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Tor/Forge March 2010 Newsletter

In This Issue

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

An Army of Authors

Warriors is an anthology of stories by an all-star line-up of authors. Included are a long novella from the world of Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, a new tale of Lord John by Diana Gabaldon, and an epic of humanity at bay by David Weber. Also present are original tales by David Ball, Peter S. Beagle, Lawrence Block, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, Naomi Novik, James Rollins, Steven Saylor, Robert Silverberg, S.M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, and Tad Williams.

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An excerpt from the Introduction to Warriors, “Stories from the Spinner Rack,” by George R. R. Martin:

People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumeriansset down their tales of Gigamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage, have become part of our literary canons, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world. Fantasy has given us such memorable warriors as Conan the Barbarian, Elric of Melnibone, and Aragorn son of Arathorn. Science Fiction offers us glimpses of the wars and warriors of the future, in books like Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Joe W. Haldeman’s Forever War, and the space operas of David Weber, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Walter Jon Williams. The gunslinger of the classic western is a warrior. The mystery genre has made an archetype of the urban warrior, be he a cop, a hitman, a wise guy, or one of those private eyes who walks the mean streets of Chandler and Hammett. Women warriors, child soldiers, warriors of the gridiron and the cricket pitch, the Greek hoplite and Roman legionary, viking, musketeer, crusader, and doughboy, the GI of World War II and the grunt of Vietnam…all of them are warriors, and you’ll find many in these pages.

Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and best-selling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres. We asked each of them for the same thing—a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in this book, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, many will keep you on the edge of your seat.

But you won’t know which until you’ve read them, for Gardner and I, in the tradition of that old wire spinner rack, have mixed them all up. There’s no science fiction section here, no shelves reserved just for historical novels, no romance rack, no walls or labels of any sort. Just stories. Some are by your favorite writers, we hope: others by writers you may never have heard of (yet). It’s our hope that by the time you finish the book a few of the latter may have become the former.

So spin the rack and turn the page. We have some stories to tell you.

Warriors (978-0-7653-2048-3; $27.99), edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois releases from Tor this March.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I Am Not a Serial Killer

By Dan Wells

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers. I would explain why, but seriously: isn’t everyone fascinated by serial killers? In a world where zombies are funny and werewolves are sexy and vampires play baseball, serial killers are the only boogey men we have left—plus they’re real, which is a nice bonus. Real is scary. Real is also, ironically, incredibly mysterious: everyone knows how a person becomes a vampire, but nobody really knows how an otherwise normal person becomes a psychopathic killer. And not knowing things is…scary.

Thinking about serial killers (as I often do), and specifically about their psychological development, I started creating the character of John Cleaver: a teenage sociopath, fascinated with death and obsessed with serial killers as a sort of pop culture mythology. He knows their names, their methods, and their stories down to the grittiest detail—he knows them so well, in fact, that he recognizes all of the warning signs in himself: he could become a killer at any moment, and he would be good at it. And that would have been an interesting story, but it’s not really what I wanted to write. In that story, John is the villain or, at best, the ‘protagonist.’ I wanted to go for broke and make him the hero, fighting bad guys and saving people and being as sympathetic as possible. I wanted to take this dangerous, screwed-up, terrifying character and make you love him. I Am Not a Serial Killer is the result.

The basic premise of the book is common enough: a brave young man discovers a sinister underbelly to the world he thought he knew, full of danger and secrets and things unexplainable, and finds himself caught up in a quest to save his hometown from an evil menace. We’ve all read that story. But what if the menace is a demonic serial killer, collecting body parts for a dark and mysterious purpose? And what if the hero is a budding psychopath, treading the thin line between self control and bloodthirsty chaos?

And what if, as these two characters hunt each other through the shadows of a small, terrified town, you found yourself rooting for both of them?

I Am Not a Serial Killer (978-0-7653-2782-6, $9.99) by Dan Wells releases from Tor this March. Visit the author online at fearfulsymmetry.net.

The Long Man by Steve Englehart

From Batman to the Long Man

By Steve Englehart

Once upon a time, I wrote comics: the Batman, Captain America, the Justice League, the Hulk, and pretty much anybody else you've ever heard of. Now, at that time, writing comics was a very low-class thing to do. Nobody in the non-comics world knew anything about the medium, except that it was trash (much like fantasy in some circles); I admitted my profession with diffidence. But those of us on the inside knew it as a gold mine of creativity, and the perfect way to hone a writer's skills. I handled a wide range of characters, in four ongoing series, trying anything that seemed like it would be entertaining - and I got feedback in the very short time of three months (typewriter to publication to mailed letters of response). And when I say "anything," I mean "anything"; Marvel, for whom I worked, gave its people complete freedom. Since it was my first stab at writing for a living, I had no real way to know that that was a rare gift. All I knew was, I was doing what writers need to do, which is write.

