Jul 16 2018

Die Jungfrau von Orleans by Friedrich Schiller

At the opening of The Maid of Orleans, as Schiller’s five-act verse tragedy is known in English, France is divided among three parties: English troops who have taken Paris and the north in pressing their king’s dynastic claim to the French throne, southern lands held by the Valois king Charles VII, and Burgundy in the middle ruled by Philip the Good. Philip is also a Valois but has sided with England because men of Charles VII murdered his father. Thibaut d’Arch, whom Schiller describes as a wealthy landowner, has three daughters: Margot, Louison and Johanna (Joan). In the initial scenes, Thibaut laments France’s division and the likelihood that war will soon come to his area. In advance of that probable catastrophe, he consents to the marriage of his two older daughters to their intendeds.

Joan, however, worries him. She is young and should be full of life, but she is not like the other young women. Raimond, her admirer, defends Joan, saying she loves the mountains and the outdoors, that she is attuned to higher things, that she could have come from another age. That’s precisely what worries her father, who has had a prophetic dream three times of her on the throne of the kings in Reims, wearing a diadem, with all bowing to her. It foretells a steep fall, he says. Raimond defends her, saying she is the most talented of all, that everything she creates pours forth happiness.

Joan has been on stage through these two scenes, but silent and still. She does not move until Bertrand, another landowner, joins the party and relates the curious story of how at the market earlier a Bohemian woman had pressed a helmet upon him before vanishing into the crowd. “Give me the helmet!” are Joan’s first words in the play. Bertrand replies that it is nothing for a maiden. She tears it from his hands, saying “Mine is the helmet, and it belongs to me.”

History turns.

Bertrand says that a knight is about to tell the allied English and Burgundians that Orleans is prepared to come to terms. Joan counters immediately, “No agreements! No surrender! … The enemy’s fortune will shatter at Orleans … He is ready to be harvested. With her sickle the maid will come,/And mow down his proud stalks.” Bertrand says miracles don’t happen anymore, and Joan basically tells him to hold her beer.

Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/16/die-jungfrau-von-orleans-by-friedrich-schiller/

Jul 13 2018

An Interview With Daniel Godfrey, author of The Synapse Sequence

Q: Every book has its own story about how it came to be conceived and written as it did. How did The Synapse Sequence evolve?

A: I find a few different ideas have to come together before I’m able to write a novel, otherwise I don’t have the critical mass to get beyond short story stage – or have something that runs out of gas far too early.

I had in my mind that an air crash investigator would make a great detective, and a plot relating to a foster child. Both of these things had to snap together with the idea of having a technology that could be used to explore witness memories. The decision to run a separate (but connected) storyline relating to the main character (Anna) looking back over events came much later, but seemed a good thematic fit.

Q: I enjoyed the push-pull nature of humanity’s interdependence with Artificial Intelligence throughout The Synapse Sequence. Do you consider the novel a cautionary tale regarding human rights vs the safety and convenience provided by modern/future technology? If so, how do you believe we should draw the line between the rights of the individual vs the collective?

A: The increasing use of artificial intelligence is undoubtedly going to generate positives and negatives for society, and politicians will likely be forced to decide where it can and can’t be used (as is alluded to in The Synapse Sequence). However, I don’t believe ‘the line’ is static. For instance, I recently visited a reservoir that had been created by flooding a valley that had once contained several villages. “Imagine them doing that now,” someone in the visitor centre remarked. At the moment, the rights of the individual are probably given higher priority than ever before. How long this will last – in the face of global pressures, including climate change – is up for debate.

Q: Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Are there any particular audiences you hope will connect with this story?

A: I describe my writing as an ‘out of control’ hobby, which I’m pleased has found a home at Titan Books. I don’t like to get bogged down in the technology and instead focus on forward momentum. Hopefully this means it will reach a wide audience.

Q: The Synapse Sequence is, at its heart, an exploration of the link between time and memory. You also explore time travel in your previous books in the New Pompeii series. What drives your fascination with the mutable nature of time?

A: I suppose the fascination is more with non-linear narratives rather than time or time travel. The non-linear approach allows you to approach a story from a few different angles, which can be run at different paces between the crossing points.

Q: What is the first book you read that made you think, “I have got to write something like this someday!”?

