Alternative History / Science Fiction
Publication Date: April 4, 2021 *** 347 pages
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Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.
Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.
Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.
The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.
Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”
Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.
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So happy to have James Stoddard as my guest today, sharing how this book came to be. It’s always so nice to get the story behind the story, and this one is quite fascinating. Enjoy…
ON WRITING LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN
Back in 2004, I wrote a short story that appeared in the July issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The story had two inspirations, the first: a short story entitled Letter from a Higher Critic by Stewart Robb, which I found in an old anthology. Set in the far future, it’s a satirical textural interpretation “proving” that World War II and Abraham Lincoln never actually existed.
I was also reading The Poems of Ossian around that time. Apparently, it’s still debated whether Ossian is authentic or merely a clever invention penned by James MacPherson, but I was struck by the idea of a wandering poet compiling various folktales and working them into a narrative.
My short story, The Battle of York tells how, after we digitized the books and threw away all the paper editions, the Great Blackout occurred, resulting in the loss of the world’s history. Two hundred years later, a poet toured the American countryside and wrote down what people remembered about America. Of course, by then the information had become merely legend, much of it incorrect. He compiled these in a book he called The Americana. The Battle of York, part of The Americana, is the story of how President “General” Washington, Eisenhower Iron Hewer, and Armstrong Custard (sic) go on a quest to destroy the four-headed monster on Mount Rushmore in order to win the Words of Power needed to defeat the red wizard, Cornwallis, and the giant, Britannia. The story was fun to write and allowed me to use actual quotations from the historic characters. I like to think it also captured a mythic representation of our Founding Fathers.
Fast forward to 2013. The country was beginning to experience the polarization that has since become such a problem. I was driving to have lunch with a friend, and when I got in the car, my intention for my next book was a fantasy novel. (It eventually became The Back of the Beyond.) By the time I arrived at the restaurant, I knew I had to write Liberty Bell and the Last American.
Or more precisely, I knew I wanted to write a novel about a young, idealistic woman who had grown up believing the legends of The Americana. I wanted to include famous Americans and I wanted to use actual quotations in their dialogue. I wasn’t certain exactly what my theme would be, but I wanted to say something positive about our country.
I usually write as I go rather than plotting ahead of time, but in this case, I spent a few months outlining the book. I’m not an historian, so as I wrote the story—meeting characters such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Navajo warriors, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, and others—I looked up their stories and quotations. Winston Churchill advised reading famous quotations for self-education; I found doing so both educational and often moving. There are over 250 quotations hidden in dialogue in my book. The book also gave me a chance to include quite a bit of humor and puns—the latter a vice of mine.
Often, a writer doesn’t know the theme of their story until they finish the first draft. When I reached that point, I realized what I was trying to say was that, for all its many faults, the United States is an Ideal, a country filled with an incredible people, and the existence of our freedom and democracy is a miracle.
It took until 2021 to publish the book. Though I finished it rather quickly, there were a couple parts that didn’t feel quite right, so I worked on other books while searching for inspiration. I’m glad I wrote it before our nation’s last few turbulent years.
James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.
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2 winners each receive a Signed Paperback copy of
LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN
1 winner receives a $25 B&N eGift card
(U.S. only; ends at midnight, 11/4/22)
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