Unbound Worlds is a website dedicated to the literary worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Unbound Worlds offers readers insight into books and authors across and between the science fiction and fantasy worlds, including horror, slipstream, pop science, fairy tales and folklore, magical realism, urban fantasy, and anything that's just a little bit weird.
Every time I sit down to write a new novel (I’ve written twelve so far), I am confronted with a moment that is equal parts exhilaration and abject terror. I shouldn’t be surprised by this gorgeously gut-wrenching moment anymore, but every time it bowls me over like the blast of startling cold air that indicates the sudden entrance of spirits into the worlds of my books. Each time I type “chapter one,” I am accosted.
The exhilaration part is wonderful but the fear half of the equation is unnerving for any creative individual. Fear threatens to unsettle whatever foundation of confidence and competence an artist has ever built.
I am forced to take a deep breath and like other professionals in far more life-threatening situations than mine, think: Remember your training.
And so, I think of the stage. And I begin to set the stage, step by step.
As a classically trained actress who built an early career in the regional theatre circuit doing Shakespeare and period productions, all the while writing novels in my nonexistent spare time, theatre and writing are inextricable in my storyteller’s life. Fans of the atmospheric and sweeping, lyrical drama of my books are never surprised to learn I once ‘trod the boards’ as antiquity would say. Directors, playwrights and theatre professionals were the first formative hands in my storytelling craft. Honing my fiction-writing skills specifically came once I shifted around my performance career to make more room for my novels and I sought out more education related to the medium.
One of the best comments about character and character-building I’ve ever heard came from a summer intensive with the SITI Company, a stellar avant-garde theatre company led by the visionary Anne Bogart (whose books on theatre I recommend for any storyteller of any medium). I auditioned when I was nineteen and became one of the two youngest participants offered a place in the selective intensive. One of our instructors declared something incredible that’s never left my mind. To paraphrase, they declared that the most interesting, compelling thing for an audience to watch is for a character be pushed off balance. The struggle to regain balance is irresistibly compelling. One cannot look away. There is a mesmerism to regaining balance. An athletically physical theatre company and training style above all else, the SITI Company often meant this as a literal, physical pushing off-balance of a character on stage as well as that character’s emotional, textual and spiritual life. Everything they do is poetic physics made manifest and I found I can never argue with that beautiful struggle.
The idea of being thrown off balance being the most critical of junctures is true for the artist as well as the character and their journey. Every time I begin a new book I’m thrown off balance and finding the ground with my characters, feeling their way to their feet after the earthquake of the inciting incident is such a rewarding, visceral experience, only to push them and nudge them off-center again and again, resilient creatures of momentum fighting for steady ground. So it is with art and the artist.
As I work to set the stage externally and internally for a new book, I try to remember the physical, material properties that root me to the world I’m writing and channel my characters just like I did as an actor. Donning the hearts, bodies, spirits and minds of my characters has become second nature and it helps with the diving in, wobbling steps and all. Remember your training.
It’s vital that I walk the streets my characters walk and I’m thankful New York City is such an open book of a setting, with certain historic districts well-protected and a host of resources at any storyteller’s fingertips. As I walk I must, of course, not lose my physical balance looking up at beautiful brownstone detailing but I must creatively lose myself in looking and listening at all levels. Stories whisper achingly in threads and scraps plucked out from the rich, immersive sensory tapestry of the metropolis. As a New York City ghost tour guide writing books set in 19th century NYC, my performative storytelling life lives directly alongside the pages of my fiction and I’ve strived to create a certain ‘lived-in’ quality of comfort with setting, character and atmosphere that extends from me like a psychic’s second-sight. A synthesis of body, mind and spirit helps one tumble into the fantasy of their desired creation.
In my Spectral City series, I’m returning to beloved characters I know well, but fashioning them to be ready for entirely new audiences. I must come at them and this book fresh; as if I know nothing all over again. While all my worlds are parallel worlds, each series stands alone as separate from the others, with cross-over characters. I want Spectral City to have a different flavor and feel than each of my other three Gaslamp Fantasy series. In that vein, the voice of the central character, Eve Whitby, needed to be very much her own person, even though she’s been shaped by characters and their worlds that have been with me for a decade. What’s old must be new and Eve was entirely new to me; bold as brass yet huge-hearted, bursting with passion and purpose. I have enjoyed channeling her immensely during this series. I can’t wait to see, through her eyes, what she shows me next and what her team unfolds together. I have to then commit to throw her off balance as often as possible. Conflict and beautiful struggle remains the heart of a well-crafted story and nothing else is so compelling. Nothing else is worth watching or reading.
