A while back (like late spring 2011), I was approached by Alex White to see if I might be interested in writing a short story set in the world of The Gearheart. As an admirer of his work and always one up for a writing challenge, I accepted wholeheartedly, turning in the finished story in August ’11. Last winter, Alex started up a Chip-In fund to assist in paying for his son’s developmental assistance and gave this story and one other as one of the donor rewards.
The first part of that story is now live in podcast form.
It’s always interesting to get an intimate glimpse inside the creative universes of others. While collaboration in general presents its own challenges, each of the authors I’ve worked with in this capacity operate very differently. When I wrote my Tales from the Archives (Parsec Finalist!) story for Tee and Pip, I was given a fairly liberal space to operate in. This time around was a bit different. I was restricted to writing something non-cannon that didn’t directly affect the main players of Alex’s two novels (soon to be three!). This is fine by me. That’s actually taking off some of the pressure off as I don’t have to worry about maintaining characterization from another’s writing. I also had to play within other rules:
- Magic is secret. I asked many questions about Seekers and such. There’s so much more to know than what’s been written, let me tell you!
- Each magic user has his/her own specific elemental abilities.
- There is specific terminology used when dealing with magic use.
- Even though most of the other countries aren’t explored in the existing Gearheart stories, Alex has very specific ideas of how each government and culture functions. Once I picked the locale (he’s created a map!) I had to learn as much as possible about it before I could begin. I still had questions as the writing progressed. Good communication was imperative.
- Most of the gadgets and gizmos from The Gearheart only exist because of a few main characters in the novels. That being the case, I would not have access to those items. I sort of bent this one a teensy tiny bit, but Alex was okay with it.
This stuff being what it is, Alex said he’d love to see a story about a policeman who gets mixed up with magic. As I hadn’t had any better ideas myself, this seemed as good a prompt as any.
I’d also been wanting to see more of an Asian influence in Steampunk-type stories (to which Alex would argue that The Gearheart is not Steampunk lol) for awhile, so I saw this as a good opportunity to explore that theme. I chose to set my story in the Kohaku Empire, which, as Alex explained to me, is a Japanese analog in his world. Having lived in Japan for two years, this is fairly comfortable territory for me.
So that’s where Fires in the Snow got it’s start. It was interesting to see the contrast in working in two different worlds with different authors. Everyone’s process is different. As I’m awaiting information from AB Kovacs and Scott Sigler about my upcoming GFL novella, I’m wondering how that assignment will shape up.
Fires in the Snow will run in two parts, the first of which is live as of yesterday morning. Even within 24 hours, I’ve gotten some excellent feedback on both the story and the character voice (Koyuki Hara) I provided. Alex does a marvelous job with the reading, as always. There’s just something about the way he reads that makes it feel like The Gearheart. Maybe it’s in his cadence, or some subtle pattern of pitch variation I’ve picked up on in listening to his podcasts. Admittedly, as I was writing it I heard his voice in my head as I did so. This was both disturbing and comforting at the same time. Comforting because that meant I was doing it right, and disturbing as, well, being able to write words that I “heard” in Alex’s voice makes me feel like perhaps I’ve spent too much time listening to Alex White. Or I’m just crazy. LOL.
Anyway, head on over to this page on The Gearheart blog and give Episode 1 of Fires in the Snow a listen. I’d love to hear what you think of it!