Riverside is a slum, a rundown neighborhood of beggars and thieves, where danger looms when night falls and only the foolhardy dare to venture.  The Hill is home to the rich and powerful, its opulent residences host to the excesses of privilege.  Two seemingly antithetical districts of an unnamed city, their borders as conspicuous and clear cut as their respective inhabitants – except on occasions when a score demands settling.  That’s when the lines become blurred by subterfuge, secrecy, and the fighting skills of hired assassins.

Richard St. Vier is a sword for hire, a denizen of Riverside whose bloody business often takes him to the elegant estates of his elite benefactors and victims. Despite his notoriety as the city’s deadliest assassin, however, St. Vier adheres to a strict ethical code in his death-dealing: no women, no children and, most important of all, he doesn’t do weddings!  His companion, Alec Tremontaine, is a scholar, a brooding intellectual with an affinity for danger.  And when Alec is kidnapped, St. Vier suddenly finds himself the reluctant pawn in a revenge-driven plot hatched by the scheming Lord Horn.

Oh, and St. Vier and Alec are gay.  I include the fact as almost an aside because, once their intimacy is established in the book’s opening pages, it is casually accepted and becomes just another interesting piece of their multifaceted backstory.  Yes, it’s important to the plot given that St. Vier is forced to act in order to save his lover, but it never becomes an issue for either the author or the book’s varied characters, instead serving as a solid emotional core to a narrative and setting at times stark and coolly precise.

Swordspoint is not so much fantasy as it is alternate history.  No dwarves or elves or magic elixirs.  Instead, it’s anti-heroes, courtly intrigue, and plenty of swordplay.  Kushner does a masterful job of establishing a society in which the wealthy advance hidden agendas and answer perceived sleights through proxy duelists, combatants governed by a strict code of conduct.  The intricacies of battle decorum are as fascinating as the political machinations that drive them, and Kushner excels at weaving a complex but not overly complicated web of deceit, double-crosses, and hidden agendas.  As someone who owns a well-worn copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince, I loved these back room maneuverings – secret games made all that more interesting by its colorful assembly of players, from the brilliant Duchess Tremontaine to the nefarious Lord Ferris, characters who straddle that fine line between black and white.

Kushner’s characters are interesting because they’re flawed, and in some cases likable because – as strange as it sounds – they’re unlikable.  Lord Ferris, our villain, orchestrates a brilliantly conceived power grab that ultimately comes to naught and yet, for all his faults, I respected the character and grew to admire him.  Alec, on the other hand, was a character I initially sympathized with but eventually grew to dislike for his delight in instigating deadly confrontations only to have his partner fight his battles for him.  St. Vier, our protagonist, is the most intriguing of the lot: an assassin with a sense of honor who would seemingly risk all for her love, yet whose past hints at the death of a former lover by his own hand.  The fact that different readers have come away with very different interpretations of these characters is a testament to Kushner’s ability to craft a tale both deeply textured and vividly imagined.

If there is one fault I could find with Swordspoint, it would be its ending, a conclusion that felt a little too pat when compared to the delightfully sophisticated set-ups and pay-offs that precede it.

Overall, however, a unique and engaging novel with a witty narrative style as sparing and precise as St. Vier’s dueling style.

So, those are my preliminary thoughts.  What did everyone else think?  Start posting your comments – and questions for author Ellen Kushner!

We screened back to back director’s cuts today: episode 207 (The Greater Good) and episode 208 (Malice).  Great stuff.  This first half will see a narrative progression very similar to what we saw in the back half of season one, with various story elements building to occasionally explosive conclusions.  Plenty of secrets, surprises, and shocking revelations.

Hey, looks like Remi put that flying time to good use, finishing up his responses to your fan questions while he enroute from L.A.  Check out tomorrow’s entry for an all Remi Aubuchon entry.  And, speaking of Remi, the second episode of Persons Unknown airs tonight on NBC at 10:00 p.m.!

