Michelle Sagara lives in Toronto with her long-suffering husband and her two children, and to her regret has no dogs. Reading is one of her life-long passions, and she is sometimes paid for her opinions about what she’s read by the venerable Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. No matter how many bookshelves she buys, there is Never Enough Shelf space. Ever.
By Michella Sagara: I’d like to talk a little bit about an aspect of The Emperor’s Wolves.
So, as is often the case, I’ll start with what might appear to be a digression. When writing a fantasy novel—or an SF novel that is not set in the near present—the question of worldbuilding always arises. Reading—for me—requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The world that is built to support the story has to feel real enough that the suspension of disbelief is not taxed to the breaking point. This doesn’t mean that the world will necessarily stand greater scrutiny and infinite nit-picking; it doesn’t mean that the writer has to be able to answer every single question that a reader might think to ask.
Every writer works differently; everyone processes information and assigns importance to it in their own way. There is overlap, but sometimes it’s the outer edges that define the approach. And I’m going to talk a bit about mine.
When I wrote Hunter’s Oath, the worldbuilding was detail oriented, in that it revolved and evolved around the hunters. But in the creation of the society, one of my driving forces was: I want to have a nobility that is actually respected; I want people to view them in a specific way. What would that require? How would such respect remain constant? The Sacred Hunt came out of that desire.
When I moved to the Empire, in the same world, what I wanted was a more modern sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Since the fantasy world has Kings, how can the rulership be constant? Power centralized in the hands of a very few is too easy to abuse, and a good king can give rise almost immediately to a bad one. People’s character is heavily rooted in their sense cultural sense of ‘normal’. How do I create a society in which a modern sense of right and wrong – and when I say modern I mean almost twenty-five years ago – is the norm in a totally different world?
When I approached the Cast series, it was less heavily world-built. What I wanted was a narrower focus that would be more accessible—something I was not perhaps great at when I first started writing. I wanted to focus on the viewpoint of a single character, who is over-focused on her job and not terribly aware of the struts of the politics that underlay it. Kaylin is therefore the equivalent of a police officer.
The glimpses of the intelligence behind the laws that govern the Empire is definitely not hers. But it definitely does exist.
In The Emperor’s Wolves, the main character is not Kaylin Neya. It’s Severn Handred. He, too, started his working life in the Halls of Law. He didn’t start it in the same department that Kaylin did.
In the Halls of Law, it’s the Wolves that most directly obey the Emperor’s orders. The Emperor, a Dragon, is therefore more involved with the Wolves than with any other branch of the Halls of Law.
Although the Hawks, Swords and Wolves occupy the same Halls of Law, much less is known about the Wolves. Sometimes called the Emperor’s assassins, their orders are handed down from the Emperor. But the man who has been, since their inception, in charge of recruiting and training doesn’t understand either the need for their existence or their purpose. He’s Barrani, and just as immortal as the Emperor—but not as powerful.
The Barrani understand power and its exercise; assassination is almost a game in the long, slow attempt to gain that power. Power is the only safety. Without it, you are forever at the mercy of others who are more powerful. This is the way the world works; it’s the way the world has always worked.
It is not the way the Emperor wants the world to work.
The thought exercise for the background of these novels is this: you have several different races, some of whom are immortal, most of whom are not. They are densest in the capital city, Elantra, because much of the power has been concentrated in the geographical area in which the greatest threat lies: the heart of the city is also a wilderness of wild, ancient, magic, and the city itself a method of containing that magic so that it can’t destroy the rest of the world.
You want to rule this Empire. You want to do so without turning the various people who will become your citizens into piles of blended ash. You want to create a country that’s a container for citizens who would otherwise be that ash, possibly worse. You know that none of them pose an immediate threat, and while life is unpredictable, you are fairly confident that that won’t change any time in the foreseeable future. You know very, very few of these citizens in person; mortals age and die so quickly.
It is your Empire. It is the most important thing in your life. It is the cause to which you have devoted your eternity. You aren’t foolish enough to believe that you will never die—but you wish what remains of the Empire to continue in some fashion long after you have.
How do you build toward that future? What laws beyond Do Not Piss Off the Emperor should exist? What laws will allow the citizens of your Empire to mostly live in peace? Those laws are of little consequence to you personally. How can you enforce those laws across tens of thousands of people you will never meet or personally interact with?
What steps can you take to inhibit the enforcers of the law from becoming a law and a power unto themselves? Accepting that human nature—or any other nature—is what it is, how do you prevent the darker elements of that nature from becoming the only elements that count?
Elantra, imperfect, is the Emperor’s answer.
ABOUT THE EMPEROR’S WOLVES (THE WOLVES OF ELANTRA BOOK 1)
Multiple races carefully navigate the City of Elantra under the Dragon Emperor’s wing. His Imperial Wolves are executioners, the smallest group to serve in the Halls of Law. The populace calls them assassins.
