Recently, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter announced that they were writing a story set in the Jupiter-diving “Medusa” world of the late Arthur C Clarke. Collections such as Songs of the Dying Earth feature writers trying their hand in Vance’s many universes.
With that in mind…
What fallow universe do you think deserves additional exploration, and who would you ask to write in that world?
The thing that stood out for me most in trying to write this Mind Meld entry is how many series were not available, for a whole variety of reasons.
For example, one world that came to mind immediately is Tad Williams’ Osten Ard. The third book in the series, To Green Angel Tower, came out in 1993. There hasn’t been anything since. But of course Tad has recently announced a new series, the first of which will be out next year. Scratch that one, it has already been done.
Maybe I should have picked a series whose writer is dead. I’d love to have more stories about Francis Lymond, but is there anyone capable of following on from the great Dorothy Dunnett? I doubt it. In any case, if there were more stories, horrible things would have to happen to poor Philippa. So no, let’s not do that.
There are other types of problem too. I’m very fond of the world created by Mary Gentle for Golden Witchbreed. I probably shouldn’t say any more about that, but it is certainly a world that isn’t going to be continued.
It occurred to me while I was thinking about this that often what I actually wanted was not continuations, but reboots. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about Elric. Michael Moorcock has written a lot of books about him, though there has been nothing new since 2005. I’d rather like to see Kameron Hurley take on Elric. It would be very different, especially for Cymoril. Melnibonéan princesses should not be so wimpy.
Of course there are lots of other Moorcock characters who might usefully be re-activated. I’d rather like to see more of Dorian Hawkmoon, if only because the world needs more people flying around on giant flamingos. Perhaps Justina Robson could do that. She certainly has a fine grasp of melding science fiction and fantasy.
None of this, however, is getting me anywhere near answering the question, so I had better do so. I would like to see more stories in the alternate future of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy, featuring Ashraf Bey. Ideally I’d like Jon to write them, but if he’s not available I think that Nick Harkaway would provide an interesting take on the geopolitics of that world.
That wasn’t so hard, was it, Cheryl? What took you so long?
Alvaro is the co-author, with Robert Silverberg, of When The Blue Shift Comes, which received a starred review from Library Journal, and is currently working on the non-fiction volume Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg (forthcoming 2016).Alvaro’s short fiction and Rhysling-nominated poetry have appeared in Analog, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Apex, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Buzzy Magazine, Neon, Farrago’s Wainscot and various anthologies, such as Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse and the forthcoming The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty and The Mammoth Book of Jack The Ripper Stories.
Alvaro’s reviews and critical essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Strange Horizons, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other venues. Alvaro currently conducts interviews for Clarkesworld, has a science fiction book review column at Intergalactic Medicine Show, and edits the roundtable blog for Locus.
A glance at my writing credits probably makes the answer I’m about to provide fairly obvious, or even inevitable, but if you’d asked me this same question before I had those credits I would have given you the same answer: I think Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor series, with its fascinatingly detailed geography and geology, flora and fauna, immense history, and commingling of sentient residents, both native and non-native, could easily accommodate additional works. The story of Majipoor so far exists in a not-quite-trilogy (two bookend novels and a collection of stories in the middle), a standalone fourth volume, a distant-prequel trilogy, and a second collection of stories published in 2013. So we have eight volumes of canonical material, ranging widely in time, and visiting many of Majipoor’s most alluring spots. And yet key events of Majipoor’s past have only ever been alluded to. Consider that we have fourteen thousand years of history to play with–and that’s only since humans colonized the planet!
I know of two writers besides Bob who have written Majipoor works. The first is Matthew J. Costello, whose short novel Revolt on Majipoor is a “Crossroads Adventure” set on Majipoor. The second is Kage Baker, whose story “In Old Pidruid” appeared in last year’s festschrift The Book of Silverberg.
Who to write an epic new Majipoor trilogy? What we need is someone who can provide stylistic continuity with what has become before while infusing the series with vigor and new visionary possibilities. Michael Swanwick or Patrick Rothfuss could do it, for example. But I think it would be more interesting to get a female perspective on this material. Naomi Novik, Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Carolyn Ives Gilman or Kate Elliott could all do an excellent job. And while we’re at it, I’d love to order a side of new Majipoor short stories by Jeffrey Ford, China Miéville, Peter S. Beagle, Ken Liu, Daniel Abraham, Maureen F. McHugh, Karen Joy Fowler, Rachel Swirsky, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Cat Rambo and Eileen Gunn to go with that trilogy.
Alas, my understanding is that Bob won’t be producing additional Majipoor works, and neither will anyone else, so this all remains a daydream.
The Foundation Series – Daniel José Older
The Foundation Series was one of those really cool, high concept novel series that I liked in theory but as I read them, continued to feel bogged down by them. Predicting the history of civilization millennia at a time through the science of psychohistory was a concept that was beyond cool, but it felt at times that Asimov was way too focused on the big picture and forgot about the human stories resting in the center of that millennial prediction.
The writer needed to bring a new sense of urgency and life to the Foundation series is none other than Daniel José Older. Though he’s mainly known for his urban fantasy work, Older has written his fair share of sci-fi, though that’s not necessarily the aesthetic that would bring new life to this series. No, Older is also well known for his beautiful prose, filled to the brim with attitude, culture, and wit, making his language loud with the life of the people speaking it.
