An Interview With Tad Williams

Legendary Fantasy and Science Fiction author Tad Williams talks about Empire of Grass and several additional Osten Ard novels

osten ard w
e at Treacherous Paths are proud to bring readers another exclusive interview with storyteller Tad Williams, bestselling author of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” and “The Last King of Osten Ard” series of books. Tad’s publisher, DAW Books, has recently released Empire of Grass, volume two of “The Last King” series.empire of grass by tad williams

In this interview, we asked Williams about details of Empire of Grass, how his work on The Navigator’s Children is going, and asked for details about The Lady of the Woods, The Shadow of Things to Come, Brothers of the Sky, and The Veils of Heaven. The answers we received were often quite surprising!

Questions that have no spoilers for EoG:

Treacherous Paths: Tad, you’ve cited several authors (Tolkien, Zelazny, Peake, Moorcock, Baum, and many others) as well as world mythology and history as being influences on your writing. What other sources, such as film, television, or radio, have influenced the writing of your Osten Ard books?

Tad Williams: Hard to say, because so many of my written influences began early, and I only remember them all because I still have the books.

The Addams Family, New Yorker cartoons and then the television show, definitely had an effect on my lifestyle if not my writing. Get Smart as a reflection of the spy genre probably activated some of my absurdist tendencies, as did Monty Python and other English comedy later. I admired the early Universal monster movies, and I was scared to death by Godzilla when I was super-young.

IMG_3021 (1)Treacherous Paths: In 2017, The Witchwood Crown was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the category Best Fantasy Novel, and in 2018 it was nominated for a Gemmell Award. This year, you’ll be the Writer Guest of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles. Were you surprised to receive so much recognition in the States for The Witchwood Crown and your return to Osten Ard?

Tad Williams: Always surprised by ANY recognition, but it’s true that I was a bit startled to see all the kind words people showered on the original trilogy when I announced the new books. As I’ve said elsewhere, it also made me nervous about the project for the first time, because I realized if I screwed up I wouldn’t just be writing a bad book, I’d be souring people’s memory of a series they had enjoyed. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and I finally stopped worrying about it after the second volume, Empire of Grass.

Treacherous Paths: You drop by the Tad Williams Message Board, which you founded in 2001 as part of your “Shadowmarch” project, from time to time to discuss your work with avid readers. What do you like (or dislike) about that interaction with your readers?

Tad Williams: I love any interaction with readers, but it’s sometimes difficult to discuss ongoing work because 1) the readers are usually a year or two behind what I’m actually doing, which makes me want to spill all the beans, and 2) whenever someone says anything even mildly critical, I begin weeping and cursing the heavens. So it’s best for me only to discuss things I’ve already written, because it’s too late (because they’re already published) for me to quit writing them in a huff because someone says a series I’m working on is “not as riveting” as the previous books, or that they “like his fantasy more than his science fiction” or whatever.

Treacherous Paths: You’re now writing The Navigator’s Children, the conclusion to “The Last King of Osten Ard”. How is the writing going? Do you still believe this series will be a trilogy? Long-time Tad readers are skeptical because it has never actually happened.

Tad Williams: Long-time readers better not get too snippy, because I’ve actually managed to hit my mark on all my books except Shadowmarch. Yes, the original Osten And volume three is…well, long. And Shadowmarch needed an extra book. But on the others, I’ve actually done what I said. Otherland was always a tetralogy, and the Bobby Dollar books were cites as three and finished in three. So there. Nyah, nyah, and I repeat, nyah.

Anyway, The Navigator’s Children will certainly be shorter than To Green Angel Tower, and I frankly don’t expect it to be too much longer than The Witchwood Crown. But talk is cheap, so we’ll have to check in again when it gets published.

Treacherous Paths: You’ve mentioned in several interviews a number of additional Osten Ard book projects, including The Shadow of Things to Come, and, in a Reddit interview, The Lady of the Wood. Can you tell us a little more about these two projects?

Tad Williams: I wrote The Lady of the Wood for an anthology that was to be edited by the late and very much missed Gardner Dozois, but his death meant that the story had no home. I haven’t published it yet because between the (already sold) other short novel to go with the current trilogy, I intend to write at least one other Osten-Ard-related short novel, and so I’m going to wait and discuss with my American publishers how they’d like to handle such a bundle of Osten-Ardia.

Treacherous Paths: Recently, your wife, fellow author Deborah Beale, shared with us a recording where you talk about another previously-unmentioned Osten Ard novel, called The Veils of Heaven. Can you tell us more about this project? (And will we finally discover why Initri has a beard?)

