TT: Crossing the Border

ALAN: We were talking about writing outside of your genre comfort zone. I remember being very impressed with your novel The Buried Pyramid. The fantasy elements don’t kick in until about half way through the book, and the first half is a grittily real bit of historical scene-setting. It seems to me that the book could easily have grown up to be a proper historical novel if you’d decided to take it that way. Have you ever considered writing non-SF/F novels?

In and Out of Genre

In and Out of Genre

JANE: Not really.  I guess I have a weird brain, but what interests me are stories that incorporate “speculative” aspects as part of the normal world – much as I do in The Buried Pyramid.  It just seems more natural.

ALAN: I’m not sure I really understand what you mean by that. Can you give me an example?

JANE: Well, to the ancient Egyptians, their gods were part of their day-to-day existence, not reserved for “temple” or whatever.  So, it seemed natural to me that at some point in the course of the events detailed in The Buried Pyramid the gods would decide to join in.

Another good example are my short stories with Prudence Bledsloe.  The stories are historically accurate to the post-Civil War American West – the so-called “Wild West.”  For the story I finished a few weeks ago – “Choice of Weapons” – I spent a huge amount of time checking historical dates to make certain that the elements I wanted would have been possible within the historical context.

However, Prudence is a werewolf.  I was actually surprised when a friend mentioned that her husband considered this an odd thing.  To me it’s completely natural.

ALAN: Me, too, in the sense that it doesn’t take me by surprise when something like that happens. I suspect most SF fans would feel the same way. It’s a sure sign of a misspent youth – being indoctrinated with the SF/F point of view on the way the world works in your formative reading years often means that you start to expect this kind of thing to happen. Indeed, there can be a vague feeling of disappointment when you read stories in other genres and there aren’t any werewolves (or whatever) in them.

JANE: I agree!  What’s odd is that my friend’s husband does read SF.  He’s a big fan of Neil Stephenson, who I think you also like.

ALAN: True – but I think Stephenson’s best novels (Crypotonomicon and The Baroque Cycle for example) are the ones that are closer to historical fiction than they are to science fiction. Which is what this tangent is all about, of course!

JANE: Funny, I’d never thought of it that way, but Cryptonomicon is definitely historical fiction with a twist.

Anyhow, to continue answering your question, if I’m writing science fiction, I prefer to include aliens or other weirdness.  I’m not interested in a potential future that is just more of us doing more of the same things except somewhere else.

I have written a couple of non-SF/F short stories, though.

ALAN: What? Proper stories? No SF/F elements at all? Tell me about them.

JANE: Both came about because of invitations to write for theme anthologies.   Oddly, both were published in 2001.  Some fifteen years later, I really can’t remember which I wrote first.

One was for an anthology of murder mystery stories edited by Anne Perry, with the assistance of John Helfers of Tekno Books.  For those who don’t remember, Tekno Books was the company run by Martin H. Greenberg and which, whether acknowledged on the book or not, probably had something to do the majority of anthologies published in the 1980’s (when I started being aware of publishers; Marty was working in the field even earlier) through 2011 when he died of cancer.

I mention this because I never had any contact with Anne Perry, only with John.

ALAN: You know I’ve always found it ironic that Anne Perry, who is a convicted murderer, makes her living writing murder mysteries. Of course, you could say that she is obeying the dictum to “write what you know,” so actually it isn’t ironic at all!

JANE:  Ouch!  Anyhow, I can’t remember if John contacted me by e-mail or phone, but I think it was phone because I recall an exchange something like this.

JOHN: Jane, I know you usually write SF/F, but would you like to do a straight mystery story?

JANE: Absolutely!  I love mysteries.  Other than SF/F, it’s probably the genre I read the most.

JOHN: Well, this is for a theme anthology where all the mysteries need to be somehow tied to the horoscope.  Knowing how you love myth and folklore and such, I thought it would be right up your alley.

JANE: That does sound cool, but you must be getting a lot of serial killer stories.

JOHN: (long pause)  No, I don’t think we have any.

JANE: Okay!  I’ll do one.

And I did.  It was called “Slaying the Serpent,” and appeared in Death by Horoscope.  I did a lot of research not only into the horoscope, but into forensics, profiling, and typical serial killer behavior…  At least of the more flamboyant type.

ALAN: Why on Earth (or off it) did you immediately think of serial killers? Is that your secret superpower?

JANE: Oh, there was a notorious serial killer who was dubbed “The Zodiac Killer.”  He was active in the  1960’s and 1970’s, I believe.  Seemed perfectly logical to me that everyone would recall him.

