|Lovely, lovely Beneath Ceaseless Skies cover art|
One of the other nicest things about being a genre writer was receiving a blurb for Giant Thief from Adrian Tchaikovsky, whose Shadows of the Apt series I'm hugely fond of, comparing it to the works of none other than the mighty Fritz Leiber. As fantastic a compliment as that was, though, I've never been entirely sure that Giant Thief lives up to it. (Although, in fairness to Adrian, it's probably a closer comparison than anyone else has made.) Thing is, I hadn't actually read any Leiber at the time I wrote Giant Thief, and so he wasn't - as he would come to be - one of my all-time favourite Fantasy authors. What similarities there are are purely coincidental, or else were absorbed through intermediaries; there's a fair bit of the Gray Mouser in Damasco, for example, but I suspect it was contracted via Pratchett's blundering wizard Rincewind, another protagonist who spends an inordinate amount of time trying to flee from whatever plot he's found himself mixed up in.
Ill-Met at Midnight, on the other hand, the story I have out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this week, is me blatantly pastiching Leiber. Heck, the title is an obvious reference. The city of Cold Harbour, elegant, rotten and riddled with licensed murder, has plenty in common with that greatest of all cities Lankhmar. My "hero" Otranto, assassin extraordinaire, is definitely Leiberesque: sharp-tongued, highly competent, and yet driven by the winds of his own eccentricities. It's the story of a weird and dangerous world full of weird and dangerous individuals, and I think that description about sums up all of Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.
I'm happy admitting all this: originality is a wonderful thing and something to strive for, but sometimes I think it's okay to play around in the shadows of your heroes. It was great fun to write Ill-Met, to cut loose with world-building aspects and to have a go at that kind of lurid, exaggerated, extravagant Fantasy, something I'm not sure you see so much of these days. So much fun, in fact, that I suspect I'll return to Otranto and Cold Harbour one of these days.
You can read Ill-Met at Midnight and its companion story, Henry Szabranski's The Clay Farima, or buy the issue that contains them, here ... or, if you didn't mind waiting ,you can listen to Ill-Met in podcast in a month's time.