Can you tell us about how “North Over Empty Space” began? Were there many, or any, surprises writing this one?
I wrote a story called “Cup and Table” (reprinted in this very magazine back in 2012!) many years ago, about a secret society of people with weird powers on a sacred quest to find an ancient artifact . . . who made money in the meantime by hiring themselves out as mercenaries and assassins. While that story has a rather, ah, definitive end for the characters, I always had the notion in the back of my mind that I could dip into their lives at other points and tell different stories about them. I was musing about Sigmund’s power, to peer into the past, and wondering what the most surprising thing he’d ever seen was . . . and I thought, “A person who has no history.”
Everything followed from that.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Carlsbad and Sigmund, but will we see them again?
It’s possible! It would be fun to write a novel about the Table, actually, though it’s pretty far down on my “list of books it would be fun to write.” Check back in with me in few years.
You’ve written in a wide variety of mediums; do you have a preferred mode of fiction delivery? What are you reading these days that gets you excited?
Whatever gets the words into people’s brains is fine with me. I do most of my reading on my phone now, actually, which is a big shift for someone who has thousands of physical books filling up his house. (Part of the move to reading mostly ebooks was practical: we’re out of room for more bookshelves.) I really enjoyed Joe Hill’s newest novel The Fireman, which is out in a couple of months—weird, big, scary, thrilling, moving, funny. I just read Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927, which is full of odd historical tidbits that make me want to write alternate and secret histories.
What’s next for you, Tim Pratt?
More stories! I have a Patreon where I write a new story every month for backers/subscribers/whatever: Give at least a dollar a month, get a story a month. (“North Over Empty Space” was written for that, originally.) That’s at https://www.patreon.com/timpratt. I have a Pathfinder Tales novel, Liar’s Bargain, out in June, and the final novel in my Marla Mason urban fantasy series, Closing Doors, should be out at the end of this year, or early next. I find ways to pass the time.
Spread the word!