уторак, 27. април 2010.
Nightflier's Interviews - S.M. Stirling
Stiv Stirling je jedan od trenutno najboljih pisaca alternativne istorije - i najpopularnijih. Premda je kod nas nepoznat, domaćim čitaocima fantastike biće zanimljiv po tome što je član književnog kružoka Džordža Martina i njegov zemljak i prijatelj. Naravno, pitao sam ga i o tome. Ovo je prvi u nizu razgovora koje sam vodio s domaćim i stranim delatnicima i pregaocima na raznoraznim fantastičnim poljima. Uživajte.
NF: A lot of those who will read this interview aspire to be published writers. One of the first things those kind of people want to know about successful authors is what made you want to write in the first place? What is your favorite book? How did you got published? Who are your favorite writers? Do you have any role-models in the literature?
SM: I've always told myself long, brightly-hued, intricately organized daydreams, as early as I can remember. I was surprised to learn that some people don't, in fact. While not all people who do that are writers, all writers do that, to the best of my knowledge.
Then, of course, I started reading fiction. Writing it was a combination of irresistible impulse, an "I can do that" feeling, and a desire to read the book that nobody else had quite written.
"My favorite book" depends on the mood I'm in. I'm passionately fond of classic adventure fiction, the tradition from the chansons du geste on through Haggard and Buchan and Kipling, but in some states of mind I've enjoyed Hardy. And I read a -lot- of nonfiction.
As for getting published, I just sent in my manuscript and waited. This is difficult and includes an element of dumb luck, hitting the right editor on the right day, and it's harder now than it was in the 1980's. Apart from writing a good book -- don't try to write to market, it can't be done -- all I can say is to avoid the obvious mistakes. Put the manuscript in proper format, check what the publisher wants, which is usually available on their websites (don't send horror novels when they're only buying romance!), and be prepared for a lot of rejection. I know people who've given up when they got a -favorable- reply, asking for revisions. That's reason to jump around the room yelling with joy! You have to have a professional attitude.)
(I sold my first short story in the same year I sold my first novel. The editor called and said he liked it, but that the ending was ambiguous. I thought that was odd, but I was willing to modify it. It took ten minutes of talking at cross-purposes before we realized I hadn't sent the last page.)
My favorite authors also vary; I certainly like a lot of the moderns, Harry Turtledove, Dave Drake, and so forth. I was Poul Anderson fan from an early age and was privileged to know him.
NF: The first books written by you that I ever read were Draka novels. Than I knew that I am reading a work by master of alternative history. Today you are considered one of the Holy Trinity of alternative history writers, alongside Turtledove and Flint. What made you so interested in that subgenre? Do you even consider it subgenre of it's own?
SM: It's becoming a subgenre. My interest was partly because I've always been fascinated by history, which is the sum of all stories, and partly because of the way that choices and accident affect everyone's life. If an individual, then how not the world?
NF: I know that you said several times that there is a slim chance for the next Draka novel to be published, but is there a chance for a story or a short novel set in that universe of yours? How and why does a series of novels considered to be cult one by the fans and internet community stop being published?
SM: Three reasons: I'm not with that publisher any more, I've moved on and am now in a different place and don't want to write them any more, and frankly while they aroused intense interest (both positive and negative) they didn't sell spectacularly well. Put them together with the fact that I've got far, far more ideas for books I'd enjoy writing than I'll ever have time to write them...
NF: You tend to describe "great white hunters" so well that many consider you to be right-wing writer, but at the same time one of your most famous character is a African-American lesbian. In your Peshawar Lancers, Change novels and Lords of Creation novels Russians are depicted as stupid bad guys, but at the same time you chose to write a short novel for GRRM's Warriors set in post-Change Russia (I haven't read it yet. I'm waiting the book to arrive). Is there a purpose to choosing stereotypical bad guys and then turning all that upside down?
SM: There may be, but the process is subconscious. I'm upfront about my debt to the great adventure writers of the past like Harold Lamb (who was also fond of Cossack heroes, by the way, which is what my story in Warriors features) but I'm of my era, not theirs.
NF: Let me get back to your beginnings as a writer: you've done a lot of collaborative work with David Drake. Did it help you to become the renowned author on your own? How does that work? Are there any rules and guidelines for writing collaborations? Do you sometimes consider going back to those characters and themes you wrote so many years ago?
SM: Writing with Dave was a pleasure and an education. Dave plots his works out very fully before writing them. At the time I thought this odd and constraining, but as we went on I came to realize how much work this saved and how it enabled the writer to concentrate on different parts of the process at separate times and so focus more intensely. Also he's just interesting to be around -- a scholar and a gentleman in the best senses of the word.
