorite Mage: Alamar
I think he is a splendid character. Irrascible, stubborn, belligerant, etc, still he is someone who is foursquare on the side of right. Dalavar Wolfmage is quite cool, too. Mysterious and somehow mixed up in many key events, he has fully gained the loyalty of a pack of Silver Wolves, who themselves are splendid characters. And Aylis. Her love story with Aravan is quite compelling. (Hmm... I wonder if Alamar and Aylis somehow managed to survive the destruction of Rwn?)
Favorite Villain: Stoke
He heads the top of the list. Oh, Modru was certainly more powerful, and Ordrune was quite terrible in his treatment of Egil's crew, and Durlok certainly caused a lot of damage, and Gyphon is behind it all, but Stoke is the one who manages to make the top of my personal list. As for a female villainess, I think only Queen Gudrun seems to qualify, what with the treatment of her lovers.
Favorite Dragon: ?
I do like Black Kalgalath and Raudhrskal. Black Kalgalath because he is the first Dragon whom I got to really know well (Sleeth was neat, but Kalgalath was even better). Raudhrskal because we got to see Dragons' Roost as well as actually have a conversation with a Dragon.
Favorite Pair: Alamar and Jinnarin
They're my favorites because of their squabbles and arguments and other set-tos which made me laugh, and because of their serious discussions which made me think. Oh, I know that I wrote it, but nevertheless, that's the way they affected me.
Favorite Other: Hanlo, Harlow, and Hadlo Higgs
Because these three not-too-bright Warrows (from Tales of Mithgar, _The Ruffian and the Giant_) had me rolling on the floor laughing even as I wrote their story.
I also found Prym an interesting character, but since most of you have yet to meet her, I will say no more.
My favorite race and why?
It's like asking me, "Of all your children, which is your favorite?"
Let me see: back in 1983 when I played my first FRP game, I chose to play as Brega. You see, Brega was the only character who ever sprang fully developed in my mind. I knew all there was to know of him from the moment of his conception.
I do have a fondness for Dwarves.
But on the other hand, the character that I had the most fun writing was Jinnarin. Her and Alamar's exchanges were wonderful. I especially liked it when she kicked all the pieces off the Tokko board. Their scenes together wrote themselves. Pysks are really neat.
Warrows, on the other hand, as someone else said on this board, have _heart_. Small, sensitive, courageous, etc., it's really difficult to see them go up against the odds they seem to routinely face. Warrows are quite the race.
Vanadurin: proud, vain, magnificent horsemen, steely-eyed and firm of hand.
Fjordsmen: Wolves of the sea.
But, Adon, what a specimen Aiko was. I wonder, are all Ryodoans that way?
Elves. Oh, but to have the time to become as sane and as competant as they are.
Other Hidden Ones: reclusive but devastating to foe in their domain.
And Dragons and Magekind and others I've not mentioned.
Hmm... Which is my favorite child?