Tad Williams: The Veils of Heaven? I must have been half-asleep and dreaming when I told her, because I have no memory. The short story (Lady of the Wood) is a Camaris story. The original short-novel-that-goes-with-the-new-trilogy was going to be about the fall of Asu’a and Ineluki becoming the Storm King, but I think now I’m going to write that as a separate and slightly longer standalone book, leaving Brothers of the Sky —the tale of how Hakatri and Ineluki slew the dragon Hidohebhi and what happened because of it — as the other connected short novel.

Treacherous Paths: Any other Osten Ard books you’re considering writing? Why the change from not writing in the world for so many years, to suddenly writing, like, 20 new books? Not talking specifically about your conversation with Deborah about there not being any more story to tell, but how this evolved into you writing what seems to be three or four additional novels that aren’t part of the new series.

Tad Williams: The main thing that’s changed is that I found out I enjoy fleshing out Osten Ard. Before I was more worried about being seen to deliberately write long series, sequel after sequel. Also, I always had more ideas than time. But I realized while working on The Witchwood Crown that it felt just as exciting and engaging and genuine as writing a new story, so I thought, well, if more story ideas come, why not? And since I’ve been working in Osten Ard for like five years now, the ideas keep popping up for other tales.

Treacherous Paths: A number of fantasy authors have cited you as an influence on their works. Did you ever think, when you were writing “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” that you would influence the next generation of writers?

Tad Williams: I wanted to, yes. That was why there was a metafictional layer of criticism in it about the current state of epic fantasy, and a reflection on some differences between me (Tolkien lover but not, I hoped, Tolkien imitator) and a lot of other work going on at that time. But then nobody seemed to notice that part, treating it as just another (if better than some) “Tolkienesque big fantasy”. Apparently some did notice, they just didn’t write about it in reviews. So I’m pleased that in some ways it WAS influential, because I was a bit despairing at the time. To be frank, I wanted to write what Game of Thrones became — the next milestone in epic fantasy. Apparently it was closer to that than I knew, if still nowhere near as well-known as George’s epic.The-Dragonbone-Chair

Treacherous Paths: You’ve previously mentioned that when you were first writing The Dragonbone Chair, Sir Camaris was called Casimir, Simon was called Martin, Cadrach was a one-off character who you didn’t plan to continue, and the series was to be called “The Sons of Presbyter John”. What other changes or alterations did you make which avid readers might be interested to know?

Tad Williams: The problem with questions about the origins of Osten Ard is that it feels like it was another lifetime ago. I never take that many notes — you and another friend/reader have seen the only notebook I retain from back then — and so I have to rely on my memory. I remember Hernystir was originally called “Hernegyn”, that Binabik was “Bilabil”. “Elias” as a name goes back to the caption on a drawing I made when I was about fifteen — some dramatic fantasy-looking villain character called “Black Elias” — and the reason Prester John was Prester John was because the story was going to take place in “the real world” — our own world, but in some imaginary version of the past where magic worked.

Questions that have spoilers, or potential spoilers, for Empire of Grass:

Treacherous Paths: In Empire of Grass, some characters visit the ancient Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza, allowing you as a writer to return to one of the most beloved lost cities in fiction. What surprised you the writer, if anything, about returning to this site specifically?

Tad Williams: The surprising thing is how little I actually described in the first books, and having to kind of start from scratch imagining its layout and its history. This means a great deal of freedom but also a great deal more work than if I had actually made it a bit more concrete. (In the adjectival rather than the nominative sense.)

Treacherous Paths: What was the most difficult element of writing Empire of Grass?

Tad Williams: The difficulty in any middle book of a trilogy or tetralogy is keeping it all relevant and exciting when the reader knows it’s not going to have a real beginning or a real ending. You sort of admit at the start that nothing’s going to change so much that the story will end soon, so you have to give the reader other things instead. The characters must begin changing, the mysteries deepen, and new but interesting factors must come into play. As far as EoG in particular, just having to make certain the new characters and situations are truly engaging and not merely new is probably the most difficult bit. Also giving the readers a sense of some of what will happen at the end of the whole story without spoiling it, since you want to build momentum.

Treacherous Paths: Which characters have been your favorites to write in these new books? Or does an author not allow himself favorites? Would it be like choosing a favorite child?

