Universe in Flux—Canonizing the Companion
By Jake Black
It was 2006, I believe, when I was first approached about writing an encyclopedia of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game Universe. I thought the prospect was extremely exciting. I had done some smaller encyclopedic works for other properties, but nothing like this would be. At the time, I hadn’t even read the entire Ender’s series. That was the first priority, though because I wasn’t as familiar with the books as I perhaps should have been I didn’t really know where to begin. There are sort of two timelines in the series—Ender’s and Bean’s—and while there is some overlap, for the most part, they are separate.
In any case, I read the books and the short stories this first time to get a sense of chronology and story. Then, I went back and began the process of charting out the characters, mapping their appearances in the books/stories, and generally beginning the research that a project of this magnitude would require. There is a lot of material in Ender’s universe!
Holding a degree in history, I felt like I was up to the research challenge. After all, the techniques are the same whether one is examining the American Revolution (aka “real history”) or the evolution of the Formic Wars (aka “fake history”). But then Orson Scott Card threw me a curve ball—he was still creating Ender materials as I was researching what had been done before. And while this was his motivation in commissioning the encyclopedia to begin with—so he could get continuity right as he added to the universe—in presented me with some challenges to figure out.
The short story “Gold Bug”, the novella War of Gifts, and the novel Ender in Exile were all written while I was creating the encyclopedia. As Card was creating these additional texts in the canon of the universe, he turned to me and in-process encyclopedia to make sure things were “right” from a continuity perspective. Consequently, some subtle changes were made to past stories and their timelines to bring about the correct continuity—things like character ages, passage of time on space journeys, and death/sedation of important figures. Eventually, new editions of the Ender’s books will be released with these changes. But, you can find them in the encyclopedia.
As Card added to his mythology, I was writing and rewriting the encyclopedia, making it as up to date as possible. The Ender’s Universe is ever-expanding, though, and even since I finished the book earlier this year, there have been additions, primarily from Marvel Comics’ series of Ender’s comic books (for example, the events from the canonized “Recruiting Valentine” comic book) that are not included in the encyclopedia. These will eventually make their way into future editions of the book. In any case, I hope The Authorized Ender Companion will be a useful guide in exploring and understanding this rich universe as it grows and evolves!
The Unauthorized Ender Companion (0-7653-2062-2; $27.99) by Orson Scott Card and Jake Black, the first official guide to the Ender universe, releases from Tor Books on November 10, 2009.
Too Much Time On My Hands
By Cory Doctorow
This column was originally written for MAKE Magazine in late 2008.
I became a dad in February 2008—during the run-up to The Day, I worked my butt off, getting as much work in the can as I could before my life got taken over by the fruit of my loins. All that hard work paid off. One day, I looked around and realized that it was *all done*. Everything. I’d been ruthless about telling people that I couldn’t even begin to consider their new projects until I had a handle on fatherhood, and I’d caught up on all the assignments and to-dos that had filled my long, long list. For the first time since I dropped out of college, I found myself with nothing—*nothing*!—to do.
Woah. What a feeling.
It was a little scary at first, but after about half an hour’s thought in my new office (my old office is now the baby’s room, so I had to rent a place to locate all my junk and carve out some space where I could write that wasn’t the living-room sofa), I realized that there was one thing I really *wanted* to do.
I wanted to paint a D&D miniature.
I discovered D&D and similar tabletop games when I was about 10, and I was immediately taken with painting minis. I was never very good at it, but I derived immense, all-consuming pleasure from the activity, which became a kind of meditation. So I walked down to Covent Garden here in London and dropped in on the Orc’s Nest, the RPG store whose windows are always filled with beautifully painted minis. There, I bought a handful of brushes and paints (I had to go back again because I forgot blue!) and a selection of tiny lead monsters.
Then I sat down to paint. When I finished my first mini—two days later—I saw that it had all come back to me, that bone-deep satisfaction I’d derived from painting minis all those decades ago. I put a pic of my little winged vampire critter up on Flickr and got a lot of good feedback—and a couple remarks that contained the phrase, “too much time on your hands.”