And that’s why I want him to write in the Foundation universe: because what happens to all the people uncounted in the future? What happens to the people deemed unnecessary, unworthy, uncultured? What are the stories of those whose fates are decided by those they’ve never met, and are told that they don’t have a future? And most importantly, how do you reclaim it from those who want to deny you one? One of Older’s biggest strengths is giving a voice to those that don’t have one, the disenfranchised, the cast aside, the unseen. I’d love to see Older give a voice to the people in the shadow of history and empower them within the Foundation Universe.
Middle-Earth – Sofia Samatar
There could be many successors to Tolkien’s work, but for my money, it needs to be Sofia Samatar. First off, her language is a thing of beauty, and if there’s anyone who could closely hue to Tolkien’s poetics, it’s Samatar. Her prose is rich, and filled to the brim with potent images and bright wordplay. Not only that but the recurring themes she explores in her work – culture, language, myth, stories, family – are all touchstones that ring the familiar bell of Tolkien’s work.
Where I’d love to see Samatar spread her influence is in the expansion of Tolkien’s world; to move past the beloved archetypes he worked with, past the Campbellian journey that enraptured readers, and take Middle-Earth to somewhere brand new. What roles are there to fill after in the aftermath of a war that decimated all nations? What happens to the myriad races in the coming Age of Men, what are their stories? Who will record history, now that the Elves have left? Even then, what happens to their world that they left behind? Who now lives in the ruins of Rivendell? I want to see someone answer these questions, and I want that someone to be Sofia Samatar.
The Culture Series – Kameron Hurley
Iain Banks’s Culture series, whose thrilling adventures in a far, far future with insane technology, giant, sentient, and droll artificial intelligences, and a massive system built to prop up developing worlds, came to a close with his unfortunate death this past year. But if anyone could pick up the torch on this vibrant future landscape, I’d pick Kameron Hurley.
Throughout her work, Hurley has become known for her batshit-insanely awesome concepts as well as actually following through on them with real, human stories. Magic-scifi-bugpunk? Got it. Epic fantasy, alternate reality, blood-comet, carnivorous tree magic? Been there, done that. If anyone could do justice to the mind-bending, future of the Culture, and continue the zany and fantastic ideas filling their pages, it’d be Hurley. She could bring that fantastic imagination to the Culture worlds, and still manage to balance the high concepts with the human stories. Not only that, but she’d be able to bring a sense of grim and dry humor that permeated Banks’s work, especially when dealing with the godlike Minds of the Culture. With her own space opera epic coming next year from Saga Press, Hurley could be the writer to bring life back to the Culture.
Star Trek – Monica Byrne
Stick with me on this one. Yes, I know Star Trek has a lot of different properties going on. Movies, and whatnot. What I’m talking about is if they decided to start a new television show, one with the phrase, “To Boldly Go,” truly at its heart; that’s where I think a writer like Monica Byrne would shine the most.
From her Tiptree Award winning novel, The Girl In The Road, to the description of her next novel, as well as her non-fiction work, Byrne is a writer who’s incredibly interested in our future. How will our nations change, how will our cultures and norms and societies shift and evolve throughout time? How do we walk into the future without dragging the past with us? It’s this fascination with history, culture, and the future that would make Byrne the ideal writer for a Star Trek television show.
With Byrne at the helm, I know we’d see a Federation, heck, a future, that is more sex positive, more open, with crew members and officers across all walks of life and spectrums of identity; through Byrne we’d get to see what a future of true freedom and expression would look like. I trust Byrne to use her interest in history to interrogate our past, by examining the cultures, planets, and new lifeforms of the future, and bring back a Star Trek truly in the spirit of Rodenberry, one where humankind boldly travels into the stars, to not only interact but to actually learn from whoever is out there.
The Chronicles of Narnia – N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is a writer I greatly admire, and one of the things I love about her work is her analysis of religion, godhood, faith, and what would it be like to even be a god. Likewise, she never forgets to pose these questions from a human perspective, so that even amongst a massive, divine catastrophe, the reader never loses connection to the human story.
That’s why I’d be really, really curious to see what she could do in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. In a (pretty obvious) Judeo-Christian analog portal fantasy, Lewis was telling a very straightforward, black-and-white morality tale concerning good and evil. I would love to see Jemisin come into this world and play around, to give us a story from Aslan’s perspective, and introduce shades of grey and nuance to the stark world of Lewis.
Or y’know what? She could just blow everything to hell, and rework Narnia with analogs of all religions, with kids other than the Pevensies, from times other than World War II! Maybe a young boy in the Bronx in 1974 opens his sock drawer and falls onto a ship in the middle of a shining sea; maybe a young girl in Karachi in 2014 runs down an alley, and ends up under a streetlamp in the woods, shivering in the falling snow. In a land of religion and magic and blatant good versus evil, I think Jemisin would be the perfect writer to come in and introduce new life to The Chronicles of Narnia, modernizing it in a way that speaks to the world we really live in, and not just the one Lewis wanted us to live in.
Redwall – Max Gladstone
One of the most beloved series of my youth, Brian Jacques did amazing work in creating world where millions of children lost themselves, spending days wistfully thinking of delicious cherry cordials, while running around Redwall Abbey, listening to the tales of Martin the Warrior
But if there’s any writer who I would love to see bring it back to life, it’s Max Gladstone. In my mind, Gladstone wouldn’t shy from bringing Redwall Abbey and the rest of their world into modernity. Gladstone’s work has always been about examining how the world changes in the face of industry, and how does it retain hope in that coming world.
