Guest Post From Kevin J. Anderson: “An Unlimited Special Effects Budget”

It’s summer blockbuster movie season, and we’re ready for the biggest movies of the year. Gigantic budgets, incredible special effects, 3D IMAX, fantastic colors, amazing images, explosions, monsters, super heroes. The studios promise to show you things that you’ve never seen before.

But, I have. In my imagination, as I develop my stories and write my novels. I’ve seen things that no filmmaker could ever put on screen. With words, you see, I’ve got an unlimited special effects budget.

Years ago, when I was writing my first X-files novels, I asked Chris Carter, the show’s creator, what kind of story he was looking for. Chris said, “Write something so big that I could never afford to do it as an episode. You’re not constrained by set limitations, location shots, or effects budgets. Take advantage of that.”

So, I did. And I’ve always remembered that advice. I like thinking big, telling stories that are constrained only by my imagination and nothing else.

I’ve written epic Star Wars novels, Dune novels with Brian Herbert, as well as our big and complex Hellhole trilogy, and my Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy about sailing ships and sea monsters. But my greatest creation of all, I think, is my Seven Suns universe, originally published as a seven novel series, and now I’m embarking on a brand new standalone trilogy, The Saga of Shadows.

It’s the biggest canvas I’ve ever written on, the grandest story, the most complicated cast of characters, and a labyrinth of interconnected plots. I can feel James Cameron quaking in his boots.

You want alien planets? You got ‘em–a whole Spiral Arm full of them. Lava planets, ice planets, stormy gas giants, ocean stations, alien capitals, a jungle planet with gigantic interconnected sentient trees (hmm, maybe James Cameron is trembling after all), ancient abandoned cities on desert worlds.

There’s a race of intelligent and murderous insects, as well as killer black robots. An empire of benevolent aliens who look mostly human on the outside, but have tremendous differences. A dimensional transportation network, telepathic priests who can commune with trees, outlaw space gypsies. And monsters. Did I mention monsters?

Each new idea in the Seven Suns universe led to a character or a storyline that would allow me to feature the concept, because when I developed such fantastic images, I had to use them somehow. The first volume of my new trilogy, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS, is a 672-page tome, and I crammed everything I could into it, but had plenty to spare for the remaining two volumes.

An energy-harvesting industrial station in the center of a blazing nebula, a huge derelict space city filled with the bodies of an extinct alien race, a hollowed-out comet that serves as a school. And of course there are incredible creatures: destructive elemental beings composed of pure fire, a race that lives in diamond-hulled chambers at the cores of gas-giant planets, a huge dragon insect that preys on a quiet fishing village—and the terrifying Shana Rei, the creatures of darkness, that are entropy incarnate with a desperate quest to unravel the universe itself.

Yeah, all that would probably be too cost-prohibitive to film.

I had so many colors and images in my mind as I came up with one idea after another, building upon concepts that I developed for previous scenes. I did my best to visualize them, but I’m no artist.

Before writing the original Saga of Seven Suns, I hired one of my comic artists, Igor Kordey, to help me put it down on paper. I gave him the outline for the series, my write-ups of the history, the characters, and the cultures . . . and I turned him loose. Igor did close to fifty sketches, developing the architecture and clothing of the Ildiran Empire, and the magnificent crystalline Prism Palace, where the Mage-Imperator ruled. He sketched out the types of organic buildings that Therons would construct in their gigantic worldtrees.

And he did more than sketches. Igor presented me with three complete paintings: a gypsy Roamer standing on the deck of a skymine looking down at the stormy clouds of the gas giant his factory was harvesting. Another painting shows a desert world with the empty ruins of a Klikiss city and the insidious beetle-like robots they constructed. And a third painting shows the bizarre and exotic hydrogue city in the high-pressure depths of a gas giant.

I used those images as reference when I wrote my novels, and I built upon them, creating even larger landscapes. After all, I had an unlimited special effects budget and I intended to spend every penny.

THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS is one of my biggest, most ambitious novels ever. Writing it was immensely satisfying, and now it’s the reader’s turn to interpret those words, enjoy the story in their own minds on the screen of their own imagination—because as a reader, you have an unlimited effects budget too.

Excerpt of “Dark Between the Stars” by Kevin J. Anderson

On Friday, June 27th Kevin J. Anderson will have a guest post on Bookbanter, talking about his new book, The Dark Between the Stars, among other things. Here’s an excerpt of Anderson’s new book, which can be found here.

