Your Questions for the Author Answered

March 3rd Question

I have started to reread the Recluce series and also recently revisited The Lessons of History by Will and Ann Durant, a concise synthesis of their broader work in “The Story of Civilization.” The Durants’ exploration of historical cycles, the interplay of moral and ethical considerations, and the forces of progress and decline resonated with me, particularly in light of the themes you explore in the Recluce series. This parallel has sparked my curiosity about your own historical and philosophical influences. Could you share whether the works of Will and Ann Durant have played any role in shaping the ideas or themes within the Recluce series? I am interested in understanding how historical narratives and philosophical explorations might influence the creation of fantasy worlds that, while entirely fictional, echo with the weight of real human history and ethical dilemmas. Thank you for your time and for the worlds you’ve created — not just within the Recluce series — that have so deeply enriched my reading experiences and thinking.

While I’ve certainly heard of the Durants, I have to confess that I haven’t read any of their works. I have read history widely, particularly ancient history, beginning when I was quite young, and I continue to do so, although these days I peruse periodicals such as History Today and World Archaeology rather than larger tomes. On the more philosophical side, I’ve also read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Edward Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence and who knows how many others.

March 2nd Question

I noticed three references in the first two Grand Illusion books to how the “burgher’s delight” was the lousiest thing on the menu. I just wondered…do you have a friend who’s a cheeseburger fiend, and you were teasing them? It felt like an inside joke. Just wondering.

No, the “burgher’s delight” just came out of my own musing. I was just thinking how unappetizing a slab of ground beef between two slices of bread sounds. What makes a hamburger or a cheeseburger is everything else.

Sonic Assault

The other day, my wife was in the university parking lot, about to drive home. Then out of nowhere, a car pulled up two spaces away, and suddenly she could hear nothing except rap music that totally drowned out her classic easy rock music. Both her windows were closed, but those of the other car were open, and the volume of the “music” from the other car was enough literally to vibrate her solid but modest SUV.

I own a somewhat larger SUV, used primarily once for book tours and currently to carry opera props and sometimes sets, as well as for occasional trips around southwest Utah. Yet I’ve also experienced the unpleasant and definitely unwelcome sonic assault and/or or the involuntary full-body sonic massage.

We live on a fairly quiet street, but we still get the occasional sonic bombardment from so-called music, even with our well-insulated windows and walls – and our house isn’t even that close to the road, and there’s a five-foot tall, four-foot wide thick pfitzer hedge between the sidewalk and the grass.

What’s become even more prevalent is the sound of barely muffled large diesel pick-up trucks, except they’re more like monsters that tower over my standard-sized SUV, and the majority of these behemoths don’t appear to be working trucks, not with all that chrome and nary a splat of mud or so much as a dent in sight, and seldom even with any cargo.

Sound pollution is increasing everywhere in the world, and it’s not as though trucks and music have to be that loud. So why is it happening?

Studies show that human beings regard high levels of sound as a form of power, a way to dominate the space around them. Certainly, we can see this everywhere, even in politics, where demagogues from Hitler to Trump have ranted and raved at high volume and amplified that volume as much as possible.

But what it signifies to me is obnoxious boors who ought to be stuffed into a sound-proof chamber and subjected to their own noise at volumes high enough to burst their eardrums – except then they’d just increase the volume more.

February 26th Question

Two questions if I may. Firstly, did Lerris and Krystal ever have children or was that part of the price paid in The Death of Chaos? Second, I find myself sympathetic to Ryba’s position in Fall of Angels, though slightly less so in The Chaos Balance. Do you think she would have truly turned on Nylan or was she driving him out to ensure he dealt with Cyador?

While I didn’t spell it out, or even hint at it, given what Lerris and Krystal have been through, they won’t have children or live beyond a normal lifespan. In the case of Ryba, she doesn’t perceive herself as being unreasonable, but only doing what she believes is necessary — given her scattered visions of the future. Nylan doesn’t like being treated like a tool and needs more affection. Since Ryba is so driven, a rift is inevitable. And, in the end, Ryba’s actions, through both Nylan and Saryn, do remove the unthinking mysogyny of latter-day Cyador and Lornth and effectively change the political structure of the entire west of Candar.

February 18th Question

I am reading and enjoying From the Forest. Could you include a map of Cyador to identify the place names in a later volume of the series?

