Sword & Laser ep. 14 - Author Guide to Gail Carriger

Uploaded by geekandsundry on Oct 12, 2012


Scales should not be considered
a preexisting condition.
Oh, hold on.
I gotta tell the folks-- coming up it's time for tea
and vampires.
Would that be teeth time?
Or is it urbane fantasy?
I think he likes urbane fantasy.
Either way, it's time for our guide to the
awesome Gail Carriger.

VERONICA BELMONT: Hey, everyone, welcome to the
"Sword and Laser." I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
VERONICA BELMONT: And this is one of our author guide
episodes where we introduce you to an author you may not
know, tell you about their books, and then invite them up
to the space pub for a little chat.
This week we're very excited to have our
guide to Gail Carriger.
VERONICA BELMONT: Gail Carriger is the pen name-- or
is it the true name--
of an archaeologist from Bolinas, California.
She graduated from Oberlin College, received an MS in
archaeological material from Nottingham University in
England, and an MA in anthropology
from UC Santa Cruz.
TOM MERRITT: After she finished gathering up all
those smarts in 2008, her first novel, "Soulless," was
published by Orbit in 2009 and earned her a nomination for
the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
It was the first in "The Parasol Protectorate" series.
VERONICA BELMONT: Carriger describes "The Parasol
Protectorate" series as Jane Austen dabbling in science and
steamtech while PG Wodehouse drops vampires
into the Drones Club.
Our guess is Jules Verne and PG Wodehouse would both find
something of interest in her books.
TOM MERRITT: The second novel in the series, "Changeless,"
came out in 2010 and made "The New York Times" bestseller
list, as did "Blameless" in September of that year.
"Heartless" came out in June 2011.
And the series concluded with "Timeless,"
released in March 2012.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, but the universe of "The Parasol
Protectorate" is not abandoned.
The four-book Finishing School series, set 25 years before
"The Parasol Protectorate," is scheduled to launch with
"Etiquette & Espionage" in February 2013, to be followed
by "Deportment & Deceit" later that year.
TOM MERRITT: And a second "Parasol Protectorate" series,
entitled "The Parasol Protectorate
Abroad," has been announced.
Yes, there are vampires and werewolves
and ladies and romance.
But it's not really urban fantasy.
Carriger says she likes Carrie Vaughn's phrase "urbane
fantasy" or perhaps "tea-punk."
VERONICA BELMONT: So if you like lisping vampires, mad
charging Victorian harridans, atrocious hats, and a
predilection for mysterious octopodes, then fix yourself a
nice cup of tea.
And we think you'll find quite a bit to enjoy in Ms.
Carriger's works.
TOM MERRITT: Ms. Carriger is riding her dirigible
up here right now.
While we approve her for docking, take a peek at this
day in alternate history.

VERONICA BELMONT: Welcome aboard!
Gail Carriger, so nice to have you with us.
So nice to be here.
TOM MERRITT: Thank you for coming at tea time.
Please join us for some tea.
We have some Darjeeling.
And we have some little tea cookies.
I'm not sure what these are exactly.
TOM MERRITT: They're lemon.
VERONICA BELMONT: They're lemon tea cookies?
TOM MERRITT: They're something lemon.
GAIL CARRIGER: Very exciting.
Thank you so much for hosting me.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, totally.
VERONICA BELMONT: How was your trip?
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, it was very pleasant.
TOM MERRITT: Did you have any trouble docking?
GAIL CARRIGER: Not at all.
Not at all.
TOM MERRITT: Excellent.
VERONICA BELMONT: So we have a lot of
questions from our audience.
But we'll kick it off with one of my own.
Many of our viewers, of course, are very familiar with
"The Parasol Protectorate," mostly because I talk about it
Can you tell us about "The Finishing School" series and
how that relates to Alexia's world, if at all?
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, sure.
I'd be delighted.
"The Finishing School" series is the follow-up
series that I'm doing.
But it's actually set before "The Parasol Protectorate"
series in time of the universe.
