First Chapter of The Lady is Online …

Today is the launch day for The Lady, the second half of Marakand, continuing the story where The Leopard left off.

The Lady: Marakand Part Two, cover art by Raymond Swanland

The Lady: Marakand Part Two, cover art by Raymond Swanland

My publisher, Pyr, has given permission to the Civilian Reader book blog to post an extract of it — the whole first chapter, in fact! So, if you want to get started while you wait for your copy to be delivered, head on over here to see how it begins.

#sfwapro

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Coming Soon . . . The Lady (concluding second volume of Marakand)

exciting-mailbag

disappointing-box

just-a-box-of-books

Yes, it's the obligatory photo of the tower of books to show off the author-copies. The Lady is supposed to be out December 9th.

Yes, it’s the obligatory photo of the tower of books to show off the author-copies. The Lady is supposed to be out December 9th.

Marakand as it is meant to be read: one long novel in two volumes.

Marakand as it is meant to be read: one long novel in two volumes.

All four published stories of Moth's world. (Three covers by Swanland, one by Artemisia.) Aren't they handsome? The contents are pretty damn fine, too.

All four published stories of Moth’s world. (Three covers by Swanland, one by Artemisia.) Aren’t they handsome? The contents are pretty damn fine, too.


#SFWApro

Posted in Blackdog, Dispatches from the desk, dogs, Marakand, Moth, News, The Lady, The Leopard | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dispatches from the desk: Dreams in Fantasy

Last night I had the strangest dream — to abuse an Ed McCurdy song — and it started me thinking about how dreams are used in writing fantasy. More so than in other genres, the presentation of dreams in fantasy is an inheritance from antecedents in myth, legend, and folk-tale, where the act of dreaming is always of significance, and where the dream warns, foreshadows, or parallels the action of the story in some metaphorical way. In modern fantasy a character may dream in a realistic, primary world way — disjointed images of the day, anxieties, nonsense, codfish lying on the feet because the blankets have fallen off — but very often, authors will use dream in a way that is consistent with the reality of the fantasy, but which would seem over-artful if presented in a ‘realistic’ novel set in the primary world. If magic — the interconnection of things through unseen forces, the sympathetic bond between ‘soul’ and matter, or however the story presents it — is allowed, then dream is allowed to become more as well, and that is — useful.

Dreams become a device for flashbacks, for rapid switches from action (recalled in dream) to contemplation on the meaning or of the aftermath of the action, for recapping or reminding of a crucial moment for those whose memory of the event in the first book needs refreshed. They function to foretell and create suspense. They warn, ominously, and provide clues the characters cannot decode but which the reader, with the benefit of hindsight several chapters later, can enjoy interpreting. They can be used as metaphor, to explore a character’s state of mind or stir up hidden depths the author doesn’t yet want to lay out in the waking world, but which need to begin stirring, to emerge in due course.

Like all literary devices, it’s possible to overuse dreams. I like dreams and do find them very useful, so I worry, of course, that sometimes I’m overdoing it. I’ve been writing a character suffering from a great burden of psychological trauma — something akin to PTSD, shellshock. There’s no equivalent term used in a pre-psychology world for that aftermath of horrors. The modern psychological understanding of PTSD needs to have a more metaphoric terminology to sit comfortably with the cosmology here. Nightmares are only one of his symptoms, and his nightmares are pretty much just that, flashbacks in the psychological rather than the narrative sense, though they can function usefully as those too. I’d written several versions of a scene where this person, in discussion with another who knows something of dreams in the context of this world, in both their realistic, ‘psychological’, and their magical aspects, did begin to find a way to grapple with some of his various problems (so as to have some energy to deal with the external side of the plot, which was not hanging about twiddling its thumbs — I wanted the two things running in parallel). The problem I kept running up against was that I could not believe in this person ever baring his soul to the extent that he would discuss — what I needed him to discuss — with this other character. Or with anyone, but she’s the one he ought to talk to.

This brings me back to my strange dream, in which (amidst some interesting but irrelevant set dressing involving a barn, a 1930’s passenger plane, and a grey rainstorm), I had a long conversation with a friend about something that has been preying on my waking mind for a while now. In my dream, I was definitely playing myself; I said all the things and made all the arguments and excuses I know I would have made had the conversation been taking place in real life. My friend pointed out things and made arguments that were deeply perceptive, pertinent, occasionally angering and upsetting, and persuasive. I woke up feeling I had gotten to the truth of the matter and that my friend was right and had shed a great deal of light on things, except of course, that I had been writing both halves of the dialogue, putting the words in their mouth.

