The Companions of Tremontaine

Publishing this fall from Serial Box, Tremontaine is a serial novel and prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and the rest of the Riverside series. Below, Ellen explains the epic quest she and editor Julian Yap undertook to bring just the right authors together for the project…

And so the wizard Julian summoned Ellen, bright lady of Riverside Drive, to his swift-moving abode on the DC-NYC corridor, saying, “How would it be if we did a 13-part online serial story series set in the world of your Swordspoint “Riverside” novels?”

Ellen tossed her apple core out the window. “What’s so great about my world? It’s not even a whole world, really; mostly just one city, with no name, though everyone tries to call it Riverside because of the raffish district inhabited by attractive swordsmen and their crazy lovers, plus a colorful assortment of rogues and pickpockets.”

“It is a complex and appealing city,” Julian replied, “which many readers would be happy to live in. For are there not also taverns full of quarrelsome University students, drinking beer and eating the thinly-disguised pizza they call tomato pie? Not to mention the Hill, haunt of scheming aristocrats in outfits involving much lace and a general flashing of fans?” He leaned forward, pouring her more tea, for which she was known to have an endless appetite. “More corners of the city are implied than have been shown, and many of us are fain to discover them. And there are swords.”

Ellen sipped her tea, playing for time. “The task is fell,” she said at last. “And fraught with perilous deadlines. But not impossible. I will need seven companions. It’s traditional.”

“Can you make it three, with one guest writer? For we are but a start-up.”

The lady agreed. And so, with the wizard’s help, began the hunt for the Companions of Tremontaine.

First to be chosen was Alaya Dawn Johnson. Young she was, tall and lithe, with hair that could not be contained in one elastic band only. Her new novels were gorgeous and well-reviewed, and her affinity for the world of Swordspoint was known from her squeees when she had first entered the Great Hall of Chateau Riverside, where also dwelt the complete novels of Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Dunnett, supreme goddesses of the realm. This same Alaya (she who bears the name that rhymes with Papaya), she it was who had fled her homeland for Mexico City, capital of the great land to the south, where she was happily getting lost in her obsession with Mesoamerican history and culture. Which led her, naturally enough, to question where the chocolate so beloved of the name-free City actually came from?

And so was born the international superspy Ixkaab Balam, niece to the chocolate traders of far Binkiinha, sent to dwell with them for a time in the City to keep out of trouble. (You shall see how well that worked!)

Then spoke Ellen: “What is the point of writing stories of omnisexual adventures, when no actual gay man graces our company?” And so she summoned Joel Derfner to her kitchen table, where many councils have met to good effect.

“I’m in!” said Joel, before even half of her carefully flattering pitch speech had rolled off her tongue. For he had been a lover of Swordspoint long ere the two had ever met; indeed, their friendship dated to mutual expressions of admiration on Twitter. Joel, turner of words, whose Gay Haiku had first brought his name to the councils of the wiseguys, and then the profound and hilarious Swish, beloved of Elton John; it was Joel who declared that the series would be no fun without a tortured gay relationship with an acid-tongued partner, and he should know.

One companion remained to seek. And so their path led them to Malinda Lo.

Of Malinda Lo, many stories are told. They say she was a journalist once, or else an anthropologist, or perhaps an economist—something serious, anyway. One thing is certain: Her first YA novel, Ash, made a lesbian love story out of the classic Cinderella tale, and for this alone she was adored. But was she not also one of the mighty founders of Diversity in YA? It was Malinda who was to make the famous declaration: “I’ve just read an entire book on navigation and a scholarly article on logarithm tables so the rest of you don’t have to.”

But quests have a way of attracting strange company. And so it was that the madly capable Racheline Maltese, at first bound only to write a series Bible and make sure everyone got their stories in on time, joined with her boon companion, the mysterious writer known only by her (false) name of “Patty Bryant,” to write the story in which swordplay—of which RM was master—played a critical part.

And so the Companions first met together that winter to take counsel in the Living Room of Chateau Riverside, along with the wizard Julian, two corkboards, and a very large stack of colored index cards. With them was also Delia Sherman, Chatelaine of the Castle, a fool for love, and an even bigger fool for offering to edit the entire 13 episodes. But with such fools, they say, is the world made strong. (Paul Witcover was to join the Companions some time later, to write the Recap Story Everyone Else Dreaded. But no one’s calling him a fool!)

Many were the cups of coffee and Authentic Riverside Chocolate drunk, the cookies and Vietnamese takeout consumed, the index cards torn up, and extra push pins sent out for.

And at the end of three long days, Lo! There appeared an Outline for the entire series! And a title was chosen:

TREMONTAINE

And Ellen looked around the room, and smiled: For there were seven companions, after all.

Released in weekly episodes, Tremontaine begins October 28th and is written by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant.
You can subscribe now via SerialBox.com, and check out the Tremontaine trailer here.

Ellen Kushner’s paying jobs have included folksinger, book editor, national public radio host (Sound & Spirit/WGBH), writing teacher (Clarion, Odyssey, WRX, Hollins Child.Lit.MFA), audiobook narrator (all three Riverside novels for Neil Gaiman Presents) and pilgrim at Plimoth Plantation. Her Riverside novels begin with Swordspoint, followed by The Privilege of the Sword (Locus Award, Nebula nominee); The Fall of the Kings (written with Delia Sherman) and a growing collection of short stories. She lives in New York City with Delia Sherman, no cats, and a whole lot of airplane and theater ticket stubs she just can’t bring herself to throw away. EllenKushner.com. @EllenKushner.

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