Firebirds anthology editor Sharyn November, also editor of the titular imprint, gathered together some of the authors included in the anthology to share their thoughts about their stories, each other, and of course, Firebirds. Read on, and enjoy the thoughts and comments of participants Lloyd Alexander (Max Mondrosch), Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Flotsam), Meredith Ann Pierce (The Fall of Ys), Delia Sherman (Cotillion), Sherwood Smith (Beauty), and Elizabeth Wein (Chasing the Wind).


1. What is your connection to Firebirds?

Lloyd Alexander: Firebird included my Westmark in its inaugural list, so I like to think I was there when it got started – though now it's hard to imagine a time when there wasn't Firebird. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, the editor is my adopted goddaughter.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman: I am a Viking author! (A Stir of Bones)

Meredith Ann Pierce: I'm flattered to say that my connection to the anthology is that I'm a Viking and Firebird author and was invited to contribute. (Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood, The Firebringer Trilogy)

Delia Sherman: I met Sharyn November when I sold a story to Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's anthology The Green Man, which was published by Viking in 2002 [and will be published in Firebird in Spring 2004]. That pulled me into her orbit, and now I'm writing a novel for Viking (and then Firebird): The Changeling.

Sherwood Smith: I am a Firebird author — my book, Crown Duel, came out in June of 2002.

Elizabeth Wein: I'm a Firebird author. (The Winter Prince); I'm also a Viking author. (A Coalition of Lions; The Sunbird)

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

Lloyd Alexander: Different from anything I've ever written, "Max Mondrosch" has some kind of haunting significance for me, and so I was very glad to see it appear in the Firebirds anthology.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman: I wrote the story for the anthology; it's what rose up in my mind when I heard about this opportunity. I like the clash of cultures in "Flotsam". My favorite thing about it is a line my editor Sharyn keeps quoting back to me, appropriate to almost all social situations: "Dude. That's why you wear underwear."

Meredith Ann Pierce: I chose to submit "The Fall of Ys" for consideration for Firebirds because it seemed to fit the criteria: a tale of fantasy, not overly long, with a teenaged protagonist. What I like best about it are the ghostly spirits, who know where all the bodies are buried.

Delia Sherman: Ten years ago, I wrote an early version of this story and just couldn't make it work right. So I put it in a drawer and waited for just the right moment to work on it again—which was when Sharyn said she was looking for stories to put in Firebirds. As soon as I pulled it out of the drawer, I could see right away what was wrong (I've learned a little more about writing), and after that, it was just plain fun to fix it. What I like best about it is the Fairy Ball, which was where the whole story began, when I went to an Early Music Festival and saw costumed dancers performing Renaissances dances to the music of John Dowland. It wasn't exactly like my ball, but it planted the seed. And I like Twiggy and her band, who are very loosely based on real Early Music musicians I've heard play.

Sherwood Smith: I wrote this story for the anthology, making it a sequel to Crown Duel because so many readers wrote to me asking for "what happens after."

Elizabeth Wein: Sharyn told me, "You can write about anything you want." I have got a few unpublished fantasies kicking around, but I thought that to play fair I ought to write something new. I started out on a story that took place in my quasi-historical, semi-mythical world of sixth century Africa; but at the time I was in the early stages of learning to fly, and all I wanted to write about was airplanes. So I did.

My story is neither fantasy nor science fiction. But it's about flying, and the crossing of invisible or forbidden boundaries. That humans have achieved flight always seems unbelievable to me.

What I like best about the story is that it is, for me, the perfect marriage of fact and fiction. Every single incident described in the story really happened, to me or to someone I know, but the plot and characters are purely invented. I love this paradox. It's all made up; it's all true.

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

Lloyd Alexander: Here are sixteen stories, every one different in style, flavor, and personality. But the underlying concept unifies them. This is a collaboration where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Meredith Ann Pierce: I'm in awe of many of the fantasists who contributed to this collection. I've been a fan of Lloyd Alexander, Emma Bull, Patricia McKillip, Garth Nix, and Nancy Farmer for years. The others I've very much enjoyed reading for the very first time.

Delia Sherman: I admire them tremendously. I consider them all my friends—some because we've had dinner together at Science Fiction conventions, some because we've been on panels together, some because their stories have delighted and enlightened me over years of reading.

Sherwood Smith: I was impressed by the anthology. To tell the truth, I was intimidated, afraid that my little adventure tale would hide behind the powerful work of so many writers I admire. Each story is different, you cannot predict them, they are memorable.

Elizabeth Wein: I am in AWE of the other authors. In the beginning of the project, knowing a few of the names I'd be sharing the anthology with, I felt like an impostor, a stowaway on a ship full of literary dignitaries. After I read the other stories I felt like even more of an impostor. What am I doing here, a sort of Loki among the gods?

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

Lloyd Alexander: If you're at a dinner party with so many fascinating guests, how to pick the one — or the dozen — you liked most? Answer: You can't.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman: I loved most of the stories in Firebirds. Some of my favorites are: Megan Whalen Turner's "The Baby in the Night Deposit Box," because it's a wild and enchanting idea. One so rarely sees bankers depicted in a positive light, but these are wonderful bankers, and Penny is a lovely, unlikely heroine. There's nobody like Nancy Springer for embodying a metaphor in shiny and surprising raiment, the way she did in "Mariposa." Patricia McKillip's "Byndley" brings a whole world to life in a snowglobe; the language is so lyrical and evocative that since reading the story, there are new images in my head I never saw before. I've been avidly watching Japanese animation for six years, so the period details in Kara Dalkey's Heian—era "The Lady of the Ice Garden" delighted me, as did her twist on an old tale. Garth Nix's alternate history "Hope Chest" was another story that gave me an interesting perspective into an analog for all too many political situations now and earlier, plus it had weird mysteries and questions in it, some of which were never answered (Who left the baby and the trunk on the rail platform?). I liked the evocation of 1950's Africa in Elizabeth E. Wein's "Chasing the Wind," and I adored the cats and their goddess, their magic, their wizard, and his great—aunt in Diana Wynne Jones's "Little Dot." Laurel Winter's wild imagination is always engaging; there are marvelous strange things in "The Flying Woman." I especially liked the magic system.

Meredith Ann Pierce: They're all wonderful. Don't ask me to pick.

Delia Sherman: I suppose "All of them" is not an appropriate or useful answer, even if it's true. Let's see. I love Patricia McKillip's "Byndley" because it's like reading poetry, except it's a story with wonderful characters in it, and because I'm a sucker for Romance, in the old—fashioned sense of a story about beauty and mystery. I love "Flotsam" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman because it's funny and I like the characters and, yes, it's Romantic. I love Diana Wynne Jones's "Little Dot" because I love everything she writes, and because I'm allergic to cats, and reading about Little Dot and her friends is almost--almost--as good as having one myself. And I love Elizabeth Wein's "Chasing the Wind" because it's about Africa and flying, and my father was a pilot in Africa once, and told me stories about it.

Sherwood Smith: I thought highly of each story, but I think my favorite was Delia Sherman's. She evokes a magical New York that makes a city I already find fascinating even more fascinating.

Elizabeth Wein: I have good things to say about every story in this book, but I'll limit myself. My two favourites are "Hope Chest" by Garth Nix and "Little Dot" by Diana Wynne Jones. Both are perfectly, masterfully framed and plotted. I love that you can guess what's coming, but you're never sure; and then there's this surge of satisfaction when you find out you were right. Both stories leave little dark shreds of unresolved mystery hanging at the edges; where did the characters come from? Where did they go on to after the story ended? It's pleasantly spooky, and it's also an effect that makes you feel there must be a complete, complicated world that goes along with the vignette the reader is given here. And both stories are peopled with wonderful, unusual, yet utterly believable characters and images. One of these tales is dark, the other is funny; both are mesmerizing.

5. Why should someone buy Firebirds?

Lloyd Alexander: For sheer enjoyment and the excitement of discovering work never before published. Every story is outstanding in and of itself, a good reason for buying any anthology. Added value: Readers can find clues leading them to explore the authors' other writing.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman: See above!

Meredith Ann Pierce: People should buy Firebirds because they want to be transported to places and times other than our own, where danger lurks and courage counts and nothing is exactly as it seems.

Delia Sherman: Because there are stories in it for every taste, from creepy horror to pure fairy tale, and each one of them is a jewel of its kind, cut and polished to a many—faceted marvel. Except mine, of course, but I did work hard on it, and I don't hate it too much. The other thing about Firebirds is that it will introduce a reader who hasn't read a lot of fantasy to writers who have written many books. If you like Nancy Springer's "Mariposa," for instance (I do), you can read The Hex Witch of Seldom and maybe even Larque on the Wing, if you can find it at the library. And Nina Kiriki Hoffman has written lots of other books that are different from, but just as cool as "Flotsam."

Sherwood Smith: Because these stories are not just good reads, I believe they are good rereads. I can see this anthology becoming someone's favorite, to pull down and visit again, each story just right for a different mood.

Elizabeth Wein: Because you'll want to read it more than once, and scribble your own comments in the margins. It's brilliant. I can't believe I'm part of it.

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