CHAPTER 1

GARRISON REEVES

He had to run, and he fled with the boy out into the dark spaces between the stars.

Garrison Reeves stole a ship from the Iswander Industries lava-processing operations on Sheol. Though he’d planned his escape for days, he gathered only a few supplies and keepsakes before departing, careful not to give his wife any hint of what he intended to do. None of his possessions mattered more than getting safely away with his son.

He knew the disaster could come soon—any day now. Lee Iswander, the Roamer industrialist, dismissed Garrison’s concerns about third-order tidal shifts in the broken planet; Garrison’s own wife, Elisa, didn’t believe him. The lava miners paid little attention to his warnings, not because they disputed his geological calculations, but because they didn’t want to believe. Their priorities were clear. Adding “unnecessary” and expensive levels of redundant shielding and “paranoid” safety measures was irresponsible, both to Iswander Industries and to the employees, who participated in profit-sharing.

Lee Iswander had commissioned follow-up reports, biased reports, that painted a far rosier picture. Garrison didn’t accept them.

So he made his choice, the only possible choice. He stole one of the company ships, and when she found out about it, Elisa would claim that he stole their son.

He flew out of the Sheol system, running far from any Roamer settlement or Confederation outpost. Elisa was not only an ambitious woman, she was abusive, tenacious, and dangerous—and she would come after them. He needed a head start if he had any hope of getting away.

The ship was a standard Iswander cargo transport, a workhorse, fully fueled with ekti, run by an efficient Ildiran stardrive. Garrison could fly the vessel without special training, as he could fly most standard spacecraft.

Ten-year-old Seth rode in the cockpit next to him. Garrison made a game of familiarizing the boy with cockpit systems and engine diagnostics, giving him simple navigation problems to solve—as any good Roamer father would, even though Garrison had chafed under how his stern father had raised him. He would not make the same mistakes with Seth.

Roamers were free spirits, sometimes deprecatingly called space gypsies, whose clans filled niches too rugged and dangerous for more pampered people—places such as the Sheol lava-processing operations. He had followed Elisa there because of her promotion in Iswander Industries.

“You should stay away from That Woman,” Olaf Reeves had warned him, not once but dozens of times. “If you defy me, if you marry her, you will regret it. You are spitting on your heritage.”

Now, Garrison hated to admit that his father had been right.

He closed his eyes, took a breath, and opened them. He studied the markers on the ship’s copilot control panels, then turned to his son. “Go ahead and set the next course, Seth.”

“But where are we going?”

“You pick, so long as we’re heading away from Sheol.” He tapped the starscreen, which showed infinite possibilities. “On this trip, we’re truly roaming. I just need some time away from everybody so I can rethink things.”

Though anxious, the boy was glad to be with his father. Seth respected his mother, even feared her, but he loved his father. Elisa never let down her walls—not with any business associate, not with Garrison, not even with her own son.

“Will I be able to go to Academ now?” Seth asked. The Roamer school inside a hollowed-out comet had always fascinated the boy. He wanted to be with the children of other clans, to have friends. Garrison knew his son would be happier at Academ, but Elisa had refused to consider sending their son there.

“Maybe we’ll arrange that before long. For now, you can learn from me.”

Unlike other Roamer children, Seth hadn’t grown up in a pleasant domed greenhouse asteroid or on the open gas-giant skies of an ekti-harvesting skymine. Rather, his daily view was a blaze of scarlet magma erupting in a smoke-filled sky. All the personnel of the lava-mining facility lived in reinforced habitat towers mounted on pilings sunk down to solid rock. More than two thousand employees, specialists of various ranks—engineers like Garrison himself, metallurgists, geologists, shipping personnel, and just plain grunt workers—filled shifts aboard the smelter barges or control towers, surrounded by fires that could have inspired Hell itself.

No other parents kept their children here. Sheol was no place for a family, no home for a boy, regardless of the career advancement opportunities for Elisa.

As the two closely orbiting halves of the binary planet adjusted their dance of celestial mechanics, Garrison had analyzed the orbital pirouette, uncovering fourth-order resonances that he suspected would make the fragments dip fractionally closer to each other, increasing stresses. He studied the melting points, annealing strengths, and ceramic-lattice structure of the habitat and factory towers.

And he realized the danger to the Iswander operations.

Alarmed, he had presented his results to Lee Iswander, only to be rebuffed when neither the industrialist nor his deputy—Garrison’s own wife—took his warnings seriously. Iswander impatiently told Garrison to go back to work and reassured him that the lava-processing outpost was perfectly safe. The material strength of the structural elements was rated to withstand the environment of Sheol, although with little margin for error.

