B&N Blog broke the news earlier this week: Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is moving from Tor Books to the Tor.com Publishing imprint! The news came on the crest of a wave of new information following the recent release of Gladstone’s novel Four Roads Cross; information that charts out the future of this epic-sized fantasy series.
The sixth novel in the Craft Sequence is titled Six Feet Over, and will be published by Tor.com Publishing. But what else do we know?
Unconfirmed, but probably July 2017.
With the exception of Two Serpents Rise, a new Craft Sequence book has come out every July since 2013. Internally, Tor.com Publishing can report that Gladstone is on track to deliver Six Feet Over in time to continue that tradition.
What Part of the World Will We Visit in Six Feet Over?
Iskar and the Northern Gleb.
In a richly detailed AMA on Reddit Fantasy that Gladstone took part in this August, the author revealed that we’ll “explore Iskar, which we’ll see more of in the next book.” For those unfamiliar, Iskar is a substantial naval power in the series. We’ve never seen them, as the majority of the action in the series has taken place on the continent of Kath and the island of Kavekana, but many of the characters’ lives have been substantially altered by the offscreen actions of the Iskari Defense Fleet.
When told by a reader: “[I’m’] so happy that we’ll finally see the insane squid gods of the Iskari Defense Ministry. And, by “happy”, I mean, sort of apprehensive.” Max Gladstone simply replied, “TEE HEE.”
Later in the AMA, Gladstone added that Six Feet Over will be exploring the Northern Gleb and that the story “takes place in a more God-friendly setting, which has different problems; we’ll see all sides of the power dynamic play out before this is done, I think.” Thus far, the Craft Sequence has focused on the defiance of gods via the usage of Craft, but it’s been made abundantly clear, particular in Full Fathom Five, that the dominance of the gods and the dominance of the Craft flips constantly as one moves around the world of the Craft Sequence. Many of the books have featured storylines about coming to uneasy terms with a god too massive to supplant, and it looks like Six Feet Over will examine a culture where that unease does not exist.
What Characters Will We See?
Unknown, but Kai, Izza, Tara, and the younger characters are likely to appear alongside any new ones. Izza’s family escaped from the Gleb, so the book may focus on her in particular.
Max has mentioned that for now the series is still focused on the “second generation” of characters. i.e. those born into a world where Craft has always existed, like Caleb, Tara, and Kai, as opposed to the “first generation” of characters, like Elayne, Temoc, and The King in Red/Kopil, who were born into a world where Craft had to be forced into existence. Gladstone notes that both generations of characters still have many forthcoming stories to share: “Elayne’s still around! She has work to do!”
What Will the Cover Look Like?
Okay not really but perchance to dream and all that.
Is Six Feet Over the End of the Series?
Not at all! In fact, Six Feet Over stands in between two different stages of publications planned for the Craft Sequence.
Tor.com Publishing is a novella-based imprint, meaning smaller, quicker releases. Although focused on novellas, the imprint has published a select number of novels (Malka Older’s Infomocracy is the latest one), the philosophy being that if a story must expand beyond the format of a novella then it should be allowed to do so.
What this means for the Craft Sequence is that Gladstone now has a greater flexibility in the types of stories he can tell about the world. The novels in The Craft Sequence tend to chronicle huge shifts in the course of that fictional world, but there are a large number of smaller stories yet to be told. The novella format allows for those smaller stories to be told alongside the big events. For example, Max could chronicle the archaeological adventures of Caleb’s mother. Or tell of the titanic battle that created the Crack in the World. Or write a really messed up story about this world’s really messed-up “Hogwarts”: The Hidden School.
Gladstone on the move: “[The] nimble strategy fits perfectly with my vision for the rest of the Sequence—bridging novels and novellas to a climax fans will really love. I get to cover a lot more ground this way, and bring Tara and company through a brilliant series of adventures.”
It’s somewhat comparable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ve been introduced to the Craft Sequence’s core characters in momentous and deliberate novels, and now that there’s been something of an “Avengers” moment in Four Roads Cross (see, because The King in Red’s secret is that he’s always angry and…) the scope of the series can expand outward and explore new ground.
This also frees Max up to start new novel series with Tor Books. So it looks like I’ve got yet more evidence to add to this comparison of Brandon Sanderson and Max Gladstone.
Is This the Start of a New Arc?
Yes and no. Six Feet Over is heading to strange new continents, but possibly with characters we’re already familiar with. From what Gladstone has discussed about the plot so far, Izza’s backstory seems as if it could have significant connections to the story of Six Feet Over.
