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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

GUEST POST: Alternative Renaissance by Craig Cormick


Hello folks. First a quick description of my new book The Shadow Master: It’s a kick-arse tale of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic, with sword fights and mad clerics and assassins and bombs and magical shape-changers and dark catacombs and tall towers and an army of plague people – with everything except a car chase. And through it all is this mysterious figure, the Shadow Master, who is manipulating everyone towards his own ends.

Sound interesting? I hope so.

And it’s set in Renaissance Italy – well sort of. Because the premise to my book is that the world is one where science works like magic. Let me explain.

So, my day job is as a science communicator, and I’ve travelled to a lot of interesting places, including Antarctica for work – but a few years back I was at a conference in Florence in Italy, and while walking around the Galileo museum I got this idea – like one of those serendipitous moments that just appear in your head – pow! I’d been doing a panel talk on what drives beliefs in anti-science thinking and if science is just one more way of viewing the world – and I thought, what if science behaved like magic?

I mean, what if, when Galileo invented the telescope, it actually transported you across to what you were looking at. And what if the early chronometers actually slowed down time? And what if when you strapped on Leonardo da Vinci’s flying harness you actually transformed into a giant bird?

And the idea for the book sprang out of that moment. I carried it around in my head for a while, working out ideas and things – and I turned Florence into the Walled City of my book, and I went and studied up a lot on the history of the city and found out more about the Medici family and then wanted to scaffold it all upon a traditional Italian story.

I love using folk tale motifs and so on in my work and wanted to do something similar in the Shadow Master, when I found this 18th Century Italian novel the Betrothed – that is set in 1628 and tells of the plague years and the politics and church of the time – and has two young lovers – Lorenzo and Lucia. And I thought – uh-huh – gotta have them in my story.


And so I have two warring houses – the Medicis and the Lorraines – and a Lucia Lorraine falls in love with Lorenzo, who works for Galileo in the Medici household. Much of the book describes the efforts of the two to reach each other (dodging the mad monks, assassins, kidnappers and plague and so on), and discovering that when they touch magic happens that changes the city about them.

A few critics have thought it a Romeo and Juliet story, but its inspiration is actually The Betrothed (Il Promessi Sposi), written by Alessandro Manzoni in 1827.

So that’s where my Shadow Master world sprang from, but in the writing of it I had to amend my original idea a few times to make it work better for the ending I was planning – which is a bit of a mind-shift, so if you’re reading it, don’t get too comfortable in thinking you know just what is happening.

And having written the Shadow Master and gotten a two book contract with Angry Robot books, I started thinking about the sequel. I wanted originally to have it that the Shadow Master, who, as I said, is this mysterious figure who arrives and pulls the strings to manipulate how everything turns out – travels in time and pops up in different eras, and I wanted to then have him in World War One. But AR guys said they wanted to keep him in the Renaissance. So the sequel to the Shadow Master is set in a Venice-like city, that is a floating city. And in this story I’m using the Italian proto-tales of Othello, Romeo and Juliet and the Merchant of Venice within it. They are the tales that Shakespeare adapted into his plays. They are worth checking out if you’re interested: Luigi da Porto’s Giulietta e Romeo, Ser Giovanni’s Il Pecorone (the Dunce), and Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi.

The sequel is also very kick-arse, though I think a little more funny than The Shadow Master. Incidentally a highlight of the Galileo museum in Florence, if you ever get to go there, is finding Galileo’s mummified middle finger in a glass jar, turned to point at the main cathedral in the city. Payback for all the persecution he received from the Church. Check it out!


Official Author Website
Order The Shadow Master HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION:  Craig Cormick was born in Australia. He has been interested in writing since quite a young age. He has written more than hundred short stories as well as twenty books in fiction and non-fiction categories. He has also won the ACT Book of the Year Award (1999) and a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (2006). Craig has a PhD in creative historical fiction and he currently lives in Canberra.

NOTE: Author picture courtesy of Donna Maree Hanson and Craig Cormick. All other pictures courtesy of the author.

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