Thursday, April 04, 2013

Back to the future

I thought I was done with Shi Jin.

Every now and then, in the years since Fall From Earth was published, people have asked me whether I was ever going to revisit its world and characters. (Whether that reflects a genuine interest in reading more about them or just an assumption that every SF/F novel is part of a series is an open question.) I've had the same question about a few of my short stories as well, and my answer has always been that I had told as much of that story as needed telling. I've also always been a believer in the "iceberg" theory of worldbuilding, which is that you only show the reader 10-20% of the setting details you've invented, and which might be undermined by going back to an established setting.

So why did I write "The Salt and Iron Dialogues"? Basically, it comes down to Shi Jin, the protagonist of Fall From Earth. When I first started work on that book, I wrote background pieces of varying lengths about the major characters. One these (Griffin's)wound up integrated mostly intact in the final text, while a few others had some bits included or referred to in dialogue. But Shi Jin's, which naturally was the longest, I wound up cutting because the only way to include it was as a prologue, and the conventional wisdom was that editors don't like manuscripts that start with prologues. So it survived only as a few elliptical references, and that was that...

Until about six months ago I was cleaning out my office and found an old computer that I thought had been thrown away several years ago, on which I found a version of Fall From Earth that still included the prologue. And it was a prologue, but when I re-read it I couldn't help feeling that there was more of Shi Jin's story that I wanted to tell: a story about a young woman learning to navigate between power, authority and heroism, which might be able to stand on its own for people who hadn't read Fall From Earth -- as well as providing an added dimension for those who had.When I finished (after junking and rewriting about 2/3 of the original text) I remembered just why it was that I had liked Shi Jin so much in the first place, and why I decided to write a novel about her.

"The Salt and Iron Dialogues" is launching Saturday night at Ad Astra and it'll be going up for sale on the Bundoran site shortly. If you've read Fall From Earth and liked it, I'm pretty sure you'll like this too: if you haven't, I think you'll enjoy meeting Shi Jin for the first time.


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