A: I’m going to have to be slightly controversial here: what fires up my creative side more than anything else are movies, and growing up when I did, I am very much influenced by what came out in the 1980’s. Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters. I really like seeing how the plot strands start to weave together as events build to a climax.

Q: I really enjoyed your writing tip for new writers on your website, which is essentially “Finish your book.” How long did the process of learning this take you, and is there any other advice you’ve learned since that you’d like to impart?

A: I see and hear this a lot actually: that writers have this new idea and they’re so keen to get going on it that they set off and soon come to a halt – they’ve burned through that initial enthusiasm – and then instead of focusing on why it went wrong it’s easier to start on the next shiny new thing.

The turning point for me came when I set myself a challenge that I could not start the next thing until I finished what I was writing, even though I knew it wasn’t good enough. It’s the only way to learn about structuring the all-important mid-section of the book.

The only thing I think I would now add to this is that it’s very useful to know (roughly) what your key beats are: how does your story start, what kicks off the main action, what happens in the middle to up the ante, how do you progress to the end, and how do you finish? You then have something to aim at as things are being written.

Q: Do you adhere to any particular writing regimen?

A: I have a full time job so 90% of my writing is done on a Sunday, and I aim for about 2,000 words on that day. I do editing (which can include re-writes) at other times, but only when on deadline.

Q: Are you a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a plotter? Given the structure and twists of The Synapse Sequence, would I be wrong in betting it’s the latter?

A: The Synapse Sequence was the first book where I’ve agreed an outline with my publisher prior to starting work. It was interesting to learn that process, but mainly I just like to have my key story beats and work between them as I’m going along. New Pompeii (my first published novel) was written very much in my spare time as a hobby (before getting an agent, let alone a publisher), and I’d started Empire of Time (the sequel) prior to it being signed to the publisher: so I just needed to give a brief description of what I’d already written.

I must say though that the outline was useful: it kept me focused and reduced the amount of aborted time going down plotting dead ends. It also made the editing much, much easier.

Q: What can you tell us about your next project?

A: I have a few promising ideas, but am looking for the final piece to make them work.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m sort of between books at the moment. I’m just about to start Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. It’s on the shortlist for the Clarke Award, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. The book I’ve just finished was The Midnight Line by Lee Child.

Q: Are there any new books or authors in science fiction that have you excited?

It’s great that there’s such a lot of variety at the moment: books I very much enjoyed last year included Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Natasha Pulley’s The Bedlam Stacks and GX Todd’s Defender. From this year’s selection, the top two have both been space operas: Gareth Powell’s Embers of War and Dominic Dulley’s Shattermoon.

Q: Tell us why you love your book!

A: Aside from the amount of time and emotional investment I put into it? ☺ I suppose the risk with near future science fiction is that things can happen as your writing, and it takes a long time to get a book written and published. It’s been quite fun to see a lot of stuff in the book start appearing in the mainstream media; whether that be the use of AI in the police force, better understanding the mechanics behind memory, or the policy responses to automation (the most high profile of which is Universal Basic Income). I think the book has come out at the right time, so hopefully it will resonate with those who pick up a copy.

Thank you so much for having this discussion with us! 
Thank you for inviting me to be interviewed on your website!

~~~
Author Links

Daniel Godfrey
Twitter

~~~

The Synapse Sequence  was published June 19th 2018 and is available via all good book sellers. My review of the book itself may be found here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/13/an-interview-with-daniel-godfrey-author-of-the-synapse-sequence/

Jul 10 2018

The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

So I thought that reading this on my Fire would be superior to reading on my Paperwhite but the sketches weren’t formatted very well for Kindle so meh. I did really like the idea, tho, that you could find clues in the sketches to help you solve the mystery (why yes I was a Cam Jansen fan as a kid!) It probably works better in execution in physical format, as the Kindle versions tended to break the line drawings in half, which doesn’t make for good clue hunting. I also kinda expected the interior sketches to be closer to the art style on the cover. Each is fun to look at in its own right, but it felt a bit like false advertising given how different they are.

