Tanya Huff twice for this article. Once in person just before she spoke to
fans at the Merril Collection (November 1993); the second time over the
phone two weeks later because the tape recorder failed to record the first
time. Fortunately, the second interview was even better.
MG: A few things have changed
for you since you last "appeared" in SOLRISING: you're
not living in Toronto any more. Do you now have
that "quiet cottage" you talked about in the last article?
TH: What I have now is a three-bedroom
bungalow and 75 acres of land. It's quiet, not exactly a cottage. But I am
living out in the country like I planned and I am managing to write full
MG: And do you find it's a lot
different writing where you are now as opposed to Toronto?
TH: It's a heck of a lot
quieter, that's one thing. I'm not being interrupted by Korean disco music
at in the morning like I used to be in the old
apartment. There are a lot less distractions, a lot less excuses I can make
for not writing. I can't just wander down to the store, given that the
store is seven kilometers away. I have a lot more time to think about
things, to develop characters. And in spite of the fact that I said once I
started writing full time I wouldn't do what a lot of other writers I know
have done and suddenly start writing longer books, I found that my latest
book has been exactly two hundred manuscript pages longer than my next
MG: This is Blood Pact?
TH: No, God, no. This is Sing the Four Quarters. And
remember, I'm two books ahead of the latest book that's out there now…
It's hard for me to remember that when I say "my latest book,"
I'm referring to the one I'm writing, but the people I'm talking to usually
think I'm referring to the one that just came out.
MG: Do you find it very
different now, not being in Bakka?
TH: Well, sometimes I miss the
stimulus. Sometimes I get a little cabin fever, you know, days when I won't
talk to anyone but Fiona and the cat, and Uncle Albert. But, I don't miss
the distraction from the writing because there were, on the other hand,
days when you would come home from work at Bakka
and you had just spent the whole day talking science fiction and fantasy
and the last thing you wanted to do in the evening was do it some more. But
I miss the input, I miss knowing what's happening in the field. That was
the great thing about Bakka, you knew everything.
You knew what was coming out. You heard all the industry gossip. I mean, I
don't have a clue of what's come out in the last twenty months because we
don't have a book store here!
MG: The last book in the
"Blood" series, is just coming out now (Blood Pact, December '93).
TH: This is the book I've been
aiming for, right from the beginning. A lot of people seem to think it would
be an open-ended series, with Vickie and Henry and Mike just encountering
one supernatural foe after another. But I have always been aiming for an
end. There was a small chance it might have been five books, if I could
have figured out a way to work in a creature from the Rideau canal. So, they would have all
trekked up to Ottawa and save the Parliament buildings from something that
developed out of toxic waste, but it was just a little too hokey to work
with. So, this is the fourth and last book in the series.
MG: Absolutely last?
TH: Well, it's the last book in
this series. I may take the characters and begin a new series or write
another single book about them. But this particular series is ended,
closed, finito, done.
MG: A lot of us have wondered where
you actually got your inspiration for this series in the first place.
Because it is different from the fantasy you had written before.
TH: Well, while working in Bakka, I noticed that there were people who bought
every single vampire book that ever came out. I mean, they didn't care who
wrote it or what it was about. If there was a vampire in it, they wanted
it. Vampire fans are extremely loyal to their chosen genre. And I thought
to myself, "There's a market here!" And I was trying to save up
money for a down payment. So I wrote a vampire book. Now, I originally
started out to write a horror novel. But the first chapter written as a
horror novel was just awful. And Fiona read it and said,
this is really terrible. And so I rewrote it, and so instead of writing
a horror novel, I wrote a Tanya Huff novel, and it worked a lot better.
MG: What's the difference
between a horror novel and a Tanya Huff novel?
TH: I don't really write horror;
I don't use the standard horror cliches. I think
book four in this series is as close to horror as they come, but that's
mostly because I'm dealing with my own feelings and fears about death. But
just as there are certain specific things you do in any genre novel—I
mean, there are certain things the reader has every right to expect when
they pick up a high fantasy, say, or a contemporary fantasy—there are
certain things that they also expect when they pick up a horror novel, and
I can't do them. It's very difficult to define just exactly what they are,
but if you pick up a novel, you can say, yes, this is a horror novel. It's
that something that defines what goes on the spine of the book. And my
books just don't get that horror label.
MG: Do you think there's
something somewhat more gentle in yours?
TH: It's possible that's what
the difference is… What my books have is not so much of a gentle
quality but a hopeful quality. In my books, the bad guys will never win.
And I will never do that jerking around with emotions where somebody who
could be saved, isn't. There was a Daredevil
comic, way back in the early eighties, done by Frank Miller, where the
subplot was this kid's dog had been stolen, and they find it at the SPCA
(it's an American comic, so it wouldn't have been the Humane Society), but
at the very end of the comic, they arrive too late to rescue the dog and
the dog is put to sleep, killed. And the only reason they did that was,
well, life is like that sometimes. Sometimes life is "shitty."
Well, yes, sure, sometimes it is, but more times than that, life is
wonderful, and I don't think there's any particular reason why you can't
look at the good things instead of the bad things. It's like the rappers
who defend their lyrics by saying, "I just write what I see, man, I
look on the streets and this is what I see." Yeah, well, why don't you
see the other things? Why don't you see the good things? Why don't you see
the single mother who's fighting to make a life for her kid? Or why don't
you see the teenagers who get together and clean up the school yard, or
something like that? Why do you have to see the bad stuff? And, I just
think the more of us who see the good stuff and who pass it on, the better.