Gladstone’s Redwall would struggle to embrace the smoke of industry, even as they enter a golden age. They would fight a changing world, where the cruel are given enormous power, and our heroes must ask how far they’ll change to push it back. It would see hundreds of ships sailing daily, roads and highways being paved and safeguarded, cities blooming, shadowing over towns and villages, swords being replaced with muskets. Gladstone could write this world with an eye toward the changing future, but with the nobility and honor of the Redwall universe, and never without a glimmer of hope in the world to come.
When I was in the third grade, I spent a lot of time walking into closets with my eyes closed. To my great disappointment, I never hit anything other than drywall. But that didn’t stop me from trying. I suspect I was not alone in this.
As a nine year old, I was unaware of the deeper symbolism of C S Lewis’ work. Christian allegory is generally lost on the elementary school set. I just wanted to escape to a world that was more suffused with magic than the fields I knew. As an adult, of course, the deep and didactic context of the Chronicles of Narnia is laid bare. It is also, to a woman who is a progressive writer as well as a Christian, deeply problematic.
Narnia is still a beautiful world to me, and reading the Chronicles returns me to childhood as much as it transports me to another world. But I walk those familiar paths with stones in my shoes.
So I would love to see someone else take up that mantle. I don’t have a particular artist in mind. I also don’t want to see a complete remaking of such a beloved country. But Christian theology and thought have come a long way in the seventy years since The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. What would a liberation theologian have to offer Narnia? What could a writer more concerned with Christian obligation to class disparity do? Would Aslan, in the hands of a Christian feminist writer, tell a daughter of 2015 that it is a bad thing when women fight?
What would Aslan look like, for that matter? Still a regal lion? Or would he take on different forms to meet the needs of a different age? And, of course, the question so many of us have asked: is Susan there at last, and what does she now have to say?
I don’t know what this new Narnia would look like. But I’d love to see another girl, from another time, perhaps in exile in another house hiding from another set of falling bombs, step through that wardrobe. After so much time, I wonder what she would find.
If you really think about it, the universe in which I want to see more work is by a contemporary author who 1.) has a passionate fan base, 2.) intends to create more work in said universe, and 3.) has contemporaries such as George R.R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss who have published a novel more recently in their notable worlds.
Who is this author and what is this world? In 2008, the British newspaper The Times named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. For crying out loud, the BBC produced a four-part radio drama of his quintessential work, Northern Lights.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials don’t receive the vitriol from fans of some of the aforementioned authors and anxiously awaited novels (not advocating this behavior, simply acknowledging it as a curiosity).
Some would argue His Dark Materials has not reached the statute of limitations of fallow universe, but the final book in this trilogy was published 15 years ago! I believe the alternate worlds of Philip Pullman’s renowned, infamous work deserves more exploration – whether those are new novels or movies; on the latter, we will likely not see those for decades.
The debut, The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights), and the follow-ups truly confirmed for me that speculative fiction could provide great storytelling not only around physical exploration, but also mental and spiritual. Certainly it is well-documented that some shun the works as atheist doctrine, but those who want to select our works for us often forget that each reader brings his or her own set of personal experiences to the reading process.
And yes, one could argue that since the trilogy’s conclusion in 2000, Pullman has written and published Lyra’s Oxford (2004), Once Upon a Time in the North (2008), and The Collectors (2014 – audio only) in the universe. But, truly, these ancillary works barely even serve as hearty appetizers — The Collectors clocks in at what … a whopping 32 minutes of audio content.
Pullman’s devout fans wait for The Book of Dust, a full-length novel set in the His Dark Materials universe. And they wait relatively patiently for this next installment: First mention of the endeavor began more than 10 years ago.
In the end, Philip Pullman owes me nothing, but I would like to see him continue the universe he began.
And if, in the future, he (or circumstance) were to ever to hand the knife over to another explorer who could clamber through the hole in the fabric between our world and his own, I think Scott Lynch or Leigh Bardugo both possess the prose filigree and sensibility (I know nothing about their beliefs – and only think it marginally matters) to pull off the works with Pullman’s quality.
I like the question but my answer will perhaps be not quite what you were expecting. It’s another question: why would you want to continue to work in or read work set in another person’s universe once they’ve stopped using it?
Seriously, I’ve never quite understood why people do this. Or, rather, I understand that there are commercial attractions in setting more stories in a much-loved universe, or in using the work of a much-loved author. And I understand too that artistically, a lot of writers, professional and fan alike, genuinely enjoy that transformative aspect of working in someone else’s universe, with someone else’s characters, exploring characters in greater depth or else expanding the world.
Yet, I wonder, every time a ‘sequel by another hand appears’, how, as a critic and reader, I should address such a text. As pastiche? I’ve read a lot of failed pastiche – there are several authors I like whose deceptively simple writing styles seem to invite such an engagement, even though it almost invariably leads to abject failure, because underneath their apparently effortless prose lies very deep craft.
If, instead, I think in terms of authors using elements of stories by other writers, are they really still working within the same universes, or moving beyond them? To take a recent example, Adam Roberts’ deliciously quirky Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea may partake of Verne’s ideas, but it doesn’t feel like pastiche to me. But neither does it seem to be fully situated in Verne’s universe. So what is the point, other than its being an extremely entertaining jeu d’esprit? How far beyond the original progenitor does fiction in a pre-used world have to go to become a thing in its own right; and if/when it does become a work in its own right, does it still have a relationship to that original world? Clearly there is somewhere a boundary between the two but it’s difficult to discern. ‘Inspired by’, ‘based on’ and other such phrases can take on an almost homeopathic quality at times.
