It’s sort of fun to compare my art in this page to the first time we were here with these two characters—volume 1, page 8. I’ve gotten a little bit better. A little.

It’s interesting that WPK has developed into a kind of existentialist anthem, even though I’m not, myself, much of an existentialist. But the idea of overthrowing a concept, destroying a whole Order-of-the-World, is one that’s shown up in fantasy entertainment before—especially the sort of anime that either was not well-translated, cannot be translated, or doesn’t make sense in any language—and I wanted to explore exactly what that process would look like, rather than just glossing over it with lots of glowing orbs. If I might mistreat Nietzsche or a moment: Plenty of fantasy stories have killed the Father or the Son, but in WPK those issues have already been dispensed with, and you’re left with the question: how do you kill the Holy Spirit?

This is one of those interesting ideas that you can really only toy around with in other-world fantasy, because this genre lets you explore these sorts of bald-faced counterfactuals. Not only do I not believe in any gods, I don’t believe in any sort of “world-spirit” or the “inevitable outcome of the historical dialectic,” but those elements exist in The Water Phoenix King and are in fact built into the world’s metaphysics as surely as demons and magic rings are. In a way, this can make fantasy very detached—WPK isn’t an analogy for actual historical or contemporary events. Nor is it solely about the allegedly “timeless issues” of people—“timeless issues” like “how do I game an arranged marriage?” and “how do I maintain a mistress in Paris given my limited stipend as a viscount?” if my literature teachers’ definitions of “timeless issues” are anything to go by. Instead The Water Phoenix King is buried in issues that, I suspect, only make sense to fantasy readers and people who have already encountered existing counterfactual worlds in other fantasy novels. I can’t decide whether that makes WPK preposterously obscure or refreshingly free from the false and contrived attempts at relevance that plague most fiction.