MG: Some of us have wondered why
you had retinitis pigmentosa as the particular
challenge that Detective Nelson is working with?
TH: I needed a disease, I needed a condition for Vickie that would mean
she had to leave the force. It was plot driven that she needed this
condition. She had to be forced away from the police but she still had to
be functional. So I was researching, trying to find something that would do
this, and I saw a television program about these bikers—motorcycle
gangs—for whom this has become their charity of choice. Every year
they do this big fair, with all these grizzled, leather-wearing tattooed
bikers who are working for charity, and what they're working for is
retinitis pigmentosa, this is what all the money
that's raised goes towards. And I thought, yeah, I can use that. And I
talked to my optometrist about it, and he actually spelled it out for me and
told me a bit about it and suggested a book I could look it up in. I looked
it up and found I could use it. But it was all because of this little TVO
or PBS program about these bikers who do this retinitis pigmentosa
MG: You were also telling me
before about all the other times that you've needed to know something and
you've just been able to phone people up and they've been so helpful.
TH: People are extraordinarily
helpful if you ask them about something they do or something they're interested
in; of course they want to tell you. I mean, I have phoned various police
departments and asked them the most ridiculous questions and they have always
been incredibly helpful… if somewhat confused on occasion, but
incredibly helpful… Once you explain why you want to know this, they
really get right into it… For my third book, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light, I needed a picture of a
police car to send down to the artist for the cover of the book, and I
could not find one anywhere. And I went down to police headquarters and I
had one poor police cadet practically tearing the place apart just to find
me a picture. And what I ended up doing was going out and taking a
photograph. In fact, I took an entire roll of photographs and sent that down…
I phoned the London detachment of the OPP and
asked them to describe the outside of their building, and they were really
helpful about it. In fact, I once called a nun, and told her I was writing
a story about a vampire in a graveyard at and I needed the liturgical
Latin for "Christ is risen"; and she
kind of laughed and then she moved the phone away a little and she said
`Father, I think this one's for you!'"
MG: I think at this point, it's
a good time to ask about your new projects and what you're working on and
when we can look forward to seeing them.
TH: Well, the next one coming is
scheduled for December '94, but I have a short story before that. I have a
short story ("This Town Ain't Big
Enough") which is a direct sequel to Blood Pact coming up in an anthology sometime this winter. Now
I think the anthology's called Vampire
Detectives (edited by Martin Greenberg), but I'm not positive; that's
what it was called when I signed the contract, but that could have easily
been changed. My next book out is called Sing the Four Quarters, and it's a heroic fantasy, and I
suppose if it had to be compared to any of my earlier stuff, it's the most
like Firestone of any of them. It
can stand completely well on its own, but it's also the first book in a
very loosely tied-together trilogy; mostly, it's a book one and then one
and two, a duology set in the same myth of, which
I contracted and I'm working on the first book of those right now.
MG: And that's called The Fifth Quarter?
TH: The Fifth Quarter and No
Quarter, but those are working titles and those could easily change. In
fact, I think the contracted title was Five
Quarters for the first one. But it has, since I signed the contract two
short months ago, been changed to Fifth
Quarter. God knows what it's going to end up being called. I kind of
like Fifth Quarter. And I have
just sold the short story that I read at the Spaced Out Library, "The
Harder They Fall," to Marion
Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine… And Warner Books is doing The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley's
Fantasy Magazine, which will include the Magdalene story, "Be It
Ever So Humble."
MG: And when will that appear?
TH: Last spring or early summer
('94) as far as I know, but they don't give the authors involved a whole
lot of information. If Marion had to sit down and tell
everyone what was happening, she wouldn't have any time to do the editing.
MG: I asked last time whether
you saw yourself staying with fantasy and the supernatural or whether you
had ideas of ever branching into either science fiction or main stream
TH: Well, the problem with me
writing science fiction is, well, it's two-fold, actually, it's one:
science is changing so fast right now, that it would be very difficult to
find a cutting edge to stay on the top of. The other problem is my science
background is actually biology/botany… I even studied forestry for a
while, actually… The stuff I can actually understand are mostly the soft sciences. Physics and math will lose
me completely. Although I have to remember that, after reading The Proteus Operation by J. P.
Hogan, I almost thought I understood quantum mathematics! So, I doubt I
will ever write anything that could possibly be called hard science
fiction. There are a couple of ideas I have for space opera that I would
love to do, and I would dearly love to do either a Star Trek novel or a Deep Space Nine novel… I've
pitched two ideas, they both got dumped, which is
actually not a real problem, because I can use one of the ideas. I can
adapt it for something that isn't in the Star Trek universe, which is actually probably why it got
dumped, because it wasn't enoughStar
Trek exclusive. And I'll just keep pitching ideas as I get them and
maybe someday I'll do one. I just love the shows…
MG: I have a question about your
presentation of the vampire, Henry Fitzroy. He's almost sort of sanitized,
a little bit "safe", but he's still a vampire, with all the supernatural
strengths and everything. Can you tell me how you came up with his
TH: I don't see any reason why
you can't have vampires who are "sweeties"; it stands to reason
that if you can have vampires who are homicidal maniacs, you should be able
to have the other side of the coin. And Henry's just this nice guy who happens
to be a vampire. Umm, much of the characters are plot driven. I mean, they
act the way the plot demands they act. Conversely, the plot occasionally
goes in directions the characters demand the plot go, so... writing
conundrums, you know… I always get to where I'm going, but the way I
get there sometimes surprises me.
