Some authors publish a few titles and disappear, or move on to other things (comic book writing, tie-in writing, leaving publishing, etc) but you’d like to see more from them. So we asked this week’s panelists the following:
Here’s what they said:
Upon reflection, this is a tricky and somewhat thorny question. Authors stop writing and publishing books for all sorts of reasons, some of them more benign than others. Lousy sales, book contracts not renewed, the pressures of the writing life. Real life intruding and landing with the force of a 900 lb gorilla. There are all sorts of reasons why a writer stops getting published. Sometimes a writer just wants to stand pat. Until this year and Go Set A Watchman, I figured Harper Lee had stood pat with her one brilliant novel, for example. And until The Goblin Emperor came out, I would have put Sarah Monette on a list of authors who had seemingly stopped writing and I would want to write more. The hope and desire for a favored author to have a book come out again can be a strong one.
Elizabeth Willey only has three novels to her name, but such novels. Out in the early 90’s, her “Argylle” Novels (The Well Favored Man, A Sorcerer and a Gentleman, The Price of Blood and Honor) are really proto-mannerpunk worldwalking fantasy that, if it came out today, would go gangbusters. (Imagine if a writer on the lines of Mary Robinette Kowal decided to write a Amber-like setting, and you’ll see what I mean) I really think that the timing of the novels made their reception less enthusiastic than deserved. The Price of Blood and Honor leaves tons of plot threads unfinished, and a lot of questions unanswered. I’d love for Willey to answer those questions, and continue to build out that universe.
Michael Scott Rohan is an author with a much more extensive oeuvre, which makes his fading from writing even more painful. He had several series and worlds written in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His two best known are the “Spiral” series, and “The Winter of the World” series. The former, starting with Chase the Morning, is a swashbuckling portal fantasy series where Earth turns out to be the center of a sea of worlds, and the protagonist discovers and is drawn into the derring do and adventures on that sea of worlds. Its a premise for endless reinvention and is something that Rohan could write even more in, easily. (A.M. Dellamonica’s “Stormwrack” novels remind me strongly of this sort of world).
“The Winter of the World” series is a Predilvuian fantasy series set during the last ice age. Starting with Anvil of Ice, in that last ice age, far more of the coasts are exposed, and on those now-flooded coasts in the Pacific Northwest, a sturdy civilization with magic based on forging of metal fights a long battle against a sentient malevolent force–the Ice, the embodiment of the glacial ice age. Its a wonderfully tragic, even grimdark sort of premise, since the Ice seeks to crush the world, but if the Ice were to be totally defeated…that coast land, and their civilization, would be destroyed by rising sea levels. Again, in this day and age, the dark, hard world of the Northlands would have a ready-made audience and there are plenty more stories Rohan could tell in that world. And I wish he could and would.
Theodore Judson only has three novels to his oeuvre, and no indication of any more in the works. A Pity. Judson’s three novels, all set in unique universes, combine an academic and critical eye of events with a strong focus on military men and the problems and issues they face. Fitzpatrick’s War is a retelling of the conquests of Alexander the Great set in a post-collapse North America, with his Yukon Confederacy in place of Macedonia. The Martian General’s Daughter is a retelling of a Roman Civil War in an 21st century setting, with another military man caught between the machinations of a mad leader and his own sense of duty and honor. Hell Can Wait takes a centurion from the Roman Empire and resurrects him, via a demonic bargain, into modern America. Judson knows how to do ancient-style military men, and there is no lack of material for him to tackle. Say, a retelling of the fall of the rise and fall of Palmyran Kingdom for instance? I’d love to see what he’d do with a retold and reimagined female commander like Queen Zenobia. I’d bet it would be great. If only!
I can think of two authors who fit the bill for a desired comeback: Koushun Takami and Cynthia Voigt. Koushun Takami is a Japanese journalist who wrote Battle Royale back in 1999; the plot centers around a group of Japanese junior high school students who are abducted to a remote island and forced to battle to the death by their authoritarian government. Battle Royale has been adapted into films and manga, and is hugely popular around the world, but Takami hasn’t written any fiction since its publication. I’d love to read more from him, especially since his writing shows great insight into the complicated inner lives of his teenaged characters, and his pacing keeps the reader engaged for hours. I don’t want a sequel to Battle Royale, but I would like the chance to see more fictional worlds or political commentary from Takami.
