S. M. Stirling
|S. M. Stirling|
September 30, 1953 |
|Genres||Science fiction, fantasy, alternate history|
Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.
Stirling's novels are generally conflict-driven and often describe military situations and militaristic cultures. In addition to his books' military, adventure and exploration focus, he often describes societies with cultural values significantly different from modern western views. One of his recurring topics is the influence of the culture on an individual's outlook and values, with a particular emphasis on the idea that most people and societies consider themselves (mostly) moral.
Stirling also has a fascination with technological development, and frequently turns to explorations of this within the context of many of his novels. The Draka for instance, choose and face a different imperative in their conquest of Africa, and turn earlier to breech-loading firearms and steam power than the rest of the Western World. The stranded islanders of the Nantucket Series must try to rebuild their technological base once the island is stranded in 1250 BC, while the dazed survivors of the 'Change' now face a world where electricity, firearms, and internal combustion no longer work.
Stirling also tends to write strong female characters who have prominent roles within the story.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 2.1 The Lords of Creation
- 2.2 The Change series
- 2.3 Shadowspawn series
- 2.4 Fifth Millennium series
- 2.5 Draka series
- 2.6 General series
- 2.7 Falkenberg's Legion series
- 2.8 Other novels
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Early life and education
Stirling was born on September 30, 1953, in Metz, France—then the site of a Royal Canadian Air Force base—to an English mother and Canadian father. He has lived in several countries and currently resides in the United States in New Mexico with his wife Jan.
The Lords of Creation
What if Mars and Venus really were habitable and inhabited, as in many SF stories from the early sixties and before? In this alternate history series Mars and Venus were terraformed a long time ago and "seeded" with Earth life, including several different human species. On Earth everything is the same until the start of space exploration, but then the Cold War dampens down into a real, collaborative space race which overtakes the military budgets of both superpowers.
The vast investment in interplanetary exploration has changed this alternate history deeply, in ways mentioned in passing, including the close alliance of the United States, Great Britain and the Dominions; but there are other changes: In the Suez Crisis, Britain and France receive American support and succeed, and there is no Sino-Soviet split in 1959. The Soviet Union does not collapse, and there are two competing space efforts: the Sino-Soviet alliance and the US-Commonwealth alliance. The European Union is led by France, since the United Kingdom did not join it, but their space effort is considerably behind the others. The Sky People is set on Venus, while its sequel In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is set on Mars.
- The Sky People (2006)
- In the Courts of the Crimson Kings (2008)
- "Sword of Zar-Tu-Kan", a short story prequel to In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, published in the 2013 anthology Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
The Change series
The Change is the overall name of the stories of the Nantucket series and the Emberverse series.
In Island in the Sea of Time the island of Nantucket is transported by an unknown phenomenon (called "The Event" in the series) back in time into the Bronze Age circa 1250s BC (corresponding to the late Heroic Age of Greek mythology). The trilogy describes the conflict between the different factions of the island's population—some trying to dominate the world for their own benefit, others trying to better it, while most just want to survive, work hard, and claw their way back to something approaching their pre-Event way of life.
The series consists of three books:
Additionally, the short story "Riding Shotgun to Armageddon" (1998) and the novelette "Blood Wolf" (2004) are also set in this series.
The Emberverse series
Dies the Fire (2004) shows the effects on the planet—a world Nantucket left—of something called "The Change". Electricity, guns, explosives, internal combustion engines, and steam power no longer work. The series mostly deals with the Willamette Valley area of Oregon, with some description of the United Kingdom. After describing how people in those places survive the loss of 600 years of technological progress, the primary focus of this series turns to a conflict between a Portland-based neo-feudal dictatorship created by a sociopathic history professor, and the free communities of the Willamette Valley, most notably the Wiccan Clan Mackenzie and a group led by a former Marine, the Bearkillers.
A second series, set 22 years after the Change, and now concluded, focuses primarily on the conflict between the Willamette communities, now united, and the evil Church United and Triumphant (the CUT):
- The Sunrise Lands (2007)
- The Scourge of God (2008)
- The Sword of the Lady (2009)
- The High King of Montival (2010)
- The Tears of the Sun (2011)
- Lord of Mountains (2012)
- The Given Sacrifice (2013)
A third series, set a generation later chronicles the adventures of Órlaith Mackenzie, the daughter of the High King and an attack from a reborn Empire of Japan in the Californian colonies of Montival. The series is intended as a trilogy.
The conclusion of The Sword and the Lady offers a sort of explanation for the Change, which includes what appear to be Swindapa and Marian Alston, major characters from the Nantucket trilogy.
Additionally, the short stories "A Murder in Eddsford" (2008) and "Something for Yew" (2007) are also set in this universe, taking place in post-change Britain.
The Urban Fantasy series features "Shadowspawn", an ancient subspecies of Homo sapiens who formed the basis of legends about vampires and werewolves and have been secretly controlling the world for most of the 20th century.
- A Taint in the Blood (Roc, 2010; ISBN 978-0-451-46341-8)
- The Council of Shadows (Roc, 2011; ISBN 978-0-451-46393-7)
- Shadows of Falling Night (Roc, 2013; ISBN 978-0-451-46451-4)
Fifth Millennium series
These are a collection of post-holocaust fantasy novels, in which civilization was destroyed (probably by a nuclear war) in something near our present time and new civilizations have grown to take their place. The novels are set in about the year AD 5000. There are elements of magic or psionics present, but they are fairly low powered, while technology is approximately at the level of the historical Middle Ages. Two additional novels in this series (Lion's Heart and Lion's Soul both by Karen Wehrstein) overlap these novels but were not authored or co-authored by Stirling. Shadow's Daughter by Shirley Meier is also part of the series. Snowbrother is also Stirling's first published novel. Saber and Shadow is a revised edition of The Sharpest Edge with a few new pages of story at the beginning and tweaks to the rest of the story to assure continuity with that new beginning. The end of the story remains the same. It also adds an Appendix with explanation of the cultures and languages in the 5th Millennium, and a description of how the authors got together to write this series.
