FIREBIRDS RISING ROUND TABLE Participants: Emma Bull ("What Used to Be Good Still Is"), Kara Dalkey ("Hives"), Alison Goodman ("The Real Thing"), Ellen Klages ("In the House Of the Seven Librarians"), Tamora Pierce ("Huntress"), Sharon Shinn ("Wintermoon Wish")

 

1. What is your connection to the anthology? (Are you a Firebird author? On the editorial board? Have a story in another anthology that will be in Firebird? One of Sharyn November's Viking authors?)


Emma Bull: I had stories in The Green Man and The Faery Reel, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and published by Viking and Firebird, and I collaborated with Charles Vess on a story in the first Firebirds anthology.

Kara Dalkey: I have a short story in the previous Firebird anthology ("The Lady of the Ice Garden") and I am working on a novel that I hope to sell to Sharyn.

Alison Goodman: I'm a Viking and Firebird author. Sharyn published my first novel Singing the Dogstar Blues in 2004 and will be publishing Eon, the first book in my fantasy duology, in 2007.

Ellen Klages: My novel, The Green Glass Sea, is coming out from Viking in October 2006. Sharyn is my editor.

Tamora Pierce: I've been friends with Sharyn November since before Firebird was a glimmering idea in her fevered mind!

Sharon Shinn: I've become a Viking and now Firebird author with the publication of my three YA books ( The Safe-Keeper's Secret, The Truth-Teller's Tale, The Dream-Maker's Magic). This means that I have fallen into what Ellen Kushner calls "the Sharyn November protectorate," and I'm delighted to be there.


2. What made you choose this particular story? What do you like best about it?


Emma Bull: I wrote "What Used to Be Good Still Is" for Firebirds Rising because a lot of things came together at just the right moment. Elise Matthesen (www.lioness.net) made a wonderful necklace called "What Used to Be Good Still Is," and in one of her early Artists' Challenges, told me I could earn that necklace by writing something inspired by it. Years later I moved to Bisbee, Arizona, which is a strange little town, sensible and magical at once. It's the inspiration for the town of Hollier where the story is set. Bisbee's famous for its history, its open-pit mine, and the Bisbee Blue turquoise found there ... that's the color of the beads in Elise's necklace. Then the invite came to write a story for Firebirds Rising. "Oh," said I, "I get it. That's what the story is. I guess it's time to write it."

Kara Dalkey: I like to write SF about technology that has impact on the lives of ordinary people, and how such technology might change everyday life because of how it amplifies or augments aspects of human nature.

Alison Goodman: I wrote "The Real Thing" because I wanted to continue the adventures of Joss and Mav, the main characters in Singing the Dogstar Blues. I really enjoy writing in the Joss voice and exploring the possible social ramifications of genetic manipulation, but most of all I love thinking up ways to bewilder Mav, the alien character, as he tries to navigate the strange world of human behaviour. From a writer's perspective, I like the dressing scene in the story (where Joss gets fashion advice from Mav and Lisa) because it works hard on three levels: character, plot and theme.

Ellen Klages: I think this story chose me. I was told by a psychic friend that my spirit guides were seven librarians and a little boy named Zip. So for a couple of years, I had a lovely title, "Zip and the Seven Librarians," floating around in my head, but no story to go with it. One day I realized that they were feral librarians, and that made me laugh out loud. Zip became a little girl named Dinsy. I started making lists of all the important librarians in my life; I spent a few months sitting inside old Carnegie libraries, taking notes and soaking up atmosphere; I read up on the minutiae of the Dewey Decimal System. By the time I finally sat down to write, "In the House of the Seven Librarians" tumbled out all of a piece.

I love telling people I wrote a story about a little girl raised by feral librarians. It starts such interesting conversations.

Tamora Pierce: I wrote it a long time ago, and knew the idea was good, but could never find the right time or place for it. When Sharyn asked me for a Firebird story, I realized it could work even better with a teenaged hero (the original narrator was a crazy bag lady who was a former doctor of anthropology) who was actually at risk from the lions, and that a setting in a high school track milieu would make it even more a story about Huntress worship, since female racers in ancient Greece were often Her special charge.

I liked best that people of privilege, who were getting away with a lot at the time I first wrote this story and are still getting away with plenty, got away with nothing here.

