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Throwback Thursdays: Before the Golden Age

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

In Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age, Celia, the daughter of superheroes tries to live a normal life, lacking the power of her parents. It’s not easy. Now, in January’s Dreams of the Golden Age, Celia’s daughter is developing her own superpowers, and trying to hide them from her parents… Back in May of 2011, Carrie Vaughn wrote a piece for the Tor/Forge Newsletter about the inspiration for her series: her love of superheroes. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnBy Carrie Vaughn

A lot of people have been asking me about comic books. After the Golden Age is so obviously inspired by the classic comic-book superheroes, surely I must have a lifelong love for them. But I have a terrible confession: I didn’t really read comic books when I was growing up, and didn’t start until college, when I encountered Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and all those seminal graphic novels that changed everything. Instead, I watched a lot of TV, and that’s how I fell in love with superheroes.

I grew up in a golden age of TV superheroes: Wonder Woman, the Incredible Hulk, the Bionic Woman, and Six Million Dollar Man, not to mention those Spider-Man shorts on The Electric Company, the Super Friends cartoon, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that Bobby/Iceman was supposed to be part of the X-Men. I thought, he doesn’t have time for that, he’s off saving the world with Spider-Man and Firestar!), and a bunch of others I’ve probably forgotten. I even adored The Greatest American Hero, which was on some level a spoof—but a spoof that remained true to the spirit of superheroism. Ralph really did have powers, and he really did help people, however goofy he was while doing it.

I had Wonder Woman and Supergirl Underoos. My second time trick-or-treating on Halloween, I dressed up as Wonder Woman. I spent a lot of time on the playground in preschool pretending to be Wonder Woman, including getting into a knock-down argument with the other kids about what she would really look like flying in her invisible jet. (I insisted on sticking my arms out and running around making airplane noises. I was informed that this was incorrect, and that she would merely scoot through the air in a seated position. Well, sure, I said. But my way is more fun.) I would spin around and pretend that my costume changed, just like Lynda Carter’s. Spin Wonder Woman! Spin Scuba Wonder Woman! Spin Motorcycle Wonder Woman! It was awesome. And dizzy.

I tried reading comic books—my brother’s, not mine. Girls were not supposed to read comic books, so nobody gave me any. Fortunately, Rob shared his. I gotta tell you, early 1980’s runs of Superman and X-Men and such were kind of…boring. Not nearly as interesting as what I was watching on TV. I later found out from comic-guru friends that it wasn’t just me—this was not the best time to be reading comic books.  It was the lull before Alan Moore and Frank Miller knocked the stuffings out of the genre.

These days, I have boxes of my own comic books. It’s even okay for girls to read them now, which is awesome. I came to comics as an adult, for the most part. But my true love has always been for the superheroes rather than the medium they first appeared in. Which is why, I think, I wrote a novel about them instead of a comic book. I didn’t need the pictures. I wanted the hows and whys and thoughts and meaning. The “what if?” questions that made me daydream as a kid. That still make me daydream.

‘Cause you know, I still occasionally dress up as Wonder Woman.

This article is originally from the May 2011 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

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Throwback Thursday: Q&A with Karen Traviss

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

Wars may end, but the consequences continue long after the last shot is fired. That’s one of the themes at the core of Halo: Mortal Dictata, by Karen Traviss, which was just published in January. To celebrate the release of the newest Kilo-Five novel, we’re looking back to the publication of Halo: Glasslands in November of 2011, and an interview with the author. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

Halo: Glasslands by Karen TravissHalo: Glasslands is the first novel in an all-new HALO® trilogy by #1 New York Times bestselling author and game writer Karen Traviss. Traviss, critically acclaimed for her original series “The Wess’har Wars” as well as novels written in the Star Wars® and Gears of War® universes, managed to find time in the midst of her Gears of War 3 insanity (she serves as lead writer on the game) to sit down with her publicist at Tor Books and talk HALO.

Justin Golenbock:  How did you first become involved with the HALO franchise?

Karen Traviss: I was asked if I wanted to write a novella for HALO: Evolutions. I’m endlessly curious and always up for anything new if it sounds cool so I was interested. I was working on Gears at the time (as I still am) so I wanted to be sure they were cool with it, and they thought it was a great idea. If it’s military, if it’s a game, if it’s an IP I know nothing about (essential—I can’t work on things that I might have a pre-existing opinion on) and it has the moral grey areas I work best in, then I’ll probably give it a go if I have the time.

JG: Glasslands has been highly-anticipated by HALO fans as the first book or game in the franchise to delve deep into the chaos of the post-HALO 3 universe. Can you reveal anything about the plot for eager gamers and readers?