- Snowbrother (1985, ISBN 0-671-72119-4)
- The Sharpest Edge (1986, ISBN 0-451-14171-7) (with Shirley Meier) (Later re-written and expanded as Saber and Shadow)
- The Cage (1989, ISBN 0-671-72047-3) (with Shirley Meier)
- Shadow's Son (1991, ISBN 0-671-72091-0) (with Shirley Meier and Karen Wehrstein)
- Saber and Shadow (1992, ISBN 0-671-72143-7) (with Shirley Meier)
The Draka novels postulate a dystopian slave-holding militaristic (white) African empire founded by British Loyalists who escaped to South Africa after the American Revolution rather than to Canada (as in our history). They were later joined by French Royalist émigrés, Icelandic refugees, and demobbed veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, then by tens of thousands of defeated Confederates after the American Civil War. Stirling provides a timeline for its historical development through the 19th and 20th centuries, first as the Crown Colony of Drakia (for Francis Drake), gradually breaking away from British control to become the Dominion, then the Domination, of the Draka. The Draka culture is remarkable for combining a strictly race- and class-based hierarchical society with near-complete gender-equality (including female soldiers in integrated military units in combat roles). The Draka are greatly outnumbered by their slaves, and quite ruthless in maintaining their rule. Compared to current western society, nudity and sexuality are much less taboo among Draka.
As a result of the intense manpower pressures stemming from their conquest of Africa through the 19th century, all Draka are liable for service in the military/security forces, and the Draka-only Citizen Force is by far the deadliest and most advanced military machine on the planet. But there are never enough Draka (only 30 million or so at the start of World War II) to go around, and the bulk of the Domination's Armed Forces are made up of "Janissary" Legions recruited from the Serf population. The Citizen Force provides the élite cutting edge, while the "Janissaries" are the cannon fodder.
- Marching Through Georgia (1988, ISBN 0-671-72069-4)
- Under the Yoke (1989, ISBN 0-671-69843-5)
- The Stone Dogs (1990, ISBN 0-671-72009-0)
- Drakon (1995, ISBN 0-671-87711-9; a Draka from the future in a world much like ours)
- The Domination (2000, ISBN 0-671-57794-8; Omnibus edition of first 3 works)
- Drakas! (2000, ISBN 0-671-31946-9; Anthology edited by Stirling)
Stirling frequently uses the Draka and other villains as point-of-view characters, leading to complaints that he has some sympathy with them. He is known to be dismayed by this analysis of his work. He describes the Draka series as dystopias based on "suppos[ing that] everything had turned out as badly as possible, these last few centuries". Stirling responded to these accusations in his novel Conquistador, which contained the quotation (variously attributed to Larry Niven or Robert A. Heinlein) "There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot."
These books are loosely based on the life of Belisarius, the great Byzantine general, but set on a colony planet with roughly late 19th century technology. They are currently available in omnibus editions (2005).
with David Drake
- The Forge (1991)
- The Hammer (1992)
- The Anvil (1993)
- The Steel (1993)
- The Sword (1995)
- The Chosen (1996)
- The Reformer (1999)
Falkenberg's Legion series
The first two volumes in this series, Falkenberg's Legion and Prince of Mercenaries, were solely the work of Jerry Pournelle. In 2002, all four Falkenberg books, including the two listed below, were published in a single volume, The Prince. The Falkenberg books are part of the larger "CoDominium" series, which also includes The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand by Pournelle and Larry Niven. Stirling's books in this series are popular with many Western soldiers for their portrayal of the mechanics of an ideologically driven insurgency.
with Jerry Pournelle
- Go Tell the Spartans (1991)
- Prince of Sparta (1993)
- The Children's Hour (1991) (with Jerry Pournelle) (Part of the Man-Kzin Wars series)
- Blood Feuds (1993) (with Judith Tarr and Susan Shwartz and Harry Turtledove (Part of the War World sub-series in the CoDominium series, originally created by Jerry Pournelle.)
- The City who Fought (1993) (with Anne McCaffrey) (Part of The Ship Who Sang series)
- Blood Vengeance (1994) (with Susan Shwartz, Judith Tarr, Harry Turtledove and Jerry Pournelle (Also part of the "War World" sub-series)
- The Ship Avenged (1997) (Part of The Ship Who Sang series)
- "A Whiff of Grapeshot" (1998) (short story in the anthology More Than Honor, set in the Honorverse)
- Jimmy the Hand (2003) (with Raymond E. Feist) (Part of the Riftwar series)
Flight Engineer series
with James Doohan
Terminator 2 series
Not part of any series
- The Rose Sea (1994) with Holly Lisle
- The Peshawar Lancers (2001)
- "Shikari in Galveston" (2003) (short story)
- Conquistador (2003)
- Ice, Iron and Gold (2007) (short-story collection) (includes one Emberverse tale, one Nantucket tale, three Bolo tales, and other stories)
- Munger, Kel (June 2, 2009). "6/2/09 Book log". Sacramento News and Review. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
- Dani Kollin (December 11, 2008). "Guest Blog: SM Sterling". LiveJournal. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
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- Official website
- S. M. Stirling at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Bibliography on SciFan
- Interview with Peter Hodges
- Dragon Page Podcasts Interview with Stirling
- "S. M. Stirling’s Strange World of Alternate History" by Fredric Smoler - Magazine column discussing various titles by Stirling, including the Draka trilogy, the Nantucket trilogy, The Peshawar Lancers, and The Sky People.