Every wolf candidate must consent to a full examination by the Tha’alani, one of the most feared and distrusted races in Elantra for their ability to read minds. Most candidates don’t finish their job interviews.
Severn Handred, the newest potential recruit, is determined to face and pass this final test—even if by doing so he’s exposing secrets he has never shared.
When an interrogation uncovers the connections to a two-decade-old series of murders of the Tha’alani, the Wolves are commanded to hunt. Severn’s first job will be joining the chase. From the High Halls to the Tha’alani quarter, from the Oracles to the Emperor, secrets are uncovered, tensions are raised and justice just might be done…if Severn can survive.
…When I began writing my Worldbreaker Saga back in 2012, which begins with the novel The Mirror Empire, I too was obsessed with this idea of two choices: the light and the dark. I was writing fantasy, after all! While my protagonists might be morally messy early on, I always knew I was headed for a showdown where they had two choices: good or evil. Genocidal or self-sacrificing.
But it was a false choice.
And it literally took me years to realize this.
At some level I must have understood I was setting up a false choice as I finished the second volume, Empire Ascendant, and began the grueling process of tying everything up in the third and final book, The Broken Heavens. Emotionally, I was rebelling against my own embrace of these false choices, because no matter how many times I tried to get myself to write the ending I had in mind at the beginning of the series, it just never felt… right.
(2) BASE RUMORS. CoNZealand has extended the deadline for
entering the Hugo base design competition until January 31.
If you were thinking of entering the competition to design bases for the 2020 Hugo Awards and 1945 Retro Hugos, you’re in luck. The deadline for entries has been extended until 31st January 2020 (from the original deadline of 17th January).
(3) SCREAM QUIETLY. Paramount dropped a
trailer for A Quiet Place II.
Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.
For a long time Weird Tales (probably best known for short stories by H.P. Lovecraft, Robert. E. Howard, and later Ray Bradbury) was seen as the first fantastical magazine, publishing science fiction, weird fiction and horror. That history has been revised over the past few years. Der Orchideengarten (in English, The Garden of Orchids) was a Munich-based magazine first published in 1919, predating the better known American magazine by several years, and is now acknowledged as the first fantasy magazine (archived digitally here).
Only published until 1921 Der Orchideengarten is somewhat overshadowed by its better known, and more mainstream, Munich-based contemporaries, Jugend and Simplissicimus, yet the breadth of stories and unsettling art is worth looking at.
(5) WOLFMAN. One of the many cameos in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths “Part 5” was the real Marv Wolfman, who co-wrote the original Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series which was published by DC Comics in 1985-1986. CBR.com has the dialog, from when Marv, playing a fan, stops Supergirl and The Flash to ask for their autographs.
“Wait, you know both of us?” Kara asks. “And it’s normal to see us together?” Barry adds.
“Well, normally, you’d also have Green Arrow and a Legend or two,” Wolfman explains. “Last year, even Batwoman joined in.” He points to the folder. “Would you make that out to Marv? Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” Barry says as he scribbles. “Marv, as far as you know, how long have Supergirl and I and all the rest of us been working together on this Earth?”
…Meanwhile, Long Beach Opera, as ever priding itself with radically rethinking repertory, has done a full refashioning of the first great “King Arthur” opera (there aren’t many, but Chausson’s “Le Roi Arthus” is a neglected beauty). Arthur here becomes the comic book delusional fantasy of a pudgy, narcissistic, emigrant-phobic politico requiring psychiatric treatment.
…Arthur King is a patient at Camelot O’Neil, a behavioral residence mental health unit. His sexy nurse is Gwen E. Veer. His buddy is another patient, Lance E. Lott. Doc Oswald runs the dubious joint.
Mitisek then takes apart the opera, adapting Purcell’s music to fit new circumstances and a completely new theatrical structure. His cutup rearranges, revises, reorders and reduces Purcell’s score. The occasional Dryden line is retained, but much of the sung text is new. Five acts become a single uninterrupted one under two hours.
Our schlumpy, Trumpian Arthur thinks he can save the world from aliens. He can be ridiculously pompous, Drydenesque even. He can also be sympathetically vulnerable.
(7) MAISEL MASHUP. Marvel’s
Mrs. Maisel: Rachel Brosnahan Enters the
Marvel Universe on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 15, 2010 — Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones novel premiered. It starred starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, and Saoirse Ronan. The screenplay was by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Although Ronan and Tucci were praised for their performances, it received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 32% rating at Rotten Tomatoes by reviewers.
January 15, 2008 – File 770 blog makes its first post. Happy birthday to us!
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 15, 1879 — Ernest Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
Born January 15, 1913 — Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed with it — it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
Born January 15, 1926 — Maria Schell. German actress who had roles in Superman and The Martian Chronicles. I’m reasonably sure that the Village of The Damned was her only other SFF film appearance. (Died 2005.)
