The Tower of the Hand

I'm prepping up to read GRRM's A Storm of Swords soon (finally, I know!), and I just wanted to point out that is the perfect ASOIAF resource! I knew the website existed, but I hadn't realized that it was that detailed.

Their chapter-by-chapter breakdown of every ASOIAF volume is wonderful, and each section contains everything you'd possibly want to know, including special spoiler portions.

I was just looking for a detailed outline or synopsis for both A Game of Thrones and A clash of Kings, so I got a lot more than I expected. Took me a few hours to get through everything, but I am now ready to start volume 3!

It better be good. . .;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 27th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is down position, ending its sixth week on the charts at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is up one spot, finishing the week at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Jim Butcher's Captain's Fury is down eighteen positions, ending its second week on the NYT list at number 35. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Richard Matheson's I am Legend remains at number 2. This marks the novel's eighth week on the bestseller list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is down one spot, finishing its 37th week on the prestigious list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Orson Scott Card's Empire debuts at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More Joe Abercrombie news

The folks at Pyr have just informed me that Abercrombie's debut, The Blade Itself, is now the bestselling title in the history of the imprint!

Way to go, Joe! You won't be able to say that you can't afford the drinks you owe me, if we ever meet in person!:p

Now, if only that damned copy of Last Argument of Kings can reach me so I can see for myself whether or not it's that good. . .:-)

2007 Year-End Awards: The Hotties

Well, it's that time of year again!:-)

Originally, this was going to be another Goodkind spoof. Last year's awards turned out to be so popular that it had to be that way, right!?! But a few days back someone suggested another name that stuck, so my year-end awards will henceforth be known as the Hotties! With this being the Hotlist, methinks the Hotties have a nice ring to them.

The categories are more or less what you have come to expect since 2005. This is my third annual year-end awards, which means that you should know by now what you're going to get! By popular demand my SFF Top 10 of 2007 was posted a while back. As promised, you'll find it here, with the 10 runner-up titles as an added bonus.

It's been another very good year for speculative fiction fans, so here's to hoping that 2008 will be even more satisfying!

As always, feel free to disagree with my selections. . .:-)

SFF TOP 10 OF 2007

1- Black Man/Thirteen by Richard Morgan (Del Rey/Gollancz)
2- Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson (Tor Books/Bantam Press)
3- Ink by Hal Duncan (Del Rey/Pan MacMillan)
4- Brasyl by Ian McDonald (Pyr/Gollancz)
5- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (Penguin Books/Simon & Schuster)
6- The Terror by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and co./Bantam Press)
7- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Dell/Gollancz)
8- Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (Bantam Dell/Gollancz)
9- Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (Putnam/Gollancz)
10- Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (Del Rey/Voyager)
11- Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb (Eos/Voyager)
12- Feast of Souls by C. S. Friedman (Daw Books/Orbit)
13- The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks (Doubleday/Bantam Press)
14- Killswitch by Joel Shepherd (Pyr)
15- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Daw Books/Gollancz)
16- Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (Pyr/Gollancz)
17- The Electric Church by Jeff Somers (Orbit)
18- The Devil You Know by Mike Carey (Warner Books/Orbit)
19- Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn (Warner Books)
20- Making Money by Terry Pratchett (Eos/Doubleday)


- Gollancz

With 5 titles in my Top 10 and 7 titles overall if you include the runner-up titles, Gollancz deserves the nod. Kudos to Simon Spanton and his crew for a terrific year!


- Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself was a nice debut, but Abercrombie took it up a notch or two with Before They Are Hanged. And I'm told that Last Argument of Kings is even better. Could Joe win back-to-back awards???


- The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont

2008 will bring us Toll the Hounds by Erikson and the eagerly awaited Return of the Crimson Guard by Esslemont. All in all, a good year for Malazan fans!


- David Anthony Durham

Honorable mentions: Joe Abercrombie and Brandon Sanderson


- Ran's Westeros ( remains the best place to hang out, in my humble opinion. Sure, things heat up a little from time to time, but that's usually when the fun begins!;-) And there's the naked avatar week each fall!:p

Honorable mention:

Whether you wish to be a regular poster or simply a lurker, I invite everyone to visit more SFF message boards in 2008.:-)


- Daw Books

With the highly successful launch of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, C. S. Friedman's return to the fantasy genre with Feast of Souls, and Tad Williams' Shadowplay and Kristen Britain's The High King's Tomb showing up on the NYT bestseller list, I daresay it was a great year for Daw Books!


- The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

Holy crap, this could well be the most overhyped book I've ever read! And I don't want to get into that "fantasy chick lit" debate again. . .


- M. John Harrison

Harrison managed to irritate a vast number of SFF fans with various blog posts throughout the year. The man talks and talks, but he doesn't really say much. Maybe he should have a been a lawyer. . .

The funny thing is that some people like Gabe Chouinard and Larry (Dylanfanatic) feel the need to "interpret" what Harrison is saying when the bulk of the online community is irked by his elitist quotes, which are little more than an exercice in mental masturbation for the most part. Rather prolific in that regard, one could say that M. John Harrison is quite the heavy cummer. He could well be the Peter North of SFF. . .


- Tor Books, for those awful Erikson covers

Tor Books came up with some splendid covers in recent years. One only has to think about the artwork that graces Daniel Abraham's works to realize that fact. So how the heck did they come up with the atrocious covers for The Bonehunters and other Malazan installments???

Honorable mention: Daw Books, for the "Fabio" or "gay" cover art for Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind.


- Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb


Here's an excerpt:

- Previous depictions of homosexual characters in fantasy/scifi books have always been somewhat clumsy and didn't ring true. And yet, instead of trying to get readers to "accept" it, you just went ahead and put Jack and Puck's relationship as a central storyline throughout both volumes. Was that intentional from the beginning? INK contains graphic sex scenes between the two, and I was wondering what sort of responses those sequences generated among readers and critics?

One of my pet hates is the fetishisation you get in certain types of fantasy, particularly vampire fiction, I have to say, where gay equals frilly shirts, sensitive pouts and lingering looks with doe-eyes. Man, at least slash is subversive in applying that aesthetic to straight characters, and at least slash has the guts to get down and dirty. That stuff is just softcore boy-on-boy goth porn. Even when it's not so deeply fetishised, there still seems to be a tendency to stereotype gays as refined rather than rough, fey rather than fiery, cats rather than dogs.

The second problem with gay characters in genre fiction is that they're generally marginalised as subsidiary characters, which smacks of PC tokenism. Yeah, so your heroine has a Gay Best Friend; big deal. So your team of heroes has a tagalong queer; I'm not impressed.

The last problem is that even when you get a fully-fledged protagonist they're generally just not genre enough. By which I mean, the writer feels the need to show that it's "normal" to be gay, so the characters are rendered in a Realist mode rather than as Romantic heroes. They're intelligent, sensitive portraits of gays as "just like everyone else". Bollocks to that. The fetishised gays are annoying. The marginalised gays are frustrating. But the normalised gays are just plain dull. I want a gay character who blows shit up. I want a gay James Bond, a gay Jerry Cornelius, a gay Superman, a gay Indiana Jones, a gay Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare. Achilles wasn't normal. He was an uberfag, dragging Hector's body ten times round the gates of Troy for killing his boyfriend. Now that's what I call a hissy fit!


Honorable mentions: I was very fortunate in that 2007 saw me participate, by myself or with a few partners in crime, in some interesting and insightful interviews. Some of my favorites include David Anthony Durham, Richard Morgan, China Miéville, C. S. Friedman, Katherine Kurtz, and the huge Wild Cards Q&A.


- It's a tie between Jeff Somers' The Electric Church and Mike Carey's The Devil You Know.

- Hands down, Patrick Rothfuss for The Name of the Wind.

2006 saw the emergence of a slew of talented SFF writers, but in 2007 Rothfuss was in a class of his own.


- The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Its predecessor, The Final Empire, was a wonderful read. But this sequel was all filler, no killer. . .


- Patrick Rothfuss, for The Name of the Wind

The final numbers haven't been tallied yet, but it appears that Rothfuss' debut will beat both Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule and George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones initial hardcover sales. Who else, then, could possibly have the SFF debut of the year???


- The Wanderer's Tale by David Bilsborough

If someone farting the national anthem is your brand of humor, this one might just be for you!


- Terry Goodkind for this delightful quote from an interview:

Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action.

There's another quote about raping Swedish grandmothers in a recent interview with Goodkind, but the gang rape bit takes the cake, no question.


- Patrick Rothfuss

Though I didn't enjoy The Name of the Wind as much as other reviewers did, I can't possibly give this award to any other writer. Few SFF authors have had such an immediate impact, both commercially and critically, in the history of the genre. In a few short months, Patrick Rothfuss has made a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, Rothfuss was all over the place, giving interviews and doing more than his part to help promote his debut.

Okay, so this wraps up the Hotties! Let me take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for helping me make Pat's Fantasy Hotlist the most popular SFF book reviewing blog on the internet.:-) I wouldn't be where I am without you guys, and I'll try to keep up the good work so you'll continue to drop by in such vast numbers!

Happy Holidays!

The Devil You Know

More or less disenchanted with Chris Roberson's Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, I wanted to close the year on a more positive note. Perusing my shelves in the hope of finding a novel that would do the trick, I came across Mike Carey's The Devil You Know. The book had been sitting there for months, ever since my contact at Warner Books told me that it was a title I would probably enjoy.

Right off the bat I realized that this supernatural thriller was exactly what I needed to end 2007 in style. Indeed, I was sucked into the story in no time. It was a lot of fun to read about Felix Castor's misadventures. A freelance exorcist, Castor is trying to quit the business. In need of cash, he has no choice but to accept what seems to be a simple ghost-hunting gig. But Castor soon finds himself in a position where he must solve a mysterious murder case before being killed himself.

Carey's debut occurs in London, and the author makes the city come alive in this one. I was impressed by how easily Mike Carey appears to have managed to capture the very essence of London in this novel. If you've ever been there, you'll understand what I mean. . .