When Garrison insisted, Iswander grudgingly brought in a team of contract geologists and engineers who found a way to rerun the calculations, to reaffirm that nothing could go wrong. The specialists had departed with surprising haste—worried about their own safety?

Garrison still trusted his own calculations, though. Next, he felt it was his responsibility to warn the Sheol employees, which infuriated Elisa, who was sure that his whistle-blowing would cost her a promotion.

Honestly, Garrison hoped he was wrong. He knew he wasn’t. Convinced he had no alternative, he decided to take Seth away from Sheol before disaster struck.…

After scanning the star catalog, the boy chose coordinates that qualified as little other than “the middle of nowhere.” The stardrive engines hummed and changed tone as they adjusted course, and the vessel streaked off again.

Seth looked up at him with a sparkle in his eyes. “If we had our own compy, Dad, he could fly the ship, and you and I could play games.”

Garrison smiled. “We’re on autopilot. We can still play games.”

Because there were no other children on Sheol, Seth had longed for a competent computerized companion, probably a Friendly model who could keep him company and amuse him. At the lava-mining facility, Lee Iswander used only a handful of Worker compies, none of which were the more sociable types, not even a Teacher compy.

“Your mother didn’t see the point in owning a compy,” Garrison said. “But maybe we can revisit that.” After we see what happens.

In his head, Garrison heard his father’s gruff voice again. “You never should have married That Woman. You’re a Roamer, and you belong with other Roamers!”

“Elisa’s not a Roamer, but Lee Iswander comes from a good clan,” he had responded, though the words sounded flat in his own ears.

“That man has more of the Hansa about him than the clans. He’s forgotten who he is.” The bearded clan patriarch had waved a finger in front of his son’s face. “And if you stay with him, you will forget who you are. Too many Roamer clans have forgotten. A knife loses its edge unless it is sharpened.”

But Garrison had refused to listen and married Elisa Enturi anyway. He’d given up so much for her … or had he done it just to act out against his father? He had wanted a family, a fulfilled life, and Elisa wanted something else.

“If we find a place and settle down, will Mother come to live with us again?” Seth asked.

Garrison didn’t want to lie. He stared out at the forest of stars ahead and the great emptiness in which they had lost themselves. “She wants to take her chances at Sheol for now.”

The boy looked sad but stoic. “Maybe someday.”

Garrison could not envision any other answer but Maybe someday.

Still running, they crossed the expansive emptiness for days, and then they encountered an amazing anomaly: a cluster of gas bags far outside of any star system. Each bloated globule was twice the size of their ship.

Garrison ran a quick diagnostic. “Never seen anything like these.”

The membranous bubbles drifted along in a loose gathering with nothing but light-years all around them. In the dim light of faraway stars, the spherical structures appeared greenish brown, and each filmy membrane enclosed a blurry nucleus. Hundreds of thousands of them formed an island in a sea of stars.

Seth studied both the sensor screens and the unfiltered view through the windowport. “Are they alive?”

Garrison shut down the engines so their ship could drift toward them. “No idea.” The strange objects seemed majestic—silent, yet powerful. Organic? They filled him with a sense of wonder. “They remind me of … space plankton.”

“They’re bloated and floating,” Seth said. “We should call them bloaters.

A random glimmer of light brightened one of the nodules, an internal flash that faded. Then another bloater flickered and quickly faded.

Close together at one of the windowports, they stared out at the view. “If we discovered them, we can name them whatever we want,” Garrison said. “I’d say bloaters is a good name for them.”

“So we just made a discovery?”

“Looks that way.” He moored the ship among the thousands of silent, eerie nodules. “Let’s stay here for a while.”

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin J. Anderson. Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.

“The Undertaking of Lily Chen” by Danica Novgorodoff (First Second, 2014)

The Undertaking of Lily Chen
starstarstarstar

The Undertaking of Lily Chen plays on an old Chinese tradition that upon the loss of life in an important man, he must have a corpse bride to accompany him into the afterlife. What seems a pretty dark and grim storyline is made humorous and entertaining under the hands of Danica Novgorodoff, with some important lessons to be learned about the meaning of family and honor.

Deshi is a hapless man who has tried his best to do well in life, living under the resplendent shadow of his brother who is the light in his parents’ eyes, until he is accidentally killed in a foolish accident. Deshi holds himself to blame and quickly earns the ire of his parents, so he plans to find his brother the perfect corpse bride for his journey into the afterlife, which will finally make his parents happy with him, he hopes.

