Today we are delighted to host the cover reveal for Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate Stories, a collection of short stories set in the author’s Machineries of Empire universe! The collection will be published by Rebellion in June this year.
Without further ago, here is the Smugglerific Cover – and a few words about the collection from Yoon Ha Lee:
The Wrong Way to Write a Story Collection
(Note: beware spoilers for the trilogy!)
Returning to the world of Machineries of Empire for the short story collection Hexarchate Stories was, in some ways, not that difficult. To be honest, I hadn’t entirely left. I’d written some flash fiction for my blog exploring moments in the lives of my characters, some serious, some not. One of them, “Seven Views of the Liozh Exam,” was inspired by the “five things” fanfiction format I’d seen going around, except with seven things because of heptarchate numerology; that made it into the collection. One of them, “Anthropomorphic Cats from Outer Space“, was complete crack featuring cat versions of Jedao, Cheris, and Kujen. That one did not make it into the collection, although I wonder what my editor would have said if I’d tried to sneak it in.
For the most part, figuring out what to put in the collection was easy in that about 40,000 words of hexarchate-adjacent fiction already existed. I figured Machineries readers might like to have them in one place. The two big ones were the novelette “Extracurricular Activities” , originally printed at Tor.com, which was a more light-hearted caper featuring a younger Jedao; and “The Battle of Candle Arc“, originally published in Clarkesworld, the first printed hexarchate story, although I wrote it after the first draft of Ninefox Gambit because it was bothering me that I didn’t know how Jedao had won while outnumbered eight to one. And putting the stories in order was easy because I decided to take the lazy way out and just put them in chronological order. (My cat will confirm you that I am very lazy: I refuse to get up at 4 a.m. to feed her, even when she starts gnawing on my wrist.)
Of course, that left 40,000 more words to fill up the other half of the book. I had a choice. I could either write a bunch of shorter stories, or I could write one long one. Again, because I am lazy, I decided to write one long one, a novella.
Long-form fiction–like novels or novellas–is a marathon. It’s not precisely easy, especially if one of your favorite activities is lying in bed trying not to get eaten by a hungry cat. But there’s one respect in which a novella is easier than a bunch of short stories. If you’re writing one novella, you have to have one big idea for a plot. If you’re instead writing eight short stories, you have to have eight big ideas for plots. Since I wanted to do this in the most efficient way possible without breaking my brain, it was obvious that one big idea would be easier than eight.
I am convinced that some of the best and most important lessons I have learned about writing come by way of math. As my 9th grade geometry teacher Mrs. Lee (no relation) used to say, “Math is beautiful. Love math and it will love you back!” She spoke truly.
Of course, this left me with the question of what to do for a novella.
My first idea was brilliant and I am still sad that I wasn’t able to make it happen. I even wrote to my editor and got him to okay it because it was a bit off the wall. I was dying to write an alternate history diverging from the end of Ninefox Gambit. Basically, Jedao survived instead of dying, and then he and Cheris would go off and have adventures together, discarding two whole books’ worth of plot in favor of something completely different!
Man, I miss that idea. However, it ran into an unassailable roadblock. I told my husband about my brilliant idea and he hated the idea of an author-created alternate history so much that he told me that it was a terrible idea and I shouldn’t do it and that people would think I was trolling. (Of course I was trolling! You don’t write crack like “Anthropomorphic Cats from Outer Space” when you aren’t trolling your readers.)
In the interests of household amity, I discarded my terribrilliant idea. I apologize to any readers who are now disappointed, but I really like my husband and I want to keep him! Also, he’s probably right that I shouldn’t troll the readers. Even though it’s fun.
Instead, I came up with an adventure called “Glass Cannon” involving Jedao Two, Cheris, and lots of explosions, taking place two years after the end of Revenant Gun. I wanted to explore the psychological effects of Jedao Two’s traumatic experiences, and to show Cheris in action again. This involved writing in alternating POV between the two. I also wanted to explore some of the ramifications of the revelations about the voidmoths in Revenant Gun.
Most of all, I wanted to leave Cheris and Jedao’s world irrevocably changed after I was done. Maybe that was a big ambition for a small novella. But there were loose ends, and while that was deliberate–I don’t believe in neatly knotted histories, even fictional histories–I wanted to take the consequences of the trilogy’s events and complicate things even more. If I have learned anything from reading about history, or listening to my mother’s stories of our family’s experiences, it’s that nothing’s ever simple.
Cheris and Jedao Two did not enjoy my forcing them to work together, but that only made it more fun for me to write. I also enjoyed coming up with a brand-new voidmoth character and showing what became of Moroish Nija. And, of course, my favorite part was the appearance of a surprise character from earlier in the trilogy. I’m afraid you’ll have to read “Glass Cannon” for details, though.
In any case, the moral of this story is that (a) novellas are exciting and (b) you should never, ever tell your husband what your terribrilliant ideas are! Next time I’ll keep mum and just go ahead and write the alternate history crack of my dreams.
About the Book:
An ex-Kel art thief has to save the world from a galaxy-shattering prototype weapon…A general outnumbered eight-to-one must outsmart his opponent…A renegade returns from seclusion to bury an old comrade…
From the incredible imagination of Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke award nominated author, Yoon Ha Lee, comes a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the best-selling Ninefox Gambit.
Showcasing Lee’s extraordinary imagination, this collection shows you the very beginnings of this incredible series as well as never-before-seen stories.
About the Author:
Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series has garnered massive critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo and Nebula Awards. It won the Best First Novel Award in the Locus Awards and the Reddit Fantasy Award. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.