MG: You have a lot of different
kinds of love relationships in your books, from regular hetero-sexual
attraction to the three-way triangle between Vickie and the detective and
the vampire, and then in Firestone, there's
a very tender moment between the two men at the end.
TH: I think that it's the love
that's important. And I think it's very important—to me, anyway—that
love be present. I don't think the plumbing
matters a whole lot.
MG: I think also, whether you're
talking fantasy or detective-supernatural stuff, it's somewhat unusual to
see anything other than the standard he-man and willing maiden scenario.
TH: Oh well, I don't read that,
so I'm not going to write it! The whole point of writing fantasy is that
you're not stuck in those tight little "real world" parameters.
So you have the opportunity, or even perhaps the obligation, to
explore, to present things in other ways, to do allegories that may help
other people accept things differently, to put a different slant on things.
I think if you keep telling people good things over and over and over,
eventually, they've got to sink in… People learn by example. And the
examples they get… the examples that, as a writer, I put out, are
important; they're examples that say, you can be a he-man, greatest
swordsman in the land, alcoholic prince, and still love another man, and
have a tender moment with him. I think that's important. I think breaking
stereotypes is very important. I think we each have a responsibility to
leave the world a better place. And this is how I try to do it.
The following is a listing of the science fiction,
fantasy and speculative fiction works published by Canadians in 1993,
according to first the date of initial printing and then copyright. This
list is derived primarily from the nomination list for the 1994 Aurora
Awards, as compiled by Dennis Mullin and Ruth Stuart, with the assistance
of Claude Janelle, editor of L'Annee de la
Science-Fiction et duFantastiquequebecois, and its staff; of Lorna Toolis and the staff at the Merril Collection; and also
of Peter Halasz, Lloyd Penney, and Jean-Louis Trudel
We welcome any additions or corrections. We invite all
authors, publishers, and other knowledgeable individuals to keep us
informed of works in the SF field by all Canadians so that we may publish
as complete and comprehensive a list as possible each year.
Books in English
The Night Inside: A Vampire Thriller, Nancy Baker (Penguin)
The Prism Moon, Martine Bates (Red DeerCollege Press)
Bread of the Birds, Andre Carpentier
(Ekstasis Editions) [collection]
Dreams Underfoot, Charles de Lint (Tor) [collection]
Into the Green, Charles de Lint (Tor)
The Stricken Field, Dave Duncan (Del Rey)
Upland Outlaws, Dave Duncan (Del Rey)
The Broken Sphere, Nigel D. Findley (TSR
Seed of Darkness, Nigel D. Findley (Mayfair Games)
Shadowplay, Nigel D. Findley (Penguin/ROC)
Headhunter, Timothy Findley (HarperCollins)
Deadly Vengeance, Stephen R. George (Zebra)
Virtual Light, William Gibson (Seal)
Blood Lines, Tanya Huff (DAW)
Blood Pact, Tanya Huff (DAW)
The Darker Passions: Dracula, Nancy Kilpatrick
Green Grass Running Water, Thomas King
One Good Story, That One, Thomas King
The Darker Passions: Dracula, under the name of Amarantha Knight (Masquerade Books) [see:
The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon,
W. 0.Mitchell (McClelland &
The Flight of the Stoneman's
The Holder of the World, BharatiMukherjee
Alien Nation: The Day of Descent, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Pocket
The Callahan Touch, Spider Robinson (Ace)
Lady of Mercy, Michelle Sagara
Fossil Hunter, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace)
WW III: Asian Front, Ian Slater (Fawcett)
Nobody's Son, Sean Stewart (Maxwell MacMillan)
Prince of Sparta, S.M. Stirling & D.Drake (Baen)
The Steel, S.M. Stirling
& D.Drake (Baen)
The Initiation of P.B. 500, under the name of Kyle
Stone (Masquerade Books) see: Soles
The Initiation of P.B. 500, Caro Soles (Masquerade Books)
The Nine Gods of Safaddné,
The BaieComeau Angel and Other Stories, Wilfred Watson (NeWest) [collection]
The Singing Sword, Jack Whyte
Harvest, Robert Charles Wilson (Bantam Spectra)
The "TekWar" novel by William Shatner have been excluded as having been mostly
written by a non-Canadian, Ron Goulart, but could
be added to the list since they are not entirely devoid of Canadian
Additions: For 1990, add: WW III, Ian Slater (Fawcett). For
1991, add: WW III: Rage of Battle, Ian
Slater (Fawcett), and WW III: World
in Flames, Ian Slater (Fawcett). For 1992, add: Out of Nippon, Nigel D. Findley (West End Games), 2XS, Nigel D. Findley (Penguin/ROC),
WW III: Arctic Front, Ian Slater
(Fawcett), and WW III: Warshot, Ian Slater (Fawcett).
Short Fiction in English
"Heart in a
Box", Lynne Armstrong-Jones (Sword
& Sorceress X, DAW)
"Love of the
Banshee", Lynne Armstrong-Jones (Towers of Darkover, DAW)
Child", Alison Baird (ON
SPEC V. 5#2)
Door", Alison Baird (ON
SPEC V. 5#3)
Machine", Bruce Barber (ON
SPEC V. 5#2)
Robert Boyczuk(ON SPEC V. 5#3)
Robert Boyczuk(ON SPEC V. 5#1)
Fantasia", Robert Boyczuk(ON SPEC V. 5#4)
Starring", Cliff Burns (Year's
Best Fantasy & Horror, St Martin's Press)
Burns (The Silver Web #10)
Meeting", Cliff Burns (Air
Fish, Cat's Eye Press)
"Shipwrecked on the
Isle of Lost Souls", Cliff Burns (Canadian Fiction Magazine, Nov.)