And it's written for young adults.
And so it has a slightly younger protagonist.
And it details the adventures when she gets recruited to a
finishing school that turns out to be not exactly a
ladies' seminary.
It's more for the training for spies and assassins.
And so hijinks ensue.
TOM MERRITT: As so often happens.
GAIL CARRIGER: I know, all the time.
TOM MERRITT: There's also another upcoming series, "The
Parasol Protectorate Abroad."
TOM MERRITT: How does that relate?
Without spoiling anything, will there be any appearances
from characters we know already?
GAIL CARRIGER: There are appearances from characters
that you know and hopefully love in both of the books--
GAIL CARRIGER: --in both new serieses.
Because I write with immortals.
And so you can stick immortals anywhere in time.
And that's one of the fun.
TOM MERRITT: They're handy that way.
GAIL CARRIGER: They are really handy, yeah.
TOM MERRITT: That's a good point.
GAIL CARRIGER: And some of the mortals are also showing up in
both books.
And sometimes they do it without my having anything to
do with it.
They just come in and I'm like, where did you come from?
VERONICA BELMONT: That was actually something I was going
to ask you about.
Because the world is so extensive already.
And the FAQ on your website goes into a lot of detail
explaining your writing process.
But can you give us some of your world-building tips?
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, I think about the world a little
differently, I guess.
Part of it has to do with my training as an archaeologist.
And so I tend to think about re-explaining the past rather
than picking a point of alternate history and then
shifting from there, like making a battle go the other
way or something like that.
And in my universe everything's pretty similar to
the Victorian world that you might know and love.
Except that all of the things that are mysterious about the
Victorians, like how did they manage to build an empire, are
explained with the presence of either steampunk technology or
the supernatural.
So how did they manage to do the empire?
They used werewolves and their armies and vampires and their
sort of strategy and spy networks.
VERONICA BELMONT: They are very good with strategy.
TOM MERRITT: It fills in the gaps.
GAIL CARRIGER: It fills in the gaps, exactly.
TOM MERRITT: I love that.
Well, you had a question about the audiobook, actually.
I listen to all the audio books.
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, goodness.
VERONICA BELMONT: They're one of my favorite audiobooks out
there, this series.
And I notice a difference between some of the
pronunciations of the names.
VERONICA BELMONT: I know you've covered this, from Lord
A-kill-dama originally--
VERONICA BELMONT: To Lord Akeldama, which is your
preferred pronunciation, of course.
VERONICA BELMONT: So how much input do you have with the
audiobook process?
Is that something you had to come up later and be like,
hey, this is not how I envisioned that at all.
You need to fix this going forward.
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, I'm one of those authors-- and my
agent tells me that this is pretty common actually--
I can't listen to my books, sadly.
Because I know my reader Emily Gray is really, really good.
And she does the accents, and she has a lot of fun with it.
But there's just something about hearing--
all I hear are imperfections.
So I just can't listen to them.
I listen to a little bit so I know what her voice is like.
But the answer is the first time around when they first
produced the books, the first three, they didn't really
consult me at all.
They just said, this is your reader.
We hope you like her.
And I was like, sure she sounds great.
So that was the only input I had.
And then when the first book started to do pretty well,
when they came time to the second book, they asked me
about some pronunciation.
And at that time, I volunteered some of the
additional names and how they need to be pronounced.
And most of the time I wouldn't stick my foot in and
say, you need to change that.
But with Lord Akeldama, it's actually important that his
name is pronounced that way for the follow-up books, the
"Prudence" series.
So his name has to be pronounced like that.
And so they had to go back and fix it.
TOM MERRITT: How on earth did Lady Loontwill and Alessandro
Tarabotti get together?
GAIL CARRIGER: That is a great question.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's a secret I've wanted to know for
a really long time, actually.
GAIL CARRIGER: There is a short story.
I've written a short story that explains
how they first met.
But the right place for it hasn't happened.
And I haven't had the time just to put it out there for
people to download.