Unfortunately, it’s not my decision as to whether a map is included in the book. I sent a rough map and my editor presented the idea. The higher-ups declined the idea of a map in the first book. I will bring the matter up again, but, while I control the text, I don’t control whether maps are in the book.

February 16th Question

I had pre-ordered “From the Forest” and recently received the book. As soon as I started reading it I found that I had read all of this before but I cannot remember where exactly. But I do remember the book and unfortunately already know the ending of course. Can you tell me where I read it before please?

The first seven chapters are an expanded version of the short story “The Forest Girl,” which appeared in the collection Recluce Tales. This was stated on the copyright page of the book. The rest of the book is entirely new and hasn’t appeared anywhere before [unless there are pirate editions somewhere else].

February 14th Question

I remember reading an Imager story where Renn and Seliora’s daughter is older, preteen, maybe. But I can’t find it. Where is it? I would like to read it again.

I’ve never written such a story. The only incident that I can recall is once speculating about how interesting it might be to write about Diestrya as teenager, but whether that was at a convention, online, or elsewhere, I honestly can’t remember because it was a while back. It’s also possible that someone wrote fanfiction about Diestrya when older, but I did not.

February 7th Question

Is there a map for the new series beginning with From the Forest? It would help me a lot (and others, I am sure).

There is, and there isn’t. That is to say, I submitted my hand-drawn map to Tor, and my editor did her best, but, presumably for reasons of cost, the higher-ups nixed the map inclusion, possibly because my maps are rather detailed and costly to produce for books. Since my talents do not lie in graphic arts on the professional level, that means no map.

January 19th Question

After Lerris reset the world, you haven’t added any stories post the sundering of Recluse. Do you have any plans to do so? That’s something I have hoped you would do, a more technological world, maybe with the beginning of order and chaos Magery.

Outside of the one story — “Fame” — that ends Recluce Tales, I haven’t written anything after the sundering of Recluce, and I have no plans to do so. That would be a very different world, and it wouldn’t be the same, not if I’m to be true to what I’ve already written.

Second January 8th Question

I wanted to say first that I adored your Grand Illusion series and bought each new volume as soon as they came out. I’m trying to write my own political fantasy series myself, and I was wondering if you had any advice for how you kept track of all the factions and alliances and whatnot as you wrote?

With lots of charts and notes, but nearly twenty years in the political arena helped a great deal. One of the important things to remember/plan is the overall political base of each councilor/candidate — beyond just party identity. While for a period of time, support for a charismatic figure, such as Hitler or Trump, can overshadow individual politicians’ political bases, that’s usually not the case. Also, a politician’s style and approach is influenced by his or her strengths and weaknesses. One who isn’t the strongest of speakers will likely use different strategies, such as developing a strong grassroots organization.

January 8th Question

In the Forum back on Tue Feb 10, 2004 1:12 pm you answered the question, in part: “The idea underlying the book (Gravity Dreams) was my thought about the difference in societies, i.e., how some societies evolve out of tribal and geographic identities while others are value-driven.” When I read your reply I tried to find history of a society which had evolved on a value-driven basis. I became somewhat confused by the more common evolution of a group based on ideological beliefs but none that I would call value-driven. Indeed, leaders with Core-values, i.e. fixed beliefs, which sounded to me like ideology. I thus have the question: would you please indicate one or two societies which evolved because they were value-driven? I suspect one might be the United States; another might be Ashoka the third Mauryan Emperor of Magadha in the Indian subcontinent who devoted himself to the propagation of “dhamma” or righteous conduct after (260 BCE),when conquered Kalinga after a brutal war.

The United States is indeed an example of a society founded on values, rather than having its values evolve from geography, tribalism, or religious beliefs. But so far as I can determine, all societies reflect values. I have to admit I’m at a loss for another example of another society consciously founded on a set of secular values, although my statement back in 2004 assumed that there must be others.

January 5th Question

In the world of Recluce, healers are nigh-universally associated with green. Unlike with order mages and chaos wizards, this does not appear to be the result of association with the actual magic/metaphysical system of the world. My general theory is that Anglorian medics wore green and given the lasting impact of Cyadoran culture the association just stuck everywhere, but I’m curious if there’s something else behind it.

Frankly, I hadn’t thought of your explanation. My feeling was that so often green is the color of life and healers’ duty is to preserve life. Of course, both your and my explanation both fit.

December 15th Question

Will you do more on the Grand Illusion ?

