After reading his excellent The Half-Made World (review here) I felt the need to ask Felix Gilman a few questions. He graciously accepted and so below are the few inquiries I had for him. For those who would like to know, Mr. Gilman is and American fantasy writer, also the author of two other novels, Thunderer and Gears of the City. Those two books garnered him quite a bit of praise and I dare say, his third novel certainly seems to hold up to that. So anyways, scroll down or click-through to peruse his answers. Enjoy.
LEC Book Reviews: What drew you to writing the type of books that you do?
Felix Gilman: I sat down to write and this is what came out.
(True story: I’d blocked out time to work on a law review article, but this is what happened instead.)
There are a lot of other sorts of things I might want to write, given time and energy, but I think anything I would write would have at least some element of the fantastical and the weird and the grotesque in it. I just like things that way.
LBR: The Half-Made World is the start of your second series. How different was the process from working on the first series?
FG: I actually started writing it sometime between Thunderer and Gears of the City, then put it aside for a while and returned to it, on and off.
Thunderer was very much about the setting – the setting was what I developed first, then the characters and the story. This one started more with the characters, and I consciously tried to maintain that approach as I wrote.
Generally I knew what I was doing a little better, I think.
LBR: The world of The Half-Made World is one that stands out from others, through a vast amount of creativity and originality, and in a way it can be seen as pushing the boundaries of how a fantasy world is defined. Was the decision to build such world a deliberate decision or was it more intrinsic to your writing?
FG: Thank you! Yes, I very much wanted to write something different and strange and weird, something that was different enough from a standard fantasy world to still have the power to surprise and unsettle and seem genuinely fantastical. And something that has a distinctively different feel and vocabulary and technique, so that it’s distinctively mine. I don’t know, though, doesn’t everyone who writes anything want to do that? You wouldn’t bother otherwise, would you?
LBR: Both forms of magic and technology are present in your latest novel. How did you balance the inclusion of these two elements in the story and world-building?
FG: The technology is very close to magic, though.
Well, let me rephrase that: the technology in the book is the idea of technology, or the nightmare of technology. What matters is the emotional tone of it, not the does-this-actually-work-as-industrial-policy aspect of it.
I suppose the answer is that when I balanced the two sides by heaping more on top of whatever side looked a little short, then heaping more on the other side to balance that, then again, and then more and more, always more.
LBR: The inspiration for The Half-Made World appears obvious - the American West of the 19th century - but is there some other source(s) of inspiration lurking behind it all?
FG: Sometimes I had Australia in mind. Sometimes I had in mind the idea of the frontier in the abstract.
And there’s a lot of stuff brought in there from American history more generally – elements of the myth of the Revolution, and so on. I had a whole digression on Creedmoor’s passage through and corruption of the world’s analogue to actual 19th-century American labor/socialist movements of the 19th century, but it had to be cut, and probably rightly so.
The Line is industry and modernity encroaching on the frontier, but it’s also the mechanized First World War horrors of the 20th century bearing down on the 19th (which of course had its own quaint old-fashioned hand-tooled horrors).
LBR: What can we, readers, expect from the sequel to The Half-Made World? Can you give us a title? A publishing date?
FG:I can’t give you a title because I don’t have one yet. I can’t give you a date either, I’m afraid – dates are out of my control - though I expect to hand it in next year. I can tell you that it will come at things from a new and different and hopefully fresh angle while still developing the storyline begun in the first book. Or at least I can tell you that’s what I’m shooting for. The short story Lightbringers and Rainmakers on Tor.com (http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/10/lightbringers-and-rainmakers) is something of a clue to where it’s going.
(The short story is epistolary but the book will not be, I promise. I love epistolary novels but I accept that nobody else does any more).
Felix Gilman's Website: http://www.felixgilman.com/