Thanks, DK! :)
I love a good adventure story. I relish strange worlds, jaw-dropping dangers and heart-stopping heroics. I grew up on fairy tales and legends, the kind steeped in hubris and retribution, filled with jars of boiling oil and witch-sized ovens. As a child, I cheered on fearless warriors and cunning cow-herds, and I didn’t really mind that their boots were splashed with blood.
But over time, I started to wonder about all those slain giants and lonely mythological watchmen. I began to question whether there was more to adventuring than defeating evil sorcerers and looting ancient temples. It was around this time that I started watching a lot of 90s television – action shows with cheesy opening credits and protagonists with windswept mullets.
I loved MacGyver, Quantum Leap and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every episode transported me to strange worlds full of jaw-dropping dangers and heart-stopping heroics, but what struck me about these shows was the general absence of bloodshed. MacGyver was a pacifist/scientist/secret-agent who could solve most problems using an egg and a paperclip. Doctor Sam Beckett was a time-travelling quantum physicist on a mission to set the world right.
Watching Star Trek: TNG, I lost count of the number of episodes in which the story would reach a point where I thought “Now, they’re going to shoot everyone and get off the planet”, only to have Captain Picard deliver a stirring speech and negotiate a difficult compromise which left nobody happy, but everyone alive. And I began to understand what diplomacy was.
My concept of what it meant to be a hero changed, and by the time I discovered Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, I was fascinated by characters who either could not or would not fight their way out of a problem. Sir Terry’s books were filled with sensible witches, resourceful captains, educated rodents, and patricians who’d managed to weaponise wit. All of whom had enthralling adventures, and none of whom embraced the blade.
When I came to write my fantasy novel, Hunt for Valamon, I knew that I wanted the protagonist to be one such character. Seris is a cleric, a healer, sworn to care for the weak and the sick. However, when he’s drafted to a politically compromised mission to find the vanished Prince Valamon, Seris finds himself faced with ruthless enemies and dangerous obstacles. To survive, he must be sensible, resourceful, persistent and very creative.
I admit that I still love the occasional epic battle or thrilling duel. I don’t mind a splash of blood, now and then. But I have a deeper appreciation for heroes who use speeches and paperclips, empathy and kindness. The kind of hero who might help a homicidal giant change her diet, or counsel a friendless watchman on changing his occupation. Diplomacy isn’t always the answer, but sometimes, using words instead of weapons can lead to unexpected solutions and exciting new possibilities.
DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree, published by Spence City. DK’s short story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step, FableCroft Publishing) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.
DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.
She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.