I was lucky enough to get HB Kurtzwilde to answer some questions for me. I’m a huge fan of his books, and really just wanted to jump up and down and ask him EVERYTHING that could conceivably happen all while talking about how much I loved stuff. I restrained myself and tried to ask competent questions. The books discussed here, which I highly recommend, are available at Loose Id, Amazon, and other retailers. ~ Faye
Question 1: After reading The Secret Art of Failure trilogy I’ve found myself very fascinated with the character of Sarafel. I keep wanting to imagine she’s done something significant to either the Telsma or the Fellowship. Am I simply missing the obvious that her biggest impact on Kourt and the other Fighting Lizards has been as an abusive and drug addicted foster parent and colleague?
Answer: Oh dear. Sarafel? I suppose she is hypnotic in the way cobras are.
Nonetheless, your instincts are correct. She did do something significant to the Fellowship and it was much worse than what she put her students through. This is all ancient history, mere background to the plot, so I don’t think it could be considered a spoiler.
Sarafel would have been venerated as a grandmaster if only she’d had the good taste to die at some point. She was young when the renegade Servitors hatched their plan to give the Fellowship’s knowledge away to anyone who wanted it. This notion ignored the tradition that without training and discipline and vows, a Servitor’s secrets could make a good person into a monster.
Sarafel stood against the renegades and led the most successful campaigns in the Renegade Uprising. Instead of trying to lead the renegade Servitors back to The Way, she just killed them using her creation, the Hunt discipline. This was not ideal, but it certainly made a difference.
In the long term, the renegade’s ideas never died. Sarafel never stopped killing, even when the renegade threat was whittled down to individuals who might have been handled more gently. In this way she kept the war alive for nearly two thousand years, though it became a private war waged by College of Sarafel alone. The only thing that kept the Fellowship from entering a season of peace was one survivor of the war who refused to stop fighting.
The Fellowship was not prepared to spend multiple centuries under the traditions of war. But neither could they claim to be at peace. And so the Time of Waiting began until something new and unknown to the Fellowship would come along and set things right. Sarafel used Oracle reckonings to determine that this event would take place, and so the Fellowship waited.
Sarafel envisioned a powerful Servitor who would rise up to destroy Servitors who were causing the inevitable declines that were a consequence of abandoning knowledge and traditions. What she got was her apprentice and protegee Kourt Crowe, who after some personal troubles, realized that the real problem was his own lineage. By persisting in emergency measures long after the emergency had passed, small changes had become massive failures. He had only to want better for the next generation than what he had been given by his master in order to find his path to peace.
Sarafel’s personal decline into abuse of drugs and other people only made this an easier choice for Kourt. Where to the rest of the Fellowship she is a hero, he’s the guy she used to harm. Sarafel expects the Fellowship to go backward, returning to the ways of her youth. Kourt wants the Fellowship to go forward, for the good of the initiates. Their fight comes down to a philosophical difference: does the Fellowship exist for a purpose, or is it just there?
Question 2: Your novel Phoberia had a fascinating twist on the usual myths of vampires, zombies, and witch doctors. What was your inspiration for turning classic tales into cybernetic villains and victims?
Thank you! This wasn’t so much an inspiration as a joke I was making to myself. There are technological viruses and trolls and clones in our world. It amused me to continue that naming convention, making a convenient shorthand term for a complex technical subject. For ease of reading it was far simpler to make a parallel in the name instead of trying to entertain with all the nuts and bolts of the situation.
My sense of humor, happily, made a fun foundation to provide support for the adventure. It worked far better than it should have. By sticking to ‘what it does’ rather than burrowing into ‘how it works’ there was room left over to get into the nitty gritty of what Dix and Athen were coping with to Save the World.
Question 3: Do you have any plans to write a sequel to Phoberia? Is it the same Universe at the same time as your Secret Art books? Both Universes have Servitors and are nominally ruled by the People’s Commonwealth Union.
First answer: Yes, I do plan to write a sequel. It is from Athen’s point of view, and therefore much lighter in tone and topic. There are ghouls and possibly a goblin, as well as miles of white sand beaches under blue and sunny skies.
Second answer: Yes, they’re all in the same universe, and are contemporary one to the other. The characters are only socially partitioned, with the Phoberians having little interest in philosophy and the Fellowship barely aware of what’s taking place in the underbelly of the techno world. I like to imagine that the People’s Commonwealth Union has not gone so badly to hell that Phoberia and the Fellowship would need to join forces. Given the PCU’s track record, this might be hoping for too much.
I also imagine that if the Sourcerers met up with the ghosts and witch doctors they would need a lot of beer and the arguing would never end.
Question 4: In both Phoberia and The Secret Art of Failure trilogy you’ve got May/December relationships that are specifically of a student/teacher nature. In The Secret Art of Mercy: Wasted Youth you’ve set that up again with the relationship of Master D’arcy Qyn and his apprentice Sebastian. What about this dynamic keeps drawing you back to it?
Answer: It is the classical representation of a traditional relationship that has fallen quite out of fashion since some time ago. Oscar Wilde did time for it, as did less famous and more tragic individuals. I’m lucky to live in an age where I can put nanotechnology in or have some really cool guns while taking my turn. Still, it is comforting as a storyteller to have some durable toys to play with. Since I’m doing so many strange things under the banner of Romance to begin with, I suppose it’s expected that I should keep at least one aspect properly on form.
I blush to confess I also stole this from Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and a host of other legendary books. Of course it is shameless and greedy to want all the scifi stuff and the best love stories too. But the toys were just sitting there out in the open, so I took them while nobody was looking.
Question 5: Sebastian is a descendant of Kourt’s. Will Kourt have an opinion on Sebastian and D’arcy entering into a relationship together given the past history Kourt and D’arcy share? Will we see a lot of Kourt in D’arcy’s books?
Answer: Yes of course Kourt has an opinion! I’ll even spoil it for you right here. He’s fully supportive, knowing they will be good to and for each other. But the whole thing is a bit weird even for him, and so he has to handle his disquiet with as much grace as he can muster.
And also yes, Kourt and Vanni are involved with and close to their lineage. Their covenants to the initiates-now-apprentices still remain. They both play second fiddle to the training masters, but they are present and attentive as leaders among the fighting lizards. And of course their habit of causing trouble in spectacular fashion continues.
Question 6: Will Artur Bale ever get his own books?
Answer: I wouldn’t rule it out. It would be terribly unfair after all he’s been through if he became the Forever Alone of the fighting lizards. But for now he is merrily reaping the rewards of being single and handsome and highly skilled in the Chastity art. He seems content to train his apprentice and work toward creating a more stable, balanced Fellowship.