Longsword by David Pilling

Friday, 8 March 2013

Welcome one and all – who may be reading this - to The Spectrum of Speculative Fiction Blog Hop! 

First, the rules of the competition. I have two FREE ebook copies of our epic fantasy novel, “The Best Weapon”, on offer to give away to two lucky readers. You can enter to win by placing a comment after this post. I will draw the winners after March 12th, and promptly dispatch two shiny digital copies of the book via email - as Kindle, Mobi, PDF, or whatever digital format the winners prefer.

At the foot of this post is a link - click on it to access the list of other contributors to this blog hop. Lots of fab blogs and websites to browse, and more prizes to be won.

First, though, I would like to bend your ears and eyes a little about my thoughts on writing speculative as opposed to historical fiction. I write in both genres, more often in the latter. I must be slightly masochistic, because historical fiction places much more responsibility on the writer. An author of historical fiction has a duty to be as accurate as possible, and to make sure he or she has done as much research as possible before setting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard).  Not everyone shares this opinion, and there is an argument that plot is more important than precise historical accuracy. It is always tempting to bend the facts a little, especially if particularly awkward ones threaten to get in the way of the narrative. 

Hard cheese. Simply making things up isn’t good enough, unless the writer is doing it to fill gaps in our knowledge: for instance, in my novel “Folville’s Law” I had King Edward II and his favourite, Hugh Despenser, captured by members of the notorious Folville gang. We don’t know the identities of the men that finally ran the hapless monarch and his favourite to earth, so I thought it was reasonable to say that the Folvilles were involved. There is also a nasty recent tendency in some recent fiction for certain medieval queens to be portrayed as adulteresses, in order to suit alternative theories on the legitimacy of various kings. As Father Ted might have said, down with this sort of thing!

Speculative fiction, on the other hand, can be much more fun. One is free to invent new worlds, and to manipulate events as one chooses. This requires much more exercise of the imagination than a historical setting, where the world is already laid out on a plate for the author to feast on. The creation of The World Apparent, the fantasy-world setting in The Best Weapon, was a hugely enjoyable process stimulated by a great many beer-drinking marathons with my good friend and co-writer, Martin Bolton.

Our world map gradually took shape, first traced by my wavering forefinger in a puddle of stale beer, and then scribbled on a blank leaf inside an exercise book pilfered from the office stationery cupboard. I’m no artist, and at first The World Apparent resembled something one might see deposited on a pavement outside a kebab house after midnight. Fortunately, Martin took over the artistic duties, and being a talented draughtsman he came up with the rather splendid map below:

We started work on the book in the dying days of winter 2009. It was a brisk winter, that one, and the timber wolves never left off scratching at the door of my dingy London flat. The onset of spring found me slumped in an armchair with the curtains drawn, sucking forlornly at an empty bottle of Tesco's finest blended gutrot and trying to type the last few chapters with shuddering, nicotine-stained fingers.. I hadn't eaten a proper meal since the previous October and refused to see anyone except Martin, who brought me ale and cuddles and cheap biscuits. At last our combined efforts paid off, and THE BEST WEAPON was spawned:

"The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy...

Two young men, born on opposite ends of the world, are inexorably drawn together by forces outside their control or understanding. Created and manipulated by demonic forces, they must take charge of their own destiny and seek to prevent the very disaster they are supposed to bring about. As their world slides into war and chaos, they are faced with the ultimate question: can men do without Gods?"

To further whet your appetite, here is the link to the book on Musa's website:

The Best Weapon

The book was swiftly followed by a host of mini-sequels, the "Sorrow" series, Parts 1-6 of which have been released by Musa. The World Apparent has proved a fertile hunting ground, and there is much more to come...

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  1. LOL on the beer drinking marathons and writing of course. There's nothing quite like coming up with your own world.

  2. I certainly agree with you that historical fiction has a duty to be completely accurate, not only in the events but the social organisation, dress, and language. The pitfalls are legion and it takes a good writer to carry it off convincingly.

  3. I remember writing the final couple of chapters of that book together. The first night we drank about 16 powerful Czech beers. The second night, following a day of quiet weeping, we drank a massive jar of coffee and about 8 wagon wheels.

  4. Good points on historical fiction. It really annoys me when "historical" films and TV shows, in particular, are just populated by modern people in fancy dress. I grew up reading Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Renault, and I have high expectations on historical accuracy.

  5. Very much enjoyed reading the post! As a reader of both historical fiction and speculative fiction (in all its aspects), and an unpubbed writer of the latter-I agree: truly "historical" fiction ought to be just that--factually accurate, bringing an era or event to life in a real and vivid manner. Otherwise, write "alternative" history:).