Texas born and raised, Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as a number of short stories and nonfiction articles. Her books have been published in seven languages. Her most recent work has been in the Three Worlds universe, stories of an extended family of a shapeshifting race called the Raksura. The story of Moon, orphaned and found by members of his race starts in The Cloud Roads, continues through its sequels The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths.
Her latest book, Stories of the Raksura Volume I: The Falling World and the Tale of Indigo and Cloud, presents us with several new stories set in the universe.
Martha was kind enough to answer some questions about the Raksura and her work.
PAUL: The Three Worlds universe is strikingly different than the fantastical European settings of the Ile-Rien novels. What were your inspirations in creating it?
MARTHA WELLS: I wanted to do something that was very different from my other books. I wanted a world where, as the characters traveled through it, the reader would have no idea what was over the next hill. I wanted scope to do things I hadn’t ever done before with magical cities, characters, and environments.
PW: The sociology of the Courts are matriarchal but not strictly gynarchal, and you explore more aspects of how Courts relate to each other in these stories. What research or reading did you do in creating Raksuran society?
MW: The courts are a gynarchy to a certain extent because the reigning queen’s word is final, but there has to be certain level of consensus with the majority of the Arbora, or the court would be dysfunctional. Most of the reading I did was actually about bees, lions, ants, etc. I wanted to base their society on an extended family structure, but I also wanted it to feel a little alien. I also did some reading about bats for their flying abilities.
PW: We get some general ideas in these stories and the novels of the relative locations of some things. Is there such a thing as a map of the Three Worlds, or ever would be?
MW: There hasn’t been up to this point, because I wanted to leave as much scope for the reader’s imagination as possible, and I didn’t want to set any boundaries on the world. For the Raksura story I’m working on now, I am going to have to draw a map of a section of it for my own reference (I’m going to need a really big piece of paper), but I don’t know if I’ll ever show it to anyone else or post it anywhere. It won’t be easy not to post it, because I actually love maps of fantasy and SF worlds, I just don’t think having one is right for the Three Worlds.
PW: We see stories set in the past as well as going forward from The Siren Depths. Prequel stories are tricky affairs, how do you avoid the pitfalls of writing stories where the ultimate outcome and long term ramifications are known to the reader?
MW: A couple of the prequels focus on events that were mentioned in the books, but where the reader doesn’t know any details. “That Tale of Indigo and Cloud” is probably the only one where the reader knows pretty much what had happened, that Indigo stole Cloud, and that they did end up with a long successful relationship. So I focused on Cerise, the reigning queen, who had to deal with the political and social ramifications of Indigo and Cloud’s actions, and who was the one responsible for preventing a war. I think with a prequel where the reader already knows some of the story, you have to focus on the parts that haven’t been told.
MW: In a way. Moon’s situation in the court is unique, but so his Chime’s. And they’re both learning new roles and having various successes and failures at it. I did want to give Moon a friend in the court whose situation was even more difficult than his.
PW: Besides the Raksura themselves, there are plenty of intriguing characters and peoples in the Three Worlds (like Delin, whom you’ve adopted as the voice of your appendices). What race(s) in the Three worlds besides the Raksura would you like to explore in more detail?
MW: I’ve done one story based on a woman from the Turning City, one of the places that Moon and Jade visit briefly in The Cloud Roads, and am working on a second one with her as the main character. I wanted to use her perspective because she does come from a more technological society, and I can also use her to show a different part of the Three Worlds.
PW: A second volume of the Raksura novellas is coming out soon. What is next for you after that is published?
MW: I’m working on another Raksura story, plus a couple of other things, but don’t have any final details yet I can share yet.
PW: Thanks Martha!
[Check out my reviews of Stories of the Raksura: Volume One: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud!]