Tranquility: Tainting Creation in Fantasy Fiction

Tranquility is the first fantasy novel to include a mythical creature based on the common loon.
on Aug 30, 2019 · 4 comments

God has encouraged human creativity from the beginning:

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)

Adam must have been delighted as he was introduced to each of our Lord’s creatures. Picture Adam petting every animal and smiling with God as he named the feathered, furred, and scaled critters put in his charge. Imagine the fist bump after Adam said platypus.

I’m glad there is no Biblical census of the animals. Exploring God’s creation, discovering new species, and the honor and joy of naming them continues to bless mankind to this day. According to the California Academy of Sciences, 220 new animal species were discovered in 2018. Bring joy to your day and look up the “Japan pig” seahorse. Imagine what this year’s list will include. The existence of unknown species yet to be revealed breeds excited anticipation.

Enter fantasy author.

Some mythical creatures are more familiar to me than many earthly animals. I’ve never met a platypus. I likely know what most Americans do about these venomous egg-laying mammals. I’ve also never come across a mermaid or unicorn. Yet, as a young girl I convinced my dear friend, and myself, that we were going to transform into mermaids on our sixteenth birthdays and ride unicorns into the sea. Our sixteenth year was celebrated bipedally, but my assuredness has had a lasting effect and we continue to up the age for this metamorphosis. She and I joke about middle-aged mermaids, but still share that thrill of childhood delight in imagining the possibility.

I was told my writing clearly shows I am in touch with my inner child. I don’t know if this was intended as a compliment, but I believe this attribute to be a foundation of fictional world and character building. If fantastical places and creatures are not real to the author, how can they resonate with readers?

Observing God’s wild creatures is a favorite pastime of mine and has fed my writing well. Placing an earthly animal in a fantastical environment brings out the mysterious side of familiar beasties. I often include them in my fantasy writing unadorned. Sometimes I add a touch of fiction. Other times, I have a wild time inventing new life.

The following statement has yet to be disputed: Tranquility is the first fantasy novel to include a mythical creature based on the common loon.

Take a moment to regain your balance, catch your breath, and think hard if you’ve ever come across another loony fantasy creature.

I want to read that book.

My family’s love of mountain lakes, kayaking, hiking, and bird watching has led us to spend many vacations on the ponds of the Great North Woods. This is where I fell in love with common loons. I am captivated by their haunting calls, involved parenting, beauty, and private nature tinged with curiosity which has often put me in close proximity to these mystifying birds. Exploring mountain lake regions with a preexisting affinity for mythical creatures has caused a fiction-inspiring collision of northwoods residents such as loons, owls, and woodpeckers with fairies, mermaids, and unicorns.

Well before I began cross-breeding the real and mythical, fantasy fiction filled my childhood bookshelves. I grew up delving into worlds apart from mine, inhabited by creatures alive, as far as I knew, only in my imagination. Reading these same books as an adult, I enjoy them as much, and am now aware of the authors’ grappling with real world issues.

I began writing Tranquility after the idea for the protagonist appeared in my dream. Some dreams stick with me, and this character kept developing until I stopped making excuses and started writing about her and her world. It wasn’t long before troublesome topics here on Earth found their way into the lands inhabited by the unique characters I was having such fun creating.

Not surprising, right? A story without conflict is unnatural and boring. Adding trouble isn’t revolutionary, its necessary.

When I first put pen to paper (I truly did) to write Tranquility my intention was to create a story for my children. The romantic notion of my kids having a fantasy book written by their mother and sharing it with their children some day was inspiring. Once I added portions of real world drama to the tale, I handed the first draft to my husband and he encouraged me to pursue publication beyond our family.

I believe God enjoyed His time spent with Adam naming the animals. He also knew Adam would screw up big time and He would need to save us from sin through a mighty, painful sacrifice.

I haven’t met a fantasy author with true omniscience, but many of us try our hand at creating unique, beautiful places and creatures. We then throw sin into the mix to see how different worlds handle reality’s mix of fascinating creation with downright evil.

Adam didn’t experience childhood like we did, but I envision him naming the animals with childlike glee. God had put him to work, proclaimed His rules, and then presented every animal to Adam, giving him the freedom to choose whatever name he liked for each. What joy and freedom he must have experienced. Then he ate the fruit.

I think fantasy authors use their gift of writing to explore that natural and ancient relationship between the beauty of Creation and the failure of its caretakers. Creating original splendors in a new fantasy world is exciting. Evil’s entrance is unavoidable. And the rest is an exploration of how this new world will deal with its problems.

Like a child building a block tower, knocking it down feels so necessary, even when the destruction elicits tears. Then the rebuilding begins. I think this fantasy author’s writing process goes back to our origin; our delight in naming some of Creation, our weaknesses ruining that perfection, and our persevering hope working to make it better.

Christa Conklin is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Tranquility, several articles, and two short stories: "Moontail" and "Kat, the Jailer, and Jack." She is the home educator of her two children and teaches piano and woodwinds at a local music school. She received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction.
  1. Based on the common loon, huh? That’s cool. Loons are such pretty birds 🙂

    • Yes, the common loon is my favorite bird. Others have significant roles in the story as well, but I’d say the loon is the avian star of Tranquility. I’m glad you like them, too!

  2. L.A. Smith says:

    Loons are some of my favourite birds, too. Their haunting calls speaks “wilderness” to me. What a great idea to put them in a fantasy book!

What do you think?