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In a State of Wonder: The Worlds of Adam Christopher

Creating a world is a tough job so once it’s done, you can’t blame writers for wanting to protect their creation. Not quite so with Empire State.

Angry Robot launched the Worldbuilder Project earlier this year, which aimed to give writers the opportunity to take one writer’s creation and develop their own stories within that world.

So how does such a scheme come about?

Well, first of all you need a writer with a vision of a world which is multi-dimensional enough to provide the potential for diversity. That writer is Adam Christopher. Last September, at Fantasy Con, I chatted with him about his forthcoming novel and the plans that were to follow. Rather than just report straight back, I thought I’d wait and see how those plans would unfold. At the time I got the impression that this guy would be going places, maybe even straight up, just like the Sky Guard from Empire State and boy, was I right!

Fortunately, he’s a quiet, modest kind of guy, whose ego is tucked away somewhere far enough away to let the likes of us come and play in his world and his passion for his work is clear. But sharing beyond his own writing wasn’t always his plan.

Back in 2006, Adam left New Zealand to work in the UK. Having spent his childhood writing Dr Who fan fiction and other stories, he decided this was the perfect opportunity to get serious about his writing. One of the major influences at that time was the I Should Be Writing podcasts by Mur Lafferty (@mightymur) which Adam started to follow. He also started to follow Angry Robot’s Lee Harris (@LeeAHarris) and Marc Gascoine (@Marc_Gascoigne) on Twitter and with shared interests in books, TV and film conversation flowed – about anything but rarely about what Adam was writing!

Adam ChristopherHis first completed novel, Dark Heart was a steampunk tale set in a world that he describes as Baroque pseudo-Victorian. This was an epistolary novel, based on letters exchanged between the characters. Adam says, “I’d now advise that writers avoid this structure in novels as readers are less likely to connect with it because this type of communication is now so rare!” So far this novel is yet to be published (I won’t say unpublished because I’m certain that if anyone can pull this off, Adam can and I know that I would love to read it).

Seven Wonders, a super-hero novel was completed next and would later prove to be much more commercial but as soon as the initial draft was completed, Adam had another idea that just couldn’t wait to be written.

It was a noir type novel, inspired by Raymond Chandler. The fantastic result was Empire State. He told me, “A major influence on the creation of that world was a World War II photograph of a man in a trenchcoat and fedora, wearing a gas mask on his commute to work. That image stayed with me and eventually the Empire State was born.” The figures that the image inspired appear right from the opening chapter, stay with us throughout the book, and also led to the stunning cover image created by Will Staehle.

When a work commitment took Adam to Nottingham he grabbed the opportunity to meet Lee and Marc for lunch.

Seven Wonders (cover)“I didn’t intend to pitch any novels but we started talking about what I was working on. I told them about Empire State and they asked to see the manuscript.” Naturally he obliged.

Soon after Empire State had been seen, Adam was asked what other work he had completed so he pitched his other novels and Seven Wonders was selected. This novel was awaited with much anticipation and is now available, not that you should judge anything by it, but this one also has a superb Will Staehle cover!

Several more books are lined up, including the sequel to Empire State, The Age Atomic, and another stand alone novel, Hang Wire, all from Angry Robot. Meanwhile Tor will release a dark space opera, Shadow’s Call, due out Winter 2014. With that line up he’ll need super hero speed to keep up!

So, what of the Worldbuilder project? Well, at the time it was announced there was a lot of discussion around how the integrity of the world that had been created would be maintained. Enter Mur Lafferty, gatekeeper. All work submitted is edited by Mur, working closely with Lee Harris and Adam, within defined guidelines, all of which gave Adam confidence that he could give his readers access to the State, safe in the knowledge that its guardian would care enough to protect it. I would say that everything that’s been published has done it justice. The result is an intriguing mix of short stories, photographs, graphics and even a fabulous little book report video by two American lads! Check it out for yourself, heck, maybe even submit something. It really is great fun and helps to plug that gap while you’re waiting for something new to be published!

I can’t help but wonder if Adam has a secret alter ego, busy writing books while he gets out there reading comics, engaging with his audience and creating new worlds – how else can he produce amazing fiction at such a super human pace?

Empire State and Seven Wonders are published by Angry Robot and are out now.
The Age Atomic – due May 2013 (Angry Robot)
Hang Wire – due Spring 2014 (Angry Robot)
Shadow’s Call – due Winter 2014 (Tor)

You can also find links to free short fiction on Adam Christopher’s website.

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