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Interview: Elizabeth Bear on “The Bone War”

– Tell us a bit about “The Bone War.”

“The Bone War” is the story of an independent scholar–in this case, a Wizard–who is hired to do some consulting work for a university and discovers the joys of navigating academic politics.

It’s much more fun than that makes it sound. ;)


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Well, two things. Two of my friends are in the midst of academic job searches, and I’ve been hearing their woes on that front. The story is for them–Arkady Martine and Liz Bourke. Also, a couple of years ago, a fan…and for my sins, her name escapes me now–gave me a piece of fan art about Bijou and an apatosaurus, and I was instantly convinced I needed to write that story! (The Titan in The Bone War is modeled on a Giraffatitan, however!)


– “The Bone War” is set in the universe of your Eternal Sky series of books.  Can you tell us about the world of those books?

It’s… big. It’s a world I’ve been working on, in one way or another, for over twenty years at this point–stitching bits on and telling stories in corners. It emerged as a response to my frustration with epic fantasy worlds that are big, but static–they seem to have no history, and they seem to have no economics and no technological growth. Those worlds that get stuck in or around 1100 or thereabouts forever, basically.

Bijou’s part of the milieu is very equivalent to the 1800s or early 1900s (depending on what part of her life we’re talking about, though apparently they had roaring twenties style motorcars a lot earlier in her world) in an area that would be similar to North Africa in our world, though there are some significant differences. But I’ve also written some short stories set in various other parts of the setting, and one full-length epic fantasy trilogy (The Eternal Sky), which would have taken place about 400 years before the Bijou stories and in the central plains of a completely different continent. Now, I’m just about a hundred pages or less from finishing the first volume of *another* trilogy (The Lotus Kingdoms) that take place about 50 years after that story ends. I have some idea of the cultures of the entire Western hemisphere of this world, and a broad grasp of about 2000 years of its history. I’d love to have the opportunity to keep exploring that!

“The Bone War” appears in the September/October 2015 issue of F&SF.  You can buy it here:

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