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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Felix Gilman: : Making the World Stranger




Felix John Gilman was born in London and grew up in the south London suburbs. He attended school in Seven Oaks, Kent, and read in history at Oxford for three years, then got a master's degree in "Elizabethan stuff," graduating in 1996. After working briefly for a small London publisher, he moved to the US to live with his wife Sarah. They resided in Washington DC for a couple of years starting in 2000, where he worked as a writer for a telecommunications business publication. He then attended Harvard Law School. He has worked for the federal courts in New York and in private practice.

First novel Thunderer appeared in 2008, followed by sequel Gears of the City (2009). A History of the Half-Made World, first in a new series, is forthcoming.


Excerpts from the interview:


“I grew up in Bromley, South London. Bromley is the location of large parts of Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time, as an archetypal incredibly dull London suburb. H.G. Wells grew up there, and he used it as his archetypal dull London suburb. I always read science fiction and fantasy, but I started writing relatively recently. (Well, in my early twenties I had various abortive efforts, but I never managed to summon up the energy to get much past five pages into anything.) Around 2006, I had a slightly odd situation in which I had six months to fill before I started a new job. I started trying to write legal academic things, a project which I then lost interest in, and I also started a fiction project. I thought, 'I have six months, so I have absolutely no excuse for not sitting down and writing a novel.' So I did.

“Because I didn't have any substantial (fiction) writing experience when I started, I had no idea how much space any particular idea would take. I started Thunderer with a handful of ideas which were not fleshed out, and for about four months I shut myself up and worked on that. It was very much a learning-as-I-went-along process. I didn't know what I was doing, but I produced a first draft that I gave to people, and later it went through at least two rounds of major revisions.”

*

“The gigantic city is obviously central to Thunderer. I don't think I made a conscious decision that the book should be city-based. When I started writing a book, I just took for granted that it would be set in a city. I don't know anything about what happens outside of cities.

“But if I had to reconstruct my subconscious motives (since you ask) I'd say the following. The things that interest me in world building are the entertainment or culture of the world, or the academy, or the newspapers: what are they like? Or the politics in the sense of the day-to-day ideas and ideologies and unexamined notions and slogans people carry around in their heads. And to develop these things through contrasts, through things knocking and rubbing against each other. The denser and more knotted the more interesting. Hence: cities. (I am not claiming success in this goal or even that the final product even aims as high as all that. But something like that was the drunk/manic-upswing pitch-to-self.)”

*

“There are different kinds of world building. There's the kind that focuses on making the physical details real, and the texture of the culture the characters inhabit. That's something I want to do, and I think it's really interesting trying to create textured worlds in that sense -- which is very different from the huge architectural level of deciding, 'This goes here and this goes here; this is the continent with the elves, and this is what dragons do.' (As a lawyer, I have written and then thrown away extensive passages on made-up legal systems. A little of that got in. Not much. Turns out there's not much of an audience. Oh well.)”

*

“In September, I have something coming out from Tor which is very different. I didn't want to write another city book, didn't feel like creating another gigantic setting. And I wanted to try my hand at something which had a more straightforward plot. I've been accused of overplotting and underplotting, but this one has a clearer plot. It's called A History of the Half-Made World (first of what will be either two or three books), and up to a point it's like a fantastic western. It's a purely invented world, though the fantastical elements are mostly limited to two weird and inhuman factions which sort of divide the world between them. They're archetypes of something or other, probably. The book has the frontier theme, the theme of the founding and various falls from grace, but I don't want to describe it as purely an American history thing, because that sounds like it's more closely tied to American history than it is. It plays with certain tropes, let's say.”








Comments are welcome...

















Photo by Amelia Beamer







Website: Felix Gilman




































































Read the complete interview, and biographical profile, in the February 2010 issue of Locus Magazine.







february cover


Cover Design: Arnie Fenner






US/Canada readers may purchase this issue for $6.95 + $3 shipping -- click the PayPal button to order.















Overseas readers -- please query Locus@locusmag.com, or phone at (510) 339-9198, to send a check or place a credit card order for this issue. (Or, Subscribe.)


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Monday, February 22, 2010

Jo Walton: Feral Writer




Jo Walton was born in Aberdare, South Wales. She went to Lancaster University, graduating with a degree in Classics and Ancient History in 1986. She married roleplaying game writer Ken Walton in 1990 (divorced 1997), and married current husband Emmet O'Brien in 2001. She has an adult son, Alexander, from her first marriage. She and O'Brien moved to Quebec, Canada in February 2001.