"The Cycle of
Life", Cliff Burns (Not One
of Us, #11)
"Something in the
Air Tonight", Cliff Burns (The
"Michael in the Forest", Bruce Byfield(ON
SPEC V. 5#3)
Representatives of the Friends of The Merril
Collection met Monday, Sept. 19 with members of a working group of the
Toronto Public Library (TPL) Board to iron out issues ranging from the
roles of Friends organizations within the TPL system to the future of the
Merril Collection in the new building and staffing.
At this meeting, the Friends delegation presented a
position paper that outlined the Friends' concerns and responses to two TPL
documents: "Overview of Roles for Toronto Public Library Boards and
Friends" and "Special Collections — Priorities for 1994-97."
In that paper, the Friends established that the
organization would best operate as a primarily advisory body to the Toronto
Public Library Board.
"Overview..." document, it had been suggested that Friends
organizations operate solely as fund-raising bodies, and would not have a
role in advising the board or lobbying other levels of government.
As well, the Friends set out a vision of the Merril
Collection that sees the Toronto Public Library maintaining the collection
as a public research facility with a vigorous acquisitions policy.
Members of the TPL working group—which was
established specifically to deal with Merril Collection concerns—also
assured Friends representatives that recommendations in the Special
Collections report won't be considered before Christmas 1994, and agreed to
consult more closely with Friends in the future.
The Special Collections recommendations were of
particular concern to the Friends.
If the report, penned in early 1994, were implemented,
access to the material in the collection could be curtailed by a
combination of budget cuts, staff reductions, cuts in hours of operations
and user fees.
In particular, the library would lose one full-time
staff member, cataloguing would be centralized and out of library staff
hands, and a $50 user fee for users living outside the City of Toronto
would be imposed. [Whatever happens,
Friends of the Merril Collection are exempted from this fee for the time
being. ‑ Editor's Note]
The collection has operated under the auspices of the
Toronto Public Library board since it was established with a donation by
writer Judith Merril in 1970. During that time, the collection has hosted
readings and symposia for such authors as Samuel Delany,
Frederick Pohl and Orson Scott Card; served as an information resource for TVOntario's "Prisoners of Gravity;" and
helped establish an upcoming exhibition on Canadian science fiction with
the National Library of Canada. The collection is slated to move to a new,
larger building next year.
For years now, since the first definite plans for a
new building in 1981, we have been looking forward to the time when the
Merril Collection would be housed in a way befitting the size, scope, and
importance of its holdings. During the good years, when the Toronto Public
Library as a whole was growing, the staffing and the facilities of the
Merril Collection did not benefit commensurately, since we were all looking
forward to the new building where the Merril Collection would finally have
all its holdings in one place and its own facility for hosting special
However, doubts have now been raised that this dream
will truly be fulfilled. Cutbacks in staff and services, and shifting of
responsibilities have been contemplated that we feel would be highly
detrimental to the future health of the Merril Collection. Holdings and
facilities may wind up being dispersed in the new building, so that the
situation will, at best, be no better than it is now. Discussions have
begun to seek ways to ensure that our concerns are met. Future developments
will be reported in this newsletter, as they happen.
Glen Cook was in
Toronto on April 10, 1994, to read from his latest 'Garrett, P.I.' book and
from "Glittering Stone," a work in progress. Afterwards he gave
Sol Rising a 30 minute interview, Part I of which appears below. Part II
will appear in our next issue.
MG: The first thing I'd like to
talk about, because I thought it was amazing, is how you wrote so many of
your books on the assembly line. A lot of your readers know that you worked
for General Motors for a long time. And the fact that you wrote books at
the same time—and so many—is just mind-boggling. Not just one
or two, but three or four came out one year.
GC: In fact, I had three come
out in one month one time. But it was just luck of the draw, the way it
MG: How did you actually do
GC: The particular job that I
had was tightening down the nuts that held the wheels on the pick-up trucks
on one side, and it didn't take any thinking. We just glanced up to see
what kind of truck was coming and load the proper gun with the appropriate
nuts and when it got there, it was zip! zip! It
was fairly physical because the machines that you use to put them on are
real heavy and they're on a balance, but they still weigh a couple hundred
pounds, and you have to start 'em and move 'em up to the truck and pull it back when it's done and
lift it back up. So there's a lot of momentum to be overcome and to manage
and nobody wanted to do the job. And I could do the job. After I learned
how to it, I could do the job and have plenty of time left over to do
something else, so I would take a regular notebook in there and just write
a few words at a time. And every day I would come home with three or four
pages of stuff done. And usually it was in good enough shape that it didn't
really need any revision, or very little. And I was trying out a lot of
stuff when I was doing that. That was only for a few years. When that plant
closed down, 'cause they moved production elsewhere, I had to go to a
farther away plant; it just ended up taking up all my time driving to and
fro and not being able to do anything inside. So for four years, I didn't
produce much of anything.
MG: This is recent?
GC: I guess it was May of 1988—maybe
it was more than four years. I've only had two books come out since I been out there… One was Deadly Quicksilver Lies, which just came out last month (March
1994] and Red Iron Nights, which
came out in 1991, I think.
