Tor.com content by

Max Gladstone

Fiction and Excerpts [9]
All

Fiction and Excerpts [9]

Read Chapters 1-4 of Two Serpents Rise

|| 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.

The Dragon Ponders Its Paper Hoard

|| Read "The Dragon Ponders Its Paper Hoard," an excerpt from Last First Snow, the newest book in the fantasy Craft Sequence series by Max Gladstone. The novel arrives in stores on July 14 from Tor Books.

Read Chapters 1-4 of Two Serpents Rise

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.

We’re pleased to present an extended excerpt from Two Serpents Rise, chronologically the second book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. Set about 20 years after the events of Last First Snow, the novel begins with a goddess, and a card game…

[Read more]

Haves and Have Nots in Epic Fantasy

In Last First Snow, Max Gladstone writes about Craft, a code of law powerful enough to shape reality. A Craftsperson can throw fire and live forever as a kick-ass skeleton, but, more vitally, they can work with invisible power, people power, as tangibly as flame or stone. They can make contracts between the will of the people and the power of the elite.

In The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson introduces us to the Masquerade. They’re a thalassocracy, an empire whose power comes from sea strength and trade,. They don’t have much history, or much territory, or much of an army. But they’re good at navigation, chemistry, bureaucracy, sanitation, and building schools. They’re like an octopus—soft, dependent on camouflage and cunning.

In some ways, these novels couldn’t be more different. The truth is, they share a common foundation: they’re books about power and change; about the Haves and the Have-nots; about uprisings and revolutions; and about the struggle between those wishing to preserve the status quo, and those desperate to make a better world.

Naturally, we had to lock the brains behind these books in a room together, just to see what would happen.

[Begin Transmission]

Last First Snow

Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation-especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace-or failing that, to save as many people as they can.

Last First Snow—available July 14th from Tor Books—is the fourth novel set in Max Gladstone’s compellingly modern fantasy world of the Craft Sequence.

[Read more]

What the F*ck, Iago?

No unanswered question in all Shakespeare beats that one. And before you point to Hamlet, he actually resolves to be or not to be, though in a sneaky and backhanded way three acts after the question’s first posed. (“If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.” Hamlet V, ii, 168-170) We know whether that’s a dagger Macbeth sees before his hand. (It’s not, though that opens a dialogue about the reality of images and fantasy beyond the scope of this parenthetical.) We know what Rosalind and Celia think of falling in love. (They’re for it.) We know that if they prick us we do bleed, and if they wrong us we do revenge.

But this question haunts the canon: What the fuck, Iago?

[Read More]

Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com

Let Me Tell Y’all A Little Bit About the Mohists…

Sit down, because I’m going to tell you about, objectively speaking, the best philosophical movement in history.

If you’re saying “what gives, Max, this is a little looser than your usual style,” well, I delivered two books last month, and this month I have a game to write and page proofs to approve and two short stories due, so y’all get Philosophy Story Time.

[Read More]

Birdman is Actually Just a Muppet Movie

Some people have told me they never want to see another movie about an aging white dude trying to find himself, repair his marriage, and confront the prospect of his own death. Those people may not like Birdman.

Everyone else: if you have room for even one more of those movies in your heart—if you are ever going to watch another guy try to figure his life out on screen again—let this be that film. It’s a wonderful hilarious kinetic tale of a dysfunctional writer-director trying to pull a theater crew of misfits, losers, and closet cases together for a killer opening-night performance without going crazy. The special effects are beautiful and low-tech, I laughed so loud I almost made the people in front of us move, and the soundtrack’s excellent.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, Birdman is the grown-up Muppet movie you never knew you wanted.

[Here’s how it breaks down]

I Think Die Hard Might be a Fairy Tale

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]

How Do We Categorize The 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]

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

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]

In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist

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]

Can We Do it Better? Writing Last First Snow

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]

The Ghostbusters are an Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview

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.]

Humorous Exposition: Roger Zelazny’s 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]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

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

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.

amazon buy link Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone

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]

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]

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

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]

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

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]