A few months back, Paste broke the news that the blokes of White Noise Studios—Ryan O’Sullivan, Dan Watters, Alex Paknadel and Ram V—had signed a deal with upstart publisher Vault Comics to release four new series. Deep Roots is on stands now, Paste recently revealed first peeks at Fearscape and Friendo, and today we offer an initial look at These Savage Shores, the final title in White Noise and Vault’s debut partnership. Written by Ram V, drawn by Sumit Kumar, colored by Vittorio Astone and lettered by Aditya Bidikar, These Savage Shores transports elements of Dracula to the Silk Route of the 1700s, bringing that text’s themes of xenophobia into an entirely new light and melding it with far older legends of India. In addition to our exclusive preview, we’ve got a statement from Ram V elaborating his approach to the book. Check out Kumar and Astone’s interior artwork below, and be sure to pick up These Savage Shores when it hits shelves on October 10th.
Ram V on These Savage Shores
“Write what you know.”
I’ll bet every writer, at some point, has been offered this advice—a longstanding staple of literary clichés handed down as prescription against the perils of reaching for things beyond our grasp. But it is distracting advice, at best.
The real question is what do we know? What is knowing? Is it a quantitative aggregate of information we obtain through reading, watching, parsing through data? Is it qualitative- sensory familiarity, empathy, muscle memory?
When I was first told, “Write what you know,” my reaction was to scoff at the advice. Rebel against it. I found it limiting, restrictive. In hindsight, perhaps both the advice and its interpretation were lacking nuance. Knowing is a marvelous thing. It is difficult to describe exactly what it is to know something.
When I was growing up, in India, I lived in a small house, cloistered among other small houses. A sleepy, quiet space accessible through a narrow alleyway with a gnarled Banyan tree peering over its entrance. I know that place. I know it entirely and exactly, even after all these years. I know that if you drove out the gate too fast, you’d scrape the rear end of your car on the trunk of the Banyan tree. I know that if you hit a cricket ball over the eastern wall, it’d fall into an empty lot that you couldn’t get to and was probably littered with hundreds of balls hit into it over the years. I know that behind the building, the older boys smoked cigarettes and hid a stack of naughty magazines under a wooden crate, so they could ogle at its pages. I know the sound of rain falling into the unused well past the chain-link fence.
That kind of knowing is difficult to define. It comes from experience, familiarity, time. In 2013, when I began taking my writing seriously, a cousin pointed out that everything I was writing was a paler version of something I had only consumed but did not necessarily know. American crime or Euro-centric medieval fantasy or science fiction set in some altogether expected location.
That is not to say that I needed to write only Indian stories in Indian settings. I took that to mean that I wasn’t infusing my stories with the kind of knowing that comes from living your life.
These Savage Shores is me digging deep into what I know. Yes, it has Vampires. Yes, it’s set in the 1760s long before I was born. Its love, romance, politics were all before my time. But I know the place where I come from. I know its secrets, its stories. Legends passed down from grandparents and their parents. Histories written in royal records and alternate histories carved into the walls of caves. I have walked through the halls where my characters once roamed. I have watched from the overlook where they once stood and felt the same kind of love and romance that can only be written about and never quite tangibly defined.
I can imagine the things we lost to colonialism, I can imagine the ache of a place changing for fear of being left behind by time. I’m writing of kings and monsters and superstitions and wars. But on some level, I’m writing the stories I was told as a kid. I am writing what I know. And perhaps, when you read it, you will know it as well. As if we sat down by firelight, in the crisp night air, and I told you a story of a place long gone. One that exists now, only in its knowing.