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Jim C Hines Revisionary

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Jim C. Hines talks fantasy, fandom and fatherhood

Jim C. Hines's "Revisionary" ($26, Daw) hit shelves this week, bringing the final installment of his Ex Libris series. Fans of the series rejoin Isaac Vainia and his companions Lena and Nihidi as they deal with the fallout of the world coming violently to terms with the idea of magic and magic users.

Not only does Hines have an excellent grasp of characterization, all of his characters are brimming with humor, anger and a vibrancy that easily connects with the audience. Partly it's the characters themselves, but it's also part of the rich world he's created. Yes, it's built around the real world - but the problems that crop up around poorly thought out legislation and terrorist attacks that leave citizens in turns terrified and vengeful.

Hines deftly balances humor, gritty realism and a sense of whimsy and dread no mean feat when any one of those things could make the stories feel overwrought or bleed it of its gravity, but he deftly avoids those pitfalls. Hines proves himself to be a master of his craft with this latest book. Once you start, you will be rocketed forward and unable to stop.

One of the high notes of the series is the constant reference to the fantasy and science fiction genres, everything from classics like "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" to modern-day nods toward authors like Cathrynn Valiente's "Palimpsest." It makes sense: the main character gets his magical abilities from the books themselves. But the references, much like the book on the whole, are delightful nods to a genre that Hines clearly loves these are in-jokes for the geek crowd

Whether you are returning to Ex Libris as a fan or have just become aware of the series, now is a great time to catch up. You won't be disappointed.

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about "Revisionary" and writing in general.

The Maine Edge:Not only are you a prolific writer, you make a point of really connecting with your friends and followers on a number of levels, including sharing how you make money. Why is it important for you to share your journey with your fans?

Jim C Hines:The main reason I do social media and conventions and such is because I love hanging out and chatting with other SF/F fans. Sometimes it's about trying to make the genre better and talking about things like inclusion and representation, but other times it's all about geeking out over "Avatar: The Last Airbender" or talking about the new "Nnedi Okorafor" book or arguing about Kylo Ren's lightsaber.

I also talk some about the business side of writing, including how the income piece works. That's primarily because there's so little information out there about writing. Too many people think you sit down, write a book, and then you're suddenly, magically wealthy and successful. There's a lot I wish I'd known when I started writing, and so I try to share some of that info for new writers.

TME:Rather than go all or nothing, you have a foot in traditional and self-publishing. How do you determine what will go traditional and what you will publish independently has that created any interesting side effects?

JCH: I'm mostly traditionally published right now, but I've self-pubbed a few short collections, a Magic ex Libris short story called "Chupacabra's Song," and a novel-length project called "Rise of the Spider Goddess." Having recently quit my day job, I'm hoping the additional time will let me do more with self-publishing. I'm hoping to continue writing books for my publisher, but I'd love to supplement those books with shorter self-pubbed work. I mean, "Revisionary" might be the last book in the current series, but I can still revisit the characters in novella- or novelette-length stories.

TME:Tell us what can long-time fans expect with the latest installment?

JCH:This is the last book in the series, so I needed to find a good note to end on. The series is set in the "real world," such as it is, and the events of book three, "Unbound," shook things up a lot. "Revisionary" starts about a year later, and a lot has changed. Magic is out in the open, and the world is busy figuring out how to reactand overreactto that. Isaac has taken on more responsibility. He even has a research team working under him. There's plenty of chaos and action and geeking out about books and magic. And Smudge the fire-spider setting things on fire, of course.

Isaac is up against a different kind of antagonist this time around. But he's got a good team of friends and family. As well as a few folks who don't really fall into those categories, but are more or less on the same side.

TME:When you are not inventing worlds, what are you doing?

JCH:I spent a fair amount of time trying to be a decent husband and father. I do some very amateur photography, some of which you can see on Facebook or Flickr. I've been studying Sanchin-Ryu karate for at least six years now. And if I'm not doing any of those things, I'm probably wasting time on the internet.

TME:Favorite food?

JCH:Depends on the day, but a good hot fudge sundae is always welcome. Also lasagna, pizza and cheesecake. Probably not all at once, though.

TME:Having followed you since you were publishing short fiction in "Sword and Sorceress" you've always had solid, engaging female characters. I always enjoyed your take on the princesses. Do you care to share any thoughts on the progress science fiction and fantasy has made and you contributions towards it?

JCH:I think it's getting a lot harder to bury your head in the sand and pretend not to see the inequalities and problems in the genre, and that's a good thing. Fans are pushing conventions to create and enforce harassment policies. More people are protesting things like "Year's Best" anthologies that are magically and mysteriously full of stories by mostly men. People notice when Star Wars forgets to include Rey merchandise, or Black Widow gets excluded from the Avengers T-shirts, or the female characters get contorted into ridiculous, powerless poses on book covers. They notice, and they speak up.

We're seeing progress. It's slow and frustrating at times, but I believe it's there. There's also plenty of pushback, often from folks who've gotten so used to sitting on their pedestal of unearned advantages that any movement toward equality and fairness makes them feel threatened.

The most hopeful thing, to me, is that not only are we seeing more stories about competent, well-rounded women, we're seeing the demand for those characters. The hunger for more inclusive stories and more diverse characters.

TME:Any sneak peaks on future projects?

JCH:I just today signed the contracts for a three-book deal with DAW, a humorous take on space marines and a few other tropes. I'm hoping to have a lot of fun writing this series. There's also a middle-grade fantasy novel I've been working on. It's set in modern-day Michigan, but features goblins. I'm waiting for feedback from my agent on that one.

TME:What are you reading?

JCH:I just finished reading "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to my 10-year-old son, and we're now starting in on "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe." I've also got Corinne Duyvis' apocalyptic YA sci-fi novel "On the Edge of Gone" that I've been enjoying.

TME:Authors that would make you geek out if you had a chance to meet/work with?

Ursula LeGuin goes at the top of that list. I'd probably be too overwhelmed to actually work with her in any useful sense, but the meeting part would be awesome.

TME:Could I ask you to expand a little more about your recent writing where you've been reading to your son. Could you talk about that experience and how it differs from writing for a less personal audience?

JCH:My wife and I read to our son each night before bedtime. A few months back, I began my first attempt at a middle grade fantasy novel. After revising, I printed it out and asked my son if he'd be interested in hearing the new story. For the next two weeks, I read him about a chapter each night. This was surprisingly nerve-wracking. Would he laugh at the jokes? Would he be interested in the story? There were aspects of the book, including the dragon and an autistic character, that I'd written with him in mind.

Happily, he really enjoyed it. At one point, he yelled at the character, "Don't do that, it's a trap!" He giggled for a long time at a character's struggles with autocorrect. And at the end, when I asked him who his favorite characters were, he picked two. One was a goblin. I figured the silliness of that particular character would appeal. The other was the autistic character, Mac. I asked him why he picked Mac, and he said, "Because he thinks like me."

Honestly, hearing his enjoyment of the story, knowing he connected with that character and the story, it's better than any review. I love being a writer, but moments like that, where I can feel like both a good writer and a good father at the same time? Totally priceless.

Last modified on Thursday, 04 February 2016 17:30

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