I want my Sean Stewart

Dear Sean Stewart,

I’m talking to you, man. I want you back. Not the Sean Stewart who’s now making ground-breaking reality games like i love bees and writing ground-breaking interactive YA novels. I want the novelist. The guy who wrote some of my favorite books: The Resurrection Man, The Night Watch, Mockingbird, Galveston.  The writer that I’ve tried to steal as much from as I could when I was writing my first novel. That guy.

Are you listening, Sean? I don’t care if you’re happy. I don’t care if you’re artistically fulfilled and making gobs of money at that games company you started. I am a jealous reader. I want your new novels. I don’t need a new one every year. Every 18 months is fine. But it’s been four years since Perfect Circle and that’s too damn long.

Now, I’m not criticizing the reality games. They sound cool. I’m sure there are thousands of people — tens of thousands? — who love to have their cell phone ring and have it be a fictional CIA operative, or who love to get emails from artificial intelligences, or who can’t wait to hunt down websites and follow clues and solve puzzles. That’s pretty bitchin’.

But Sean, they’re not Night Watch.

People who haven’t read your books — may I someday find the grace to forgive their ignorance  — might not know what the big deal is. Let me explain.

The three books that are most important to me — and I believe made Stewart’s name — are Resurrection Man, The Night Watch, and Galveston. They aren’t explicitly a trilogy, but they’re thematically linked, and they form a satisfying arc. In those novels, magic has come into the world. Stewart’s most effective metaphor is of a flood: The magic flows in — uncalled for, uncontrollable — then changes the world, and by the third book recedes. His characters are ordinary people learning to swim.

Resurrection Man is essentially a mainstream novel about a young man and his family coming to terms with the fact that magic is real. Denying that fact, trying to pretend as if everything is normal, is an act of cowardice. The Night Watch is something even stranger — a near-future science fiction novel,  stocked with all the paraphernalia of near-future SF, including highly-trained commandos and flying cars,  but at a time in which the flood of magic is at high tide. Stewart hits a second gear here, and its full of amazing set pieces, such as the forest in love with a woman, and a Chinatown overrun by magic. It’s still my favorite of his books. And Galveston is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel in which magic has destroyed the world. The flood has retreated, and with it any lingering romance about how nice it would be to live in a world of living gods and magical powers.

I’ll stop now, and I haven’t even gotten to the early stuff, or the two great later novels, Mockingbird and Perfect Circle. I haven’t even explained how beautiful the prose is in all those books.

So Sean, I’m waiting. And if you can’t do it for me, do it for my son. He’s twelve now, the golden age of science fiction, and he’s a voracious reader. In a few years he’s going to be ready for your stuff, and after I hand him the first book he’s going to tear through your complete oeuvre in a matter of days. Then he’s going to look at me like a fricking orphan in Oliver! and ask for more. And it’s not like I can reach into my shelf and hand him a bound copy of i love bees.

So please, man. Have a heart.

And Patricia Anthony, I’m talking to you, too.

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There are 10 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Cheryl

    Seconded.

  2. 2. Josh Kidd

    I would love to see Sean Stewart writing novels again. I even read Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.

  3. 3. Steph

    Thirded.

    A Perfect Circle is such a compact, tidily perfect little book. Sigh.

  4. 4. terry l

    Hear, hear! Sean Stewart is definitely one of the best SF novelists of recent years and when it became apparent that he was jumping ship to do other stuff I was supremely disappointed. His mastery of prose was stylish without being showy or affected. His characters are so damn *real*! And his ability to understand how magic would *really* be in a world that could access it is spot on.

    I miss me some Sean Stewart too!

  5. 5. Karen Wester Newton

    I am that way about Neil Gaiman. I don’t want comic books, songs, or movie scripts, I want novels, dammit! But what can you do? I don’t want to live in a world where writers are chained to their computers.

  6. 6. Matthew Wayne Selznick

    I also say “aye.” I’ve read “Resurrection Man” more times than I can count. It’s one of my favorite books.

    And Patricia Anthony’s “Happy Policeman?” Beautiful.

    Of course, taking two years and counting to complete my second novel while fans of the first pine away (and thanks and appreciation to them) puts me in no position to request anything. Still, I do.

  7. 7. Daryl Gregory

    Ditto Steph @ 3 on Perfect Circle. And I’d say the same about Mockingbird. Stewart in those books seems to be ditching some of the tools he’s relied on in previous books to focus on smaller stories that rely more on character.

    And Matthew @6 — Happy Policeman is indeed lovely. But for some reason the one that keeps sticking in my mind — maybe because it was her first and the first of hers I read — is Cold Allies. It’s a little less focused than her other books, a little less in control, but the images are wonderful.

    And Josh @ 2 — How is that Yoda book? I never read it, but I always wondered if there were things in it that made it evident that it was a Sean Stewart book, or if he changed his style for the sake of the franchise.

  8. 8. Josh Kidd

    The story for the Yoda book was forgettable which I say because I have forgotten it. However, I remember very well many of the original characters which I assume Sean Stewart created. And what says “Sean Stewart” more than memorable characters.

    I kind of liked it and I wasn’t annoyed by it which is more than I can say for some recent Star Wars movies. Though not usually the way I would describe a Sean Stewart novel.

  9. 9. Daryl Gregory

    Thanks, Josh. The only thing I knew about that book was from an interview Stewart did — he said he finally got to use his fencing knowledge on a kickass lightsabre scene.

  10. 10. zombyboy

    Late to the party, but his Star Wars novel is one of the very few that is worth reading.

    Big fan. Resurrection Man was my first, but I can say I love nearly all of his books. Perfect Circle, Galveston, Mockingbird, Nobody’s Son–these are all such amazing works that I can’t believe how many of my friends don’t know his name.

    I’ve done my bit to evangelize and I’m glad to see that you all are doing yours.

Author Information

Daryl Gregory

Daryl's a science fiction writer who lives in State College, PA. Several of his short stories have appeared in "Year's Best" anthologies, and his first novel, PANDEMONIUM, will appearing in Fall 2008 from Del Rey Books. Visit site.

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