INTERVIEW: Genevieve Valentine, author of “Blood, Ash, Braids”

Genevieve Valentine, author of “Blood, Ash, Braids,” discuss the background of her story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

The narrator claims that witches don’t survive long enough to form covens, and yet there are several examples in this story of women forming tight-knit groups – mundane parallels to a coven. What are some prominent examples of the theme of female camaraderie that you’ve encountered in literature? Do you think this is a theme that deserves more exploration than it gets?

GV: They do find that camaraderie, and it’s definitely not a coincidence. In the story, magic takes a toll (as it should), but the swiftness with which someone burns through a lifetime supply is probably always a shorter timeline than you hope for. (Particularly when you’re protecting others – that camaraderie made manifest.) And I think camaraderie between women – which categorically deserves more exploration than it gets – is often as much a matter of perception and position than of representation. Austen’s novels are filled with complicated relationships and ties of loyalty between women, but those are often positioned by modern interpretation as secondary dynamics within a romance, when the text has very different priorities. The sort of camaraderie that’s most easily categorized tends, ironically, to be the war story; banding together to face a common and immediate conflict is a familiar arc.Code Name Verity is a recent example of this particular brand of camaraderie, but there are also a lot of great narratives about the kinds of camaraderie that exist between women who aren’t on the frontlines; Heart of Iron has some very interesting friendships on the edges of a war.

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INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Moon, author of “Mercenary’s Honor”

Elizabeth Moon, author of “Mercenary’s Honor,” discuss the background of her story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

“Mercenary’s Honor” takes place in the world which you created in the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy. For the uninitiated among our readers, would you care to expand a bit on that world and the way it works?

EM: It’s a complex world with many different political entities, from mercantile city-states to a theocracy, with various kinds of feudal or semi-feudal states in between. Different cultures, different religions, different racial origins, different systems of magic, different levels of technology–and that’s just among the humans. (The non-humans don’t come into this particular story.)

“Mercenary’s Honor” is set in the continental south some decades before the events in the Deed of Paksenarrion. Here, city states are loosely connected by a sort of “common market” agreement, and hire mercenaries for fixed terms of employment to do whatever fighting they want done. War is more common in the south than the north, but the north provides most of the mercenary soldiers. The closest historical model would be the mercenary companies in what is now northern Italy (then warring city states) in the 13th-14th centuries. Three of the characters in this story appear in the novels, older and wiser.

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INTERVIEW: David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell, authors of “Rules of Enchantment”

David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell, authors of “Rules of Enchantment,” discuss the background of the story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

There is a practical blend of magic and tech to the story that lends to the verisimilitude. It’s not often urban fantasy extends into the realm of military fantasy, yet the blend is not perfect. Lady Wiela makes it clear that the characters’ weapons and gear may not be suited for the trolls’ might. What other blends of magic and tech could you see coming from this world?

DK: That would be telling, wouldn’t it? The possibilities are truly endless, especially when you match some fantasy device or spell or something with a fantasy analogue. One bit I especially liked highlighting in this story was the Marines’ night vision goggles versus a scroll of night seeing, and both compared to elves’ ability to see in the dark.

TB: Oh, Dave and have been tossing around so many ideas. I mean, ever since I told John Joseph Adams that we were writing ‘Full Metal Jacket meets Lord of the Rings’ for this anthology, Dave and I have been trying to figure out where else we can take this story in longer form. So yeah, we don’t want tip our hands too early, yeah?

9/11 proved a harrowing time for America, the shock of an invasion, the loss of a perceived sense of invulnerability. “Rules of Enchantment” brushes this nerve, creating a vital, powerful story without sacrificing depth of character or plot. What advice do you have for writers hoping to engage readers with works that address difficult topics?

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INTERVIEW: Weston Ochse, author of “American Golem”

Weston Ochse, author of “American Golem,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

What inspired you to drop a golem into the midst of the war in Afghanistan? Why Afghanistan?

WO: Well, I was in Afghanistan when I started writing the story and they do say write what you know. I could have set it anywhere, really, but since I was living and breathing in the terrior (what the French pronounce as TearWarr representing the geology, geography, and climate of a certain place, usually in relation to wine). The sounds of horns and engines and planes and helicopters and explosions were my constant soundtrack. It was the war I knew best because I was in the middle of it, so truly, if I wanted this story to be my best, I had no choice but to set it in Afghanistan. And why a golem? Golems are a grossly under-respected, underappreciated, and underused monster. Their very nature represents the seeking for justice and protection. If you want to know what came first, the golem or the plot, I can easily tell you the golem did. He wanted into the story and I let him and the rest, as they say, is his story.

