On Wednesday in Saratoga Springs I got to see three variations of this spectacular cover for “The Glass Galago,” which is the third* of The Gales and which will be out in a couple months. Irene Gallo showed me this lush and beautiful Richard Anderson image, and I squealed like a little child newly in possession of all the ice cream.
I am sitting in the hotel room in Saratoga Springs as I write this, checking my UCLA classrooms and talking with my students about what makes a person or non-human character monstrous. They’re asking: is the monstrous always just about making someone Other? Some might say any ordinary person with a defective moral compass–your classic heartless killer or other all-too-human predator– can be a monster. And in non-fiction, that scans for me. If a journalist wants to call Charles Manson a monster, I’m not going to quibble.
In fiction, my taste runs to the more than human monsters. I like for them to have a whiff of the transcendent. In the above series of stories, Gale Feliachild occasionally regards Captain Garland Parrish as monstrous, even though he’s not even remotely evil. He’s overly blessed by nature, you see: impossibly handsome, exceedingly graceful, and good at almost everything he turns his mind to. It’s just about too much. He’s good, but he can easily be jealousy-inducing. We all know people like this: coveting their good fortune makes us feel small, and it’s hard not to blame them.
The current TV version of Hannibal Lecter has an intense aestheticism and is so robustly athletic that he’s as hard to kill as The Terminator. Some of his qualities are appealing–his love is so pure!–and that makes his compulsion to kill and eat the rude all the more awful. And the fact that we can empathize with the idea of quelling the rude, neglectful and genuinely awful people we run across from time to time actually increases the effect… it invites us to consider whether we might not condone more than we should.
In “The Glass Galago,” First Mate Garland Parrish of the sailing vessel Nightjar finally tells his employer, Gale Feliachild, what it was that got him discharged from the Fleet of Nations.
These stories are set about fifteen years before the events of Child of a Hidden Sea and A Daughter of No Nation. Some of you may have heard me characterize the pieces as the adventures of Doctor Who and her very pretty companion. I know January’s a way off (124 sleeps, to be precise!) but I hope you enjoy it.
The second uber-fun thing this week: my cousin Tee from Edmonton is in town, vacationing with her beau. We spent yesterday mooching around Kensington Market and catching up in the very moist heat of a hot summer’s day. Toronto hasn’t been overly warm or humid this summer, but this was a classic sweatbox experience. Which meant we ended up, eventually, in a pub, with icy beers in hand. Tee and I don’t know each other well… she is awesome, but there’s a seventeen-year age gap, and the last time we saw each other was at Grandma’s funeral. Needless to say, it was really terrific to strengthen the acquaintance at an event not involving death.
Third but definitely not least: Kelly and I went to a Gothic Romance Master Class session at TiFF where director Guillermo del Toro discussed and then screened a 90 minute speed version of Jane Eyre starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. The movie was lacking many things, including the entire last half of the plot and almost any significant characterization of Jane herself, but del Toro’s analysis and his obvious love for gothic romance was illuminating. Kelly did a great write-up, which is here.
I saw all three instalments of the Hobbit this weekend, and I find I don’t have much to say about it. It went down better, in some ways, because I had just rewatched the extended Lord of the Rings. Of course, it also suffered in comparison, especially since both the storytelling and characterization were so much weaker. Bilbo’s play with the Arkenstone was brilliant, and nicely executed. But the Bilbo/Thurin relationship never gelled for me. The actors and direction were a bit too wooden, and as a result the emotional beats were as often miss as hit.
On the small screen and only two episodes in, I am very much enjoying Marvel’s Agent Carter.
It’s gray outside as I write this, and dense-grained snowflakes are falling swiftly from above, their descent lines barely aslant, as if there’s no breeze at all. It was chilly and windy all weekend, but I still found it more invigorating than miserable. As long as the snow itself isn’t wet, the rest seems quite bearable.
Sophie Hansa had barely worked out that she was falling before she struck the surface of an unknown body of water.
First, there’d been a blast of wind. A tornado? Rushing air, pounding at her eardrums, had plucked her right off the ground. Howling, it had driven her upward, pinwheeling and helpless, over the rooftops of the houses and shops, carrying her up above the fog, in a cloud of grit and litter, trashcan lids, uprooted weeds, discarded heroin needles, and a couple very surprised rats.