As to the story itself, I really enjoyed the insight into the con-going experience from the talents’ point of view. I’m a con-goer from way back, having enjoyed both comics and gaming cons before they were taken over by Hollywood celebrities, but strictly as a consumer/card flopper/dice chucker. Oh, there was the one con I helped run an RPG room, but usually I’m just there to play games and buy stuff. Tho I did hang out with Chris Claremont a lot at that one Baltimore Comic Con. Er, back on topic: I also really enjoyed our hero’s opinions on the meaning of creating as well as the relationship between creators and fans, particularly in niche entertainment. The Con Artist is a lot of fun for people familiar with geekdom, and super informative for those who want to learn more about San Diego Comic Con and the comics industry.

What TCA isn’t great at is telling a good mystery story. There’s the bare bones of one there, and there are a bunch of great set pieces, but the writing is wildly disjointed, with the emotions often feeling uninhabited (with the great exception being Mike’s interactions with Violet, but not necessarily her actions otherwise.) I didn’t feel a single emotional connection with anything that happened besides aforementioned exception. Perhaps this had to do with our protagonist feeling a little disconnected from life himself, a little numb from what’s clearly his depressed state of mind, and while that lends itself to veritas, it doesn’t really lend itself to entertainment. Still, an interesting experiment of a novel that I would like to see more tried of in future.

Oh! When Fred Van Lente talked about the perilous financial security of comics artists and writers, who earn at the mercy of their publishers, it reminded me very much of one of my favorite writers from the 90s and his current plight. William Messner-Loebs did a run on Wonder Woman that I still think of fondly, but has been reduced to living out of his car with his ailing wife. If you can spare a few dollars to help make up for a system that lacks any sort of social net for people who’ve done their best to entertain us, please go to his GoFundMe page and donate.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/10/the-con-artist-by-fred-van-lente/

Jul 05 2018

The Book Of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

In all honesty, I can’t decide whether I liked that ending or not. It sorta demands more storytelling when this book is clearly complete as it is, and while I could not help but smile in satisfaction at the last word of the novel, I also felt — in hindsight and not, crucially, at the time itself — that it leaves things open-ended in a way that is less “here, go play with your imagination and interpret as you will” and more “teehee, there is more that I’m not telling you, too bad.” Which, for a book named after the book written by one of the main characters, the charismatic and possibly insane Art, is fitting despite, and perhaps in some small part because of, how unsatisfying it can feel.

Well there, that’s enough metaphysics in fiction for this review: let’s talk about the plot. Four friends return to their small hometown in the south of Italy every year to catch up on old times. There’s art photographer Fabio, lawyer Mauro, surgeon Tony, and Art, who lives in Casalfranco again after years of gadding about abroad. Only this year, Art doesn’t show up, and the three friends’ search for their missing mate sets into motion a tale that is partly fantastical, uniquely Italian and wholly mature.

See, it’s been so long since I’ve read adult fantasy that I’ve almost forgotten how weirdly real it feels compared to YA. To a certain extent, it’s hard to really categorize The Book Of Hidden Things as a fantasy novel, when the three friends easily concoct reasonable explanations for most of what they run into. TBoHT is primarily a book about friendship, a deep dive into the psyches of these very different men and the roads they’ve taken since leaving their small town beginnings. There is betrayal and violence but above all a deep and abiding bond between the four of them. TBoHT is a celebration of male friendship that also examines family ties and religion in ways that are even-handed and convincing. I was a little concerned, at the beginning, that the women in the book would be cardboard cutouts, and while they’re clearly supporting characters, they are complex and strong and their own people, not merely consigned to being passive wives and sisters and girlfriends.

Shockingly, this is the author’s first book in English, after establishing himself as a master of fantasy in Italian. I’m so glad Francesco Dimitri has decided to write in English, as it really allows those of us unfamiliar with his mother tongue to enjoy his writings as he intends them (no slight to translators, who do very important work, but nuance occasionally gets lost when writing from the original.) His depiction of an Italy that is at once modern, fantastic and deeply rooted in history is a joy to experience.

Oh! I should warn you: the depiction of the hanged dog on the cover is accurate to the contents of the book, so if that kind of thing bothers you, you might want to skip this.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/05/the-book-of-hidden-things-by-francesco-dimitri/

Jul 01 2018

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

A savage yet still somehow YA retelling of The Little Mermaid fairy tale that eschews insipidity and gender tropes, but has some really annoyingly poor language choices throughout. Princess Lira is a siren, seventeen years old and raised by her mother the Sea Queen to be a deadly killer. Her preferred target is the princes of the Hundred Kingdoms and, once every year, she finds one to draw into the ocean before ripping his heart out as a trophy. When she accidentally saves the life of Prince Elian of Midas, her enraged (and quite frankly a bit deranged) mother, punishes her by turning her into a human. Only if Lira kills Elian will she be returned to her natural state.

