Dragonlance™ creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman turn to a new fantasy world
By Eric Raab, Editor
I remember the day when I first heard that Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman were coming to Tor with a new fantasy series. Having read, well, almost all of their previous series, this was big news and I was of course curious to know what it would be. When I was shown the proposal for Dragonships of Vindras, I knew they had struck gold.
Many of you are without a doubt familiar with their work. You probably cut your teeth on Dragonlance after countless, fierce D&D sessions. You might have followed them through their many amazing forays into various realms of storytelling (my personal favorite is The Death Gate Cycle). You know what this team is capable of. Believe me, Bones of the Dragon truly delivers, taking the warring Gods motif that Weis and Hickman used so wonderfully in the Dragonlance books and meshing it with the terrific world-building and world spanning exploration quests of the Death Gate cycle. Just jump in, you won’t be sorry.
I would like to take this opportunity to address those who may have never ventured into the worlds of Weis and Hickman. You may be wondering how these two have created these amazing worlds that have attracted hundreds of thousands of readers and become bestsellers. The reason is that these writers are amazingly thorough in every aspect of creating and exploring a fantasy world. You don’t need to know some kind of secret language or have done any gaming to enjoy Dragonships.
This is a pure, wonderfully imaginative tale of heroes and heroines, young and old, human and non-, embarking on adventures to exotic and imaginative locations in worlds rife with magic. But Bones of the Dragon also does the one thing that fantasy storytelling rarely gets credit for; it reflects the world we live in through a vast array of complex and vivid characters, each having to make life-altering, morally challenging decisions.
Bones of the Dragon is the launch of a six-book saga peopled with a vast array of characters. And here’s the clincher: How does a dying culture survive when the very gods they draw power and hope from are losing an epic battle in the heavens?
A team of Vindrasi, led by a young, arrogant champion named Skylan Ivorson, sets out on an epic quest to find the only thing that can save their dying gods: Five Bones of the great Vektan Dragon Ilyrion, who was slain in the epic battle that created the world. These five bones contain the power to awaken the magic that can put an end to revolution in the heavens. This quest will save the Vindrasi’s world, but it’s also a very personal journey that will atone for the mistakes of the elder gods—and will teach Skylan much about arrogance and humility.
With Dragonships of Vindras, Weis and Hickman have added another amazingly elaborate, ornate, and wonderful world to their belts. They are champions of the genre and it’s our pleasure to offer this new series to the world. Embark and enjoy.
Bones of the Dragon (978-0-7653-1973-9, $24.95) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman became available from Tor on January 6, 2009. For more information about the series, visit the Dragonships of Vindras Facebook fan page.
More Broccoli—Dom Testa on the inspiration for The Comet’s Curse
By Dom Testa
A few years ago I decided that there were just too many things conspiring against kids. Cynical comments from adults often began with the words “kids these days…”, which basically implied that today’s young people were somehow flawed or incapable of doing well. I also spotted a trend in popular YA fiction: a protagonist who must be the rebel, the troublemaker, the underachiever who “breaks all the rules.”
I wondered: What if kids could pick up a book that unapologetically featured sharp, smart, good kids who took on an enormous challenge…and succeeded? The characters wouldn’t be labeled as nerds or social outcasts; if anything, they’d be pretty impressive role models, just as hip and cool as the traditional bad boys, but with (gasp!) brains and ambition.
And voila!, the Galahad series of books was born. The premise? More than two hundred teenagers recruited from around the world, loaded onto an amazing starship, and charged with saving the human race in the ultimate mission of colonization. Oh, and not a single adult is aboard.
I’ve spent several years working with kids, visiting schools to host creative writing assemblies and workshops, so maybe I’m a bit more optimistic than many about the potential we too often ignore. I created a foundation called The Big Brain Club that encourages young people to overcome the peer pressure to dumb down that they encounter on a daily basis. The first book in the Galahad series, The Comet’s Curse, is essentially my vision of an empowered younger generation.
By design, the characters in this book are not the stereotypes of “smart kids” that we see in everyday pop culture. They have the same issues, the same angst, the same hormones as the rebels who populate more edgy fiction, and young readers will likely spot themselves in many of the scenes. But, just as with my real-life foundation, I’ve chosen to give these characters the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intellectual abilities and goals. I’m happy to say that they don’t let me down.
The concept of The Comet’s Curse was initially pure action/adventure, with a healthy sprinkle of mystery as well. Yet as the first draft rounded into shape, I realized that the characters had clawed their way to the forefront of the story, almost demanding to outshine the action element. Without even planning it this way, my Big Brain Club had found its way into the story.
At its core this is a fast-paced adventure tale, and there’s no agenda here, no pound-you-over-the-head message. Yet educators and parents have acknowledged the subtle nod to brain power that is honored in its pages, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. Kids simply love the story and the characters.
Hey, if a kid loves broccoli, I don’t feel the need to lecture him about the antioxidants. I just feed him more broccoli.
