Friday, August 20, 2010

Liz Williams Interview

Liz Williams is a science fiction author of several well received books. She writes books that mixes science with some fantasy elements, but takes interesting looks at different societies. Ghostsister takes place on a colonized world where the humans have a psychic link to the life on the planet. One woman doesn’t have this ability, so is treated as an outcast and protected by her brother. Empire of Bones takes place on Earth in a future India. A dying woman is offered to be saved by a visiting alien, but at what price? The Poison Master is the story of a woman who is a master of poison making and alchemy trying to get her sister back from strange aliens. This author’s books are very different to the science fiction genre, but very interesting.

Debbie Ledesma: How did you get started as a writer?

Liz Williams: I wrote on and off for years in a kind of desultory way - my mother was a writer, so in our family it always seemed to be a perfectly acceptable thing to do. However, most of my twenties were taken up with academic work and I did not really begin writing in any kind of committed way until I was in my thirties. I began by sending short fiction off to magazines and was lucky in that I broke into the professional market fairly swiftly, with a sale to InterZone. After completing my first novel, The Ghost Sister, I secured an agent and the book was sold about a year later.

DL: What authors, SF or otherwise, influence your writing?

LW: Le Guin, Vance, Tanith Lee, Bradbury - hey, steal from the best! I also have a great affection (combined with no small degree of irritation) for the Beat writers and people like Lawrence Durrell.

DL: Why did you choose the Science Fiction genre to write in?

LW: I think it chose me. Whatever I try and write has weird elements in it - it's just the things that have influenced me and the way that my imagination

DL: Your book Poison Master mixes some fantasy elements with your story. Was it difficult to mix these elements in the science fiction story?

LW: No, because I always describe myself as a science fantasy writer. I don't use many hard SF tropes - I tend to concentrate on sociological and cultural elements - and there is more leeway in crossing genres. I think that this is somethi ång we are seeing more and more of these days - Alaistair Reynolds, for instance, employs a number of Gothic elements in his SF; China Mieville uses technological aspects in his fantasy writing. Authors like Chris Priest and Graham Joyce have always had a very cross-genre appeal and I have a lot of regard for that. Besides, I don't like being put in a box.

DL: Do you do a lot of research in science for your books?

LW: I try to keep up with developments in science, but because they're science fantasy rather than hard SF I make a lot of stuff up. I think I get away with it!

DL: Do you have a favorite character in your books? Which one?

LW: Eleres in The Ghost Sister, because he's basically a younger, male version of me, and Ari in The Poison Master. I love creating devious men.

DL: Are you planning to branch out into other genres?

Not at the moment but these things often t çend to happen organically, rather
than being planned.

DL: How do you view SF as a vehicle for social commentary?

DL: It can be an immensely powerful vehicle for social comment (Orwell is an obvious case in point), but I don't think it should hit people over the head with it. Fiction with a Message (TM) is always annoying.

DL: I agree fiction with a message is annoying. How do you incorporate social commentary into your works?

LW: I try to slide it in under the radar. But my own view of politics and
society is constantly changing - I'm definitely left of center politically,
but there's so much that is problematic with fixed positions that I prefer
to remain ambivalent. I'd rather ask questions than try to answer them.

DL: Do you attempt to influence the way people view society through your writing, and if so do you believe SF can have an impact?

LW: Not really - obviously I have values Ë and views, but I'd rather present these as an emergent property of my fiction rather than using what I write as a means of preaching to people. I'm more interested in exploring ideas through my work and perhaps not coming to any very solid conclusions. I am still figuring out where I stand in a lot of areas and that's a lifelong process.

DL: Some recent criticism of SF states the genre is dying or has become stagnant, thus losing readers. What do you think about the current state of the genre?

LW: I think it's actually pretty vibrant at the moment. There are a lot of new
and interesting people coming onto the scene, a lot of mixing and matching with genres. I find media SF pretty stagnant (as opposed to media fantasy), but that' Ês been the case for a long time.

DL: Do you think SF movies and tv series helps the genre or gives the public the wrong idea about what the literature can be?

LW: The tropes of SF are now familiar to the mainstream, but the mainstream remains very sniffy about SF - it does the classic double-bind of marginalizing it and at the same time acknowledging it as populist. There is an awful lot of really bad media SF, but then there's a fair amount of poor media detective genre, for instance. If people take the trouble to look for the good stuff, they'll find it, but I'd say that a lot of the things you see are off-putting.

DL: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

LW: Work, work, work. Read lots. Don't give up (never surre nder!). Keep sending work out even when you think it's going to kill you. Research markets and above all, be as professional as you can.

DL: What books are you writing for the future?

LW: I have another novel coming out with Bantam in the US in the fall, titled Nine Layers of Sky, which is a contemporary SF novel (again with fantasy elements) set in Central Asia. It's due to come out in the UK with Tor Macmillan. At the moment, I am writing a novel that is provisionally entitled Banner of Souls, which is about a far future solar system and a girl who can travel through time. Lots of Oriental elements and much of the book is set on Mars.

I have a sixth novel on the backburner, which will be set in the same world
as The Ghost Sister, and this will be - cheerily - all about death and loss. I have recently lost my partner and this will inevitably emerge in my fiction. After that, I am hoping to do a sequel to Nine Layers of Sky. )

DL: Thank you very much Ms. Williams.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Barbara Hambly

A long time ago male authors dominated many genres of books including Fantasy. Some women authors had to use male pseudonyms to get published such as James Triptree who was really Alice Sheldon. Today, women authors hold their own with the men. There are many talented women Fantasy authors. Barbara Hambly is one of them. She has written many memorable books set in imaginative worlds of her own creation. Her characters remain with readers for a long time. All of the books span a range from Epic to Historical Fantasy.