And there is, perhaps, a kind of presumption in seeking to add to or finish what another author started. I’d find it difficult, for example, to imagine how anyone but Hope Mirrlees could usefully add to a novel like Lud-in-the-Mist, however much I might personally desire more stories set in that world. And, taking the example of Clarke’s Medusa world, while the original story’s ending might offer possibilities to the reader, the moment you start to actively explore those possibilities in printed words, aren’t you to some extent shutting down those possibilities one by one?
Which is not to say that I think either Alastair Reynolds or Stephen Baxter would do a bad job – far from it; both of them are great writers, and I very much like Baxter’s continuation of Wells’ writing, The Time Ships … as a work of Baxter. But even Arthur C. Clarke himself was guilty of killing the thing he had created. ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ is an amazing story, not least because the aliens never appear. When Clarke got around to putting in the aliens in subsequent stories, the whole thing fell flat because the mystery was lost.
And finally, while there might be universes that I would love to see continued, isn’t there also a certain melancholy pleasure in knowing that they can’t be? That this is it? That this is all I’ve got, and that I can only reread, and dream?
Part of me wants to express ambivalence at the thought of a writer spinning a tale in a world another has created. The best-created worlds and futures—Frank Herbert’s Arrakis, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Gethen, William Gibson’s Sprawl—resist such cross-authorial pollination, in part because those individuals use language and imagery less to build worlds than to build their illusions. Whether or not Gibson knew every back alley in Neuromancer, regardless of Herbert’s ability to find every stone obscured by Dune’s crimson sands, they remain places that simply cannot exist without their creators. Yes, I know Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson continue to chronicle Herbert’s famous world, but give the impression less of natives cultivating the land than children playing in somebody else’s sandbox. (Turning somewhat outside the genre, diverse hands penned novels featuring Ian Fleming’s James Bond, but, with the possible exception of Kinglsey Amis’s Colonel Sun, none came to grips with the sadistic, kinky vision so personal to Fleming’s work.) Alfred Bester so fully realized his future in The Stars My Destination that to ask another to build adjacent suburbs borders on the impossible. Most writers, I’m sure, understand this.
That doesn’t mean some of science fiction’s more famous created worlds couldn’t benefit from inclusive greening. I think highly of Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space series, and always enjoy visiting that universe, but at times wonder what other writers such as Stephen Baxter or Linda Naga might do there if provided the opportunity. The late Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels impress me as being resistant to outside imaginations, yet enough pollen appears to have crossed into Ken MacLeod’s Fall Revolution novels that Mr. MacLeod easily could cultivate new stories. If one looks to Charles Stross’s Accelerando, one finds just enough gaps in the future-shocked singularity that tales might fill, though they would require an author with the right balance of energy and play—perhaps Cory Doctorow who always seems to have one foot in the future, or Ernest Cline, who in Ready Player One showed himself to be a kindred spirit in the examination of high tech culture.
Fantasy poses its own challenges, though of a different stripe; even the best fantasy worlds at times unfold less as fully envisioned places than as accreting on the edges of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, putting one in mind of the dwellings growing like barnacles on the walls of Gormenghast. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be fun. Clarke Ashton Smith’s Zothique springs from his poetic mind as a land forbidding entry. Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor, by contrast, is more accessible and thus inviting to others, a place where Elizabeth Bear might buckle some swashes, or where Scott Lynch encounters roguish thieves intent on plotting a heist within the Pontifex’s labyrinth. Perhaps Patrick Rothfuss, no stranger to adventure, would enjoy exploring the unmapped areas of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar. There are good stories here; all that is needed is the writers to find them.
This is difficult because there are so many universes where I’d like to see more stories. In my early days as a fan, I wondered what would happen if the Planet Pirates ran up against dragonriders; however, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern can hardly be called a fallow planet. And I would love to see a sequel to Diana G. Gallagher’s The Alien Dark (1990) — what effects will the revelations from the extinct humans’ homeworld have on the ahsin bey civilization when their colonists join the explorers from the first book? — but although Gallagher is currently writing YA and tie-ins, I still cherish a tiny hope of HER following up on her original novel.
For revisiting and expanding a fallow universe from fresh perspectives, I’ll choose The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, the classic 1898 book about Martians attacking Earth. Reinterpretations have ranged from Orson Welles’ infamous (and Hugo-winning) radio broadcast to Jeff Wayne’s musical version, to movies, comics and games, to War of the World: Global Dispatches — a 1996 collection of short stories depicting events around the world while England was being invaded — but what about the aftermath?
I haven’t read any stories addressing the Martian attacks’ long-term effects on Earth. (A search turned up Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Perviss in 1898, a pretty direct ripoff sequel, but it doesn’t look like my sort of thing. And there was a 1988-90 TV series set in sort-of-present day, but its premise was the Martians weren’t killed after all, and they weren’t really Martians, etc., so let’s forget that.)
Here’s what I’d like to see: A generation or so after the Martian invasion, humanity is developing plans to hit back. Wells’ narrator said in the epilogue that he didn’t think nearly enough attention was being given to the possibility of another attack from the Martians, but that’s a bit limited. Maybe most surviving Londoners and suburbanites were so traumatized that they just wanted to forget, but many influential people would want to do much more than rebuild.
