World-building is an important exercise, even outside of speculative fiction. Authors need to decide where to set their story, and if they use a fictional town or city, it still has to feel real. Still, for me, I find more work goes into the world-building when the first step is “decide what world I want to use.” (This is true for both fantasy and science-fiction, of course.) Continue reading
I talked about Kate Elliott in my women in science-fiction and fantasy series (specifically, her book Spirit Gate, the first book of the Crossroads Trilogy), and I’m talking about her again because she writes excellent epic fantasy. Today, I’m talking about a different series, her most recent, starting with Cold Magic. Continue reading
Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott
Elliott is another author who is amazing in her world-building. She makes it real, from her description of the giant eagles (about as intelligent as a pig — in other words, smart enough to respond to commands, but still animals) to the importance of various stages of life (such as Youth’s Crown and Chatelaine’s Belt) to the growing unrest in the Hundred.
That growing unrest is the core of the novel and of the trilogy. The Guardians have disappeared, no longer present to enforce their laws, and many are saying they never existed at all. A pair of reeves visits a high place of the Guardians (a place they are forbidden to set foot) and learn without a doubt that the Guardians did exist, and something has happened to them. Meanwhile, fanatics work to undermine the structure of society, despoiling temples, despising laws, and teaching that reeves are nothing special.
I will be finishing the Crossroads Trilogy, of which Spirit Gate is the first book, as well as reading everything else I can get my hands on, and I recommend all of you do the same. (I peeked at the excerpt from the second book, Shadow Gate, and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that for an opening. Definitely worth continuing — though most of these TBR books will have to wait until I finish the A to Z series.)
About her writing, she says,
I’ve loved reading fantasy novels since I was a girl. When I was young, though, fantasy novels were mostly stories about boys or men having adventures, with few female characters involved and, if they were involved, all too often they were forced into narrow roles like the girlfriend or the aunt making cookies or the tavern wench or the girl who waits at home for the men to come back. So I promised myself when I was 16 that if I ever was able to publish novels, I would write stories that included the people who were usually excluded from these stories having the adventures, too.
For people who haven’t read my work, be aware I work in series, so it’s best to start with the first book in any given series.
However, you have four series to choose from:
JARAN (first novel in the Novels of the Jaran; I call this one Genghis Khan meets Jane Austen in a science fiction setting);
KING’S DRAGON (#1 of Crown of Stars, epic fantasy about how the consequences of an ancient cataclysmic war come home to roost 2000 years later, following the stories of a 16 year old girl whose magical heart has been hidden from her by her father and a 16 year old boy trying to find out who he really is);
SPIRIT GATE (mentioned here);
and COLD MAGIC (#1 of Spiritwalker Trilogy), my Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency adventure fantasy with bonus airship, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendents of troodons.
The series are all different in tone and approach and setting.
COLD MAGIC is just out in mass market paperback. Its sequel, COLD FIRE, comes out next month (Sept 2011).
You can find Kate Elliott on-line at www.kateelliott.com.
No Time Like the Present by Carol Emshwiller
Emshwiller is currently concentrating on short fiction (although she’s not completely ruling out the possibility of another novel), and judging from this sample, she’s good at it. It’s not a light-hearted tale; it hints at a coming apocalypse, a time when things go downhill so badly, people will go almost anywhere to escape. The story isn’t terribly rich in description — aside from knowing that the narrator has bunk beds in her room, her house is pretty vague. However, the young voice of the characters, just wanting to be friends, to reach beyond who and what is expected, really appealed to me.
Carol Emshwiller has a home page on the SFWA site, but it does not appear to have been updated since 2008.
Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge
Although set against a backdrop of a corporation attempting to become an independent state (corporate states being a well-known trope of SF), Solitaire isn’t about politics or business or the shape of the world to come. Instead, this novel weaves together questions of identity, relationship, and self-discovery in a touching exploration of Jackal/Ren. What do you do when you find out you’re not who you think you are? What if people try to make you someone else you’re not? How do you find out who you are and where you truly belong?
Eskridge’s world is well sculpted, with webs of people interacting, with details down to the drinks (Brandy and orange juice? I’m undecided whether to try it for myself.), with wonderful prose (“It was a day like a painting: a hundred shades of green in the leaves and grasses and lily pads of the pond, in the vegetable tops waving from the brown grit of the soil; the sky that looked as if one of the blue colorsticks in her classroom had melted across it; the pinks and lavenders and sun-yellows of the flowers whose names she didn’t know, that nodded wild and rangy on their thin stalks because her father liked them that way. The pain, when it came, was sharp and orange.”), but it’s the people, the humanity, that really brings this story to life.
Here’s what Eskridge has to say about her writing:
Everything starts with character for me. I’m fascinated by what it means to be human, and I love the power of story to take us into the hearts and minds of characters as they make their choices and become themselves. I write about identity and relationship; about small choices with big consequences, and the big feelings they bring us: love, fear, hope, grief, joy. My work is exploratory rather than predictive: I’m not nearly as interested in the global impact of new technology as I am in the effect it might have on individual people.
SOLITAIRE is a deep consideration of choice and change, and what happens when everything a person believes herself to be is called into question. My short fiction, collected in DANGEROUS SPACE, runs the spectrum from fantasy to horror to science fiction. Both books are available in all the usual places, including DRM free ebooks at Weightless Books:
DANGEROUS SPACE: weightlessbooks.com/genre/fiction/science-fiction/dangerous-space
Interested readers can find free stories on my website:
You can find Kelley Eskridge on-line at kelleyeskridge.com.