Working with George R.R. Martin
by Wanda June Alexander, Consulting Editor
George R.R. Martin has become a literary celebrity—the American Tolkien, according to Time magazine—and he just keeps getting better. His long and illustrious writing career includes short stories, novels, and teleplays as well as countless awards from fans and his peers. Recently George was inspired to try writing for the children’s market and created a marvelous tale, The Ice Dragon, released as a fully illustrated children’s book.
Originally published in 1980 in Dragons of Light, The Ice Dragon is a delightful and engaging tale. It is a story about, well you guessed it, a dragon—a very special dragon. Commonly dragons are hot and fueled by flaming arrogance, but George’s dragon is composed entirely of ice, the very essence of winter. Yvonne Gilbert’s incredible artwork vividly brings this gelid dragon to life.
I had the privilege of working with George on this project, and it was a very exciting time for me. George was busy working on Feast for Crow, the fourth installment of the Ice and Fire series, and though he was eager to see The Ice Dragon reach its new audience, it was a struggle to find the time to give this project the attention it deserved. That’s where I came in. I live close enough to George to bug him when necessary, and far enough away to not do it too often. Most of our editorial work was done over the phone—a roundabout from New York City to Grants, New Mexico, to Santa Fe and back again. Occasionally I would drive to Santa Fe, pages in hand, to beg audience with the Master. George always found a few minutes to focus on The Ice Dragon, guiding it to completion.
Transforming a short story into a children’s book took hard work from the writer, the entire editorial team, and the fabulous artist. George’s unfailing sense of what works kept us all on track. It was my privilege to act as liaison between Tor and George; it was exciting to create the working manuscript that started the process even though I worried about whether my suggested changes were for the best. Thankfully, George thought they were. Along the way, there were moments of doubt, exhilaration, and frustration. But the end result, a beautifully illustrated book suitable for children of all ages, was well worth the effort. Working with George, Kathleen Doherty, Susan Chang, and all the good folks at Tor was definitely the highlight of my year.
George R. R. Martin’s book, The Ice Dragon (0-7653-5539-6; $5.99 / $6.99 CAN) was released from Starscape in October. Click here to see a video interview with Martin as he discusses The Ice Dragon.
Danger! Natural Magician At Work!
by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Where do stories originate? Take my latest book—Natural Ordermage. It all started because my brother was a nationally-ranked swimmer a year after he learned to swim and a regionally-ranked tennis player within two years of starting serious play. What does that have to do with the book? Everything!
In the world of Recluce, magic is controlled by black ordermages and white chaos mages. For centuries, the training of black mages has followed a very definite and fixed pattern, based on a manual called the Basis of Order. Now, a young scrivener named Rahl has discovered that he has the ability to manipulate order—and he can do so without instruction or understanding what he is doing. Seemingly, his every attempt at using order, or even understanding it, results in unforeseen consequences, particularly affecting his girl friends and his parents. Before long, his very life is at stake because not even the strongest ordermages of Recluce can predict what Rahl might do—or how.
Now…from my own experiences in various sports, I was always aware of those boys who could instantly lift a bat and hit with ease, and those, such as my brother, who could pick up a sport in less than a year and make the varsity—and excel—in competitive high school and college programs in a short time. Then there were others, and I was among them, who had to toil for years to achieve any degree of excellence. As I grew older, I realized that very few “natural” athletes ever became coaches. Nor did asking them for advice prove helpful. The vast majority of them had no real idea what they were doing or how they did it. They just did it superbly.
That’s Rahl. He just does it. Superbly.
Being young and stubborn, he can’t help but be annoyed by all the questions and all the insistence on form and structure. He also can’t help feeling resentful that no one seems to understand that he isn’t like the other mages and that written explanations and rigid procedures don’t help him understand. He’s like a dyslexic being asked to read quickly in a foreign language. The older mages see him as a spoiled young man who isn’t grateful for his vast talents and who is all too often complaining that he doesn’t understand. In a way, he’s almost an idiot savant in order-magic. Yet the more he tries to explain this, the less he’s believed.
Soon after accidentally destroying a section of the black wall, a structure so reinforced with order that it has been impervious to cannon and chaos-magery for generations, Rahl is sent into exile, where his talents uncover deception and corruption. Far from being rewarded, the young mage ends up in even worse straits, largely because he tends to relapse into using order “naturally.”
This tendency, I believe, is something that lurks within all of us. Under pressure, we tend to revert to what is comfortable, rather than struggle with new ways that might result in a far better outcome for us. That is Rahl’s struggle, to move out of his “natural” comfort zone into a wider understanding of both the world and himself. Unless he does, he will not survive.
How does Rahl react to this, and what happens then? Well…that’s what you’ll discover when you read the book.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s novel, Natural Ordermage (0-7653-1813-X, $27.95 / $34.95 CAN) was released in September from Tor. Visit the author's blog at www.lemodesittjr.com.
On writing Axis
Hugo-winning SF writer Robert Charles Wilson reflects on doing something for the first time
Axis, my latest novel, is a sequel. And it isn’t just a sequel—it connects the Hugo Award-winning Spin to an as-yet unwritten and final book, Vortex, in a trilogy which I refuse to call “the Spin Cycle” no matter how many people make that interesting suggestion.
A sequel is a difficult beast, and writing one was a new experience for me. I wrote it under the assumption that readers who liked Spin might want more—though not neccessarily more of the same. Axis is a more intimate book than Spin, and it follows a shorter span of time in the lives of its characters. But as the title suggests, these are pivotal moments both for the protagonists and for mankind.
In Spin, humanity experienced its first perplexing interaction with the entities called “the Hypotheticals”—a network of self-reproducing machine intelligences that has grown to encompass much of the galaxy. For reasons of their own, the Hypotheticals encased the Earth in a temporal bubble and dragged it four billion years into the future, into a time when the expanding sun would make life impossible if not for the protection these entities provide. But the Hypotheticals have also equipped humanity with a back door: an Arch connecting the Earth to a distant habitable world, which may have been designed expressly for human colonization.
In Axis, that world has become a frontier where national and corporate interests compete for oil reserves and “law” is an unwieldy abstraction. But the Hypotheticals continue to intervene in human destiny. Fragments of ancient Hypothetical machines fall from the sky of the New World, and Turk Findley, a commercial pilot, and Lise Adams, a journalist investigating her father’s disappearance, are caught up in mysteries both human and alien.
Why a sequel to a book that was essentially complete in itself? Because the one unfinished story in Spin is the story of the interaction between humanity and the barely-understood Hypotheticals. That’s the thread Axis picks up.
And why a third volume? Because the Hypotheticals don’t operate in human time. Axis opens a door into that transhuman realm, and Vortex will look at what lies beyond.
What am I doing in the meantime? I took time out from the trilogy to write a book tentatively titled Julian Comstock: A Story of the 22nd Century (expanded from the Hugo-nominated novella “Julian: A Christmas Story”)—simply because it’s a story that took me by the lapels and commandeered both my imagination and my keyboard for the duration.
Then it’s back to Vortex, and the view from damn-near infinity.
Robert Charles Wilson’s novel, Axis (0-7653-0939-4, $25.95 / $29.95 CAN) is a September hardcover from Tor.