“Heart of Jade,” which originally appeared in Black Gate Magazine, was one of the first thoughtful fantasy stories I ever wrote. At some point around about those days (2000) or so, I had realized that there was a very different “feel” between SF and horror – certainly. I had realized that even among all the common elements of the various forms of the fantastic, when writing them, it was a different form of music. Like the difference between swing and bebop.
Writing “Heart of Jade” was like taking a trip to Campeche or Yucatan (a link to a tour of the Mayan nation – called “Expedition of Jade”) in more ways than one. I recently re-prepared the story for Book View Cafe, and it has been enough time that it read completely “fresh” to me. I remembered that the main character’s name was Two Frog and the general setup and some of the language. But of the details of the story – well. That was a very different matter.
I realized that in writing a story for the entertainment of fantasy readers, I had actually infused it with some of my thoughts over a long period of time about something that I greatly value and respect: the Maya civilization. In a way, the story is meant to be about the collapse of the classic Mayan cities. The ending clearly indicates that my thinking is, without the careful study of an anthropologist, just instinct and common sense, that the Maya did not “fall,” they changed. For today, there are millions of Maya and their culture and heritage is very much alive and thriving.
Behind the human story, “Heart of Jade” features a conflict between the wise and fair Gods of Xibalba and the Jaguar Lord of Souls, who exists only to trap human souls in his evil web of deceit and cruelty. I didn’t know at the time I wrote the story that Mexican scientists would rediscover the ancient portal to Xibalba. Nor did I know that Mel Gibson would make Apocalypto. This is a picture of the road to Palenque.
After the fall of Copan came Tikal, Uxman, Palenque. The old places forgotten and new life arisen. Deep in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, there still beats a proud heart of jade.
We are also part of a large world that is growing smaller every day thanks to new media and the internet. And on this special day, my hopes and thoughts, along with everyone else’s, are with new U.S. President Barack Obama, his team, and his family as they start their journey toward the future.