But Elian is a killer himself, a hunter of the sirens who prey on humanity. Preferring the wide ocean waters to the kingdom he is heir to, he sails around the world with his handpicked crew, searching for a way to end the siren threat once and for all. When a man comes to him in a tavern, promising an ancient artifact that could effect this, Elian cannot help but be intrigued. When his and Lira’s paths cross, Lira too becomes privy to this information, and forms her own plan to make the powerful artifact hers.

On the whole, it’s a thrilling tale of pirates and treasure hunting with sassy, believable characters; terrific world-building, and a plot that essentially takes the fairytale we all know and mostly love and gives it a fresh interpretation with 100% less romantic pining and 100% more self-actualization and ambition. There were some really odd gaps in the logic (e.g. Sakura’s stay in Midas made not a lick of sense; I didn’t understand the mermaids’ motivations half the time; how did Kardia just suddenly show up in the conversation) and there were a lot of inappropriately used words. Not that there were profanities, just that some of the conversations were absolute drivel because the words were being used as nonsense babbling. Elian at one point asks Lira if she needs him to keep a secret, and she responds that she needs him to keep a favor but then asks him for something that is in no way, shape or form a favor, and I guess that at that point they’re so worn out from their journey that this seems the height of wordplay but it’s really not and it’s kinda annoying, in the “stop trying to make fetch happen” sort of way. I appreciate the inventive use of language but that was not what was on display here. And while I liked that the book was told from alternating viewpoints, I think it would have really helped if those had been demarcated by chapter headings or somesuch instead of randomly switching without warning.

Anyway! It was still a really cool retelling of Disney’s version of the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, and I greatly enjoyed it, with those few exceptions. I especially liked how it examined radicalization and deprogramming, albeit lightly, as well as trust and the benefits of laying down arms. The female characters were complex and multi-dimensional throughout and I especially enjoyed the relationship between Lira and Madrid. Bonus points also for being a standalone novel and not part of some unnecessarily multi-book behemoth.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/07/01/to-kill-a-kingdom-by-alexandra-christo/

Jun 27 2018

An Interview With G. S. Denning, author of My Grave Ritual

Q: Every series has its own story about how it came to be conceived and written as it did. Reading A Study In Brimstone, I figured this series would mostly be a light-hearted spoof, so have been greatly excited by how it has developed into an intriguing, complex ongoing narrative with the release of My Grave Ritual. How did the Warlock Holmes books evolve in your mind and on the page?

A: You know, I thought it would be a simple spoof, too, for a minute. The day I started, I sat down to write a short story, just for yucks. But that night, as I lay in bed thinking about it, I realized I didn’t want to. I’d started to like the idea too much. I realized it could hold a series and—judging by the history of geek-love for Sherlock—I figured I could get it published. So I dove right in.

Q: Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Are there any particular audiences you hope will connect with this story?

A: I think the audience is… me. And all the people out there who are basically me. The Whovians. The Sherlockians. The lovers of Adams and Pratchett. The people who should probably stop giggling at fun geek stuff and get a real job,  but who resist with every fiber of their soul. Hi guys! Here’s a book for you.

Q: What is the first book you read that made you think, “I have got to write something like this someday!”

A: I think it was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I already loved sci-fi/fantasy. And I already loved humor. To see them married like that made me so happy! But there wasn’t enough, you know? I’ve been churning out geek humor for over two decades, but mostly on the stage, not on the page.

Q: Your author biography states that you did over two decades of improv before finally learning to write stuff down. How did your experience with improv inform your writing process?

A: Improv taught me to write. It taught me what an audience likes and how to feel when my story was on the ball and when it wasn’t. If you want to write, I highly recommend trying improv. Oh, as a special bonus: anybody who has to make up 8 stories per night while a live audience watches is not going to suffer from writers’ block.

Q: Do you adhere to any particular writing regimen?

A: Someday, I’d love a writing regimen. Sigh… Someday… Right now I’m still working 40 hours a week doing MRI and trying to keep my two young kids happy and alive. The books you’ve been reading were written a few hours at a time at coffee houses or burger joints that will let me sit in a corner table and write. I steal time after the kids are asleep or between dropping them off at school and heading in to work. I swear 50% of book 3 was written at Red Robin on Friday nights after work.