Tad Williams: Sometimes, yes. But in these books, my favorites really change depending on their situation. Sometimes it’s great fun writing Snenneq. Other times I’ve enjoyed the interactions between Jarnulf and Nezeru, or the backgrounding of the Norn civilization. But it’s also been fun to see my young characters from MS&T grown — middle-aged, in fact, like me — and still being the same people, only more so. Watching Miri kick ass, for instance, or Simon baffled by politics because common sense never seems to come into it. And it’s always fun to write villains, and I have a few good ones (I think) in these books.

Treacherous Paths: During the writing of The Witchwood Crown, you mentioned all the research you were doing for the novel. What topics of research have you been doing for The Navigator’s Children?

Tad Williams: These books, dating back to Dragonbone Chair, have always been research-intensive. I like to write pseudo-medieval worlds that actually feel like they existed before the story and will exist after it as well, places where most people are NOT part of the story but going about their lives, where the economies actually work and the things that are different from the “real world” fit in and make sense. So as usual I’m up to my bra-straps (okay, not really — I’m a go-natural dude) in medieval life and history, in the folklore of dozens of other cultures, in books about geology and botany and ecology, and a dozen other things. Actually, that’s the fun part. Making it into a story is work, but learning things is fun.

Treacherous Paths: In Empire of Grass, you have a Sitha character, Tanahaya, try to warn other Sithi of imminent danger, using a Witness. The communication breaks down, and the masked face of the gloating, evil Norn Akhenabi appears, mocking Tanahaya. The city is then attacked by Norns. This scene is quite reminiscent of a similar scene in Stone of Farewell, where the Sitha woman Amerasu uses the Mist Lamp, a Master Witness, to warn other Sithi of the danger of the Norns. The communication is intercepted by the evil Norn Queen Utuk’ku, who mocks Amerasu and then has her assassinated. I guess this was an intentional shout-out to the scene written 30 years earlier?

Tad Williams: Never assume with me that something is just a shout-out. Sometimes it’s a trick. Of course, in order to trick people effectively, I have to sometimes do things that are exactly what they look like. I guess you have to make your own suppositions on this. Or wait until the last volume.

Treacherous Paths: Book Three of the new series is called The Navigator’s Children. Based on that title, we’ll learn more about Ruyan Ve’s people, the Tinukeda’ya or Vao. In the previous four volumes, the Tinukeda’ya were quite literally tertiary figures: the third group of non-mortals that nobody ever talked about. What made you decide the story of the Vao was central to the story of “The Last King of Osten Ard”?

Tad Williams: A number of things, but primarily that I had hinted at the painful history between them and the Sithi and Norns in the first books, and so it was a fertile area to explore. I knew, for instance, that many of the “monsters” and other strange creatures of Osten Ard had Tinukeda’ya blood — to use the ancient word: we’d probably call it DNA — since way back in MS&T, but never discussed it. (I may have hinted in a few places, but I’d have to go back and look for specific instances.) Also, the debt owed to exploited peoples is kind of a current topic, so it seemed like useful subject matter. And it all fitted in with various things about the history of Osten Ard and the Garden that I wanted to expand.

ReeRee a Chikri of Osten Ard

Ree Ree, a Chikri; one of the new creatures seen in Osten Ard. Drawing by Tad Williams.

Treacherous Paths: In this volume, we see a faction of Sithi called The Pure, and a group of Vao, or part-Vao creatures, called The Hidden. We also see creatures called Pengi, Qallipuk, Chikri, etc. When you were writing “MS&T”, did you have an inkling that these groups existed, or was this something that took many years to develop in your writerly brain?

Tad Williams: As mentioned above, I knew from early on in the MS&T days that many of these creatures were related by connection to the Vao and the Garden, and that there were probably others not mentioned in the first series. The Qallipuk are new to this series, but I’ve been thinking of a river-equivalent of kilpa for a while, and when I saw some programs about Welsh catfish and the Indian goonch, I knew what I wanted to use as the basis for the new critter. But, yes, I always knew that there were creatures in Osten Ard that were more human — or at least humanoid — than they first appeared, and that the reason was a crossover of the Garden into various Osten Ard biomes (to use a science-word as a shortcut). Almost all my monsters and non-human creatures in my fiction, from the Sithi to the dragons and unicorns in Ordinary Farm, start out as me trying to figure out how such a monster or unusual animal would survive and how it would actually function in a “real” world.

The trick, of course, is to make it fit into a fantasy setting and feel like a fantasy trope, not science-fiction.

If the trick fails, then the next trick is to leave town before the readers can get online to denounce you.

[End of interview. We’d like to thank Tad and Deborah, as always, for their time.]