MG: Your next one in that series
is Petty Pewter Gods. Are there
plans for one called Blooded Steel
GC: Yeah. I think that's the
working title for the one I'll do after this.
MG: All that explains why it's
been such a long time...
GC: And also, my kids have been
at that age when they require more attention. Years ago, my oldest—who's
now thirteen—was a baby, and I'd just put him under the table where I
worked and he'd be happy to just roll around and crawl around there and
play with his rattles and whatnot. And now I've got three of them, the
oldest is thirteen and he plays basketball and does this and that, and he's
got to be taken there and he's got to be brought home and you got to go
watch the games to be a good parent… I do that because my parents
never came and saw anything that we did when we were kids. They cared, but
they didn't get involved with it. And I always kinda
resented that, so I try to go the opposite way with my kids.
MG: Were you much into sports,
when you were a kid?
GC: Ah, I played some sports in
high school. I played some football and track, rifle team, in high school.
Our high school rifle team were state champions
four years running. Never lost a match.
MG: So, when you talk about
weapons, you have a pretty good idea of what you're talking about.
GC: Well, it's
weapons of the past now. Up to the time when I got out of the service, I
knew a little bit about it. I never kept up with it. The technology of
today is financially run. I'm sometimes amazed at some of the devices of
destruction that are available.
MG: So you were actually in the
military for a while, too.
GC: I was in the navy, the U.S.
MG: Was that back in the Viet Nam years?
GC: Ah, from '62 to '71,
something like that. Most of it was reserve time. I didn't actually go over
to Viet Nam. I went from active service
into the reserves just as the group of people I was with were
getting ready. I got out about two months before they went over in '65. So
I avoided the really nasty stuff. I volunteered a couple of times later on
to go back on active duty and go run the river gun boats, but they figured,
if this guy's willing to volunteer, we don't want him! (Laughs) I'm just as
glad that it didn't work out.
MG: Between you and your
friends, it gave you a good feeling for the common soldier,
that really comes across in your work, especially in the Black
GC: Yeah, I think so. Lot of those guys in the Black
Company, at least in the beginning, were guys I was in the service with
MG: I was wondering. I had a
feeling that they could have been corporals or sergeants you had known in
GC: Oh yeah. They're usually
based upon people. I can't even remember the character's names in the
books, but there's a nasty armoury sergeant that
seems to creep into every one of my military type books because he was so
cool! For a guy who spent his whole life training to kill people, he went
home and had a flower garden. His hobby was gardening
MG: Is the "Garrett"
series going to continue indefinitely?
GC: Well, we're starting to run
out of the obvious metals that would be in a culture at that level of
technology. It's kind of hard to make good rhythmic titles out of things
like molybdenum and technetium. (Laughs) I don't know how long it'll go on.
It's commercially the most successful stuff I've done. So, I'm sure some
publisher will keep going as long as I keep writing. As long as I keep
interested in it. I always think, well, I'll get this done and there won't
be any more ideas and it'll be over. But right now, I'm working on one and
already have enough ideas for another one… That'll make nine and
we'll see. I'm sure something else could come up after that. I keep having
fleeting notions of this and that... And it's not something that I'm having to look for, for ideas. I've never had that
problem, shortage of ideas...
MG: Where do you keep your ideas
when you're not writing them? Do you write it down? Keep it in your
GC: Mostly just keep it in my
head. And then a lot of them go away. I come up with wonderful ideas and I
don't make any notes and three days later I ask, boy, what was that I was
thinking about the other day? It was so neat. And I can't think of a thing.
It's just gone.
MG: Does it come back?
GC: Sometimes. If I'm clever
enough to have a tape going when I have the great idea, if I hear that same
music playing again, it triggers some connection.
MG: I have to know something
personally: does Garrett have a first name?
MG: Are we ever going to know
GC: No. (Laughs) In one book, he
mentions in passing that his mother had called him and his brother "Beewort" and "Poogie",
which is what we called our kids. My oldest boy was... My friends are
mostly science fiction fan-type people. And when he was little, he was just
getting to the point where he was just starting to walk, and they started
calling him "Bee," for some reason. So we made him a little bee
costume, and took him to parties and he'd toddle around in his little bee-costume
and try to steal people's beer and stuff. And he just got called
"Bee" or "Killer Bee" or "Beewort"
for years. And then, Michael, he's the next fellow, he got called "Poogie" for years until he got up there, around
seven or eight years old, smoke would pour out of his ears if anyone called
him "Poogie" any more. (Laughs) Justin,
the little one, he's had innumerable nicknames. Right now it's
"Doodlebug" or "Bug". He's getting up to the age where
he's outgrowing the whole nickname size. He's almost five, so… I
actually spent some time thinking about this. The Romans, they used to not
give a kid their official name until they were two years old, the real
name. They had a nickname until they were three. And I think it was because
that's the period most likely to perish from diseases and things like that.
You don't invest quite as much emotion in them. Even though they're
absolutely precious, you kinda semi-distance yourself so if something happens... And if they get to
be three or four years old, they're going to make it, now you can give them
a name. (Laughs) An awful lot of people in the various cultures seem to do
that, not to use the official name for the first few years.
MG: In the Black Company, none
of them have names, either, except for Morgan, and I couldn't decide if
that was his real name.
