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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mailvox: If this is failure

I suspect success might go to my head.
I actually put off reading the Throne of Bones series because I figured your fiction couldn't possibly be any good. Why? Well, nobody can do everything well! You're a clear political writer and superb thinker, you even had a band at one point. You're an immensely creative organizer, you started your own publishing house... "What are the odds for this guy also being a good epic fantasy writer?" I asked myself. Also, the title, Throne of Bones kind of put me off. I thought you were referencing G.R.R. Martin. Well, I finally read it, and was delighted. Sea and Summa followed in due course. Your writing has the key characteristics that I value in excellent fantasy: resonance and novelty. There is a sense of familiar mythic themes, but rendered in a new and surprising way. Elves and orcs and dwarves and Romans! Oh my!

I noticed a mention that you will come out with a revised book (Sea?) soon. I'm wondering, why revise? Why not write another one? (Please?) Will the revision be an expansion where I can just start reading the new stuff, or will I need to read the whole thing again to find the additions? (Not that this would be a dreadful fate!)

Now that F&SF has become a loathsome wasteland of Social Justice and Abused Pronouns, we need more writing like this.
Actually, it's not a revision, but an extended edition. By Amazon's reckoning, A Sea of Skulls will go from 430 pages to 924 pages. I don't quite see how that is even possible, since by my count, it will go from 165,000 words to 297,500. None of the existing story will be excised or even modified; I have no reason to change anything, and besides, I don't have the time.

And don't forget, The Last Witchking & Other Stories is now available in audiobook. I waited years to put any of this out in audio because I was waiting for the right narrator, and Jeremy Daw is just that.

An excerpt from "The Last Witchking".

In the eyes of the villagers of Pretigny, Speer Gnasor was a boy not terribly unlike any other. He was taller than the other boys his age, but someone has to be the tallest in every village, and no one ever appeared to think it odd that at nearly thirteen years of age, the top of his father’s head barely cleared his shoulder. Speer was quick-witted but not remarkably so, although he was both envied and mocked by the other boys for his ability to read.

He participated in their games, albeit in a desultory manner. He was not unpopular, and if he had exerted himself even a little, he might well have made himself a leader of one of the little packs that divided the children of the town on lines roughly conforming with their fathers’ occupations.

Per Gnasor, his father, raised bees and made candles, and his mother raised the small flock of geese and chickens that provided him with his daily egg, and on feast days, the fowl for their little family. His two passions were fishing and books, and it was said that he had read every one of the twenty-eight books in the village at least twice.

The Gnasors themselves were said to possess seven books. By Pretigny standards, this amounted to a family library of almost mythic proportions. He dutifully attended the small church of the Immaculate twice each week, and if he ate the wafer and drank the wine given to him by the priest with little thought for what it represented, in this he was no different than any other boy in the village.

He was not an unhappy lad, and he was entirely content with his life as he found it. He did not, like some of his youthful acquaintances, chafe at the smallness of their familiar surroundings or dream of one day seeking his fortune in what, from the perspective of Pretigny, was considered to be the great city of Niederholen. Even the rumors of the riches of distant Stalchwil on the banks of the Ghlêne more than a ten-day journey away held little fascination for him. He learned to tend his father’s bees, to twist wicks and shape wax, and slowly, but surely, he even began to take notice of the butcher’s daughter. She was a tall, slender girl with a wide mouth and pale blue eyes who was nearly of a height and an age with him.

Left to his own devices, allowed to pursue his homely dreams, it was likely that Speer Gnasor would have married the butcher’s daughter, learned the butcher’s trade, and eventually become a fine, upstanding pillar of the local church and community.

But on his thirteenth birthday, everything he knew about himself and the world around him was forever transformed by a letter from his father.

After a dinner that featured rare treats such as Valoyan sausages and the sweet cheese called Niederholt, Per Gnasor sent him into the forest armed with nothing more than his warmest coat and a small shovel and told him to unearth his birthday present one hundred paces north of his favorite tree.
Both excited and confused, he lost little time in finding the peculiar oak with a thick lower branch that twisted over its leftmost neighbor, and paced off the distance. He had to dig a hole that was deeper than his knees before he struck something hard. With a little more work he saw it was a small wooden chest. His heart beating faster, he extricated it from the ground and opened it.

The first thing he saw was a letter written in an unfamiliar hand. Despite the shadows cast by the looming trees, there was just enough light breaking through the leaves to permit him to read it.