Those of you who’ve read “Among the Silvering Herd,” and “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” might notice that the novel starts about a dozen years further on. Gale Feliachild is older, and Garland Parrish is no longer the first mate of Nightjar–he’s the captain. (Then again, chapter one doesn’t quite get us to Parrish, and Gale’s got a lot on her plate, including a near-fatal stab wound and a niece who overshares when stressed, so maybe that’s not obvious.)
I’m so excited to see this book making its way out to you all! If you have any questions or comments, throw them my way–either here or at the Tor site.
A couple of you have asked about things that inspire me, so I thought I’d mention that this trilogy owes a huge debt to the BBC Nature team and particularly the various series presented by Sir David Attenborough. The moth migration and resulting prey bonanza described in this chapter were inspired by any number of real-world natural events. Here’s one such event, from Life in the Undergrowth. It’s sardines, and not insects, but it’s amazing footage, the kind Sophie Hansa aspires to shoot one day. You can see the predators gathering, above and below, to take that bait ball apart.
The BBC videographers lavish resources on photodocumenting parts of the natural world I can only hope to visit one day, along with parts I’ll never see, either because they’re inaccessible or, sadly, likely to disappear in the not too distant future. I transmute their work into fiction. Inspiration, like everything, is an ecosystem of sorts.
I must, right? You write a portal fantasy, and one of the perks must be that you get a gorgeous map, drawn by a professional, with Game of Thrones steampunky fabulousness and vast deserts and picturesquely named verdant forests, all populated by something way cooler than Ewoks.
This is one of my favorite kinds of question, because there are several answers, and some of them just about contradict each other.
Answer #1 – Yes! Stormwrack is the same size as Earth, though its orbital tilt and the length of its day are different. It takes 365 days to orbit its sun. Zero latitude and the international date line run through the great Verdanii city of Moscasipay, which is the home of something Wrackers call a World Clock. In more comprehensible terms, the Greenwich of this world is located on the same latitude as present-day Saskatoon.
I made the above choices because I wanted to be able to look at a map of our world and say “Okay, The Autumn District of Sylvanna is roughly where Tennessee is, and that means the sailing time from Moscasipay, in a ship moving at X speed, is Y days.” This makes things much easier for me, as someone who has some deficits in the map-reading area. It also fits with my having given Stormwrack many Earth-like qualities: the same gravity, tides, a similar ebb and flow of the seasons.
Why? Stormwrack is mostly ocean. The land there takes the form of small archipelagos of islands. They’re much like the Galapagos: little blobs of terrain, each with its own microclimate. The biggest land mass is, again, Verdanii, and that’s not even as big as Australia. So here’s the problem: a map of the whole world, printed at the size of even a double hardcover page, would be water, water, water and more water. Take a page of blue construction paper, sprinkle a pinch of basil on it, and you’ll get the idea.
Aha, you may be thinking, do a partial! Excellent point. Some months ago I had a conversation with my editor, Stacy Hague-Hill, about whether there could be a map of the region where Child of a Hidden Sea takes place. But Nightjar crosses from one archipelago to another in this book: Sophie visits Stele Island and then Erinth (the island where “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti” is set.) She sails from there to a place called Tallon and finally ends up hooking up with the Fleet of Nations, at sea. There are also a few stops in San Francisco.
In the second and third books, Sophie and Parrish spend a fair amount of time on Sylvanna, without so much zipping around, so maybe we’ll revisit the issue.
Another Yes! Of course I have an actual map of Stormwrack at home, laid out atop of a map of Earth, with pins marking important locations and saying which sea is which.
But also, No! Since I can’t draw, at all, the islands on the above-mentioned artifact look like someone pounded a bunch of Pop Rocks and blue-green wax crayons into some silly putty and threw it all into their microwave.
Finally, Yes and No–there are lies! I have a Gale story drafted, called “Island of the Giants.” In it, Parrish finds out that the official Fleet Maps of Stormwrack contain some politically motivated fibs. I don’t know yet when Sophie’s going to work that one out, but I promise she will be deeply unimpressed.
Paul Weimer was kind enough to pitch me this question a couple of weeks ago when I started asking what all of you who read this blog might want to know, about me or the books or, really, anything.