In fantasy and sci-fi, one of the things that has always fascinated me is the “lost civilization”. There’s just something about a society that rose to great heights then fell that captures my imagination. Sometimes we know what killed the society, sometimes we don’t, and both venues have their attractions.
Even in the “real” world, we speculate about what brought down the Mayans, or the Sumerians, or the Dallas Cowboys. We assume the answer for all three is probably Jerry Jones, but we’re not sure.
In “The Lord of the Rings” we have the ancient cultures of elves, dwarves and Numenorian men to wonder about (though “The Silmarillion” gives us most of the answers. In Narnia, we wonder what happened to the original kingdom that was set-up at the end of “The Magician’s Nephew”. And then, what happened to the golden age when the Pevensies were whisked back to our world?
One of the driving forces behind my “Edward and Marianne” stories is the idea that our culture is not only gone, it’s forgotten. Many cultures have risen and fallen in the years since the days of the United States and the rest of western world. We tend to think of ourselves as invincible—or, at least, that it’ll last past our lifetimes—but there’s no such guarantee. If today’s society were to collapse in another world war, would we even be remembered?
With this in mind, I don’t think of myself as depressed or a fatalist. What I’m trying to recapture is that pioneering spirit. Maybe mankind has been blasted back to the stone age, but it’s in man’s nature to strive and struggle to rebuild, to push the limits of science and technology. To ask again the questions of where we come from and where we’re going. And what we think we’re doing for the first time may have already been done before, but that doesn’t diminish our own sense of triumph in doing it.