March 17, 2010

His agent shot it down as being “too weird”

Filed under: Books, Media, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:33

Charles Stross is celebrating the release of the final novel in the “Family Trade” series of fantasy novels by going over the genesis of the series. Before he hit on the concept that eventually became six novels, he worked through a few alternatives with his agent. I dunno about you, but I think I’d buy this one:

Idea number two: I’ve been interested in alternate history as a sub-field of SF for a while. There are a couple of ways of writing alternate history; you can do it straight (as an historical novel set in a history that never happened) or if you bend the rules enough to allow for a visitor from our own world to get a tourist visa to the universe next door, you can use it as a tool to poke at our conceptions of how our own world operates.

First I took a stab at designing a straight alt-hist novel. (Elevator pitch: “I’m going to cross the streams of The IPCRESS File and Heart of Darkness in a universe where the first world war ended in 1919 with allied tanks sitting in the wreckage of Berlin, and the decaying British empire went on to invent fascism in the 1940s. It’s 1962, and two OSS agents are injected into British-dominated Europe to trace the underground railroad that is funneling abducted/brainwashed American scientists east. Our two spooks, “Wild” Bill Burroughs and his swivel-eyed Californian sidekick Philip K., follow the trail — by way of a sleazy S&M nightclub in Hamburg presided over by ageing queen Adolf and his boyfriend Rudi Hess — to Ceylon, where in the guts of a hollowed-out mountain they confront the jackbooted, monocle-wearing Air Commodore Arthur Clarke and his program to build an atom-bomb powered space dreadnought.) My agent shot it down as “too weird”. With 20/20 hindsight, I think she may have had a point.

Actually, the fact that I think it’d be a fascinating read probably proves that his agent was quite correct.

Update: Well, to be pedantic, the latest book isn’t the final book, although it concludes the second (of four) story arc. Charles doesn’t intend to write the other two arcs for a few years yet.

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