The Comet’s Curse, Book One of the Galahad series (978-0-7653-2107-7, $16.95 / $18.95 CAN) by Dom Testa will be available from Tor Teen on January 20, 2009. For more information about Dom and the Galahad series, visit BigBrainClub.com and ClubGalahad.com.
My Private Hell—Research for God’s Demon
By Wayne Barlowe
When I began my first major Hell painting, The Wargate, I had no idea that it would lead to writing a novel. But within that painting were the seeds of everything that was to follow. At the time, I was reading Paradise Lost and enjoying the anti-heroic monumentality of it. For a blind author, Milton wrote very visually, and I found that more than compelling. With his epic as a solid foundation, I began to ask the kind of “what if” questions about Hell that I ask when I read fantasy and SF. What if my Hell was a real place that existed before the Fall, with an actual ecology? A place inhabited for millennia since the Fall, where an ever-bitter population of demons waged endless war amongst themselves? And, finally, what if one of them decided he could no longer stand the distance between himself and God?
So I began my long and arduous descent into Hell. After nearly 50 paintings, countless drawings, and a screenplay, I was finally ready to write God’s Demon. I lurked in used bookstores, followed mysterious links online, haunted libraries to find works both modern and ancient regarding Hell. The most useful were texts that delved into pure demonology. The Goetia, a medieval treatise on demons, proved most valuable, giving thumbnails of each major demon. I read them with perhaps the same eye a director might—would I cast this demon or that one in my story? I was careful to make sure that the hierarchies as set out—which demons were subordinate to whom—were followed. My quest for “accuracy” dictated nothing less.
Strange things began to happen as I wrote God’s Demon. I would pluck a minor demon from the lists because I liked the sound of his name only to find, with more research, that the characterization I’d given him was true to his mediaeval depiction. This happened a few too many times to be ignored and was, at times, unnerving. It lent a sense of verisimilitude to the events I was trying to depict, a sense—as crazy as it sounds—that I was merely reporting on the actual ongoing affairs within my inferno. I suppose every author plays those games to convince himself that he is fashioning a reality, no matter how bizarre. But, in hindsight, as a new author, it proved pretty useful.
Also useful was John Dee’s Complete Enochian Dictionary, a work that represented his understanding of Angelic language. It was my thought that, while demons would be forbidden to speak the language of the Above, the linguistic lineage would be there. And so I twisted his “true Angelic” into something demons would speak and further modified his language when it came time to actually depict the native tongue of the Above. His research into the arcana of the angels seemed so precise and accurate that it resonated exactly with what I was trying to accomplish.
Call it the accuracy of the surreal.
God’s Demon (0-7653-4865-9; $7.99) by Wayne Barlowe will be available from Tor in January 2009. For more information about Wayne Barlowe and God’s Demon, visit godsdemon.com.
Hollow Fields—Forgetting Your Homework Was Never This Dangerous!
By Madeleine Rosca
My first manga trilogy, Hollow Fields, is a spooky school story that has become popular with children and adults in the manga community for its cute-but-sinister artistic design and its cast of colorful characters. In 2007, Hollow Fields became the only manga created outside of Asia to win the Foreign Ministry of Japan’s International Manga Award. The judges commended the manga for its unique style and sense of humor. It was hugely exciting to win this award, which was given to me by then Foreign Minister, now Prime Minister, Taro Aso.
Hollow Fields features an innocent nine-and-a-half year-old elementary schoolgirl, Lucy Snow. After getting lost in the woods on the way to her new boarding school, Lucy accidentally enrolls at Hollow Fields—a school for mad scientists, or rather, an "Academy for the Academically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered!" Aside from the day-to-day trials Lucy must face—dastardly fellow students trying to do away with her, as well as the oddly mechanical-looking teachers themselves—Lucy discovers the school has one terrible rule. At the end of each week, the student with the worst grades is sent to “detention” in an ancient windmill…and so far, no child has ever returned!
I deliberately ended the second volume of Hollow Fields with a cliffhanger: Lucy’s fate at the school is left unknown as the week’s final grades are about to be announced. Will she escape Hollow Fields alive? And, more importantly, will she ever make any friends? I tried in the manga to capture the fears that children often have about joining a new school…mixed of course with the off-kilter sense of humor of the utterly bizarre curriculum of Hollow Fields. My young mad scientists take classes like Live Taxidermy, Killer Robotics, and Gravedigging instead of English and Math—and some of classes’ experiments can be rather deadly when on the loose! At its heart, however, Hollow Fields is a story about courage and doing what’s right in the face of seemingly insurmountable pressure.
I’ve always been interested in young adult literature, and my work as a librarian gave me plenty of opportunity to read widely in the genre. I’m sure readers can tell that I’ve been influenced by both Lemony Snicket and Eoin Colfer, among others. Having completed the Hollow Fields trilogy, I’m hard at work on new manga projects for Tor/Seven Seas.
Madeleine Rosca is a native of Australia who currently lives in Tasmania. Hollow Fields, volume 3, will be available from Seven Seas in February 2009, and an omnibus edition, collecting all three volumes of Hollow Fields, is scheduled for release in late 2009. Rosca’s blog can be found here: clockwork-hands.livejournal.com