Born January 15, 1927 — Phyllis Coates, 93. Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman series for the first season. She’s also in Superman and the Mole Men which preceded the series. And she was in Fifties horror film Teenage Frankenstein. Wiki claims she had an appearance on Lois & Clark but IMDB does not show one.
Born January 15, 1928 — Joanne Linville, 92. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulnan Commander Spock gets involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.) She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection.
Born January 15, 1935 — Robert Silverberg, 85. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t?
Born January 15, 1944 — Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best-known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read has Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
Born January 15, 1945 — Ron Bounds, 75. One of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees. He chaired Loscon 2. He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
(10) BINTI FOR TV. Author Nnedi Okorafor will co-write the
script alongside Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen) for Media Res.Shelf
Awareness reports –
Hulu has given a script order for an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning Binti trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen, PEN15,The Morning Show) will co-write the script with Okorafor. The studio is Media Res, the banner launched by former HBO drama head Michael Ellenberg, who will executive produce alongside Osei-Kuffour and Okorafor.
The first newly created branch of the U.S. armed forces in more than seven decades now has its first official member.
Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond was sworn in Tuesday as chief of Space Operations. It’s the top post in what since late last month is the Pentagon’s seventh military branch, the United States Space Force.
…But at the moment, there are no Space Force troops to command. Most of the 16,000 officers, airmen and civilians who Pentagon officials expect to comprise the new service branch in the next few months would likely be Air Force personnel drawn from the U.S. Space Command, which is to be the Space Force’s operational component.
Scientists have discovered the secret of how the ginkgo tree can live for more than 1,000 years.
A study found the tree makes protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought.
And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over.
The ginkgo can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.
“The secret is maintaining a really healthy defence system and being a species that does not have a pre-determined senescence (ageing) programme,” said Richard Dixon of the University of North Texas, Denton.
“As ginkgo trees age, they show no evidence of weakening their ability to defend themselves from stresses.”
In Carrie Vaughn’s Steel, fourth-rate fencer Jill Archer tumbles off her boat during a family vacation near Nassau. She hits the water in the 21st century; she is pulled out during the Golden Age of Piracy. Luckily for the teen, Captain Marjory Cooper offers Jill the choice between signing on as a pirate or remaining a prisoner. (Less savoury fates are not on offer.) She chooses piracy, a life that involves a lot more deck swabbing than Basil Rathbone movies would suggest. Jill’s astounding temporal displacement makes her of considerable interest to scallywag pirate Edmund Blane. Jill will need better than fourth-place sword skills to survive Blane and find her way home.
(14) TWO RESNICK TRIBUTES. One of them was a young writer longer ago than the other, but they both admire how Mike Resnick treated them then.
I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago. I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer. There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike. What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me. Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then. Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.
And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.
People who had met me in real life found this hilarious. I think one of them was certain I was play-acting. I wasn’t, of course. I was terrified. I could stand outside a door that lead to a publisher party and hyperventilate.
Resnick?—?I called him Resnick, not Mike; I don’t remember why?—?understood that fear. He talked about being nineteen and terrified at his first convention. And I knew that if I went to a convention that Mike Resnick was at, I’d know at least one person. I’d have one friend.
From the looks of it, these are actually Golden Oreos that have been dyed pink and made to look like decorated Easter eggs. As @ThreeSnackateers pointed out, these aren’t any fancy flavor, they’re just festive and fun.
Just because the name suggests this will be a super sugary drink (based off the beloved jelly beans, of course) doesn’t mean that’s true. These seltzers are going to have zero calories and zero sweeteners and will only use two ingredients.
The cans will begin to stock shelves next week, and the drink comes in eight of the iconic Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors. You can take your pick between French vanilla, lemon lime, orange sherbet, piña colada, pink grapefruit, tangerine, very cherry, or watermelon. Each flavor is made only with carbonated water and natural flavors, so you can have a taste of the candy jar with zero of the cals.
Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese billionaire and the founder of online fashion retailer Zozotown—according to Forbes, as of today, he’s worth $2 billion…
Let me be perfectly clear: the Bachelor references are there for fun, and technically, Maezawa is looking for a female “life partner,” not a moon wife, but other than that, nothing else in this story is a joke. These are facts: Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire, is taking applications from women (aged 20 and up) who want to be his life partner. One of the things that life partner will do with Maezawa is go to the moon, and that’s not just a minor perk or something, it is his major selling point.
(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in when a Jeopardy! contestant missed another chance:
Answer: This Netflix show is a chilling reworking of Shirley Jackson;s gothic horror tale.
Wrong question: “What is ‘The Lottery.'”
Correct question: What is ‘The Haunting of Hill House’?”
And somebody else took a header over this —
Answer: One of England’s most beloved tunes is the one by Hubert Parry names for this faraway Mideast city.
Bizarrely wrong question: “What is Van Diemon’s Land?”
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the sci-fi short film ‘Regulation'” on YouTube, Ryan Patch describes a dystopian future where children are forced to wear “happy patches” to fight depression.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster,
John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack