I first learned about Felix Gilman‘s work from the influential academic blog Crooked Timber. I proceeded to read Thunderer, Gears of the City, and Half-Made World and found myself impressed by Gilman’s distinctive settings, themes, and voice. It should surprise no one, in my view, that Thunderer received a nomination for the 2009 Locus Award for Best First Novel and that it also garnered Gilman a nomination for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award in both 2009 and 2010.
Thus, when I agreed to host New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy I immediately contacted him about a podcast on The Rise of Ransom City (Tor, 2012). As a political scientist who works on state formation and international change I found The Rise of Ransom City as masterful account of the coming of modernity–as refracted through a fantastic setting. As Lev AC Rosen writes of it:
“The Rise of Ransom City continues Felix Gilman’s brilliant deconstruction of the mythology of the American West, putting it back together with magic and mechanics, and creating something so imaginative it seems to punch you in the chest. Narrator Professor Harry Ransom is a compelling voice; a teller of tall tales and showman, but whereas the snake-oil salesmen of the American West sold piss and ink, Ransom has a genuine miracle to sell. He is both liar and totally honest in ways that are sly and funny and sometimes tragic. This is a fantastic story of a war and a life told with incredible humanity and pizzazz, by a narrator who, like the world he inhabits, is bold and colorful and a wholly new sort of magic.”
Interested listeners might also read Johann Thorsson’s interview with Gilman.
A warning: the audio quality of this podcast is on the poor side. I hope that listeners will stick with it nonetheless, as Gilman has fascinating things to say about the themes and ideas at work in The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City.