To my son and my heir,

You are not what you think you are. You are more, so much more. Kings and princes would tremble and scour the earth in search of you were they to hear even a rumor of your existence. It was to save you from their wrath that your mother sacrificed herself. It was to protect you from their vengeance that you were hidden away even from yourself. The man and woman you believe to be your parents are my true and loyal servants, and they have raised you at my command, even as they release you now to your destiny as they have been instructed.

You will be told many lies about your true kind, we whom the vulgar and the frightened wrongly named witchkings. But this is nothing more than fear. It is the shameless perversion of history by the vicious little minds of its victors.

As you will learn, we Wahrkönigen were simply dedicated to the truth and only the truth, regardless of its consequences and heedless of its costs. And what was this fearful truth, this dark god that struck such terror into the hearts of Men and Elves, Orcs, and Dwarves? Only this: There is no Good and there is no Evil. There is only what Is. Nothing more. Have the courage to grasp this fearful truth, and you shall be a worthy successor to the long line of kings before you.

I have prepared the means that you will require to learn both the Lesser and the Greater Arts. Master them well. An arduous task lies before you, but I know you will succeed, for you are my son and you will surpass me. And in the place that has been prepared for you, you will also find the answers to your inevitable questions, including your true lineage.

You are a phoenix raised by sparrows, my son. Now it is time for you to fly. When you have grown into your strength and become worthy of your heritage, you will set the world on fire.

These are the three charges that I lay upon you, my son. Instruct the Elves. Break them of their ancient pride and shatter the remnants of their kingdoms. Humble the Northmen. They must pay a tithe of blood for their treachery. Harry them throughout their islands and drive them into the sea. Preserve the Blood. You must not be the last of your line. Father many children, on many women, but instruct only the most worthy in the Wahrkunst. The Blood will tell.

You are young and you are alone in a harsh and unforgiving world, but never doubt that you were loved as few sons have ever been loved. For your mother and your father so loved you that they died for you, not once, but twice. We allowed ourselves to perish and we erased ourselves from the minds of mortals, so that you might live.

Your enemies, and they are many, will not find you until you are ready to be found. Be brave, my son, be strong, and never permit yourself fear. For you are a true Wahrkönig, and in your veins flows the pure blood of the greatest and most powerful sorcerers the world has ever known. Embrace your greatness, my son, embrace the Blood, embrace the challenges I have set before you, and one day, you will teach the world that you are harsher and more unforgiving than it could ever dare to be.

Avenge me, my son. Avenge your loving mother. Avenge your noble race,

Mauragh, son of Thauragh
King of Thauron, Nordandir, and the Wolf Isles

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40 Comments:

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 27, 2017 8:03 PM  

Aw yeah. Just give us the hardcover, willya.

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 8:19 PM  

The shorter works are already in print in the Summa Elvetica omnibus.

For ASOS, you'll have to wait for the extended edition to be released in ebook first.

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 8:20 PM  

https://www.amazon.com/Summa-Elvetica-Casuistry-Elvish-Controversy/dp/9527065070/

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 27, 2017 8:28 PM  

The shorter works are already in print in the Summa Elvetica omnibus.

Owned in hardcover, twice actually, but thanks for the thought, Matt. Some of us just can't wait for the hardcover ASoS.

Still, I'll take the Kindle version just to get the extra pages.

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 8:31 PM  

I've owned all three editions of Summa. nyaah.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 27, 2017 8:33 PM  

Matthew wrote:I've owned all three editions of Summa. nyaah.

There's THREE?

Damn.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 27, 2017 8:36 PM  

Can't let this go Matt. Okay. There's the slipcovered Hinterlands HC, and the casebound Castalia version. What's the third?

Blogger Azimus September 27, 2017 8:46 PM  

Almost done reading Throne of Bones now. WAY better than your short stories - you really excel at spinning the intricate webs of plot and it shows well in your novel VD. When SOS is done I will definitely be buying it. I think my favorite innovations are Savondir and the Michaelines. I just read the scene at the Elvish embassy today - fantastic!

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 9:01 PM  

I think the original trade paperback was by Theodore Beale.

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 9:03 PM  

Yep

https://www.amazon.com/Summa-Elvetica-Casuistry-Elvish-Controversy/dp/0982104928

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 27, 2017 9:03 PM  

I think the original trade paperback was by Theodore Beale.

Ah bugger. Completism is a curse. Ebay time ...

