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The Coldest War on

May 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

I'd planned to write a long post about the awesomeness of Blue Heaven yesterday.  But the insomnia cycle hit pretty hard, so I was too brain dead to do much of anything. 

But I found a nice surprise in my Google Alerts this morning: has posted an excerpt from The Coldest War.  Hooray!

I've related this anecdote many times, so I won't repeat the details, but as I've said before my original idea for what became the Milkweed books was for a single standalone book set during the 1960s.  And then, you know, lots of stuff became clear once I actually thought things through, such as the fact the whole story was far too large for one book, which is how it turned into a trilogy. 

So I sort of had to write Bitter Seeds just to set up the Cold War scenario I originally wanted to explore.  (And then I had to write Necessary Evil just to bring the story to full completion.)   Along the way, that middle book changed to accommodate a larger story, and different characters, and different rules.  But if I squint I can still see the bones of the original standalone idea hidden deep inside The Coldest War:

I wanted to riff on the legend of Cincinnatus.  It's not a running theme in The Coldest War as I'd originally imagined for the standalone book, but it's present in one scene.  And that makes me happy.  I quite like the scene in question.

And I also knew that the Cold War era of the story would begin with an assassin tracking down and killing a warlock.  I even knew what the first line of that scene would be.  While the ensuing story changed considerably, both the opening scene and the opening sentence survived into the completed trilogy.

I also knew what the final sentence of The Coldest War would be—what it had to be—before I started writing Bitter Seeds.  But that's best left to a different blog post.


Steve Halter May 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm
That's interesting info on the final sentence and it makes perfect sense. I look forward to a discussion at some alternate time.
Ian May 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm
I also intend to someday post *my* original sketch for the cover art of The Coldest War. I don't like to brag, but it's fairly epic. I'm sure the people who have seen it will agree... But it's spoilery, just as a discussion of that final sentence of TCW would be. So I'm holding off... It would also be fun (for me, anyway) to post a "Gretel concordance" at some point. I put effort into trying to make it so that she never lies -- everything she says is factually correct. It just seems like she's lying, sometimes, because people tend to misinterpret what she's saying. But that isn't *her* fault, of course...
ChiaLynn May 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm
I'm putting the release date on my calendar (which I probably should have done already).
Ian May 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm
Thank you! You know, I thought for a moment that I had run into you this past week, but then I realized it was unlikely that you were working in a barbecue restaurant in North Carolina.
Steve Halter May 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Ooo, a discussion of a Gretel concordance would be very fun. Also, I think that "Gretel Concordance" would be an awesome band or Culture ship name.
ChiaLynn May 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm
I have waited tables, but never in North Carolina, and never at a BBQ joint. I am, however, very fond of Carolina-style BBQ.
Ian May 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm
I'm voting for a Culture ship name. Failing that, my Culture ship name would be "Volton versus MechaStalin." Maybe you've never waited tables in a NC BBQ joint, but have you been a cook in a NC BBQ joint? Because that would explain it.
Tim Keating May 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm
Yeah, it's obvious that you had to know a lot about what was going to happen in The Coldest War before you could write Bitter Seeds. I found that pretty slick. Still, I seem to remember spotting a pretty serious discontinuity... of course, now I can't remember what it was. I guess I'll have to pick up the print version to refresh my memory! (Should point out I ALSO recall thinking "Maybe he did it on purpose and it will all come out in the wash in the third book.)
Ian May 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm
Thanks, Tim! I won't claim that I did everything right -- it's inevitable that some things must have slipped through the cracks -- but I did my best to get the big pieces to fit together correctly. I know there were things in Bitter Seeds that some readers objected to because they hadn't yet read Coldest War. But if something slipped through, oh well. Que sera sera...
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