|S. M. Stirling|
|Born||September 30, 1953
|Genres||Science fiction, fantasy, alternate history|
Stirling is probably best-known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series. His novels Go Tell The Spartans and Prince of Sparta are set in Jerry Pournelle's "CoDominium" future history.
Stirling was born on September 30, 1953, in Metz, France -- then the site of a Royal Canadian Air Force base -- to an English mother and Canadian father. He has lived in several countries and currently resides in the United States in New Mexico with his wife Jan.
Stirling's novels are generally conflict-driven and often describe military situations and militaristic cultures. In addition to his books' military, adventure & exploration focus, he often describes societies with cultural values significantly different from modern western views. One of his recurring topics is the influence of the culture on an individual's outlook and values, with a particular emphasis on the idea that most people and societies consider themselves (mostly) moral.
Stirling also has a fascination with technological development, and frequently turns to explorations of this within the context of many of his novels. The Draka (see below) for instance, chose and faced a different imperative in their conquest of Africa, and turned earlier to breech-loading firearms and steam power than the rest of the Western World. The stranded islanders of Nantucket must try to rebuild their technological base once the island is stranded in 1250 BC, while the dazed survivors of the 'Change' now face a world where electricity, firearms, and internal combustion no longer work.
Stirling also tends to write strong female characters who have prominent roles within the story.
What if Mars and Venus really were inhabitable and inhabited, as in many SF stories from the early sixties and before? In this alternate history series Mars and Venus were terraformed a long time ago and "seeded" with Earth life, including several different human species. On Earth everything is the same until the start of space exploration, but then the Cold War dampens down into a real, collaborative space race which overtakes the military budgets of both superpowers.
The vast investment in interplanetary exploration has changed this alternate history deeply, in ways mentioned in passing, including the close alliance of the United States, Great Britain and the Dominions; but there are other changes: In the Suez Crisis, Britain and France receive American support and succeed, and there is no Sino-Soviet split in 1959. The Soviet Union does not collapse, and there are two competing space efforts: the Sino-Soviet alliance and the US-Commonwealth alliance. The European Union is led by France, since the United Kingdom did not join it, but their space effort is considerably behind the others. The Sky People is set on Venus, while its sequel In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is set on Mars.
The Change is the overall name of the stories of the Nantucket series and the Emberverse series.
In Island in the Sea of Time the island of Nantucket is transported by an unknown phenomenon (called "The Event" in the series) back in time into the Bronze Age circa 1250s BC (corresponding to the late Heroic Age of Greek mythology). The trilogy describes the conflict between the different factions of the island's population—some trying to dominate the world for their own benefit, others trying to better it, while most just want to survive, work hard, and claw their way back to something approaching their pre-Event way of life.
The series consists of three books:
Additionally, the short story "Riding Shotgun to Armageddon" (1998) is also set in this series.
Dies the Fire (2004) shows the effects on the planet—a world Nantucket left—of something called "The Change". Electricity, guns, explosives, internal combustion engines and steam power no longer work. The series mostly deals with the Willamette Valley area of Oregon, with some description of the United Kingdom. After describing how people in those places survive the loss of 600 years of technological progress (no power, no food, no weapons), the primary focus of this series turns to a conflict between a Portland-based neo-feudal dictatorship created by a sociopathic history professor, and the free communities of the Willamette Valley, most notably the Wiccan Clan Mackenzie and a group led by a former Marine, the Bearkillers.
A second tetralogy, set 22 years after the Change, is in progress:
Recent information from Stirling indicates that 'Montival ' is the name by which the west coast region comes to be known. The second series will give some sort of explanation for the event/change. A vision from a major character's trip to Nantucket includes what appear to be Swindapa and Marian Alston, major characters from the Nantucket trilogy.
A duology for a later period is planned:
Additionally, the short story "Something for Yew" (2007) is also set in this series.
A recently announced near future Urban Fantasy series will feature "Shadowspawn," an ancient subspecies of Homo Sapiens who formed the basis of legends about vampires and werewolves and have been secretly controlling the world for most of the 20th century.
These are a collection of post-holocaust fantasy novels, in which civilization was destroyed (probably by a nuclear war) in something near our present time and new civilizations have grown to take their place. The novels are set in about the year AD 5000. There are elements of magic or psionics present, but they are fairly low powered, while technology is approximately at the level of the historical Middle Ages. Two additional novels in this series (Lion's Heart and Lion's Soul both by Karen Wehrstein) overlap these novels but were not authored or co-authored by Stirling. Shadow's Daughter by Shirley Meier is also part of the series. Snowbrother is also Stirling's first published novel. Saber and Shadow is a revised edition of The Sharpest Edge with a few new pages of story at the beginning and tweaks to the rest of the story to assure continuity with that new beginning. The end of the story remains the same. It also adds an Appendix with explanation of the cultures and languages in the 5th Millenium, and a description of how the authors got together to write this series.
The Draka novels postulate a dystopian slave-holding militaristic (white) African empire founded by British Loyalists who escaped to South Africa after the American Revolution rather than to Canada (as in our history). They were later joined by French Royalist émigrés, Icelandic refugees, and demobbed veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, then by tens of thousands of defeated Confederates after the American Civil War. Stirling provides a timeline for its historical development through the 19th and 20th centuries, first as the Crown Colony of Drakia (for Francis Drake), gradually breaking away from British control to become the Dominion, then the Domination, of the Draka. The Draka culture is remarkable for combining a strictly race- and class-based hierarchical society with near-complete gender-equality (including female soldiers in integrated military units in combat roles). The Draka are greatly outnumbered by their slaves, and quite ruthless in maintaining their rule. Compared to current western society, nudity and sexuality are much less taboo among Draka.
As a result of the intense manpower pressures stemming from their conquest of Africa through the 19th century, all Draka are liable for service in the military/security forces, and the Draka-only Citizen Force is by far the deadliest and most advanced military machine on the planet. But there are never enough Draka (only 30 million or so at the start of World War II) to go around, and the bulk of the Domination's Armed Forces are made up of "Janissary" Legions recruited from the Serf population. The Citizen Force provides the élite cutting edge, while the "Janissaries" are the cannon fodder.
Stirling frequently uses the Draka and other villains as point-of-view characters, leading to complaints that he has some sympathy with them. He is known to be dismayed by this analysis of his work. He describes the Draka series as dystopias based on "suppos[ing that] everything had turned out as badly as possible, these last few centuries".  Stirling responded to these accusations in his novel Conquistador, which contained the quotation (variously attributed to Larry Niven or Robert A. Heinlein) "There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot."
These books are loosely based on the life of Belisarius, the great Byzantine general, but set on a colony planet with roughly late 19th century technology. They are currently available in omnibus editions (2005).
with David Drake
The first two volumes in this series, Falkenberg's Legion and Prince of Mercenaries, were solely the work of Jerry Pournelle. In 2002, all four Falkenberg books, including the two listed below, were published in a single volume, The Prince. The Falkenberg books are part of the larger "CoDominium" series, which also includes The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand by Pournelle and Larry Niven. Stirling's books in this series are popular with many Western soldiers for their portrayal of the mechanics of an ideologically driven insurgency.
with Jerry Pournelle
with James Doohan