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  • Arlo Mercia

May 1: Which is more dangerous - evil or incompetence?

In the northern hemisphere May Day is a spring festival; it celebrates fertility, new life and warmer times ahead. Here in the southern hemisphere it occurs during autumn, when, to quote Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming!” which is so not so exciting. It is also widely celebrated as a worker’s day, and in several places around the world there were demonstrations over workers’ rights and economic conditions.

On the May Day news I watched all terrible violence in France and other countries, and then turned to read a fantasy novel which had a long chapter about a battle between the witch and her goblins (evil) and the wizard and his elves (good). In one way it was too much of art imitating life, and in another way it was totally unrealistic.

In real life when two sides clash it is always far more complex than good vs evil. In fantasy novels everyone knows who is evil, including the bad guys themselves. They are usually consciously and intelligently evil. Often in real life both sides think of themselves as the good guys and the other side as the bad guys.

In fantasy usually one side wins. In real life often neither side has a conclusive victory, and disputes drag on for years if not centuries.

This simplistic view, plus the fact that it is not in my nature to write about violence, is why I have taken a very different approach to my fantasy novels. After several years of workplace trauma, dealing with budget cuts, staff re-deployments and axed programs, I came to the conclusion that poor management was every bit as dangerous as evil intent. In fact ignorance and incompetence are likely to be worse; as the instigators have no understanding of the extent of the damage they cause, nor do they take any responsibility. So this is the central theme in my Lygon Island trilogy – it looks at how far the damage of poor management may spread – some of it obvious, and much of it subtle.

There are people like Aidon (Royal of the Salt Pride lygons) in positions of power today; leaders and managers who are vain, obsessed with their own importance, and who lack an understanding of how things really work.

The tragedy of Myrra (abdicated ruler of the Salt Pride) is that she does understand how things work and is very competent, but she is no longer in charge. She must find creative ways to work around the disastrous situation and solve the many problems that Aidon has created, without him realising.

There are examples of this situation in global politics, but also in many workplaces.

My aim has been to examine this theme gently, with intrigue and humour. I hope you find the trilogy enjoyable and thought provoking.

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