SF/fantasy author Chris Roberson says that the seeds of his latest novel, End of the Century, were planted nearly two decades ago, when he came across a reference to parallels among the four suits of the tarot, the Grail Hallows of Arthurian legend and the Treasures of Ireland.
"I remember thinking, 'Mmm, I think there's a story in that!'" Roberson said in an interview. "In the years that followed, I filled notebook after notebook with little bits and pieces, started and subsequently abandoned the book several times over, and only after nearly 20 years had passed did the story fully germinate in my head."
In the course of researching the novel, Roberson read everything about Arthurian mythology he could get his hands on, paying particular attention to the oldest examples. And not just Arthurian, but also anything from that time period from Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
"The more I read, the more I began to see parallels between seemingly unrelated myths," Roberson said. "There are repeated references to islands and towers of glass, to kings and heroes—Arthur, Bran, Lancelot, Erec, etc.—sailing to rescue someone that's been captured by an evil king or demon or magician whose name almost always begins with M—Melwas, Meleagaunt, Maheloas, even Merlin. There are cauldrons that can heal wounds and raise the dead, swords that only the pure can remove from scabbards or stones, lances that bleed, severed heads on plates. ... The more I read, the more I became convinced that all of these stories represent degraded versions of some earlier ur-myth. That's what End of the Century presents: the 'original' story of King Arthur."
The novel tells a story across three timelines. In the first, in the fifth century, a Romanized Briton travels to Londinium and the court of King Artor, driven by visions of an ethereal woman in white and a tower of glass. "In 1897, consulting detective Sandford Blank and his associate Roxanne Bonaventure are called upon by New Scotland Yard to help catch a serial murderer who threatens to disrupt Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee," Roberson said. "And in 2000, an American teenaged runaway travels to London, convinced she is on a mission for God. Or on a mission for someone, anyway. Either that or she's bats--t crazy."