Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Ten Thousand Thunders by Brian Trent with an exclusive author interview.
Massive thanks to Anne cater, Flame Tree Press and of course, Brian Trent too.
1 – Would you please tell us about Ten Thousand Thunders?
Imagine a future where a portion of the populace has access to god-like technologies, while the rest of the world still languishes in poverty and disease and war. A world in which death itself has been banished by the “arkies” who reside in majestic structures, while the “wastelanders” struggle in fierce turf wars for the simple desire to survive one more day.
This is the world of extreme in Ten Thousand Thunders. Set in the far future after Earth has recovered from a new Dark Age, the story focuses on four characters from various backgrounds. They are brought together to solve a mystery reaching all levels of society—the immortals and the ones who still die. The book is part mystery, part thriller, as the characters team up to unravel a shadowy conspiracy… and the terrifying threat behind it all.
2 – If you had to summarise Ten Thousand Thunders in one sentence, what would it be?
Ten Thousand Thunders is about a dazzling future that is directly threatened by the sins of its past.
3 – What was your favourite part of writing Ten Thousand Thunders?
Developing all the details that make it feel like a real place. I’m a visual writer and I love getting into the nitty-gritty. The technologies, the foods, the cultures, the history… I spent my waking hours considering my own world through that filter, visualizing everything from the clothes I’d be wearing to the foods I’d be consuming. What political concerns would be on my mind? Humanity doesn’t really change through history—it’s our props and costumes and cultures that alter over the ages.
4 – Where did the idea for Ten Thousand Thunders come from?
It started in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as I was touring the reconstructed Temple of Dendur. I’m passionate about ancient history—it lights me up inside. I was craning my neck to view the sandstone blocks that had been transported and meticulously rebuilt in one of the busiest cities on Earth, and suddenly I imagined the museum itself in ruins too… and the city outside it… and the country and world beyond that. A layer-cake of global collapse. We’ve seen such collapses before in history, and the popularly known “Dark Age” is hardly the only example.
However, I didn’t want to write an apocalyptic tale—we have enough of that in literature. So I started thinking about what the world would look like after it had recovered from a Dark Age it barely understood. The world of Ten Thousand Thunders is about a divided world, multiple factions of haves and have nots, multiple tensions simmering, multiple groups jockeying for power. Even among the technologically blessed arkies, there’s the potential for another war crackling around them, everything highly charged and ready to ignite. You can see it today—if social media is not the last invention of the Krell, it certainly has revealed what can lurk behind the civilized masks we wear in person. You could have seen it in Ancient Rome, too. A storm always brewing.
5 – When did you decide to become a writer?
It decided me. When I was young, my mother would read to me—one of my earliest memories of literature was looking at the lavishly illustrated pages of One Thousand and One Nights as she read me its varied tales. I was bitten by the bug right then. Trips to the store became a hunting expedition for books. I devoured books by Asimov and Bradbury and Clark and Le Guin and all the way to Verne and Wells and Zelazny. I immediately wanted to tell my own stories. I kept a yellow notebook where I would scribble my first attempts, then graduated to a typewriter and computer.
6 – Why do you write/What inspired you to become a writer?
Every story is a laboratory and a journey into something I want to explore. My stories in Analog and Fantasy & Science Fiction have covered questions of identity, bigotry, self-determination, the impact of probable technologies on society, the bioethics of life extension, and more. You have to have fun with it. You pose challenges that end up blazing new trails for yourself—one of my published stories was written as an experiment to see if I could compose a complete tale that was 100% dialogue. One of my most popular stories, “Sparg”, was written to examine the dynamic between people and their pets—and the consequences of negligence, and it occurred to me as I happened to glance at my pet rabbits while I was making my coffee and wondered how they saw this odd, artificial environment they shared with me.
In the end, you write because you have to. I get to create worlds full of people and conflicts that can be total flights of fantasy or deliberate mirrors held up to the world of the now.
7 – What do you find to be the most rewarding part of writing?
I adore worldbuilding. When I’m working on a particular piece, I immerse myself in every detail of that world and will write many pages of backstory. I like to understand the forces that define a setting and that influence the characters. The copious notes I wrote for Ten Thousand Thunders have themselves given rise to some of my most recent published stories.
About half my stories take place in one particular universe, and that’s the universe of Ten Thousand Thunders. It’s probably owes to my obsession with history, but I like to write different stories so that they serve as “episodes” of this future history: my Analog story “An Incident on Ishtar” takes place just a few years after Ten Thousand Thunders, while my F&SF story “Last of the Sharkspeakers” occurs thousands of years later. Each can stand on its own—I think that’s important. I wrote them to be fully independent tales, though if you read other stories set in that universe you see recurring characters and reference to events that happened elsewhere or elsewhen. And of course, Ten Thousand Thunders is the natural place to start because it is the start of it all.
A particular challenge for any writer is making fictional worlds feel believable, especially considering that speculative fiction often is set in places that are inherently unfamiliar. I came to admire how writers like William Gibson could use context alone to establish the unfamiliar as commonplace. You learn to avoid the tiresome “infodump” by quickly, deftly introducing the rules of the universe, showing the details on the fly as the action moves along.
If you do it right, the characters navigate easily through the universe. It’s helpful to look at the flip side of that coin: we awaken each day in a world that is staggering bizarre, yet we rarely think of that. A man two hundred years ago might have awakened to the sound of a rooster crowing before shuffling out the door for a day of farm work; by contrast, I awoke to an electronic alarm, then touched a glass screen to access information from around the world, sent an electronic letter to a friend living in Tokyo and received a reply seconds later, then climbed into a horseless carriage and drove to a drive-through window where I placed an order for coffee and an egg bagel and received my meal two minutes later, and used a piece of plastic to pay for it. That’s… a strange world. Likewise, people in the future won’t consider their time and place to be exotic regardless of what “magical” things they do in it.