Tad Williams holds Reddit AMA interview, answers readers’ questions

osten ard l

egendary Science Fiction and Fantasy author Tad Williams held an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) interview today on forum website Reddit.Williams revealed several details about his upcoming sequel to “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, The Witchwood Crown.

Williams began his AMA interview in inimitable fashion:

I have returned to the world of Osten Ard, first introduced in the now impossibly ancient days of the late 1980s, in THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR, first book of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series (also known as, “Those really, really, REALLY long books by that Williams guy.”) Just published is a short introductory novel — really a bridge between the end of the first series and some of the characters who will appear in the new books — the slender volume, THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST (http://www.tadwilliams.com/2017/01/the-heart-of-what-was-lost-first-reviews/) which will be followed by THE WITCHWOOD CROWN (a more typical Tad shelf-buster) in June. The entire series will be called “The Last King Of Osten Ard”, because that’s what fantasy fiction needs — MORE LONG TITLES.

(I also thought about calling the first books “Osten Ard Classic” and the current series “New Osten Ard” or even “Osten Ard Zero”, until various soft drink company lawsuits got in the way. Killjoys.)

I will be answering questions about the original series AND the new books live on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT. Feel free to leave a question or subpoena for me ahead of time, or to join me online.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsAmong the gems asked during the Reddit interview were questions regarding the new upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” novels, as well as questions regarding characters in The Heart of What Was Lost, the new bridge novel which was just published this month.

One question asked was (minor spoilers): “Will we eventually find out what Ayaminu’s agenda was?”Ayaminu is one of the Gardenborn characters who appears in The Heart of What Was Lost.

Williams’ response:

Yes. Yes, we will.

That really frustrated a few of my early readers, by the way, wanting to know WHAT SHE WAS DOING and why the answer wasn’t in the book.

I can’t help it. I work in long form. My days are everyone else’s months, especially when I’m writing really long stories.

Williams was also asked how far apart each new Osten Ard novel would be. Williams is known as a relatively fast writer, and has not had the extended delays between books which have plagued other bestselling speculative fiction authors. While Martin and Rothfuss have struggled to finish their novels, Williams has managed to mostly keep to his publishing deadlines.Williams replied:

Can’t say for certain, but I’m aiming for a year to a year and a half max between books. I’m pretty good at that these days, and I’ve actually started and finished several multi-volume series, so it shouldn’t take too long altogether.

I’m already working on the second large volume, Empire of Grass, and Witchwood Crown (first of trilogy) has been done for quite a while.

Williams was also asked about how “open-ended” his books are, and if he plans to revisit his other worlds, which would include the virtual world in “Otherland”, Eion/Xand (“Shadowmarch”) , and San Judas, the alternate reality city in his “Bobby Dollar” novels. Williams stated:

I have never written anything except the Bobby Dollar books with the idea of the story being open-ended. I’d be in trouble if I did, since I’m only now returning to Osten Ard, thirty years later. Half my original readers are probably dead and the rest are drooling. Like me.

As I said elsewhere on the AMA, I never start something by where it takes place (like a previous world of mine) only with a story I want to tell. I may come up with ideas for stories set in some of my other worlds, and if I do, I’ll probably write them. I’ve had a couple of tentative ideas over the years, and now that I’ve found I can live with going back to Osten Ard, I’ll probably be more open to revisiting some of the other creations as well.

Most intriguingly, Williams was asked if he has any plans to link Osten Ard, the world of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, to the Xand/Eion world in “Shadowmarch”, with a reader asking “Are there any Easter eggs/connections between the worlds or Osten Ard and Shadowmarch?”

eion-and-xand-shadowmarch

heart-of-what-was-lost-_-osten-ard-map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the worlds of Xand/Eion and Osten Ard have been considered separate, and there has been nothing to link them together besides some small similarities (strange properties of mirrors, for example), Williams, interestingly enough, did not rule this out:

Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day — connections between the two worlds. I think it’s possible that there may be a Michael-Moorcock-style multiverse underlying all my books, but I’ve never consciously tried to link them all together.

Maybe someday…

Curious readers asked quite a lot about the Norns, the embittered fair folk in the Osten Ard novels. The most clever term “Nornithology” has been coined by one reader. Of the Norns and their undying queen Utuk’ku, Williams writes:

I took the comparatively few things I knew about the Norns when I wrote the first books and have added/expanded quite a bit during the writing of these new ones. And you’ll see a LOT of the Norns and Nakkiga in the new books. I’m glad it seems to belong with the early stuff. I certainly mean it to feel as though it’s a seamless whole.

