What do you do when a book you love, a book you want your friends and strangers on the internet alike to check out and enjoy, a book you need new copies of because your old ones are literally coming apart, is no longer available?
What does an author do when prospective readers email them complaining that no bookstore carries their work anymore and used bookstore websites are listing copies for $80 and up?
One of my favourite fantasy series is The Stone Trilogy by Graham Edwards, an underrated and obscure set that was published by Voyager from 1999 to 2001 and has never been given a reprint. I own a couple of copies of the first two books but only one precious, and now rather dog-eared, copy of the third book.
The books are Stone and Sky, Stone and Sea and Stone and Sun, and they are novels about memory and time and millions of permutations of the earth not existing alongside each other as alternate dimensions, but one after another in a continual flow of time going back infinitely. The world we live in carries geological evidence of extinctions and continental movements and so on, and its history as inferred by science is absolutely true, but so is another history full of dragons and faeries, and infinite other histories that all happened, but in succession: each world’s rules suddenly changing, our planet’s history rewritten with each so-called “Turning”. The latest Turning of the World, which sapped the magic and killed all the pretty cryptofauna, is actually chronicled in another trilogy Edwards wrote in the mid-90s (starting with Dragoncharm, the only of his books to be published States-side). I do love that series too, but to me it feels like just an optional prologue to the Stone Trilogy.
The Stone Trilogy can be read independently of the other books. Its protagonists are primarily humans, rather than dragons. Jonah Lightfoot, the hero, is a Victorian globe-trotter and avid Darwinist who finds himself on Krakatoa one morning in 1883, right before it erupts. The eruption causes a tear in our world and he finds himself transported to another world, Stone (also known as Amara), an enormous wall with entire civilisations and forests and oceans clinging to its surface and living in its cracks. The wall of Stone seems to be infinite, and threaded through its material are ebonite rods that, like a vast computer network, store all the memories of every permutation of the world. It’s like a back-up hard drive for the planet Earth. Jonah is able to read the contents of the rods, and to alter the course of history by entering the memories.
It’s an absolutely fantastic series full of mythology, weird ancient engineering/architecture, and interesting characters. Jonah’s companions include Annie, a contemporary of Jonah who has run away from her violent husband in Kansas; Grandfather Tree, a Russian tree-spirit with a fondness for all kinds of human boats, from viking ships to aircraft carriers; a pair of Neolithic proto-humans; and a stowaway in Annie’s mind, Archan, the spirit of a dragon who won immortality but lost her body a Turning ago. There are creatures galore and adventure in different directions along the wall. Depending on which way you travel, you go forward or backward through history. Jonah sees the far past and far future of our world, both terrifying in different ways. He also meets another refugee from a volcanic eruption, this one a rather famous North American one that erupted in the 1980s.
I really wish this trilogy had been noticed more when it was released. I feel like I am one of the lucky few, what, couple of thousand? who got in on the series as it was released, who didn’t miss out on this gem.
I follow Edwards’ blog and twitter, and it’s fantastic that he’s still working hard on writing, selling short stories and crime novels, and updating fans with news of a new fantasy trilogy that will hopefully be published some day. But it’s clear that no new copies of the Stone Trilogy exist anymore, and Edwards long ago stopped receiving money for sales of these books. I’d like to know: how does an author, who has sold the publishing rights for his work, reclaim his rights once the book is out of print? Can he negotiate, buy them back before whatever arbitrary time period of ownership has lapsed? I would really love to see Edwards regain rights to this trilogy (and the previous one) and offer them as ebooks on his website, for some kind of electronic payment-and-delivery system. Through word of mouth I’m sure he would find himself a new following of eager fans.
In the meantime, you might as well check out the first book in the series because at least it can be found cheaply online, for a few dollars rather than near-to a hundred dollars. It works well enough without its sequels; and if you do end up dying to read the last one, well, you can decide whether to fork out the dough.