Sharon Shinn: A few winters ago, I'd pulled out a well-worn copy of a Regency romance anthology set at Christmas, which I read every year. And I thought, "I want to write a Christmas story that would be fun to read every year during the season." But I wanted to set it in one of my own fantasy worlds and just make it a seasonal tale. I actually think it would be a really fun idea to have a whole sf/f anthology of winter/holiday stories.


3. What do you think of the other authors? What do they mean to you?


Emma Bull: Pamela Dean and Kara Dalkey were in my writing group, The Scribblies, when we were all neo-writers; Terri Windling gave all three of us our start, buying our first novels and expanding the way we thought about fantasy. They're like family, and I admire their work like crazy. Diana Wynne Jones , Patricia McKillip, and Charles de Lint are writers I've met and admire like crazy; Francesca Lia Block, Carol Emshwiller, Tanith Lee, and Kelly Link I haven't met, but have admired like crazy since before this volume came out; and since reading their stories in Firebirds Rising, I now know about and admire like crazy the rest of the contributors.

Kara Dalkey: A couple of the other authors, Pamela Dean and Emma Bull, are former writer's group members in the Scribblies (Emma is also a former band mate from a short lived folk-rock band in the seventies called the Albany Freetraders). Several of the others I greatly admire, such as Nina Hoffman, Diana Wynne Jones , Tanith Lee , Charles de Lint and Patricia McKillip. I'm very pleased to be in their company.

Alison Goodman: I am pretty much the new kid on the block, so being included in an anthology with all of these great authors is exhilarating

Ellen Klages: Wow. Just wow. Being in the same book with Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Kelly Link and Charles de Lint and Diana Wynne Jones and Carol Emshwiller and Patricia McKillip? It feels like playing on the World Series team for fantasy writers.

Tamora Pierce: What do I think?! Some of the best and most legendary writers of fantasy are here, real genre shapers and writers I'm normally never paired with, though I love them, like Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Charles de Lint , Patricia McKillip , and Diana Wynne Jones. I've never been cool enough to be in an anthology with Francesca Lia Block before, nor Tanith Lee , Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, or Pamela Dean. And since I was one of the first Americans to read and push Alison Goodman, I'm tickled pink to see she has a story here. I'm hoping it will inspire people to go read Singing the Dogstar Blues.

Sharon Shinn: When I found out who else was going to be in the anthology, I emailed all my friends the list, followed by about a hundred exclamation points. "I'm going to be in an anthology with these other authors!" Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is one of my favorite books ever; I reread Emma Bull's War for the Oaks about once a year. One of my friends has as her lifelong ambition the goal of meeting Charles de Lint. And so on. A very exciting moment for me to be in the same company.

4. Assuming you've read Firebirds, tell me which stories you like the best, and why.


Emma Bull: "Hives," because it's like an episode of Veronica Mars set in the future. "Cousins," because I love the voices of the characters, and the ethical choice at the end. "The House on the Planet," because there's a feeling in it for what "home" means that I understand, even though I've never seen the place in the story. "The Wizards of Perfil," because what the characters discover at the end is true here, too. And "Quill," because it's so strong and sad.

Kara Dalkey: The stories that "stay with me," you might say, are "In The House Of The Seven Librarians" just for the idea of it, "The Wizards of Perfil" for the way Kelly Link evokes mood, and "What Used To Be Good Still Is" for the way Emma hews true to character, time and place.

Alison Goodman: As usual, I was enchanted by Diana Wynne Jones's writing. In "I'll Give You My Word," her clever word play and quirky humour had me smiling from beginning to end. Another story that delighted me with its charm and elegance was "In the House of the Seven Librarians." At the other end of the spectrum, I was well and truly chilled by the depiction of the Pride in Tamora Pierce's "Huntress" and admired her deft handling of the action sequences. "Blood Roses" was another story that thrilled me with its dark overtones, and Francesca Lia Block's rich language was intoxicating. In "Hives" by Kara Dalkey, I was immediately drawn into her bleak vision of the future, and, as a fellow writer of the tough/funny/vulnerable girl character, I found the depiction of Mitch beautifully three dimensional. As yet, I haven't finished the whole collection (I'm an anthology dipper), but so far I have been impressed by the originality and style of the stories I have read. I've also really enjoyed reading the author's note at the end of each story—a fascinating look into another writer's method of creating.

Ellen Klages: Too hard to pick. Every single one of them is good, and they each illuminate a different corner of the cupboard of speculative fiction. I've read them all a couple of times, and my favorites change with my mood and the time of day and whether I want a bedtime story or an adventure.

Tamora Pierce: I can't pick—please don't ask me! You know very well my favorites change according to my mood of the second, and I just can't pick a few favorites when in sixty seconds it'll be a different few. It's a sad character flaw, but at least I know it's there.

Sharon Shinn: My favorite is Ellen Klages's "In the House of the Seven Librarians." I also love Pamela Dean's "Cousins," which made me want to rush out and learn more about Liavek. "Hives" has stuck with me a long time. Actually, as I was reading it, I kept thinking, "Oh, I like this one best . . . no, this one . . . no . . . "

5. Why should someone buy Firebirds?


Emma Bull: I was surprised the first time I heard someone say they didn't like short story anthologies. "But if you don't like one story," I protested, "there's a good chance you'll like the next one." "That's just it," whoever I was talking to said. "If I like one story, there's a good chance the next one will suck." Well, none of these suck. (*grin*) Short stories are just the right length to read over lunch, or during study hall, or on the bus back and forth to work. And your new favorite author, who you don't know about yet, probably has a story in these pages.

Kara Dalkey: Wow. For a wide variety of stories by some of the best writers in the genre, it's a great snapshot of the good in speculative fiction, both for those readers new to the genre and those who have been fans a long time.

Alison Goodman: Buy Firebirds Rising for those times when you need a short sharp shot of great fiction.

Ellen Klages: Because stealing it would be wrong.

Tamora Pierce: Because it's exposure, and an introduction, to not only some of the best writers in the genre, but some of the freshest, most unusual ideas and approaches in the genre. If you have a particularly conception of what fantasy is, or for those among us who are known as children's writers, if you think you know what we write, Firebirds Rising will show you that those conceptions are limited. That there are as many different kinds of fantasy as there are writers, that most of them are not what people expect, and that you really ought to go out there—once you finish this book—and start exploring.

Sharon Shinn: It's a smorgasbord. Or maybe a tapas bar. It gives readers a chance to sample an amazing variety of items, all different, all with wild and original flavors.

6. What other Firebird titles would you recommend?


Emma Bull: Pamela Dean's Secret Country books, because she's working on a new one, and you'll want to know everything that went before so you'll be up to speed when it comes out.

Kara Dalkey: I'd recommend Pamela Dean's trilogy— The Secret Country, The Hidden Land, and The Whim of The Dragon—but, then, I'm biased.

Alison Goodman: I would definitely recommend the first anthology, Firebirds, to make a great set. Also Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor series is excellent with exciting storylines and terrific action sequences set in an alternative medieval Japan. I also really enjoyed A Stir of Bones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman—a thought provoking and quietly beautiful book.

Ellen Klages: Boy, another hard question. There are so many good ones. I'm especially fond of Charles de Lint's Waifs and Strays and Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's anthology, The Faery Reel. And I'm thrilled that Firebird has re-released Pat Murphy's amazing The City, Not Long After, which is one of my favorite books and has been out of print for far too long.

Tamora Pierce: Any and all of them. Like the two Firebird anthologies, the line is an exploration of fantasy's possibilities, of what can be done with it, by adult writers and by writers traditionally dismissed as children's writers. There is serious fantasy in every Firebird book, and all of it will challenge and engage the reader and show him/her worlds of imagination s/he didn't think could be dreamed of. Just look for the logo and give the book a try. If you don't like that, try another. You won't get the same thing twice, and you will find something to change your world.

Sharon Shinn: I haven't read them all, but some of my favorite books are on the list. I've had a copy of Sylvia Engdahl's Enchantress from the Stars since I was in high school, and I read (and loved) Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea years ago when they first came out. More recently, I got a chance to read (and love) Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel. Oh, and when I got a copy of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's A Stir of Bones, I read it twice from cover to cover in three days. So those would be my recommendations!
 


Copyright 2003 Firebird, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. All rights reserved.