Reader Alaron asked:

Hi Tad. Huge fan here from Germany. I finished Heart of what was Lost a few days ago. It was great. I have a question about the timeline of Sithi/Norn history in Osten Ard. In Heart it was mentioned that the Norns came to Nakkiga more than 3000 years ago. Those Norns/ Sithi as Yaarike that were born before the Parting are considered to be old even by Keida’ya standard. I estimated that the Keida’ya must have arrived in Osten Ard at least 6000 years ago, as Utuk’ku is the last of the original Keida’ya that left the Garden. Is that timeline roughly correct?

And Williams’ response:

I’d have to check, and my notes are a mess right now. My tentative timeline actually has the Norns arriving, yes, at least 6000 years ago, but I suspect actually it’s a bit longer. (Along with some of my hardest-working friends and readers, I’m still trying to stabilize the timeline.)

But yes, at least 6000 years previous to the stories.

Williams was also asked about how many pages he has completed in Empire of Grass, the middle novel of the new series. Williams responded:

Not sure. About a hundred pages, I’d say (I’m writing in separate chapter-files at first, so I don’t have a running overall page count). The last couple of months, with the holidays and various kid-related things, have been grueling. I’m expecting to have a nice long stretch in the next few months to get the first draft substantially done.

Over 200 comments were made in the thread.

Rejoice – Osten Ard is truly back

osten ard s

 

o, The Heart of What Was Lost (or HOWWL – I just love this acronym) hit the shelves. Tad Williams’ long anticipated return to Osten Ard is finally out for everyone to read and cherish.

howwl

This review is written by me, ylvs, and represents my view of the book. Other contributors to the site might add their own later. I was a beta reader of this book, following its development from first draft to final manuscript and I am delighted to finally be able to share my thoughts.

This is a must read for fans of MS&T. It is amazing how perfectly Tad manages to match the flavour and texture of the original. It just takes a few pages and you’re right back in Osten Ard. For someone loving this story as much as I do it feels like coming home …

It is also a fine starting point for those unfamiliar with Osten Ard. You never read MS&T and shy away from the sheer mass of it? Try this and find out if the world is to your liking. Of course the story has less depth without the background provided in the old books, but it is self contained and makes sense on its own.

When I first heard that Tad was writing a novelette (which finally became a short novel – anybody surprised?) about the aftermath of the final battle of MS&T I was not that excited. The victorious humans chasing their beaten fairy foes back to where they came from – that sounded more like “a story for the guys” than one for me. I do not mind reading about war and battles and people suffering but a book which is prominently about that? Nah, not really. But alas, it is a sequel to my favourite story of all time so of course I did read it and yes I do love it.

Why? First because it features one of my favourite characters from the old books: Sludig already was the hero of many deeds and battles and here he keeps doing the right thing although there never seems to be a reward or promotion for him. This is actually a sort of running gag in the novel, mentioned more than once – poor old Sludig.

Secondly HOWWL finally throws a floodlight on the Norns and their culture. In MS&T they were the unknown faceless enemy (apart from their queen Utuk’ku), here they are real people with hearts and souls and their enmity to humans and the century old hate for them becomes much more comprehensible. On a meta level this can be interpreted as a parable for us all: you cannot continue to blindly hate or fear the foe/stranger/immigrant you became familiar with. Little by little I felt my allegiance shifting from the human army seeking revenge and attempting to “root out evil for once and all” (which can also be called genocide) to the Norns trying to survive as a people and save their home.

And third and lastly what really makes this shine is the aliveness and humanity of the characters. Amidst war’s horror and desolation there is also loyalty, friendship and hope – on both sides.

Tad Williams is a master of ambivalence and changing perspectives and if a fantasy novel manages to make one question one’s view on the world it does deserve a label usually denied to genre fiction: literature.

The Heart of What Was Lost is released; The Witchwood Crown is delayed (again!)

osten ard t

oday writers Tad Williams and Deborah Beale confirmed rumors that The Witchwood Crown has again been delayed, this time until June 2017. According to their latest newsletter:

Note from Deborah: We’re less than a week from publication, US and UK territories, for ‘The Heart of What Was Lost’.  I truly hope you enjoy it, and see what I see, which is that it’s one from the heart (as well as see all the things you see, of course).

