jueves, 30 de julio de 2015

Interview with Christopher Kastensmidt

Today I team up again with Leticia Lara for a very special interview with Christopher Kastensmidt, author of the wonderful stories of The Elephant and Macaw Banner. You can read the translation into Spanish at Fantástica Ficción. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Leticia Lara & Odo: You currently live in Brazil and your Elephant and Macaw Banner stories are, in fact, set in that country. How has your living abroad influenced your writing? What can you tell us about Brazilian science fiction and fantasy?

Christopher Kastensmidt: Living abroad influences everything. It gives a person a different outlook on life, a way of looking at things from different angles. In the case of The Elephant and Macaw Banner, it also provided me with material I would probably never have seen while living in the U.S.

Brazilian science fiction and fantasy has been riding a ten-year boom. In the twentieth-century, very little speculative fiction was published, and next-to-nothing by national authors. All that changed with the turn of the century, when lower publishing costs allowed smaller publishers to emerge. The number of SF books published per year grew 500% from 2005 to 2010. Even with those numbers, there is still plenty of room for growth.

LL&O: Classic Sword and Sorcery is not one of the most popular genres these days (especially with all the grim/dark and gritty fantasy out there). Why did you decide to write his kind of story? What authors have influenced your writing?

CK: With writing, it’s pointless to run after market trends, because they change all the time.  I write S&S because I enjoy it personally, and from my experience, a lot of younger readers do as well. To them, it’s something new, for the exact reason that few people have been publishing it.

Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories were a direct influence on The Elephant and Macaw Banner, as were the adventure stories of Alexandre Dumas and the old Robin Hood tales.

LL&O: The Elephant and Macaw Banner universe has been expanded into comic books and board games, and soon, a pen-and-paper RPG. How was this experience for you? Is there some feedback between your writing and the process of creating the games and the graphic novels?

CK: I spent fifteen years in the video game industry, so I’m accustomed to working with different media. There is an enormous amount of feedback between the products. Since they all reside in the same world, I’m constantly pulling ideas from one to the other. I even make changes to stories that have already been published.

For example, the graphic novel adaptation of “The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost” has entire scenes which weren’t in the original publication (Realms of Fantasy Magazine, 2010), and some of those have fed back into the republication of that story I launched last month! The process is very organic. I’m not afraid of changing my own stories if I think I can improve them, and I most certainly change them to fit the medium.

LL&O: Grim Fandango is one of the best adventures I have played. Can you tell us about your involvement in the development of this game? Do you think that telling a story in a videogame is similar to writing narrative?

CK: Grim Fandango is one of the best I’ve played as well; I’m glad I had the chance to see that project in development.

At the time it was being developed, I was still working on the technical side of things. I was an Intel employee, visiting lots of video game companies to train them and provide programming support. I didn’t do as much in Grim Fandango as I did in other LucasArts projects (like Indiana Jones and the Internal Machine, which I worked on for months), but I did provide some technical training to the team and perform a bit of coding for them.

That being said, I have written for several video games, and I even teach a university course on scriptwriting for games. The short answer is that there are certain narrative elements that need to be taken into account across all media: character, setting, and conflict, for example. Video games, however, are unique because of their interactivity. The player must have some say in how the story plays out, and the author needs to take that into account.

LL&O: Why did you decide to set your stories in the sixteenth century? Were you exploring something unknown to you or is this a historical period that you really like? I’ve read that you research profusely for your writing. How do you know when to stop researching and begin writing?

CK: It’s a historical period that I really like. I started studying Brazilian history for my own amusement in the late 90s, at the same time I began to study Portuguese, so by the time I began writing The Elephant and Macaw Banner, I already knew quite a bit. The sixteenth-century is great because it really was a period of exploration and adventure, perfect for this kind of story. The true-life story of Hans Staden, a German mercenary who made two long trips to Brazil at the time, was also a great influence, perhaps even the inspiration for the stories.

I never stop researching! I pause the writing sometimes when I need to study an entirely new subject, but the real key is learning how to research and write at the same time.