Q: While reading A Study In Brimstone, I was certain you were a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) but by the end of My Grave Ritual, I’m convinced you must be a plotter. Which do you think you tend to be?

A: Well, you were never wrong. I’m a bit of both. I tend to figure out the large plot/thematic points I want to hit and write towards them. Oh, and I have help on this particular project. A famous British dead guy wrote all my plot outlines for me a hundred years ago. Any of you pansters out there who want to try writing to an outline, but don’t know how to make a solid plan, try this: write a parody. Strip the muscles and skin off a beloved old story. Keep those solid and venerable bones, but give it new flesh. It’ll teach you a lot.

Q: Given your broad background in geekdom, what made you choose Sherlock Holmes pastiche specifically as your means of expression?

A: It was an accident. I had just watched the first episode of the BBC’s Sherlock and found myself recommending to a fantasy writer that she build a powerful-but-flawed character like Holmes for her book. She said Holmes would never work in fantasy—how would you ever adapt that. On the drive home, I started laughing, because the answer occurred to me and it was so simple: everybody thought he was magical, anyway, so all you had to do was let him be. Then I thought up the pun Warlock Holmes. I was so excited. I ran upstairs to Google it and see what the geeks before me had done with that joke. There was nothing. So I sat down to write it myself.

Q: What has been the reaction of Sherlock Holmes fans to your novels?

A: Surprisingly good. I thought I was going to get flamed so hard. I am, after all, messing with one of the most beloved literary figures of all time. But I’m doing it lovingly enough, I think, and with enough nods and Easter-eggs to the originals that the Holmes fanbase has been exceedingly welcoming to me. There was one guy who gave me a one star review and called the series “Openly-flaunted degeneracy.” That was so choice, we were going to use it as the top blurb on the back of book 3, but he took it down. Boooooo!

Q: Readers can expect the fourth and fifth books in the series, The Sign of Nine and The Finality Problem, in April of 2019 and 2020 respectively. What can you tell us about your next project, whether it be these upcoming books or something else entirely?

A: Let’s see… Book 4 is all about Watson’s darkest days. He’s trying to figure out how magic and Moriarty and Adler work and he’s injecting himself with a mystic solutionn to have prophetic dreams. It’s slowly killing him, but he can’t stop trying to get that last clue he needs to best Adler. Book 5 is all about Watson’s adventures in matrimony with Mary Morstan. I also have a YA novel done and ready to market if my agent ever decides to give it a spin (you listening, Sam?) It’s basically Romeo and Juliet if the Montagues were the Indiana Joneses and the Capulets were mad scientists.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

A: My own stuff, over and over? The original Holmes stories, over and over? Oh! Actually I’m re-reading Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora. Really satisfying fantasy con/heist story. Highly recommended.

Q: Are there any new books or authors that have you excited?

A: What I’m really excited about now is actually a literary trend I’m hoping will take off. I am able to do my books because Sherlock Holmes is moving into the public domain. The other one that is going in right now is the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft. I can’t wait to see what people do. Who’s got a humorous Lovecraftian series? I want to read it!

Q: As a self-proclaimed “terribly friendly geek”, what is your favorite geeky pastime and why?

A: Pen-and-paper role playing, especially with authors and improvisors. If you play kick-in-the-door-kill-the-monster-take-its-treasure-style, live RPGs are just crappy seconds to video-game RPGs. But, when the stars align, when you get the right group and a narrative-based adventure, you get to be a character in your favorite story, ever.

Q: Tell us why you love Warlock Holmes!

A: The size of it. There are so many original stories, so many beloved characters, so many mysteries and plots that I really get to take my time and let Warlock grow and expand at the pace I want. I’ve got a nested plot structure. Each mystery has its own plot. Each book has an overarching plot (Book 1 is the intro. Book 2 is Holmes’s origin and Watson coming into his own as an adventurer. Book 3 is the villains coming in to mess the boys up. Book 4 is the descent into darkness). And the series itself is the story of how Holmes and Watson broke the world. The sheer size of the original canon and the geek-world’s collective patience with my series means I get to let it grow and change.