The movers and shakers will share goals like Wells’ artilleryman’s: create safe havens deep in the earth, and concentrate like mad on science. There are disabled tripods and Heat-Rays to reverse-engineer, after all! And although the narrator says “terrible disasters at the Ealing and South Kensington laboratories have disinclined analysts for further investigations,” I think that research was just made secret afterward.
Moreover, biosciences will blossom much faster than in our own timeline. The way Earth bacteria killed off the invaders will inspire many to study in the field, and preserved Martian flora and fauna samples may help humanity figure out DNA sooner. Instead of launching its own war machines at Mars, Earth may be gearing up to send plagues.
In the spirit of Wells’ social commentary, this new work must also examine the cultural ramifications of the invasion and Earth’s subsequent military/science obsessions. For instance, the artilleryman said, “Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die.” Will that attitude and the dominance of biosciences mean that the eugenics movement is even stronger in this timeline? Additionally, there has been no Great War; the invasion “has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind,” and statesmen have guided the majority of aggressions outward. But without that war’s societal disruptions, the union movements may have been much slower to grow; conversely, with more men staying in the armed services longer, women may have more opportunities. And what about colonialism — do nonindustrial lands, lightly touched by the invasion and aided by broader recognition of the commonalities of humanity, seek to throw off their oppressors earlier?
My envisioned revisitation needs elements of military SF, engineering and bioscience research, alternate history (and alternate science that can at least handwave life on Mars, etc.), secret history/conspiracies, and progressive social commentary. What writer can handle all this?
My first thought is Kim Stanley Robinson, but I believe he’s done with Mars now. Vonda McIntyre would be great; her books show she could easily handle the bioscience and other hard SF aspects, government secrets, military/political conflicts, and historical fiction, plus bonus engaging characters — and her own website says she’s a member of “a number of knee-jerk liberal tree-hugging feminist organizations.” Her writings also include a Sherlock Holmes short story and Star Trek and Star Wars tie-ins, so she’s comfortable with shared worlds. However, although she’s still active in fandom — she’s a guest of honor at Sasquan — she hasn’t published any new books since 1997.
Instead, maybe an up-and-comer with only short fiction published so far can be enticed into this. I heard an intriguing story last year on Escape Pod, “Into the Breach,” by Malon Edwards: milSF (mechsuits) set in an alt-universe, dual-language Chicago city-state that’s fighting a losing battle against invasion by Illinois, with some dreamy flashbacks by the female protagonist. I don’t know how he’d feel about writing a bioscience-heavy story, but I’m pretty sure he could tackle every other aspect of the War of the Worlds revisitation. Many of his stories are set in that universe, but I see that his website used to be called East of Mars, so maybe he’d be interested in this project?
It’s a bit baffling, now that I think about it, that no modern writers that I’ve seen have reached for this low-hanging fruit. I’d like to see a book by one author that dives deep into all the implications, but an anthology could also offer lots of fresh perspectives. Answer the call, somebody!
I have to say I’m a bit out of my comfort zone for this week’s mind meld. This is more of a “what if?” question, and rather than take it completely seriously, I decided to have some fun with it. Answering this question took some research, because the first order of business is identifying some beloved authors who are, unfortunately, dead. I can think of many fallow universes that I would love to see more stories written around (Harry Potter!!), but honestly, can you imagine anyone but J.K. Rowling writing Harry Potter?
And so, here are two examples of fantastic worlds that I wouldn’t mind reading more about, even with a different author at the helm:
- Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I read these books when I was but a wee reader, meaning I read them many years ago. In fact, Dragonflight may have been my first introduction into the world of fantasy. I believe I read it during my junior high years, and so it left a lasting impression. Anne’s son Todd McCaffrey took over writing the series in 2003, but the rich universe Anne created is so beloved that I’d love to see more stories set in Pern. As for my choice of author? My first choice would be J.K. Rowling, mostly because of her amazing ability to tell a completely readable and immersive story.
- Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park universe. With the newest movie coming out soon (Jurassic World), how could I not think about more stories set in Crichton’s terrifying and compelling world? Crichton was a prolific writer who only wrote two Jurassic books, but filmmakers have been trying to recapture the magic ever since. I’m very curious to see how Jurassic World turns out, but in the meantime, let’s speculate on who might continue this universe in print. The first author who comes to mind is Andy Weir, writer of the bestselling The Martian (which is also coming to the big screen). Weir’s background is in computer programming, but the extensive research he did while writing The Martian proves how competent he is when it comes to talking about scientific details. And research aside, Weir certainly knows how to spin a fantastic story! Like Rowling, he’s popular enough that he doesn’t need to write in someone else’s universe, but just imagine what he could do with dinosaurs!
This is both a tricky and fun question to ponder. It happens in comic books all the time, right? A character is “retired” for a while only to later make a return. I’ll start with a bit of a cheat but one that follows that cue, in a sense…I’d never been exposed to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed John Scalzi’s reboot Fuzzy Nation. While I get that John is quite busy with his Old Man’s War books as well as trying to wear many other hats on his head, I would really love to see him return to this milieu, because I think it was one of his stronger novels.
There have been many tributes and nods to the great Sword and Sorcery duo Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser over the years as recently as in Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series. But two authors who I think would be excellent at spinning tales of these two rogues would be Howard Andrew Jones and Paul S. Kemp. Both writers ply (at least a portion) of their trade at spinning tales of sword and sorcery very much in this vein: Jones with his Chronicles of Sword and Sand featuring of Asim and Dabir and Kemp with his tales of Egil & Nix.