LL&O: Your Elephant and Macaw Banner tales have an interesting publication story, some of them were first available only in Portuguese and only now have been published in English. What can you tell us about this process? Are new stories of Gerard van Oost and Oludara coming soon? Will they be published simultaneously in Portuguese and English?

CK: There is a reason behind that. The first story came out in 2010, and the magazine which published it went out of business, so I had to find a new publisher. Another magazine accepted the second story in the series, but kept it “in the drawer”, awaiting publication, for four years.

I had originally decided to wait for English publication before publishing other stories in other languages, but there were so many people wanting to read more stories, I went ahead and published two more stories in other languages. Those have been published in Brazil, The Czech Republic, Romania, and The Netherlands.

So, after four long years, I decided to pull the story from the magazine and publish the stories myself (I didn’t feel like submitting to magazines and possibly waiting another four years). For now, they’re exclusive to Kindle, but I hope to have them out in other formats by the end of the year.

My publication plans in Portuguese and English are divergent at this point. I’m going to publish a novel in Brazil, joining many of the tales, but in English, I’m publishing the stories as a series of novelettes, to see where that goes. It is highly likely that I’ll publish stories in one language that I won’t publish in the other. As I said, the process is organic.

LL&O: What can you tell us about the possibility of publishing your stories in Spanish? What do you think about reading translations? Do you think the translator needs to be guided/helped by the author?

CK: I would love to publish them in Spanish, but no one has come asking for those rights yet, so I may go ahead and launch those myself, as I did in English.

The translator needs to feel comfortable asking the author questions. I’ve read bad translations of my own work before, where the translator didn’t ask me a single question, and I thought, “Why didn’t he just ask me to explain this part?” Resolving any doubts up front will save both sides a lot of embarrassment.

LL&O: You have worked as a computer programmer. What is similar and what is different between writing code and writing fiction?

CK: I would say that they are almost opposites. Computer programming is about creating a series of logical steps that will always provide the same result. Fiction is about feeling, emotion. It will never provide the same result. An infinite number of readers will have an infinite number of reactions.

LL&O: Are social networks important for you relationships with other authors and with your readers?

They are fundamental. The greater part of my writing career has occurred online: writing forums, critique groups, fiction submissions. Face-to-face relationships are still important to me. I tend to go to a couple of events each year (and even organize one), but that is very little compared to the time spent interacting online.

LL&O: What are you working on right now? Could you give us a sneak peek on your future projects?

CK: I’ve been writing narratives for just about everything these days: comics, TV shows, movies, video games, children’s books. Most of those projects are still unannounced, so there’s not much to say. I can at least mention Starlit Adventures, by Rockhead Games. That will be coming out a few weeks from now. I wrote part of the story, but my participation there will go far beyond the game itself—we’ll have some exciting news to announce shortly after launch. I also have some great new news about The Elephant and Macaw Banner that I can’t share just yet, unfortunately.

LL&O: Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?

CK: The best place to go is http://www.eamb.org/. That’s the only place with my complete bibliography (including games), and has a lot of information about the series.

LL&O: Any other thing you’d like to add?

CK: Yes, thank you very much for the interview! It has been a pleasure.

LL&O: Thank you for your answers and your time!

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2015

Ebook en oferta: Promise of Blood, de Brian McClellan

En estos momentos se puede adquirir en varias tiendas online (Amazon ES, Kobo) el ebook Promise of Blood, de Brian McClellan, al precio promocional de 3,99€. 

Ésta es la sinopsis del libro:
Winner of the 2013 David Gemmell Morningstar Award, A Promise of Blood is the explosive first novel in the most action-packed and acclaimed new fantasy series in years.

It's a bloody business, overthrowing a king. Now, amid the chaos, a whispered rumour is spreading. A rumour about a broken promise, omens of death and the gods returning to walk the earth.

No one really believes these whispers.

Perhaps they should.

martes, 28 de julio de 2015

Ebook en oferta: Soft Apocalypse, de Will McIntosh

El ebook Soft Apocalypse, de Will McIntosh, se encuentra en estos momentos en oferta en varias tiendas online (Amazon ES, Kobo) al precio de 3,49€.

