I want to introduce you to Poison and Light, but I have no idea how to do this. It was released during the first year of COVID and so most bookshops have not been interested in it: it’s available from online stores, mainly. It was a finalist for an award, but there was no ceremony for that award, so no-one noticed it there, either.
This is all ironic, because it’s the book I wrote for people who wanted this history with the panoply and the danger. It has a Code Duello, and costume drama, and hot air balloons, and tentacled aliens, and secretive printers, and evil conspiracies, and the main protagonist is the last refugee from old Earth.
There’s one special character in it who was going to get their own novel if this took off, because they are just so very cool. I say ‘they,’ because even though they publicly identified as male, they didn’t always privately identify as male. It’s their idealism and their amazing clothes’ sense and their even more amazing rapier skills that made me want to know more.
I’m not the only person to want more of Fabian. Instead of summarising my novel, then, I’m going to send you to a review of it. That way you can see what both the novel and Fabian look like to someone other than me: https://performativeutterance.wordpress.com/2021/03/03/poison-and-light-gillian-polack-shooting-star-press-2020/
Me, I wrote Poison and Light because I wanted to explore a world that wanted to hide its head in the sand by pretending it was in the eighteenth century. Some residents of New Ceres thought they were in a world where nobles ruled, gloriously. Others thought they were in a world with decadence they could enjoy. Still others are planning a revolution. You get some of all of this in the novel, but it was going to be a series if it sold well enough, and there was far more excitement in store in those later volumes that will now never happen. There are issues that would have emerged concerning failed terraforming, for instance (we need more novels about failed terraforming, given what we’re doing to our own planet right now), and of slavery, and of how much New Ceres could remain its independent and dangerous quirky self when the rest of the galaxy had recovered from the war. How does the dream of history hold up against reality?
The novel I’m working on now is set in that same universe, but back on Earth. Only one character overlaps. I’m sorry, but that character is not Fabian.
I used actual 18th century texts and ideas and stories to build the world of the novel. That novel was part of the research project into how fiction writers use history, and testing the concepts other fiction writers presented me with gave me far more insight into what they did than if I’d simply collated my interview notes. It doesn’t come up in History and Fiction, and nor should it. When I use novels to test ideas, those ideas become part of the novel. I still have to check those ideas against my research for my academic side.
This means you can read Poison and Light without caring a jot about Gillian-the-researcher. You can enter it for the strange future world and for the people. In a perfect world, my readers do this. They look at my characters and pick the actors they would love to be playing them. Which leaves my second last thought as, “I have no idea who would play Fabian.”
My last thought is that I need to write more about Poison and Light. It deserves to be seen.