We’ve just heard that publication of ‘The Witchwood Crown’ has been delayed two months to June.  We’re not entirely clear on all the details.  Partly it’s this: it’s a big book, the copy-editing was complex and took a gargantuan amount of time, and other aspects of the book’s production were affected too; and partly it’s because sales and marketing want more time to more effectively sell the book.  We don’t know anything more than that at the moment, but will tweet or facebook when we do.

This confirms earlier rumors that the date for The Witchwood Crown had been pushed back. (We at Treacherous Paths have been involved in the review process, and are glad for the extra time to gear up.)

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsThe good news is that The Heart of What Was Lost, another new Osten Ard novel, will still be released on January 4th, 2017 (a few days from now!), and is available for purchase at all major bookstores: Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Powell’s Books, Amazon, Alibris, The Book Depository, or your favorite independent bookstore.

The Heart of What Was Lost is set shortly after Williams’ last Osten Ard novel, 1993’s To Green Angel Tower. According to press releases (and without too many spoilers for the new books), this is the plot summary of the new novel:

 Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, retreat north to Nakkiga, an ancient citadel which holds a priceless artefact known as The Heart of What Was Lost. They are pursued by the army of Duke Isgrimnur who is determined to wipe out the Norns for all time.

Meanwhile, enjoy this rendition of Marya’s River Song (the song Marya sings as she, Binabik, Simon, and Qantaqa sail down the River Aelfwent in The Dragonbone Chair) by Osten Ard fan Sebastian Barwinek:

Here are the lyrics to the song:

“…Now those who sail the Big Pond
Will tell you of its mystery
They’ll brag of all those battles
And all that bloody history
But talk to any river-dog
Who sails upon the Gleniwent
He’ll say God made the oceans
But the River’s what he really meant
Oh, the Ocean is a question
But the River is an answer
With her rollicking and frolicking
As fine as any dancer
So let Hell take the shirkers
For this old boat won’t carry ’em
And if we lose some crew or two
We’ll drink to ’em at Meremund…
Now some men go away to sea
And they’re never seen again
But every night we river-dogs
Are found down at the inn
And some may say we drink a bit
And punch it up a mite
But if the river is your lady
That’s just how you rest at night
Oh, the Ocean is a question
But the River is an answer
With her rollicking and frolicking
As fine as any dancer
So let Hell take the shirkers
For this old boat won’t carry ’em
And if we lose some crew or two
We’ll drink to ’em at Meremund…
In Meremund! In Meremund!
We’ll drink to ’em in Meremund
If we don’t spy ’em floating by
It’ll save the penny to bury ’em… !”

 

 

Details revealed regarding Tad Williams’ “The Shadow of Things to Come”

osten ard t

his week, new details regarding The Shadow of Things to Come have emerged. Avid readers of the works of speculative fiction writer Tad Williams may remember that The Shadow of Things to Come is the working title of a forthcoming novel, written by Williams, and set in the Osten Ard universe (previous novels in the same universe included the now-classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series composed of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower, as well as the forthcoming novels The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, both set for publication in early 2017).

collab

Tad Williams with Treacherous Paths contributors RN, Ylvs, Cyan, Firs. Photo: Deborah Beale.

This week, several Treacherous Paths contributors from across the globe met with Tad Williams at his strange and wonderful home near Santa Cruz in Northern California, and the bestselling author of more than twenty science fiction and fantasy novels revealed some tantalizing new details regarding what will likely be his 23rd full-length novel, The Shadow of Things to Come.

Writes Treacherous Paths contributor Ylvs:

The Shadow Of Things To Come will feature the fall of Asu’a 500 years ago, told from the perspective of a Nabbanai envoy from the court of [Imperator Enfortis]. So we’ll see Asu’a before its fall, [and] probably witness Ineluki killing [the Erl King] Iyu’unigato…

The-Dragonbone-ChairSo Shadow will tell of the end of the Sithi empire in Osten Ard, as the Peaceful Ones are routed from the great city of Asu’a and the Erl King’s lands by the cold iron of the mortal Rimmersmen.

Many readers have long requested from Williams that he write one or more full-length novels set in this era, ever since The Dragonbone Chair was published in October 1988, with that volume containing several tantalizing glimpses (told only in flashback sequences) of the end of Iyu’unigato the Erl King’s reign in Osten Ard, as the ravaging northmen destroy the last and greatest of the nine Gardenborn cities:

During [Imperator] Enfortis’ reign the iron-wielders came. Nabban decided to withdraw from the north altogether. They fell back across the river Gleniwent so quickly that many of the northern frontier outposts found themselves entirely deserted, left behind to join the oncoming Rimmersmen or die.

