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Elizabeth Bear: Leaving the Competition in the Dust

Elizabeth Bear might just be one of the hardest working writers out there, with a flurry of novels over the past few years that have garnered her Philip K. Dick Award consideration and won her the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. Praised by writers like Richard Morgan and David Brin, she brings a gritty toughness and honesty to her fiction, mixed with an unexpected lyricism. Her new book, just being released by Bantam Spectrum, is Dust, the first in a new space opera trilogy. The basic situation--a space colony orbiting a doomed sun struggles to retain order--may sound familiar, but the weird society that has evolved in the colony is nothing if out-of-the-ordinary, having as much in common with fantasy as science fiction. There are angels in this colony and a much diminished god, among other mysteries.

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Bear said in an email interview about Dust that "Everything I write is in some manner a comedy of ethics. [But] I've never written anything quite in this mold--sort of space-opera-like and epic--before. Basically, I got to spend a lot of time coming up with crazy ideas, and having a heck of a lot of fun doing it." Despite those "crazy ideas," Bear's favorite part of writing Dust was something much more central: creating the protagonists. "Rien and Perceval were more fun to write than almost anybody else I have ever written. They're scrappy, basically decent people, and I like them both a lot."

Since Bear has been a full-time writer for the past few years, I asked her if anything about the full-time writer lifestyle had surprised her. "You know, I think I had a pretty clear idea of what it would be like. My dad is a self-employed luthier and a musician, so the freelance lifestyle was pretty much devoid of shocks for me. Also, I know a lot of recipes for dried beans and pasta, so I do all right!"

You can read more from Bear on freelancing and other interesting topics on her always lively and sometimes controversial blog. Next for Bear is the novel Ink and Steel, the latest in her Promethean Age series, due out in July 2008, with the follow-up to Dust, Chill, to be released in 2009.

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