I’d like to introduce you to the erudite and dapper Mr Michael Pryor – if you don’t already know him and his works. I’ve been enjoying his latest series The Extraordinaires this year. It was my pleasure to meet Michael at Melbourne’s recent Continuum convention where I found him to be a true gentleman and a very interesting man to listen to.
So. I’ve fired five questions and a statement at Michael. What follows are his responses…
With over 30 novels to your name, what would be the secret(s) to your longevity as an author?
MP: Longevity? I think it’s a matter of working steadily (every day, if possible), being alert for new ideas (I think everyone has ideas – I just grab them and write a story using them) and always aiming to write better and better.
Of your novels, what is your favourite and why?
MP: My usual response here is, ‘My latest – because it’s the freshest in my mind.’ That would make it The Subterranean Stratagem, which expands on and deepens the world of The Extinction Gambit, the first book of The Extraordinaires series. Having said that, I do have a deep and abiding penchant for Blaze of Glory, the first book of The Laws of Magic, because in it I was trying to do a number of things I’d never tried before (comedy/fantasy, Steampunk and a romance) and by the end of it I think I managed to do it.
Who would be YOUR current favourite 3 or 4 authors?
MP: Tim Powers. A supreme storyteller whose researching is first class and whose nose for the oddities of history is top class. Neale Stephenson. Erudite, esoteric and funny. Lois McMaster Bujold. She can do character like few others – deft, subtle and with the appearance of effortlessness. Dan Simmons. I’ll read anything he writes. Even his lesser works are great. Oh, and can I slip in Terry Pratchett? Because Terry Pratchett?
Where did the inspiration for The Extraordinaires come from?
MP: I’ve always been fascinated by magic, by sleight of hand. As a kid I read a lot about the history of magic and I loved the world of the Victorian/Edwardian stage with all the big names up in lights. The showmanship of Thurston, Hermann and Maseklyne was enchanting. The Edwardian era appealed to me as a rich and textured time, the beginning of the modern world in its advances in science and technology, where society was moving out of the Victorian strictures, as evidenced by the beginnings of the Suffragist movement and the rise of labour associations. I love the chance to play against the old-fashioned manners and morals, where courtesy and politeness were important. With the addition of a little magic and mystery, it was the perfect world for my particular brand of Fantasy. Thus, The Extraordinaires.
The Extraordinaires begins in London in 1908. This is, in some ways, the height of the Edwardian period. London hosts both the Olympic Games and the great Franco-British Exhibition and is still the centre of a vast and prosperous empire. Naturally, this is an irresistible backdrop to imagine a world that lies underneath such a well-organised and forthright society, a shadowy world that contains both the malign and the magnificent, a world that can be found behind unexpected doorways, beneath the streets and in those parts of the city that are unfrequented by upright citizens. This Demimonde – the half-world – intersects with the criminal underworld and the world of the theatre, where our young hero, Kingsley Ward, is hoping to make a success. The problem is, though, that he was raised by wolves and this upbringing unfortunately surfaces in times of stress. Howling and biting people during your stage debut is never a good way to start a theatrical career …
Advice to up-and-coming writers?
MP: I echo Stephen King. Read a lot and write a lot. Also – finish something! So many people have the beginnings of a dozen stories lying about. Finish one, and finish it properly, so it’s as good as it can be. Then start the next one and finish it, too.
Statement: Australian speculative fiction is enjoying its healthiest season yet.
MP: We certainly have many, many people writing it, that’s for sure. Gone are the days when I could count on the fingers of one hand those who were writing in this field. Now, if only it could get the recognition and respect it deserves from outside genre circles.
Michael’s work can be found in all good bookstores, with samples available on his website: http://www.michaelpryor.com.au/