Hilarities ensue with him searching for all forms of buried women that are in various states of decay and simply not suitable for his brother; he even goes so far as to hire a professional to acquire the right cadaver for his brother. Eventually he realizes he must simply kill a live woman, as that is what it will take. Enter Lily Chen.

But as the two get to know each other Deshi soon knows he cannot commit this act as he is falling for this strange but wonderful woman, but at the same time he does not wish to disrespect his parents or the memory of his brother, and a scheme must be hatched between the two.

A story that is unusual, entertaining, surprising and moving, The Undertaking of Lily Chen is a like no other graphic novel for its plot, while its art employs great use of black lines and occasional hints of color that lend meaning to the story. If you’re looking for something different but also great, look no further.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Undertaking of Lily Chen from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: TED Talks Summer Reading, Amazon Expands Battlelines, Best Indie Bookstores & More!

179d6-bookreporttelander

10 Obnoxious Things People Say to Readers 

You’ve probably heard a number of them before and they make you just want to punch the person in the face.
You may have noticed them on books, but what is there significance and how have they changed over the years?
In its continuing efforts to attach Hachette over pricing issues, Amazon is now attacking Warner in limiting DVD sales and preorders.

“Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened” by Allie Brosh (Touchstone, 2013)

Hyperbole and a Half
starstarstarstarstar

In case you haven’t noticed, short comic strips have slowly been becoming the rage and “the” popular thing to read online over the last few years. One can simply tell by thinking of all the comic strips they read online, how many of them have been turned into books? And the reason for this is that they’re good comics that can provide something to those who don’t necessarily read them online.

Hyperbole and a Half is one of those comic strips that goes beyond many others in not just being entertaining, but also informative, interesting, educational, and harshly personal from Allie Brosh. With a hugely popular blog of the same name, it seems only logical to have a number of her posts and strips converted into a print edition; the collection also features a couple of posts and strips not seen on her blog.

The key here is that Brosh is imparting some personal stories from her life, told through hilarious comic stick figures, but at the same time helping her get the message across of why she felt this way, what going through depression was like, and how she coped with it. It is a strange memoir of sorts that uses humor to alleviate its seriousness, and the beauty of it is that while the reader is laughing along, enjoying both the writing and the script, they are also understanding and learning about Brosh’s coping mechanism and ways of dealing with what she has gone through. To call it both amusing and funny is a gross understatement to both these words. Read Hyperbole and a Half, and you shall discover why.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Hyperbole and a Half from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Indexing” by Seanan McGuire (47North, 2014)

Indexing
starstarstarstar

Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye urban fantasy series, as well as the author of some great biological horror books like the Newsflesh trilogy and Parasite under the pseudonym Mira Grant. In Indexing, she brings her two worlds together in a way, employing elements of the urban fantastic, but adhering to the rules of genetics and viruses.

In this world there are those that live their everyday, expected lives and nothing happens, but there are those who don’t know they are a part of something bigger and magical, who can suddenly have their existence affected by a memetic incursion, finding themselves playing a lead role in a fairytale as one of its characters. And these aren’t the happy Disney tales we’ve become used to, but the darker, original ones filled with blood and death. Whether it’s a Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Stepsister or Evil Queen, once the incursion has begun it’s very hard to put a stop to it.

Fortunately, there is a group known as the ATI Management Bureau that takes care of these incursions. They are trained professionals with a crack team in all areas, from research to communication when an incursion has begun, to sending out the right team to deal with said incursion. Of course, a number of the team are fairy tale characters who have had their memetic incursions held at bay or controlled and so know full well what they’re dealing with. But because this is a Seanan McGuire novel, nothing ever goes according to plan.

McGuire has taking an interesting premise, using her knowledge and research (she holds a degree in fairytales and mythology), as well as what she has learned from her other series, and brings it all together in a fun adventure story that turns many of the fairytales we consider ourselves very familiar with completely on their heads. She amps the drama and keeps the conflicts cropping up and building from chapter to chapter.

Originally written on April 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Indexing from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: Amazon’s Luster is Tarnished, Game of Thrones Goes For Eight, Habitual Reading & More!

179d6-bookreporttelander

Hachette continues not to bow down to Amazon, as the publisher chief explains why it’s important.
With Hachette as their publisher, both Stephen Colbert and J. K. Rowling have things to say about Amazon.
The New York Times has some suggestions to help fight against Amazon.