At the beginning of February, a whole slew of authors and other creative types held a contest called Crossing the Streams (apparently a Ghostbuster reference).
The author whose contest I won was Howard A. Jones, author of The Desert of Souls. He asked the entrants to to detail their favorite character from fiction. My response was this:
My favorite fictional character of all time is Pug, from Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. My favoritism for Pug has less to do with literary merit and everything to do with intense personal feelings.
After my mother read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Riftwar Saga was the first Epic Fantasy I remember tackling on my own. To me, Pug’s transformation from orphaned kitchen boy to squire and then slave to magician is the quintessential hero’s journey. At that age, clichés didn’t exist for me, only characters and places that took my breath away and tugged at my imagination.
I still pull out The Riftwar Saga and read it from time to time. When I read about Pug, I can feel the enjoyable discomfort of reading a book up in a tree on a summer day. I get a little of the giddy triumph that comes so easily to children and so arduously to adults.
Pug is endeared to me for another reason; he never ends up with the girl he desperately loves in the beginning of the saga. When I read about Pug and Princess Carline, I can still smell the shampoo used by the first girl I ever kissed. Not that I long for her, but that I’m sometimes nostalgic for the furious jumble of adolescent emotion that makes us reach for things like science fiction and fantasy to make sense of the world. I suppose I’m something like the mighty sorcerer, Milamber. Wherever we go in life, whatever we become, we’ll always carry a little bit of a kitchen boy named Pug.
Here’s an excerpt from the email Howard sent me after the contest:
You’re one of the winners of the contest I held, because I thought your answer was the most heartfelt of all those I received, and among the best written besides.
Within a couple of weeks, Howard will send me a free copy of The Desert of Souls which was on my reading list anyway. The free book is nice, but the chance to interact so positively with a professional author was the real prize.