GC: That's his real name. When I
first started doing the Black Company, something I've done ever since I
first started writing, was play with names… It used to irritate the
hell outta me when I was in literature classes in
school and they'd go on and on over a week over the meaning of a particular
name in Cervantes or something. So, when I first started writing, I used to
put all this kind of stuff in there just in case sometime down the road
some moron professor was studying this stuff, he'd have something that was
actually put in there on purpose, instead of making it up in order to have
an excuse to have a job… One of my best buddies in college wrote his
master's thesis on the meaning of the name of Don Quixote's horse, because he was the first person, apparently, in
the entire history of the world who saw that it could be, from some earlier
dialect of Spanish, a contraction of two other words. And he presented this
as something he could do and they bought it! (Laughs) Anyway, for those
kinds of people, I always used to play games. When I did the Dread Empire
stuff, an awful lot of people complained, "Oh, I can't pronounce this
name; it's too hard to figure out. So I just changed the name in my head to
‘Joe.’" So I said, "All right. For you people who are
just so damn lazy that you can't even figure out a foreign-sounding name
for your own trouble, when we do this, every single place name will be some
simple word like "Jewel" that you can pronounce! And everybody
will have a nickname, so you don't have to worry how to pronounce their
names! And also, the guys that I hung with when I was in the service, we
all called each other by nicknames. Actually, I was one of those people who
didn't get a nickname, I was just
"Cook." People with short, simple names generally end up just
being called by their last names. Unless they have some peculiar
characteristic. Sometimes, you never understand where it comes from. They
came with them, born with these names. You know,
improbable names. Right now, you find on the streets, in the States,
anyway, in amongst the young blacks, you find the most off-the-wall
nicknames. You can't figure out how they ever came up with them. It's all
part of the game of playing with words... It used to bother me—it
bothers my oldest boy now, that nobody has a real special nickname for him.
'Cause his best buddy's named Andrew Weedman, and
they call him—it made no sense at all, nobody knows why they called
him that—"Wobble" and they call his whole family "The
MG: For the benefit of all those
people who weren't here and still want to know about The Glittering Stone, and when it's going to be seen, and so
on, what can you tell us?
GC: Just that it's in process
and that I hope to have it done by the end of the year, which means at
least late 1995 or into '96, 'cause it takes ordinarily another year or
more for a book to come out. Through various economies being what they are
now, publishing scheduling is getting really stretched out. It will
probably be 1996, at best. Even if I get into it again in a big way and
really get it done in a hurry, probably no sooner that 1997.
MG: You were saying downstairs
that it's probably going to take another two books to wrap it up.
GC: Yeah, I'm thinking about
doing another one after that, tentatively entitled She Is the Darkness. And who knows?
(Glen Cook confirmed at Conadian
in September that Glittering Stone isnow a trilogy, to be turned in
September 1995, and that he had just turned in another "Garrett"
book, Petty Pewter Gods.)
Josepha Sherman, a true
New Yorker and writer and editor of speculative fiction, shared a panel on
writing SF and fantasy with Steve Stirling at the
Merril Collection in August 1994. Afterwards, she chatted about her books,
editing and her true love: folklore, in all its guises.
MG: I was intrigued when I read The Shining Falcon, to read about
its background; is it more slavic or Russian?
JS: It's Russian, about ninety
percent Russian, about ten percent miscellaneous slavic.
MG: You mentioned that it came
from your grandmother.
JS: Some of it did, but I'm also
a practising folklorist, so some of it is my own.
I'm a threefold menace: professional writer, professional folklorist, and
professional editor. And in my spare time... I don't have any.
MG: So it was drawn from where
you came from as a young person and what you studied in school and everything.
How did it happen?
JS: The Shining Falcon was not the way you ordinarily sell a story.
Because I had written something and sent it to Avon and they went mmm... and Chris Miller at Avon asked me at a party, do you
have anything else? And to my amazement, I found myself spinning this
entire story out of the subconscious and then I had to go home and write
it, and she bought it!
MG: And that was The Shining Falcon?
JS: That was The Shining Falcon. So I have no
idea where it came from! It was inspired by folklorists; there was a story
about Finist, but... I don't know. I didn't know
half of it as I was saying it. It happens like that sometimes.
MG: Did you sit down and write
JS: No, I had to write an
outline. She said, Oo, show me an outline. So I
had to go home and write an outline. And she bought it from the outline.
Because she already knew I could finish a book. But that was a while back,
in '89, and since then I have left Avon... So I came into Baen through a weird way. I had had no intention of
sending books to Baen, because I worked there. It
would be awkward. And then Misty (Mercedes) Lackey's blue jay landed on my
head. And all was changed.
MG: ... A blue jay landed on
Yes, Misty has a blue jay—she's a bird rehabilitator. And she has a
blue jay that cannot be released to the wild who
is now a pet and his name is Rodan, a.k.a. the
blue jay from hell. Rodan does things like
turning people's computers off while they're working on them—he flew
in one day and pecked the reset button. Seriously.
MG: This bird knows.
JS: Yeah, he also flies quickly,
which is why he's still around. So I had met Misty at the ABA—American
Booksellers's Association—and that was one
thing, but then I was at a convention that she was at and I was having a
serious book discussion with a book dealer and suddenly I had a blue jay
sitting on my head. And so the rest was history and we decided... well,
let's put it this way, this is how publishing works sometimes: I got a call
from Bill Fawcett, who was packaging the Bride's Tale books, "What do
you think about the book?" And I said, "What book?"
"Oh, the book with Misty." "What book with Misty?"
"Oh, the one you agreed on." "I never agreed on it."
"Oh, nobody told you?"
MG: The author is the last to
JS: Well, in this case, the
author was the last one to know. And then Jim said, "If you've got any
other manuscripts out there, I'll buy 'em."
