The Blog

The Slush God Speaketh…to Kate Elliott

As I just mentioned, SCI FI Wire recently published a piece I wrote about Kate Elliott. To write the piece, I interviewed Ms. Elliott, but she gave me so much good stuff, I couldn’t fit it all in the SCI FI Wire piece. So, here’s the rest of the interview that didn’t make it into SCI FI Wire.


Kate Elliott on…

…authorial influences, and works that inspired the Crown of Stars saga:

I often somewhat facetiously say that Tolkien was the inspiration for this book, that I had to write Crown of Stars in order to get the trilogy out of my system, but Crown of Stars isn’t really anything like the Lord of the Rings. The major inspiration was a lecture I attended many years ago on Ottonian Germany and the “kings’ progress.” The Ottonian kings did not have a capital city; they were more or less always on the road with their court, for various reasons. I got interested in the level of social complexity seen in the early medieval, post-Roman period as a landscape for a fantasy novel; it’s more typical to see a “late medieval” or “rural early modern” (1600s) landscape in fantasy novels if they’re set in a Euro-type landscape. I also stole from my spouse’s work in Mesoamerican archaeology by positing “Aztec elves,” that is, a culture that had immigrated out of the west to the shores of my alternate Europe geography.

Also, I wanted to take some well known character “figures,” such as the child with mysterious parentage, the child with hidden powers, the bastard child who is worthy, and so on, and explore what could be done
with them both in terms of throwing a twist into the reader’s expectations and in terms of examining how their lives would sort out if subjected to ‘real world’ rigor. Sometimes the latter leads to the former, because of how our expectations are formed both in the mythology of fantasy literature and the mythology of the American experience.

…the magic and mythology of Crown of Stars:

First of all, a belief, on the characters’ part (as opposed to mine), in a Ptolemaic universe and, in general, that magic exists as a force in the world that can be channeled or harnessed.

The “arts of the mathematici” were inspired by the music of the spheres and also of course by archaeoastronomy, ancient accounts of “astrology,” and sites like Stonehenge, Cahokia’s Sun Circle, and other ancient observatories. The other magical elements are presented more or less as a fantasia on many of the beliefs and writings of the time, a “what-if,” if you will: What if all those ideas and concepts of magic – calling daimones, bindings and workings, herbs and potions, raising storms and altering the weather, reading the future in the flight patterns of birds, or raising power through blood sacrifice – actually worked on a physical level? How would it affect how people interacted with the physical world, and within society?

The mythology and religious aspects of the series are generally adaptations of myths and legends present in our own Western European history. The only element that may seem unfamiliar to readers might be the gods of the Ashioi, which are loosely based on Tarascan belief-systems (the Tarascans were an pre-Conquest imperial power who were battling with the Aztecs when the Spaniards came along).

…other future projects:

Other projects on the back-burner include [a] “500 years later” sequence set in the same universe of Crown of Stars … and the remaining (long-awaited by some) novels in the Jaran sequence. I badly want to write a pair of near future novels dealing with the coming upheavals of the 21st century, which I hope to write in collaboration with a friend of mine who is an agricultural economist. And I have a couple of ideas for light romantic fantasy novels, something less “heavy” than what I’m writing now. Unfortunately, although I’m not really a slow writer, I do write long books which take a long time to write. Also, I seem to be able to work on only one book at a time rather than tag-teaming as some writers are able to do (switching between disparate projects). So currently I’ve no timetable in mind for these other projects.