Mailbag:

Sean D. writes: “1. Is there a chance of getting a Q&A with Robert Carlyle?
2. Is there a chance of getting a Q&A with Lou Diamond Phillips?
3. Is there a chance of getting a Q&A with Robert Knepper?”

Answer: At least one of those is more than likely.

victor writes: “1. Will we ever see the 304′s asgard beam weapons in sgu?

2. How was it that the daedalus in no mans land was able to beam shepperd his team and micheal off the wraith transport and on the daedalus while taking fire with the shields up,and in search and rescue they had to lower the shields to beam them aboard?”

Answers: 1. Unlikely.

2. Sorry, would have to go back and take a look at the episode.

Rex Carter writes: “Just curious about that tainted zpm from Camulous wonder if the sgc got it working safely and or if it can be used for anything.”

Answer: Alas, that particular zpm is no more – along with the planet on which it was tested.

imadaman writes: “Riley may have been shot, but there’s the (lovely :3) chance that he’s still alive, right?”

Answer: Sure, there’s a chance – but tune in to fine out for certain.

Jeff writes: “I think what Mark meant in his question about finding a seeder ship, then using it to build a supergate, was doing what the Ori did. Building a supergate to travel from one galaxy to another.”

Answer: How would you build a supergate out of seed ship?

Lewis writes: “Any possibility of you & Paul writing a story arc for one of the Stargate comics?”

Answer: Unlikely.

Lewis also writes: “If MGM doesn’t let Extinction come to fruition after a few years time would it be possible to do a comic book adaptation of it? Or even published as one of the Fandemonium novels?”

Answer: That’s up to MGM.  Alas, I’m out of that particular decision-making process.

Kevin writes: “(1) I thought it was established that Naquadria was some kind of isotope of Naquadah in the sense it didn’t occur naturally. (ie. the bomb on Kelowna created more Naquadria). Are these ‘Icarus’ planets somehow naturally occuring ‘now’? Or were they the product of Anubis getting the info from Quinn and then testing it out? And only ‘now’ are people discovering his old testing grounds? (always wondered about that).”

Answer: Yes, we’ve established that Naquadria is not naturally occurring.  The assumption is that these are old testing grounds abandoned since the fall of the goa’uld.

Kevin also writes: “(2) When Kiva said ‘next time we bring our own food/water’, was that a retrospect statement? or an allusion to them having a third icarus planet?”

Answer: The former.

Kevin also writes: “(3) Where did Kiva lose the 100 people she mentioned? It kinda looked like she was one of the last to leave the base..as any good commander should be. It didn’t really look like their was any spirited defense… a la Icarus Base.”

Answer: We can assume the base was much larger and that others were trapped in remote sections of the facility when it came under attack.

paloosa writes: “I asked why, and the said that it was the publisher’s decision. They were surprised because sales had been good. Have you heard anything about this?”

Answer: News to me.

eric writes: “Anyhoo, my question is about when Eli, Chloe and Scott returned to Destiny: did you ever answer on-screen how they got back? i.e. why Destiny’s address popped up on the screen again? If not are there plans to address that in season two?”

Answer: No plans to address this.  When Destiny dropped out of FTL as a result of the sabotage, it was still within range of the planet and popped up on the remote.  Seeing this, Eli dialed and secured a connection.

Michael writes: “So what do they do with the dead bodies of the KIA’s before this episode?”

Answer: Space ’em.

Michael Jones writes: ”

1.) Is the SGC still in operation on Earth, or has the Stargate been moved to Homeworld Command in the Pentagon?

2.) I saw James being captured during the changeover, but she didn’t seem to be in the room with Young and the other military personell… was she placed with the civilians or did she somehow get away…

3.) Did you record any commentaries for the 1.5 DVD/Blu Ray set?

4.) When ratings are counted, is it only the first showing that counts, or do both showings get accounted for?”

Answers: 1) All indications suggest it has been moved.

2) James wasn’t captured.

3) I didn’t.

4) It’s the first airing that garners all the attention.

Arctic Goddess writes: “Why was there a fire truck at Bridge Studios today? I heard it was a big enough deal to stop production.”