And the rest is history .... I do not buy my own books, I do not edit my own books. And you'd better
believe that my books are clean. They do not need much editing,
'cause I know. And, Walker was pretty much the same way,
'cause I'm editing their young adult fantasy line. And that came about
because I was doing some free lance work for them and I said, what the hay,
and submitted Child of Faerie. And
it sold through the roof. It's almost sold out the second printing now. And
it dawned on them: there's a market.
So, they said, "How would you like to edit this line?" So,
I'm editing for two houses. And again, I don't buy my own fantasy books for
MG: So you go through the same
procedure any one does.
JS: Yeah, a little insider
whatever, 'cause I can talk to the people face to face. And August House is
a weird story, how I got with them. I had answered an ad for colouring books writers, 'cause I had written a colouring book, and—don't laugh—for forty-two
lines I got $500 U.S. Right. So, I thought, well, I'll try that again. The
deal didn't work out, but the woman was a friend of another woman. That
woman I got talking to, she was a friend of Liz Parkhurst
who's the co-owner of August House. As it happened, they were looking to
put together a book in their series of American folklore—Jewish
American folklore. I wrote a sampler of Jewish American folklore for them,
it sold nicely. I did Rachel the
Clever and other Jewish folk tales for them and then, I got the
inspiration for the forthcoming one, coming out in November, Once Upon a Galaxy; folklore, fantasy
and science fiction. I'llgive
you a riddle: what does Superman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and Bugs Bunny
have in common?... They all have a background in world folklore. Every one
of them has tie-ins with ancient stories. And that's what the book is
about. It shows their mythic and folkloric roots… Bugs Bunny is a
trickster figure. But the creators of Bugs Bunny didn't know that. They had
no idea that they were creating a trickster. You could say, in the
collective unconscious or whatever, the archetypes live. In Star Wars, Lucas knew what he was
doing because he'd studied under Joseph Campbell. But the others, no…
And, I'm working on two more books for August House; the next one is going
to be called: Greasy, Grimy Gopher
Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Children. It's coming out in spring of
'95. And it's co-written with Toni Weisskopf.
She's executive editor at Baen, and we're both on
Genie, the electronic bulletin board, and that's where we got the idea .... You wouldn't believe the rhymes we're getting:
we're getting it from adults, we're getting it
MG: How are you collecting
JS: I've been going around to
schools and libraries, I've been speaking to
children… We're trying to limit it to U.S., 'cause otherwise, it would
be forever. U.S. and Canada have the same rhymes for
obvious reasons; the kids are in touch with each other... These things
travel, that's what makes folklore such fun!
MG: That's one of your two books
coming out next year.
JS: The other one from August
House is a book of trickster tales... Coming out from Baen
next year is a fantasy novel, The
Shattered Oath, book one of a duology, but it
will be a complete book in itself; I do not do cliffhangers! I think that
is cheating the reader, any body who does a cliffhanger... At Baen, they try to keep the trilogy in print and they
try to put them out every six months. Do you know why trilogies are so pop-u-lar? Marketing. J. R. R. Tolkien;
you can blame him. Lord of the Rings was
turned in as one book; it was too fat, the publisher decided, let's divide
it. No, it's too big for two books, let's make it three! That's where the
trilogy started… Well, I thank Professor Tolkien, he's done me an
awful lot of good. He's the reason I'm a folklorist. He wrote an essay on
faerie stories and, at the time, I didn't know some of the references, and
I got curious. And I started reading, and I got hooked. So, blame him for a
lot!... Let me get back to The Shattered Oath, because I'm proud of that one. It is set in
eighth century A.D. Ireland and, if you think it was easy
to research that time period, you got another thought coming. There's very
little written, in English. I found the Annals
of the Irish Kings, which was written by the monks of the time, and,
oh, everything works out beautifully. You have serendipitous accidents that
aren't accidents. I needed a love interest for the hero. The hero is a
prince of the Sidhe, who has been unjustly exiled
by his very suspicious brother, and he's stuck in the human world in Ireland, and this is the Christian
era, so it's not such a great time for him to be there. And I needed him to
have a love interest to show that he's got a gentler side, who was it going
to be? Well, I wanted him to have a strong female character. I don't like
wimpy women, I don't write them... What's she going to be doing in the High
King's fortress, an unmarried woman? Okay, she's a widow. Well, what's she
doing there? Well, she's gotta be the daughter of
somebody important. Then I found out that the High King—it's an
actual High King that I'm using—had a chief minister and poet. Bingo!
She's his daughter. I also needed something spectacular. It turns out that
in the reign of King Aedh, who ruled during the
end of the eighth century and the beginning of the ninth; the book takes
place more or less in 798-799 A.D.—in his reign, there was a horrendous
storm, that killed so many people, that it was reputed to be sorcerous! As it happened, the villain of the
piece, who is a false cleric from Rome, he's a Frankish nobleman who
was put into the church, because that is what you do with second sons, has
conjured a demon. Just by pure coincidence, I made it an Arridu, who is a storm demon. I didn't know about this
big storm at the time. See how serendipity works? The sequel's going to
take our hero to Anglo-Saxon England.
MG: What's the hero's name?
JS: ArdaghLithanial. I wanted a name that sounded vaguely
Celtic without sounding too Celtic. It turns out that there is a archaic Celtic name, Ardagh.
