Friday, December 12, 2014

Catching Up With Sean Stewart: The Jane Austen of Magic Realism

When the daily clicks fail to engage, a little Google game of “Where are they now?” usually does the trick. Yesterday I wondered whatever had happened to novelist Sean Stewart.

Stewart was a Canadian resident — Edmonton, Alberta, in fact — for a stretch of years, and I considered him one of “our” finest writers. He'd been introduced to me in the pages of the now-defunct Saturday Night Magazine, sometime in the mid-90s. There's nothing on the interweb to help me, so I'm relying on memory here, but I seem to recall the profiler vaunting Stewart's unique genre as the equivalent of “Jane Austen writing magical realism.”

And if the lamentably forgotten profiler didn't say those words, I'll say 'em myself and take the credit — because it's true.

Sean Stewart's unique genre reads as the equivalent of Jane Austen writing magical realism” - Whisky Prajer

The last thing of his I'd picked up was Galveston (2000 - description, author's notes), which I've been toying with giving a re-read.

My initial encounter was nearly 15 years ago. I thought it a weird and wonderful book, not a little disturbing. A hurricane figures prominently in the action, as hurricanes do to the actual locale, with increasing frequency. Is there anything waiting to be (re)discovered in this book, post-Katrina?

And, geez: we're talking 15 years since I'd last read Stewart. What's he done since then? Where is he now?

Second question first: Stewart is Creative Director at Xbox Entertainment Studios, in Santa Monica, CA. I'm tempted to quip, “Nice work if you can get it,” but I don't begrudge him one bit. Stewart is one of those unique talents — an exuberant innovator who nevertheless reveres our human yearning for cogent linearity.

Checking his LinkedIn profile, I see he and his various teams have been responsible for some of the funkier narrative textures in the HALO games. Also, there's the Cathy's Book series — which predates the similarly-themed J.J. Abrams/Doug Dorst prestige-publishing extravaganza, S., by at least seven years. If there's someone who deserves Creative Director more than Stewart, please introduce us.

Alas, it seems Stewart's AI activities have slowed his words-on-page output — he doesn't even bother with his Twitter-feed anymore. Not that I've any cause for complaint: there are at least a half-dozen titles I need to catch up with, including an entry to the Star Wars franchise(!), Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.

I've never been a Yoda fan — his puppety introduction in The Empire Strikes Back triggered my first “Oh, brother!” response to Lucas's saga. But if anyone can turn that around for me, Stewart can, particularly with a working title like The Sith Who Came In From The Cold (Stewart's writer's notes on the project are an amusing read, here). Depending on how quickly I get my mitts on this book, it might take momentary precedence over Galveston.

Curious Newcomer, if Star Wars is at all your scene, I'll go ahead and recommend the Yoda book, sight unseen. Otherwise, start with either Galveston, Resurrection Man or Clouds End. Actually, Perfect Circle is looking mighty enticing as well.

Alright: you're on your own.

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