Friday, January 4, 2008

Members of Critical Mass: S.M. Stirling, Part I

Steve's got two series going right now, so I'll post about each one separately. Steve, better known as S.M. Stirling, began writing about the Change in his book, Island in the Sea of Time, which he wrote before I ever met him. In this book the island of Nantucket is shunted over three thousand years back in time. A few years after I joined Critical Mass, he began work on a series that deals with what happened to the rest of the world when Nantucket disappeared. Technology stopped working. Everything from electricity to combustion engines to even gunpowder fizzled out.

I began this series expecting a typical adventure story from Steve. He does a lot of high adventure alternate history, which isn't what I normally read. These books hooked me to the point that I chose to read the doorstop sized chunks that Steve submits every month first, before the rest of the submissions. His concept is very clever. Out of this post-Change chaos comes a mythic society, one where people beat car parts into swords and build castles out of concrete. Then magic starts to work, sort of. Degree by degree the genre changes from science fiction to high fantasy.

Watching Steve write has been a real learning experience. One thing about his long submissions is that I see draft after draft, how he reworks the prose and moves scenes around. He clearly spends long days at it, and the results speak for themselves. His books are hitting various bestseller lists. As he puts it, "After decades of hard work, suddenly I'm an overnight success."

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