Felix Castor, as a down-on-his-luck exorcist, is an endearing character. Much like Scott Lynch's Locke Lamora, wise ass Castor goes through much abuse throughout the book. Though he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, you can help but root for the poor fellow.

The pace is excellent, with Mike Carey keeping the reader turning those pages to learn what happens next. The author's snarky writing style and his witty sense of humor help create a balance with the darker elements of this novel.

I was quite pleased to discover that two sequels are already out in the UK, so there will be more Felix Castor adventures coming my way! You can expect me to review them at some point in 2008.

If you're looking for an entertaining paranormal thriller, look no further. The Devil You Know should scratch that itch!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Dragonlance Movie Trailer

Considering that they've been talking about a Dragonlance movie for over two decades, this Dragons of Autumn Twilight movie trailer sucks big time.

The funny thing is that I'm supposedly part of the target audience, and Weis and Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight was the novel that introduced me to the fantasy genre. You would think that I'd want to see this flick, right??? Well, after watching this trailer, I don't think it's even worth my time, let alone my money...

Cover art for Brian Ruckley's BLOODHEIR

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but getting ready for the Holidays sort of got in the way. . .:-)

Having enjoyed Ruckley's debut, Winterbirth, I'm curious to read the upcoming sequel, Bloodheir.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays to everyone!;-)

Paragaea: A Planetary Romance

Chris Roberson's Paragaea: A Planetary Romance garnered a lot of rave reviews when it was initially released in 2006. So much so that I was extremely disappointed not to have had the opportunity to read and review it last year. I was thus excited to finally have a chance to give it a shot.

The novel was advertized as a great old pulp adventure story, grounded in the latest thinking in the fields of theoretical physics, artificial intelligence, genetics, and more. Paragaea is indeed a throwback to those science fiction pulp stories of yore made popular by authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alex Raymond, Leigh Brackett, etc. Roberson demonstrates that he has a fertile imagination by cramming this work with cool and fascinating themes and ideas.

Unfortunately, I felt that Chris Roberson was never quite able to make this book rise above the traditional scifi pulp subgenre. All the tropes are present, from original monsters and creatures and swashbuckling to narrow escapes from certain doom. With lots of action, Paragaea is an entertaining read. And yet, the storytelling, relying too heavily on action in typical pulp manner, precludes this one from reaching a higher level.

The worldbuilding is colorful and interesting, but the author only gives his readers a perfunctory glimpse at the setting. Roberson never truly explores his world in too much depth, which results , in my humble opinion, in a panoply of missed opportunities.

The same could be said about the characters. Both Leena and Hyeronymous Bonaventure showed a lot of promise early on. Sadly, with the emphasis on speeding the story along with countless twists and turns, there is very little character growth. As for the romance aspect of this book, it plays a decidedly minor role in the overall scheme of things.

The premise underlying this tale was engaging. Leena Chirikov, a rational Soviet cosmonaut, finds herself into another dimension shortly after launching into space in 1964. Along with Bonaventure and the jaguar man Balam, she must travel across the strange and exotic world that is Paragaea in search of a way to return to Earth.

If you are craving a novel which is a throwback to those old scifi pulp adventure stories, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance is exactly what the doctor ordered. But if you are looking for a work that rises beyond that, then you are bound, as I was, to be disappointed.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

How much is the Hotlist worth???

My blog is worth $94,842.72.
How much is your blog worth?

Whoever is buying, I'm selling!;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 18th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is down five positions, ending its fourth week on the charts at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Jim Butcher's Captain's Fury debuts at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Somehow, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is up four spots, finishing the week at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is up one position, ending its 36th week on the NYT list at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Anne and Todd McCaffrey's Dragon's Fire debuts at number 23. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

New cover art for Patrick Rothfuss' THE NAME OF THE WIND

Rothfuss' immensely popular debut, The Name of the Wind, is going into a 4th printing. Some of the books will have this cool new cover, which means that it's time to put Fabio to rest. Finally!

Here's a scan of the book jacket. I'll post a high resolution jpeg as soon as I get one. . .:-)

Inside Straight

Alive and kicking since 1987, the Wild Cards sequence is the longest-running series in an SFF shared universe. I was curious to read Inside Straight because the 18th volume represents a new beginning. Although there is more than enough to please old fans, this new triad published by Tor Books is meant to introduce a new generation of readers to the series.

I have to admit that, other than being acquainted with the principal premise of the series, I'm not too familiar with its characters and major storylines. I remember reading two or three Wild Cards books circa 1990, but I wasn't too impressed with them at the time. Keep in mind that from the height of my 16 years of age, I considered myself a bit too "mature" for this super heroes and that kind of stuff.

Well, I'm now 33 years old and I'm not sure just how mature I am today.:p Maybe it's a case of regression, or could it be progression!?! In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed Inside Straight. The book does the job, on several levels. Mind you, this is not the sort of novel whose scope can rival with Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Jordan's The Wheel of Time, Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, etc. Nevertheless, there is a lot more to this book than meets the eye. Naturally, I can't truly compare this newest volume to its predecessors. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that GRRM and his collaborators have hit this one out of the ballpark! And as it reads well as a stand-alone, it makes Inside Straight the perfect starting point for potential readers.

Some have voiced their worries about the lack of "big names" on message boards, fearing that it might make for an inferior product. Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean no disrespect, but George R. R. Martin's story isn't any better than that of Carrie Vaughn, Daniel Abraham, or Michael Cassutt. If anything, I firmly believe that, like me, after finishing Inside Straight readers will be intrigued and they'll wish to learn more about the works of Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, Ian Tregillis and S. L. Farrell. While no one really stands out from the rest of the pack, no one's star shines any less than the others.

As a mosaic novel, I was concerned about possible glitches in terms of continuity, consistency, chronology, style and tone. I was also worried about how the individual stories would fit and further the plot of the overall story arc. But the various plotlines are woven together almost seamlessly, and the entire cast of writers involved in the production of this book maintain an even style and tone throughout.

I love how the "reality tv/trash tv" angle was played. It was a lot of fun to read about American Hero, a Wild Cards tv show which is a blend of American Idol, Survivor, and Big Brother. They even have their Simon-like judge!

Still, there is a lot more to this new generation of Wild Cards than just a group of them competing for a million dollars. A crisis is brewing in the Middle East, and the assassination of the current Caliph leads to what could become a genocide. I was terribly afraid that the authors would fall in the same trap as most artists: Either take the far-Right approach, or go down the brown-nosing, ass-kissing, UN-loving, "there are no bad people on this planet, just misunderstandings" Leftist road -- both of them too black and white, and both of them inaccurate. I'm glad to report that the writers and editors understand that there are many nuances to be considered when one elects to tackle with the religious and political problems that are endemic to the Middle East and beyond. Hence, this particular plotline is written intelligently, taking into account both sides of the story.

With good characterization and way more depth than meets the eye, Inside Straight is hip, cool, fun and fresh. Fans of the Wild Cards series should flock back in droves, their numbers increased by new readers eager to learn more about all those aces and jokers.

Kudos to George R. R. Martin, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, Daniel Abraham, Ian Tregillis, and S. L. Farrell for a job well-done! The franchise is in very good hands, which bodes extremely well for the future. I'll be lining up for the forthcoming Busted Flush.

To learn more about the Wild Cards series in general and Inside Straight in particular, check out and

If Inside Straight is any indication, 2008 could be a terrific year for SFF fans!:-)

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

In case you didn't know. . .

Amazon has purchased J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The handwritten book fetched an astounding four million dollars, and is one of the only seven handmade copies in existence.

At least the money goes to charity. . .

Click here for the full story.

Top 10 Speculative Fiction Titles Published in 2007

I wasn't planning on revealing my Top 10 until my year-end awards were posted later this month, but many have been asking for it. I guess you guys want to include some of these novels on your Christmas shopping list!;-) Hence, I've decided to post the Top 10 now, with links to each review, and I'll include the 10 runner-up titles when I post the awards. So without further ado, here it is:

1- Black Man/Thirteen by Richard Morgan (Del Rey/Gollancz)
2- Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson (Tor Books/Bantam Press)
3- Ink by Hal Duncan (Del Rey/Pan MacMillan)
4- Brasyl by Ian McDonald (Pyr/Gollancz)
5- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (Penguin Books/Simon & Schuster)
6- The Terror by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and co./Bantam Press)
7- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Dell/Gollancz)
8- Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (Bantam Dell/Gollancz)
9- Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (Putnam/Gollancz)
10- Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (Del Rey/Voyager)

As always, feel free to disagree. But remember that if you do agree with me, it means that you are a brilliant and discerning reader. If you don't, then you simply don't know shit!:p

So those are my picks for 2007. All right, have at it!
And remember that buying any of these novels via the Amazon links helps raise funds for breast cancer research. . .:-)

Cover art for Ian Cameron Esslemont's RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD

Here are the beautiful covers drawn by Edward Miller for the PS Publishing 2-volume slipcased limited edition of Ian Cameron Esslemont's forthcoming Return of the Crimson Guard.

Absolutely gorgeous!:-)

If you wish to pre-order this collector's item, click on this link.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 11th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is down five positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Incredibly, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin returns at number 29. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Clive Barker's Mister B. Gone is down six spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Richard Matheson's I am Legend maintain its position at number 4. This marks the book's sixth week on the prestigious list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is up one spot, finishing its 35th week on the bestseller list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Sad news for Terry Pratchett fans

Just saw this sad piece of news here:

Folks,I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet.

Terry Pratchett

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Man, it's a tough year for the genre's most popular authors. . .:-(

My thoughts and prayers are with Pratchett and his family.

The Golden Compass

I had the day off, so I decided to beat the crowds and take advantage of a cheap afternoon ticket to go see The Golden Compass. I wasn't expecting much, which probably explains why I ended up enjoying the movie more than I thought I would.

