Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta‘s Once & Future, out today from Little, Brown and Company, is an action-packed, highly-inclusive young adult reimagining of Arthurian legend that casts Arthur as teen girl named Ari living in a future where humanity has populated the galaxy.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and non-chalantly pulls the magical sword Excalibur from the trunk of a thousand-year-old oak, a cranky teenaged Merlin (he is aging backwards, you may recall) awakens from his slumber, ready to coach this 42nd reincarnation of his Arthur into saving the galaxy from the tyrannical Mercer Corporation, hopefully ending the curse that keeps he and Arthur/Ari reincarnating over and over again in the process.
Ari, however, has other plans. A wanted refugee from the planet Ketch whose adopted moms have been imprisoned for helping her, Ari just wants to keep herself and her loved ones safe. As you might imagine, things don’t go to plan for either Ari or Merlin, as the two make their way across the galaxy together, on the run from both Mercer and the enchantress Morgana.
Once & Future is a richly-imagined, casually queer, sci-fi adventure that takes one of the most famous stories of all time and does something new with it, updating the story for the world we live in today. From its criticisms of capitalism to its centering of refugee characters to the inclusiveness of its cast (which includes a diverse ensemble of characters from different backgrounds with different identities that they often openly discuss with the poor, confused, out-of-time Merlin), Once & Future is refreshingly relevant take on a very old story.
“I think, sometimes, there’s an expectation that you have to stretch to create these [kinds of diverse] characters,” said Capetta during a Den of Geek interview with the authors. “And I think, to us, it would have been a stretch to not have a ‘panoply of queerness’ and a varied group of friends and people who populate this story. And, also, you know, you’re dealing with a story based on the Knights of the Roundtable, which is a story that is maybe western civilization’s first real fictive nod to equality.”
Check out my full interview with McCarthy and Capetta about why this kind of reimagining of the King Arthur is past due, what their writing process together looks like, and why Wynonna Earp is the best show on TV (what?—it’s related) below.
Note: In the podcast introduction, I call Amy Rose “Amy,” but the author’s full first name is “Amy Rose.” Sorry, Amy Rose! Learn from my mistakes, dear listener!
Once and Future is now available to buy at your local independent bookstore—or at Amy Rose and Cori’s local independent bookstore, Bear Ponds Books.