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Universes

I’ve been invited into an anthology in my very frequent role as pinch hitter.  When somebody drops out I step in, and usually there is time pressure.  All of this is by way of background.  The real point of these musings is about the importance of having a deep and complex world (or more than one) in your tool box as a writer.

I was despairing of ever coming up with a story in time for the editors, then I was brainstorming with a friend ( I talked about that over on my Facebook page and on Google+), and I had taken out my two universes and was inspecting them while I chatted with her.

The first universe, that holds my two currently in print novels (THE EDGE OF REASON and THE EDGE OF RUIN) is known, not surprisingly, as the Edge universe.  It’s a contemporary setting, sort of urban fantasy but with a male protagonist.  That universe gave birth to a short story that I sold to S&SF — A Token of a Better Age, and another short story in the Dozois/Martin Anthology DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS entitled No Mystery, No Miracle.

The other universe is my big, sprawling space opera world, known as Imperials.  I need to prepare a proposal and three chapters for the first book in that series, but just haven’t had time.  What exists in the Imperials universe is a nearly completed manuscript that isn’t near good enough to be published, but where I created the universe, established the rules, the worlds and the players.

The world is as real to me as my Edge universe, or the real world, and I’ve started mining this universe for short stories.  The first I sold to Thrilling Wonder Stories and it’s a story called A Gift Though Small.  I sold the next Tracy Belmanor story to George and Gardner for the SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH anthology, it’s called The Wayfarer’s Advice.  And now I’m about to write a story set in this universe for another anthology called Dangerous Women.

Because I have these elaborate worlds created I can shamelessly mine them for little side stories that don’t really fit in a one of the novels set in those universes.  I have another Edge story that deals with the final days in Hitler’s bunker, and what a Paladin discovers about the Third Reich.  I think having your own, personal world or worlds is really helpful for a science fiction writer.  Mystery writers do the same thing.  Nero Wolfe and Lord Peter are real and inhabit a New York and an England that is all their own.

There is going to be an interesting tap dance that will take place once (fingers crossed) after I sell the Imperials novels.  The story from Song’s of Love and Death will need to be incorporated into one of the later novels because it involves a huge plot point for the books.  But that’s a problem for another day. Right now I have to start mining for this latest nugget that will hopefully turn out to be a least a garnet if not a diamond.

Bottom line — my advice is tackle something big.  Give yourself a broad canvas on which to paint.  Give yourself a Second Life that’s all your own.  And above all have fun.

0 Responses to Universes

  • Ian says:

    I love it when books I enjoy have additional pieces of related short fiction that shine additional light on the characters and their stories.

    Kage Baker did quite a lot of the in the Company series. In fact the entire series of novels might have started out as a short story or two in Asimov’s. The shorter fiction became integral to the canon almost in parallel to the novels. (And it didn’t hurt that Baker was a superb short story and novella writer.) She had just what you describe, a huge sprawling canvas with plenty of room for exploration.

  • Juhan says:

    I loved The Wayfarer’s Advice! Now you’re saying that there’s gonna be a novel or two? Woot! I have yet to read the Edge stories, but I’m sure looking forward to those as well. But yeah. Imperials! And Dangerous Women! Awesome.

    Cheers from Tallinn,
    Juhan

  • Melindas says:

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I had a lot of fun writing that story. This new one I’m working has Tracy in the framing device.

    I have to write the proposal and some chapters for the first Imperials novel, and right now I just don’t have time what with the Wild Card movie, and the Coldest War script, and this short story, and finishing the third Edge book.

    The two novels that established the Edge universe are both available right now, both print and electronic, and more sales would certainly help convince Tor to buy the third one. so if you want context for the Edge stories you might want to read the books first.

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