Today's feature is the story behind the story of our very own R. Perez de Pereda's sword and sorcery novel, The Many Deaths of Cyan Wraithwate, which, if you haven't checked it out yet, you really should. It's a great fantasy novel that almost never was.
Our story begins in Cuba in 1941 with nothing short of the author's birth. Pereda was born at a time when then-democratic Cuba was experiencing unprecedented foreign investment under the presidency of Grau San Martin. The influx of foreign capital brought with it the pop culture items of the day, among them pulp fiction magazines, which young Pereda avidly read and collected. Far and away, his favorite were the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard.
Unfortunately, the good times would not last long. In 1956, Cuban Communist insurgents launched an uprising. Nowhere was safe -- the rebels holed up in the countryside and carried out bombing attacks on urban centers. All at once, the island nation became a dangerous place to live. Pereda, fifteen years old at the time, walked to school with his father's World War II 9mm Luger in his pocket. The gun was always unloaded -- Pereda's father never told him where he kept the magazines -- and Pereda hoped the sight of the gun alone would be enough to scare off anyone who meant him harm.
Two years later, the fight became all too personal for Pereda. He did things in furtherance of the anti-Communist movement which he was not comfortable sharing at the time of this writing. That notwithstanding, his fight was over by 1959, when the Communists assumed control of the country. He wasn't Communist Cuba's public enemy number one, but he was still too high on that list for his liking. He bought a one-way airplane ticket with the cash in his pocket and fled to Miami, leaving behind everyone and everything he ever loved.
With naught but the clothes on his back and a fair grasp of the English language, Pereda found work in a produce warehouse. Several years and several jobs later, he landed an entry-level position at a blue-chip company and worked his way up the corporate ladder. By the mid-1960's he was living the American Dream -- he had a wife, a car, and mortgage. He took up his old hobby of collecting the pulp magazines he enjoyed in his youth and rediscovered the fantastic adventures of Conan the Barbarian. It was about this time that he tried his hand at writing, and after two years of diligent work at the typewriter, in 1967 he had penned -- in his native Spanish -- The Many Deaths of Cyan Wraithwate. It was, in his estimation, a story of the sort he enjoyed growing up, replete with fantasy creatures and plenty of hack-and-slash action.
Miami in 1967 was a different time and place for the book publishing industry. Much as he tried, Pereda could not find anyone who would take his novel on. In a way, it was understandable -- he was an unknown author and had written a novel in Spanish. When news came later that year that he had a baby daughter on the way, he all but shelved his dreams of becoming a published author.
Fast forward to 2013. Pereda, since retired and now a grandfather of five, was looking through his filing cabinet for the deed to his home. After he'd scoured the filing cabinet but could not find the deed, he turned his attention to the desk in his study. There, at the bottom of a drawer, was his manuscript, where it had sat for over forty years. Even he had forgotten about it. Figuring he had nothing to lose in attempting to publish it, he searched the Internet for Miami-based publishers and found us.
Turning the manuscript into a paperback was a daunting task for two reasons. First, the text had to be translated from Spanish. A word-for-word translation would not have sufficed, as the product would have lost much of its wit and readability. Second, the prevailing conventions in both English and Spanish writing had changed in the intervening decades. Both are living languages, and some expressions that may have been chic in their time might today be considered trite. Now imagine encountering a concept or expression that has since fallen out of use in one language, then attempting to figure out what it means, then finding an English equivalent. Or, say you have a particular sentence structure that, in order for it to have maximum impact on the reader, has to follow a certain word order. Now translate that across forty years and from one language to another. It's not easy, but we're glad to have done the work.
Pereda today is seventy-three years old. He has lived long enough to see all that life held in store, or at least that's what he thought. Never in his wildest dreams did he think something he wrote as a young man would be shared with the world. Never did he suspect that his novel could transform from the story that almost wasn't to the novel that is.