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Max Gladstone

Fiction and Excerpts [18]
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Fiction and Excerpts [18]

From the Jedi Order to the Torturers’ Guild: Science Fiction’s Preoccupation with Monks in Space

Why are there so many monks in space?

The Jedi are the obvious root example. Robed and reclusive, prone to politics when by all rights they should steer clear, any given Jedi Knight is a tonsure and a penguin outfit away from the Order of St Benedict. Dune’s Bene Gesserit have a distinctly monastic (or convent-ional) quality, in their withdraw from the world and their focus on the Long Now via their messiah breeding scheme. Hyperion has its Templars, robed dudes who hang out in spaceship trees—along with its xenoarchaeological Jesuits (priests, sure, but relevant to this conversation) and Jewish academics. A Canticle for Leibowitz follows monks through the postapocalypse, and Stephenson’s Anathem culminates in a double handful of monks being launched into space for a hundred-fifty page EVA. (Surely the spoiler limit on this one has passed by now?) Sevarian’s Torturers’ Guild is a monastic order of St Catharine, and the berobed, contemplative Utopians in Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series have more than a whiff of the monastic about them.

[So: why monks? And why space?]

Read the First Three Chapters of Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever

Vivian Liao is a wildly successful innovator, prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she tries to outrun people who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider—until Vivian Liao arrives. Trapped between the Pride—a ravening horde of sentient machines—and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.

Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever is a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative SF adventure—available June 18th from Tor Books.

[Read more]

The Conversation Tony Stark and Thanos Should Have Had

EXT. TITAN—DAY

THANOS strides out of a wormhole onto the ruined surface of the planet TITAN. Crashed spaceships and broken towers rise from a desolate waste.

Thanos looks tired.

STARK (O.S.)

Now, see, you are much more of a “Thanos.”

Thanos turns in mild surprise to TONY STARK, taking the place of Doctor Strange in this fic because the author is an Iron Man fan. Iron Fan? Anyway.

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Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween Movie, or a Christmas Movie?

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]

Fitting In

For over 25 years, the Wild Cards universe has been entertaining readers with stories of superpowered people in an alternate history. “Fitting In” by Max Gladstone shows how everyday people can step up to become extraordinary.

Robin Ruttiger tries—he really does—but his lot in life falls way shorter than his expectations. A failed contestant of the superhero reality TV show, American Hero, he now works as a high school guidance counselor to reluctant students. Things change, however, when a favorite bakery in Jokertown becomes a target of vandalism, and Robin realizes he can play the hero after all.

[Read more]

Series: Wild Cards on Tor.com

Bookburners: Season 4, Episode 1

Magic is real, and hungry—trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. Freshly awake to just what dangers are lurking, she joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad: Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

Everything in the Bookburners’ lives falls into two categories: Before London and After London. Before London, things were strange, sure, but After London… “strange” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Magic is everywhere—and the Bookburners can only be in one place at a time.

Having cut ties with the Vatican, the members of the former Team Three are a little at a loss. Their old roles don’t feel right anymore; their old job seems almost quaint, considering how much magic flourishes in plain sight. But with the return of an old enemy, they find a renewed purpose. And this time, they know that the only thing they can depend on in this world is each other.

Season 4 of Bookburners—a serial created by Max Gladstone and co-written with Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, Andrea Phillips, and Brian Francis Slattery—launches June 13th from Serial Box.

[Read an Excerpt]

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.

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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]

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