Thanks for taking an interest in Warlock, Watson and me. As long as you guys keep reading ‘em, I’ll keep writing ‘em!

~~~

Author Links:

g s denning

~~~

My Grave Ritual was published May 15th 2018 and is available via all good book sellers. My review of the book itself may be found here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/27/an-interview-with-g-s-denning-author-of-my-grave-ritual/

Jun 26 2018

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Abe, a cranky retired history professor who’s pretty good on the harmonica. Joanna, a flight attendant who’s logged plenty of miles but still has a ways to go before she can stay on the friendly ground. They’re an unlikely pair, and they maintain their separate residences, separate worlds, but sixteen years together have been good to both. They know when to be together, when to keep their distance, how to keep their lives in and around Seattle rolling along. Until one day.

They don’t recognize it immediately, though they do recognize that something significant has happened. That’s one of the pleasures of Beagle giving older characters the lead in Summerlong. Beagle tells a kind of story that feels unusual to me in fantasy and science fiction, though it is common in more mundane settings. His characters are neither young people discovering who they are, nor old ones either looking back or having one last adventure. Instead, they are mature people, rounded and complete in themselves showing new sides of themselves or finding different ways of being who they were all along. It begins with a discussion in a restaurant about what steps Joanna (Delvecchio, whom Abe often calls Del) should take to keep the gray from taking over her hair, and the two of them pulling the server into their conversation.

She’ll probably be calling me Mom too, by the time we get to the salad.”
Abe looked up at the girl standing patiently by the table. “Would you really do that?”
“No,” the girl said. “I would just call her ma’am, and I would say, ‘I’ll be your server tonight. May I tell you about our Special of the Day?”
She was tall, almost as tall as Abe, and slender, and her voice was low and clear, with the slight, warm hint of an accent. … She said, “The special is blackened snapper in a ginger-mango sauce, over a jasmine rice pilaf. I really recommend it.”
“Primavera,” Abe said softly. “Primavera, by God.” She looked blankly back at him. Abe said, “Actually by Botticelli. It’s a Renaissance painting of a young girl who represents spring — that’s primavera in Italian. You remind me of her.”
The waitress did not smile, but a shadowy dimple appeared under one cheekbone. “Perhaps she reminds you of me. I can also recommend the pan-seared scallops.” (pp. 23–24)

Joanna’s gray is forgotten already. Wheels are turning.

When she had gone to fetch their wine Abe said, “California. Santa Cruz, maybe San Diego. They’re all moving up here. Unbelievable.”
“She’s not from California,” Joanna said. “You know she’s not from California.”
“Greek, maybe. Balkan somewhere. The accent could be Greek.”
Joanna patted his hand. “Listen to you. We used to have a captain who always came on the P.A. like that, talking in little tough grunts. Sweets, that child just knocked you on your ass, and you’re hoping I won’t notice. Forget it, she knocked me on my ass too. How old do you think she is?”
“Nineteen. Eleven. One hundred and twenty-six. I have no idea.” He realized that his voice was shaking, no matter how level he tried to keep it. “Del, I taught European history until last spring. People really do look different in different times, that’s just something I know. You look at the paintings, the statues — faces change, it’s genetic and cultural and spiritual, all together. That look — Del, that model got discontinued a very long time ago.”
“Well, she said, and the light-brown eyes that he knew so completely widened in teasing affection. “Sometimes maybe one slips through.” (pp. 24–25)

Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/26/summerlong-by-peter-s-beagle/

Jun 20 2018

An Interview with R S Ford, author of A Demon In Silver


Q: Every book has its own story about how it came to be conceived and written as it did. How did A Demon In Silver evolve?

A: It actually sprang from an idea for a totally different novel. I came up with a concept set in the modern day, featuring warring gods who had fought one another through the ages. They were known by different names in different cultures throughout time, but were now on the brink of extinction. I canned the idea as it was obviously very close to Gaiman’s American Gods, but the concept of warring gods stayed with me. When I later got to thinking about a fantasy realm that had once been ruled by magic but now there was none, the two ideas kind of evolved into the War of the Archons series.

Q: I really enjoyed the way you constructed A Demon In Silver as essentially a chase narrative, introducing many important characters only as they become involved in the pursuit of Livia. I was also impressed with how you wound the plot back around to the beginning of your narrative, closing the circle, as it were, even as you left room for lots more to come. What inspired you to structure the story in these non-traditional ways?

A: I don’t really like rules, would be the quick answer. Basically, some of the plot reveals required a non-linear plot structure for a bigger impact. But I think the story bounces along fast enough so as not to ruin the pacing and plot.

Q: Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Are there any particular audiences you hope will connect with this story?

A: Readers of fantasy have become much more diverse in recent years, which is reflected in the wide array of fantasy that’s currently available. Aiming at a particular demographic only limits your readership so I don’t tend to write for any one perceived group. I think the best a writer can do is produce the kind of novel they’d like to read, then you just have to set in free and hope other people like it too.

Q: What is the first book you read that made you think, “I have got to write something like this someday!”

A: I’ve read and admired a lot of novels over the years. I think the one that made me sit up and take notice the most was The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. On the face of it the story has been told a dozen times before, but it casts aside all the old tropes to become its very own thing. And I don’t think I’d ever laughed out loud that much at any novel I’d read before.

Q: How did you learn to write?

A: Practice, practice, practice. I’m a great believer in learning on the job, and writing novels (or anything for that matter) requires that you put in the hard hours. I wrote around five novels before I had a word published. The process of writing a novel from start to finish, even if it turns out to be horrendous, is more valuable than any creative writing course you could go on. That’s not to say those things aren’t valuable, but finding your own ‘voice’ as a writer is the key to success.

Q: Do you adhere to any particular writing regimen?

A: I find myself easily distracted, so I subscribe to a very strict regimen. I tend to cut my chapter plans down into bite-size pieces and go at them in short sprints. Then I’ll go back through in one session revising the huge mess I’ve just made.

Q: In the acknowledgments to A Demon In Silver, you talk about the changes you had to make to the novel as plotted. Do you generally consider yourself a plotter or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?

A: That particular plotting snafoo occurred because I didn’t have a firm plan for where the novel was going when I started it. Normally I have a strict chapter breakdown before I’ve written a word. Needless to say, I won’t be ‘pantsing’ again.

Q: What made you choose fantasy, and particularly the blend of high meets grimdark (highdark?) in A Demon In Silver, as your means of expression?

A: Ooh, Highdark! I like that, can I steal it? (Doreen responds: Absolutely!)

I’ve always been a fantasy fan, probably due to the freedom of expression it gives. You’re not tied down to a real time or place and are free to come up with whatever background you like. Also, I’ve always found that despite their ‘otherworldly’ settings, fantasy novels are essentially about people and character, as opposed to SF, which usually seems to be about high-concepts and ideas. I’m all about the characters.

Q: Speaking of high fantasy meets grimdark, I see that you’ve also written short stories set in the Warhammer and Pathfinder universes. Are you much of a role player, and how does that inform your writing, if so?

A: I used to work as an editor for an RPG company back in the dim and distant, and I have been known to roll the odd funny shaped die. I don’t take much influence from roleplaying, as the traditional adventuring-party concept doesn’t really fit in with the kind of books I write. However, I love a look through a setting guide every now and then, and find them a great source of inspiration.

Q: Are there any new books or authors in fantasy that have you excited?

A: I’m currently reading The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith-Spark and liking it a lot. I’ve also heard some very good things about Blackwing by Ed McDonald so I’ll be picking that up at some point and most likely adding it to my ever expanding to-be-read pile.

Q: What can you tell us about your next project?

A: As we speak I’m thrashing out book two in the War of the Archons series; The Hangman’s Gate, while I also dream about the other projects I’d love to write if only I had the time.

~~~

Author Links:

Hear All, See All, Say Nowt richard4ord.wordpress.com
Follow him on Twitter @rich4ord

~~~

A Demon In Silver was published June 12th 2018 and is available via all good book sellers. My review of the book itself may be found here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/20/author-interview-with-r-s-ford-author-of-a-demon-in-silver/