So I know how they met, but it hasn't happened yet.
There's also a sort of secret that's uncovered in that short
story that pertains to some other things that are
uncovered in "Timeless." So I wanted to wait until that book
had come out before I published the short story.
So hopefully the short story will come out some time soon.
TOM MERRITT: Would it come out in an anthology?
Or would you put out your own collection?
GAIL CARRIGER: That's the question.
If there's a place for it, then it'll find
a home in an anthology.
But only for a limited time and then I'll release it.
TOM MERRITT: Someone pitch her on that.
We want to--
VERONICA BELMONT: So I just have to know-- and if it's too
much of a spoiler you don't have to say it on air-- but
Lady Loontwill, was she different back then?
Or was it opposite attracts kind of thing, or--?
GAIL CARRIGER: I can't explain.
It has to be with Alessandro's personality.
And actually, I love him.
And I'd really love to write a book for him at some point.
But he's kind of an antihero.
GAIL CARRIGER: And so it would be difficult.
And I'm sort of occupied with other series at the moment.
But I have his whole--
I had to.
If you read through the whole series, you'll know that I had
to figure out his whole kind of arc.
Because it's pertinent to the Alexia series.
So I know his whole life, and I'd like to write it.
But unfortunately no time at the moment.
VERONICA BELMONT: You've got some other things going on at
the moment, so.
GAIL CARRIGER: But Mrs. Loontwill has to do with his
TOM MERRITT: All right.
VERONICA BELMONT: Hmm, that is very interesting.
TOM MERRITT: Well, we do have some
questions from the audience.
Michael wants to know if you've ever considered writing
a novel with an archaeologist character drawing from your
own experiences.
Or do you think that would be too weird?
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, archaeology comes into a lot
of my books.
The site, for example-- in "Blameless," there's an
Etruscan site.
And that's my site that I excavated--
TOM MERRITT: Oh, cool .
GAIL CARRIGER: When I was a wee thing back in college.
And there's a couple of other things like that.

The mummies have connections to the mummies
that I worked with.
I worked at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose.
So there's some of those.
So I draw on those skills a lot.
But I don't know.
Archaeology is very boring, really.
So I can't imagine it would make a particularly
TOM MERRITT: But you study it.
Do you think it's boring?
Or do you just think other people think it's boring?
GAIL CARRIGER: I think other people think it's boring.
TOM MERRITT: See, I don't think it's boring.
VERONICA BELMONT: We've had other archaeology characters
in recent books.
Like in "Hyperion," for example.
VERONICA BELMONT: There's an archaeology story.
Even in the "Foundation" series, there are
TOM MERRITT: --that come into play.
VERONICA BELMONT: So you'd be surprised.
There's actually a lot of archaeology in genre fiction
that you may not have been aware of.
GAIL CARRIGER: There's a lot of us archaeologists running
around, too.
It's pretty--
occasionally you'll meet other authors in sci-fi fantasy.
And I'm like, oh, you're an archaeologist, too?
Tamahome and terpkristin both want to know about, strangely,
bubble tea.
Do you like it?
And if so, what is your favorite flavor?
GAIL CARRIGER: I think this has to do with one of my
stories from when I was first published.
But I do.
I am a fan of what I call drinks with stuff.
And I like what I consider or think of as the original
Vietnamese-style drinks with stuff, which are not like the
bubble tea chains.
You get like several different kinds of gelatinous object
matter inside a coconutty drinky thing with ice.
TOM MERRITT: It's like halo-halo in the Philippines,
except more tea-like.
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, yeah.
It's cold, usually.
And you get a big fat straw and usually a fork so you can
fish stuff out.
And it kind of a whole adventure in a cup.
And that makes me really happy.
TOM MERRITT: There's beans and stuff.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GAIL CARRIGER: Yeah, it's great.
VERONICA BELMONT: I learned recently that tapioca is
actually poisonous.
Or the substance that tapioca comes from, that they make
those globules out of, the tapioca beads?
