SM Stirling has lived all over the world and has hands-on experience with a wide variety of topics. It shows. I rarely catch him in a blunder, though his writing has gone downhill over time.
I was a fan of his two Lords of Creation books. I was always hoping he would continue with them, but alas, he kept pumping out the stupid Change books.
He had some comments on Charles Stross’s website some years back indicating that he wrote the Change books to cater (rather cynically) to the people who believed in magic (pagans, witches et al.).
If I remember Stross ended up banning him.
I suppose he keeps writing them because they keep selling.
Isn’t Stross kind of a D-bag himself? I’m really not that familiar with him. But I can definitely see that aspect of Stirling’s Change series; he was kind of phoning it in.
Yep. I wanted more “Lords of Creation” books as well. Also, his PESHAWAR LANCERS (dedicated to Howard, Haggard and others) was pure, pulpy goodness.
His only glaring weakness is warrior women.
It is. And its a pretty big weakness. But I loved the Lords of Creation setting, especially the ‘bio-tech’ of Mars.
Peshawar Lancers WAS excellent wasn’t it.
Was it standalone? I wouldn’t mind more of that one either.
SMS wrote a short story set in the “Peshawar” universe that was an homage to REH called “Shikari in Galveston”.
Yes, his warrior women get tedious. As a man with martial arts experience, he should know better.
Thanks deuce. I will look that up.
H. Rider Haggard spent 5yrs in South Africa. It put him in very good stead when he later wrote his Quatermain novels. William Hope Hodgson ran away from home and joined the British merchant marine. His deep knowledge of seafaring showed in his horror tales set at sea. Lovecraft, not knowing WHH’s bio, guessed that the man must’ve been a sailor. Western writers like L’Amour and Kenton both benefited from growing up in a Western environment and working with/talking to old-timers. Robert E. Howard did the same. REH helping his father on doctor’s calls probably gave verisimilitude to his gory battle scenes as well.
I always look forward to your articles Mr James, and don’t mind if we disagree. I have been on a bit of a ‘Leinster kick’ this past year, reading his biography plus quite a few of his stories. I just don’t want your readers to dismiss the Man and his prodigious body of work, much of which is memorable.
Murray Leinster’s THE FORGOTTEN PLANET was a ‘fix-up’ novel published by Gnome Press in 1954. It was made up of three stories cobbled together, with the first two originally published in Argosy in 1920 (“The Mad Planet”) and 1921 (“The Red Dust”). And long, long before the use of the term, science fiction. The third, “Nightmare Planet” wasn’t published in Argosy till 1952. So it is not surprising the ‘frankenstein’ THE FORGOTTEN PLANET may creak quite a bit today.
But the popularity of the first story with Argosy’s 1920 readers lead to its sequel appearing in the April 2, 1921 issue.
In his two daughter’s biography of Murray Leinster, they note that their father was a voracious reader and that he had consumed the French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre’s books on the insect world– such titles as “The Life of the Spider”, “The Life of the Fly’, and “Social Life in the Insect World.” And that they inspired Leinster to write “The Mad Planet.” Leinster would write in his ‘Author’s Note’ in the 1954 Gnome Edition of THE FORGOTTEN PLANET that “these books, while absolutely factual, are much more interesting than most fiction and can be read as if they were make-believe instead of the sound and honest work they are.”
That’s my favorite book from Leinster. Murray was a Robert E. Howard fan, BTW.
And Howard probably encountered Leinster stories. Jenkins adopted the ‘Murray Leinster’ pen name for his adventure, western, and mystery stories and starting in early 1918, he was averaging two stories a month to either ALL-STORY WEEKLY and ARGOSY with that moniker. Plus a few of his Murray Leinster stories
appeared in WEIRD TALES– one in 1925, a three part serial in March-May 1928, one in 1930, and another in 1933.
‘Murray Leinster’ was even appearing on movie screens. His mystery story, “The Purple Hieroglyph”, was the basis for the movie, THE PURPLE CIPHER, which opened in October 1920. That story would also be the basis for a 1930 movie (MURDER WILL OUT) and 1939’s TORCHY BLAINE IN CHINATOWN. Looking at IMDB, it looks like the first two are lost. Another western story was made into a 1927 movie. And other stories were used for four western serials between 1927 and 1931.
I think Miles Cameron writes better quarter-turn fantasy than George R.R. Martin, in part, because he isn’t just a voracious reader of history but a committed historical reenactor (it should also come as no surprise that Cameron, unlike Martin, served in the military).
I’m reading about Tolkien at the same time that I am reading The Hobbit out loud to my unborn daughter. It really is true that Tolkien could intuit things about language every other fantasy writer struggles to do because of his deep, deep knowledge of philology. There is a brave knight and a deadly dragon in every man, and they stir when you put a copy of The Lord of the Rings in his hands.
I’m pretty sure A. Merritt had real life encounters with the sort of sketchy characters that turn up in his stories. The mafia boss in Burn Witch Burn in particular comes to mind…!
Merritt spent a couple of years in Central America as a young man. Explored ruins, drank his share of the local beverages and–I’m sure–rubbed shoulders with a lot of shady characters.
The whole reason he was down there was because he saw something, as a working reporter, that he shouldn’t have in Philly. Had to get out of town, expenses paid. Merritt was a man of the world, no mistake.
Of course, the big problem is that your readers are going to know more than you do. They outnumber you, after all. While one reader is admiring how you took the importance of supplies into account, another one is rolling her eyes because in your polytheistic culture your characters each pick a god to worship, whereas in real life, polytheists regarded such a person as a dangerous maniac, it being your duty to worship all relevant gods.
Plus of course the problem of the things your readers THINK they know.
IIRC, Charles Harness was a patent lawyer who wrote a number of space operas featuring patent lawyer heroes.
One day we will have to fight it out over “A Wrinkle in Time”.
I think, however, all men of good will can agree peacefully that the new “A Wrinkle in Time” movie will be a complete and utter dumpster fire.
One that stuck in my mind as particularly annoying — in his book _Ring_, Stephen Baxter, who has a background in maths and engineering, and ought to have known better, commits a number of howlers regarding a relativistic flight intended to take an expedition 5 million years into the future.
Not only does he give a subjective time for the journey that’s nearly 20 times too long, given all the other parameters stated, but in addition the travellers return to a solar system where there’s still a W-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia opposite in the sky to alpha Centauri.