I’m seriously thinking about it, but if I do, there won’t be an immediate sequel to Contrarian, because not much “interesting” will occur in the lives of Stefan and Avraal for the next several years. Once I know for certain, I will let readers know.

December 10th Question

Why did Geuffryt send Viktor a message warning him about Rhennthyl, while also using the “explosive” to get Rhennthyl to examine the bank records? Was Geuffryt trying to maneuver Viktor into killing Rhennthyl?


December 9th Question

After many re-readings of Imager’s Intrigue, I have to confess that I’m confused about the Kearyk subplot. Kearyk can’t have been part of the plot because he was complaining to the chalker about the missing page of the ledger. I’m not sure who made the forged page of the ledger, and why.

I probably didn’t make this as clear as I could have. Vyktor D’Banque D’Ouestan was a tool of Sea-Marshal Geuffryt. While Geuffryt was Kaeryk’s lover, Vyktor was often the go-between. Vyktor had Kearyk replace an entire page to cover an entry that would have revealed that Vyktor was a Ferran agent. It was never about the hundred golds, which were a blind to cover from whom a different payment was received, because the numbers still balanced. Kearyk was worried about the missing blank page because that might have revealed that more than a hundred golds was in question. Vyktor didn’t care if it got Kaeryk in trouble because he was going to kill him anyway, and the drowning “covered” the other change.

December 6th Question

I’m writing to inquire where you feel the Grand Illusion series going next. I’d love to have another book with Stefan, but I get the feeling you feel that story has gone as far as it needs to.

If… if I did write another story about Stefan and Avraal, it would have to be at least a decade farther into their future. At present, I’m not ready to write such a story. I am considering a prequel novel, but that’s all I’ll say at the moment.

December 2nd Questions

I have two questions from reading “Recluce Tales.” First, “Heritage” reminds me that there seems to be a contradiction between Hamor being an empire in Lorn’s time and a hodgepodge of duchies when Cyador falls. I’ve always admired how your story lines are internally consistent across widely separated arcs, but this seems hard to reconcile. How do you explain this seeming inconsistency? Second, you write that your editor has pleaded with you over the years to not write the story of Cyador’s founding. Why not? Thanks.

How about the idea that, as in the old and new kingdoms of ancient Egypt, there was an empire in one time, a disintegration, and a rise of a new and stronger empire later?

David Hartwell was my editor at Tor for more than thirty years, and he felt strongly about the matter. Even after his death several years ago, I respect his judgment. The next four Recluce books, however, will deal with the period beginning roughly eighty years after the rationalist landing on the world of Recluce. That’s likely to be the closest I’ll get to the founding — except for the short story entitled “The Vice-Marshal’s Trial” in Recluce Tales

November 30th Question

Have any of your books been optioned for movies or tv? Would love to see Recluce or Imager books on TV or in the theaters.

Over the years I’ve had a few inquiries about whether the rights were available for the Recluce books (which they are), but nothing has ever come of the inquiries. So far, I’ve never had any inquiries at all about the Imager Portfolio.

November 8th Question

Have you thought about a Recluce novel where two characters that can use a glass for far-seeing, send each other messages over a long distance by painted signs seen through the glass?

Actually, I’ve thought about it several times over the years, but decided that the “resolution” issue would make it too difficult to be practical. By resolution, I’m talking about the ability to see characters or symbols in a glass clearly… and that doesn’t even take into account lighting problems or whether mages could focus on the signs or paper. In the later of the forthcoming books about Alyiakal, however, I’ve addressed the “glass” communication issue/problem in a different way.

November 5th Question

I greatly enjoy the Grand Illusion series; more so than the others in your extensive works. Not that I haven’t bought, read and enjoyed almost all the others. But, when can I expect the next in the GI series? I read that the next 4 in the Recluse series have been finished. But the publishing schedule that I saw has them in the next 2 or 3 years. It used to be that I worried would favorite authors like Heinlein and Pournelle finish story arcs before they left us. I’m getting to the point where I have to worry about will I last long enough to see them advanced. Thanks from the owner of just about everything in your inventory since The Hammer of Darkness

P.S. A new Ghost novel would be nice but I see difficulties in continuing it!

In response to the last point first, I actually suggested another ghost novel to my publisher, but the sales of the last ghost book — Ghost of the White Nights — were so poor that Tor felt it wouldn’t work.

As for another book in the Grand Illusion series, that’s a very good possibility, but I’m not to the point where I feel comfortable in saying more than that at the moment.