Where do you want the majority of “The Last King of Osten Ard” to take place?

Tad Williams is busily writing the first volume of the new Osten Ard saga, The Witchwood Crown, volume one of “The Last King of Osten Ard”, a sequel trilogy to the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series. Where would you like the action to take place? Choose up to ten regions below.

The Sa’onserei Family Tree

Here is an infographic showing the family tree of House Year-dancing, also known as House Sa’onserei, the ruling house of the Sithi.

Sa'onserei family tree

Sa’onserei family tree.

Notes:
[1] The text indicates that Shima’onari and Likimeya may be siblings in addition to being husband and wife. This may be an error in the appendix.

[2] Jiriki describes Kira’athu as his cousin on page 682 of To Green Angel Tower, part one, but her parentage is not clear.

[3] Jiriki refers to An’nai as his kinsman, but An’nai’s relationship to House Sa’onserei remains unclear.

Which plot thread would you most like to see resolved in The Last King of Osten Ard?

Tad Williams left several plot threads open at the end of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Which one would you most like to see resolved?

31 similarities between “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”

dragonbone_chair_a_game_of_thrones

The cover of The Dragonbone Chair features Simon Snowlock and the dwarfish Binabik, as well as the wolf Qantaqa (on back cover). The cover of A Game of Thrones features Jon Snow and the dwarf Tyrion, and the direwolf Ghost.

It is no secret that George R. R. Martin drew inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels from the best-selling Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams. Martin has stated repeatedly that Williams inspired him to write ASOIAF:

Tad’s fantasy series, The Dragonbone Chair and the rest of his famous four-book trilogy was one of the things that inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy. I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed — well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read The Dragonbone Chair and said, “My god, they can do something with this form,” and it’s Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series.

In fact, Martin purposely buried some homages to MS&T in ASOIAF, while at other points, he seems to reuse the same plot elements, often to a surprisingly detailed degree. Here are 25 similarities between the two book series [contains spoilers for both series of novels]:

1) A high-born girl named (M)arya disguises herself as a boy, and learns to fight with a sword as she travels throughout the lands. She travels from one end of the world to the other, fleeing danger everywhere, while disguised as a boy. Despite the fact that many people see through her flimsy ‘disguise’, she keeps wearing it.

2) Two princely brothers who hate each other fight over the royal throne. The country is torn apart as various factions choose sides. But the side that plays dirty will win…

3) A red-robed advisor to the new king convinces the king that he needs to sacrifice his hated younger brother; this sacrifice, the red-robed advisor says, will make the kingdom whole once more.

4) A tailed star appears in the sky, portending doom/change.

5) Feuding brothers named Elias/Elyas and Josua appear in the story.

6) Strange, otherworldly creatures who live in the far north appear, and although they have been inactive for centuries, they plot to take over the world. They have been exiled at the northern edge of the world for many years, but will soon take it all back, manchild.

7) It is foretold of the coming of an unusual winter which will last a very long time, at the same time as the otherworldly invasion. Only the northerners take these old legends seriously. Everyone else laughs at such absurd tales. But the people of the north never forget.

8) A very unusual throne lies at the center of the human dispute for the kingdom, but it is only a distraction for the real conflict.

9) A major noble character, a close relative of the king, loses his hand.

10) A wolf character plays a major role.

11) A character that is the ‘Hand’ figures prominently.

12) A slender sword named ‘Needle’/’Naidel’ is wielded by a main character, who can’t use a heavier sword.

13) Everybody laughs at the idea of ice giants in the north… until they see them for themselves.

14) Young, noble children are cruelly thrust out into the cold, cruel world by evil adults, slowly learning to fend for themselves as they grow into young men and women.

15) A crown made to resemble antlers appears as a plot element.

16) A very short yet intelligent character has a betrothal as part of his storyline. But he is soon put on trial, where the penalty is death, and everyone seems set on killing him… even his own lover.

17) The story begins shortly before the death of the old king, whose reign was peaceful, and kept the kingdoms safe. The king brought peace and prosperity to the lands, but now his death has thrown the empire into conflict, with factions fighting.

18) The Children of the Dawn/Forest, who once lived throughout the realm, but who are now living in hiding, will have a part to play. They appear to be at odds with the otherworldly creatures in the far north.

19) A character whose name is Snow(lock), who is forced to journey into the north, is a main character. He appears to be a nobody, but his secret lineage is important. No one knows the truth…

20) A guilt-tormented knight, Sir Camaris/Ser Connington, spends years in exile in the south, only to return, where he is at last revealed as still being alive.

21) A major character lives thousands of miles from the rest of the other main characters, for over a thousand pages having no real interaction with the main group. But eventually, Danaerys/Tiamak will have a role to play.

22) The series was meant to be a trilogy, but got out of hand.

23) A major young male character likes to climb his castle’s walls and turrets, and can do so with ease. Eventually, he will be forced to leave his childhood home, no longer able to climb the castle’s walls and turrets.