The other “proper” story  I wrote was a historical, for a collection of Civil War spy stories edited by Ed Gorman, titled The Blue and Gray Undercover.  I’d lived in Virginia for about five years and wanted to set my story in terrain I knew well.

A man named Jed Hotchkiss quickly caught my fancy.  He was a cartographer, the first person to map the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  His maps were considered key to Confederate victories in that area, especially that of Stonewall Jackson at Stony Creek.

Obviously, in wartime, a cartographer can’t work openly, so Hotchkiss and his associates qualified as spies.  The techniques they used to cover that they were actually collecting data were fascinating.

ALAN: Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement, made maps of enemy fortifications and highlighted the positions of their heavy artillery. He concealed the maps in sketches of butterflies; the maps were presented as elaborate markings on their wings…

JANE: Oh!  That’s really cool.  I had no idea!

Suffice to say, I really enjoyed both the historical research and then finding a way to tell a story that would be more heart-gripping than a mere info dump.  The story is called “The Road to Stony Creek,” by the way.

ALAN: I wonder how other writers feel about this kind of thing? Let’s explore it more next time.

Advertisements

8 Responses to “TT: Crossing the Border”

  1. Jas. Marshall 6 Says:

    I like that idea of history with a twist. Those war-cartographer stories make me wonder if anyone ever wrote a variation on the true story of Jasper Maskelyne, except it wasn’t JUST illusions that he used but real magic. (Not that the story NEEDS embellishment. It’s fascinating just as it is.)

    Re: “Slaying the Serpent” – did that story have anything to do with Ophiucus, the so-called 13th astrological symbol?

    • Heteromeles Says:

      You’re not the only one to think that. You could also write about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (AKA the US “Ghost Army”) as if they were doing real magic, not that what they were doing wasn’t quite cool in its own right. I’m fiddling around with a Weird WWII story now, although it has nothing to do with either story.

      The problem with the Maskelyne story is that in accounts like The War Magician, is that Maskelyne, according to some debunkers was really good at self-promotion, and many of the contributions he reportedly made were actually made by others on the staff. IIRC, there was or is a website dedicated to debunking Maskelyne’s reported contributions to the war effort.

      Still, why let that stop you? Weird War 2 is certainly possible.

  2. Paul Says:

    Recently read “Slaying the Serpent,” an outstanding police procedural about tracking down a serial killer with yet another twist like those Jas. Marshall 6 likes.

  3. henrietta abeyta Says:

    No you don’t really have a weird brain dear Jane Lindskold, I Jasmine Olson understand fantasy much better than normal adult fiction, and this does with all three things, my 3 disabilities, story cores, and what persuasions are common in adult books

    JUNIOR IS THE LEVEL I CAN READ BEST THAT’S PART OF WHY I’M THANKFUL TO BUY THE FIREKEEPER SAGA OF YOURS DEAR JANE , JUNIOR FANTASY DOES BOTH TEACH AND ENTERTAIN ME PLUS BLIND SEER HIMSELF IN THIS GOOD SERIES. YOUR BOOKS ARE HISTORIC ENOUGH JANE, THE FIREKEEPER SAGA MAKES ME THINK OF NATIVE AMERICANS OF LONG AGO, ASIANS, AND ANCIENT EUROPEANS TOO.

    JASMINE OLSON IN UT. TRYING TO CONSOLE JANE.

  4. henrietta abeyta Says:

    Well I understand how unique thinking can help you in stuff like long book series I just hate conflicts so much they upset me quick, but I love to hear about the pleasure others feel.

    JASMINE OLSON ANSWERING BACK TO ONE OF HER TOP FAVORITE AUTHORS JANE LINDSKOLD HERSELF.

  5. henrietta abeyta Says:

    Thanks Jane with Autism as one of my 3 disabilities I didn’t know resolution happened during conflicts I only knew of the arguments and the uneasy tones usually heard. Thank you very much dear Jane Lindskold what your words helped me see after looking up resolution in the dinctionary, were the voluntary attitude of trying or moments of seriously wanting to get to the finish line soon. In the notes like this one about resolution and conflicts you help me almost as much as my Grandma dear Jane.

    AND I REALLY MEAN THIS THANK YOU DEAR JANE, I MAY HAVE AUTISM, STILL THIS IS A NICE ANSWER OF YOURS I SURE VALUE.

    JASMINE OLSON’S RETURN OF FIRM APRRECIATION TO JANE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: