The Path to Mistborn Three
By Brandon Sanderson
(Note, this essay is spoiler-free for those of you who haven’t read the first Mistborn book!)
One of the things I wanted to do with the Mistborn trilogy was make it internally cohesive. I wanted each book to have its own story and climactic moments, but it was even more important to me that each book be part of a whole. When I’m reading a series, few things bother me as much as getting a sense that the author doesn’t know where he/she is going with the books. I really like a strong sense of building tension, of interconnection between volumes, and a hint of a master vision.
This presented a problem. You see, I’m an outliner. I like to plan and plot quite a bit before I start writing a book. However, even an outliner like myself can’t nail down every little point in a story. Beyond that, the experience of writing is a supremely creative one. One has to be ready to toss out entire sections of an outline if something better, more evocative, more interesting comes along. This has happened in every novel I’ve written so far, and I understood that if I didn’t have the same flexibility when writing the Mistborn series, the books (particularly the later ones) would feel stiff. However, if I didn’t make and stick with an outline, I wouldn’t be able to foreshadow events in the third book appropriately and give the series the cohesive feel that I wanted.
At that point, I began to realize something very daunting: if this series was to become what I wanted it to be, I was going to have to write all three books straight through in a short period of time. I would have to work furiously and intently enough to get the third book done before the first book went to press. If I could manage that, I knew that I would have flexibility to write all three books with the creativity they demanded, but also be able to revise the first book so that it would be a proper introduction to the following two.
So I sat down to write. It was a grueling eighteen months, but I did manage to get a rough draft of the third book done before the copyedit (the last chance for me to make substantive chances) of the first one was due in. That was late 2004.
Four years later, it’s finally time to release Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, the third and final Mistborn book. I’ve now been working on this series for five years, tweaking the text of the second two volumes, creating the cohesive—yet individually separate—trilogy of books that I originally imagined. It turned out better than I had even hoped that it would. There are hints and clues about the climactic events of the third book foreshadowed in the first few paragraphs of the first book. And they’re not just dropped in; they’re a substantive part of the original volume. All three books form one larger ‘super-book.’
It’s hard to explain how excited I am that people can finally read this last volume. Those of you who know my books may be familiar with the fact that I love endings. I want them to be explosive, imaginative, and shocking—yet at the same time expected, without unforeshadowed twists. I focus a lot of my energy on making my endings satisfying to those who have invested so much time in reading my books.
Mistborn: The Hero of Ages is an entire book that is, in a way, an ending. It’s the climactic sequence to half a million words of build-up. I feel that it’s the best book that I’ve written to date.
If you think you know what is going on in these books, just wait for this final volume. Remember what Kelsier always says:
There’s always another secret.
The Hero of Ages (0-7653-1689-7; $27.95) by Brandon Sanderson will be released from Tor in October 2008. The author's website is brandonsanderson.com. Brandon Sanderson will be completing the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Times series. For information on A Memory of Light, visit dragonmount.com/Books/Memory_of_Light.
The Story Behind the Succession
By Scott Westerfeld
The Risen Empire started from two main impulses:
One, I wanted to write a space opera that my fourteen-year-old self would have enjoyed, but that my adult self didn’t feel was slight. In other words, one that had both the puerile pleasures of stellar-scale explosions with the character and political complexity that befits a grown-up genre. Obviously, a lot of writers were attempting this sort of thing back in the early part of this century, the so-called New Space Opera. At the same time, the New Weird folks were engaged in a similar project, but with a starting point was Lovecraft rather than E.E. Doc Smith. It was a time of rediscovering roots and revitalizing them, which is always a healthy thing for our ancestor-worshipping field to do.
But my other impulse was in the opposite direction—against ancestor worship, at least in any literal sense. I’d just read an article about how the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism never really took place among living scientists. With a few key exceptions, folks who grew up in the geocentric era clung to that model. The scientists born post-revolution understood heliocentrism instinctively, but they didn't gain ascendance until their older comrades did them the favor of dying.
Now, science fiction had treated immortality as a bad thing before, but usually for two reasons: people get bored, or overpopulation is bad. But what if a lack of death led to a slowing of scientific (and political) progress?
This notion started me on creating the Risen Empire, a collection of eighty worlds that possesses the secret of immortality. The same people have been in charge for sixteen hundred years. It’s surrounded by other powers which may be in various stages of post-humanity, but all of which still have death. The Empire is falling behind, not just technologically but conceptually, and is growing ever more uncomprehending of its neighbors’ aspirations and organizing principles.
As a result, my Risen Empire tends to flail about militarily—without much purpose, but with the pyrotechnics that my fourteen-year-old self was hankering for. Even better, it embodies the internal contradiction of golden-age space opera: lots of shiny toys, but old-fashioned feudal power structures.
In the middle of all this is a love story between a radical pro-death senator and a more conservative pro-immortality warrior. The two experience time at different subjective rates. The senator goes in and out of in stasis during her fifty-year term, to keep her on a time-scale suitable for managing such a big confederation, and the warrior is a starship captain, so he’s hit with lots of relativity effects. (My universe has no FTL travel whatsoever, so it takes years to get across the Empire.)
Yet with both internal politics and the vasty universe stacked against them, they still manage to keep their relationship going. (I do have FTL communications, luckily.) And as the Empire slouches toward war, their unlikely alliance winds up changing history.
The Risen Empire (0-7653-1998-5; $14.95) by Scott Westerfeld was released from Tor in July 2008. The sequel The Killing of Worlds (0-7653-2052-5; $14.95) releases from Tor in October 2008. Scott Westerfeld’s website is scottwesterfeld.com.