Apparently tapioca can be poisonous as well.
TOM MERRITT: Well, it's like blowfish.
VERONICA BELMONT: The internet will tell me if I'm wrong.
GAIL CARRIGER: I'm due for death.
VERONICA BELMONT: That is information that I at one
point received.
TOM MERRITT: Wait, you're due for death?
GAIL CARRIGER: I love tapioca.
VERONICA BELMONT: I love tapioca, too.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, yeah, yeah.
GAIL CARRIGER: Constantly.
VERONICA BELMONT: Better than treacle tart?
Everything's better than treacle tart.
TOM MERRITT: Beth wants to know, "What steampunky
invention would you like to incorporate into your daily
I love the idea--
again, it ties to this archaeology thing.
I keep bringing it up, but it does.
But one of the things that I noticed when I was doing a lot
of research, both as an archaeologist and historical
stuff for later on, is that when a new technology is
introduced, it's almost always introduced as something
ridiculous or frivolous.
So I love anything that is a
completely superfluous machine.
So for example, one of the inventions I have is a water
boiler that kind of mounts on the edge of a dirigible or
anywhere near a steam engine so that it harnesses the
boiler for a constant flow of boiling hot water.
So you can have tea at any time.
GAIL CARRIGER: So that was--
TOM MERRITT: You need that rolling boil.
That's so convenient.
So I'd like one that kind of maybe hooked into my car,
mount it on the dashboard.
Just fill it up.
TOM MERRITT: That's not impossible.
VERONICA BELMONT: You could probably work something out
with biodiesel and French fries.
In that same kind of--
TOM MERRITT: So some sort of--
VERONICA BELMONT: --mind frame.
TOM MERRITT: --French-fried tea snack.
That actually sounds kind of gross now that I'm
thinking about it.
Neil wants to know--
TOM MERRITT: Hey, you could make eggs in the engine, too.
VERONICA BELMONT: You could make eggs.
That would be delicious.
Neil says, you seem to have a big love for both Victorian
period drama and science fiction.
If steampunk didn't exist as a genre to combine the two,
which genre do you think you would've ended up writing in?
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, probably alternate history.
Or gaslight fantasy or something along those lines.
The one thing I was always certain about when I was
writing was the historical side of it.
Even when I wrote sci-fi, which I still do occasionally,
I tend to take an alien race and base it on an ancient
archaeological culture to try and get at the alienist from a
cultural way.
Particularly something like the Wari that, say, Western
readers wouldn't be familiar with.
So it's always dabbling in history.
It's my favorite thing to do.
I get caught up in research and it's wondrous.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, I'm actually amazed by how much
your background really has been trickling up into your
writing and into what you do now.
I don't think I realized that, coming into this interview,
how much of an effect it had.
GAIL CARRIGER: It's crazy, isn't it?
Who knew?
TOM MERRITT: Well, write what you know, I guess.
GAIL CARRIGER: I guess, yeah.
TOM MERRITT: We have another Beth with a question.
"As a huge fan of Ms. Carriger's steam-centric
universe, I would be curious to know what a self-proclaimed
technophobe sees in store for books and publishing in the
near future."
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, she's been reading my blog posts.
I'm terrified by technology.
I'm like the opposite of an early adapter.
I wait until everyone else has broken it and then I tiptoe in
and try it out.
TOM MERRITT: That is the smartest
way, definitely, yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: That is really the
best way to do things.
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, the flip side is I will hold on to the
technology that I have learned how to use and am comfortable
with until the bitter, bitter end.
And then it's like this crazy psychological trauma to have
to switch gears.
Which is a little-- well, it's kind of representative of the
way people are in the past.
But yeah, it would take me a really long time to adopt the
electric light, for example.
A really long time.
I would have my candle.
TOM MERRITT: Do you watch "Downton Abbey?"
TOM MERRITT: I would assume.
GAIL CARRIGER: I was a little disappointed
in the second season.
But I think that's a whole other conversation.