Nabban withdrew its armies from the north, becoming for the first time purely a southern empire. It was just the beginning of the end, of course; as time passed, the Imperium folded itself up just like a blanket, smaller and smaller until today they are nothing more than a duchy—a peninsula with its few attendant islands.

Without the Imperial garrisons, […] the north was in chaos. The shipmen had captured the northernmost part of the Frostmarch, naming their new home Rimmersgard. Not content with that, the Rimmersmen were fanning out southward, sweeping all before them in a bloody advance.

They robbed and ruined other Men, making captives of many, but the Sithi they deemed evil creatures; with fire and cold iron they hunted the Fair Folk to their death everywhere…

Now the people of Hernystir—a proud, fierce people whom even the Nabbanai Imperators never really conquered—were not at all willing to bend their necks to Rimmersgard. They were horrified by what the northerners were doing to the Sithi. The Hernystiri had been of all Men the closest to Fair Folk—there is still visible today the mark of an ancient trade road between this castle and the Taig at Hernysadharc. The lord of Hernystir and the Erl-king made desperate compact, and for a while held the northern tide at bay.

But even combined, their resistance could not last forever. Fingil, king of the Rimmersmen, swept down across the Frostmarch over the borders of the Erl-king’s territory…

In the year 663 the two great hosts came to the plains of Ach Samrath, the Summerfield, north of the River Gleniwent. For five days of terrible, merciless carnage the Hernystiri and the Sithi held back the might of the Rimmersmen. On the sixth day, though, they were set on treacherously from their unprotected flank by an army of men from the Thrithings, who had long coveted the riches of Erkynland and the Sithi for their own. They made a fearful charge under cover of darkness. The defense was broken, the Hernystiri chariots smashed, the White Stag of the House of Hern trampled into the bloody dirt. It is said that ten thousand men of Hernystir died in the field that day. No one knows how many Sithi fell, but their losses were grievous, too. Those Hernystiri who survived fled back to the forest of their home. In Hernystir, Ach Samrath is today a name only for hatred and loss.

That was the day that Sithi mastery in Osten Ard came to an end, even though it took three long years of siege before Asu’a fell to the victorious northerners.

If not for strange, horrible magics worked by the Erl-king’s son, there would likely have been not a single Sithi to survive the fall of the Castle.

Many did, however, fleeing to the forests, and south to the waters and… and elsewhere…

About the Erl- king’s son… it is better to say nothing.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsWilliams’ announcement regarding The Shadow of Things to Come comes just five months before the release of The Heart of What Was Lost, the first full-length Osten Ard novel since the publication of To Green Angel Tower in Spring 1993. That volume hit the New York Times bestseller list, and it remains one of the longest novels ever written in the English language, at 1,083 pages in hardcover (1,600 pages in paperback).

Altogether, five new Osten Ard novels are expected during the next five or six years (Williams writes at a fairly fast pace, and has never experienced the extended publication delays of fantasy authors like George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, or Robert Jordan, publishing, on average, one book every 1.5 years).

We at Treacherous Paths will reveal more details regarding the new Osten Ard novels when we can.

Cover art for Tad Williams’ “The Heart of What was Lost” is revealed!

osten ard t

oday the cover art for Tad Williams’ new long-awaited novel set in the Osten Ard universe, The Heart of What Was Lost, has been revealed. The art features a witchwood sword with a white rose hilt. The foreground shows a snow-covered landscape, with ominous, dark mountains in the background. The novel is a sequel to the original, now-classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series; the new book will be published in January 2017, followed closely by four additional Osten Ard novels, titled The Witchwood Crown (release date: April 2017), Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_Williams

Williams describes the plot of The Heart of What Was Lost as: “[The novel] takes place in the half-year after the end of [To Green Angel Tower], and tells of the attempt by [Duke] Isgrimnur and a force largely made up of Rimmersgard soldiers to destroy the remaining Norns as they flee back to their homeland and their mountain. Of course, it gets a bit more complicated than that. It also answers some questions about what actually happened in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Green Angel Tower.”

The main characters  in the new novel will be the returning Rimmersmen characters Isgrimnur and Sludig; Isgrimnur is the Duke of Rimmergard in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, a point-of-view character. Sludig was his lieutenant, and a dynamic and important character in the original trilogy; it is he who accompanies Simon, Binabik and Qantaqa north from Naglimund Castle, skirting around the western and northern sides of Aldheorte Forest in their long, cold quest to retrieve the Great Sword Thorn from the “Rhymer’s Greate Tree”. He then travels south with Binabik and Qantaqa around the eastern edge of Aldheorte to the Stone of Farewell, where he becomes Prince Josua’s Man Friday, accompanying the prince south to Nabban and then back north to Hayholt Castle.

