I will be a substitute Guest of Honor at Minicon 46, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 22 – 24. I’m stepping in for Charles Stross, who is bowing out because of “medical issues affecting a close family member.” I hope you’ll all take a moment to think good thoughts for Charlie and his family.
This appearance was unexpected and I wish could have happened under different circumstances; nevertheless I am very much looking forward visiting Minnesota, which has some of my favorite people in it. As far as I know this will be my only visit to that fine state this year, so if you’re in the area and would like to see me, this is where and when to do it.
Catching up on some of the books that have come to my door recently:
* Pale Demon, Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager): Witch Rachel Morgan has to get all the way across the country in order to appear at a witches convention to defend her life, in three days, without flying, supernaturally or otherwise. Needless to say, this will not be an uneventful road trip. The same thing happened to me the last time I took Greyhound. This one is out on February 22nd.
* The Girl Who Became a Beatle, Greg Taylor (Feiwel and Friends): A girl becomes a Beatle. No, for reals, y’all. It’s totally all there in the title. It’s not false advertising. This one hits February 15, and author Taylor will be here to do a Big Idea piece on it then.
* Mad Skills, Walter Greatshell (Ace): A woman recovering from a traumatic brain injury discovers that the technology placed in her head to aid in her rehabilitation has another purpose as well. A sinister purpose, you ask? As if there is any other kind! This is out now.
* Welcome to the Greenhouse, edited by Gordon Van Gelder (O/R Books): This science fiction anthology has climate change as its theme and has original stories by Bruce Sterling, Greg Benford, Judith Moffet and M.J. Locke, among others. And for all of you about to snark “What? A Greenhouse book while we’re encased in snow?!?” there’s a difference between weather and climate. Don’t make me smack you, yo. Available 2/21.
* The King of Crags, Stephen Deas (Roc): The second book in Deas’ “Memory of Flames” series packs in prophecy, political maneuvering and more dragons than you can shake a stick at. Go ahead, try. You’ll shake that stick, and then dragons will be all, “really? That’s all you got?” And then they’ll eat you. That’s what you get for annoying a dragon, fool. This arrives next Tuesday.
* Death Cloud, Andrew Lane (Farrar Straus Giroux): It’s Sherlock Holmes! In teenage form! Solving mysteries, as he does. This book has been authorized and endorsed by the Doyle estate, so there you have it. Also, Lane will be here next Tuesday to get into the details in a Big Idea post. Which is also the day the book comes out. Count the days! Count them!
* Napier’s Bones, Derryl Murphy (ChiZine Publications): A man who uses numbers to make magic finds himself on the run across two continents, on a journey where not making it out alive will be the least of his problems. Your pocket calculator will not avail you! This one is slated for the first day of Spring, i.e., March 21.
* Golden Reflections, Fred Saberhagen (Baen): This is kind of interesting: This book features a classic novel by Saberhagen (Mask of the Sun) followed by seven stories in the Saberhagens’ Inca/Aztec-dominated universe, from David Weber, Daniel Abraham, Jane Linskold and others. Not a bad way to reissue an old work to new audiences. Out Tuesday.
In the annals of the dreaded author question “where do you get your ideas?” It’s entirely possible that Matt Forbeck has got the most interesting response, at least when it comes to his novel Amortals. I’d go on further about it, but I think I should just let Forbeck jump right in and take this one.
Amortals started — starts, actually — with a snuff film.
In case you’re a sensible person who doesn’t know about such things, a snuff film is a movie of someone getting killed. They’re the real thing, sometimes full of blood, brains, and guts, but always capped off with a real live person being punted off this mortal coil, often in a gruesome or grisly way. No special effects here.
I’ve never seen a snuff film, and I don’t have any desire to. There’s enough death in the world without me having to go hunt it down and rubberneck at it. But when I heard about these movies — about the fact that some people made them on purpose by recording premeditated murders — the idea of them struck a nerve.
I started wondering not about what it would be like to make such a film but to be the subject of it. To be strapped into a chair, beaten and abused, terrified for your life, and then shot to death. To be the man who got shot just so someone else could see you die. And record it for other people to watch.
That just pissed me off.
From there, I thought about what it would be like to have that happen to you — and then be able to come back, but with only the snuff film as evidence of what had happened. What would you do? How would you react? And how would you find your killer and make him pay?
That’s impossible, of course. You don’t get to come back from the dead. Right?
Well, not today, but that’s one of the great things about science fiction. You get to play around with technology we don’t have yet, things that make the impossible possible, at least in the story.
I sat down and wrote the first chapter of what became Amortals in one big rush. It was brutal and horrifying, and at the end of it, the victim woke up in a fresh clone body and was charged with going back out into that cold, hard world and solving his own messy murder.
From there, I didn’t really know where to go. I came up with an outline and shopped it around, but this was back in 1994. Not only was I a lot younger then but I only had couple handfuls of publishing credits, and most of those were in tabletop games rather than fiction. Even though my career in that field was taking off, those credits totaled up to not even a fraction of what I needed to make an editor jump up and offer me a contract based on what little I had.
As a busy working writer, I couldn’t spare the time to sit down and write an entire novel on the hope that someone might buy it. Even if I did sell the book, that would mean not eating for the months I was writing, and wasn’t able to risk that at the time. I shelved the idea, promising myself I’d come back to it later.
In the intervening fifteen years, I moved from being a full-time game designer into writing tie-in novels, and I established a reputation as someone who could spin a good yarn. Most importantly, my editors became comfortable with the idea that I wouldn’t disappear with an advance, that I could and would finish what I started. One of them — Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot — finally took a flying leap of faith on a refurbished version of that thin outline of mine and, based on a page-and-a-half synopsis, signed me to write the book.
Then, of course, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Any excuses I might have had vanished. I had to sit down and write it. After all, I’d already cashed the check and spent it.
Fifteen years passed between me having that initial inspiration and sitting down to write the book, and the thrust of the book evolved due to that. Not only had the world changed, but I had too. The concerns of a young man fresh out of college naturally differ from those of a guy with five kids. The core of the story, though — the spark that ignited the flame — hadn’t changed at all.
Amortals — the version that’s in stores already — starts the same way now as it did back in ‘94: with a snuff film, a lot of bullets, and a man bent on avenging his own death. The power of that idea carried me all the way through.