KT: As a former defence correspondent and a military writer,  I approach HALO as a real situation. War is bad enough, but when a relatively straightforward war—two sides, clear stakes—ends, then fragmentation usually takes place. Hostility doesn’t end cleanly. Factions emerge. You’re not sure where the threat is coming from, and it keeps changing. In HALO, it’s like the end of the Cold War. So who operates best in this uncertain landscape, where conventional force – weapons and ships – have no targets or conventional wars to fight? Intelligence. Enter ONI, the Office of Naval Intelligence. If your enemy is off balance and licking his wounds, you grab that chance to knock him down so hard he never gets up again. You use black ops techniques using smart, adaptable people who can operate off the grid and handle themselves in the most dangerous environments in deniable operations. ONI assembles a team of ODSTs, a Spartan II, a civilian Sangheili expert, and an AI spy. It ought to be a simple case of doing the dirty on the bad guys by sneaky means, but things get very complicated when the secret roots of the Spartan programme is blown wide open….

ONI also has its hands full with another problem—Halsey has been a very bad girl and strolled off with a few Spartans mid-battle. While they’re hunting for her, she’s stranded in a Dyson sphere with “her” Spartans, some Spartan IIIs she views as third rate,  and Chief Mendez. It’s a sealed world. They could be the last sentient life in the galaxy. They don’t know if the Dyson sphere will turn out to be a haven or a hell, or indeed if it’s already inhabited. They’re cooped up with one another for what might be forever and now they have to face the previously unspoken tension, guilt, and blame about a shocking era in Earth’s history – the terrible abuse of kidnapped children to create Spartans. It’s very uncomfortable and now it’s about to get personal and really painful. Cue mayhem!

JG: What was it like integrating characters of your own creation into the lives and stories of those who have already lived on the page (and in the games)?

KT: First and foremost, I’m still a news journalist at heart. I want to start from scratch, ask my questions, and get answers. I want to be objective, tell the truth, and let the interviewees speak for themselves, without twisting their words or injecting my own opinions—to see the world through their eyes.

So I decided which existing characters I wanted to follow, and looked again at the raw data—the absolute neutral basic  facts, i.e. what they did and when they did it. Then I rebuilt the characters using psychological profiling techniques.  The result is that you’ll see characters you think you know portrayed differently, perhaps too differently for some fans’ tastes, but I’ve done what i always do—build or rebuild fully realised characters who behave like real people, place them in the environment, and then follow where they lead, seeing the situation and the events through their eyes. They won’t always see the event the same way and there will be contradictions—the reader has to do some work and make their mind up about who they believe. No easy answers, no heroes or villains—just people, even if those people are aliens. Make up your own mind.

I think fans will find a very different Mendez to the one they’ve seen before. This is a CPO, and if you’re navy (as I am!)  then you know the power of the Chief. And this guy is hardcore. He trains SBS/ SEALS, effectively. He certainly won’t wilt in the face of Catherine Halsey, believe me. He doesn’t give a damn about her Ph.Ds and he’s as stained by the Spartan programme as she is. Then there’s Halsey herself. Boy, as a journalist, I’d love to have interviewed a real individual like her. I have to see the world as she sees it, to be her for the duration of her point of view scenes, and getting into her head means that the logic and justification that makes sense to her must also make sense to me, however much I feel repelled by it when I step outside her head. Not even a serial killer sees himself (or herself – let’s not be sexist) as evil. Their world makes perfect sense to them. I don’t inject my opinions or steer readers. The joy of writing for me is to explore other minds totally unlike my own. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s unsettling and even unpleasant, but it’s always new. Maybe Halsey is right and she’s a patriot, maybe she’s a monster like Dr. Mengele. It’s your call.

And then there’s Margaret Parangosky. She’s solid gold for a writer like me. I couldn’t believe nobody had developed her before. A 92-year-old serving admiral who’s also the chief spook? Damn, she’s got to be one tough old bird. She and Halsey, alpha female to alpha female – one of the most rewarding scenes I’ve ever “reported.”

Oh, and Lucy. Lucy the Spartan III. I’m big on dialogue, but how do I tackle a character who can’t speak? Read the book and find out…

JG:  Let’s talk 2012.  What can your fans look forward to after the publication of Halo: Glasslands and the great, big, massively-anticipated release of Gears of War 3?

KT: The next year is going to be spent catching up with my novel schedule—I’ve been tied up with Gears 3 for a couple of years and I have to write more books now! I’m going to be getting on with my new creator-owned series, Privateers (Simon & Schuster), which isn’t the usual speculative fiction you’ve seen from me. It’s set on Earth a few years from now, in an even more uncertain world than we face today, and it’s about private military contractors, sometimes unkindly called mercenaries. But it’s still full of the mucky politics, authentic military action, and vivid characters you’ve come to expect from me. Some of my friends work for PMCs and I thought it was time a few fictional stereotypes were dispelled. So the first book is out next year, title to be announced. There’ll be another Gears of War book out next year, too—The Slab—and I’m continuing the Gears comic series, as well as the next HALO novel, obviously. So busy, busy, busy. Very busy.

JG: Thank you for your time Karen, and good luck with both upcoming releases!! Halo: Glasslands will be available online and in bookstores nationwide on October 25, 2011. For more information on Karen Traviss and her books and other projects visit www.karentraviss.com.

This article is originally from the November 2011 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

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