As was the case with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, this movie is intended for a young audience, even more so than the book. I've read The Golden Compass a few years ago, so I can't say with certainty if memory serves me right. Still, it looks as though the producers followed the essence of Pullman's novel. With one major exception being the absence of the Church. The Magisterium and Oblation Board are present, but the Church is not. . .

Visually, the movie is great. A neat soundtrack sets the mood, and the actors do a wonderful job to plunge the viewers into the tale. Kudos to the young actress playing the role of Lyra, for she is a perfect fit for the role.

All in all, a nice family movie for the Holidays. And you also get to see the trailer for the upcoming Narnia movie as well. . .

How Have Online Reviews Affected the Publishing World

SF Signal just posted this interesting interview with editors, authors, bloggers, etc.

As a matter of course, opinions differ from one person to the next.

Check it out here.

Brandon Sanderson to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time

Here's Tor Books' press release:

Tor Books announced today that novelist Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to finish writing the final novel in Robert Jordan's bestselling Wheel of Time fantasy series. Jordan--described by some as Tolkien's heir--died Sept. 16 from a rare blood disease. The new novel, A Memory of Light, will be the 12th and final book in the fantasy series which has sold more than 14 million copies in North America and more than 30 million copies worldwide. The last four books in the series were all #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Harriet Popham Rigney, Jordan's widow and editor, chose Sanderson to complete A Memory of Light--which Jordan worked on almost daily for the last few months of his life--and will edit it. Rigney said some scenes from the book were completed by Jordan before his death, and some exist in draft form. "He left copious notes and hours of audio recordings," she said. He also revealed details about the end of the series to close members of his family.

Sanderson, who acknowledged Jordan as an inspiration to him as a writer, has established a loyal fan base as the author of three fantasy novels: Elantris, Mistborn and The Well of Ascension (Tor), as well as a YA novel, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Scholastic Press). Sanderson said, "I'm both extremely excited and daunted by this opportunity. There is only one man who could have done this book the way it deserved to be written, and we lost him in September. However, I promise to do my very best to remain true to Mr. Jordan's vision and produce the book we have all been waiting to read."

A Memory of Light is scheduled for publication in fall 2009.

In terms of styles, Sanderson and Jordan are like night and day. I wonder what made Harriet select him. . .

Oh man. . .

Acacia: The War with the Mein

Hype has a funny way of creating expectations in a reader's mind. Naturally, with critics calling David Anthony Durham's novel one of the best fantasy debuts of 2007, my expectations were quite high. Too high? I think not -- not with everything that's been said about Acacia: The War with the Mein. Nevertheless, I'm sad to report that this book, in my humble opinion, doesn't live up to the hype which was generated by the incredibly positive buzz surrounding this novel.

I feel bad about having to write a somewhat negative review about this one. As was the case with Brandon Sanderson's The Well of Ascension, Durham is a great guy and I really wanted to like Acacia. The near totality of the reviews I've read pertaining to this book -- online and in print -- make it sound as one of the best fantasy titles of the year. Hence, I was more than a little disappointed to discover that the novel suffered from a number of shortcomings.

My favorite aspect of Acacia turned out to be the worldbuilding. Indeed, David Anthony Durham created a fascinating universe, simultaneously traditional and exotic, which serves as a backdrop for his epic fantasy tale. His multiethnic cast, though not as well-done as Erikson's, is a welcome change to what has been the norm in the genre for years. The author's background in historical fiction is evident, thus allowing him to create an environment exuding a "realistic" feeling.

The prose is neat, and Durham paces Acacia adroitly. The initial premise and the ensemble of storylines woven together to assemble this tale are all very interesting. I found the plotlines involving the Lothan Aklun, the Quota, the Other Lands, the mist, the Numrek, the Mein and the Tunishnevre, and the Santoth to be absorbing. Those are the storylines that fueled my interest and urged me to read on. So where did it all go wrong?

What killed Acacia: The War with the Mein for me turned out to be the characterization. To say that they are lacking or leave something to be desired would be an understatement. For some unfathomable reason -- this is a first for me -- I absolutely hated all the main protagonists, good or bad. Throughout the book I kept hoping for the Arkan siblings -- Aliver, Dariel, Corinn and Mena -- to die. I kept wondering how Durham could come up with such an interesting setting, yet populate it with clichéd, two-dimensional characters that lacked a lot in the way of realism. Needless to say, I was unable to get into any of the siblings' storylines. As I mentioned in my review of Tad Williams' Shadowplay, it's decidedly hard to make royal teenagers likeable. Moreover, there were quite a few similarities between them and GRRM's Stark siblings. The fact that they achieve everything so easily, with all that's require of them falling into place perfectly, as if by magic, didn't sit well with me either. The supporting cast is a bit lame and unbelievable, which is what ultimately prevented me from enjoying the book beyond Durham's first-rate worldbuilding.

I found many of the concepts underlying the story to be engrossing enough to want to read the upcoming sequel. My only hope is that David Anthony Durham will up his game where characterization is concerned.

Acacia: The War with the Mein showed great promise. Unfortunately, poor characterization makes it impossible for this novel to fulfill its full potential.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Jack Whyte contest winner

That lucky person will get his hands on an autographed copy of Jack Whyte's latest, Standard of Honor, compliments of Penguin Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Scott Walker, from Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

Facebook Group

I've been asked a few times if I'd consider creating and/or becoming part of what would be the "official" speculative fiction Facebook Group. Though it's a neat idea, running this blog takes too much of my time as it is. Understandably, there's no way I can find the time to create yet another online SFF venue.

From what I've been told, people would like a Facebook Group that would allow readers to get all the SFF scoops and all that jazz. Since it's what I'm doing with the Hotlist, I have a feeling that some folks want to drive me out of business!:p

The idea certainly has merit, especially when one considers that most speculative fiction readers don't necessarily frequent message boards, etc, yet many of them likely have a Facebook account (as do I). Hence, such a venue could perhaps bring even more SFF fans together. But my fear is that it could also become just a place where bloggers pimp their stuff and little else. . .

Though I can't possibly be a front man for such a project, I wouldn't mind working "behind the scenes" to help the group see the light. So if anyone has any ideas they believe would be good, feel free to share them with the rest of us.:-)

Let's see if we can make this become a reality. . .

ASOIAF Art Prints from the Dabel Brothers

Here are two art prints from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire -- one of Ned Stark, and the other of Sansa Stark -- that can be purchased from the Dabel Brothers on their website,

As the press release states, just in time for the Holidays!;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 4th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind's Confessor is down three positions, ending its second week on the charts at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Laurell K. Hamilton's A Lick of Frost is down four spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

R. A. Salvatore's The Orc King is up two positions, ending its ninth week on the bestseller list at number 22. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Clive Barker's Mister B. Gone is down five positions, ending its fourth week on the NYT list at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Richard Matheson's I am Legend is up seven spots, finishing its fifth week on the prestigious list at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is down one position, ending its 34th week on the charts at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Signed copies of Robin Hobb's RENEGADE'S MAGIC

If you fancy an autographed copy of Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic (Canada, USA, Europe), visit, where you can get your hands on that and other signed books.

Also, both Steven Erikson and Terry Brooks will soon be signing copies that can be purchased via that website.

If you're into that sort of thing, check it out!:-)

I reviewed Renegade's Magic when it was released in the UK last June. For those of you who are about to buy the North American edition, here's a link to the book review. For my money, it's the best volume in this trilogy!

Yet another interview with Steven Erikson

I kid you not!

And again, it's courtesy of Jeff VanderMeer, via Here's an excerpt:

I've just finished Toll the Hounds, which is the eighth novel in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. At the moment I am working on a co-written novella with Ian C. Esslemont set in the same world, and I confess I've started the prologue to the ninth in the series. As for Toll the Hounds, I guess I can say I'm pleased with the result; that's a statement that needs qualification, however. The novel is about love and grief, and integral to that exploration was my fair share of both this past year, as my father fell ill and in the course of four months withered away and died. There is something mercenary in writers, something that others might view with faint disgust, and that is the terrible desire to feed off one's own circumstances, using genuine emotions (including suffering) to infuse a fictional tale that is, at its core, meaningless. I don't mean that as a disparagement of fiction; as writers we play a game of illusion, pretending to a reality that does not exist, and if we can, we use that false reality to generate real emotion. And that's what can make a normal person understandably uneasy, as the writer guides that person into a very personal world; as, in this instance, I happen to be inviting him or her to share in my grief. Does all this stem from an overblown ego? I'm not sure; I feel pretty humble these days. At the same time there is an undeniable ego to the presumption of being writers: that we actually possess something worth saying, not to mention the conceit that words possess real efficacy (but those are topics for some other time). All that makes the novel sound like a downer, but while there are tragic elements to the tale, there are plenty of lighter ones, too. It's more like a wake. You get laughs, you get tears, and maybe when it's all said and done, you walk away thoughtful, standing in the afternoon light, saying goodbye to someone who is no longer there. As I did.

I figure this should whet more than a few appetites!;-)

Read the whole Q&A here.

Richard Morgan's ALTERED CARBON (limited edition)

Here's the cover art for the Subterranean Press limited edition of Richard Morgan's high-octane debut, Altered Carbon. Yep, we'll have a copy up for grabs when the time comes!;-)

For more info, check out

NFL Showdown: GRRM vs Pat (Week 13)

Dallas Cowboys 37
Green Bay Packers 27

New York Giants 21
Chicago Bears 16

The Cowboys are now 11-1 and in a somewhat commanding lead of the NFC, but the damned G-Men found a way to come back and win it against Chicago, which now makes them 8-4. As I told George, I don't want the 'Boys to face the Giants in the playoffs. This is exactly the kind of game they would lose, and with that loss my hopes of getting horribly killed in the next ASOIAF volume would go up in smoke.

Yet the odds are still in my favor. This from GRRM in his last email:

I assume you enjoyed the Cowboys win. Sad to say, looks as though we're heading for a Cowboys - Patriots Superbowl. Hitler versus Stalin. Hooboy.

I am mulling how I mean to kill you.

