During a celestial civil war, an angel-like soldier searches for her missing brother in the Crystal City.
This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by editor Marco Palmieri.
“I like being a watchdog better than what I was before [Jack] summoned me and gave me this job.”
When I encountered this line for the first time, on page 2 of Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, I cracked up. I didn’t get the line’s full genius, though, until I finished the book.
On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World.
When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.
Full Fathom Five, the third novel set in Max Gladstone’s addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead, is available July 15th from Tor Books. Read the first five chapters below!
I owe the readers of my Craft Sequence a brief apology.
When I wrote Three Parts Dead, I knew it was one piece of a larger mosaic—that while the characters I’d introduced were awesome, I wanted to tell the story of a larger world across many times and cultures. The epic fantasy tradition’s usual approach to this sort of challenge is to send Our Heroes on a road trip that would put Sal Paradise to shame, ping-ponging around a killer, super-detailed map with stops in every port roughly proportional to that port’s political or geomantic influence. Or the number of Pokemon you can catch in the neighboring forest, or whatever.
Come closer. I’m about to violate cardinal rules of polite society, but, hell, this is the internet. Let’s talk gods and money.
Consider if you will an ostensibly immortal personage with vast power and a devoted priesthood bound by a common code of dress and behavior, distributed through the world by a network of temples and monasteries. This entity gathers strength from the fervor of its faithful, and grows stronger by converting new worshippers to its cause.
The best myths surprise us.
It’s easy to forget this, now that over-simmered reductions of Joseph Campbell’s work have been aerosolized in our storytelling atmosphere. You know what I mean—that Cliffs’ Notes circle chart where the Hero Leaves Town at noon, enters the underworld at three, finds the grail at six, leaves the underworld at nine, and is exploded by Ozymandias’s Enormous Psychic Squid Monster at five minutes to midnight. (Or something.)
Spend too long staring at the circle and you forget it’s an analytical tool designed to identify structural parallels between complicated, twisty, weird tales—that Campbell’s approach is useful not because myths are all the same. Quite the opposite: myth’s a garden where strange fruit grows.
There are no humans in Star Wars.
This should be obvious from the title card. We’re a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Human beings evolved on this planet, Sol 3, over the last sixty million years or so depending on how you count. If we don’t want to go all “Chariots of the Gods?” we have to throw out the notion that the people represented by human actors in Star Wars movies are in fact human. They’re something else.
While drinking the other night, a few friends and I argued the merits of economic history. Star Wars entered the picture. It was super effective. You have been warned. Read further at your own risk.
I think Die Hard might be a fairy tale.
Let me back up and offer context. At Boskone this weekend—which was amazing by the way, had a great time and thanks to everyone who came out and said hello—I participated in a panel about fairy tales with Theodora Goss, Miriam Weinberg, and Craig Shaw Gardener, and was thrillingly outclassed in academic knowledge and depth of study. My brain’s been firing in unaccustomed directions in the aftermath.
Let me tell you a secret. Once you know this secret, you’ll never look at your Game Master the same way again. (It’s a pretty nerdy secret. Stay with me.)
At some point in a recent gaming session your party of adventurers came to a fork in the road, and the GM asked if you wanted to go left or right. “Left,” you said, and the GM looked in her notebook, nodded, and continued: “Okay, around nightfall you come to a castle with a gaping drawbridge. You see a great fire flickering past the gates, and smell roast pork on the breeze.”
Thing is, if you’d said right? You’d have come to exactly the same castle. Ask your GM and she’ll deny this, but it’s true. Come on, who are you going to trust—your friend, or some guy on the internet?
Writing Prompts on Tor.com presents a piece of original art and asks sci-fi/fantasy authors to write a very short story (or perhaps a poem!) reacting to or inspired by it. This month’s Writing Prompts features new contributions from authors Beth Bernobich, Tina Connolly, Max Gladstone, and J.A. Souders.
The art for this round of Writing Prompts is by Victor Mosquera. You can jump right to an author’s story by clicking on their name:
Check out Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, available October 29th from Tor Books!
Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, Crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.
But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father—the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists—has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.
From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire...and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.
Tor.com is pleased to reprint “Drona’s Death,” a new story by Campbell-nominated author Max Gladstone, writer of Three Parts Dead and the upcoming Two Serprents Rise. “Drona’s Death” is part of the upcoming anthology xo Orpheus, available from Penguin September 26.
Out on October 2, we've got an excerpt from Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead:
A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.
Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.
Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.
When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.