November 21st, 2013 § § permalink
Hello, friends and neighbors! I have emerged from the Editorial Mines, covered in word-dust, to share with you the cover for my next book, Full Fathom Five. Get ready:
Awesome, non? This is a draft of the cover—text isn’t final yet, for example—but I love it. I’ve pushed the story into new territory—this book is the Craft Sequence by way of Black Diamond Bay, featuring new characters as well as a few returning favorites from Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Skulduggery, slam poetry, offshore banking, spy shenanigans, the nightmare telegraph, and more. On the island of Kavekana, caught between the gods that rule the Old World and the undead wizards that rule the New, a defrocked and godless priestess struggles to save her career—and her soul. Coming this July!
November 11th, 2013 § § permalink
I continue to be Everywhere on the Internet. In case you missed it—
I did a swing of articles on ThinkProgress last week which were a lot of fun!
In the non-ThinkProgress universe, here are a couple more posts:
- Building an Analogue World, or: writing fantasy novels if you don’t live in a castle, on All Things UF
- Mosaic Worldbuilding, in which I talk about the power of perspective in writing—because not everyone’s the good guy, but most people think they are.
More of a recap on the Enigma Signing tomorrow—oh, and, cool new thing! If you’re in the Wellesley area, you can come see me at their Fresh Voices Author Night this Thursday, Nov. 14!
November 1st, 2013 § § permalink
We had a great time at the book launch Tuesday!
Plenty of volumes sold, and great questions asked, including “Will you show the rural side of the coin in these books?” (Yes) and “What creatures won’t we see in the Craft Sequence?” (Elves.)
I’ve been hosted liberally around the internet in the last few days, too! Consider the following essays a peek behind the curtain. You may never recover!
- My post on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, concerning the Big Idea of the Craft Sequence and Two Serpents Rise.
- Mary Robinette Kowal leant me her blog to talk about My Favorite Bit of Two Serpents Rise, and the value of friendship in fantasy.
- Alyssa Rosenberg interviewed me about Two Serpents Rise, economics, and manic pixie dream girls.
- Over on Fantasy Book Critic, I talk about how to build worlds that are full of stuff without permitting them to collapse under their own weight.
- Also, on SF Signal, I talk about how You Got Your Fantasy in my Science Fiction! Wait, no, You Got Your Science Fiction in my Fantasy!
- And on the Mind of the Geek, I channeled a little DFW to discuss impostor syndrome and cosplay.
For the next week, I’m also guestblogging over at ThinkProgress! So far my posts have included:
Because when life hands you a platform, why not use it to promote work you love?
October 29th, 2013 § § permalink
As of today, TWO SERPENTS RISE, my next novel, is available wherever books are sold. I’m a bit overwhelmed.
I spoke with Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress about the book, magical economics, the Craft Sequence, and other insanity—the interview ended up being really great, and you should check it out!
I also dropped by SF Signal to write about how “You got your fantasy in my science fiction!” and vice versa.
Books, Bones, and Buffy came out with a great early review of the book, which I’ll stick up on the wall with PW’s Starred Review, the review where Locus compares me to Tolkien, and the bit where the RT called it a “stellar, engaging read.” Because this process is scary, y’all, and it helps to be reminded that some folks think I’m getting it right.
So why wait? Buy the book today on Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, or Powell’s, depending on your personal preference. And if you want a bit of a teaser, I assembled this TWO SERPENTS RISE TEASER TRAILER SCRIPT, which if you read it should give you a decent movie trailer’s worth of an idea what you’re in for.
Thanks so much, everyone. Happy reading!
October 21st, 2013 § § permalink
There are no humans in Star Wars.
This should be obvious from the title card. We’re a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Human beings evolved on this planet, Sol 3, over the last sixty million years or so depending on how you count. If we don’t want to go all “Chariots of the Gods?” we have to throw out the notion that the people represented by human actors in Star Wars movies are in fact human. They’re something else.
Why represent them as human? Let’s assume that the Star Wars movies are dramatizations of real history: that Luke, Leia, Han et. al. actually existed in a galaxy long, long ago (etc.), and that George Lucas accessed this history via the Force and wanted to represent it on film. Star Wars tells the story of a dominant-species empire arising from a pluralistic society, then being overthrown by courageous rebels and warrior monks. Lucas had to cast this drama with human actors, and the obvious choice was to use unmodified humans to represent the most common species.
While convenient, this approach does present one problem: watching the Original Trilogy, we assume that the ‘humans’ of the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) are biologically and sociologically identical to Sol 3 humans. When obviously they’re not! In fact, I think a few important context clues present a very different picture of the dominant race of the Original Trilogy.
Gender is the most important clue. The Original Trilogy has a shortage of women when considered by the standards of a two-sexed mammalian species. Leia is the most prominent female, and the only one to feature in all three movies. Aunt Beru and Mon Mothma also have named speaking roles. Aside from these three, I can’t think of another definitely-female-definitely-’human’ in the series. In RotJ Leia describes her mother, who is obviously a queen. These females all possess at least local political and social authority.
Family is a second important clue—or, rather, the absence of family. With one notable exception, people in the series don’t talk much about parentage. No non-Force sensitive male ever describes his family, if I recall correctly. Han, Lando, Wedge, Biggs, Tarkin, Dodonna, and so forth, all might as well have sprung from the brows of their ships. In six+hours of film about war, I would expect to see someone to drop at least a single reference to parents of some sort. The lack of strong family ties suggests that parenting relationships are much less close for most GFFA ‘humans’ than for Sol 3 humans—which in turn suggests large brood sizes, short gestation periods, young ages of maturity, or all of the above.
So we’re looking for an organism with large brood sizes, young ages of maturity, short gestation periods, and relatively few fertile females who naturally assume positions of social and organizational authority.
Here is my modest theory: the GFFA’s ‘humans’ are in fact sentient hive insects, organized around a single queen, a handful of fertile males, and a horde of infertile female soldiers. For parsimony’s sake, let’s assume that Force sensitivity in this species is possessed by fertile males and females, and that male actors used to represent non-Force sensitive characters are actually representing infertile females.
This explains a few things:
- The Emperor’s Reproductive and Political Strategy. The Emperor, a fertile male, has replaced the old Queen, substituting the use of clone warriors for ‘normal’ biological reproduction.
- The Horror of the Clone Wars. The true horror of the Clone Wars thus becomes clear. They’re not just wars in which cloning technology is used. They’re wars in which the fundamental structure of the ‘human’ species is inverted: wars in which queens are killed, hives consolidated, and clones take the place of biological reproduction. Wars about the use of clones instead of queens.
- The Deal with Jabba’s Humanoid Slaves. Doesn’t it seem weird that a presumably hermaphroditic gastropod should be so fascinated by displaying captive females of another phylum in bikinis? The Hive Insect theory makes this habit a clear and calculated display of dominance, communicating to ‘human’ visitors that Jabba is to ‘human’ queens as queens are to drones and soldiers. (This also suggests that Jabba’s interested in twi’lek girls because they look like ‘humans,’ but may be easier to come by—giving his character a bit of extra complexity, since he wants to communicate dominance to his followers in this way but isn’t able to do more than pretend until Leia comes along.)
- Why Kill the Jedi? I mean, sure, kill the old ones, but wouldn’t it be easier to convert younglings than wipe them out? Well, drones in the absence of a queen naturally rear fertilized eggs into new queens. If Palpatine is trying to destroy queen-dom, he cannot permit the existence of any drones who are not perfectly loyal to his New Order. Conversion is apparently a brutal process. Vader survived it; Luke might survive it. Perhaps no one else did.
- What’s with all the Death Stars? It isn’t hard to annihilate all life on a planet from orbit. If you’re in orbit, you’ve already done the hard part—just tractor some rocks into the surface. Obviously a superweapon is nice to have, but why not build just the weapon and the shielding system? That would be cheaper, certainly. It seems that the superweapon is only part of the purpose of the Death Star—the Star is in fact an artificial hive, built as the perfect environment for the Emperor’s new clone-based society.
Admittedly, this doesn’t explain what’s going on between Leia and Han. It’s possible that Han is in fact a drone and doesn’t know it—he is phenomenally lucky, after all, which suggests Force sensitivity. On the other hand, it seems reasonable, given the importance of queens, that some sort of queen-soldier pairbonding could occur. This may even be the sort of relationship that the Emperor is intending to replicate with Vader.
So that’s a theory. I mean, what’s more likely—a Galaxy Far Far Away full of psychic alien super-bees, or one in which you can cross thirty solar systems and run into three women with speaking parts?
DISCLAIMER: I love Star Wars. It rocks. And precisely because of this, it’s fun to tweak. Obviously, the above argument only refers to the OT; the EU features a much broader range of characters and situations, and I don’t want to be responsible for creating a consistent interpretation of the prequel trilogies. (Though just off the top of my head, Naboo-’humans’ do seem to fit with Hive Insect theory.)
October 11th, 2013 § § permalink
I’ve been an absentee blogger for the last couple weeks, I know, but it’s been for a good cause. If all goes according to plan I’ll have an Exciting Announcement or two in a few weeks.
Today, I break radio silence because I want to fill you all in on my New York Comic Con schedule. Read on!
Myth and Magic in the City
Today (Friday Oct. 11), 2:45PM, Room 1A17
Speakers: Anna Jarzab, Anton Strout, F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Hirsch, Max Gladstone (that’s me!), Benedict Jacka, Tonya Hurley
What’s the deal: Alternate histories, parallel worlds, mages and saints shape modern day fantasy and new legends in the making. Join Max Gladstone (Two Serpents Rise), Anna Jarzab (Tandem), Jeff Hirsch (The Eleventh Plague), Anton Strout (Stonecast), Benedict Jacka (Chosen) and Tonya Hurley (Precious Blood) as they discuss the art of writing Urban Fantasy with F. Paul Wilson (Dark City), one of the originals of the genre.
(This’ll be interesting! Once again it looks like I’m on the borderline, with Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise both set in fantasyland circa late-millennial capitalism rather than in, say, Kansas City with fantasy elements. Should make for a great discussion.)