Jun 19 2018

The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey

Anna Glover is not a war criminal, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t treated as such by the public at large. Blamed for giving the United States and United Kingdom a reason to wage war with China during her former life as an air crash investigator, she now works to build an experimental synapse sequencer which accesses the memories of multiple witnesses to reconstruct pivotal events, a technology that its owner, Jake Morley, wants to monetize for use in London’s judicial system. Desperate to prove the value of the project — and, by extension, herself — Anna flings herself into the seemingly minor case of a foster teen beaten into a coma. As she dives deeper into N’Golo Durrant’s life, she realizes that the very underpinnings of modern society are in jeopardy… and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The synapse sequencer is a fascinating fictional construct. In Daniel Godfrey’s hands, this exploration of memory and technology becomes a cautionary tale of the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and politics, and makes for thought-provoking reading. I did not personally believe in Mr Godfrey’s depiction of life on a Universal Income (essentially a guaranteed basic income which has been tried to great success in certain European countries in real life,) but I definitely appreciate the dilemmas raised as the plot unfolded. How much of our lives are we willing to cede to authority and technology? How much of memory is reality as opposed to perception? Twisty and bleak but not without its own cautious optimism, The Synapse Sequencer is the kind of dystopian thriller that will have you reevaluating what you think you know about your relationship with modern tech.

Stay tuned for an interview with the author within the next few weeks!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/19/the-synapse-sequence-by-daniel-godfrey/

Jun 17 2018

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Just in time for World Cup, I have finished Unseen Academicals, the Discworld book that takes up soccer — football, as it is known in some places, or foot-the-ball, as it is generally called in Ankh-Morpork. I had not been looking forward to this particular book on my trek through all of the main Discworld novels. It focuses on the wizards of the Unseen University, who are my least favorite among the groups of characters who appear in multiple Discworld books. I was tired of Rincewind by his second appearance as the protagonist of a wizards’ novel, and while the others are more enjoyable to read about than he is, they still don’t hold my interest very well. Second, the later novels that don’t feature Tiffany Aching are starting to seem more programmatic, with Pratchett’s interest in exploring a technological development or aspect of society driving the story, rather than telling a good story that happens to look at some subject in particular. Third, Unseen Academicals is the longest Discworld novel, clocking in at roughly 540 pages. The page count has been creeping up through the recent books, without commensurate gain. I like Pratchett’s stories better when they are brisker and tighter than when every development in the tale is lovingly indulged by author and editor.

The book also shares Thud‘s problem, that of an important and universally known aspect of culture that the author has somehow failed to mention in 36 preceding books. Pratchett nods in this direction early on, writing that there is so much violence in the game that the participants keep it clandestine, and so many participants that the Watch finds it expedient to steer clear of games as they happen. I wasn’t convinced. For example, if the game is as important to the social lives of Ankh-Morpork’s right poorer inhabitants as Unseen Academicals claims, then young Sam Vimes would have been a part, and he would surely have said something about it in all the novels where the conditions of his growing up are mentioned.

Pratchett does better with his handling of Rincewind; namely, he sends him off-stage right away. The main trunk of the plot grows from two developments. The budget of the Unseen University — and thus, crucially, the institution’s ability to support the wizards’ luxurious eating habits — depends on a bequest, one of whose provisions is that the University must field a football team regularly, and the time defined by “regularly” is about to expire. The other is that Vetinari has decided to put a damper on the massive mob violence that accompanies foot-the-ball matches. Here, readers can see echoes of the violence that plagued British soccer in the 1980s and 1990s, along with efforts by authorities to curb it. Both reasons seemed contrived to me, and contributed to my overall sense of the book as programmatic, rather than a story arising naturally from the characters and setting.

In addition to the senior wizards who have been around for several books, Unseen Academicals stars several people from the serving class that keeps the university running. Glenda is in charge of the night kitchen, makes formidable pies, and embodies the bedrock decency of most of Pratchett’s protagonists. She also comes in for criticism because of some of the things that she assumes that are part of her decency. That is a level of reflection I have not often seen in Pratchett’s work; on the other hand, it’s Vetinari doing the criticizing, and he hardly has any room to talk in the matter of manipulating people. As he would freely admit. Juliet works in the kitchen with Glenda. Juliet is not very bright, but she is stunningly beautiful; some of her choices lead to a subplot on fashion and celebrity. Trevor Likely is part of the cadre that ensures the university’s candles are all artfully dribbled. He is also the son of a famous foot-the-ball player and has no small amount of talent himself but has sworn to his dear mum that he will stay away from the violence. Mr Nutt is a dribbler like Trev, and turns out to have an even more unusual personal history.

Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2018/06/17/unseen-academicals-by-terry-pratchett/