Tor.com content by

Max Gladstone

Fiction and Excerpts [15]
All

Fiction and Excerpts [15]

Ghostbusters is a Surprising Antidote to Lovecraft’s Dismal Worldview

Ghostbusters is a perfectly structured film. 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. It’s a wonderful, visceral, hilarious film, with a great soundtrack.

But on a recent viewing with friends, 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?

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

[Read more]

Defending 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]

A Room of Our Own: On Writing Collaboratively

Writers talk so much about the hero’s journey, I think, because we take them all the time. We start from a comfortable spot, in front of a blank page, nothing ventured, nothing lost. We advance into the unknown out of fear or need or destiny, and all’s going well enough until we slip into the underworld around the beginning of the second act. After that, it’s all about slogging through Hades, grinding out words, fighting off demons, until by inspiration, hard work, and divine grace we win that golden cup of story, and bring ourselves home, and find a white page in front of us again as if nothing happened at all—but we’re changed, sometimes forever, by the experience.

By contrast, collaborative writing, like we do on the Bookburners team, feels less like the classic hero’s journey, and more like an epic fantasy quest, the sort you get in the kind of books hefty enough to use for home defense. Rather than a single protagonist, you have a raft of characters, all with their own expertise and quirks, and rather than entering the underworld of your own soul, you’re going on a voyage together. Maybe as a group you think you know where you’re going, but maybe you don’t. Maybe the journey will surprise you. But wherever you’re bound, you’ll get there together, or not at all. And, as in the epic fantasy quest, the real story isn’t about the task—it’s about the people.

[Read more]

Four Roads Cross (Chapters 6 and 7)

We’re excited to bring you four days of Four Roads Cross, the fifth book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! Read chapters 6 and 7 below, or head back to the beginning with chapter 1!. Four Roads Cross publishes July 26th from Tor Books.

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

[Read more]

Four Roads Cross (Chapters 4 and 5)

We’re excited to bring you four days of Four Roads Cross, the fifth book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! Read chapters 4 and 5 below, or head back to the beginning with chapter 1!. Four Roads Cross publishes July 26th from Tor Books.

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

[Read more]

Four Roads Cross (Chapters 2 and 3)

We’re excited to bring you four days of Four Roads Cross, the fifth book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! Read chapters 2 and 3 below, or head back to the beginning with chapter 1!. Four Roads Cross publishes July 26th from Tor Books.

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

[Read more]

Four Roads Cross (Chapter 1)

We’re excited to bring you four days of Four Roads Cross, the fifth book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! Get started with chapter one below, and check back all this week for additional excerpts from the novel. Four Roads Cross publishes July 26th from Tor Books.

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

[Read more]

Five Books About Weird Spies

It’s a grave cold night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. Alleys fill with mist. A flashlight casts a ghostly glow in a back office of a supposedly-deserted government building. Figures with obscured faces meet in the shadows of a parking garage. This file doesn’t exist, and I’m certainly not handing it to you now. In fact, this building won’t be here tomorrow. Besides—who’s to say you haven’t dreamed this entire conversation?

Two great truth-seekers arose from twentieth-century fiction: the noir detective and the spy. They live in similar worlds: murky and high-contrast, full of suspicion and distrust, peeling back the skin of consensus reality to reveal the worms beneath. The spy and detective have their differences, though. Most of the time, you can trust the detective. She’s here to right wrongs, to find murderers and bring them to justice, or at least try. The spy’s motives are murkier. It’s unclear whether she’s out to save anyone except herself.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

On Alan Rickman, Loss, and Mourning Our Heroes

January 14, 2016

It’s been a hard week.

A friend texted me this morning to tell me Alan Rickman died. That was my first contact from any human being today. I staggered from my bedroom, started making coffee, and the phone buzzed.

Sixty-nine. Cancer. Snape, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Hans Gruber, and the Voice of God, and Harry the loser husband in Love Actually. And so it goes.

[I knew him before I knew him, Horatio.]

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]

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]

Reactivity and Narrative Consequence in Video Games

My wife is a Super Mario wizard. She can thread that potbellied mustachioed plumber through the eye of a needle. She mentioned this, in passing, when we started dating—“oh yeah, I used to play a lot of Mario”—but back then neither of us had a console, so I didn’t have a basis for comparison. I mean, lots of people our age played Mario, right?

Not like this.

[You can do that?]