According to Williams’ announcement, The Heart of What Was Lost will continue almost directly from the ending of To Green Angel Tower, though it’s unclear what this exactly means for the story. The fall of Green Angel Tower happens one year before the ending of the classic series, as the Afterword, after Chapter 60, takes place one year after the fall of the tower.

The Heart of What Was Lost is now available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers worldwide.

Dragonbone Chair Reissued; Tad Williams Talks About Upcoming Novels

osten ard l

ots of interesting news this week, as DAW Books issues a newly-revised trade paperback edition of Tad Williams’ classic fantasy novel The Dragonbone Chair, book one of “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”, the same week that they release the book in audiobook format.

U.S. readers have been denied the audiobook for many years, but at long last the audiobook, read by Andrew Wincott, is available to an American audience. The audiobook runs 33 hours and 19 minutes and is available for purchase right now on Amazon.com. A sample file clip is available here.

The-Dragonbone-ChairThe new trade paperback features beautiful new cover art by legendary artist Michael Whelan, who also created the original cover art for The Dragonbone Chair 28 years ago, upon the book’s original 1988 publication.

The new edition runs 652 pages and measures 6 x 9 x 1.5 inches. The cover features a blurb by George R. R. Martin: “Inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy… it’s one of my favorite fantasy series.” The back cover features quotes praising The Dragonbone Chair written by popular fantasy authors Patrick Rothfuss and Christopher Paolini.

Inside, the the book is largely the same as in previous editions. However, there are a few new extras, one being a new introduction by Williams’ longtime editor, Betsy Wollheim, titled “How Tad Came to Write The Dragonbone Chair”, and a new acknowledgement page at the end of the book. (We at Treacherous Paths are extremely pleased to have been included in the acknowledgements).

The book is definitely worth picking up just for the new cover art, which features one of the Great Swords mentioned in The Dragonbone Chair. Sequel novels Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower will be re-released later this year, and in audiobook format for the US as well.

Also new this week are a few snippets from Tad Williams’ official message board, where the internationally bestselling author discussed three of his upcoming Osten Ard novels, set in the same world as The Dragonbone Chair. Williams discussed his on-going work writing/revising The Heart of What Was Lost, which will be published in January 2017. He wrote:

As I’ve been going through the copyedited manuscript of HoWWL [The Heart of What Was Lost] this afternoon, I’m realizing I’m going to have to write a Tolkien-ish “On Norns and the Sithi” piece as well as a complete index of characters, because otherwise it will just be too confusing for new readers.  My poor copyeditor is asking about what the differences are with Hikeda’ya/Zida’ya/Norns/Sithi/White Foxes/Keida’ya (a term that will be new to the new books, meaning the race before they split up) and various others, as well as if Rimmersmen are Northmen and if mortals only means them or others…and so on.

I always worried about the fine line between not boring the readers who already knew Osten Ard and those new to the place.

Long-time readers of Williams’ novels will remember that in Williams’ world of Osten Ard, the Gardenborn, the elder elf-like race who came to Osten Ard from the east on eight great ships, were divided into several tribes. These tribes included the proud Sithi (also called “peaceful ones”, Zida’ya, or Dawn Children), as well as the embittered Norns (“white foxes”, Hikeda’ya, or Cloud Children) and the pacifistic Dwarrows and Niskies (variously called “dvernings”, Tinukeda’ya, or Ocean Children).

The Keida’ya is a term not mentioned in the original series. Williams states that the term is new, and refers to (some of?) the Gardenborn before they split into factions.

Williams also wrote about the progress of the novels:

I finished the final draft of HoWWL a while back, but this is the copyedited manuscript, which has comments on it from the copy editor (and others — everybody likes to get in on the Exciting Tad Action).  Then I’ll have one more pass at the proofs stage, which is mostly about looking for mistakes in typesetting, but is also my last chance to kill an infelicitous phrase, or at least bury it in disguising prose.

On a few hundred pages at most it’s not such a big deal, but I’ll be really sick of Osten Ard by the time I’ve been through all the different versions of TWC [The Witchwood Crown].  I’ll also be writing EoG [Empire of Grass] at the same time, so I’ll be doubly or even trebly sick.

Thank God I’m used to this kind of getting-sick-of-my-own-book.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is scheduled for publication in April of 2017, with sequel novels Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children following sometime thereafter.