On writing Half a Crown
By Jo Walton
Half a Crown is the third and final book in the “Small Change” trilogy, which started with Farthing and Ha’penny. All three of these books are set in an alternate world where the US never became involved in World War II because Britain made peace with Hitler in May of 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor. The books take place in that world’s England, the first two in 1949, and Half a Crown in 1960. Politically, fascism is fashionable, socially the 1930s are still going on, and most ordinary people are worrying mainly about whether their butt looks big in this dress and if their partners really love them.
The books all have the form of mystery/thriller, because it occurred to me that there’s a way of writing about murders in cozy mysteries that makes everything seem nice, when actually it’s really awful, and I could use that way of writing to write about other awful things. Someone described Farthing as “a stiletto wrapped in a buttered crumpet”, and that made me laugh because that was so exactly what I wanted to achieve.
Half a Crown was the hardest of the three books to write, because I had to work out another ten years of international history and make it plausible. One of the protagonists is Elvira Royston, a girl from a working class background who has been educated out of her class and is about to become a debutante. The other is Inspector Carmichael, familiar from the two previous novels, now commander of the Watch, the British Gestapo. He’s also secretly running the “Inner Watch,” an underground resistance organization. Half a Crown takes place against the background of a peace conference to end the war—Nazi Germany has just nuked the Soviets into submission, and they and Japan are dividing China between them. There are political machinations, riots, strikes, and the search for the right string of pearls.
In all three books I’ve tried to keep the focus on the personal. Everybody’s life is their life, and most people don’t worry about huge political forces unless they get caught up in them. But of course, whatever people think, the huge political forces are rearranging the world individuals have to live in. These books are about how people go along with what’s happening, and how people sometimes try to make a difference and what happens then.
All my books have been deeply rooted in history. I think alternate history is a fascinating game. There were times when I was writing and researching when the Farthing Peace seemed more plausible than the facts of what actually happened. But in the end, what did happen is always weightier, more fractal, and more interesting than what might have happened.
I’m really glad the series is finished, and I’m never going to write anything in that world ever again because I am so sick of fascists you wouldn’t believe.
The third novel in Jo Walton’s “Small Change” trilogy, Half a Crown (0-765-31621-8; $25.95) appears in hardcover in October 2008. The first two volumes are Farthing (0-7653-5280-X, $6.99) and Ha’penny (0-765-35808-5, $7.99). Jo Walton’s blog is available at papersky.livejournal.com.
The End of the World As We Know It
By Claire Delacroix
That was the working title for Fallen, my October paranormal romance release from Tor.
Lilia Desjardins, the heroine of this book, appeared in my imagination in 2004, demanding that her story be told. I’m not one of those authors who routinely talks to my characters, or envisions them, or puts up with any kind of pushiness from fictional individuals (much less figments of my imagination), but Lilia had synchronicity on her side. Each time I ignored her, I got another prompt from somewhere—another article, another book, another magazine, another reference by a friend. That R.E.M. song seemed to be on the radio of every store I entered, and playing on the radio whenever I turned it on. I knew Lilia was haunting me. The fact was that I was ready for a change in direction in my work. Lilia caught me in a weak moment, and took me on an adventure.
I found myself acquiring and reading books about nuclear bombs, nuclear research, the Manhattan Project, the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Chernobyl. I found myself reading books and articles about religion, social change, history—a lot of these books found me, several literally jumping off the shelf of a local bookstore to be sure I didn’t miss them. I re-read a lot of classic fiction that I’d enjoyed in the past.
And—inevitably—I began to play the author “what if?” game.
• What if the world’s situation gets a lot worse?
• How much worse can it get?
• What happens if we drop a lot of nukes? (I was pretty surprised by the adaptability and resilience of the human species in this regard. A common scenario in fiction is that a nuclear war does cause the end of the world, but after reading all those medical reports, I wasn’t so sure. This led me to the next question.)
• What if we bombed the heck out of each other and it didn’t cause the Apocalypse?
• What if manifest destiny worked?
• What if Orwell was right, but 1984 was too early?
• What if we made our own wasteland of the earth’s Eden?
And most critically:
• Who would save us from ourselves? Who could save us from ourselves?
Lilia knew the answer to that last question—or at least her story, Fallen, made it clear to both of us.
Welcome to the year 2099 and the Republic of the United States of the Americas. In this grim vision of the future, the world has survived several nuclear wars, a great deal of devastation and major changes to our way of life. Technology has made the government omnipresent and its databanks reputedly omniscient—“the eyes of the Republic are everywhere” is one of the government’s slogans. Slavery has been re-introduced, and few dare to challenge authority.
Few except armed and outspoken idealists like Lilia, in search of justice for her estranged husband. Gideon’s murder has been labeled an accident by the police, but Lilia knows that can’t be true. She’ll do anything to unearth the truth, even enter the forbidden hot zone of Gotham’s nuked remains. There she finds that she’s the next target of whoever wants to bury the truth of Gid’s death—and meets a cop who defies her expectations. Though Lilia knows immediately that there’s more to Adam Montgomery than meets the eye, as a cynic and a scientist, she never guesses that Montgomery is a fallen angel who sacrificed his wings to intervene on behalf of humanity.
She doesn’t believe it until she sees his scars, the same scars that can condemn Montgomery to the Republic’s slave dens forever.
Fallen (0-7653-5949-9; $6.99) is the first book in my trilogy of dark paranormal romances, each of which feature a fallen angel hero on the wrong side of the Republic in the fateful year 2099. Fallen was released from Tor in September. Look for Guardian in October 2009 and Rebel in 2010. You can read more about Fallen and find an excerpt on my site at: delacroix.net/fallen.html, and check out the reviews on my blog at: delacroix.net/blog.