Max Gladstone's Last First Snow will be soon published in Spanish as La primera y última nieve. The wonderful Leticia Lara has interviewed the author and has kindly allowed us to reproduce here the English version of the interview. Hope you enjoy it (and remember that you can read the translation into Spanish at Fantástica Ficción).
Leticia Lara: We are very happy about the publication in Spain of Last First Snow. What do you think about publishing The Craft Sequence in chronological order? Can you tell us something about the translation process?
Max Gladstone: The Craft Sequence is a story of people living in a world that’s just passed through a century of calamitous change. In this way, the main characters of the story are a lot like us—even though some of them are wizards, some are skeletons, and some are made of stone. I wanted to tell that story the way Terry Pratchett told a story of the Discworld—by moving between different perspectives, and highlighting how many different kinds of stories the world might hold. So, while I wrote the series out of chronological order, I meant for them to be read in an order the reader might choose. (Though there are some orders that might make a little more sense than others.) It’s exciting to see how the tale strikes readers who pick it up at (or close to) the “beginning”! Though as we all know, there are neither beginnings nor endings on the Wheel of Time…
I haven’t been heavily involved in the Spanish translation process, though I have been available to answer any questions people have raised.
LL: It is said the narrative in books and in videogames is very different. How did you manage to write not one but two videogames in the Craft Sequence?
MG: With a bit of sweat and a lot of typing! Videogame narrative and traditional linear storytelling have a lot in common, to be honest. In each scene, you need to find out what the character wants, in response to external conditions. That choice shows you who the character is, and brings them into conflict with their surroundings in interesting ways. In linear narrative, the writer controls the character, and the reader’s free to speculate about what the characters’ choices mean—why did she kiss her friend, rather than hug her or slap her on the back? In an interactive story, you have to give the players opportunities to choose what they’ll do, and then follow through with what that choice might mean. Games might seem to offer free will, but it’s free will within specific bounds, and the designers have accounted for (most) of the possibilities. So, is the will free? That’s a question for theology, I suppose. I loved the challenge of letting readers forge their own place in the Craft Sequence.
LL: What can you tell us about your collaboration with Amal El-Mohtar in This Is How You Lose the Time War? Did you write each part on your own or was it written in a more complex way?
MG: The main characters of This Is How You Lose the Time War are Red and Blue, secret agents on opposite sides of a war in time. They’re enemies at first, fighting battles throughout history; they start writing letters to one another as a form of dare or taunt, but as their dangerous correspondence deepens they realize they have a great deal in common—both warriors in the depths of the war. Amal and I each wrote one of the characters, and their letters, the stories weaving together as we worked. For most of the writing we were right across a desk from one another. It was an electric process!
LL: Empress of Forever is coming out in 2019. It is described as science-fiction story, "a feminist Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with Star Wars". But my favorite part is when it is compared with Iain M. Banks books. Is it a tribute to his figure or is it a subtler influence in your writing?
MG: I love Banks! I’m a huge fan of his work, and I find its central question, the big “what if we win,” endlessly fascinating. What would a culture (or Culture) look like if we got more or less what we wanted, a world without material constraint? What stories would we tell? How would it interact with the rest of the universe? I think Empress of Forever takes a darker spin on that—a vision of where the power and logic of posthumanity might lead—along with a lot of love and a lot of blowing things up. I wouldn’t say I sat down to write a Banksian novel—but my admiration for his work shines through. And there’s one major hat-tip, which I won’t spoil.
LL: Last time we talked, you were a writer beginning his career and now you have a lot of novels in your account (and short stories, novelettes...). Has your writing style changed? Do you find it easier to sit and write?
MG: Well, on a certain level writing hasn’t changed—you still have to sit or stand at the keyboard and make the words happen in order. But I think my style has changed. I outline more, since I have to write faster and also since the consequences of getting things wrong have become more dire. I used to care less about months spent chasing narrative dead ends—but now I have deadlines and those deadlines have deadlines. I feel like I owe a certain level of consistency, so I try to play around beforehand, explore dead ends in the abstract, and then dive in to build a house I know will stand on a firm foundation.
Parts of writing are a lot easier. I know that when I get 2/3 of the way through the book, I’ll experience a stab of crushing despair. Happens every time. Knowing that, I can work my way out. But on the other hand, when I sit down to write a particular scene, I find myself haunted by other versions of that scene I’ve written before. Raw composition slows down as I spend more time figuring how to do it better this time, or differently. It’s a fun balancing act.
LL: Do you like going to literature festivals like Worldcons? What do you prefer to do in these places?
I love big literature festivals. You have such a high quality of conversation there—people from all sorts of backgrounds, all walks of life, who share an interest in books. My ideal convention is just one big rolling conversation—seeing friends, hearing new positions, encountering new artists, and learning more about what brings people together.
LL: What can you tell us about your new projects?
MG: Nowhere near as much as I’d like. I think I’m allowed to say that I’m working on a big landing for the Craft Sequence—but beyond that, my lips are sealed.