"AN ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME" (Publisher's Weekly)
THE FAR KINGDOMS SERIES
(World Fantasy Finalist)
"Allan Cole and Chris Bunch - bestselling authors of the Sten series - now turn their storytelling talents from science fiction to epic fantasy--with a magnificent quest novel. The Far Kingdoms: a place of wonders, riches, magic, and terrors... a place where a young trader will seek wealth beyond imagination and find the adventure of a lifetime." - Publishers Weekly.
THE FAR KINGDOMS SAGA:
From Allan ColeWe were hard science fiction guys – space ships with AM2-powered chain guns - escaping an attacking flotilla into hyperspace.
We both grew up on Buck Rogers Saturday matinee serials, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Other than a sneaking fondness for Conan The Barbarian, we generally avoided swords and sorcery and certainly fairy princesses and unicorns.
So how is it that Team Bunch & Cole ended up writing not one fantasy novel, but four?
It was like this: our editors at Ballantine/Del Rey Books were putting the serious arm on us to come up with a fantasy series. We said not a chance, and ducked and dodged like John Carter fleeing a pride of banth across the desolate plains of Barsoom.
In his usual diplomatic manner, Chris told them, “No way am I writing about fucking elves and Tinkerbell fairies and unicorns and shit.”
I wholeheartedly agreed - and that, it would seem would be that. Besides, we had just sold a trilogy of historical novels under the main title of “The Wars Of The Shannons,” to Ballantine Books and were happily boning up on black powder weapons and colonial-era bayonet tactics.
But they kept the pressure up. Fantasy was hot, they said, and we ought to follow up our success with Sten into the fantasy field. In short, they were as persistent as clotting Alex Kilgour intent on boring Sten’s ears off with a shaggy dog story.
We sighed and shuddered and finally said, okay maybe we’ll think about it. And they burst through that chink in our armor like a depleted uranium round through wormy cheese and before we knew it we were on a strict deadline to come up with something ”pretty damned quick” so we could make the fall schedule.
As it happened, I was relaxing after work reading up on the great explorers and expeditions of old. I became particularly interested in Sir Richard Burton – not the 20th Century actor and husband of Elizabeth Taylor, but the 19th Century explorer genius who found the source of the Nile, entered the forbidden city of Mecca in disguise, spoke 29 languages, was a master with gun and sword and, in his spare time, translated The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra. (Check out his Wikipedia entry at: http://tinyurl.com/3e765h)
I was telling Chris about the guy, when all of sudden he got this funny look on his face. “Shit!” he said. And he dragged out a bottle of single malt from his desk, poured us both a hefty shot and added, “That’s it, Cole. That’s our fantasy. Hell, there’s enough meat in there for a whole bloody series of the suckers.”
I was dubious. Chris pressed on. “We’ll pattern our hero after Burton. Set the whole thing in a world we invent. An historical novel, but it’ll be a history we make up. Instead of the source of the Nile, we’ll have some legendary far off place, where the streets are paved with gold and such.”
I nodded. “The Far Kingdoms,” I said. Not only understanding his notion but accidentally naming the series.
The only problem was that Burton, by all accounts, was pretty much of a son of a bitch and backstabber. Had no qualms about running up a river in Africa in gunboats, blowing the hell out of the populace in the way of the place he wanted to go. And all those languages? Most of them he got from the assiduous study of “pillow dictionaries;” Girls he bought, or rented, to teach him the local language whilst warming his bones.
So we came up with another character. Made him an innocent – son of a merchant prince, a bit of a wastrel but wants to mend his ways. Enamored with Burton’s vision, he finances the expeditions and goes along, The whole first story is his journal - a first person account of their adventures. We named him Amalric Antero. We named the Burton character, Janos Greycloak. We also created a third character, Rali Antero, Amalric’s warrior sister, who stars in two of the books.
We pitched the whole thing to our editors on the phone. In the end, we came away with a commitment for four novels. The first three – The Far Kingdoms, A Warrior’s Tale, and Kingdoms Of The Night – were written by the two of us. I wrote the concluding volume – The Warrior Returns – solo.
There was one final thing. To make it palatable for science fictions guys to do fantasy, we came up with an ultimate goal – and theme – that ties all four books together. And that’s to discover the secret of a Unified Field Theory, that combines the major forces of the physical world with…. Magic!
Oh, and that unicorn? If you look closely, in one of the books you’ll come upon a scene where a group of bandits is gathered about a campfire, roasting and eating with great relish, a creature that looks very much like a unicorn.
Enjoy the voyage.
Allan Cole, Boca Raton, 6/18/2011