All posts by JamesLSutter

[GUEST POST] James L. Sutter on What Authors Owe Fans (Or: Maybe George R. R. Martin *Is* Your Bitch)

James L. Sutter is the Managing Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He is the author of the novels Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine, the former of which was #3 on Barnes & Noble’s list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and a 2013 Origins Award. He’s written numerous short stories for such publications as PodCastle, Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the #1 Amazon best seller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he’s published a wealth of award-winning gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Find more essays and free stories at jameslsutter.com, or let him know all the ways he’s wrong on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

What Authors Owe Fans

by James L. Sutter

In 2009, Neil Gaiman posted the now-famous blog entry “Entitlement Issues…,” in which he declared that “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.” This was in the context of a larger statement about fan entitlement and what authors of series owe their fans, of which I think the most pertinent part reads:

“You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you. No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading… When you see other people complaining that George R.R. Martin has been spotted doing something other than writing the book they are waiting for, explain to them, more politely than I did the first time, the simple and unanswerable truth: George R. R. Martin is not working for you.

In the rest of the post, Neil argues both that authors need downtime to let their brains recharge and-more interestingly-that the author-audience transaction is in fact complete as soon as a reader pays money for a book, regardless of whether it’s part of a series. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Gaiman’s mouth, yet presumably if George Martin lost interest and simply never produced the last book of A Song of Ice and Fire (or pulled a Dark Tower and took 22 years to finish the series), Neil would say that’s the artist’s prerogative.
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[GUEST POST] Rejecting Creationism: Building Better Monsters Through Evolution by James L. Sutter

James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on twitter at @jameslsutter.

Rejecting Creationism: Building Better Monsters Through Evolution

Creationism is a hot topic these days. There are constantly fights over whether it should be taught in schools, debates within religions about whether or not creationism can incorporate the idea of evolution, and so on. Yet whether you believe in creationism as literal truth or not, there’s one angle you may not have considered.

Creationism is a crappy way to design monsters.

I don’t just mean for science fiction, either–since science fiction has science right in the name, it’s hardly surprising that readers of that genre are going to expect any aliens and monsters they run across to conform to the principles of evolution. Yet even in fantasy–perhaps especially in fantasy–a little evolutionary theory can go a long way toward making your monsters and setting more interesting and engaging for the reader or player.
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[GUEST POST] James L. Sutter on Technology in Fantasy

James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic, which Barnes & Noble ranked #3 on its list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on twitter at @jameslsutter.

Technology in Fantasy

The other day a fellow developer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and I are were arguing about spinning frames–those mechanical devices for spinning fibers into thread. He was wondering if it was bad form to put such a machine in Pathfinder, given that much of our world has a classic medieval fantasy feel, and spinning frames came about during the Industrial Revolution.

“Let me get this straight,” I replied. “This world has wizards who can stop time and make wishes come true. It has priests who can perform miracles and talk to gods. It’s got creatures who are physical manifestations of theoretical ideas, self-made immortals, folks who regularly come back from the dead, and heroes who literally ascend to godhood through their own actions. And we’re worried that it’ll seem too weird if somebody discovers a more efficient way to spin yarn?”

Put in those terms, it sounds silly, yet the question of technology is a huge one when building a fantasy world. Some people prefer technology that precisely matches that of a given real-world historical era. Others see nothing wrong with mixing and matching, combining swords, laser pistols, zeppelins, and dinosaur-pulled chariots. Some feel that technology itself should be the defining feature of the world (hence the ever-popular steampunk genre). Yet whatever path you choose when designing worlds for your fiction or RPG setting, there are a few important technological issues to consider.
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[GUEST POST] James L. Sutter on Building Worlds: Using Astronomy to Create Interesting Settings


James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic and co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

Building Worlds: Using Astronomy to Create Interesting Settings

Far too often, I run into authors who assume that science should be left to science fiction, on the grounds that fantasy is inherently science’s opposite. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. Even if your world is filled with boundless magic, there are still natural laws governing ninety-nine percent of your characters’ daily activities. And by injecting a little science into your setting, you can create far more interesting worlds than if you attempt to totally revamp reality from the ground up. Truth, as they say, is still stranger than fiction.

Whether you’re creating science fiction or fantasy, one of the easiest ways to inject some strangeness into your setting is to take a page from astronomy. As one of the designers for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting, and in particular the one in charge of designing that setting’s solar system, I’ve found the tactic extremely useful, and several of the examples presented below ended up in the resulting sourcebook, Distant Worlds. By tweaking your planet even slightly off Earth-standard, you can radically alter your world, and the resulting changes may lead you and the cultures who reside there in directions you had never expected. When creating a new planet, here are a few factors to consider.

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[GUEST POST] James L. Sutter on Atheism in Fantasy


James L. Sutter is the author of the novel Death’s Heretic and co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Escape Pod, Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller Machine of Death, and his anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published stories of SF luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, James has written numerous roleplaying game supplements and is the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing. For more information, check out jameslsutter.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

Faithless: Atheism in Fantasy

Faith is a tricky subject–tricky enough that many fantasy novels and roleplaying games skim right past it. Some stories ignore it all together (can you name the gods of Middle-earth without consulting The Silmarillion?), while others use gods as little more than names for priests and holy warriors to yell in battle. When authors do include gods as central pillars of their fantasy worlds, it’s often as squabbling, anthropomorphic beings that take a direct interest in mortal proceedings, not unlike the gods of Greek or Norse mythology. Yet the philosophical and theological questions that might arise from such a situation–is faith with empirical evidence still faith? how do worshipers deal with tragedy when they can confront their god about it directly?–are something I rarely see addressed.

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