Answer: All good.  Everything’s under control.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.

Duggy writes: “Is there going to be an Atlantis movie? None of this finances bull we’ve been hearing, just a straight up yes or no.”

Answer: Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize I was inconveniencing you by not getting you this information sooner.  I’ll have someone at the studio give you a call and fill you in personally.  Just make sure they don’t give you any of this “finances bull” about needing money to make the movie and crap like that because the truth is we do it all for the love of the art…and discerning fans such as yourself.

Randomness writes: “but question on my mind is, where did 300,000 people go when it came to Episode 19? Did they fall asleep before it aired? DVR figures for that episode would be interesting.”

Answer: True.  As for the reason for the dip – no idea, but the fact that we didn’t air the previous week could have had something to do with it.  The casual viewer may have simply assumed our season was done.

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Kevin
Kevin

As usual, I do appreciate your Q&A’s..so many nuggets of interesting information throughout them.

So the Icarus planets are likely former Goauld testing grounds. Interesting. I guess it opens up the question as to whether Earth or the LA have or can develop the capability to ‘create’ their own Icarus planets from former Naquadah rich worlds. That’d be an interesting storyline, how Earth is creating one-shot planets at a time to resupply Destiny.

James was not captured….hmmmn….well if she isn’t dead I’m predicting a hero moment in the future where she saves the day and boosts her sense of self from past failures.

In regards to “How would you build a supergate out of seed ship?”, I think what the OP was thinking was the Destiny crew could encounter a seed ship, and since that ship ‘builds’ stargates, they could somehow reprogram the ship to construct a supergate instead of a regular stargate. Just my interpretation.

Cheers

Lou Zucaro

Arctic Goddess writes: “Why was there a fire truck at Bridge Studios today? I heard it was a big enough deal to stop production.”

Answer: All good. Everything’s under control. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Oh, Joe, you can’t fool us.

McKay is back!!

Echelon
Echelon

Few questions:

How are the decisions made for commentaries? How is it decided who will be doing a commentary. Or is it just whoever wants to at the time?

As a writer, do you find it hard to watch shows/movies without critiquing the writing?

Are you planning on checking out another part of Japan on your next trip to see and try more restaurants?

Lou Zucaro

By the way, Joe, I’m sorry if this has been asked / answered before, but do you see only live ratings for SGU or do you also see C3 ratings, and if you do see C3’s (or, f’rinstance, Live+7) for SGU, how do they compare to live?

I only ask because I know in the last few years, C3’s / Live+7 have been weighed more than they used to be (which was pretty much not at all, as I understand it).

Kymm
Kymm

>Answer: All good. Everything’s under control. Move along. Nothing to see here.

LOL!!!!

K

Quade
Quade

Hey Joe great news, Andy Whitfield, the titular character from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has beaten his Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and is cancer free. Since he was diagnosed just prior to filming season 2, they decided to film a 6 episode prequel, which is wrapping up. Whitfield is expected to appear in the last couple episodes after which they will kick off filming on season 2!!! Is there anything this guy can’t defeat??

Shiny
Shiny

Woo hoo, I’m commenting first! And I kinda got nothin’ to say.

No wait, for Duggy: MGM’s business issues have already halted production on Guillermo Del Toro’s Hobbit and the next Bond movie. Plus the Red Dawn movie is also on hold, and so is the next SG movie.

So Duggy, choose: you can learn more about why and how movies get made or you can stand in front of the plasma and use the Weirding Way to force a SG movie into being (difficult, but it helps if you’re a Bene Gesserit.)