Just as I always battle stage fright before I go on stage, the blank page gives me those same nerves. But, as I always said in regards to theatre; if I wasn’t nervous, something would be wrong. I would have stopped caring, stopped loving my storytelling craft. The exhilarating rush of creation needs an utterly visceral stomach-flip to make it real. I have always channeled stage-fright into stage presence and think it’s a critical skill. I hope to do the same with page presence, one book to the next.
Every Friday, we here @ Del Rey Spectra will place a 50 page excerpt of a selected title on Unbound Worlds. Whether it is science fiction, epic fantasy, alternate history, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, the possibilities are endless. This week, it’s HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON by Naomi Novik!
Just when you think you’ve seen every variation possible on the dragon story, along comes Naomi Novik. . . . Her wonderful Temeraire is a dragon for the ages.”—Terry Brooks
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
Ten years ago, Penguin Random House set out to create a home for science fiction and fantasy readers, with the aim of providing you with book recommendations, exclusive author essays and interviews, excerpts, fun sweepstakes, and so much more. Over the years it’s been our privilege to have helped our readers discover new books and series, re-discover old favorites, and to provide insight into beloved authors.
Today we’re announcing that the conversation with our readers is ready to evolve in new and exciting ways. In the new year, the articles, interviews, and lists you have enjoyed on Unbound Worlds will have a new home within penguinrandomhouse.com. That means we’ll no longer be publishing new content on Unbound Worlds after this month, but we’re excited to be able to deliver even more of the very best in science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, curated collections, and offers through our email programs.
We’ll have more details to share in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we hope that you’ll visit PenguinRandomHouse.com. There, you can sign up to receive personalized recommendations and discover even more about our books and authors as you join us on this journey through the stars and beyond.
“The journey to Ziran Atar will be long and arduous, sire, and fraught with no little danger,” said the merchant Farhan Madani. “We must pass by the deadly Kamput Shore and avoid the menace of the swooping fire-birds. The waters there are thick with pirates and head-hunting dyaks. We will put in at Banjarput on the Island of Kalima – in the shadow of the vengeful Mountain of Fire. We will pass through the Piri-Piri Isles, where the ghosts of the sea dead are said to roam among the obat groves, singing their lethal…”
“I know the route, Madani. I’ve been sailing these waters for forty years,” said the King. “And the fire-birds are not real – they’re merely children’s kites dipped in oil and set ablaze. Just tell me what it is that you require from me.”
“Your flag, sire,” said Farhan.
“I wish to fly the Lion Standard of the King of Singarasam, the mark of the Lord of the Islands himself, from my masthead below my own humble pennant…”
Much of the action in Gates of Stone, first book in the Lord of the Islands series, takes place in the Laut Besar, a vast lawless body of salt water dotted with tropical islands and somewhat resembling a fantasy version of Indonesia. The Laut Besar is infested by swarms of Malay pirates, magic-wielding evil priests, head-hunters, slave traders, drug-addicts, mercenaries, missionaries, merchants, whores, secret agents and other assorted varieties of human scum.
It is a place of great danger – and great riches. For only on the islands of the Laut Besar can the powerfully addictive drug called obat be grown and harvested. The drug soothes and enslaves, uplifts and ultimately destroys those who smoke it, prince or pauper, gold-master or servant. Yet the vast wealth that obat generates is eagerly sought by the two great powers of that world: the Indujah Federation, a huge, somewhat Indian trading empire to the west of the Laut Besar, and the Celestial Republic, a China-like powerhouse to the north.
Into this watery arena, where two great nations are slugging it out for mastery of the obat trade, sails Princess Katerina, the sixteen-year-old scion of the northern snowy wastes of Khev. She has been denied her royal birthright solely because of her gender and is determined to find sufficient money and men in the Laut Besar to take back the Ice-Bear Throne from the usurper. Katerina will murder or manipulate, torture or terrorise anyone who stands in the way of her grand ambitions. She’ll even marry them, if it suits her plans.