What’s the Story of Six Feet Over About?
This is speculation, but it looks like Six Feet Over will examine how “first world” national entities in the Craft Sequence debilitate and ravage the “third world” via economic and resource-based actions, with the squid-god-backed Iskari Empire in the “first world” role and the peoples of Northern Gleb in the “third world” role. A very interesting sidebar in Gladstone’s latest r/Fantasy AMA revealed the term “biopolitical imperialism” as key to the theme and plot of Six Feet Over. The conflict between haves and have-nots has been a running theme throughout the entirety of the Craft Sequence and it looks like Six Feet Over will explore this on a global scale.
Further, Gladstone mentioned that while the next Craft Sequence won’t get in-depth in regards to the single worldwide currency that exists in the series, SFO will nevertheless teach the reader more about the economic theories behind this single currency (soulstuff/thaums). Economic policy stands at the very heart of biopolitical imperialism, motivating the physical actions (from something seemingly benign like protecting trade routes to something monstrous, like trafficking in humans) that cohere into imperialism. It should be noted that the selective wielding/teaching of knowledge is also key to sustaining imperialism, and knowledge is key to the Craft magic system that sustains the “first world” that we’ve seen thus far in the Craft Sequence. There’s a lot of complexity to this idea, and Six Feet Over may take it on as a whole, or just focus on one aspect.
Seth Dickinson, author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, also asked Gladstone what Tara would get up to in the universe of his own novel, which lead to a revealing comment, and perhaps a hint of how things kick off in Six Feet Over: “Don’t know what Tara would get up to in the Traitorverse, though. Do they have stock markets yet?”
What May Future Craft Sequence Books and Novellas be About?
Economics in the Craft Sequence are interesting, because even though its world is still very much in-development, it has a singular currency in the form of soulstuff/thaums. Singular currencies are theoretically vulnerable to recessions, depressions, and collapse due to the absence of variability between currencies, and this is an intriguingly futuristic aspect of this fantasy world that demands exploration. The Craft Sequence complicates this, of course, by entwining its currency with the life force of the planet and its peoples, leading to some deliciously weird questions. Does overpopulation mean a healthy economy? Does economic collapse kill the planet? How can you possibly institute economically responsible policies in this kind of environment? Six Feet Over doesn’t tackle this question, but Gladstone certainly intends to do so at some point in the future.
- PROFESSIONAL SPORTS
Max really seems to want to look at the industry of professional sports and how Craft and godpower would change that. Belief in sports teams can often be as fervent as belief in a higher power. Would that grant athletes superior ability in the Craft Sequence world?
- SPACE FLIGHT
This is a question we’ve had ourselves: Since the series hints vaguely that the dark between stars is packed with eldritch creatures waiting to devour us over the course of eternity: has Max ever considered writing, as phrased in the AMA, “a galaxy-spanning look at the Craft as a Space Fantasy?” Max’s response:
I’m sorry, this is where I’m supposed to say Read and Find Out, isn’t it?
The rigidity of masculinity seems a thread that will emerge in forthcoming works: “Many of my male characters have been wrestling with toxic masculinity to some degree, and it’s hard to think their way out of that box—in part because it’s a box I live in, and it’s hard to think my way out of, you know? I need to ponder on this front. (Though it’ll be tricky in the context of this world, b/c of the ways the Craftwork environment follows suit with our world’s corporate culture, but, hell, I have skeletons, it’ll be fine.)”
- A THIRD WAY
A third alternative to the two opposing worldviews: Craft vs. Gods, is coming. Want a hint? “Mohism is a fascinating alternative. I’ve certainly been thinking about Confucianism a lot. And I’m tinkering with Foucault, which, I think, might be shedding some promising light on the problem.” Max also added that a “People’s Concern” has been on his series to-do list for a long time.
This won’t be a huge plot, but answering the following question could be the pebble that starts the avalanche: Does a Craftsperson lose the ability to procreate? Max thinks: “Fertility is very tricky for Craftsfolk. I haven’t gone into this much, but I don’t think reproduction is easy for folks who work with high Craft, though it’s obviously possible.”
Finally, author Django Wexler bullseyed a possible endgame for the entire series: Since this is all relatively recent, is this society going to run into problems after a few generations as the immortal rich start to accumulate?
From Max: “Yep! I should address this conversation in a future book. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the rich assume that cheaper versions of the process will become available, because of course. But the “if this goes on”s for the Craftverse are pretty unfortunate.”
Chris Lough writes about superheroes and fantasy on Tor.com.