TOM MERRITT: I might know someone who's seen the third
season, because it's on air in the UK.
TOM MERRITT: Brilliant.
GAIL CARRIGER: I hear it's gotten better.
But the scene where they bring the electric light in and
she's hiding from the glare.
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, it's so--
see, that would be me.
VERONICA BELMONT: Or when they put the phones in the house.
VERONICA BELMONT: And everyone's really
upset by the telephone.
GAIL CARRIGER: But I forgot the question.
Did I answer the question?
TOM MERRITT: Books and publishing, particularly.
GAIL CARRIGER: Oh, where is it going?
What do you think of where it's going?
GAIL CARRIGER: I have no idea where it's going.
I feel really lucky.
Before the books did really well and I sort of entered the
cultural zeitgeist, I was already really good friends
with the podcasting community.
And I have a lot of close friends who are sort of
self-published and very adept at
negotiating these new waters.
And so I tend to kind of trail behind them and follow them
and see what they're doing.
And so my friend Dan Sawyer helps me when I want to put a
short story out in ebook form, and that kind of thing.
So that I can dabble in it with a guide.
And I feel lucky in being one of the big six.
I think if you reach a certain level of popularity, people
start to gun for you, which can get a little scary.
So you'll get people trying to sue you and stuff like that.
And under those circumstances, it's great to have the
protection of a whole army of lawyers--
TOM MERRITT: People who know how to do this stuff.
GAIL CARRIGER: --from your publishing house.
So I think it's very dependent on who you are as a person, as
well as how good you are with the technology.
TOM MERRITT: It doesn't sound like you're a
technophobe to me.
It's just you're smart enough to say, I'm going to get a
guide, right?
You wouldn't go to a country you knew
nothing about and just--
VERONICA BELMONT: You need a fixer.
TOM MERRITT: You need a guide.
GAIL CARRIGER: Well, it's also kind of like I'm not going to
fix my own car, for example.
And this is coming from someone like I used to run
scanning electron microscopes and X-ray diffraction machines
and all that sort of stuff.
But I just don't have the expertise to fix my engine.
And so I identify an expert and take it to the expert.
And that's kind of my attitude with the new technology--
GAIL CARRIGER: --that books are heading into.
So I try and identify experts who I think are doing it well
and see if I can imitate them or get their help.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, I think that's smart.
And then our final question comes from Keith, who says,
"her books deal very fairly and entertainingly with gay
and lesbian characters.
What are her thoughts on the current struggle to get gay,
lesbian, and, well, just female characters, creators,
and fans more accepted and involved in fandom?"
I didn't realize there was--
VERONICA BELMONT: Good question.
GAIL CARRIGER: --a big struggle right now.
Well, I grew up in fandom.
And it's certainly true that we're seeing--
I grew up a crazy cosplaying fangirl, the whole deal.
It's the best way to come into my adulthood.
You certainly have seen women way more frequently at
I think steampunk conventions in particular are kind of
breaking ground in this arena because it's way egalitarian
in a way that I haven't seen in a long time in the normal
science fiction/fantasy convention community.
There's a bigger range of both sexes and ages.
And that's sort of a nice thing to see.
And then, of course, there is the insaneness that is Comic
Cons and things like that, where you get everyone's
So that's really exciting.
So I think like the greater culture, we're moving to being
more and more accepting, which is really,
really exciting to me.
I want to see more women reading science fiction.
And that is difficult to still, I think, break into.
I'm hoping "The Hunger Games" has some kind
of effect or draw.
TOM MERRITT: Kind of a bridge.
I'd like to see something as popular as "The Hunger Games"
that's really kind of more hard sci-fi.
But I do think it has to be that.
It has to be a strong female central character written by a
woman for basically younger women readers.
And then you can jump.
Because I know a lot of us who read fantasy as teenagers and
as kids jumped in via gateways, like Mercedes
Lackey, you know, the girl and the horse.
That's what I needed when I was 10.
And that's why I read fantasy and that's why I still do.