Farham Madani, a failing merchant and spy for the Indujah Federation, only seeks enough money so that he can retire in peace to some remote island with the woman he loves. But he’s quite prepared to plunge the whole of the Laut Besar into bloody slaughter to achieve his ends.
Prince Jun of the tiny island of Taman is a much gentler soul. He is thrown into the vicious turmoil of the Laut Besar power-struggle when an evil sorcerer steals the ancestral magical sword of his noble family and he is forced to travel far across the dangerous seas in an attempt to retrieve his heirloom.
In the north-west corner of the Laut Besar is the great island city of Singarasam. This is a bubbling stew of iniquity where peoples of all colours and creeds come together to trade obat. The rambunctious denizens of Singarasem enjoy scheming, stealing and back-stabbing – but are less enthusiastic about paying tribute to the Lord of the Islands and King of Singarasam: Ongkara the Fearless.
The climax of the first novel sees Jun and Ongkara, who is aided by the sword-stealing sorcerer Mangku, struggle in the palace of Singarasam for the fate of the Laut Besar – and all its peoples. For the sorcerer is planning to unleash a deadly plague that could destroy the entire population of the world. And only Jun can stop him.
Enter for a chance to win an early galley of Gates of Stone below!
Every Friday, we here @ Del Rey Spectra will place a 50 page excerpt of a selected title on Unbound Worlds. Whether it is science fiction, epic fantasy, alternate history, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, the possibilities are endless. This week, it’s RED RISING by Pierce Brown!
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Pierce Brown’s relentlessly entertaining debut channels the excitement of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
“Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow.”—Scott Sigler
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, BUZZFEED, AND SHELF AWARENESS
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he toils willingly, trusting that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Praise for Red Rising
“[A] spectacular adventure . . . one heart-pounding ride . . . Pierce Brown’s dizzyingly good debut novel evokes The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, andEnder’s Game. . . . [Red Rising] has everything it needs to become meteoric.”—Entertainment Weekly
“[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field.”—USA Today
“Red Rising is a sophisticated vision. . . . Brown will find a devoted audience.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power . . . reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fast-paced, gripping, well-written—the sort of book you cannot put down. I am already on the lookout for the next one.”—Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Sword of Shannara
“Pierce Brown has done an astounding job at delivering a powerful piece of literature that will definitely make a mark in the minds of readers.”—The Huffington Post
“Compulsively readable and exceedingly entertaining . . . a must for both fans of classic sci-fi and fervent followers of new school dystopian epics.”—Examiner
“[A] great debut . . . The author gathers a spread of elements together in much the same way George R. R. Martin does.”—Tordotcom
Camilla d’Errico is a painter and manga artist whose client list includes Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Tokyopop, Hasbro, Disney, Sanrio, and Neil Gaiman. She is the co-author of Pop Manga and the author of Pop Painting, Pop Manga Coloring Book, and the newly released Pop Manga Mermaids and Other Sea Creatures.
Unbound Worlds: Mermaids have a kind of staying power in popular culture that few mythic creatures do. Do you have any theories as to why we’re so enamored by them? What do they mean to you?
Camilla d’Errico: I fell in love with mermaids when I was a kid and watched the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid”. I think I loved them because of how magical it was to see a whole new world beneath the waves. The ocean is so mysterious that I think it just fuels our imaginations and mermaids are one of the most beautiful of the mythological creatures. The idea that you “could” see one while swimming is very much a reality for people because, who knows? I, for one, think they are real because I believe that there are many things in the oceans and seas that we haven’t discovered yet.
UW: Mermaids aren’t the only creatures in your book. Can you tell us about some of the others?
Cd:I love the ocean and all the incredible creatures in it! One of my favourite animals on earth is the octopus! They are so intelligent and adaptable that they hold a special place in my heart. I also drew many mythical creatures like the kelpie and selkie! I even drew some new mermaids that are half shark and half jellyfish. It’s so fun to imagine new and wondrous creatures alongside real fish and animal life. It was fun to blend the real and the imagined in the artworks.
UW: I know how hard it is to nail down what constitutes a style or movements in art, but how would you define Pop Manga? What distinguishes Pop Manga from the regular Manga we know so well?
