How is Elizabeth Bear following up the best epic fantasy trilogy of the past decade? With a rip-roarin’ standalone Steampunk novel about a prostitute with a heart of gold, of course. Not what you were expecting? Me neither, but Bear is full of surprises and one of the most versatile writers in SFF.
Posts Tagged: Elizabeth Bear
The flush of the 2014 Hugo Awards is fading, and, with the holidays just peeking around the corner, I wanted to take the time to discuss some of my favourite novels from 2014, the ones that, at this very moment, would comprise my nomination slate for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Will it change by next spring when nominations are due? Undoubtedly.
These are all terrific novels, and, if you haven’t read them already, well, I envy you.
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Say hello to the best fantasy novel of 2014.
Even as I was startled by its twisted depth, I adored every moment I spent with City of Stairs. Colonialism lies at City of Stairs‘ centre, and RJB handles it with equal parts boldness and delicacy. The ruined beauty of Bulikov and its fallen gods haunted me long after I turned the final page.
Robert Jackson Bennett is best known for his contemporary fantasy and horror crossovers, such as American Elsewhere and The Troupe, so his move into more traditional epic fantasy put him on the radar of a lot of new readers, and the result is something special. On first reading City of Stairs, I described it to a friend as “China Mieville without the ego.” I’m not sure I still agree with that statement, because it’s unfair to saddle one writer with another’s baggage, but while reading City of Stairs I couldn’t fight the feeling that RJB was mixing and refining elements from some of my recent favourite fantasies. Other touchstones exists, such as Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire and Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, that place RJB among the most exciting and vibrant young fantasy writers working today.
You can hear a distant thunder of hoofbeats, steadily growing louder as it approaches. It is a stratum of fantasy that looks beyond the boundary.
You can hear a distant thunder of hoofbeats, steadily growing louder as it approaches. It is a stratum of secondary world fantasy that looks beyond the boundary, the Great Wall of Europe. Secondary world fantasy that is inspired by Byzantium and the Silk Road, all the way to the western borders of China. Characters, landscapes, cultural forms derived from the Abbasid Caliphate, the Taklamakan Desert, and the Empires of Southeast Asia much more than Lancashire.
Thanks to the rising popularity of fantasy fiction, riding, in part, on the wave of Game of Thrones‘ massive success, many of science fiction and fantasy’s old paradigms and forms of have gotten a new look by virtue of new and diverse styles and varieties of stories, new and formerly inhibited voices (primarily women, genderqueer, and minorities), and new or formerly under-utilized wellsprings of inspiration. Elizabeth Bear, one of the many authors at the center of this paradigm shift, calls this “Rainbow SF.” As Science fiction readies its generation ship to move beyond the white-heteronormative-males-conquer-the-galaxy pastiche, popular fantasy is beginning to look beyond the faux-medieval western European that remained so popular throughout the genre’s formative decades. And this doesn’t even include the rise of World SF, as fiction from markets and voices beyond North America and England begin to be heard in the field.
I call such books “Silk Road Fantasy.” Read More »
I’ve made no secret of my excitement for Elizabeth Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy. I recently sang my praise of the trilogy in a review of the final volume, Steles of the Sky, which was released yesterday:
Bear fills Steles of the Sky, and the entire trilogy, with a masterfully crafted meld of Asian and Middle Eastern mythology, legend and history with the wholly unique and deeply considered secondary world she has created. Shedding the tried and true landscapes and politics of faux-medieval western Europe, Bear introduces readers to a diverse world and political landscape that avoids feeling like the same ol’, same ol’, despite readers a story that uses many of the genre’s most recognizable tropes—ancient magic; an exiled youth of royal blood; a journey from one side of the map to the other; evil sorcerers; dragons; clashing armies.
So, it is with no small amount of enthusiasm that I pass along news that Bear has sold a sequel trilogy, The Lotus Kingdom, to Tor Books. “While Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and Steles of the Sky comprise a complete story arc in and of themselves,” said Bear, via The Big Idea on John Scalzi’s blog, “I can now reveal that Tor will be publishing at least three more books in this world.”
The Lotus Kingdoms, will follow the adventures of two mismatched mercenaries–a metal automaton and a masterless swordsman–who become embroiled in the deadly interkingdom and interfamilial politics in a sweltering tropical land.
Gollancz announced today that they have acquired a two-volume Space Opera from award-winning author (and A Dribble of Ink-favourite) Elizabeth Bear. The first volume is titled Ancestral Night.
“I’m thrilled to be writing long-form SF again,” Bear told me when I reached out to her to find out more about the novels.
“I’ve been looking for the opportunity to get back into science fiction for some time,” she continued. “Ancestral Night is in its own mode, but deeply beholden to the work of Iain Banks, Andre Norton, and C. J. Cherryh. Expect sprawling conflicts, politics, and ancient alien technologies, all wrapped up in a package of gritty, grounded personal drama.”
Details are scant at the moment, but the Gollancz announcement about the acquisition contained an early peek at what readers can expect.
Combining a unique concept with a compelling plot, Elizabeth Bear’s novels imagine the invention of The White Drive: an easy, nonrelativistic means of travel across unimaginable distances. The gripping story follows salvage operators, Haimey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz, as they pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human – and alien – vessels.
“We’re always looking for exciting new voices in SF,” said Simon Spanton, Associate Publisher at Gollancz, “Sometimes that voice is already there but hasn’t broken through in a particular market. Elizabeth’s novels have always fizzed with ideas, passion and character. The chance to publish a new SF novel from her and welcome her to Gollancz is one I absolutely relish.”
Ancestral Night is currently scheduled for a late 2016 release.