Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Few Moments with Max Gladstone

I am a MASSIVE fan of the Craft Sequence books, what inspired them and if possible..how many do you have planned?
First, thanks for reading! It means a lot to know there are people out there excited by the books.

I've talked a lot about my inspirations for the idea: my experience of the 2008 collapse, and realizing, in the aftermath, how the world we humans think we live in is in fact occupied by enormous, basically ageless beings that build us even as we build them—beings of which we are, at best, pieces. By this I mean corporations, of course, but also gods, angels, organizations, nations, even fandoms. So I wanted to explore that idea.

But there's a personal side, too. I'm friends with a lot of brilliant, passionate, driven people—and when I started writing Three Parts Dead, we were all looking around at the world asking, what can we do with this? There's so much chaos and fear and evil built into modern existence. Even reforming these systems a little would be the task of a lifetime. But we don't have lifetimes. It felt, even in 2008, like we were building to a crisis, and that feeling's only grown. Maybe everyone in history felt like this: we are, after all, always living at the end of our own personal worlds. But the feeling remains.

So, in a moment of impossible conflict: what do you do? How do you fix things, even a little? How do you work? How do you live? Do you seize power, try to reshape things that way? But if you do, what will you become? What horrors will you commit on the way? But if you don't join the system, if you fight it, what will it do to you? You're not the first challenger it's seen.

I wanted to write stories about my friends, basically: stories about smart, weird, passionate and compassionate folks trying their best to save a broken world that's much bigger than them. I write about them winning, because the fact that we're still alive is a testament to the fact that people do—and I write about them winning by joining together in a way that overcomes their differences without crushing them, even though it's hard, because I don't think anything happens any other way.

And, frankly, I write these stories because they're fun to read.

As for the books-planned-in-the-series question: I'm not certain how many novellas I'll write, because I'm still getting used to the form. I will say that we've started a different phase of the Craft Sequence with RUIN OF ANGELS—we're building a new story. And I'm really excited about that.

What are you currently reading? Do you have anything that you would recommend the fans who read this?At the moment I'm finishing up AUTUMN IN THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM, by Stephen R Platt, a great and vividly-written chronicle of the second half of the Taiping Civil War in China, a historical event that really fascinates me. AUTUMN picks up where Jonathan Spence's excellent GOD'S CHINESE SON leaves off, and focuses more on late Taiping military history and on the interplay between the civil war and international relations (including with the American Civil War, which was taking place at the same time). Really good stuff, and cheap in eBook!

If you're looking for a fantasy in this vein, I probably don't need to recommend Seth Dickinson's TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT or Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities books—both approaching similar problems from different angles. Sara Gran's CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD isn't (really) fantasy, but it's an amazing skewed, genre-aware detective novel about a grown-up teen detective who uses mysticism and deconstruction to investigate crimes, and I love it dearly.

That said, the best fantasy novel I've read recently was Patricia McKillip's FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, which Tachyon Press is re-releasing soon. It's stunning. I grew up in a boarding school, so I can't say how great it is without using profanity. It's truly, phenomenally great, concentrated, thoughtful, vicious, exalted fantasy, and everyone should read it, and it seems criminal to me that I hadn't until now.

Are you a gamer? If you are, what is currently your game of choice?I am sort of a gamer! More a gamer by identification than by practice, since I'm so busy these days. That said, I recently did start up a new game of infamous bubble wrap simulator Diablo 3; I have a playthrough of Persona 5 simmering on the back burner, for stylistic rainy-day Japan high school joy. I'm probably a bit more of a board gamer than I am a video gamer these days, truth be told. Most recently I've been working through SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE, which is a fantastic piece of work.

Finally, what advice would you give new writers?Done is better than perfect. (At least in first draft.)

Finishing is a skill—you get better at it the more you do it.

Slow commitment wins over "when the inspiration strikes" flourishes. (When it comes to producing work and hitting deadlines.)

If you want to write, find some way to make writing your practice—something that centers you, something to which you return, something that alleviates your anxiety. If the act of work comforts you, you'll form good habits more easily.

Advice is like vinegar: a bit of it can help, but too much sours everything.

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