Wednesday, May 5, 2010

DragonCon 2009 S.M. Stirling Interview

When I was at DragonCon 2009, I went to a seminar by noted author S.M. Stirling.  This blog did not exist at the time, so I posted my thoughts on meeting him at my alternate history forum (where Stirling was a member, prior to getting banned after a tiff with the administrator).  I realized this evening that my readers would appreciate celebrity interviews, so here I go...

His panel primarily focused on the first three "Emberverse" novels (Dies the Fire, The Protector's War, and A Meeting at Corvallis).

Here're some facts I learned about the Emberverse:

*For starters, the series could have been set in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia because its geography is similar to the Williamette, but he wanted to be as far away from Nantucket (site of the Island in the Sea of Time novels) as possible and he thought it was too close to the big cities that would become death zones when electricity and other modern technologies stopped functioning.

*There is an Emberverse story set in Russia in Warriors, an anthology by Tor books.  An review says the story is entitled "Ancient Ways" and features "a Cossack and a Kalmyk warrior join(ing) forces to rescue a princess from the city of Astrakhan."  I remember him saying (I think on that in Mongolia, they're cutting arrowheads out of old rail lines and thinking about how they really don't like Chinese or Russians, so there might be a new Mongol horde in the works.

*The publisher of the Emberverse books is interested in a shared-world DTF anthology, but not in August 2009.

*He also said he visited Nantucket Island for several weeks and all the skill-sets mentioned in the Nantucket books are there--this was in response to reader criticism that the Nantucketers had everything they needed to survive when their island is transported back to the Bronze Age (the plot of Island in the Sea of Time).

*He said Sony has inquired about a Dies the Fire miniseries, with each season being one year. His agent is discussing a DTF web-comic that would be turned into a graphic novel.  He warned, however, that writers below J.K. Rowling's level don't get creative control. Creative consulting is the best most writers get.

(A DTF miniseries would be so cool.)

*He said the lesbian assassin girl from DTF's name is pronounced "Ti-Phane," not "Tiffany."  It's spelled "Tiphaine."

*It is possible he will return to the Nantucketverse, but right now he is a little busy. He has three Emberverse books planned (The High King of Montival, Tears of the Sun, and The Given Sacrifice) and a new series whose first book is entitled A Taint in the Blood, which based on selections on his web-site is about vampires.

I did ask him some questions, during the panel and afterward.  Here goes:

1. The reason for the confusing titles of Protector's War and Meeting at Corvallis was he originally intended for the PW to start much earlier in the second book than it did.

2. Signe Havel's conversion to neo-paganism between A Meeting at Corvallis and The Scourge of God was the result of an "epiphany." He said she no longer fears an attempt by Rudi Mackenize (her late husband's illegitimate son) to take over the Bearkillers (the neo-feudal power her husband Mike Havel founded and over which she rules as regent for their son) and in any event, her faith is not the same sort of Juniper's.

(Making Signe Havel a Norse pagan seemed rather abrupt and strange.  I had figured, since Rudi is a Wiccan, she would stay a Christian and encourage the Bearkillers to adopt the faith in order to make it so Rudi would have problems usurping power from her son with Mike.)

3. The Walker clan are troublemakers in the Emberverse as well as the Nantucketverse. There is a "General Walker" who serves the Church Universal and Triumphant (an anti-technology cult commanded by the Unabomber, who escaped prison during the Change, took charge of the cult's in-case-of-the-apocalypse compound, and created a horse-archer army) as well as the villian William Walker in Island in the Sea of Time.

4. In Drakon, it's mentioned that the Draka and Samothracians (the descendants of the defeated Americans) sent colony fleets to one solar system and the two fleets fought it out, but it's never said what happened next. Stirling said the Samothracians won because they had a better ship.  Also, the Samothracian assault on the Draka-ruled solar system that is mentioned in the book changed little in the overall strategic balance of power.

I also learned some stuff about the man himself.  At one point in his life, he was a bouncer.  It's not like being in the film Road House. Mostly it's having drunks puke on you.  He ended up quitting after two days.  At one point, he also living in a shoddy apartment with a hole in the floor over a pair of transvestite hookers.  That couldn't have been fun.

He's also diabetic--if things go to pot (as depicted in many of his stories), he dies.