To call out The Dying Earth from Paul’s invitation there are a great number of writers today who have either been influenced by those stories directly, or influenced by writers influenced by Vance. I don’t know if Kameron Hurley fits that bill, but based on what I’ve read from her and the hinted mix of magic and technology in both of her series (“Bel Dame Apocrypha” and “The Worldbreaker Saga,” I would love to see her tackle a story of the far future Earth. Failing that, since I’ve seen Kameron tease as, an influence of “The Worldbreaker Saga,” The Thundercats (a property currently not active, I think), who wouldn’t want to see a Thundercats (Comic?) written by Kameron Hurley, Gail Simone with art by Fiona Staples (who is doing spectacular work on Saga) and would be perfect for this project
Along that vein of Sword and Sorcery, a character that is far too overlooked is Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane. While C.S. Friedman leans more towards the grand-scale Epic end of fantasy, darkness permeates both writer’s works and I think it would be fun to see C.S. Friedman pick up spin a tale of Kane. Plus, there is some resonance between Damian Vryce and Kane. This would also give me another excuse to revisit Wagner’s original Kane stories.
For shits and giggles, I’ll add this one: Small Wonder: The Adult Years, a novel by Madeline Ashby.
Even though I came to her work when I no longer qualified as a young adult, Diana Wynne Jones quickly jumped to the top of my list of favorite writers and never left. I loved her quirky characters, her vibrant worlds, and the way she toyed with my expectations as her deceptively simple plots unraveled. Every book of hers set up its own shop in the village of my imagination, but for some books, merely hanging a shingle wasn’t enough.
Her Magid series can barely be called that, since it consists of only two books: Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy. But like so many of her stories, each of the books contains literal multiverses teeming with magic and intrigue, from a SFF convention on our own humble Earth, to post-apocalyptic cities carved into cliff sides, to alt-history French empires ruled by cricket-playing princes. The characters are just as rich and interesting, and watching them explore and interact with these worlds is one of the chief pleasures of the stories.
The unifying aspect of the books is the Magids, a group of not always secret agents tasked with protecting the various worlds and universes from whatever imperils them. They’re not necessarily the protagonists, but they often help the other characters–and the reader–navigate the mysterious settings. They don’t sit around info-dumping, though, and their information isn’t always reliable. Because there is no single central character around whom the stories turn, the potential for spinning out a multitude of tales is essentially limitless, as anyone has the potential to be a hero if they have the guts.
And yet, with the death of the author (oh, my heart), these multiverses are now closed for good unless some other intrepid writer (or two!) takes up the mantle. I could see many people coming together for a delicious anthology, but if I had the mighty power to pick a successor, my finger would point to Patricia Wrede. She’s done great alt-history work with Mairelon the Magician and The Thirteenth Child, and her Enchanted Forest Chronicles prove how deftly she can turn tropes on their heads.
I’m content to read the existing Magid books until the bindings fall apart, but it’s fun to dream of some other corner of the multiverse where more of them are being written. And hey, it’s not too late to make this the best of all possible timelines.
Continuing a universe always sounds a little like legal fan-fic for grownups, doesn’t it? Fun, not serious. And yet science fiction has a marvellous tradition of sharing or continuing the fictional universes of others, whether it be in the myriad Star Trek/Star Wars continuations, more playful exercises like Joanna Russ and Samuel Delany writing in Fritz Leiber’s worlds, or the more recent trend to assemble books “in honor of’ like the fine After the King (Tolkien), the surprisingly strong Foundations Friends (Asimov), Songs of the Dying Earth (Vance), or The Book of Silverberg (Silverberg) among others.
All share a love of the work that’s being extended, which is key. It’s why John Scalzi’s Little Fuzzy novel, Fuzzy Nation, worked as well as it did, and possibly why some others don’t. You can tell when a writer is working away professionally, rather than following their passion I think. Deciding whose work deserves additional attention is tricky, and possibly unwise because it suggests worthiness rather than aptness. For example, Cordwainer Smith easily deserves the attention and a successful book or set of stories would be wonderful and a joy, but who could readily set their hands to such a task? It could end up remarkably tin-eared.
Perhaps some guide can be seen in hard SF, which seems to attract this kind of continuation, with Larry Niven overseeing it in his own bibliography, with Arthur C. Clarke’s work attracting Paul Preuss, Gregory Benford, Damien Broderick and now Reyolds and Baxter to try their hand. I think it’s because hard SF, to dangerously oversimplify, features plainer prose (not always!, but often) and that is more readily turned. Also, the ideas may be more suitable.
As to who and what. Let’s start with Neil Gaiman saying he’s always wanted to recast William Hope Hodgson’s work. John C. Wright has already done a very creditable job, as has Greg Bear, but I’d love to see what Neil would bring to it. I’d love to see Hannu Rajaniemi’s Foundation. Asimov’s Foundation is a sprawling concept that reaches across time and space, and Rajaniemi’s antic imagination could pull something playful out of it I’m sure. Of course, if I was compiling an anthology of Foundation stories now (a ‘new Foundation’ book, as it were), I’d want to see Peter Watt’s deconstruct it. Or Ted Chiang! Ted Chiang’s Foundation would be something to behold.
I’d also love to see Gaiman try his hand at a novel set in Clifford Simak’s Way Station, or Joe Abercrombie write Lankhmar stories. Of course, I’m the guy who used to play with the idea of getting Gene Wolfe to write a Star Trek novel, so I could go on about this forever… It’s a fine mindgame to play, though. One for convention bars.
