‘Erin Greengloves and her Big Fight with Gunnar Lokka the Giant’ is not quite the inversion of the giant-killer tales of old it might seem. Certainly, the Giant is the invader and Jack, re-imagined as a stubborn, single-minded lass, is the unlikely defender of the community. There is also the episodic description of challenges overcome and a cast of strange, yet familiar, supporting characters drawn from the natural and unnatural worlds.
Nevertheless, I have also tried to write a story that speaks to contemporary assaults on nature and the respective roles of those who choose to confront the destructive forces in play. In this tale, there is a community under siege and the response to the calamity is an admix of confusion, conflict and differences of opinion.
The personality that steps in to take responsibility is Erin Greengloves, and I didn’t so much choose a female protagonist as bow to her insistence that I write her into existence. She barged to the front of my thoughts and refused to leave. It never really occurred to me to re-invent Jack the Giant Killer as a laddish lad. The problem of Gunnar Lokka the Giant demanded a resolute adversary, but the situation also called for someone studious, subtle and empathetic.
These qualities are not exclusively female, but nature conservation, environmental science and species protection has increasingly seen young women in the front line as wardens, researchers, communicators and campaigners. I have no explanation for this apparent re-balancing of gender roles, but I do know from experience that women have the capacity to completely change the nature conservation narrative. They have been a sensible and civilizing influence in working environments where, all too often, chauvinism previously prevailed among those who really ought to have known better.
‘A girl shouldn’t do that! A girl mustn’t do that! A girl will never do that!’
At this point, I feel it’s necessary to say that any perceived similarity between Greta Thunberg and Erin is understandable; but it is quite coincidental, and essentially superficial. Erin was in my head long before I even grasped who Greta was, but I have to say that I am not entirely surprised by such convergence.
The natural world is at bay, not unlike a cornered wolf, or a battered butterfly. It is a situation that should arouse compassion and commitment, but it has increasingly generated a deeply cynical response from those who see the diminution of natural resources as someone else’s problem. I’m not sure, though, whether the current focus on the climate activist Greta Thunberg and the manipulative channeling of environmental anxieties through the young is especially useful.
It is to the credit of young people today that they do not care to wait around while their future world is dismantled before their eyes, but they need help. My fear is that an uncomfortably corporate-looking environmental lobby will see the recent upsurge in outraged protest as little more than useful leverage in an abstract media war. Going ‘Viral on Twitter’ isn’t such a great achievement if, all the while, the forests are burning and the oceans are dying.
My story about Erin Greengloves, however, assumes no high moral ground. It merely seeks to point out that youthful courage and determination isn’t synonymous with foolhardiness or a lack of foresight. That is more more often the preserve of preceding generations. Erin is simply a central character who knows her own mind, and that is, I think, the great leitmotif of the folktale idiom, be it ancient or modern.
As an independent writer, of no material means, I elected to use the Reedsy Editor to typeset the book and publish it through the Amazon Print-on-Demand service, having used the platform to distribute ebooks. The end-product is satisfactory, and I have no qualms about selling on Amazon, not least because I am also free and able to re-sell ‘author copies’ at events and presentations.
I know that Amazon is the bête noire of the bookselling industry. I do not live on Mars. I also know that pitching my work to the industry means jumping into a frothy sea of futile submissions and dismissive feedback. Indeed, books for young folk, risibly categorized as ‘YA Fiction’, are so driven by aggressive marketing imperatives that most independent publishers do not consider them for their lists. So, of course I’m going to self-publish.
I am a writer. I want to be read, and I want readers to like what they read. Everything else is secondary. As for ‘Erin Greengloves and her Big Fight with Gunnar Lokka the Giant’, my principal aims have been to encourage readers, first to pick up the book, and then do everything I can to make sure the story lives up to their expectations. Better still, if they should discover the unexpected, but still find this tale of Erin’s fight to save her Green Glen satisfying and thought provoking.