Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide.
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Best of luck with Nightshifted and its sequels. He reviewed fiction for Strange Horizons for six years, and served on the Management Committee of the Speculative Literature Foundation for five. Colin Harvey and Alice. Click to enlarge. Your most recent novel, Damage Time , came out late last year, but when did you get the idea for it? Did you start work on it right away, or did you set the idea aside for a while?
I started writing what would eventually become Damage Time shortly after Worldcon Did you have to overcome any major obstacle s while working on Damage Time? Unless you count that I had seven and a half months in which to deliver something to the publisher — Angry Robot needed books in a hurry at the time, as they were setting up!
I knew I could deliver something, but I really, really wanted to deliver something special, not any old rubbish … so the biggest challenge was to make it as good as I could, in so little time. And the only way to do that was to work really, really hard! What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on Damage Time?
I think that I was surprised at the refreshingly tolerant attitude of many Muslims toward trans people — in some instances South East Asians would actually talk of three genders. I fully expected fire and brimstone toward them, but in fact the attitude of many Muslims toward people who are different puts that of some so-called Christians to shame.
For now, what are you working on these days? I think what I took from writing Damage Time is that I can write to a tight deadline — for any novelist suddenly faced with having to write a book to a schedule, the first time is a daunting challenge. In this world, citizens can record their memories and post them on the net, and [Detective Pete] Shah is an expert at reading and decoding these posted memories as an aid to solving crimes — but someone wants Shah and his skill out of the way.
The strength of the novel lies not only in the depiction of a detailed future of hardship and privation, but in the expert characterisation of Shah: a lone figure whose origins leave him open to prejudice within the police department, and whose problematic relationship with an intersexual courtesan reveals his own deep-seated prejudices. Damage Time cover art. Winds of Khalakovo cover art. What was the biggest surprise you got out of working on The Winds of Khalakovo?
Is there anything in particular you hope your readers get out of it? I suppose the biggest surprise is just how much of our world made it into the book. I was getting into politics just when I was getting into the thick of this book, and some of it crept in. The struggles in the Middle East certainly show up.
And that was a surprise in a way. But on the other hand, how can it not? I tried to be very careful not to pass judgment in the book, however.
They are their own. They are not of our world, so I wanted them to be insular from it. I let them be and allowed them to play out as the world and politics and characters dictated. So this was probably the biggest surprise: the exploration of this saying nothing while saying things. It was a fun thought experiment to consider it more fully as I was writing and also while editing, just what the book was about and whether or not I had let my views come too front-and-center.
As for what I hope readers take from the novel, I would say this: that many of our conflicts — be they personal or political — come from a simple lack of understanding and an allowance of credibility to those who speak the loudest. Perhaps if we do, we might find that unscalable differences are not so difficult to climb after all.
The story focuses on a young girl who is summoned from the dust, a global consciousness that was created as the last great age of technology fell under a nanite plague. The story will take place on a water-poor world, and mostly in salt flats, in particular. The ash — the force of evil — has trouble closing in on the pockets of the world that are covered in salt. But as the story opens, the ash is slowly exerting itself, turning back the tide against the small pockets of humanity, creating a pressure cooker for those that have somehow managed to remain alive through the global catastrophe.
Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade.
When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo ….
Map of the region of Khalakovo. In addition to being an L. Bradley Beaulieu.
The story of how you got the idea for the book from looking at paintings in the art gallery is fantastic, but how long was it between first conceiving The Winds of Khalakovo and actually sitting down to write it? When my wife and I went to the National Gallery in Edinburgh and saw all those great paintings, I decided that my next project which eventually became The Winds of Khalakovo would include the artwork I bought in postcard form.
However, at that time I was working on another novel. I was finishing up a draft and knew that it would need at least one more to make it work.
I was also working heavily on short fiction at the time. But that was great, actually. I was learning quite a lot about writing, which helped me to take on such a large project. Plus, the delay afforded my hindbrain to work on the story without the pressure of actually writing it. The software is called Fractal Terrains , and it allows you to specify some basic parameters about a world — things like diameter, water cover, mountain height and ocean depth, the number of moons — and the software will then render a world for you. I played with the software a lot, altering the parameters and retrying until I had something I liked.