I would love to see a return of novel-length fiction to a very well-known universe that has been important in shaping my dreams from a young age, that of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s work has also had an undeniable influence all across media, from rock music to literature and film. As for me, I fell in love with the grandeur of his mythos, and the creativity of his languages and alphabets. I loved The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarilion, and many of the other incomplete works published posthumously, and I have always wished for more fiction that would allow me to become once again immersed in Tolkien’s universe.
There are plenty of stories embedded in the history and mythology of Tolkien’s universe, any one of which could easily be expanded and reimagined in novel form. For only a few prominent examples, one could re-tell the story of Fëanor and his family, the Tale of Túrin, or the popular love story of Beren and Lúthien. I’m not talking only about re-telling familiar stories, though. Tolkien’s universe, in all of its ages, contains a carefully imagined history within which many stories could be told. In a sense, it would be like writing historical fiction, just historical fiction of a different world.
It is difficult to imagine who could write in this world, retaining the gravity, emotion, and dignity of Tolkien’s style. If I were to ask someone, I would perhaps ask Mary Gentle (based on Ash: A Secret History) or Guy Gavriel Kay (based on Under Heaven). Both of them can write with a strong sense of place and history, as well as with a seriousness that would suit the universe well. Mary Gentle seems especially skilled at writing sympathetic and yet deeply flawed characters, so it would be interesting to see how she would tackle the many tragic figures of Middle Earth’s history. Guy Gavriel Kay actually assisted Christopher Tolkien in the editing of The Sillmarillion, so I’m sure he has a deeper understanding of Tolkien’s work than most.
Given the current state of the copyright, I know that this dream is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon. However, I think it would be wonderful if a few carefully-chosen new writers delved back into Middle Earth to create fiction that could introduce the world to newer generations of potential Tolkien fans.
This whole idea fascinates me, because it sits in the zone of conflict between wanting a story we love to end well and wanting it to not end at all. I remember seeing Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade at the movies, and, despite the literal ride off into the sunset at the end, desperately wanting more. That world was so vital, so alive and so incredibly fun that I didn’t want it to end. Years later, while I freely admit Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has plenty wrong with it, the way it acknowledged time passing and attempted to do different stuff with the same characters was really enjoyable.
Plus you know Indy bounced off more than a few of the Wold Newton kids (Not heard of that? Go here, read this, you’re welcome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wold_Newton_family) .
Then there was the case he, Peggy Carter, Hellboy and Rick and Evie O’Connell worked that none of them talk about…
That same idea, of continuance and the handover of authorial control it implies, is also where a lot of fanfic lives too, of course. It’s vibrant, creative, chaotic fictional space and navigating it is going to be one of the big challenges of the next few decades.
Which is why I’d love to see something new done with Starship Troopers.
That novel is a lightning rod, one of those classics that attracts parody, adulation, discussion and rage in equal measure. Ask one author and they’ll tell you it’s a classic example of hyper right wing propaganda. Ask another and they’ll tell you it’s a classic that deserves hymns sung to it and statues erected. Ask a third and they’ll tell you it’s a chilling horror story, humanity’s drive and ambition forged into the blunt instrument of military domination and sent out to stamp on the universe’s face forever.
And here’s the thing; they’re all right. So give them all a shot.
Take the sort of shared universe/TV writer’s room approach that’s being pioneered by at least two novella publishers right now and apply it to Starship Troopers. Build a ‘season’ of say, ten novellas, have them put together an overall story arc and then set them loose. That way everyone gets a fair crack at the sandbox; you want to do an absolutely straight down the middle piece of action SF? There you go. Want to parody or satirize Heinelin’s politics? Done. Want to celebrate the Roman-like ideals that he embodies there? Have at.
But you have to make sure your writer’s room is politically balanced. If it skews too far right wing, you’ll get a whole bunch of Serious Business Hard SF with the sort of discussion of rates of fire and gravitational effects on trajectory that will leave some readers reaching for the emergency Thigh Spork. Go too far left wing and the entire thing will degenerate into a colossal pile of immensely pleased with itself, gooey pseudo satire with no actual bones or plot. Hit either of those outcomes and the project will be a disaster. Grab a balanced group of authors and you’ve got a means of updating, honoring, questioning and exploring the consequences of one of the most influential novels in the field.
Oh and one last wrinkle; at least half that writer’s room can’t be the usual suspects. If you’re going to update and expand the world of the novel for a new decade and generation? Commit to that. With that in mind, here’s who I’d go for:
Malon Edwards-“Into The Breach,” which ran on Escape Pod last year, is one of my all time favorite short stories. It’s humane and pragmatic in a way all the soldiers I’ve known are, and military SF as a genre far too often is not. Plus, very few people write action better than he does.
Karen Traviss-A former defence journalist, Traviss knows the field inside and out. Her work on the Republic Commando Star Wars tie in novels remains an absolute highlight of the now-defunct Expanded Universe and her original SF is even better. An essential hire for a project like this.
Tobias S. Buckell-Buckell would be a perfect fit for a project like this. His work is character focused but completely at home with this field, as shown by novels like Sly Mongoose and his work on the HALO tie in series.
Jack Campbell-The Lost Fleet series are a good model for this project. Very focused on military life, but refreshingly unromantic about the pressures and horrors of combat.
Tanya Huff-Knows the field inside and out and the Valor Confederation books in particular show how she’d excel at dealing with a series focused on the war ‘on the ground’.