I rose through Marvel's ranks pretty quickly. Then Marvel's competition, DC, hired me to come over and revamp all of their characters - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern. I did that, while writing a separate series specifically for the Batman. And in the process of revamping him, I came up with a way to sell superheroes not just to kids, but to the mass market - the people who had thought comics were beneath them. Readers labeled my Batman "the definitive Batman," Warner Bros. set to work making a movie of it, and Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, launched superhero films for the general public. Within a decade, everybody knew about comics, and I take a lot of pride in that.

Then the next thing I did was write The Point Man, my first novel, for Dell. After that, I designed games for Atari, because I thought I'd said all I had to say about Max August and his world - which I probably had, at that time.

A few years ago, though, I looked back and saw that novel in a whole new light, precisely because I was looking back across time. In The Point Man, Max, a normal guy, discovered that the world is just what we think it is, with one little addition: some people can do magick. What if, I wondered, Max had gone on to become immortal, thanks to one of those magicians? In The Long Man, he would be more or less the same guy, but the world around him would be very different. I had a whole new way of looking at the life an immortal must lead - a series that moved through contemporary time along with Max, with each novel an in-depth snapshot of the world he was dealing with. And he was dealing, because he could remember when the future looked a lot brighter than it does just now; since he may still be here a hundred, even a thousand years from now, he's determined to rekindle those flames.

Not a bad basis for a series of thrillers, I thought. And this time, thanks to all those superhero films, I won't have to apologize for thinking so.

The Long Man (978-0-7653-1730-8, $25.99) by Steve Englehart becomes available from Tor on March 16, 2010.  For more information visit steveenglehart.com.

 

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

How Dyslexia, Linguistics, & Medical Science Inspired Blake Charlton’s Spellwright

At the age of twelve, I still couldn’t read fluently. This despite years of special ed., endless parental tutoring, and one disastrous campaign to establish Scrabble™ as the family pastime. (Blake, honey, I didn’t think it was possible but you’ve finished game with a negative score.) And yet, eighteen years later, I am a medical student about to publish a novel. What catalyzed such a transformation?

Answer: fantasy literature.

When I was young, my parents read to me most nights. I found it enjoyable, but nothing special. Then we started Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. A quick fact: Mom and Dad are both psychiatrists. (Yes. The answer to whatever question you’re wondering right now is ‘yes.’ Trust me.) So, no surprise, they noticed how much Jordan ensorcelled me and began reading less each night. Often they stopped just when Rand and company most desperately needed to escape the Wheel of Time’s seemingly inexorable squishing power. I was driven wildly, floridly insane with frustration and focused my every desire onto reading faster. I began sneaking Jordan into special ed. study hall, then Ursula LeGuin and Terry Brooks, Tad Williams and Robin Hobb, and so on and so on until suddenly I was a bookworm, then a overly earnest geek, then a too rabid pre-med.

At that point, I didn’t want overcome my disability so much as crush it into a million tiny and anthropomorphically cringing pieces. (If you were the guy sitting behind me in Cellular Biology: Sorry, man. My bad.) In biochemistry, I was struck by how much nucleotides and polypeptides are like written languages. In a sense, they consist of letters and words that might be translated or transcribed. They might be rendered useless or harmful by a misspelling—a mutation. Then, while sitting in a dull English class, every disparate syllable of my life interlocked to form the long, lovely sentences of a daydream.

What if written language were more like molecular language? What if you could peel a paragraph off the page and make it physically read? Could you pick your teeth with a sentence fragment? Thrust a sharply worded invective at an enemy’s throat? How would physical language shape culture, technology, history?

As my daydream grew I escaped my cold, pre-med self and remembered the wonder that only good speculative literature imparts. Tolkien created Middle-earth for his languages; could I imagine a world built by—not around—its languages? More importantly, could I find a character whose story was intertwined with this world? Instantly, my disability provided the answer.

Welcome to the world of Spellwright, where luminescent magical languages come off the page and shape themselves into powerful spells. Authors can cast information across thousands of miles or write creatures made purely of text. Into this world is born Nicodemus Weal, a wizardly apprentice who can produce vast amounts of magical language. However, Nico was born with a disability so severe that any text he touches misspells in erratic, sometimes dangerous ways. When a powerful wizard is murdered with a misspell, Nicodemus quickly becomes the primary suspect of the crime. Hunted by both investigators and a hidden killer, Nicodemus must race to discover the truth about the murder, the nature of magic, and himself.

I was so passionate about this story that after college I delayed applying to medical school to write while moonlighting as an English teacher, a medical writer, and a JV football coach. During this time I struggled with my own conception of disability and came to see that some disabilities never vanish, that they must be overcome. Armed with this realization, I matriculated into medical school and completed Spellwright. More importantly, I stopped pursuing a career in medicine and literature just to ‘disprove’ my disability and started writing and studying in hopes of healing and inspiring others as I was inspired and healed by fantasy literature.

Spellwright (978-0-7653-1727-8; $24.99) by Blake Charlton is available from Tor this March. Visit the author’s website at blakecharlton.com.

Dimiter by William Peter Blatty

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