The more you learn up on the business side of entertainment the less frustration you will feel.

http://www.hitfix.com/articles/2010-5-27-guillermo-del-toro-admits-mgm-situation-delaying-the-hobbit-start-date?m=k

http://www.mania.com/mgms-financial-troubles_article_117876.html

http://www.examiner.com/x-3421-LA-Movie-Examiner~y2010m6d10-Red-Dawn-is-another-casualty-due-to-MGMs-finanical-troubles

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

Awww…see…I was thinking of picking up this book, but it would lose me at the gay character part. When I read a book with a male hero, I need him to be straight…just makes it easier for me to fall ‘in love’ with him, and it’s less of a distraction. (Hell, I still don’t understand the appeal of ‘slash’ fan fic amongst the females in any given fandom.) That said, I do like a gay male sidekick (or friend) to a straight male lead – makes for an interesting dynamic. I also like characters like Daken who are – well, what the hell is Daken? Gay? Bi? Just a manipulative little user who takes whatever he wants from whomever he wants to take it?? I tend to lean towards the latter, but whatever it is, it works for me.

das

Ponytail
Ponytail

“Arctic Goddess writes: “Why was there a fire truck at Bridge Studios today? I heard it was a big enough deal to stop production.”

Answer: All good. Everything’s under control. Move along. Nothing to see here.”

Did you catch the popcorn on fire again?! Never leave popcorn unattended while you run to the bathroom!!

Major D. Davis
Major D. Davis

“2) James wasn’t captured.”

She looks pretty captured to me in this pic. smile

http://www.gateworld.net/gallery/displayimage.php?album=930&pos=835

malibunextyear
malibunextyear

Hi Mr. M,

Long time no comment from me, sorry! I do read and enjoy your blog every night. I wanted to post this link to a recent SGU review I read today. I really feel like this author understands SGU. Perhaps it is worth sharing with those that don’t….

http://reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com/2010/06/cult-tv-flashback-sgu-stargate-universe.html

Congrats on a great season! I was so nervous Friday night, it took me all weekend to recover. Scott and Greer in peril, OMG….

Thank you again for the great show!

Sherry

josephmallozzi
josephmallozzi

Oops. Thought you were referring to the hostage scenario in Incursion I.

Yep, she’s been captured – along with everyone but Eli, Chloe, Rush, and Brody. And Scott and Greer topside, about to get fried.

Arctic Goddess

A Das: I agree with you. The guy has to be tall dark and handsome for me. Kind of “Ba’al-like”….actually, very Ba’al- like.

Joe:

Arctic Goddess writes: “Why was there a fire truck at Bridge Studios today? I heard it was a big enough deal to stop production.”

Answer: All good. Everything’s under control. Move along. Nothing to see here.

I got the real truth. It was all Bam Bam’s fault. smile

Patricia

Lou Zucaro

And Scott and Greer topside, about to get fried.

I would’ve preferred braised. Low & slow, baby!

tim bullock
tim bullock

This SGU is the best yet. thanks to all.

Jeff
Jeff

so all indications point suggest the SGC has been moved? interesting, makes me wonder where sg teams are gating out from. Atlantis perhaps????? well, heres hoping one day the movie will get made. both of them, sg-1 and sga. you can count on me to buy them.

and yeah, i dont see how a seeder ship could build a supergate. wishful thinking really.

eric
eric

Hey Joe, thanks for answering my question. Follow-up question about the SGC: why has it been moved out of Cheyenne Mountain…to the Pentagon? Is this supposed to be addressed in the next SG1 or SGA movie? Or does it have anything to do with Cheyenne Mountain closing down in real life?

KellyK
KellyK

Swordspoint – Not at all what I was expecting but was pleasantly surprised.

Finishing up a term paper tonight but will post some questions tomorrow.

Kelly

crayonbaby
crayonbaby

That fire truck obviously didn’t have anything to do with your ice cream making?

Someone made a small replica of the Stargate in their backyard out of wood and other materials. It looks so real too. I think that SciFiWire might have a link to it. I’m just not that talented, nor do I have the time. I enjoy looking at other people’s projects.

