I am walking with a friend through a local village. ‘The shops are this way,’ they say, pointing across an old churchyard.
They raise their eyebrows at me. ‘What is it?’ they ask, not entirely surprised that I am being weird.
‘Could we go around?’ I say. I lower my voice. ‘There’re dead people in there.’
‘And I don’t want to walk on dead people! They died.’
‘Afraid they’re gonna bust up out of their graves?’
‘No — well, I mean I would freak out if they did, but no. I just … don’t like being around dead things.’
They shake their head, but they’re smiling. ‘Sure, Victoria. We’ll go around.’
I relax a bit.
‘Isn’t it a bit ironic? You’re the necromancer person. You wrote a whole book about them. And you won’t even walk through a graveyard?’
‘It’s not ironic at all,’ I say. ‘If I could walk through a graveyard without cringing, I would never have written my book.’
I really wouldn’t have. Things I would normally choose to write about: ornery dragons, weird undersea creatures, unhappy mages, witches who really love their cats. I love nature and magic and unconventional beauty. I love writing about monsters and outcasts and how they’re worthy of love.
And that was my first mistake. My second was that, in a moment of desperation while searching for a new book idea, I let my partner choose the concept.
‘Write a book about a necromancer,’ he said.
I wrinkled my nose. ‘Ew, no!’
‘Think about it. A lonely lich in a cave somewhere, raising the dead.’
‘I hate necromancers, if you’ve forgotten.’
‘And I’m afraid of –’ I lowered my voice ‘–death, for your information.’
‘I can’t even look at a fake skull without getting squicked out!’
‘That’ll just make it better! You have a unique perspective!’ He grinned. ‘Besides, you said I got to choose.’
A unique perspective. I paused, then: ‘Well, for starters, it can’t be about a lone necromancer. Who are his neighbours, who are his people? What does necromancer society look like?’
And like that, it began.
I was sure it would be a disaster. In the beginning, anyway. The more I planned and wrote, the more real the world became to me. And the less frightening it became. Zombies became bumbling minions, their necromancer masters became outcasts with sad pasts and delusions of grandeur. They had town meetings where they argued about the noxious fumes coming from this person’s garden, or complained that that person’s experiments had caused it to rain blood again and it was messing with people’s spells.
Necromancers became funny, in an awkward way. Cute, in an ugly way. Lovable, in a sad way. I focused less on the things that disgusted me and more on what fascinated me — their obsessiveness, their outcast status, what kind of families they would raise. Parents raising their children loyal undead dogs. Pregnant people going through necromancy cravings as they abstained during pregnancy. Little girls finding dead animals by the side of the road and bringing them home: ‘Can I keep it?’
They were like us and not like us. They would need privacy and books and time to pursue their passions. They were artists and engineers. They were people.
The more familiar they became to me, the more real they seemed.
It even helped me get over my fear of death, just a little. I’m no longer grossed-out by necromancers, at least. And I’ve incorporated a lot more skulls into my wardrobe.
I’ll never stop writing about dragons and witches and magic cats, but I don’t think I’ll stop writing about necromancers either. Writing about what scared and disgusted me taught me that I could write humour, that I could write cuteness, and that I have wells of empathy deeper than I knew. I also now find that the whole sub-genre of necromancy fiction is open to me, and I quite enjoy it.
If you’re a writer, I encourage you to try it. Write about something scary, but with kindness. Or disgusting, but with love.
And if you’re a reader, I definitely encourage you to pick up something unexpected. A romance, if you think it’ll make you roll your eyes. A sci-fi, if you think space isn’t for you.
Or maybe a spooky-sweet story of librarians-and-necromancy, such as the one I have out now.
But that’s just me.
Victoria Corva writes things and reads things and reads things out loud, and sometimes she gets paid for that, which is nice because it means she can feed her cat.
She lives in Wiltshire with her partner and her furry familiar and as many books as she could fit in her small flat.
She is anxious and autistic and doing just fine.
To find out more about her and read more of her work, visit https://victoriacorva.xyz
Librarians-and-Necromancy Fantasy with Small Town Charm in a City of the Dead
The others believe in blood and bone. Ree believes in books.
She manages the libraries and draws maps for the denizens of her hometown, a secret society of necromancers hiding in a sprawling underground crypt. Though they look down on her for not practicing their craft, Ree has bigger ambitions than raising the dead. She’s going to resurrect therianthropy, the ancient magic of shapeshifting. Or at least — she’ll do it if it really exists. And if she can find the books that prove it.
But Smythe, a chatty historian from the world above, stumbles into the crypt and takes a curse meant for Ree. Now she has to find a way to save him, keep the townsfolk off her back, and convince her necromancer parents that shapeshifting is a viable career path.
Ree is certain that if she and Smythe combine their scholarly skill sets, they’ll find the right books to solve their problems. But Ree’s search for power might put the entire town in danger, and her father and the other townsfolk want Smythe dead lest he reveal their home to a world that hates them.
You can also read the first three chapters for free here.