24) This same character is plagued by prophetic, spooky dreams.

25) A new god, the Red God, demands blood sacrifice. His adherents are more than willing to do the Red God’s bidding, no matter how awful the sacrifice is. Once blood is spilled, the spell is created, and shadowy figures appear…

26) A servant of evil wearing a hound’s head helmet.

27) An important character of very short size. 26&27 thanks to

28) A fierce people of nomadic grasslanders.

29) Birds are used as messengers between intellectuals.

30) A battle on a frozen lake (not yet canonical in ASoIaF but still).
28-30  thanks to

31) Miriamele/Arya shoots/stabbes the Storm/Night King.

“Strong Medicine” Published in Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West

Cover of Dead Man's Hand anthology of weird tales.

Cover of Dead Man’s Hand anthology of weird tales.

Edited by John Joseph Adams, Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West has just been published by Titan Books. The anthology includes short stories written by Orson Scott Card, Hugh Howey, Kelley Armstrong, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Bear, Alastair Reynolds, Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Ken Liu, Ben H. Winters, David Farland, Mike Resnick, Charles Yu, Alan Dean Foster, Beth Revis, Rajan Khanna, Tobias S. Buckell, Jeffrey Ford, Laura Anne Gilman, Walter Jon Williams, Fred Van Lente, Christie Yant, and Tad Williams. In all, the collection includes 23 stories.

Tad Williams’ story, “Strong Medicine”, fits in nicely with this collection of weird tales from the Old West. Taking place on June 20th and 21st, 1899, the short story recounts the bizarre events that took place in Medicine Dance, Arizona, when dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are suddenly spotted in the community.

While the community of Medicine Dance is fictional, Tad Williams may or may not have known of a real-life report of a living pterodactyl supposedly shot by ranchers, made in the Tombstone Epitaph on April 26, 1890:

A winged monster, resembling a huge alligator with an extremely elongated tail and an immense pair of wings, was found on the desert between the Whetstone and Huachuca mountains last Sunday by two ranchers who were returning home from the Huachucas. The creature was evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight and when discovered was able to fly but a short distance at a time.

After the first shock of wild amazement had passed the two men, who were on horseback and armed with Winchester rifles, regained sufficient courage to pursue the monster and after an exciting chase of several miles succeeded in getting near enough to open fire with their rifles and wounding it.

The creature then turned on the men, but owing to its exhausted condition they were able to keep out of its way and after a few well directed shots the monster partly rolled over and remained motionless. The men cautiously approached, their horses snorting with terror, and found that the creature was dead.

They then proceeded to make an examination and found that it measured about ninety-two feet in length and the greatest diameter was about fifty inches. The monster had only two feet, these being situated a short distance in front of where the wings were joined to the body. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. Its eyes were as large as a dinner plate and protruded about halfway from the head.

They had some difficulty in measuring the wings as they were partly folded under the body, but finally got one straightened out sufficiently to get a measurement of seventy-eight feet, making the total length from tip to tip about 160 feet. The wings were composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane and were devoid of feathers or hair, as was the entire body. The skin of the body was comparatively smooth and easily penetrated by a bullet.

The men cut off a small portion of the tip of one wing and took it home with them. Late last night one of them arrived in this city for supplies and to make the necessary preparations to skin the creature, when the hide will be sent east for examination by the eminent scientists of the day.

The finder returned early this morning accompanied by several prominent men who will endeavor to bring the strange creature to this city before it is mutilated.

Williams begins with a similar element in his tale, with two men shooting at a pterodactyl in 1890s Arizona, but the story quickly diverges from there. He also weaves a mystery surrounding one of the men, but the reader isn’t able to ponder this enigma for very long, as Medicine Dance is quickly transformed to Jurassic Park:

We left the rest of the citizens arguing about why exactly the Devil had brought the sea to Medicine Dance and made our way back along the shore on the edge of town, reptile-birds wheeling and croaking high above us.

We paused for a moment to watch a bunch of boys — Clay Hopyard’s sons, Billinger told me — who had made themselves a raft out of stripped saplings and were wading out into the water. The young sailors were being watched by a half a dozen men taking some rest, who said they’d been chasing the springy little lizards out of nearby houses for the last hour, but I was concerned. I shouted to the boys to come in, but we were still too far away for them to hear. As they listened to me, the men watching seemed to realize that this new ocean might contain things bigger than the fish they were used to pulling from the local streams, but before they could do more than look thoughtful, a long neck suddenly came coiling up out of the water near the children, silver in color and as long as a horseshoe pitch. The boys screamed when they saw it, and all of them ran to one end of their raft, which promptly capsized.

This is a satisfying tale with some similarities to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912), which only receives two minor demerits from me. One demerit for setting the story so close to monsoon without mention of the heavy seasonal rains, which would have been on the minds of the settlers in 1890s southern Arizona. And one nit-picking demerit for having a prehistoric animal eat grass, which did not exist until near the end of the Cretaceous Period.