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The Element of Fire


 By "Big John" Bierly

     Given the moral dilemmas, epic battles, and brilliant character moments that have come to define the Highlander films and series, it seems only logical that a literary canvas would also be a perfect home for Duncan and Connor MacLeod.

   Highlander fans are brimming with anticipation for the September 1 release of “Highlander: Endgame,” the fourth Highlander feature film and the first to star Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod. Christopher Lambert reprises his role as Connor MacLeod. It will be the first time since the 1992 TV series pilot, “The Gathering,” that Duncan and Connor have appeared together on screen. And as these two timeless heroes prepare to make their stand against the ultimate Immortal evil, Highlander fans can prepare for the excitement with another story of Duncan and Connor that’s as close as their local bookstores.

    Jason Henderon’s “The Element of Fire” was the first of Warner Books’ ten-novel Highlander series that began when “The Element of Fire” was published in the fall of 1995. I recently spoke to Henderson about the novel and found him to be a very thoughtful, enthusiastic, and articulate man who admires Highlander as much as the fans who have read his novel.


  Though Warner Books chose Jason to write their first Highlander novel, it was Jason who contacted them first. “They asked me a year after I contacted them,” Henderson says. “I said I’d written about Scotland, so if you ever want someone to try one I’d like to do one. A year later they ended up doing the books so I ended up getting the gig.” It was the first time Henderson had written a novel for an existing franchise. “I’d never done a licensed job before but neither had they, so it was a good learning experience for all of us.”


  Rather than simply writing an episode of the series in novel format, Jason looked back to the first Highlander film for another angle. “I’d pitched a story that involved Connor and Duncan. That’s what I wanted to do, and nobody batted an eye. I remember there being a conversation or two where they were still going, ‘Well, we might not be able to get Connor.’ And then, all of a sudden, The Stamp of Approval. By that time I was already writing it anyway.”

    “The Element of Fire” starts in prehistoric Scotland where it introduces the Immortal Khordas, who fancies himself a god of fire and demands sacrifices from the blue-painted savages who worship him. It then progresses to 1625, where Connor MacLeod is training his newly Immortal kinsman Duncan the philosophies, tactics, and hard lessons of what it means to be an Immortal in The Game. Henderson deftly blends Connor’s philosophy with an often delightful writing style. We see Connor and Duncan sparring, which, Henderson writes, “generally involved hacking at one another with swords until Duncan lost.” By the time the Highlanders meet Khordas, he is fully aware of The Game and the existence of other Immortals. And he doesn’t like it one bit.

   Henderson looked to the legend of the salamander for inspiration and insight into Khordas’ character. “When I started out the guy was called Brimstone and he was a pirate,” he explains. “But I found references in an old play about the salamander’s skin literally being able to survive in hot and cold. So I thought it would be interesting if you had a fire god associated with the salamander, and further that he was in Scotland. That bothered some people but it never bothered me because in science fiction you don’t have to necessarily be completely true. What you do have to be is convincing. If readers stop and say they don’t believe it then I’ve failed. If not, they can enjoy the story. With this fire elemental guy I drew on all of these old folklore concepts of what the salamander is all about and built up this god mainly because I wanted to play with that concept. What if you, by every right, thought you were a god, and you turned out to be wrong because there were other people like you? That would be horrible. Khordas never really does get over that.”

     Neither does his Companion, Nerissa, an albino waif whose gender surprises the younger Highlander. Duncan at first finds her fascinating, but Connor warns him that even the most lovely Immortal can be dangerous. After seven years of trying to stop Khordas’ rampages of fire and thievery, Duncan learns that lesson the hard way when he and Connor track Nerissa and Khordas to the Salamander’s lair in Rannoch Moor in 1632. “I don’t think any word appears more commonly than ‘mud.’ It’s gotta be one of the sludgiest, muddiest stories,” Henderson says. Duncan takes Nerissa’s head but Khordas escapes, vowing revenge. The Highlanders meet Khordas again in 1853, where he has acquired a new Companion who makes short work of one of Duncan’s students. Khordas escapes again as we follow Duncan to 1897, which serves as “the present” in Henderson’s novel. The location is Nantucket, and Duncan MacLeod has taken a lover named Gabriela Savedra.

 Jason's Interview part 2


Jason Henderson has written  several genre novels including "X-men and Spiderman; Time arrow book 1", "The Spawn of Loki" and is currently working on two books - The Darkling Band and a dark fantasy "Lockmans Blade".


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