Number-One Fantasy

“My last name my whole life was Graboff, which is just a terrible thing” for a kid—even worse, one imagines, for a lover of things other kids often ridicule, like The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons.

Like many who’ve found themselves on the outside, Wallingford resident Josh David Graboff Perldeiner—he took his wife’s last name but kept Graboff in the mix—became a keen observer of the inside, which is in part what makes him such a capable fictionist. Scheduled for a September 3 release by scrappy survivalist/dystopian publisher Prepper Press—whose logo sports a squirrel collecting a nut—Perldeiner’s debut novel, a hard-earned work of fantasy dubbed Haven, wends a path through post-apocalyptic Connecticut, in a glorious whirl of lush but economical English peppered with “vulgate” language descended from our own.

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Haven’s tale feels both epic and personal, but most of all, it feels real. The world-building begins before the story does, with a front-of-book “primer:” an encyclopedia-meets-glossary, where over 70 entries explain some of the factions, language and mythology in the book. Items include “scav,” a shorthand for any of the scavengers who are this new world’s nomads, and “General Washington,” the “mysterious god… whose face is upon the coins of the ancients.”

Also in the front of the book, which you can preorder here or here, is a grand fantasy lit tradition: a map. Letting us orient ourselves within the world we’re about to explore, Haven’s readers living elsewhere may easily believe Perldeiner invented the jagged cut of this land’s coastline, the branching squiggles of its rivers and the sweeping lines of its main roads.

Local readers will know better. Along the coastal bottom they’ll see what was once called New Haven, now the Havens. Hartford is Hart’s Ford, Litchfield County is Litch Hollow and a large swath of land extending upward from old Stratford is the Duchy of Sikorsky. These are scattered remnants of a society—our society—long gone, and what’s left of civilization is now a pre-industrial agrarian sort, huddled around some of the more ingenious artifacts we, their powerful ancestors, left behind: structures that could more or less stand the tests of time and calamity.

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Among the first of these in the book is Yale’s Sterling Library, whose peaceful, pious inhabitants call it Sterling Hall. Described as a “huge decaying bulk… where Saint Yale made his heroic last stand”—an example of the tantalizing in-world history/mythology Perldeiner occasionally pings but leaves unexplained, giving his world depth in no time flat—it’s now the centerpiece of a Catholic-feeling abbey more dedicated to knowledge than to faith. It’s also where a young, timid acolyte named Tibereus—Tiber for short—learns of a grievous threat to his community’s way of life, and reluctantly accepts a role in trying to stop it.

That’s where things stand 10 pages into Haven’s 299, a not-shabby total for a story that began as a mere Dungeons & Dragons scenario. It turns out Haven isn’t nearly Perldeiner’s first attempt at writing fantasy—even if you don’t count the efforts he’s put in during his many years of playing, writing and leading D&D campaigns. Asserting prolificness and a self-deprecating sense of humor, he says he’s completed five other novel-length manuscripts “of varying quality,” and confesses he’s had his work rejected by publishers over and over since age 15, when he wrote and submitted his first short stories.

But like New Haven in Haven, that’s in the past. A film student-turned-barista-turned-jaded medievalist-turned-English teacher in China-turned-editor-turned-law student preparing to enter his third year at UConn, he’s written fantasy throughout it all. These days, he says, “I have a regimen in which I require myself to write something every single day, even if it’s only a few sentences,” with a general goal of finishing one short story or one chapter of a novel every week.

“Whether I want to write, I must write,” he says, which seems a good way to find yourself with several novels in the hopper and another, Haven, about to see the light of day.

J.D.G. Perldeiner’s Haven
Release Date: September 3, 2016
Preorder: Prepper Press | Amazon

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories, helped in no small part by a small team of dedicated contributors.

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