April 1, 2014, Durham, North Carolina:
In Robin Sloan‘s wonderful 2012 novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Clark Moffat’s fantasy series The Dragon-Song Chronicles seemed so very much like real books that I looked them up in a few places — and I was certainly not the only one — before realizing that, duh, they’re fictional artifacts of the novel. Well played, Mr. Sloan. Still, the novels seemed so thoroughly developed, with plot summaries and complete excerpts — narrated by author Sloan to great effect in the Ari Fliakos-narrated audiobook of the full novel — that I’ve been holding out hope that Sloan might actually write them eventually.
Sloan instead followed up the novel by revisiting it with a short story to pair with the novel’s paperback release last fall, Ajax Penumbra 1969. But he wasn’t done revisiting the world of his novel — just his fictional San Francisco. In a 3-book deal, FSG Originals editor Sean McDonald has bought Robin Sloan’s The Dragon-Song Chronicles, for publication late this fall!
FSG Originals senior editor Sean McDonald explains why he picked up the series: “Robin’s doing some things here with fantasy which have never been done, yet staying true to the 80s/90s fantasy formulae alluded to in Penumbra. He’s playing with the trope of playing with tropes — it’s genius. I can’t wait for people to read them.”
Sloan describes his writing process for the books: “One of the hardest parts of writing the books was keeping everything in sync with Clay’s summaries in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. However, at some points, I decided to change things, which I explain easily enough as Clay not remembering things correctly. But I did incorporate the excerpts exactly as they appeared — thought not, perhaps, in the way that readers will expect.”
What’s most surprising perhaps is that all 3 books are completed. Sloan explains: “After I finished the edits on Penumbra I did a lot — a lot — of yak-shaving. I played around on MicroMUSE, I wrote Ajax Penumbra 1969, but mostly? Mostly I kept returning to Moffat’s The Dragon-Song Chronicles. I’d spend hours and hours just writing and writing, and before you knew it? I had one book done, then another, then another.” He added, pointedly, that “it helps that I turned down most invitations to go out for drinks on my book tours.”
For McDonald, this was absolutely a selling point. “Having all 3 books ready to go allow us to take our compressed release schedule strategy — for example Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy we’re in the middle of publishing over a handful of months right now — to another level, with biweekly releases between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 4 weeks, 3 books. It’s going to be epic. Literally. No, seriously, it’s epic fantasy.”
Simultaneously released with hardcover and ebook editions will be audiobook editions, read by Wil Wheaton and recorded at Sky Boat Media for Macmillan Audio. It’s Wheaton’s second FSG Originals/Macmillan Audio title after reading Warren Ellis’ Dead Pig Collector last year.
According to audiobook director Gabrielle de Cuir, they’ve already started narration work on the series, and there have been a few surprises. “We were all surprised when, mid-way through book 1, there was a Wil Wheaton cameo — well, more precisely a Wesley Crusher cameo, as ‘The Traveler’. That’s not something we expected going into the studio!” It’s Wheaton’s third self-referential appearance in an audiobook, after a simple name-drop in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and an extended cameo in Cory Doctorow’s Homeland, also recorded at Sky Boat.
“You know, at first it was kind of cool,” Wheaton said of the cameos, “but it’s getting to be a bit much. Books by my friends are one thing, but people think they have this license, this entitlement to use me wherever they want, whether it’s April Fools posts or Tumblr memes or whatever.”
But overall, Wheaton remains very excited about the project. “It’s a chance for me to use my deep knowledge of fantasy elements — from my D&D Monsters Manual and Unearthed Arcana late night study sessions — at a level I haven’t had the opportunity for since reading Scalzi’s Shadow War of the Night Dragon. Casting magic missile into the darkness, critical fumbles, orcs, elves, the whole toolbox. It’s been a blast.”
Volume one of The Dragon-Song Chronicles will be out on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, with volume two due out December 11 and volume three out on December 25.