Man, that’s a dismissal that makes me want to slap some sense into the people who say it. It’s a thoughtless and immensely cruel way of negating the pleasure that the subject has derived from following her passions. It takes in the sweep of someone’s gnarly physical meditation and grinds it into paste.
All creative endeavor begins with just fooling around, not doing much of anything, just noodling and letting the different parts of your mind talk to each other. Science and art and invention spring forth when we do the unexpected and so coax our brains into letting some imaginative combinations of ideas and concepts jangle together. Working with your hands, taking a walk, singing a song, doing a drama exercise, building something, designing something, painting—they engage parts of our brains in ways that we’re probably not used to.
So I don’t care if you’re scouring yard-sales for Beanie Babies, building elaborate toy train sets, overclocking your PC, speedrunning Super Mario, landscaping your garden or building a trebuchet out of a fallen telephone pole. I don’t care if the end product works or not. I don’t care if it’s too ugly to look at.
Here’s what I care about: did you follow your weird? Did you get into that blissed-out concentration state that great athletes and musicians and artists find themselves in? Did you go to a place where your mind was able to talk to itself without the endless chatter of the million billion grocery items and nagging doubts?
If you got there, you’re winning the game of life. You’ve spent your time well. You might even end up changing the world.
Makers (0-7653-1279-4; $24.99 / $31.99 CAN) by Cory Doctorow was released by Tor Books on October 27, 2009. Read the Writer’s Digest interview with Cory here.
H.G. Wells and Jaclyn the Ripper
By James Frenkel, Senior Editor
I was working at Dell Books and the Delacorte Press when they published Karl Alexander’s Time After Time, a way-cool novel about H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper. I loved that novel (still do) and the movie, too. I think I fell in love with Mary Steenburgen then (as her co-star Malcolm McDowell did, too, during the shoot.)
I bought a novel by Alexander in the late ‘80s, Papa and Fidel, so I knew he was fun to work with. But I wasn’t sure what to expect when he offered me his new novel, Jaclyn the Ripper. He and I talked about the fact that he had always been fascinated by a minor branch of Ripper-ology, the theory that Jack the Ripper might have been a woman. It was a strange, intriguing concept.
But to write about Jack the Ripper turning into a woman, that was a real challenge.
I don’t know if anyone has ever gotten into the psychopathology of Jack the Ripper the way that Alexander does in this book. He posits the Ripper as having been brought up with a sister who was abused by their father. As Alexander plays it, Jack was smitten with his beautiful, older sister, who sought comfort in his young arms. When he discovered that she wasn’t his alone, it twisted him (one can only wonder if he, too, had been abused by their father).
When Jack becomes Jaclyn, she is first appalled by her newfound femaleness…and then is fascinated by it, and by the effect her charms have on men. I can’t give away the details here, but the psychodynamics of the love/hate relationship in Jaclyn’s mind play out in a surprising way. At one point, despite her twisted feelings about love and sex, she falls in love and imagines marriage and children. It’s one of the most riveting, strange love stories I’ve ever read.
There’s a lot more going on in the novel than just Jaclyn’s twisted love. There’s time travel and the return of H.G. Wells and his wife, Amy. There’s the story of two men, both displaced in time and one transformed into the opposite sex; two men who once were friends but now are the deadliest of enemies. And it’s the story of the unfinished hunt for the world’s first serial killer, Jack the Ripper. And like its predecessor this book would make a kick-ass film!
Jaclyn the Ripper (978-0-7653-1894-7, $24.99) by Karl Alexander will be released from Tor Books on November 10, 2009.
A Young Man Without Magic: Swashbuckling in the Bound Lands
By Lawrence Watt-Evans
A couple of years ago I was watching TV, and came across The Scarlet Pimpernel—the classic 1934 version, starring Leslie Howard as Sir Percy and Merle Oberon as Lady Blakeney. I watched it happily, and when it was over I said to myself, “There should be more stories like that.”
And whenever I say that to myself, I am reminded that I’m a writer, and if I want more stories like that, I can write them.