Collaborations are as individual as the people doing them. I've had everything from some vague suggestions to the intense two-way process it was with Dave. Some have been a pleasure to do, some not so much.
NF: I enjoyed great deal Lords of Creation novels. I've recently translated League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and I found myself craving for those Golden Age worlds. What made you return to those tropes an motifs? When will we see more novels in that series?
SM: The Lords of Creation was a great deal of fun; I took a minor hit simply because I wanted to write them. However, they appeal more to people already saturated in SFnal tropes, I find.
NF: Same question for Conquistador? Do you have plans for more novels in that universe? Perhaps some kind of tie-in with the Emberverse?
SM: I certainly left room for sequels, but again, right now I'm contracted up for years with the Emberverse and my new secret-history, quasi-urban-fantasy series that will start with A TAINT IN THE BLOOD (out in May).
There's an old joke: "How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Forget about that, let me tell you about MY lightbulb..."
I'm always most interested in and positive about the book I'm working on now.
NF: I must admit that Change novels are right now my favorite books. I'm eagerly waiting each new novel. What gave you the idea for Dies the Fire?
SM: I had something of the sort vaguely in mind while working on ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME; after all, it's natural to wonder what happened to the rest of the world while Nantucket went back to 1250 BCE, and there are elaborate cosmological speculations underlying the whole thing.
NF: In the Change novels you give homage to great fantasy and sf writers, to Tolkien most of all. But I always wondered why do you not mention other famous writers as well? There is a slim chance that those who loved Tolkien did not play D&D or read works by Robert Jordan or George Martin. I'm still waiting for Rangers to have animal companions - wolfhound, at least - and to read about paladins in the Changed world. Jest aside, why did you gave so much space to Tolkien's work? Do you find him personally important?
SM: He's one of the giants, of course, but the main reason the Dunedain are obsessed with him is the workings of Astrid's psyche. In my experience her particular sort of fanish quasi-lunacy tends to be exclusive, particularly at 14, which is her age when the Change struck.
The rest of the book has, if you look closely, a fair number of homages to other work!
NF: Eric Flint opened up his Ring of Fire series to other authors. Is there any chance for you to do the same with Emberverse? Do you like fan-fiction? You are the member of probably the most talented writing group in the history of genre. Is there any chance to read a collaborative work done by you and GRRM or you and Daniel Abraham?
SM: No collaborations planned right now. There's a possibility for a shared-world anthology set in the Change universe sometime... maybe.
NF: How does writing group work anyway? Do you talk about different ideas, approaches to writing? Do you comment on each other's work? Hey, do you get to read new Song of Ice and Fire stuff before us mortals?
SM: We meet once a month (except when something urgent intervenes). We e-mail chunks of work (usually not more than 100 pages) to each other and then meet to critique. It's a lot of fun and I've learned a great deal.
NF: You announced new series of urban fantasy novels. Daniel Abraham wrote two of them by another name. What got you interested in that subgenre of fantasy? Do you have some favorite authors that work in that field? Have you read Laurell Hamilton or Jim Butcher?
SM: Yes, I've read others in that field. As for why... well, the Change series has done very well, but I didn't want to get typecast. I had a number of other ideas, and I ran them by my publisher and agent, and they decided to go with that one. As I said, I've got -lots- of ideas for books!
NF: I live in Serbia and whole of Balkans is burdened by too much history.
SM: "May you live in interesting times", as the saying goes. Generally speaking we Anglo-Saxons export our interesting bits.
NF: A large part of us living here have different blood comingling in our veins. I myself am part Serb and part Vlach (Walachian). You were born in France and lived in several countries before settling in New Mexico and you write alternative history - that gives you unique perspective on history and interpretations of history. In your opinion - does ours, yours, everyone's history really matter, or it's just burden of fables and half-truths?
SM: The answer to that question is "yes", I'm afraid! Yes it matters, yes, there are fables and half-truths (remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant) but fables and myths themselves are real things, and things of terrifying power. Humans live by their dreams -- the trouble starts when they try to live -in- their dreams.
NF: Do you have any advice for the young writers who want to get published? Anything else that I've missed?
SM: Write. Finish what you write. Then send it out, after making sure what the people you're sending it to want in the way of presentation. And it's a very, very risky field. Don't do it unless you're prepared to do it in your spare time just for the fun of it for a long time.
NF: Well, that's all. I have a hundred more questions, but I don't want to be rude and I would prefer for you to write than to waste time on me, so that I can get your next novel that much sooner. Thank you and it is an great honor.
SM: Thank you; without the readers, I wouldn't exist!