Howard Andrew Jones’ “On Heroes and Why We Need Them”

Howard Andrew Jones, author of the acclaimed The Desert Souls, managing editor of Black Gate magazine, and creative writing instructor, believes in heroes. In an increasingly cynical world, he argues in the article excerpted below, they are more important than ever.

· Excerpt ·

Stories about heroes fascinate me, and, I believe, humanity as a whole. How else to explain why we still tell tales of Herakles and Theseus, of Robin Hood and King Arthur? As children we thrill to them, and their modern day descendants, be they heroes in comic books or cartoons or video games and blockbuster movies. But how should we feel as adults? When we hit our mid 20s do we have to switch off to reading stories filled only with anti-heroes because they’re more “realistic?” Even many of us who don’t make the switch because we don’t like the fiction smile a little sheepisphy and claim we only like fantasy or science fiction or some other, gasp, genre, because we need the escape.

Surely we need not feel guilty about desiring some kind of release from the pressures of our lives, but I think there is more to it than that. I think it’s inspiring to see someone not just strong enough to face down the monster, but someone willing to stand up for the little guy when all hope seems lost, or who has the kind of code that means she’ll do the right thing even when no one is looking.

There are real heroes out there, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe, and sometimes dying in the process. Those are the people who fascinate me; those are the characters I want to see on the printed page; those are the sorts of protagonists I want to write about. They have always inspired me.We live in a world that has had, and still has, true heroes, putting their lives on the line for country hearth and home. We forget too easily that characters with heroic qualities are realistic. I think that we’ve become so cynical that we sneer a little when we hear stories of heroics and imagine that it can’t really be true, or we wonder if the hero secretly beats his wife. We’re savvy enough now not to believe everything we hear or read, because, God knows, we’ve been fooled plenty of times. But heroes are real, and far more fascinating to watch in action than anti-heroes, for they reveal our own better natures, and provide examples to inspire.

· End of Excerpt ·

This is just a little taste of Jones’ full essay, which we encourage you to read in its entirety at Or take a look at the summary of Jones’ latest book, The Bones of the Old Ones:

  • A thrilling, inventive follow-up to The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, a “rare master of the storyteller’s art

    As a snowfall blankets 8th Century Mosul, a Persian noblewoman arrives at the home of the scholar Dabir and his friend the swordsman Captain Asim. Najya has escaped from a dangerous cabal that has ensorcelled her to track down ancient magical tools of tremendous power, the bones of the old ones.

    To stop the cabal and save Najya, Dabir and Asim venture into the worst winter in human memory, hunted by a shape-changing assassin. The stalwart Asim is drawn irresistibly toward the beautiful Persian even as Dabir realizes she may be far more dangerous a threat than anyone who pursues them, for her enchantment worsens with the winter. As their opposition grows, Dabir and Asim have no choice but to ally with their deadliest enemy, the treacherous Greek necromancer, Lydia. But even if they can trust one another long enough to escape their foes, it may be too late for Najya, whose soul is bound up with a vengeful spirit intent on sheathing the world in ice for a thousand years…

  • Enjoy an excerpt of The Bones of the Old Ones on
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Howard’s first novel, The Desert of Souls, was one of only nine books to make the influential Kirkus New and Notable Science Fiction list for 2011, was one of a select few to appear on the 2011 Locus Recommended Reading List, and was number 4 on the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases of 2011. Additionally, The Desert of Souls was a finalist for the prestigious Compton Crook Award, and a featured selection of The Science Fiction Book Club.

When not helping run his small family farm or spending time with his wife and children, he can be found hunched over his laptop or notebook, mumbling about flashing swords and doom-haunted towers. He’s worked variously as a TV cameraman, a book editor, a recycling consultant, and most recently, as a writing instructor at a mid-western college. Read more about him on his website.