Anonymous Daniel H September 27, 2017 9:05 PM  

>>And don't forget, The Last Witchking & Other Stories is now available in audiobook. I waited years to put any of this out in audio because I was waiting for the right narrator, and Jeremy Daw is just that.

I recently bought Mieville's Embassy Town as an audiobook. The female narrator is so off putting (to my ears, at least) that I turned it off and bought the print copy instead. For audio it is EXTREMELY important to get a good narrator. I bought the Bible narrated by the late Charlton Heston and it is a delight to listen to.

Blogger Matthew September 27, 2017 9:05 PM  

I'm about to email the friend I gave my copy to and ask if I can have it back (in exchange for the CH edition, of course).

Blogger Zarathustra's Bastard September 27, 2017 9:42 PM  

Fanboy gotta fanboy: once you're done saving the world, Vox, write more Selenoth. I mean the full Pratchett. Fill up whole shelves at the library.

It's just such a pleasure to read.

Anonymous Viiidad September 27, 2017 9:47 PM  

"The Last Witch King and Other Stories" is fantastic. When you read or hear them as a group, the interconnection with the broader story of ASOS and ATOB is amazing. And some of the tales will almost bring a tear to your eye. Not me, of course, because I'm a Sigma, but for normal, feeling humans.

Blogger 1337kestrel September 27, 2017 10:13 PM  

Careful with the praise, fellas. We don't want Vox to develop a big ego.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 27, 2017 10:46 PM  

Have pity. His non-existent wife didn't make a career in STEM. Also, kids can beat him in soccer. Also, he is of extremely average height. Also, he predicted Hillary Clinton would be President.

Blogger Chiva September 27, 2017 11:15 PM  

You're a clear political writer and superb thinker, you even had a band at one point.

Somewhat a modern day version of Buckaroo Banzai, just less hair.

Anonymous DissidentRight September 27, 2017 11:17 PM  

I put off reading Selenoth for a long time because because Vox was always talking himself down.

Now I tell people, "These are good books. If you read them you will like them. You should buy them!"

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit September 28, 2017 12:59 AM  

Can a reader skip AToB and still enjoy A Sea of Skulls?

AToP is okay, but it's not good enough to keep someone reading who doesn't really enjoy that specific variety of epic fantasy. But your writing chops keep improving. So can I shell out the clamolas and skip ahead to ASoS?

Side note: I just devoured the three SF-nal spy thriller / police procedurals you wrote. They're fantastic. They remind me of classic SF when SF was still fun: Nicholas Van Finn & Dominic Flandry. I hope you'll write more, and collaborate more with your Castalia authors in this fictional playground.

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit September 28, 2017 1:01 AM  

Van RIJN. @#?! AutoCorrect.

Anonymous Wooly September 28, 2017 1:07 AM  

Vox, I just remembered tonight that I got your free Amazon gift of ATOB.

I'm on tenth or so page on the Kindle app on a 37" screen 3 feet in front of me, and I'm hooked. High Fantasy, indeed. I admit, the last books I read were Tad Williams' Otherland series. Oh, and the Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb a couple of years later. Those were both fun reads. I can tell in 10 pages that ATOB is going to make me not play videogames for a week or so, and not get much sleep.

I'm asking for a spoiler here, but is there an appendix, a la Tolkein, where you go into detail about your naming conventions and the pseudo-latin? I've already got the map in a separate tab for quick reference.

Thanks for the freebie.

I bought SJWAL from Amazon a few months ago... I just remembered this: They took my money for that and a CD, some blues/funk band live set. They never sent me either, and then sent me an E-mail saying that I had to find another vendor on Amazon... after taking my money... I hope you got the loot from the sale, though, Vox. I didn't get the book. Pretty much don't need it.

Off to read.

Anonymous Anonymous September 28, 2017 1:38 AM  

OT...#KNEELTOTRUMP

Anonymous Anonymous September 28, 2017 2:06 AM  

The Overgrown Hobbit wrote:Can a reader skip AToB and still enjoy A Sea of Skulls?

At the moment, Throne of Bones is the better book; might as well start at the beginning.

I expect that will change once ASoS is out in its full depth.

Blogger Jevaughn Brown September 28, 2017 2:50 AM  

I aim to be as big a capital "F" Failure as Vox is someday, yes sir I do...

Jokes aside, the discussion of failure and success in last night's "Alt-Hero: The Triggering" darkstream was really enjoyable Vox.