Christie Yant-Had, along with Campbell, one of the stand out stories in Armoured, an anthology of power armor based fiction and an author and editor whose work would be an immense boon to the project.
Leah Moore-A comic writer by trade, Moore and partner John Reppion share a razor sharp sense of character and a keen eye for creative physical mayhem.
Issui Ogawa-Author of The Lord of The Sands Of Time, put out in the UK and US by Haikasoru and one of the best military SF novels ever written. The thought of giving Ogawa, or Hiroshi Sakurazaka, author of All You Need Is Kill (Filmed as Edge of Tomorrow), Starship Troopers is thrilling.
Would you like to know more? If these authors were writing it, I know I would.
One of the first Science Fiction series I read was the original Foundation Trilogy – Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation – by Isaac Asimov. These books captivated me. Hari Seldon and the development of his psychohistory turned me into a lifelong (so far anyway) SF fan. Of course Asimov wrote more in the series starting in the 80s – Foundation’s Edge, Foundation and Earth, Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation. He eventually linked the Foundation series to his Robot and Empire series.
A second Foundation Trilogy has been written by Gregory Benford (Foundation’s Fear), Greg Bear (Foundation and Chaos), and David Brin (Foundation’s Triumph). While not extending the timeline of what Asimov wrote they do fill in some of the gaps in the first 500 years or so of Foundation history. There is plenty of room for additional stories or novels set in the Foundation Universe. I’d love to see how writers tackle psychohistory and the Foundation again. What happened after the first 500 years of the Foundation? Of course there are still gaps to be filled in the earlier years of the Foundation as well.
I’d love to see another anthology (like Foundation’s Friends) featuring stories by Adam Christopher, W.C. Bauers, Wesley Chu, Jason M. Hough, Ann Leckie, M.C. Planck, Danie Ware, James Cambias, Marko Kloos, Rajan Khanna, David Ramirez, Kevin Hearne and Stephanie Saulter to name a few. As for a new novel in the Foundation series, I’d love to see any of the mentioned authors tackle at least part of the 2nd 500 years of Foundation history. ”
What world would I want to see additional stories set in? Well. I’ve a notion or nine. But first, what a fine phrase “fallow universe” is! What a wonderfully rustic and reverential way of saying: a setting that still speaks to readers who’ve seen it, heard it, smelt it, felt it—even if it’s been years since its creator cared to change or rearrange it.
Now the question doesn’t specify how long a literary landscape has to have gone untended for it to fall fallow, and there have a been a few stories told in recent years showcasing settings I’d adore the opportunity to explore some more—from the painstakingly specific spacescape of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 to the lavishly crafted cosmos of gods and monsters Benjanun Sriduangkaew borrowed from Chinese mythology for “Scale-Bright” and the like.
Truth be told, though, it’s perfectly possible that these worldbuilders will one day return to roost in their incredible creations, so it might be a touch too soon to starting shopping them to an assortment of other authors.
Markedly more fallow in that regard are a few of the weird worlds that sucked me into speculative fiction in the first: say, the striking seas and cities of China Mieville’s Bas-Lag books, and the fungal wonders of Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris. Both authors have long since moved on from said settings, and I couldn’t be happier about that—for their sake, that is. For my part? I want them both back.
But were they unable or simply unwilling to satisfy my selfish summons, I’d love for a few of my favourite female authors to make these primarily masculine milieus their own. Let’s give Ambergris to Aliette de Bodard, leaving Bas-Lag to… Ann Leckie? Yeah. What a treat those books’d be!
The first and obvious answer is that I’d like semi-annual volumes of stories set in Iain Banks’ Culture, written by any-and-everyone, to be released without interruption or delay for the duration of my lifetime. The problem with this bit of wish making is that I cannot honestly consider the Culture as fallow or underexposed, and while the setting bears infinite potential, what Banks left us with was deep and rich.
Similarly, George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen would flourish under the custodianship of either China Miéville or Kathleen Anne Goonan. But Effinger gave us three novels and an anthology set in that soul-tempting district, and the desire for more makes me feel somewhat ungrateful.
The pitfall of this exercise is that such author/universe pairings quickly become a mental game of call-and-response, where we perceive one writer’s tones and themes meshing with another’s worldbuilding. How easy, I am tempted to imagine, it would be for Robert Jackson Bennett to drag us back to the beastly abyss of Terry Carr’s Cirque, or for Jenn Brissett’s narrative mosaics to impose themselves on John Brunner’s Squares of the City. While the prospects make me squee, it’s a guilty squee, one I fear does a disservice to all parties.
Still, I cannot deny that reading Sally Wiener Grotta’s The Winter Boy sent me back to reread Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean and Still Forms on Foxfield and quietly yearn for those sandboxes to be revisited. The question is: if my mood had been tweaked, could another author have instilled a variant of the same desire? Pondering that, I can see the flanks of Lucius Shepard’s dragon Griaule being scaled with equal aplomb by Pat Murphy or James Morrow, knowing that they would be wildly different stories. Compare and contrast a hypothetical Greg Egan sequel to Lem’s Solaris to ones written by Robert Charles Wilson, Yoon Ha Lee, or Peter Watts.
(That last sentence made me wet myself.)
But at this time, in this place, and possessed of my current mood, my top three are:
* Heinlein’s Friday in the hands of Rachel Bach
* A Neal Asher Berserker book
* Linda Nagata expanding Charles Sheffield’s Heritage series
Ask me tomorrow and my answer will probably be different.