Moore and L.
Sprague de Camp in the s and 50s. What made engaging with this genre exciting? I think of science fantasy as the best of two halves of the genre. As a result, when I began to catch up with my SF reading, I was coming at it older, and from a different perspective. I think this has fed into what I write. The Shadowlands novels form a duology rather than a trilogy or a longer sequence.
- The Shibboleth (Incarcerado, Book 2).
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Was writing in this format a challenge? This did mean that the first draft of Broken Shadow came in somewhat over-long, leading to some fairly brutal editing.
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Your other novels form the Hidden Empire series, part of a seven-thousand year future history. Can you tell us a bit about that? The idea of placing stories in a future history is shamelessly lifted from Larry Niven, who was one of the first SF writers I read.
I love the continuity and depth you get setting a story in a future history. Plus, it indulges my inner megalomaniac. Your debut novel Principles of Angels focuses on the floating city of Khesh, which has a privileged respectable topside and a disadvantaged and dispossessed downside, and a democracy run by assassination. Can you talk about the political ideas behind the novel? More seriously, I wanted to explore what life would be like in a society with no laws, where the most respected members were state-appointed assassins.
Consorts of Heaven
Cool but grim, as it turns out. The second Hidden Empires novel Consorts of Heaven uses a more Fantasy-like beginning to explore a society controlled by religion. Is this an important theme for you? I was indeed going back to my roots with Consorts , which has more than a whiff of fantasy about it. As for the religious aspect, I wanted to explore a theocracy with demonstrable miracles and effective social control but which is, in the end, based on a provable lie.
The third Hidden Empires novel Guardians of Paradise brings the characters from the previous two novels together. Was it fun having them interact? Oh yes. Are these different to write than the novels which progress the main story arc?
Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire)
Do you enjoy the chance to go back and fill in the gaps? I started my career writing short stories, and I still love them, both as sketches for longer work — the fifth Hidden Empire book, Queen of Nowhere started as a short story — and to fill in the blanks. I just wish I had the time to pick up and develop more of these peripheral ideas! Both the Hidden Empire novels and the Shadowlands books feature a strong awareness of the class divisions and conflicts between the people with power and privilege and those without. How do science fiction and fantasy help us to explore and understand these ideas?
This is partly down to the science and tech aspects of course, but also, I think, a matter of attitudes and themes. Ironically, the reason our genre is ideal for exploring current issues is because we place our stories outside of the world we live in, giving us an objectivity that allows us to consider our own situation dispassionately. How did writing that differ from writing your two series? I love heist movies, so I jumped at the chance to write an SF-flavoured heist. How do you find the differences between writing a multi-volume series, a standalone novel and a short story?
Do you always know which format an idea will take when you start writing it? Short fiction requires a slightly different skillset to novels, when it comes to the actual wrangling of the words; the prose needs to be tighter and more disciplined, and the pacing more condensed. But some ideas just work best in short form. If it acquires too many subsidiary ideas, or a large cast of characters, during development, I can always change my mind.
What challenges does this new narrative medium bring? Brevity, mainly. Feel free to add titles that you recommend in the comments. Kari Sperring: Living with Ghosts Fantasy. A darkly atmospheric tale of the city of Merafi, beset with malevolent spirits seeking entry into the mortal realm, the sorcerous plot to aid them and the four mortals and a ghost standing between a tidal wave of magic and the endangered city. Beautiful, lyrical writing.
Queen of Nowhere
Though distantly related these books are stand-alones, so buy as a pair or buy singly. Start here. Read them all. Chen is a snake agent, the policeman in the franchise city of Singapore Three in charge of supernatural and mystical investigations with the brief of investigating crimes that cross the boundaries between the mortal world, Heaven and the layers of Hell. Quirky, fascinating and fun despite its gritty content.
Fantasy: One of those books I return to time and again, this has the best hero ever in Cazaril who, as the book opens, is a broken man, physically and mentally. This begins a sequence of events that takes Cazaril back to the capital, Cardegoss, to his own enemies mired in a seething hotbed of poisonous intrigue. Even at his lowest he still has integrity and honour, not something he wears on his sleeve, but a deep internal moral compass. The story is a study of how one quiet but determined man can effect great change. Science Fiction. Space Opera.
Barrayar is a politically backward planet which mixes space-capabilities with a highly stratified society. While not a comedy in any sense of the word there are times when these books are laugh out loud funny. Serious hijinks ensue. The plot is fast, the style immensely readable. Mercy is a capable, but not invincible heroine and the whole series is tremendously engaging. Before They are Hanged. The Last Argument of Kings. Grimdark Fantasy. You can read these books separately but really they are one complete story, so set aside several weeks and settle down to read all three.
Abercrombie definitely qualifies as grimdark, but his books are not without black humour. The characters are compelling. Logen Ninefingers is a bloody barbarian and a fighter who will kill anyone who gets in his way when the berserk is on him. Remarkably insightful, though not educated, he leaves the north before he gets embroiled in one bloody feud too many. Inquisitor Glokta, once the shining hope of his generation on the battlefield is a man, broken in body but not in intellect, who knows torture from both sides.
There are murderous conspiracies, old scores to settle, a war brewing and a wizard who may be the embodiment of the First of the Magi or he may be a self-serving old fraud. Historical Fiction: The story of John Fitzgilbert, who from humble beginnings as a royal servant rose to become marshal at the court of King Henry I, responsible for the logistics of everything from moving the court from one location to the next to supplying the authorised whores.
She writes within the Medieval period largely of Plantagenets. While writing historical romances, she never loses sight of political intrigue. All her books feel well-researched and she weaves fiction and fact together to make an engrossing read. Khesh City, a democracy of sorts, floats above the surface of the inhospitable planet of Vellern. Topside is lavish and luxurious, the Undertow is dark, twisted and dangerous. Khesh is policed by Angels, flying assassins, augmented by tech. Taro, brought up in the Undertow, is the prostitute nephew of an Angel, protected by her status until, one day, he sells his body to the wrong man and his customer follows him home and murders her.
This sets Taro off on a path which must foil the destruction of Khesh itself. This is the first of the Gentlemen Bastards series, of which there are three so far, plus at least one novella prequel. Locke is a thief and a liar, whose skills at both are honed to almost perfection by Father Chains as he puts together a gang of young chancers, educating them to be capable of slipping into society at any level to work their scams, while seeming, to the Capa who runs all the crime in the city to be little more than jobbing pickpockets.
Current story and backstory are woven together in Comorra, a fantasy analogue of Venice. Thoroughly absorbing, interesting characters who are changed by events that happen to them, great backstory, twisty plot in the front-story leading to nail-biting tension. Media Tie-In. This is a story originally written to back up the Star Wars Republic Commando game, but such is the quality of writing that it far outshines its origins. The main characters are clone soldiers, the guys in white armour. They are all cloned from the same genetic material so they are all identical, they have all been created together, raised together, trained together.