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Mixing science fiction and fantasy

A very interesting review of Bright of the Sky last week from SF Signal. They explored the odd blend of science fiction and fantasy in my book, describing my choices as mixing fantasy quest, high-tech science fiction and epic space opera. Did it work for this reviewer? Yes. A four-star review and they’re lookin’ forward to the next one.

“. . . effortlessly blends science fiction concepts and world-building with fantasy story telling to create a unique and intriguing whole.”

You can order a signed copy, if you’re into that sort of thing: A Book For All Seasons. Otherwise, watch for the book at Borders in April, featured with other Pyr titles such as Ian McDonald’s Brazyl and Joel Shephard’s Crossover at a cool end cap placement.

While I don’t agree with everything the reviewer said, the review really nailed this aspect of the book. There is a 300-year-in-the-future Earth with tech advances that have left most people hopelessly uneducated. There are right-turning neutrinos, quantum implosions and space platforms. But all this is backdrop to the insertion into a new universe of Titus Quinn. He’s been there before. Lost everything. Like to get it back, except he is possibly the most hated man in the Entire (the new universe.)

The Entire has a feudal Mandarin-style government run by a bureaucracy of humanoids on behalf of an advanced race whose technologies are, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke’s words, sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic. This universe has no suns or planets. It’s a tunnel, folks. There is a brilliant river of a sky that waxes and ebbs to form day and night. Towering storm walls define the boundaries. So the milieu has a fantasy feel once we leave Earth. I needed that because I wanted a universe that burrows through our own. And I couldn’t explain it with science. That sounds lazy. Actually, there will be more science about the physics of the Entire in future books. But what I mean is, I wanted a world that was both unnervingly strange and also fun. If I was an engineer–or say, Charles Stross, I would provide marvelous flourishes about how the masters of the Entire accomplish their tunnel. Alas, I am not he. It’s important for the book to establish a fantasy feel so the reader won’t be annoyed that I’m not Charles Stross.

Another aspect of this (I hope) fun mix of genres, is that I get to put my main man on a classic fantasy quest. Titus Quinn undertakes an incredible journey through this milieu, encountering alien societies (sways), dazzling quantum transport systems (the River Nigh), and romantic, strong women (like Anzi). He must confront feudal rulers, villainous priests of the Miserable God, and the enmity of his own child. Then, just when you think you know what he’s about, there’s a wee bit of rug-pulling and we’re back to science fiction with a vengeance.

I’m having great fun with this story. I’m glad I get to write three more of them, because I think I’ve hit my stride with this marriage of sf and f–not that I’m by any means the first to do it. It’s just that I’ve always written science fiction based on character, requiring–allowing–me to portray the outer journey and the inner one. I’m not sure readers have quite known what to do with me. Maybe with the The Entire and the Rose (series title), I’m finally sending the right signals.


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