That, I thought almost at once, is how I need to handle some aspects of this character’s problem. Not a real discussion with the character who might help him, the one it just doesn’t seem plausible he’d ever unburden himself to, but a dream, in which his dreaming subconscious can use the other character to put into words what he is coming to understand but can’t get out where he can see it. (And no, my dream wasn’t about anything half so serious, or I would not be prattling about it here!) The thing is, if I had just had the notion to do this, have my character dream his discussion, I’m pretty sure I would have then discarded the idea as unrealistic and too contrived: too artificial as primary-world dream, and too unsuited to this secondary world’s understanding of psychology. Now, having had a dream myself where I wrote, as it were, the whole thing, and yet surprised and unsettled myself by what was being dragged out into the light, I can’t deny it is realistic. Having granted that such a dream is realistic, it’s simply a matter of casting it into correct form for my character’s world, and for his understanding of that world. Which, I suppose, means he might feel he did discuss things, in his dream, with this other character or some aspect of her that had a separate existence from himself, rather than in the complexity of his own subconscious — and that he might be right. I read Don Camillo at an early age, and now I recall that all of Don Camillo’s arguments with his crucified Christ above the altar are doing the same thing, though they aren’t usually cast as dreams. Is Don Camillo’s Christ real within the story, or merely the priest’s own conscience or subconscious? One can read it both ways, and either interpretation is valid within the reality of those stories, which is why the device works so well.

So there’s another use of dreams that I’m likely going to resort to, the almost Socratic self-analysis with the dreamer’s own unconscious playing the role of the interrogator/mentor/counsellor/analyst; looked at from a certain angle, it actually seems a lot more probable in my character’s world than mine, and since I now know the mind really can work that way, I can do it with a clear conscience. Unless, of course, my friend shows up tonight to argue me out of it. #SFWApro

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DragonCon 2014

It’s a bit difficult to keep up with things this fall. We’ve moved house and I’m still not unpacked, with so many things looming that Must Be Done in the next month or so — making insulating curtains, getting my poor migrated perennials out of their pots and into the ground before the frost, making an insulated trapdoor for the attic to forestall the escape of most of our heat upwards … the laws of thermodynamics have become a significant concern. Meanwhile, such minor matters as unpacking my clothes and the boxes of books which occupy every square foot of the study not claimed by my desk get put on hold, and the kitchen cupboards still have labels to tell us where to look for the plates. It’s been a week since DragonCon, though; time to get something up.

Me and the big poster for The Leopard. That Swanland cover looks gorgeous blown up to this size. Wish I could have smuggled this away for my wall at home.

Me and the big poster for The Leopard. That Swanland cover looks gorgeous blown up to this size. Wish I could have smuggled this away for my wall at home.

So what did I think of my first DragonCon? There was a lot standing in queues in the scorching sun, and that was just to pick up my badge. I’m not sure that combining people needing to pick up prepaid badges into a many-blocks-long line with people who wanted to buy a day pass is an idea that will win the organizers any friends, though. Printing the map very, very small, on newsprint, in pale grey, is likewise not really the best notion anyone ever had. However, once I finally was permitted to be admitted, and had found the Pyr Books booth, my home away from home for the duration, I greatly enjoyed the chance to meet people and talk books with them. It was particularly great to connect with some longtime fans face to face. (Jay, that means you!)

Signing books at the Pyr Booth at DragonCon 2014. All photos in this post are by Lou Anders - the silly expression is his fault.

Signing books at the Pyr Booth at DragonCon 2014. All photos in this post are by Lou Anders – the silly expression is his fault.

Signing books again (still!)

Signing books again (still!)

Jon Sprunk, Joel Shepherd, Clay and Susan Griffith, E.C. Myers, J.F. Lewis, and I pretty much moved into the booth for the duration, to hang out with our editor Lou Anders and Meghan Quinn and Mariel Bard, the pool-playing publicists, while Mike Resnick dropped by a couple of times. We did a lot of people-watching as well as bookselling, as you can imagine. Quite a lot of that involved me saying to Jon or his wife Jenny, “Um, so what’s that one?” since I’m not really that up on recent TV. I did see a very well-executed Moist von Lipwig in Postmaster regalia, although I didn’t get a photo as I hadn’t brought my camera. I met up with Rob Sawyer on the flight home, so it was a chance to renew old acquaintances too.

K.V. Johansen and Jon Sprunk, hanging out at the Pyr Books booth.

K.V. Johansen and Jon Sprunk, hanging out at the Pyr Books booth.

I staggered into my house at about 2:30 in the morning, home at last, to be met by a very excited dog, who, after the obligatory greeting, headed straight for my backpack. He was somewhat disappointed to find it a) zippered and b) devoid of exotic foreign biscuits, after the Marks and Spencer Almond Biscuit Incident of the prior week. (Those who follow on Twitter will recall that I brought home my long-remembered favourite M&S biscuits from London, since M&S abandoned the Canadian market some time ago, only to have Mr Wicked discover them in my backpack and devour half the package before I had been home ten minutes.)

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Round and About in London

This gallery contains 17 photos.

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“Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples” — a voyage up and down the Thames

This gallery contains 15 photos.

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Photo Gallery: Greenwich

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