Thomas Ha’s story “Orla, Always” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 3 December 2021.
I mainly wanted to write about losing a loved one to an influence beyond your control, the pain and animosity that can accompany that kind of gradual loss, and your inability (especially if you’re a parent estranged from a child) to let go of the hope that you’ll reconnect, which can be risky, if not outright dangerous. I’ve written other stories with similar themes, and they do not always end well. This one arguably does, depending on your view of the ending.
I also wanted to create a stark fantasy world with a traditional good versus evil construct (i.e. the king’s army and the otherworlders), but where both sides are brutal, and where it’s really ordinary people, like Codladh’s villagers, with their devotion and resilience, who make a difference. Instead of a bombastic battle to win the day, I wanted to write a less common kind of conflict where physical violence was not necessarily the key.
And lastly, I just really wanted something weird. Knights versus aliens was my original concept. Something humans might think of as demonic or hellish but is actually quite strange and difficult for people to understand and confront—a sentient rock or a mystical disease, instead of a horned monster. The otherworlders are never confirmed as aliens, but I imagine them as interdimensional creatures of some kind, with motives that are almost beyond comprehension. What I was interested in exploring was, how do good, ordinary people, with everything to lose, endure and survive in the face of something like that?
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