Every time you give another book recommendation, I have to go out and buy it. I have so many books at this point to read, I’ll never be done. Between you and Scalzi, I don’t know what to do. And then there’s the TV I have to watch. And the paper that I’m procrastinating on right this moment that is due on Thursday night. That thing is not going to write itself.

cat4444
cat4444

chevron7: 2. Has the Destiny gate got an Iris or some protection? Why didn’t the ship suffer some damage from the blast through the wormhole when the planet exploded or would the blast sever the connection before any transference? I had wondered why the explosion didn’t follow through the wormhole to Destiny also. However, I came up with my own solution to the question, so, unless and until the folks writing SGU provide a different explanation, I’m sticking with mine. Here’s what has already been established: 1. The shield on the gate at Stargate Command was placed there by the SGC. No evidence has been presented (at least that I can recall) that the Milky Way gates ever had shields. The Atlantis gate did have a shield from the start when the expedition arrived, but that shield was put in place to protect against the Wraith, who came many moons after the Alterans had left the Milky Way for Pegasus. Thus, Destiny, which predates the Milky Way gates, is unlikely to have a shield. 2. We know from SG1 and Atlantis that a projectile or blast from a weapon fired at one end of a wormhole will pass through and come out the other end, so it stands to reason that the blast from Icarus exploding should also have been translated through the wormhole and, given its intensity, obliterated Destiny. 3. We also know that a wormhole will remain open for a maximum of 38 minutes unless it is being “blocked” by something on one end or the other (i.e., Jack’s hand on the receiving end in Shades of Grey or Eli’s arm on the departing end in Air III). But, you say, that presents a problem with the 38 Minutes episode of Atlantis, since the gate was being blocked by the puddlejumper. Not so because what’s crossing the threshold must be organic in order to prevent the gate from shutting down; therefore, the puddlejumper would not prevent the gate from shutting down after the allotted time had elapsed. 4. The 38 minute limit applies to the Milky Way gates, the Pegasus gates, and to Destiny’s gate. 5. Destiny is many billions of light years from the Milky Way. So, here’s what I think actually happened with the blast: After Rush dialed the gate, they all walked through, except Young who, for obvious reasons, ran. However, when they came out the other side, they were thrown. The later they departed Icarus, the faster and harder they were ejected onto Destiny. The blast from Icarus exploding was right on Young’s heels when he went through the gate, but there was no sign of it when he was violently thrown through Destiny’s gate. Why? Because the wormhole converted the kinetic energy from the blast in order to propel the people from Icarus faster through wormhole itself in order to get them to their destination before the 38 minutes had elapsed, and, without that energy, the blast itself simply fizzled once it passed… Read more »

chevron7
chevron7

josephmallozzi said:

Oops. Thought you were referring to the hostage scenario in Incursion I.

Yep, she’s been captured – along with everyone but Eli, Chloe, Rush, and Brody. And Scott and Greer topside, about to get fried.

Joe, ever heard of spoiler space?? Thanks heaps buddy

Oh that thank-you gift is in transit…sorry for the delay…I’m second guessing it now wink

Cheers, Chev

Montrealer
Montrealer

@eric

Cheyenne Mountain is not quite closed. It’s currently the alternate command site for NORAD in case primary site at Peterson AFB became compromise.

IMO the SGC should be relocated to the farside of the moon with a fail-safe self destruct strategic nuke or Naquadria device.

chevron7
chevron7

wow cat4444…thank-you for taking the time to answer my question…a lot of thought went into that and I appreciate it…not sure that I agree – don’t think Incursion Pt 1 journey was anywhere near 38 minutes but I do like your thinking regarding the shields and the history of the gates….

Thanks heaps!!

Cheers, Chev

chevron7
chevron7

crayonbaby said:

Someone made a small replica of the Stargate in their backyard out of wood and other materials. It looks so real too. I think that SciFiWire might have a link to it. I’m just not that talented, nor do I have the time. I enjoy looking at other people’s projects.

I linked to it in the comments of yesterday’s post.

Cheers, Chev

AvidReader
AvidReader

Questions for Ellen Kushner:

1. What kind of reception did Swordspoint receive when it was first published – from reviewers and fandom in general. Did their opinions differ?

2. Why the reluctance to further the adventures of Richard and Alec in future novels?

3. I thought the world of Swordspoint was quite unique. What others works, if any, would you say influenced you in the creation of Swordspoint?

4. Finally – okay, maybe a weird question but I have to ask – have you ever written fan fiction?