Molyneux and Cernovich did a fantastic show on Mindset a while back - I think you and Mike could do a great video podcast on the subject too.

Not happening anytime soon I know, but it *would* be great.

Blogger SirHamster September 28, 2017 3:13 AM  

Speaking of failures, did you remember to unban Cernovich News from your periscope, Vox?

Blogger FrankNorman September 28, 2017 3:47 AM  

Vox, on the "nobody can do everything well" point - it seems to me that one person could indeed do a lot of different things well, if all of those things depended on the same basic skillset.

Being able to imagine a world and think out it's implications - run the scenario in your mind, so to speak, and describe what you are watching with eloquence, means you can do both fictional world-building and political analysis.

The really bad story-writers would, among other things, be those who simply don't understand what makes people tick enough to be able to invent believable characters.
This is why Peter Jackson made such a botch-up at times of JRR Tolkien's works.

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 28, 2017 4:19 AM  

swelling your head is not necessarily a bad thing.

if it gets large enough, maybe your eyes will be high enough to see the table top without using a booster seat.

Blogger VD September 28, 2017 4:38 AM  

Speaking of failures, did you remember to unban Cernovich News from your periscope, Vox?

Yeah, first thing I did.

Blogger Archella September 28, 2017 5:04 AM  

wow. that is a ton of more content. can't wait. love the dwarven story line. hope there is more of that.

Blogger Harambe September 28, 2017 5:46 AM  

I just wanna know whether the ugly underdog gets the girl

Anonymous DissidentRight September 28, 2017 8:35 AM  

The Overgrown Hobbit wrote:Can a reader skip AToB and still enjoy A Sea of Skulls?
1. Yes.
2. While there’s a lot of buildup in ATOB, there comes a point when shit gets real (i.e., the point you start cursing when the perspective shifts).

Blogger Duke Norfolk September 28, 2017 8:49 AM  

Wooly wrote:I'm asking for a spoiler here, but is there an appendix, a la Tolkein, where you go into detail about your naming conventions and the pseudo-latin?

Yeah, I'm wondering if there's a glossary (created by some fan maybe) to help with that.

Blogger Aeoli Pera September 28, 2017 8:58 AM  

Your fantasy writing is pretty damn good. You fixed the early issue where your sarcasm waxes eloquent and replaced it with a conscientious dedication to substance, and this is very appealing.

Blogger Matthew September 28, 2017 9:57 AM  

Duke Norfolk wrote:Wooly wrote:I'm asking for a spoiler here, but is there an appendix, a la Tolkein, where you go into detail about your naming conventions and the pseudo-latin?

Yeah, I'm wondering if there's a glossary (created by some fan maybe) to help with that.


A Throne of Bones has an appendix containing an explanation of the Amorran naming system and a list of characters.

See also http://selenoth.wikia.com/wiki/Cast_of_Characters

Blogger RobertT September 28, 2017 11:16 AM  

Regarding audible. I recently downloaded audible and am now up to about 20 books. I listen while I'm in my truck driving. Here's what I found. Most of my reading is not for pleasure. Those books work great on audible because I'm looking for general concepts or one or two big ideas. I don't have to pay attention to every word, or even every page. But I find fiction more demanding of close attention or I'm forever wondering what the hell happened, so those I read.

Blogger Jevaughn Brown September 28, 2017 12:34 PM  

DissidentRight wrote:While there’s a lot of buildup in ATOB, there comes a point when shit gets real (i.e., the point you start cursing when the perspective shifts).

Can confirm. :-)

The Overgrown Hobbit wrote:Can a reader skip AToB and still enjoy A Sea of Skulls?

I think if one read ASOS before ATOB they'd be losing 50% of the dark enjoyment intended.

Certainly you'd be losing much of the meaningfulness of Marcus' and Theuderic's character development in particular.

Blogger James Jones September 28, 2017 3:25 PM  

Wonderful excerpt. Loved it. Already makes me want to read the rest.

Anonymous szIlk September 29, 2017 7:38 AM  

The Don must build the wall and Vox must update the book.

Blogger Duke Norfolk September 29, 2017 8:45 AM  

Matthew wrote:A Throne of Bones has an appendix containing an explanation of the Amorran naming system and a list of characters.

Huh, really. Not useful in the ebook. There's no way to know it's there as there's no table of contents.

Should have at least put it up front, as a primer before reading. Just my 2 cents, which I know nobody asked for.

All in all it is rather tough to track all the names, though generally it's decipherable through context, etc.

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