The first series started with Time of the Dark, which became the Darwath trilogy. Ingold Inglorion, a wizard from Darwath, draws two young people from our world to his world to fight a menacing force of Darkness. Gil is a woman from our world who becomes a warrior and Rudy, an artist, becomes a mage. They explore the great fortress of the Keep of Dare in order to discover the secrets to defeat the Dark. The other two books in the trilogy are: The Walls of Air and The Armies of D aylight. Ms. Hambly wrote two other sequels that take place five years after the trilogy. Mother of Winter has the characters face new problems after the defeat of the Dark. They are threatened by a disease that destroys crops as the ice slowly moves south. The plot is resolved by a quest to a giant mountain known as Mother of Winter. The next book, Icefalcon’s Quest, takes place two years later. Ingold is away on a trip and dangers affect everyone else. This leaves Icefalcon to follow a dangerous mage and save a young boy. Ms. Hambly adds two stunning books to this fantasy world.

Another series is The Windrose Chronicles featuring the mage Antryg Windrose and Joanna, who is from our world. These books are set in a time approximate to the Industrial Revolution. The Silent Tower introduces us to Joanna as she is kidnapped across the Void the the empire of Ferryth. There she meets Antryg and along with another wizard, Caris, helps to defeat the evil intentions of the wizard Surkalin. I ˇn the next book, The Silicon Mage, Joanna travels back to the empire of Ferryth to help her friends defeat Surkalin once and for all. Finally, Joanna and Antryg live in California, but are dragged back across the void in the book Dog Wizard. These books have realistic characters involved in intriguing stories. Stranger at the Wedding takes place in the same world but tells the tale of Kyra. She is a young woman with strong magic talent. When she goes home for her sister’s wedding, she finds great danger and threats to her family. This is a nice addition to the other books set in a fascinating world.

Two of her Historical Fantasy novels are set during World War II and known as the Sun Cross. The Rainbow Abyss tells the story of the wizard Jaldis and his apprentice Rhion as they try to get to our world to answer a cry for help. Their world fears wizards and want to destroy them. The Magicians of Night tells a powerful story of the Holocaust. Rhion is trapped in Nazi Germany. He wants to get back to his world to find out what happened to his fellow wizards. Some Jewish prisoners help him to get back to his world. The characters are very realistic. Ms. Hambly does an excellent job of bringing a tragic part of world history to life.

Barbara Hambly has written Fantasy books with dragons too. Set in her world of the Winterlands, Dragonsbane is a classic of the genre. John Aversin the Dragonsbane and his wife Jenny Waynest receive a summons to a kingdom to slay the black dragon Morkeleb. Fearing for her husband’s life, Jenny makes a deal with the dragon. The author creates a remarkable character in Morkeleb that makes him seem what a real dragon would be like. The story and characters of this book appear in three sequels. Jenny Waynest and John return again in ¨ the next book Dragonshadow. This time they face demons who control other mages and dragons through their trapped souls. Ms. Hambly explores the theme of how power is a strong temptation to people in this book. Knight of the Demon Queen begins with a threat to Jenny and John’s son Ian. John owes a debt to the demon queen and must do it to save his son. Finally, Dragonstar completes the story of John and Jenny as John awaits execution. Jenny wants to save him as they find out who their allies and enemies truly are in this riveting conclusion.

This author explores other other cultures with her deft story telling. Bride of the Rat God is set in turn-of-the-century Los Angeles and has a lot about Chinese culture of the time. Christine is a movie star. She sets off supernatural events by wearing a necklace. This declares her a bride to the rat god. The problem is she does not want to be married to this Åancient Chinese demon god. This book is an interesting addition to the author’s various works.

Dark Fantasy is represented by two books about vampires. Those Who Hunt the Night is the story of Dr. James Asher who is hired by Don Simon Ysidro, the leader of the vampires of London, to find the murderer killing the vampires of the city. He must do this to save his wife Lydia. In Traveling With the Dead, Lydia asks for help from Don Ysidro to save her husband. They follow James Asher throughout Europe discovering trouble to everyone involved. These books add interesting views from this talented author.

Sun Wolf and Starhawk are two of Ms. Hambly’s interesting characters. Sun Wolf is the leader of a mercenary company and Starhawk is his partner. The Ladies of Mandrigyn introduces Sun Wolf trapped by women who want him to train them in warfare. He refuses so they hold him prisoner. His second in command, Starhawk, comes to rescue him. In the ensuing plot, Sun Wolf discovers he has magic power. Their next adventure is The Witches of Wenshar where they travel to a desert city to find someone to teach Sun Wolf how to use his powers. They find a lot of intrigue in the city and must resolve things before moving on. The Dark Hand of Magic finds Sun Wolf and Starhawk reunited with their company. Unfortunately, something is killing members of their company and they must find out what is going on. These characters are very interesting in their relationship and Ms. Hambly tells intriguing tales about them.

One of her most recent books is Sisters of the Raven. The book takes place in a city where magic is deser gting men, but women are gaining the magic power. Raeshaldis is the main character with the strongest talent among the women. They must band together to save the Yellow City from a plot that would plunge it into civil war. Danger lurks throughout the city, destroying the Raven sisters who are the only ones left to summon rain and bring precious water to the desert city. Part Fantasy, part mystery, this is a strong addition to the many of works of the author.

Barbara Hambly is a highly talented Fantasy author. She is the creator of memorable characters and Fantasy worlds. Her books span the range of Epic to Historical Fantasy. Dragons, vampires and many other characters are described in detail, bringing them to life. Ms. Hambly uses vivid images in her books to keep the intriguing plots moving along. Readers will find her books entertaining and worth reading.