Also today (Friday Oct. 11), 4PM, Autographing Table 21
Right after the UF panel, everyone runs over and signs books at Autographing Table 21!
TOMORROW (Saturday Oct. 12), 5PM, Tor Books, Booth #2223
SIGNING (AND FREE BOOKS!) With me, myself, and I.
Tor has copies of Three Parts Dead, and we should have a few early finished copies of Two Serpents Rise for giveaway. Come by, say hello, and let me scribble on your stuff!
Okay, I need to eat breakfast and then run off to this madhouse convention, but rock on, team internet, and I’ll see you soon.
September 24th, 2013 § § permalink
xo Orpheus launches today! If you liked my story Drona’s Death—about fatherhood, war, gods, and close air support—check out the other myths re-imagined and reconfigured in this anthology. I’m here, Kit Reed is here, Brian Aldiss is here, Emma and Peter Straub are here, Madeline Miller’s here—august company.
On a related note, Romantic Times Book Reviews (reviewers of basically all genres in addition to romance) gave Two Serpents Rise four and a half stars—their highest rating! (The story behind why Romantic Times doesn’t give out five star ratings is pretty awesome, and can be found here.)
According to RT Book Reviews:
Newcomers and fans of the series alike will enjoy the mystery, demon-caused mayhem, and fast-moving plot in this stellar, engaging read.
I hope you’re not surprised that this book contains mayhem. Minor spoilers, I suppose.
September 23rd, 2013 § § permalink
This week, I make stuff.
This week, I take level and compass and protractor and lumber plane and varnish to a manuscript, because next summer I want to have an awesome book to share with people. This week I pray I won’t need a blowtorch in addition to the aforementioned tools.
This week, I write and code another scene for a game that will bring players deeper into the Craft universe than I’ve been able to take them already. More choice, more magic, more demons, and more doubt.
This week, I have my hands full.
Next week, you’ll see more from me.
In the meantime, what’s on your plate?
September 6th, 2013 § § permalink
It’s been an insane week, so why not make it a little madder? Yesterday I received the final cover for Two Serpents Rise from Tor, and now it’s time to share!
Once again, Chris McGrath’s cover does not disappoint. Pyramids and stone carvings and a city in the background, cards and snappy suits, and Caleb.
Two Serpents Rise is set in the same corporate fantasy world as Three Parts Dead, but it features a new cadre of characters, in a new city. Alt Coulumb was a city living with its god, and shocked by His death. By contrast, the citizens of Dresediel Lex rebelled against their pantheon sixty years ago in the God Wars, and killed most of them—only to find that after you depose the gods, you have to take their place.
I’m excited about Two Serpents Rise for a lot of reasons. It fleshes out the consequences of the God Wars, and shows people living with their scars. We see the world the Craftsmen built and struggle to maintain, and discover how it feels to live there. More politics, more necromancy, more demons, more intergenerational strife, more magic, more revolution, more class dynamics, more love (or something like it). Late millennial capitalism never looked so much like human sacrifice.
Initial buzz is really positive. Publishers Weekly gave Two Serpents Rise a starred review:
“Gladstone outdoes himself in this exciting and imaginative return to the brilliantly realized world of Three Parts Dead.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
And Locus devoted a whole quarter-page to their review, which puts me in some elevated company.
“The advantage that the best science fiction can give you as a reader is to teach you how to fall into an unfamiliar world. You learn how to give your trust over to the author … [and] the author will reward that trust.
Heinlein was great at this… Banks’ Culture books did this, as did Tolkein. Either the reader could accept the ambiguity, or not. Those that could were richly rewarded.
Max Gladstone excels at this. Two Serpents Rise drops us in Dresediel Lex, a city where the residents act like we do—the main character isn’t a mighty warrior but a risk manager for a corporation—but the ground rules are changed… Then stuff gets weird in the best ways. …
[Cutting some plot info]
For those who can hand Gladstone the reins, a rich, compelling ride is in store. No, it’s not a typical transparent fantasy quest story, but is, instead, a satisfying story that muses about environmental catastrophes, troubling father-son relationships, and corporate mergers.” – Locus
Here’s the back-cover copy:
Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.
But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.
From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.
I am excited, folks. Less than two months to go! Mark your calendars for October 29! And get your preorders in gear at Amazon, Powell’s, BN, or some other retailer of your preference.
And in the meantime, looks like we’re giving away a few copies at Goodreads—so get on that if you want free books!
September 5th, 2013 § § permalink
Pictures are worth a thousand words, they say, so I only got somewhere near 0.8 pictures with last night’s post. So, here are a few more photos!
First, from the Drinks With Authors event Friday night: the premier meeting of Team Tiara! From left, that’s me, Mur Lafferty, Chuck Wendig, and the effervescent Stina Leicht.
This is me on a panel about Chinese-language science fiction. I appear to be quite skeptical about something Gregory Benford is saying.
You can even find spare TARDIS parts at WorldCon!
And here’s the key shot—immediately pre-Hugos awards. All us Campbell nominees grabbed seats together for mutual support purposes.
And here’s the second row!
Smiling faces all around. Photos rule.