Ésta es la sinopsis de la novela:
We've always imagined the world coming to an end in spectacular, explosive fashion. But what if - instead - humanity is just destined to slowly crumble?

For Jasper and his nomadic tribe, their former life as middle-class Americans seems like a distant memory. Their world took a turn for the worse - and then never got better. Resources are running out, jobs keep getting scarcer, and the fabric of society is slowly disintegrating . . . .

But in the midst of this all, Jasper's just a guy trying to make ends meet, find a nice girl who won't screw him around, and keep his group safe on the violent streets.

Soft Apocalypse follows the tribe's struggle to find a place for themselves and their children in the dangerous new place their world has become.

Novedad: The Dinosaur Lords, de Víctor Millán

Hoy se pone a la venta The Dinosaur Lords, de Víctor Millán. Ésta es su sinopsis:
A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden-and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons. 
Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac-and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

lunes, 27 de julio de 2015

Antonio Díaz reseña Mother of Eden, de Chris Beckett

De nuevo tenemos el placer de contar con una reseña invitada de Antonio Díaz, que en esta ocasión nos habla de Mother of Eden, la secuela de Dark Eden de Chris Beckett. Yo no he leído la novela en esta edición, pero sí la versión que se publicó por entregas en la revista Aethernet (que no es exactamente igual) y mi opinión es muy similar a la de Antonio. Espero que disfrutéis con la reseña. 

Banda sonora de la reseña: Antonio sugiere leer esta reseña escuchando East of Eden, de Zella Day (Spotify, SoundCloud)

En su nueva novela, Chris Beckett continúa narrando el destino de los humanos que habitan el planeta oscuro de Eden. En un esfuerzo de tratar de contar incluso menos que la sinopsis oficial de la novela, puedo decir lo siguiente: el autor empieza con un salto temporal bastante generoso en el que la población se ha segregado en varios colectivos. Por motivos obvios, los protagonistas también son distintos y, aunque hay algo más de variedad que en el primero, hay un personaje que se antepone a todos los demás: Starlight Brooking. Esta es la auténtica protagonista de la novela, y son sus andanzas las que ocupan la mayoría de sus páginas directamente o a través del punto de vista de otros. Beckett sigue logrando dotar de una gran tridimensionalidad a todos los personajes y es un placer ver distintos acontecimientos ser valorados desde el punto de vista de personajes diferentes.

Este Mother of Eden comparte la mayoría de las características que hacen del primer libro una lectura imprescindible, como el fascinante worldbuilding descrito con cierta profundidad pero que Beckett es capaz de transmitir sin agobiar con eternos párrafos descriptivos. El lenguaje, una de las cosas que más poderosamente me atrajo en Dark Eden, también está aquí. En un mundo donde no hay un sol, el día no se divide naturalmente y sus habitantes no utilizan "day" o "night" sino "wakes" (para referirse al tiempo que pasan despiertos como una unidad de tiempo). Pero lo innovador de Mother of Eden frente al primer libro es la evolución del lenguaje. Han pasado generaciones, así que se han perdido palabras y se han ganado otras nuevas. Además, las diversas culturas de Eden utilizan diferentes palabras para referirse a lo mismo. Obviamente no estamos hablando de distintos lenguajes (puesto que todos hablan inglés), pero sí derivaciones y deformaciones del mismo hasta el punto de que se dan nuevos acentos y manerismos. En Dark Eden los personajes utilizaban "year", pero estaba siendo reemplazada por "wombtime" como manera de referirse a los años (aunque en realidad son 9 meses, ya que la palabra hace referencia al embarazo). En Mother of Eden "year" ha desaparecido totalmente, pero además del "wombtime" que utilizan en la tribu de Starlight, existe "hundredwakes", que son simplemente grupos de cien "días".

Y es que esta es la impresión que queda tras leer Mother of Eden: que estamos ante un estudio sociológico de la evolución de la humanidad desde un punto de partida distinto del nuestro. El lenguaje, la evolución de la tecnología, de la sociedad, del comercio y de otras facetas de la vida humana están presentes, como por ejemplo el entretenimiento (con la introducción del teatro de marionetas). Pero la intención de Beckett es centrar el libro en la religión y las consecuencias que tiene en la sociedad. El propio título, Mother of Eden, es una clara referencia a esto y Beckett muestra cómo diferentes creencias afectan o se manipulan para afectar a la sociedad y los resultados que de ello se obtienen. Es sin duda de las reflexiones más interesantes del libro, pero no es suficiente para sostener una novela de 468 páginas.