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INTERVIEW: Tanya Huff, author of “Steel Ships”

Tanya Huff, author of “Steel Ships,” discusses the background of her story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

There is a lot of heartbreaking but necessary self-sacrificing by the members of the seal strike teams, especially in order to save a teammate. Were you showing something you feel is necessary for the success of a military group, or a characteristic you gave your seal shapeshifters to make them unique?

TH: “Steel Ships” was based on a true story about commando raids in coracles up French rivers to take out German installations in World War II. The death toll was so high the raids were known colloquially as “Operation Suicide”. The one thing that lifts war out of the carnal house, off what’s very often pointless political fields of slaughter, are the people involved in it. Their ability to be the best of their species in the worst of situations.

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INTERVIEW: Ari Marmell, author of “Heavy Sulfur”

Ari Marmell, author of “Heavy Sulfur,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

How do you think alchamancers and poison-witches and the like might change modern warfare?

AM: That’d depend on how common they were, I’d think. If there are only a few, it’s not much different than having specialized soldiers or units in the real world. If they were a primary focus of military development, though? Modern warfare would look VERY different. Fewer drones or really big bombs, more clashing demons and soldiers performing defensive rituals when they hole up somewhere. I’m sure there’d be technological advancement, but I don’t think it’d look much like it does today. If nothing else, magic requires far less in the way of materiel–or at least drastically different sorts of it.

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INTERVIEW: T.C. McCarthy, author of “Pathfinder”

T.C. McCarthy, author of “Pathfinder,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

INTERVIEW: Django Wexler, author of “The Guns of the Wastes”

Django Wexler, author of “The Guns of the Wastes,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

Right at the beginning of “The Guns of the Wastes” is an intricately described vehicle. You later introduce other, larger versions. I really loved your descriptions of them. What came first, the story idea of the ongoing war, or the idea of the landships cruising the wastes?

DW: This time it was the notion of the landships. A lot of my military fantasy is inspired by some particular period or conflict in history, and I often try to recreate something with a similar dynamic in an unexpected setting. In this case, I was reading about WWI naval combat and trying to figure out a neat way to do get a similar sort of feel, and started thinking about landships. The actual design of them came from spending a little while trying to figure out how such a thing could actually work. I don’t claim they’re scientifically plausible, but they have enough of a veneer of reasonableness to chalk up the rest to “steampunk magic”.

Originally I was going to have them fighting each other, but they seemed like impractical weapons for that purpose. I decided the best reason to have a landship – essentially a mobile gun platform – was when you were fighting an enemy who would board and overwhelm you if you stood still, and that gave us the sraa. The ships were developed to keep their distance from sraa swarms while blowing them apart, after conventional fortifications proved inadequate.

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INTERVIEW: Yoon Ha Lee, author of “The Graphology of Hemorrhage”

Yoon Ha Lee, author of “The Graphology of Hemorrhage,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

The system of written magic is very precise, much like the machining of the gears of a war machine, yet are threatened by something as small as a drop of rain. The cost to the magician of wielding such power is also very precise. When creating such magic, how did you see it having come about, the pitfalls and victories of the research?

YHL: I like to think of most fantasy magic systems as coming in two general flavors, ambient and technological. (I apologize for my terminology! I’ve never developed a good vocabulary for this.) Ambient magic is what I see in Patricia McKillip’s fiction, and a lot of fairy tales, where magic is part of the environment and it’s not something you can really control in precise ways; it operates more like metaphor.

Technological magic is what you see in L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Recluce stories, or in pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson that I’ve read, such as the Mistborn books, where magic is worked out according to defined principles and its ramifications are carefully considered–if those laws of magic existed in our world, I could guarantee that some engineering-minded person would use magic as portrayed and you would be able to codify it in math.

Although I didn’t have the space to work out great levels of detail, I thought of the calligraphy magic as being more like a technological system. I expect it would have the same pitfalls and victories as learning how to build good bridges before people developed the mathematical tools. (This is my guess, anyway; I’m not an engineer or an architect, so the question of how to make a good bridge is very mysterious to me.) There would be a lot of trial and error at first and then people would start codifying principles in the interest of saving lives, or even just out of sheer scientific curiosity.

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INTERVIEW: Simon R. Green, author of “Bomber’s Moon”

Simon R. Green, author of “Bomber’s Moon,” discusses the background of his story in this exclusive interview featured on SF Signal:

In “Bomber’s Moon,” you provide a Biblical twist to the Second World War. What inspired you to write this story?

SG: The Second World War took place in my father’s generation, so I heard a lot about it while growing up, from people who were actually there. Many described it as the last Good war, because the sides were so clear. The Nazis were the closest we have ever come to evil incarnate in this world. Which got me thinking… All sides like to say God is on our side. What if it were literally true? And the Devil was on the other side?

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