Yes, I'm telling you, this is strange. And his clan name, his royal name,
is Lithanial... What else can I tell you? Oh yes,
it's set in the eighth century and, just by chance, everything works out
again. At the beginning of the eighth century there had been a strong king
ruling in the Saxon kingdom, which was not all of England. He died in 800, and there
was chaos. Isn't that perfect? There's a lot of
tie-ins, a lot of tie-ins. Everything historically... when it happens like
that, it's wonderful... Did you want to talk about the books that are in
MG: Yes. There's The Shining Falcon, and The Horse of Flame takes place in
the same universe.
JS: Yes. That's an independent
sequel. You don't have to have read the first one to read the second one...
They're technically still in print. The Baen
books are still in print; so are the Walker and so are
the August House. And I have two co-operations with Mercedes Lackey in
print and three solo novels in print from Baen...
The latest one is King's Son, Magic's
MG: And you did Castle of Deceptionwith Mercedes Lackey ....
JS: Castle of Deceptionwas co-written... it was all thanks to a blue jay.
MG: And then you have a sequel
JS: Yes, The Chaos Gate isa
direct sequel, because—I don't want to give anything away from the
first book—but let's say I thought the characters deserved a little
more story. So, I did a sequel... The gaming world, being a gaming world,
didn't make much sense. So we tried to make some sense out of it, make it
believable, give it some rules, some limitations. We didn't want it to be a
D&D book. It worked. It's sold so far 100,000+ copies. So it worked.
We're not complaining: it was a fun book to write. It's not a deep book, it's not a heavy book. It's a quick read. It's
meant to be light entertainment... It's not literary.
MG: And there's two more.
JS: Yeah, A Strange and Ancient Name is set half in Faerie and half in
twelfth century France. So, again, a lot of
historical research went into that. Except for the faerie part, of course;
it's really difficult to study Faerie, it's always changing. And King's Son, Magic's Son isjust out. It came out in June, and—how
do I capsulize it? It's the story of a young
magician who is trying to earn the right to court his lady love from
Faerie, who finds out that his half-brother is the king. And, unfortunately,
our hero has already sworn to a Faerie lord but is forced to swear a vow to
help his brother, too. And not even a magician can serve two masters.
MG: Since some of our readers
will be interested in how you wear two hats at the same time, let's focus
on that. How did you get into editing?
JS: Through the back door, as a
lot of editors did. I had started out to be an archaeologist. I worked in
the MetropolitanMuseum as assistant curator in the
ancient east department. But there's no place to advance in a museum
without killing the person ahead of you. There's just no
openings. So, I did some temp work while I was writing, to earn a
living, and one of the temp jobs was for Jean Karl, who at the time was
heading up the Atheneum/Argo line of young adult
fantasy and science fiction—and if you don't know that, you really
should, because she published people like Patricia McKillip,
and Anne McCaffrey's dragon books, the young adult ones, and Ursula Le Guin's trilogy The
Wizard of Earthsea. And she thought that I
knew the genre, and I started reading for her as a free-lancer. And then I
started reading for Baen as a free-lancer and
little by little wound up being an editor. Now I'm a consulting editor
MG: What's a consulting editor?
JS: It means I'm free-lancing, basically.
I'm an acquisitions editor: I acquire the new talent. It means I go through
an awful lot of slush, unsolicited manuscripts. I'm looking for the new
MG: What are you looking for?
JS: Good books... Good writing,
good story-telling; science fiction, fantasy. I can't say anything else:
that's basically it. You know it when you see it, when you get the real
thrill going, when you're reading something, you
know it's going to be good... I look at the first chapter. If the first
chapter is putrid, I may look at the second if the writing was half-way
decent. That's as far as I'll go though, usually, 'cause if it's not good
by the second chapter, you know it's garbage. Some
of them are so bad, you feel like shaking people by the scruff of the neck.
This is a business, learn the business!... I'd say
ninety percent of what we get is just mediocre. Yes, just plain mediocre.
And only about five percent is really bad. And the really bad ones we
adore, too, but you don't want to know about that. And of the remaining
five percent, maybe three percent are actually publishable and do get
MG: So how clean does something
have to be? How much work are you willing to invest in a new novel?
JS: It's got to be as finished
as the writer can make it. I will not look at first drafts. I want to see
professional work. And by that I don't mean they have to worry about
"Oh, my God! I left out a comma!" I mean that it has to look like
they know what they're doing and they're telling a good, professional story.
MG: How much revision are you
willing to do?
JS: It depends on the writer. I
can't make it hard and fast. I don't want to see any revision unless I
specifically asked for it. If I've asked for it, yes I do want to
MG: Is there anything else you'd
like to pass on, since a lot of our readers are aspiring writers?
JS: Read, practise,
persevere, write, finish what you're writing, send out what you're writing,
keep sending out what you're writing, don't quit your day job! What
else can I say?
MG: One last question: do you
think there are too many vampire stories and Arthurian stories getting
JS: Yes, but they still sell.
MG: Do you still look at them?
is not a good market for vampire stories. We've published one. And, we have
an anthology of science fiction vampire stories, reprint stories. This is
not a market; repeat: this is not a market. Science fiction vampire stories,
do you want to know what the title is? Brace yourself: Tomorrow Sucks, Ikid
you not... Edited by Toni Weisskopf. It's coming
out any minute now, in October. And Arthurian. We just reprinted The Winter Prince, which is an
Arthurian book. But I personally am sick to death of Arthur. But that
doesn't mean I won't look at something that's well written, but it has to
be really good... Now you can go off and write!