Cynthia Voigt is an American author best known for her realistic YA fiction like Homecoming and Dicey’s Song, but she also wrote a four-book series called “The Tales of the Kingdom”, which I connected with far more strongly than her novels set in small-town America. “The Tales of the Kingdom” include The Tale of Gwyn, The Tale of Birle, The Tale of Oriel, and The Tale of Elske. Voigt’s protagonists are young, headstrong, and caught in a war between their own desires and societal expectations; setting these tales in a fictional kingdom allows Voigt a level of world-building and creativity which simply aren’t possible in her other books. I hope that, at some point, she allows herself that creative freedom again.
Since Melanie Rawn has returned to writing epic fantasy and thus doesn’t qualify for this list anymore, the first author who comes to mind is Jennifer Pelland. She is a two time Nebula Award nominee for her short fiction (“Captive Girl” and “Ghosts of New York“) and if I had my way she would be a Nebula Award winning author at the very least for “Captive Girl”, which I thought was stunning. Pelland is the author of the excellent novel Machine, published in 2012, and the short story collection Unwelcome Bodies (2008). Pelland’s fiction often deals with issues of body augmentation and image, and does so in an unflinching manner. If anyone is going to flinch, it’s likely going to be the reader. She’s damn good and I hope that she will be able to publish some stuff soon, because it’s been far too long since I’ve read a new Jennifer Pelland story. This is, of course, about me.
Another writer who I don’t see people talking much about is Greg Keyes. Keyes was discussed a bit more between 2003 and 2008 when he published his generally excellent “Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone” fantasy series, but perhaps because his subsequent output has been two Elder Scrolls novels and a prequel to the new Planet of the Apes movies, there hasn’t been much buzz. Keyes is also the author of the fascinating Age of Unreason quartet featuring an alternate history with Ben Franklin and Isaac Newton. That one is worth a look, if you haven’t heard of it or read it before. Start with Newton’s Cannon. I’d love to see a fresh novel or series from him that isn’t tie-in work.
I’d love to see more “Cheysuli” work from Jennifer Roberson, a “Continuing Time” novel from Daniel Keys Moran, more “Steerswoman” from Rosemary Kirstein, more SF from Karen Traviss in the vein of her phenomenal “Wess’har Wars”, and despite her just having published a new “Deryni” novel which concluded “The Childe Morgan” trilogy – what I really, really want is both a Year 948 novel and an Orin and Jodotha novel from Katherine Kurtz.
One author I’d really love to see come back to writing original SFF is Tara K. Harper. Her first novel Wolfwaker (and the rest of the novels in that series) have so many things I love. The protagonist, Dion, is a such a strong character, in so many ways. Physically, yes, she’s an expert rock climber and can run forever, but she’s also quite strong mentally and emotionally. So many bad things happen to her right from the get-go, but she never gives up. She makes the hard decisions and does what needs to be done . Harper also allows Dion the space to cry and be vulnerable and make mistakes; Dion always felt to me like a real person, not just a “strong female protagonist” cardboard cutout. Plus, who doesn’t love gigantic telepathic wolves? Harper’s work tends to straddle the line between fantasy and science fiction (the Wolfwalker books are fantasy with a science fiction backbone, for example), which is something I really enjoy. I’d love to see another “cross-SFF” novel from her.
I fell away from science fiction/fantasy for a while so I’m at the sweet spot where most of the authors I’ve enjoyed have either shuffled off this mortal coil entirely, or are happily still writing away. The notable singleton in my collection is Donn Kushner’s A Book Dragon which landed on my shelves in childhood & has remained through numerous moves. He otherwise wrote children’s books, but enchanted me with Nonesuch the Dragon. A few authors, however, have departed my favorite universes if not the genre entirely.
A few weeks ago I would have pointed to Lois McMaster Bujold whose Five Gods world has been my favorite since first discovering Curse of Chalion, but she released Penric’s Demon recently, and if it didn’t quite satisfy me the way Curse and Paladin of Souls did, it’s still nice to know that the world is active!
Similarly, C. S. Friedman won my loyalty with Black Sun Rising and the rest of the “Coldfire Trilogy” (Bibliotropic‘s readalong is fast becoming one of my weekly sources of joy), and while I’ve enjoyed the Magister series it didn’t have quite the same combination of an interest in religion, gloriously vivid setting, and compelling antihero in Gerrald Tarrant. But Friedman, too, released an in-world novella not long ago, and Dominion gave me my fix for a while.
Charles Saunders has returned to the world of Imaro that I only recently discovered (thanks to Troy Wiggins) and is publishing sequels to this old-but-new-to-me Sword & Soul adventure at just the right time.
