Saturday, December 19, 2020

C. S. Friedman

photo credit: Bianca Moody
An acknowledged master of dark fantasy and science fiction alike, C.S. Friedman is a John W. Campbell award finalist, and the author of the highly acclaimed Coldfire trilogy, New York Times Notable Book of the Year This Alien Shore, In Conquest Born, The Madness Season, The Wilding, The Magister Trilogy, and the Dreamwalker series. Friedman worked for twenty years as a professional costume designer, but retired from that career in 1996 to focus on her writing.

Friedman's latest novel is This Virtual Night.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title’s primary purpose is to draw the interest of the reader—in brick-and-mortar terms, to get him to pick up the book and look at it. It needs to be appealing to the type of reader you are writing for, perhaps reflecting a particular genre.

Since this book is a followup to something I wrote 20 years ago, we wanted the title to suggest a connection, so we use the same form. “This (Adjective) (Noun).’ That also allowed us to use similar cover designs, as the title was easy to arrange in the same configuration. The story revolves around virtual technology turned against its creators, so Virtual Night provided the subject and mood.

DAW meanwhile redesigned the cover for TAS so it could match TVN, and similar designs and titles will be used for all books in the Outworlds series.

What's in a name?

A lot, both in this book and in This Alien Shore.

The books take place in a deep space civilization peopled by descendants of Terran colonists. Earth had by that point gone global, its minority cultures assimilated into a greater whole, ancient languages and customs existing only in archive files. The members of one colony felt that was a mistake, and they decided to honor the diversity of ancient Earth by naming their new planet Guera, derived from the Germanic “Guerra”, meaning war. All Guerans take last names that commemorate the conflict between ancient Terran cultures: pivotal battles, demonstrations, revolutions. They accommodate diversity in their population as well, celebrating neural variations that Earth would have considered “disabilities,” wearing symbols called kaja that represent various cognitive styles. Those are named in the forgotten languages of Earth, and may reflect the folklore of eons past.

One of the protagonists of my new book is a young Gueran woman named Ruisa. She is a misfit in Gueran society, a rebel and a troublemaker, as a symbol of which she chose a last name that reflects the ultimate human conflict: Gaya, meaning Earth. Humanity turning upon itself. It is both a statement of character and a foreshadowing of plot to come.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Not very. I used to write science fiction in high school, when classwork bored me. Teachers saw you writing in your notebook and figured you were taking notes, so they left you alone. Since this book reflects a return to the kind of book I started out writing—space opera with substance—it would not surprise my teenage self at all.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

When you write the beginning of a book you can pretty much let the muse possess you; the novel has no rules or structure yet. By the time you get to the end, you have already written several hundred pages of text establishing details of your setting, characters, plot. At the very least, the ending must not conflict with anything that came before; at best, it will be a culmination of all your themes and storylines. So while both are fun to write, the ending is more difficult to craft.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

No, they are really a world apart. Doubtless my own worldview is reflected in my work—that’s unavoidable-- but I’ve almost never based characters on real people, and never on myself. Writing for me is an act of pure creation; I must step outside myself before I can even begin.
Visit C.S. Friedman's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Virtual Night.

--Marshal Zeringue