Mientras el lector asiste con la boca abierta ante los cambios producidos en Eden y sus habitantes, pasa volando la primera mitad del libro. Pero entonces, aunque la narración no se estanca sí lo hace el interés del lector, que asiste incrédulo a cómo se desperdician elementos de la novela que podrían haber dado lugar a fantásticas oportunidades en su desarrollo. Quizás ese énfasis que Beckett quería darle a la novela en el tema de las creencias y la religión juega finalmente en su contra.

En mi opinión, el principal problema de la novela es que no va a ninguna parte. El argumento no es más que un corte transversal en la evolución de la raza humana en Eden. Mientras que en el primer libro asistías a un auténtico punto de inflexión, equivalente a la invención de la rueda, en este no pasa nada. Es más una historia en Eden y un chequeo de cómo están las cosas que un acontecimiento histórico relevante.

No estoy diciendo que sea una novela aburrida. Todo lo contrario, Beckett tiene un estilo ágil y directo y el libro está enfocado en narrar la historia principal y no se va por las ramas (aunque presenta multitud de detalles y elementos de fondo interesantísimos). Pero como ya he dicho, me da la impresión de que desperdicia las oportunidades que se le presentan en la narración (que evitaré mencionar por obvios motivos) en pro de perseguir un enfoque más detallado en el tema central de la novela: la religión.

Aunque para aquel momento ya estaba demasiado centrado en buscar algo que no iba a encontrar, hay que admitir que la historia central tiene un par de giros falsamente predecibles. Y digo falsamente porque a continuación Beckett te da dos vueltas más y te descoloca en el buen sentido. Así consiguió que llegase hasta el final a pesar de todo.

Incluso con mis sentimientos encontrados, sin duda leeré, si Beckett finalmente la escribe, la continuación de Mother of Eden, porque tengo que saber cómo continuarán (o acabarán) las andanzas de la especie humana en este extraño mundo.

domingo, 26 de julio de 2015

Ebook gratuito: The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island, de Cameron Pierce

En estos momentos se puede descargar gratuitamente en Amazon España el ebook The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island, de Cameron Pierce. Ésta es su sinopsis:
A love story about a pickle and a pancake.

It is Gaston Glew's sixteenth Sad Day - the sixteenth anniversary of the saddest day of his life: his day of birth - and his parents have just committed suicide. Fed up with the sadness of Pickled Planet, Gaston Glew builds a rocket ship and blasts off into outer space, hoping to escape his briny fate.

Meanwhile, on Pancake Island, Fanny Fod, the most beautiful pancake girl in the world, nurses a secret sadness as she guards the origin of all happiness: the mysterious Cuddlywumpus. When Gaston's rocket ship crash-lands in the sea of maple syrup that surrounds Pancake Island, nothing will ever be the same for him, or for Fanny Fod.

Captain Pickle says: "Unchain yourself from this briny fate, oh pickled prisoner, and read Cameron Pierce's The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island: A Tragedy for People Who Eat Food!"

Ebook en oferta: On Stranger Tides, de Tim Powers

En estos momentos se puede adquirir en Amazon España el ebook On Stranger Tides, de Tim Powers, al precio promocional de 0,99€. Ésta es su sinopsis:

1718: Puppeteer John Chandagnac has set sail for Jamaica to recover his stolen inheritance, when his ship is seized by pirates. Offered the choice to join the crew, or be killed where he stands, he decides that a pirate's life is better than none at all.

Now known as Jack Shandy, this apprentice buccaneer soon learns to handle a mainsail and wield a cutlass - only to discover he is now a subject of a Caribbean pirate empire ruled by one Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard.

A practitioner of voodoo, Blackbeard is building an army of the living and the dead, to voyage together to search for the ultimate prize: the legendary Fountain of Youth.