Consider the opening line to Ten Thousand Thunders: “Fourteen-and-a-half-hours after being killed in the shuttle explosion, Gethin Bryce found himself in a newly sculpted body staring at his hands.” It’s just another day in his future.
8 – If you were asked to give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer what would it be?
Understand that if you’re serious about writing as a career, you need to look at it as a discipline. It requires countless hours of devotion to the craft, and making the time for composition. It requires reading the masters of the genre and staying abreast of the newest developments. It’s a combination of art and science, but it’s also about being a craftsman: you’re always polishing and refining and re-sculpting things, learning what works for one particular story and what doesn’t for another. You spend your free time turning your story around in your head, asking yourself if the characters feel real, if the dialogue pops, if the plot could use another twist and turn.
That discipline applies to the business of writing as well. You study the markets, you see the kinds of work they’re publishing. My work appears across a very wide spectrum of markets, because I’ve gotten to know what they like. You don’t send your urban fantasy piece to a nuts-and-bolts hard SF market. And you listen to constructive criticism. You never stop growing.
9 – When writing are you a plotter or a pantser?
Absolutely a pantser. I invariably start with a setting—a boat chugging through the London sewers, or a colony floating in the clouds of Venus, whatever the image, it’s typically a location. I dive in and write… in no particular order, out of sequence, not knowing where the story is going. The story elements begin to fruit on the setting’s vine. With Ten Thousand Thunders, the story progresses across multiple settings: it begins on the moon as the character of Gethin Bryce has just been resurrected after being killed in a shuttle accident. From there it goes to several locations of Earth, and the story grew along with it.
I have tried plotting stories out, and occasionally I’ll use an outline to assist in composition. But stories never stick to that scaffold; they always twist into new places that the outline didn’t foresee, and so the outline quickly becomes outdated and useless. I know writers who swear by outlining, and that’s great. For me, it’s a tool rarely used.
10 – Have any authors influenced your work?
I’ve mentioned Bradbury and Gibson, but H.G. Wells was an important early influence, too. While Verne was more of the nuts-and-bolts optimist, I found myself drawn to the darker psychology and cautionary explorations of Wells. And the modern literary landscape, especially in sci-fi, has tremendous new talent that I adore reading.
11 – If you were writing your autobiography what would you call it and why?
Interesting question. I’d probably call it “Outlier” because I have always felt an acute sense of being on the outskirts of the time I was born into, and certainly of the society I find myself in. There’s a line from Interview with the Vampire that I always identified with: “I’m not the spirit of any age. I’m at odds with everything and always have been.” Rod Taylor says something similar in 1960’s The Time Machine. Subsequently, I tend to write characters who are the outcasts and pariahs and asymmetricals of their world. Gethin Bryce, for instance, grew up in the stalks of London—that is, in the honeycombed interiors of the gigantic pylons that support Upper London from Lower London. He literally grew up between two worlds. I guess a lot of writers feel that way… the argument can be made that this is why we become writers. Creativity is innately asymmetrical. We’re outsiders looking in.
12 – Do you have a preferred writing beverage and snack?
I write without any food or drink on hand. An army marches on its stomach, right? If I’m really stuck in a story, I may have a couple glasses of wine, which works the occasional magic of showing me a way through a writing block. But for the most part, when I’m writing it’s just me and the keyboard. Besides, I tend to really hammer at the keys—my keyboards are quickly worn smooth like river stones, all the letters wearing off them. Any food on my desk would rapidly end up getting knocked over.
13 – If you could change one thing about the state of the world, what would it be and why? – you’re answer can be serious, fun or both.
I’d make the global zeitgeist one that champions rational and civil discourse and fact-based discussions, instead of the fetish we have for emotion-based rhetoric and blind belief. I’d get rid of the dangerous idea that baseless opinions are on par with informed ones. We’ve failed in the promise of a new enlightenment. Historians will not speak kindly of our current era.
Ten Thousand Thunders.
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition edition (6 Oct. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1787580164
- ISBN-13: 978-1787580169
- Amazon UK / Amazon US
Having just been killed in a mysterious shuttle explosion, Gethin Bryce is back to uncover what happened. An unusually gifted investigator with the InterPlanetary Council, Gethin is tasked with seeking out the truth behind unexplained anomalies that lie outside IPC control.
About Brian Trent.
Brian Trent’s speculative fiction appears regularly in the world’s top speculative fiction markets including ANALOG, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, Apex (winning the Story of the Year Reader’s Poll), Escape Pod, Flash Fiction Online, COSMOS, Galaxy’s Edge, Nature, The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, Pseudopod, and numerous year’s best anthologies. His work has been featured in several volumes of Flame Tree Publishing’s popular Gothic Fantasy Series.’
The author of the historical fantasy series Rahotep, Trent is also a Baen Fantasy Adventure Award finalist and Writers of the Futurewinner. His nonfiction works have also appeared in Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Humanist, and UTNE.
Combining a fascination for history with a unique vision of the future, Trent’s novel Ten Thousand Thunders is the beginning of an exciting new science fiction universe.
Trent lives in New England, where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and poet. His website and blog are located at http://www.briantrent.com/
- Baen Fantasy Award Finalist
- Writers of the Future Winner’
- Apex Magazine Story of the Year Winner
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