TOM MERRITT: We need more Ursula Le
Guins and Octavia Butlers.
TOM MERRITT: Definitely.
GAIL CARRIGER: And I hope that that's happening.
There are a lot of fantastic female writers out there, so.
VERONICA BELMONT: We've met a lot of great women who are
interested in joining in on this community and learning
about a lot of science fiction and fantasy that we talk about
on the show.
And we've had other great female authors on the show.
Like we're having Robin Hobb on soon and we had Cherie
Priest on recently.
And it's really nice to kind of see that change and feel
like that is moving forward in a lot of ways.
Well, thank you so, so much for joining us for tea--
GAIL CARRIGER: Thank you so much for having me.
And where can everyone find your work online?
GAIL CARRIGER: You can pretty much find
me under Gail Carriger.
And that's G-A-I-L C-A-R-R-I-G-E-R. And if you
put that in Google, I'll come up anywhere you'd
like to find me.
I mostly hang out on Facebook and Twitter.
VERONICA BELMONT: And Goodreads, too.
GAIL CARRIGER: And Goodreads.
I do a review occasionally.
TOM MERRITT: Excellent.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today.
You can find "The Parasol Protectorate" books one
through five wherever books are sold.
Book one is "Soulless." We've got it right here.
And look for "The Finishing School" series first book
"Etiquette & Espionage," due out February 2013.
Well, we are extraordinarily pleased to have another white
board video from the amazing Aaron explaining the
importance of proper etiquette when reading a
Gail Carriger novel.
AARON: Vampires cover a wide literary range.
Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker made
bloodsuckers popular.
Then Frank Langella and Anne Rice made them hot.
Until Joss Whedon made them scary again, except some of
them were hot.
And then Laurell Hamilton dressed them in skin-tight
leather grope suits.
But for a cultural icon rooting in the 18th and 19th
century, what the vampire has strangely lacked is
Enter Gail Carriger, a sometime archaeologist, who
decided to haul the vampire back to its Victorian roots.
On the way, she dropped in a host of contemporary
supernatural tropes, stirred, added a pinch of Anglophilia
and more than that of dry humor, and called it
The result is "The Parasol Protectorate," an alt-history
London populated with werewolves and ghouls,
bestsellers which have been compared to PG Wodehouse and
Jane Austen.
Well, now, whether you're new to Carriger's universe or
anxiously awaiting her recently announced follow-up
series, here are some hints to enhance your enjoyment.
First, read aloud in your best British accent.
Then limit snacks to scones, crumpets, and tiny cucumber
And finally remember, pinkies out.

Yeah, that works.
VERONICA BELMONT: I think it makes the tea
taste better, too.
Do you think it makes the book read better?
Let me see.
VERONICA BELMONT: I don't think that's possible, Tom.
But it doesn't hurt it.
It looks-- don't do that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Don't actually do that.
Yeah, you look crazy.
And thank you so much, Aaron.
If you want to help put together our guides to
authors, send us your thoughts on our next guest, Robin Hobb,
another one of my favorite authors.
Just upload your message to your favorite video hosting
provider, like YouTube, for example.
And email us a link at feedback@swordandlaser.com.
Email us, email us.
TOM MERRITT: Do it over and over again--
VERONICA BELMONT: I mean, really, just email us and
email us and email us.
TOM MERRITT: --until we put you on the show.
VERONICA BELMONT: It'll happen eventually.
And if you send us something, we will potentially also send
you things.
TOM MERRITT: If we use your thing, we'll send you stuff.
VERONICA BELMONT: We'll send you stuff.
A thing-stuff trade off.
TOM MERRITT: That's it, folks.
If you're looking for more great things to read, be sure
to watch our stuff.
The book club episode, where we read a book a month and
give great ideas for lots of books old and new.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
It's the green button up there in the corner,
Send us email to feedback@swordandlaser.com.
And join in at our Goodreads forum at goodreads.com.
We'll see you there.
Emails, emails, emails.