Cd: To me Pop Manga is a genre that I’ve uniquely tapped into because it combines manga art with pop surrealist styled portraits and concepts. Pop surrealism bends reality and warps the standard concepts of artwork. Combining my big-eyed girls and chibi styled animals with a surrealist twist gave me a lot of freedom and liberty to draw some truly unique art scenes.
UW: While I don’t want you to give away your secrets, can you briefly walk us through how you create one of your pieces?
Cd: It always starts out with a sketch. I have many books filled with concept art and doodles. I pick my favourite then I use my non-repro blue pencil to draw the initial sketch on white paper. Once I have a solid under-drawing in blue, I go over the lines with an ink pen. I essentially trace the contours of my blue pencil drawing with the ink. Then I scan that art and create a digital file that I can then give to the publisher to use for the book. I have a how-to book, Pop Manga, that describes in detail my process. I’m not shy about sharing how I create my art because I hope to help other artists and inspire people through my work.
UW: This is a coloring book that kids and adults can enjoy equally. What were some of your own favorite coloring books? Do you remember any of them?
Cd: I haven’t really read or used many coloring books recently, I’ve been pretty focused on creating my own books, Pop Manga Coloring and Pop Manga Mermaids and Other Sea Creatures. But I have to say that when I was a kid that I LOVED coloring books and remember vividly coloring in them all the time. Those books don’t exist now so I took the memories of those books and used them as inspiration for my own. I think my books have that childlike essence as well as a little bit of the maturity of my adult side in them.
UW: What are you working on now?
Cd: I am currently wrapping my newest How To Draw book Pop Manga Drawing. This is a follow up to Pop Manga but with this book I teach how to draw using graphite pencils. There is something so raw and beautiful about pencil drawings. I was really excited to write and draw this book and share my own techniques and create brand new art for it.
I’m also working on a new solo show for Haven Gallery which will debut in May 2019. This show will be a zodiac inspired series of oil paintings. I’m super excited about it, I absolutely love astronomy.
I’m also working on a series of custom toy art that will debut at Designer Con Booth 2334 in Anaheim. This is my last USA show of the year, and I’m very excited about releasing new art and custom toy artwork!
Finally, I am gearing up to debut a new series of art and merchandise for my annual Black Friday Release online at thecamillastore.etsy.com. There are going to be so many amazing goodies for people! I’ll also feature new mini oil paintings of bees and lover’s eyes that I absolutely love creating. I’m really excited about this release in particular since I have a lot of fun surprises for people!
Every Friday, we here @ Del Rey Spectra will place a 50 page excerpt of a selected title on Unbound Worlds. Whether it is science fiction, epic fantasy, alternate history, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, the possibilities are endless. This week, it’s Christie Golden’s BEFORE THE STORM!
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An all-new, official prequel novel to The Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard Entertainment’s next expansion to the critically acclaimed World of Warcraft videogame.
Azeroth is dying.
The Horde and the Alliance defeated the demonic Burning Legion, but a dire catastrophe is unfolding deep below the surface of the world. There is a mortal wound in the heart of Azeroth, struck by the sword of the fallen titan Sargeras in a final act of cruelty.
For Anduin Wrynn, king of Stormwind, and Sylvanas Windrunner, warchief of the Horde and queen of the Forsaken, there is little time to rebuild what remains and even less to mourn what was lost. Azeroth’s devastating wound has revealed a mysterious material known as Azerite. In the right hands, this strange golden substance is capable of incredible feats of creation; in the wrong ones, it could bring forth unthinkable destruction.
As Alliance and Horde forces race to uncover the secrets of Azerite and heal the wounded world, Anduin enacts a desperate plan aimed at forging a lasting peace between the factions. Azerite jeopardizes the balance of power, and so Anduin must gain the trust of Sylvanas. But, as ever, the Dark Lady has her own machinations.
For peace to be possible, generations of bloodshed and hatred must be brought to an end. But there are truths that neither side is willing to accept and ambitions they are loath to relinquish. As Alliance and Horde alike grasp for the Azerite’s power, their simmering conflict threatens to reignite all-out war—a war that would spell doom for Azeroth.