Walton's debut novel The King's Peace (2000) began the Sulien series, which also includes The King's Name (2001) and The Prize in the Game (2002). World Fantasy Award winner Tooth and Claw (2003) is a Victorian novel of manners in the style of Anthony Trollope, with dragons. Her Small Change series is an alternate history about a Fascist Britain: Farthing (2006), a Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Quill, and Sidewise Award finalist; Ha'penny (2007), a Prometheus Award winner and Lambda and Sidewise Award finalist; and Half a Crown (2008), a Sidewise, Sunburst, and Prometheus Award finalist. Her latest book is fantasy Lifelode (2009), and Among Others is forthcoming. She also wrote poetry chapbooks Muses and Lurkers (2001) and Sibyls and Spaceships (2009), worked on roleplaying game supplements with Ken Walton, and has placed a handful of short stories, articles, and poems in genre publications.

Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002.


Excerpts from the interview:


“I started writing seriously when I was about 13. I discovered that I could not read 'how to write' books, so I'm a feral writer: I taught myself how to write. From 13 to about the age of 22, I wrote seven or eight novel-length things which are all uniformly awful. When I got together with Ken, he told me I was just hopeless and I should stop, so in my twenties I stopped seriously writing -- I only wrote a little bit of poetry that I couldn't help, and the occasional little bit of a novel. When I write the beginning of a novel, it just comes out. Then you get to where you've got to work at doing it! In that time when I 'wasn't writing,' I would write ten-thousand word beginnings of novels in a weekend, then think 'No, this is silly and terrible. Why am I doing this?'”

*

The King's Peace is sort of Arthurian set in another world with the names changed, historical fantasy the way Guy Kay does it. But I call sequel Prize in the Game my 'nonselling novel'. I had a contract to write another historical fantasy, but I didn't want to, so instead I wrote Tooth and Claw.

“That one had a rather odd beginning. I was halfway through a Trollope novel when a fantasy that I had ordered came in at the library, so I switched to reading that. Emmet came home from work and asked, 'How is your book?', and I said, 'It's fine except that it doesn't understand dragons.' He looked at me as if I was completely mad, because the last he'd seen I was reading The Small House at Arlington. And I said, 'Oh, Trollope understands dragons perfectly -- it's just that he doesn't understand people.' That's basically the entire concept of Tooth and Claw. It's got all those things which, when you read a Victorian novel as a modern feminist (or even just a modern person), are quite appalling, and yet the novels are entertaining and kind of cool. I just made it about dragons.

“In Victorian novels, women can only fall in love once, and once they've done that they can't possibly fall in love with anyone else; they're broken. In Tooth and Claw, female dragons start out gold, once they fixate on somebody they become pink, they become pinker through marriage, and an old dowager dragon will be red. But if you are pale pink and you are not engaged, this is a terrible scandal! You are ruined.

“The other thing in Victorian novels is the way that everybody's so incredibly, horribly mercenary: they're all obsessed with legacies and that kind of thing. In Tooth and Claw they eat their dead. There's a scene near the beginning where this guy has died, and the family is quarreling over who gets to eat which bit. It's really gruesome but kind of funny, and they are just like Victorian people.”

*

“I wrote my latest novel Lifelode in two parts, and it then got reworked a lot more than most of my books. It started off with my reading the Paston Letters. The Pastons were a medieval family who kept all their letters, and we have like 400 years of this family's letters. Medieval people sued each other all the time -- they were always suing each other! I was reading that and thinking, 'Boy, this is different from the way you see the medieval period done in fantasy! Why has nobody ever done this in a fantasy novel?'

“Simultaneously, I had a response to Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu Earthsea books, where I feel like she's saying with her mouth, 'Women's stuff is important' but saying with her actions, 'They're really boring.' I think she fixed this problem in the Western Shore books, and I love those books, but Earthsea revisioned annoyed me a lot because it was contradicting itself.

“I wanted to do something that included magic, but was domestic. So you don't have, 'Oh, there's a wizard and wizards are men, but women are so important because they wash the dishes.' There's a thing in the book where you can pull a hair off your head and twist it in a particular shape, put it on the window sill, and it collects all the dust in the room (every so often, you have to change it). It's domestic magic.”








Comments are welcome...

















Photo by Amelia Beamer







LiveJournal:: Bluejo's Journal







































































Read the complete interview, and biographical profile, in the February 2010 issue of Locus Magazine.







february cover


Cover Design: Arnie Fenner






US/Canada readers may purchase this issue for $6.95 + $3 shipping -- click the PayPal button to order.















Overseas readers -- please query Locus@locusmag.com, or phone at (510) 339-9198, to send a check or place a credit card order for this issue. (Or, Subscribe.)


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