(Almost) everything’s coming up Jonah these days. But I do have two universes dear to my heart that I still think of often & wish to see the authors revisit somehow.
Julian May’s “Saga of the Pliocene Exile” and broader “Galactic Milieu” series hooked me in Junior High, and still remain on my bookshelves (while every stop at a used bookstore includes checking for missing titles). After her venture in the Boreal Moon series a decade ago, I’m not optimistic there’ll be another dip into the “Galactic Milieu”, but if there was, I’d snatch it up quickly.
My final hope is for an author who’s still actively publishing (no less than three books this year)! I’m looking forward to Court of Fives, Black Wolves, and everything else Kate Elliott writes ever, but Jaran was the first of her books I read, and it’s the incomplete series that I’ll always be hoping manages to be completed somehow. I’d trade a lot of other universes to get just a little bit more of the Jaran universe (it’s only 4 or 5 more books to finish out!).
Eleven years ago, Susanna Clarke rocked the fantasy world when she released an epic door-stopper of a novel called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. A fantastical alternate history set in nineteenth century England, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell centers on the differences of two magicians—one a serious pedant devoted to scholarship, the other all natural talent and wild risk-taking.
And it was fascinating— arch, imaginative, and quietly clever. From candles in your head, to cats whose stares make you think about your moral inadequacies, I love the way it blends a dry, Austenesque writing style with surrealism, magic, and madness. And the metaphors and similes—god, there are some beautiful lines in there. Take, for instance: “The very shapes of the trees were like frozen screams.” Swoon. So, uhm, yes. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would really love to see Susanna Clarke write another SFF novel.
Four years ago, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus hit me in a similarly strong fashion. And, come to think of it, that’s another novel written about the differences between two magicians—one a serious scholar, and the other a risk-taking natural talent. Despite that surface similarity, the two books couldn’t be more different. The Night Circus centers on the pupils of the quarrelling magicians, locked in competition in their masters’ stead—and what grows between them despite, or perhaps because of it.
And then there’s The Night Circus, the setting and a character itself—a haunting, intensely personal, dreamlike carnival of black and white, which appears suddenly, without warning, and disappears the same way. Like Harry Potter, it leaves you with the intense desire to pack up your bags and relocate to that book directly. And, barring that, to go to a Night Circus themed book release party, all decked in black and white, with every reader wearing a red scarf.
Of course, I would love to read more fantasy by Erin Morgenstern. And to my delight, I just found out via Twitter that Erin Morgenstern is working on a new book, due out sometime next year. And even though it won’t take us back to the Night Circus, I can’t wait to read it.
May the candle in your head never go out!
My first instinct was David Wingrove, who published the 8-book Chung Kuo series through the 90’s, and then disappeared. I haven’t gone back to those books, but I remember being blown away by his worldbuilding. However, before I wrote up a lengthy reasoning behind this answer, I decided to check and sure enough, he’s back! In fact, Del Rey UK recently sent me his latest novel, The Empire of Time (I’d dropped it on the TBR pile and forgotten!). So he’s back, and that’s great news to me.
Now things get tough, as my next choice is Richard K. Morgan. The reason this is not an easy answer is because I’m saying something that I know, as an author, is not something we generally want to hear. Specifically, I wish he’d write another Takeshi Kovacs novel. That implies that I’m not happy with his recent outings in the fantasy genre, which is simply not true. It’s just that I love his Kovacs books, too, and look forward to more should he ever write them. But even early in my own career, I know as an author how strong the desire can be to do different things and not get trapped, so to speak, writing in the same popular series forever. Hence when fans ask “when are you going to get back to so-in-so” what we hear is “why are you bothering with this other crap” and we get grumpy and need hugs. Richard, if you’re out there, *hugs*! You write whatever you like, and I’ll read it!
And so we come to my third choice, which is also a bit awkward. I’d love to see Dani and Eytan Kollin write moe sci-fi. I found their “Unincorporated” series full of interesting ideas, great action, and (once again) fantastic worldbuilding. Dani and Eytan also took me under their wing at my first ever WorldCon in Chicago back in 2012, and remain friends with them. I’m not sure what their plans are in regards to writing though, but I get the sense that collaborating is tough to coordinate as each of them have their own lives to lead. So, for now I must count myself as a satisfied fan who would be thrilled if they released something new. The reason that’s an awkward wish is they could well be working on something even now, and I’m just not aware of it!