Praise for Before the Storm
“This is easily the best book in the World of Warcraft series, and I don’t say that lightly. . . . It’s so much more than a tie-in novel. . . . It’s a beautiful book.”—Blizzard Watch
Cover detail from Street Freaks by Terry Brooks. Art by Marc Simonetti.
Terry Brooks has done something no one expected!
He’s written a science fiction novel! In an interesting move four decades in the making, Brooks decided to try something different from the bestselling fantasy work he’s best known for. The result? Street Freaks, a futuristic thriller that is garnering great reviews.
Why was this important for Brooks to do? A simple reason grounded in how authors work. He felt compelled to do it. He had to do it. He was tired of writing fantasy and he needed to stretch his writing legs, recharge, and do something different. It is common for authors to try something new. And after 40 years of writing in the fantasy milieu, I think he’s earned that ability.
Thankfully, that something new is pretty damn good. Street Freaks is the story of Ash Collins, a young man whose life is turned upside down when his home is invaded and he must flee for his life.
Below is an interview with Brooks, where he talks about the book, why he wrote it, and the future of humanity’s prejudice.
Unbound Worlds: Street Freaks is out in fine bookstores! It is a SF futuristic thriller unlike anything you’ve written before. Tell readers why you decided to take a break from fantasy — even for a short time?
Terry Brooks: I started Street Freaks almost five years ago, mostly just thinking about it at first. Now and then you need to do something outside your comfort zone, and the plot for the book intrigued me sufficiently that I stuck with it. I was sort of mired in fantasy fiction, and the need for a vacation was pretty compelling. So while I was writing Shannara, I was also writing Street Freaks. Then rewriting it – three times. A lot more work than I had planned on, but I ended up happy with the result.
UW: Ash Collins is the main character in Street Freaks, a young man from an upscale upbringing whose life is turned upside down. Why was it important for Ash to come from that world?
TB: Well, the more you have to lose, the farther you have to fall. So I wanted Ash to have a comfortable life and be well off when the roof caved in and he loses everything. Even worse, I wanted him on the run and hunted by everyone and not to have any real idea of why. All this because I wanted him to have to turn to the most unlikely source of help available – those outcasts and perceived misfits who lived the the LA Red Zone. Because I try to reflect the world we readers live in, I wanted to examine a new form of prejudice – one not connected with race, creed, nationality, sex or religion. I wanted to take a look at what I think will happen the further along we get with our development of synthetic organs and AI. My assumption in this book was that we had progressed so far we were developing synthetic people – like the replicants in Blade Runner – and that a large segment of the population did not consider them human and basically shunned them. So Ash has to reach his own determination of how he feels about this when a small group of them takes him in.
UW: The kids/teens who comprise the Street Freaks all have very defined personalities. Was it fun creating them? Because I had a lot of fun reading about them!
TB: Creating characters is always fun. These were marginalized teens and young adults, so they needed to appear as real as possible to the human eye while at the same time be struggling with character flaws that might undo them. The two sides to everything rule always applies to your main characters, and the reveal of this is what always excites me in the creative process.
UW: Humanity’s need to be prejudiced against “the other” is present in Street Freaks. The future looks grim when it comes to outgrowing that prejudice. Do you think this is something humanity can ever aspire to overcome fully? Or will it always be present?
TB: I don’t see anything to suggest that we will ever over come all our prejudices. They are too much a part of the human condition, and they have always been there. If it isn’t something we know right now, it will be something new. What we do need to do as people is to find a way to get past those prejudices or at least tamp them down. Prejudice is divisive and self-serving. It accomplishes nothing but to convince people that there are those who are in some way less than you are. We need to stop fostering this feeling with other and focus on inclusiveness. This starts with us. Maybe if we display a sufficient amount of willingness to be more understanding, it will trickle up the chain to our nation’s leaders. But it starts with us cleaning our own house.
UW: What are you working on right now? Continuing the Fall of Shannara series?
TB: I am finished with The Stiehl Assassin. the third book in The Fall of Shannara series, and I am in the early days of writing the fourth and last. Should be finished with the whole series and Shannara, in general, by next summer. After that, I have committed myself to writing a new Magic Kingdom book. Then we will see. I am not revealing more just yet.
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks is in fine bookstores now! To learn more about Brooks and his work, visit his website at www.terrybrooks.net.