A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 22, 2014
What is it Like to be a Malfoy Post-Battle of Hogwarts? Rowling Reveals All on Pottermore
Stubby the Rocket
December 18, 2014
Mistborn Fans Will Get TWO New Novels Next Year!
Tor.com
December 15, 2014
Steven Erikson: On Completing Malazan
Tor.com
December 12, 2014
When My Wife Put Her Face in a Fireball for Epic Fantasy
Brian Staveley
December 10, 2014
Even More Standalone Fantasy Fiction!
Stubby the Rocket
Showing posts by: Max Gladstone click to see Max Gladstone's profile
Tue
Dec 16 2014 12:00pm

How Do We Categorize The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Nightmare Before Christmas

Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? In terms of worldbuilding, it’s obviously both—it’s about a bunch of Halloween-town residents taking over Christmas from Santa Claus.

But worldbuilding elements don’t suffice as genre classifiers, or else black comedies wouldn’t exist. Creators deliberately apply worldbuilding elements from one genre to another for pure frission’s sake. Consider Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (speaking of Christmas movies), which takes a New York noir character, a down-on-his-luck con, and drops him into an LA noir scenario of movie glitz and private eyes; or Rian Johnson’s amazing Brick, a noir story engine driving high school characters. Fantasy literature is rife with this sort of behavior—consider Steven Brust’s use of crime drama story in the Vlad Taltos books, or for that matter the tug of war between detective fiction and fantasy that propels considerable swaths of urban fantasy. If we classify stories solely by the worldbuilding elements they contain, we’re engaging in the same fallacy as the Certain Kind of Book Review that blithely dismisses all science fiction as “those books with rockets.”

[Read More]

Tue
Dec 2 2014 10:00am

Naked Singularities and the Art of Science Writing: A Love Letter to Kip Thorne

Kip Thorne Interstellar

You don’t need to read another review of Interstellar, so thank god this isn’t one!

Okay, so, as the guy from True Detective escaped the dust bowl, went into outer space with Fantine, two redshirts, and some not-killer robots, skipped through a wormhole, had a fistfight with Somewhat Moist Jason Bourne, the whole time excitable fourteen-year-old-Max was in the back of my head shouting:

10 I AM WATCHING A MOVIE EXECUTIVE-PRODUCED BY KIP THORNE

20 WHAT IS THIS WEIRD WONDERFUL FUTURE I INHABIT

30 GOTO 10

[Read more]

Mon
Nov 17 2014 9:00am

In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones isn’t that bad of an archaeologist.

I mean, okay, the low relative quality of his archaeological expeditions is so notorious it’s become a bit of a truism. There’s a great McSweeney’s list of the reasons Herr Doktor Jones was denied tenure. Even as I make this argument, I can hear friends of mine who spent their summers on digs cringe inside, across the continent. (Hi, Celia!) But hear me out. This won’t take long.

(Looks at rest of essay)

Um. Maybe it will. Keep reading anyway.

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 29 2014 8:00am
Original Story

A Kiss with Teeth

Vlad has grown distant from his wife. His son has trouble at school. And he has to keep his sharp teeth hidden.

This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by editor Marco Palmieri.

[Read “A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone]

Mon
Sep 22 2014 1:50pm

Can We Do it Better? Writing Last First Snow

Last First Snow Craft Sequence Max Gladstone

Fantasy is the genre of hope.

It’s the genre of the Grail Quest, where the King is the Land, where Lancelot can heal with a touch, where nine walkers just might stand against the nine riders that are evil, where a few farm kids set out from a small town between two rivers to stop the Dark One, where no man can defeat the Nazgul lord so good thing Eowyn’s on our side, where Aerin bests Agsded and Maur to free her city, where Tenar finds her name and Aang can save the world.

But if fantasy is the genre of hope, it’s also the genre of a particular kind of danger. To hope is to commit, and commitment’s scary because we’re never hurt so much as when we care. Saving the world is hard. You lose people along the way.

[Read More]

Thu
Sep 11 2014 10:00am

The Ghostbusters are an Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview

Ghostbusters Lovecraft Max Gladstone

Ghostbusters is the best comedy ever made about the limits of the Lovecraftian worldview.

The movie’s back in theaters for its 30th anniversary, so my wife Steph, our friend Dan and I all went to see it last weekend. It’s perfectly structured. Desire lines are clear scene by scene. Act breaks are sharp and propulsive. Every payoff is set up early in the film, including Mr. Stay-Puft. The film even bothers to make sure we know why ghosts are appearing at this particular point in human history—the dead rise as Gozer approaches.

I remembered this movie being funny, but a lot of lines that skipped over my head when I was a kid bit deep this time—Tully’s “You’re the Ghostbusters? Who does your taxes?” (Honestly, everything Rick Moranis says or does on screen is hilarious.) Young Max also didn’t appreciate the sheer amount of damage the Ghostbusters do to the hotel in their first outing. I got the joke of Slimer dodging neutron beams, sure; I didn’t have the running cost-of-repair tally in the back of my head. The cake they blow up used to be a prop; now I know that cake. I’ve been to weddings with that cake. Its explosion is a lot more than an excuse to shower people with frosting. It’s a wonderful, visceral, hilarious film, with a great soundtrack, and y’all should go see it in theaters while you have the chance.

But, leaving the theater, all three of us kept saying one word in particular: heart. We all mentioned how much heart the movie had, how modern films we’d seen recently seemed heartless by comparison. But what is this strange, ephemeral “heart”? The Potter Stewart test is, as always, unsatisfying—we know it when we see it, sure, but what is it that we’re seeing? Why does Winston’s “I love this town!” at the end strike home, even though the question of whether he loves this town or not is never raised in the movie before this moment?

[As usual, I’m kicking about a theory.]

Wed
Jul 16 2014 8:00am
Original Story

The Angelus Guns

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.

[Read “The Angelus Guns” by Max Gladstone]

Thu
Jul 10 2014 8:00am

Humorous Exposition: Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October

Roger Zelazny A Night in the Lonesome October

“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.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 7 2014 8:00am
Excerpt

Read the First Five Chapters of Full Fathom Five (Excerpt)

Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone

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!

[Read an Excerpt]

Mon
May 26 2014 10:00am

This is How I Numbered My Books and I’m Sorry

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.

[Read more]

Fri
May 16 2014 11:00am

Money Can Move a Fantasy World Just as Readily as a God

Gods and Money

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.

[Read More]

Mon
May 5 2014 11:00am

Myth is a Garden Where Strange Fruit Grows: 5 Surprising Mythological Tales

Loki Tom Hiddleston

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.

[Read More]

Wed
Apr 30 2014 1:00pm

Every Human in Star Wars is Really a Humanoid Bee

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.

[Read More]

Fri
Apr 4 2014 8:15am

Jedi Econ, Sith History

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.

[Read More]

Thu
Feb 20 2014 11:00am

Die Hard and Fairy Tales

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.

[Read More]

Fri
Dec 20 2013 10:00am

Brain Tug-of-War: How I Learned to Love Writing Interactive Stories

Choice of Deathless Max Gladstone

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?

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 9 2013 8:00am

Writing Prompts: The Paper Airplane

Writing Prompts on Tor.com featuring Beth Bernobich, Tina Connolly, Max Gladstone, and J.A. Souders, with art by Victor Mosquera

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:

[Writing prompts]

Mon
Sep 30 2013 3:00pm
Excerpt

Two Serpents Rise (Excerpt)

Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone 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.

[Read an Excerpt]

Tue
Sep 17 2013 9:30am
Reprint

Drona’s Death

Drona's Death Max Gladstone xo OrpheusTor.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.

[Read “Drona’s Death,” by Max Gladstone]