This is a first. . .

It has just come to my attention that the Hotlist was mentioned this afternoon during a radio show. It is, to my knowledge, the first time that this blog was ever mentioned on the radio.

Since I haven't heard what was said, I have no idea what the gig was all about. All I know is that Pat's Fantasy Hotlist was mentioned by columnist Ed Willett during The Afternoon Edition with Colin Grewar, on CBC Radio One, our national radio station. I found out about it through this link:

Ed, if you are reading this, please drop me a line (use the giveaway email address) to let me know what the show entailed.

1000th Post!

Holy shit!

I just realized that I've reached the 1000th post plateau a few days back. This is the Hotlist's 1003rd post, to be exact!:-)

That's a hell of a lot of rambling on my part, no question!:p And some of you have been there from the very beginning! So here's to another 1000 posts of senseless drivel! May you enjoy them as much as you've enjoyed the first thousand!

Fuck me, more than a thousand posts. . .

Another interview with Steven Erikson

Just found out about this!

Jeff VanderMeer interviewed Erikson for Clarksworld Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

I recently wrote a preface to a re-release of Gardens of the Moon, (the first in the series) that Bantam UK is planning, and in it I spoke of ambition; observing that through most of my career as both an unpublished and a published writer, I have often faced rejection wherein I have been criticized for being "too ambitious." Looking back, then, I realized (with bemused surprise), that in this one area I have not changed one whit. If I'm not pushing things I just don't see the point, and that's what drives my writing — it did in my very first stories and it still does.

If there is one change I can observe without too much cynicism, it's that I find I am less and less frustrated in facing that particular criticism. When young, I received it with disbelief. Now, I just shrug. Is this what scars do? Am I simply desensitized, or do I just not give a fuck anymore? I suspect that if I was as poor, as struggling, as I once was, then my feeling would be very different than it is right now. Is this what "comfort" purchases in a life? Could be.

You can read the entire Q&A here.

Wild Cards Q&A: An interview with GRRM and co.

Hi guys!

The "little" interview which follows started out as some kind of joke. When I posted my three-way Q&A with GRRM, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham to promote Hunter's Run, George said that perhaps we could do it again for the forthcoming Wild Cards novel. But, he warned me, it would have to be a nine-way gig. Yeah right, I told myself.

And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I found the project appealing. Of course, this thing could go downhill fast, what with trying to get nine different authors involved in a cohesive interview. Still, I was game and so was George. So in order to promote Inside Straight (Canada, USA, Europe), we decided to go for it.

Many thanks are due to both Elio García and Iain Cupples (Ran and Mormont on for helping me put this Q&A together. Their help was invaluable, and I would be remiss if I didn't say that the interview turned out to be this good because of the questions they each submitted. Also, thanks to George and his collaborators for accepting to do this.

Naturally, this one is a monster, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee before sitting down and reading it. I was afraid that it would turn into something of a nuthouse, but the interview is informative, entertaining, and fun.

There's even some ADwD news pertaining to its release date at the very end. . .

To make things a little easier to follow:

GRRM: George R. R. Martin
MS: Melinda M. Snodgrass
CV: Carrie Vaughn
CS: Caroline Spector
IT: Ian Tregillis
SL: S. L. Farrell
DA: Daniel Abraham
JM: John Jos. Miller
MC: Michael Cassutt


- GRRM and MS: After a hiatus, how much fun is it to be back in the Wild Cards universe, this time with some of the old gang and a couple of new faces? With Inside Straight being the first volume of a new trilogy showcasing a "new generation" of Wild Cards, are the expectations higher than they were before?

GRRM: Wild Cards is always fun. I love the world, I love the characters, and I love working with the gang (well, most of them, most of the time). In its heydey in the late 80s and early 90s, the series was a phenomeon -- sales were terrific, we were nominated for a Hugo (for the overall series) and a Nebula (for Walter Jon Williams' story "Witness" in book one), two regional conventions brought in the entire Wild Cards consortium as GOHs, Wild Cards panels at worldcons were packed and noisy. I think we did some good work too. The fact that we have ardent fans all these years later is proof of that. I don't think any of us were ready for the series to end when we hit our seven-year hiatus, in between Baen and iBooks. We were all convinced Wild Cards would return one of these years, and now it has. It feels like coming home again. Some of the faces have changed, and there's an empty chair by the fire, but most of the old gang is back and some new young writers have joined the madness. The first incarnation of Wild Cards ran for seventeen volumes, and outlasted every other shared world anthology series. My hope is that this new series will go twice as long. So, yes, I guess you can say our expectations are high.

MELINDA: Wild Cards has been one of those projects that just haunts you and never completely lets go. I have the added advantage (or curse) of having written a Wild Card spec movie script, and I'm still hoping we'll place it somewhere after the strike ends. This is such a rich and vibrant world that it feels real to me, and my mind has often gone back to great characters and great moments in the earlier books. Now we're getting to bring new, fresh minds to the project and how they view our world has been fascinating.

- GRRM and MS: Without giving anything away, what can readers expect from this new trilogy?

MELINDA: Something a little hipper, more glib, and with a good deal more humor laced in among the real world issues that we're still going to address. I think readers will be pleased.

GRRM: "Who the fuck was Jetboy?" is how the book begins. That's Daniel's character Jonathan Hive writing in his blog, and he sets the tone for what we're trying to do here.

This is 'Wild Cards, the Next Generation' - the same world, but with a whole new cast of characters. The old characters are still around (the one who aren't dead), mind you, but this time the spotlight is on "the kids," the young aces and jokers who were born into the world transformed by the wild card.

The Marvel and DC universes have traditionally played fast and loose with their timelines, but the Wild Cards chronology has always hewn closer to our own alternative version of "real time." In Wild Cards, years pass just as they do in the real world, people age and change, children grow up, etc. As a result, many of our original characters are now close to retirement age, and some have been collecting social security for decades.

Also, after twenty-one years and seventeen volumes, the continuity had grown huge, complex, and daunting. There was so much history and backstory that it was hard for even the writers to keep track of it all, let alone the readers. I suppose we could have simplified all this with some sort of bogus "crisis" retrofit, but frankly, that's a cheat, and I hate it when the comic publishers do it. We're not abolishing the Wild Cards past, not at all. We're just turning our attention to the present and the future. It's been very liberating. If the readers have half as much fun with this as the writers did, they ought to love this book.

- CV, CS, IT and SL: How did you get involved in this new Wild Cards project? Did you have any previous familiarity with the series when you were invited in?

CARRIE: I'm a huge fan of the series from almost the beginning. I have all the books, comics, games, etc. I wrote George fan mail about it in 1993. (He wrote back--I still have his reply.) There is photographic evidence of me wearing a Peregrine costume. I've said too much already.

I'd known Daniel Abraham for a couple of years when Deuces Down, which includes a story by him, came out. I cornered him and demanded to know how he'd gotten in. Actually, I begged. Shamelessly. He invited me to Bubonicon, Albuquerque's SF convention, and introduced me to George and Melinda. Then I begged them. I'm not sure they appreciated being told that Wild Cards was my soap opera in high school and college, but I did anyway. I did that for like three years. Fortunately, by the time the current project got off the ground, my own novels (the Kitty series) were being published, so I could present actual writing credentials. Instead of just coming off as a crazed fan. They invited me to pitch characters and stories, and now here I am.

S. L.: Like most of the WILD CARDS writers, I was recruited by George -- he has final say on who plays in the WILD CARDS sandbox. I've loved the WILD CARDS books since Day One. I knew George had read some of my own work and had liked it enough to say so, and while he was in my town for a steamboat gathering (the man likes steamboats for some reason), I had the chance to sit down and talk with him. I guess I managed not to scare him off entirely with my appearance and my babbling, and he asked if I'd be interested in writing for WILD CARDS.

Now, I'd tell you that I at first declined, but George continued to insist that he needed me in the WILD CARDS stable, and he cajoled and complimented and bribed me until finally, after an entire three days of relentless and unending efforts to get me to succumb despite my strenuous insistence that I didn't have time given my own career, he battered down my defenses and literally forced me to agree to be a part of this. But that may not be exactly how George would tell the story. He'd probably tell you that he didn't even have the whole sentence out of his mouth before I screamed "Yes!"

That would be a lie. After all, George is a fiction writer and lies for a living.

CAROLINE: I was acquainted with Wild Cards for a long time because I had friends -- Howard Waldrop and Bud Simons -- who had written for it. I also knew George, though not nearly as well as I knew Howard and Bud.

I was at Conestoga in Tulsa a couple of years ago (George was GoH.) and after hanging with him and a bunch of folk from Austin that weekend, he emailed me and asked if I wanted to audition for Wild Cards. I was surprised and delighted to have been asked.

Oh, and I think I’m the only person portrayed as a character in Wild Cards who later became a writer for the series. (I was one of Fortunato’s hos. Bud killed me off horribly in Jokers Wild. What are friends for?)

IAN: I knew of Wild Cards from back in the late 80s, when I was a kid blowing my hard-earned lawn-mowing money on books. I'd go to the store to buy anything I could find by Roger Zelazny or James P. Blaylock, and there'd be all these Wild Cards books taking up shelf space... Which I suppose is ironic, since Zelazny was one of the original Wild Cards authors. I first met the man most people think is George R. R. Martin in a dimly-lit Santa Fe restaurant in October, 2005. I remember little of the evening; Melinda Snodgrass spiked my drink. Three days later, I woke in the cargo hold of a Dutch tramp steamer bound for Surabaya. I spent the next 87 days cowering from the captain's whip when I wasn't scrubbing the feet of sweaty, jowled Turkmen. On the 88th day I heard the dreaded click-thump, click-thump of George's artificial leg when he emerged from his gilded stateroom for the first time in three months. (The real GeorgeR. R. Martin walks on a stone leg carved from the tomb of Ramses II.) He loomed over me, adjusted his bejewelled eyepatch, and said, "You got spirit, kid." Then he proceeded to explain the new Wild Cards project while the albino raven on his shoulder screeched obscenities at me. And so here I am.

- GRRM, MS, MC and JM: What has it been like collaborating with several authors who are new (or nearly new, in Daniel's case) to writing in the Wild Cards setting?

GRRM: New writers and new characters help keep a series fresh. Every new player sees the world a little differently, and when a new character steps on stage and begins to interact with the existing cast, sparks fly and doorways open, and that's half the fun of a project like this. Mind you, it's not an easy task for a new writer. You're like a musician sitting down to jam with a band that's been playing together for decades. Talent alone is not enough; you also need to play well with others. That being said, I think this time around we drew all aces with our new contributors. Their energy and enthusiasm even helped to fire up us old timers.

MICHAEL: From a contributor's perspective (as opposed to editor's), there was no difference. I'm not sure I'd even know what a "new" writer would do differently -- except write a longer-than-needed first draft.

JOHN: My stories, particularly the one in the first book, are more self-contained than many of the others. Still, there’s nothing like an infusion of fresh blood to get all systems up and humming.

MELINDA: The new writers have been wonderful. First, they are in fact younger than many of the original generation, and they bring a fresh outlook to the project. And they are all stunningly talented. They are also a little more wry and a little more cynical then we were, and I think that will add to the energy of the books.

- Are the nine of you going to be collaborating on the forthcoming sequels to Inside Straight, or will there be new additions to the Wild Cards roster?

CARRIE: Yes and yes. Many of us are in Busted Flush, along with some otherfamiliar names. It seems to be going like much of the earlier series did: you'll find familiar as well as new names in each volume.

DANIEL: That's up to George. I sat out the second book in part because I was planning to be busy writing scripts for a six-issue Wild Cards comic book. As it worked out, I might have been able to do both, but it's not like you can be sure of those things going in. I'll pitch my idea for the third book, and we'll see if he takes me up on it or not.

More generally speaking, I hope there will be more folks folded into the project. I think there are some very talented wtiters out there who could have something interesting to say in this world.

IAN: First-generation Wild Cards author Bud Simons and I are collaborating on a joint story for Busted Flush. We're putting the final (I hope!) touches on it now.

MICHAEL: It all depends on where I see an opportunity to tell a story within the larger narrative.

JOHN: I believe the second book is more or less the same line-up. I’m sure there’ll be more additions as the series proceeds.

CAROLINE: I think everyone from Inside Straight is currently working on the next book, Busted Flush. (With the addition of Bud Simons and Kevin A. Murphy to the roster. It’s a very full book.) As for adding new writers, I’m thinking that’s a George question. Who else are you going to suck…er, uhm, ask to join?

S. L.: Oh, there are several other writers who are part of the Consortium, and there is never a guarantee that you'll have a story in any one particular book. You almost certainly will see 'new' writers in future books. Here's how it works, in a nutshell. The overall arc of the book is hammered out, a process where anyone who wants to participate has a voice -- that's sometimes done in person: in the old days, that might have been at a convention, but there was a get-together in New Mexico where much of the arc of the current three books under contract was drafted (I wasn't there *sniff*). Then the arc was further refined by e-mail input from those who couldn't be at the meeting -- most of our communication is through group e-mail.

Eventually, George puts out a call for 'pitches' for the book. Any writer who wants to be in that book writes up a one or two page outline of the story he or she would like to write: which character will be the protagonist, what other characters of other writers you're going to use in addition to your own, and how your story is going to tie into the overall plot of the book. Writers are best advised, when they're putting together their pitches, to be talking to the other writers because the better your pitch weaves into other stories being pitched, the better your chances of making the cut.

Because there will be a cut. George can only take so many stories in any one volume, and he always gets more pitches than he can accept. George decides which stories are going to best work together and lets everyone know whether they're in or out. Since there are, I don't know, maybe thirty people who have 'shares' in the Consortium, there could conceivably be thirty pitches on any one book -- I don't think George has ever received a pitch from everyone who could pitch, though: sometimes a writer just doesn't have an idea for a particular volume, or your characters just don't seem to fit, or you're working on another deadline and just don't have time, or life is simply too busy right now...

You can see from the above process, though, why WILD CARDS is "By Invitation Only." A writer coming in 'cold' or unsolicited would have no knowledge of the current book-in-progress (always one or maybe even two ahead of the one that's currently in print) and thus wouldn't be able to tie their story into the plot.

MELINDA: I think we're pretty much set for this triad. It would be hard to bring in a totally new writer for the full mosaic, but if the books do well and we get a second triad we'll be adding to the roster. I spoke to one potential writer at World Fantasy and I think fans will be blown away if he joins the stable.

GRRM: It's rare for any two Wild Cards books to have exactly the same lineup. At present we have thirty members in the Wild Cards consortium, but only eight or nine story slots in any volume (fewer for the full-on mosaics). Busted Flush will feature stories by many of the writers who were in Inside Straight, but not all of them; on the flip side, it will have contributions from several authors who were not in the first book. And the lineup for the concluding mosaic, Suicide Kings, remains to be determined.

- DA, CV, MC, CS, JM, IT, and SL: This is the first Wild Cards book in a while to be told in the 'traditional' format of shorts from various contributors with an overall story arc. What were the challenges of the linking process? How closely did you have to work with George as editor on these sections, and how free were you to express your own creativity? How much does the writing process differ between your own projects in which you have full control and a shared universe where what you are producing must be part of a larger "whole?"

IAN: It's extremely challenging, but also very rewarding when the final product comes together. The trick is figuring out a story that explores and illuminates a character -- since character is the heart of story --while simultaneously furthering the overall storyline of the book. That takes a lot of back-and-forth, not just with George and Melinda as editors, but also with the other writers as they put their own sections together. There's definitely an element of negotiation to this process that isn't present in a solo project. That may sound creatively restrictive, but if anything, I think it inspires us to greater creativity when we have to hash out thorny plot and character issues. Overcoming challenges makes for better work overall.

S. L.: Oh, the writing process is very different. For one, you're not telling the whole tale, and the further back in the book you are, the more you're relying on other writers to advance your storyline -- and meanwhile the person writing the interstitial material (in the case of Inside Straight, that's Daniel) has to provide the 'glue' and bridging material to hold all the stories together. In the format of Inside Straight, the stories are the bricks that create the entire novel, and the interstitial is the mortar holding the bricks together. When you write on your own, you're providing all the bricks and all the mortar and building a structure that's entirely your own conception. In WILD CARDS, the structure is more a group vision, and you provide your single brick -- though the metaphor falls apart there... because the character(s) you provide to the mix will appear in everyone else's work, too. So your 'brick' is composed of elements from everyone else's brick, too.

You have to constantly be aware of what the other writers are doing. You're not just using your own characters. Your story will also feature characters who belong to other writers (some of whom may not even be writing a story for the book), you need to send your drafts to the 'owners' of the characters so they can vet the dialog and actions of their people. The chronology and timing of events has to coordinated with everyone else; if The Great & Powerful Candelabra loses one of her eight silver arms during a fight scene in your story, then everyone afterward has to know and adjust their description. The rewrites can be extensive and ruthless; George has to see all the drafts, read 'em, then send out revision notes not only regarding the story itself, but ensure that it ties tightly into everyone else's story.

It's very much collaboration. When I write a story for a theme anthology, for instance, my story stands alone. I can pluck it out of the anthology and it's perfectly readable out of that context. The character arc is fully self-contained, the plot is complete, the theme is complete. That's very much not the case in WILD CARDS -- someone reading only my story would be missing all the 'backstory' that's necessary to understand it, and my story doesn't end the tale of the book. My story doesn't stand on its own... and it shouldn't, not if I'm doing the job right as a collaborator. I'm taking up the threads of the entire book, using my character to weave the pattern for a while, then handing off the fabric to the next person.

CAROLINE: Ah, starting with the easy questions, I see. I’ve done work-for-hire, so I’m used to working within the constraints of someone else’s world. I think the person who had the most work to do linking-wise was Daniel Abraham. He did the interstitial for Inside Straight. And of course, George is responsible for making sure all the stories hang together properly.

My experience of being “creatively free” Wild Cards-wise was that George gave me plenty of rope to hang myself. Then when he got my first draft he wrote me an email that basically said: “I liked the story, except for everything that happened in it.” Sigh. I loved my scene with Dragon Girl and Bubbles. Maybe George will let me post it on the website . . .

For me, the process of working with collaborators isn't much different from the process of working on my own. Someone once said, “Writing is like masturbation. It’s best done alone.” You always write alone. At least I do. (Make of that what you will.)

The difference in writing for Wild Card versus writing for yourself is in trying to make sure that your story helps the other writers’ stories where you can. And hoping they’ll return the favor.

CARRIE: I will confess, I'm a bit of a control freak and there have been a couple of times where I've wanted to tell George, "Look, just give me the whole thing, I'll do it." It's hard letting go of a favorite scene because it doesn't fit the rest of the book. But I think one of the real strengths of the series is the many voices that come together to tell the stories. And it's also kind of nice being responsible for a small chunk of a novel rather than the whole thing. Plotting an entire novel is one of my weak spots, and writing for Wild Cards lets me dodge that bullet.

We get a lot of input from George. It's his job, with Melinda's help, to look over the first drafts of stories as they come in, then decide how they all work together, and what needs changing so that they all work together. This can be something as minor as two authors depicting the same character in a different way, or as major as two people writing stories that have thesame characters being in two places at once. The revision notes have usually run along the lines of, "You need to make these changes so that your story will lead into so-and-so's story, and follow up on so-and-so'sstory." Lots of emails go back and forth between George, Melinda, and the other writers most closely involved in each individual story. (We all getto approve other writer's uses of our characters.)

In some ways, it's like being a journalist. You're given a task--report on x, y, and z in the overall storyline. But it's all of us working together that determines the storyline, and someone's good idea can change the whole outline. Within the overall framework, there's quite a bit of room for creativity, especially in terms of characterization. Over the course of the series that's where some of the great future storylines have come from. George can back me up on this, but if I remember right, Jay "Popinjay"Ackroyd started out as a minor character who gained a life of his own and took over in later books, because he was so much fun. I think we already have a couple of characters who were supposed to be minor, but are in the process of taking over. (I'm thinking of especially of Ian's character Rusty.)

JOHN: Wild Card stories take a lot more longer to produce than solo stories, especially the ones that are closely integrated with the other stories, both to get the details shared between stories right and to help advance the over-all plot properly. E-mail makes the challenge of the linking process a lot easier, and cheaper, than in the old days of long distance phone calls.

MICHAEL: I worked quite closely with George -- the process was, in my experience, much like writing for television. A larger set of story points exist.... you look at the characters and propose a guest star and an episode... the editor or producer makes suggestions or criticism, you revise, then write. Then re-write. Then re-write a bit more. The process is nothing like writing a story or novel of your own.

DANIEL: Well, speaking as the guy who had the interstitial, I didn't have a story the same way the other folks did. My job was to put in the context. It's kind of like looking at diamonds on something dark. They were the diamonds, and I was the black cloth. It wasn't like writing a normal story, but it was the gig I signed up for, so I had a lot of fun with it. The shape of it changed a lot from our first rough sketch after people's actual stories came in and got shuffled around.

The editing or the collaborative process -- whichever name you want to call it by -- is always a negotiation. I have things I want to do, George has things he wants me to do. When we disagree, I'm always welcome to explain my view and objections, and George will push back.

Of course at the end of the day, he's the editor and can kick me out of the book if I'm too hard to work with.

- Generally speaking, the "gritty", "realistic" superhero comic has been the dominant kind of superhero comic in the U.S. these days. It's interesting to look back and realize that the publication of the first Wild Cards book more or less coincides with the wrap up of Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons's seminal Watchmen. Is there any connection there between these two important works that some might say helped to redefine (for better or worse) the kinds of stories that could be told with four-color supers?

CARRIE: Don't forget Miller's Dark Knight. I think it's fascinating that these all developed basically in parallel. Clearly an idea whose time had come. Wild Cards had even more freedom, because it was prose, and not tied to alot of the comic book conventions. By setting it in the real world the creators had to take a good long look at conventions like costumes and superhero teams, and realize that these are very nearly unworkable in real life. Moore's and Miller's works subverted a lot of superhero conventions, but Wild Cards made superheroes realistic to the extreme by placing the stories in our world with our history. Then there's all the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. How much of that had we seen in comics?

S. L.: Maybe it was just the time. I don't think there was much, if any, direct connection. WILD CARDS was an attempt to do collaborative work in a new and exciting way, to play with the idea of the 'superhero' and make it work within the framework of the 'real' world. WILD CARDS was long underway before I was aware of Watchmen.

JOHN: Much like when it’s time to build railroads, people will build railroads, when it’s time to write realistic superhero stories, people will write realistic superhero stories. Back in the mid-1980s I think that the traditional comic book story had gone about as far as it could. Readers – some of them, anyway – were ready for a different take on superheroes, stories that dealt with more mature issues in a more sophisticated manner. Naturally, when someone like Moore does it, and does it well, there will be numerous imitators, some who will do it as well, some of whom will do it not so well. When everyone is doing it, a lot of them will be doing it not so well.

CAROLINE: I think it’s more of a coincidence of timing than anything else. There are always seismic shifts occurring in art and culture. It’s a chicken-egg thing. Sometimes there’s just something in the air. It was about the same time that grittier, more realistic superheroes appeared that cyberpunk was becoming a big deal in SF. I would argue that the late 80s were a time when the dark underbelly of Reagan’s Amurika was seeping into popular culture in general.

MELINDA: I think this was just "in the ether" In fact we were working on the first Wild Card book while Moore and Gibbons were writing Watchmen. Remember, we went head to head with them for the Hugo at the New Orleans Worldcon. I do think the "gritty" comic has now become the cliche, and so many of us are discussing how to find the new trope for the genre. I think what Joss Whedon did with Buffy and Firefly offers some clues and books like Demo -- humor and more human sized stories. Not that we have managed to pull back on the scope for this triad. Far from it.

DANIEL: I was graduating high school and heading off to college when Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns and Wild Cards all came out. I think there was something in the water of the late 80s that begged for a new mythology. I don't think "gritty" was actually the appeal, though. And, as I've said to George, in the first Wild Cards book, we had a tantric master sodomize a corpse back to life, which isn't actually strictly speaking realistic. I think the real power of all three of those works was that they had a moral complexity that as a teenager I was hungry for. It was Reagan's America back then, and however nostalgic we may be for it now, there was a simplicity and artificiality that made it a great petrie dish for what George and Frank Miller and Alan Moore were doing.

That said, I think we may have overshot as a culture. I think we've embraced dark and gritty so totally sometimes that it's become just another pollyanna. Saving the world from alien supervillains or beating whores to death are weirdly similar in that they present a simple, unnuanced world. Go back and read those first works again, and you'll see that wasn't what made them powerful.

- Could you tell us a bit about the process you used to create the Aces you're contributing to the book? Is it just finding a neat power that hasn't been done before and then making a character to suit that, or is it the other way around?

S. L.: Yeah, to some extent, to create a character for WILD CARDS you need to come up with some 'power' (or some twist on one) that hasn't been done before. That's getting tougher as the series goes on, believe me...

But I think you can approach it from either direction: come up with a power and create a character that fits it, or have an idea for a character and create a power that complements their personality. Drummer Boy came from character first. My son's a drummer (though I hasten to add that his personality is not like DB's....). He is obsessed with drumming and percussion; it's his passion. So I wondered: in the WILD CARD universe, if someone like this were infected with the virus, how might that passion be reflected? From that question, DB arose: a person who is his own self-contained drum set. Mind you, DB considers himself more a joker than an ace...

You'll see 'Gardener,' another character of mine, in Inside Straight, though not in my story (you see, it really is collaboration). When I was pitching characters to George, I was also planting a garden. "Y'know, it'd be nice if I could just get these seeds to spring up immediately..." Voila! A new power... and then I had to create a character who seemed to fit that power. DB was 'character first, power second' while Gardener was 'power first, character second.'

You may see another character, Barbara Baden, aka The Translator, in future books. She springs from a trip to France, where I really wished I could speak French...

CARRIE: George and Melinda said early on that they wanted powerful women aces,since that was something the series had been lacking. So that's what I focused on. In coming up with powers for wild carders, you realize pretty quickly that there's very little that hasn't been done. The trick is finding a twist or an interesting angle. Wild Cards, with its jokers, offers a new dimension to the whole thing in coupling powers with sometimes massive physical alterations. I didn't go that route, though other writers did.

Telekinetic earthmoving has been done in the comics, but Wild Cards had never used it, so I latched on to it. I also wanted to write a character with a different background and ethnicity than me. That's how Ana Cortez, aka Earth Witch, came about.

It took a lot of back and forth with George to pin down Curveball's power. I knew I wanted her to make things go "boom," but we did lots of tweaking to find something that would be new and interesting--not just throwing things that explode, but being able to control their trajectory in flight as well. I was a little chagrined to realize just a couple of months ago that Curveball's power is a variation of the X-Men's Gambit's power. But again, it's not something that's been done in Wild Cards, and having that power in the hands of a spunky 19 year old softball player is newish and fun.

CAROLINE:: I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember exactly how I created Bubbles. I think Warren (my husband) and I were sitting around and I was angsting about creating a character. He said, “Oh, hell, I can come up with loads of superheroes.” And then he did.

I couldn’t let him outdo me, so I wrote down several character ideas, not caring if they sucked or not. Bubbles was the one who really sang to me. I pitched her and three other characters to George. He liked all but one, so I think I did okay.

Oh, and George was very clear that he wanted characters with physical rather than mental powers for the new books. That made things a lot easier, actually.

MICHAEL:: To me, the creation of an SF or fantasy story starts with the idea. For WILD CARDS, I always start with a power, then search for the best character to possess it.

JOHN: I think the story comes first. You think of a particular story you want to write that needs particular characters to serve it, and then you see what powers will fit that character. The powers don’t make the characters.

IAN: For me, it's difficult to devise an interesting power that hasn't already been done or isn't similar to something else. Since I cling to character as the heart of a good story, I tend to start there. Once I have a sense of a character's wants and needs, his or her background and personality, a power tends to suggest itself. What kind of Ace do you become if you're a lonely, pimply, klutzy kid from the Iron Range?

DANIEL: I started with a power and then thought about the kind of person I wanted to write about. I didn't see a big connection between power and personality, though. If Jonathan Hive had some other ace power, he'd still be the same character to me, we just wouldn't call him Bugsy.

MELINDA: All the powers have been used multiple times by the comics and by us. We can find interesting and creative ways for our characters to use those powers, but I think how you make a memorable character is not through the powers, but through the person. I created Double Helix aka Noel Matthews because I was looking at how a super patriot -- crown and country and all that -- would view himself. How he would view these new, young aces? Would he admire them or think they were naive? The power was suggested to me one day when I was listening to Mozart's The Magic Flute. You'll just have to wait for the book to see what that means.

- Cover art is always important to some degree, but in a genre like superhero stories, where striking and iconic visuals have been so significant, do you feel it's crucial? Do you feel the art has captured your Aces as you intended them? What input did you have?

S. L.: As far as I know, George is really the only one who has had significant input into the book covers. Covers can be incredibly important to a book's sales and I really think you want and need striking cover art (and I feel we have that for Inside Straight), but I will say that I don't personally think the cover depictions of the characters matter all that much. This isn't a graphic novel or superhero comic where the visual component is on every page; it's fiction, and the readers will supply their own images of the characters based on the descriptions in the book -- and those are as valid as anything on a cover.

JOHN: I don’t think we’ve been particularly well-served by our cover art to date, with a few exceptions. Tim Truman had a nice run although I guess some thought his work too “comic-booky” (I wouldn’t agree), and there have been some other nice ones. I don’t know if the cover art is crucial. I think it can help, but the cover art for the first series didn’t particularly add anything of significance, and those books sold very well. I can honestly say that the cover for the first Tor book is perhaps the finest we’ve ever had.

MELINDA: I think we have a fantastic artist working on the new Wild Card covers. George can speak to this better than I, since the cover features his character Lohengrin, but it seems like we are being heeded. I also think it was a good move on the part of Tor to go to less "comic" book style covers and more straight paintings.

GRRM: Michael Komarck painted the cover for Inside Straight, and it's our hope that he will do the rest of the books as well. I agree with those who said this is the best cover we've ever had on a Wild Cards book (and we've had some great ones, like the six spectacular Brian Bolland covers that appeared on the old British editions). Komarck is a digital artist, and he's done some amazing Ice & Fire work in the past. He's been a joy to work with, as has Tor's art director, Irene Gallo.

- Do you find that working on Wild Cards benefits your solo work? What do you take away from working on a such a shared universe book?

IAN: Yes. Wrestling with the creative challenges I mentioned earlier has made me more flexible-- my ability to study a problem from different angles, and to dream up multiple solutions, is stronger now. And it's been a blast watching how the others put their own stories together.

MICHAEL: I can't see any specific benefit -- or any detriment -- to my solo work, since the processes are so different. It's fun to see how other writers deal with your characters -- and how they react to your uses of theirs.
S. L.: You can't help but learn while working with such an incredibly talented and diverse group of writers. Seeing how other people handle scenes and characters, having to match dialog for characters whose voices you didn't create, brainstorming with other writers and watching how they develop ideas, getting revision notes from an editor who happens to be an excellent writer himself... I tell you, this is the world's best writing course.

You walk away from the experience a better writer. You don't have a choice. Not if you have any imagination at all.
One aspect I think we all come away with is a highly refined knowledge of how to handle multiple viewpoints within a novel -- in WILD CARDS, the novels are all (by nature of the beast) written in multiple viewpoints and we've seen how that can enrich a story. When we write 'solo' we can still use multiple viewpoint and voices, even though we create them all on our own. I know that's something I've taken and used in my own fiction.

JOHN: It opened some doors and of course gave me an opportunity to hone my skills by working with a good group of intelligent writers as well as an editor who demanded the best and sweated out every detail. You can learn a lot about teamwork by working for wild card (not a skill that writers necessarily have), but I’ve played in a lot more baseball games than I’ve written books (or even stories) so it was not a skill foreign to me from the beginning.

MELINDA: Only in so far as I am constantly reminded of the power and necessity of plot and structure. Without those clearly defined a Wild Card book can spin out of control.

DANIEL: I think any writing project that makes you check your ego at the door is a Good Thing, leading caps and all. The beauty of the Wild Cards universe is that we have to do things differently than we would if it was just our own private project, and as a writer, seeing that there's more than one way to do it keeps the rest of my thinking flexible.

CARRIE: Ask me again in a year. It'll be interesting to see what kind of crossover there is between audiences (taking the question from a purely commercial standpoint). Artistically, I've been working on a series of werewolf novels, and it's great fun for me to be able to work on a side project like this. It keeps my writing muscles flexible. But I keep thinking I should try to do something with the Werewolves, the Jokertown gang that shows up in earlier books.

CAROLINE: I haven’t been working much on my own stuff since I started with Wild Cards. (I’m lazy and a slow writer -- an awesome combination for getting work done.) However, it’s been a revelation working with George as an editor. He has such a strong editorial vision and is extremely good at telling you what he wants. Also, if you’re really in disagreement about something he’s asked you to do, if you argue your point in a convincing manner, he’s willing to listen and often will change his mind in your favor.

GRRM: The interwoven POV structure of A Song of Ice and Fire is modeled on the format that we originally developed for the Wild Cards mosaic novels, so in that sense Wild Cards has had a huge impact on my solo work. My earlier novels never had more than one or two POV characters, but the mosaics convinced me that a multiple-viewpoint structure could work, and work well.

- GRRM and MS: The alternate history aspect of the series appeals to many readers, with appearances by Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and of course General Zappa. Is this something you plan to build on?

MELINDA: Absolutely.

GRRM: The alternate world stuff is a lot of fun, though it can sometimes be a challenge to new readers. Our copyeditor on Inside Straight, for instance, was convinced that our references to the Brooklyn Dodgers were a mistake and helpfully informed us that the Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles in 1957. In the Wild Cards universe, of course, Walter O'Malley drew a black queen and turned to sludge, and the Brooklyn Dodgers are still playing at Ebbets Field. Sports, politics, movies... our universe differs in all sorts of ways from the real world. Some of the changes are huge, some very minor, but they all have their impact, and help give our world its unique flavor. Yes, that's something we'll continue to play with... until the editor's head explodes from trying to keep track of all of this, anyway.

- The series has enjoyed amazing longevity: In fact, this latest book is being published shortly before its 21st birthday. Why do you think that is? Is it due to the setting, the themes, or is it just so much fun to write?

CARRIE: All of the above? The setting is great--very familiar, and it's loads of fun seeing the subtle changes between our world and the WC world (like Fidel Castro playing pro baseball). I always loved it for the characters. They're very intense and powerful and flawed, which made them seem so real. The world wasn't all sunshine and daisies, and being heroic wasn't always enough. And they are loads of fun to write. Except maybe by the third revision...

DANIEL: I think it's because publishers keep buying it. Part of that is George's success, part of it is the enduring power of the superhero mythology and its critics.

S. L.: Hey, WILD CARDS can finally drink legally!
I can answer as a writer. These books are an incredible amount of work to produce, as we've already talked about. More work than writing solo, honestly. But... if you're a writer, writing is what you enjoy doing. Many of these writers are my friends, I also know them all as writers and admire the talent each of them possesses. Where else can I work with a bunch of gifted people who I'd want to hang around with anyway, have an incredible amount of fun putting together plots and twists and characters and tossing around ideas, then get to write stories in this neat universe we've all had a hand in putting together -- from the newest writer in the group to those who have been there from the beginning -- and finally hand those stories to the fans and readers of the series. Wow...

Writing is generally a lonely business -- it's usually just you and the computer screen and your imagination. There's nothing wrong with that; heck, it's the way I like it, most of the time. But in WILD CARDS, I get to share the experience of writing with good friends, and hopefully along the way create something that's greater than the sum of its component parts. That's entirely rare, and entirely precious.

- Recently, it was announced that RPG publisher Green Ronin had acquired the license to publish a Wild Cards campaign setting. This isn't the first time that Wild Cards has attracted the attention of game publishers (Steve Jackson Games produced two sourcebooks). What do you think is the particular appeal of Wild Cards to gamers?

S. L.: Considering the origin of WILD CARDS, it's a return to the roots...

MELINDA: Well, it grew out of a gaming obsession with the NM crowd. Also, it's a great format for episodic adventures. Which is why cop shows work -- you have a bad guy and a problem to solve each week that has some real weight.

JOHN: It’s a vivid and exciting universe peopled by all sorts of strange characters, yet it is also as familiar as your own neighborhood (if you live in a odd neighborhood).

CAROLINE: I think the appeal of the Wild Cards universe for gamers is that it isn’t restrictive. Anyone can get a wild card, and the Wild Card characters aren’t restrained by well, anything. There’s also a lot of dark wish-fulfillment in Wild Cards. I think that’s a pretty powerful combination for role-playing.

CARRIE: The appeal of gaming has always been to take the story one step further. You're not just reading about it, you're BEING it, at least for a little while. It's a natural impulse with a world as rich as Wild Cards. And superheroes. Who doesn't want to be superheroes? Hey, anyone want to put together a Wild Cards themed City of Heroes team? Just kidding, I have no time for that...

- DA: You've mentioned that the Wild Cards comic you're working on have will have a "new punk" sensibility. Could you say a bit more about what you mean by that, and in particular what it means for the Wild Cards stories you're writing or have written?

DANIEL: I'm a skeptic about the virtues of "dark and gritty." I think that there was a time when that was revolutionary and exciting and really really interesting, but that time was 1987. Since then, it's been done. Done well, done poorly, remade, replayed, and flogged to death. In this context, "darker and grittier" isn't revolutionary or exciting or interesting; it's desperate and tapped out.

What I want to do with the comic book -- and with the novels and short stories for that matter -- is move away from the impulse that equates bleakness with realism and try for some actual realism and complexity, only with superpowers. The six-issue arc that I'm working on right now has fights and deaths and Croyd Crenson and all that kind of good stuff, but it's at heart a story about survivor's guilt. If I get another shot after this one, I'd like to do a comedy in the Wild Cards universe. Maybe a few very small, personal stories that don't require the grand epic sweep. Brian Wood put out a series called Demo that I think is really great work along these lines. I would love to see the Wild Cards universe have room for a story about the boy with X-ray vision going to his first day of fifth grade at a new school or telepathic girl coming home for her first Thanksgiving after moving away to college.

Humane is the new gritty. I think we should go there.

- It's been asked before, but there were plotlines left hanging at the end of the 'Black Trump' cycle, such as Zoe's determination to punish those she'd felt had failed the Wild Carders. With the intervening gap, they're probably (literally) history, but will they be referred to, or are they something best forgotten?

MELINDA: I really think we want as fresh a start as possible, but there are a few threads that we are going to resolve.

S. L.: In life, and in WILD CARDS, not all questions can be answered, and -- as in life -- sometimes a story comes into view for a time, fades, and we never see the ending... or we may find the thread taken up again when we least expect it.

CARRIE: We made a concerted effort to start with new storylines so a reader could pick up the series and not need the twenty years of preceding history to keep up with it. There will of course be moments and Easter eggs for the old school fans. But for the most part, the stories are new.

GRRM: Any project as large and long-lived as Wild Cards will inevitably generate a lot of loose ends and "untold stories." Most of those are tied to a specific character. Despite the collaborative nature of these series, it is rare for one writer to attempt a definitive or seminal narrative about a character created by another (though there have been exceptions to that), so the question of whether the "untold stories" will ever be told hinges on whether the original writer cares to tell them. Zoe, for instance, was created and written by Sage Walker, and if Sage decides to write another Zoe story for us, I'm sure she'll pick up that loose end you mention. If not... well, the other writers have their own characters, and other priorities. Similarly, only Pat Cadigan can tell us what ever became of Water Lily, only Walter Jon Williams truly knows if Modular Man and Patchwork lived happily ever after, only Melinda can decide what might happen if Jube decides to hold Tachyon to that Network contract he made him sign, etc.

Sadly, at least two wonderful "untold tales" of the Sleeper were lost when Roger Zelazny passed away. I know that Roger had always intended to bring back Croyd's boyhood friend Joey Sarzanno, and tell the story of the crystallized woman that Croyd kept in his closet. but he never had the chance, and now he never will. Croyd will continue to be a part of Wild Cards -- Roger deliberately crafted the character so he would be easy for the other writers to use, and always delighted in seeing what we did with him -- but it would take an unusual amount of hubris for any of us to attempt to write either of those two stories, and it is not something I would encourage. They were Roger's stories. No one else could do 'em justice.

- Most importantly, where's Croyd?

MELINDA: Croyd is doing just fine.

JOHN: Probably sleeping somewhere.

CARRIE: Asleep in one of his NYC hidey holes. That's only a guess, though.

IAN: You know, now that you point it out, there was this odd fellow on the tramp steamer...

CAROLINE: Well, I have an idea… but George will have to decide if he likes it.

S. L.: While out hiking on a trip to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, Croyd finally succumbed to the need to sleep, and woke to find himself transformed into an extraordinarily fast-growing Redwood sapling. He's currently about fifty foot tall and providing cover and shade in the middle of a forest, but is having troubling dreams about chainsaws and logging chains.

DANIEL: In the comic book.

- Working on a project such as Inside Straight provides a lot of exposure, it goes without saying. Here's your chance to tell SFF fans a little more about your own writing endeavors. What do you have in the pipeline?

MICHAEL: I'm working on an SF novel with a major feature film writer, along with the usual sort of TV projects, none of them sufficiently advanced to justify publishing titles or premises.

CARRIE: KITTY AND THE SILVER BULLET, due in January! This is the fourth book in my series about a werewolf named Kitty who starts a talk radio advice show. I'm contracted for #5-7, which I'm working on like gangbusters. Should keep me out of trouble. I also have the usual batch of short storiescoming up in places like Realms of Fantasy. I'm generally running around like a headless chicken. It's fun.

DANIEL: Well, I've just turned in the last book of the Long Price Quartet.

That's a four-volume epic fantasy series that, in retrospect, I'm actually pretty fond of. It's gotten some excellent critical attention, and the folks who've read the last book tell me it worked out well. That's published through Tor here in the states and Orbit in the UK. I've also got a collaborative novel with George and Gardner Dozois called Hunter's Run. And I think late next year my first pseudonym, M. L. N. Hanover, will be publishing its first novel. We're all very proud of little MLN, and we hope it does well.

S. L.: My most recent completed project was a Celtic fantasy series known as the "Cloudmages" books: Holder of Lightning, Mage of Clouds, and Heir of Stone. The Cloudmages books were a generational saga as well, so it had quite a wide scope. I've been very pleased with the critical reception and fan response to that series. However, I'm really excited about my current work-in progress: the Nessantico Cycle. Here, I'm exploring a world where magic, religion, and science are colliding explosively. The first book in the cycle will be out in February '08, and is entitled A Magic of Twilight. -- hey, you should really pick it up! I'm currently in the midst of finishing up A Magic of Nightfall, the second book... when George isn't nagging me for a WILD CARDS story.
You can check out my stuff at

IAN: I've just sold a three-book series to Patrick Nielsen-Hayden at Tor. The Milkweed Triptych is a science-fantasy alternative history of the twentieth century, and my first novel sale. Also, Melinda Snodgrass and I recently finished the screenplay for a spec television pilot. It's been a ton of fun putting that together...

CAROLINE: I’m working on a couple of novels at the moment, but I need to commit to one of them. For one I have to do hellish amounts of research and the other only purgatory amounts of research. So it’s difficult to decide . . . And my agent is shopping The Green Hours, my 1897-absinthe-abuse /dead-babies-in-jars book. So editors, if this sounds like your cup of frothy cappuccino, call him!

JOHN: I’m writing that aforementioned Wild Card RPG for Green Ronin Press. It will be suitable for gamers as well as those looking for a concordance of the wild card universe, with detailed biographies, time-lines, and just about all things you might ever want to look up about wild card (What’s the name of Dr. Tachyon’s chauffeur?). Although I haven’t seen any of the art as of yet, based on other volumes Green Ronin has done I’m sure that the illustrations will be fabulous. Look for it in the spring. After that's done, it's back to working on my novel BLACK TRAIN COMING, about coal miners and vampires in 1920's West Virginia.

MELINDA: I have a new novel THE EDGE OF REASON coming out from Tor books in May of 2008. I've written a spec television pilot with Ian Tregillis and when the strike finally ends our manager will start to show it around town.

- GRRM and MS: If each of you could select two authors that have yet to collaborate with you in the Wild Cards shared universe, who would you choose and why?

GRRM: Back around 1987 or so, when Wild Cards was new and we only had a couple of books out, I was approached at a convention by a skinny young British writer, all in black, who had an idea he wanted to pitch me for the series, a character who lived in dreams. I thanked him but told him we had all the writers we needed. The neophyte, of course, was Neil Gaiman, and the character was Morpheus. Obviously I'd like to have a do-over on that one. I love what Kurt Busiek has been doing with Astro City, so he'd probably be my other choice... though I don't know if he's ever written prose. Tough to pick just two, however. There are a number of SF and fantasy writers who love comic books and superheroes and might make great additions to Wild Cards... and maybe you'll be seeing some of them, should the series continue past this current triad. I keep a little list.

MELINDA: Terry Pratchett because he would bring humor and a very humanistic outlook to the series. Neal Gaiman because of his wild creativity. And I'll add one more -- Lois McMaster Bujold because she handles emotional themes so beautifully and also has a wry sense of humor.

- GRRM: With Inside Straight about to be released and two upcoming Wild Cards volumes, as well as the Warriors and Songs of the Dying Earth anthologies looming on the horizon, it appears that you'll be as much an editor as you'll be an author in the foreseeable future. Although they're both facets of the same craft, do you approach editing differently than you do writing? When writing, you always strive to bring the best out of yourself. How do you bring the best out of other people, which is the constant challenge of a great editor?

GRRM: That depends in large part on what you're editing. The demands of the job vary hugely with the particular parameters of the project. Magazines, books, and anthologies all have their own unique challenges... and shared world anthologies like Wild Cards are in some ways the most difficult and demanding of all.

With a project like Warriors, the editor's task is to recruit a strong lineup of writers and to get good stories out of them. When a story comes in that's flawed or substandard, the editor needs to try and find a way to fix whatever problems he has found, to make the story as good as it can be, to help the writer achieve whatever he set out to do. The best editors -- like Gardner Dozois, my partner on Warriors and Songs of the Dying Earth -- have a real gift for doing that.

All of that is necessary in Wild Cards as well, but the mosaic editor also has to worry about continuity, consistency, chronology, tone, the way the individual story advances the overplot, whether or not the story also works as a chapter in the ongoing novel, etc. Sometimes you get a story or a scene that reads fine in isolation, yet somehow undercuts, duplicates, or contradicts something another writer has done elsewhere in the book. In those cases, it doesn't matter how good the sequence is, it still needs to be changed.

The mosaic editor also has to function as a referee whenever two writers disagree. Wild Cards has never had to suffer through the feuds and pissing contests that plagued some other shared worlds, I'm pleased to say, but there have been moments. Buy me a beer at a con and I may tell you about the time one writer wanted his character to pull down the pants of another writer's character and smear mayonnaise across his ass. (That scene didn't make the book, needless to say). The interaction between writers and characters is one of the things that makes Wild Cards so much fun, but it is not always easy. Writers tend to be as protective of their characters as parents are of their children, so every interaction is fraught with peril, as we've learned (oftimes the hard way) over the years.

It's a lot of work, and can be very frustrating... but even so, I love it. I've been a professional editor almost as long as I've been a professional writer. The first book I ever sold was an anthology -- New Voices In Science Fiction, a book of original stories from the writers nominated for the very first John W. Campbell Award, back in 1973. I edited six Campbell Awards books (only five were very published) before the series ran its course, seventeen volumes of Wild Cards prior to Inside Straight, along with various "one off" anthologies. I will always be a writer, first and foremost, but I enjoy editing anthologies as well, and hope to do more of them in the future.

- Anything you wish to add?

SLF: The Wild Cards series is a blast, and there's nothing like it out there -- where else can you find such a talented pool of writers tightly collaborating to create works that weave together into a novelistic whole, where strange and wonderful characters move through all the stories. The WILD CARDS books are truly unique. I think we've taken the idea of a "shared universe" and elevated it to a new level, creating a body of works that is literally unparalleled. All of us who are involved in the WILD CARDS world are tremendously excited about Inside Straight and the books to come, and are looking forward to seeing the series continue for a long, long time.

CARRIE: I have discovered that it's possible to be an officially published Wild Cards author and still write Wild Cards fan fiction. No, you probably shouldn't ask.

DANIEL:: "Pleasure is by no means an infallible critical guide, but it is the least fallible." -- W. H. Auden

IAN: George, when do these chains come off?

GRRM: Why, never, Ian. You belong to us forever now. Mwahahahaha...

- A Dance with Dragons release date news:

Suckers!:p You really fell for this, eh!?! Don't you know that unless you read it on GRRM's LiveJournal, it's not true!?!;-)

Sorry, but I couldn't resist!:-)