I love the classic swashbucklers like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouche, and The Three Musketeers; I have since I was a kid. They don’t seem to get read as much as they used to, which is a shame. A lot of modern readers seem to assume they’re just mindless action, full of chase scenes and sword-fights, but in fact the good ones aren’t like that at all—the protagonists are as likely to rely on their wits as their blades, and duels are as likely to be fought with words as with steel.
I’d already written the Obsidian Chronicles, a series that owed a lot to the swashbuckler genre, and I thought it would be fun to write more, with even less reliance on traditional fantasy tropes and more of the classic swashbuckler.
There were problems with that idea, though. Quite aside from any misleading stereotypes, there’s a potential problem for modern readers in that swashbucklers traditionally have historical settings, and it’s assumed that the reader knows enough history to understand what’s going on without a lot of explanation. In The Scarlet Pimpernel there’s never any explanation of the setting; it’s taken for granted that every reader knows about the French Revolution, and the Terror, and who Robespierre was. The thing is, a distressing number of modern readers don’t know that stuff; it’s more than eighty years farther away now than when Baroness Orczy wrote it, on the other side of World War II and the Cold War.
And if I wanted to write swashbucklers set in the past, there’s the little detail that I don’t know as much history as I ought to, and research is time-consuming. Besides, I’m not known as a writer of historicals; I’m known as a writer of fantasy.
So clearly, I should write more swashbuckling fantasy. That lets me rework history and geography to suit the stories I want to tell, and there’s no problem with some readers knowing the history while others don’t.
I was tired of creating a new setting every few novels, though. I wanted a setting where I could write lots of adventure stories, borrowing ideas from history without being limited by it.
That notion took root and grew rapidly, encouraged by my then-editor, the late Brian Thomsen. I created the Bound Lands, which are sort of “Europe: The Good Parts Version,” as my setting, and ideas started piling up. I think I could happily spend the next decade or two writing these.
And I started out with the story of Anrel Murau, a young man without magic in an empire ruled by sorcerers. I originally thought he’d only need one novel for his story, but it expanded into two—A Young Man Without Magic and Above His Proper Station.
I hope readers have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.
A Young Man Without Magic (978-0-7653-2279-1; $27.99) by Lawrence Watt-Evans releases from Tor Books on November 11, 2009.
What Happens When We’re Really Different?
By Brenda Cooper
Human history is bloody with hatred over thin differences like age, tribe, and skin color. So what will happen when we’re really different?
We are close to being able to use genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and physical augmentation to create true truly new versions of humanity. What then? If we’re afraid of “the other” now, how much more visceral might our fears be in the future? How might humans take advantage of each other in a world where some are truly stronger?
These are the core questions that sent me to my computer to write the Endeavor Award-winning book The Silver Ship and the Sea. That story abandoned six genetically engineered children on a backward colony planet that detests genetic engineering. The children are the spoils of a recent war; feared and detested at once. Chelo, the oldest, and her gifted younger brother, Joseph, must find friends, inner strength, and a way to use the technology of their lost parents to survive.
In Reading the Wind, our heroes must learn to navigate the sophisticated society of their ancestors on the distant Five Worlds. When they return home in a borrowed spaceship, they witness the first shot in The Making War, a conflict about how to create life.
The adventure continues in Wings of Creation, where Chelo and Joseph, now young adults, must navigate a society of flying monks who are both persecuted and savior. The fliers are victim to their creators, powerful guilds from another planet who hold the key to the flier’s reproductive capabilities. Can the fliers be freed? Once free, will they help our heroes avert the great Making War even though two fleets are already en-route to a space confrontation?
I’m convinced that science and technology will eventually drive us to change so far from what we are today that the tree of humanity will grow entirely new fruit, and perhaps new creatures. We will be able to play god, and we won’t be able to resist. This series of novels has given me the ability to explore future humans.
Brenda Cooper is a writer, a futurist, and a technology professional. The mass market version of Reading the Wind was released in October, 2009, and the hardcover of Wings of Creation will be released in November, 2009. Visit brenda-cooper.com or thefiveworlds.com for more information about the story.