At a time when eqality and parity are slowly becoming the norm, it’s a little funny that the motivation behind No Game For Knights (hardcover, Kindle), a new anthology of sci-fi and fantasy detective short stories, would be to give equal time to men. In the following email interview, Knights editors Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell discuss how this collection came together in reaction to a previous anthology they did.
To start, what is theme of No Game For Knights?
Kacey: No Game For Knights is a science fiction and fantasy anthology centered around the noir archetype of the detective. A few years ago, Larry and I edited Noir Fatale, which is centered around the archetype of the “femme fatale,” and it seemed appropriate to give the guys equal time.
Who came up with the idea for No Game For Knights?
Kacey: I think it was my idea. I pitched it to Larry after we earned out of our advance for Noir Fatale and started receiving royalties. I felt like since we’d spent so much time celebrating the “femme fatale,” we probably needed to pay attention to the male side of the noir science fiction and fantasy story. I thought it would be interesting because I’m a huge noir fan, and I’ve always loved the complex detective characters in some of the great noir stories: Sam Spade, Nate Heller, Phillip Marlowe…and the cross-genre examples as well. Rick Deckard and Harry Dresden, for example. Noir Fatale turned out so well, and we got such amazing quality stories for it, I just knew that we could put together something really special once again.
Larry: I’m also a fan of noir, and I love mixing it with sci-fi and fantasy, like I did in my novel Hard Magic. So when Kacey had the idea for Noir Fatale, I was all in. I’m just glad that first anthology was popular enough for us to keep going with more.
Aside from having to fit the theme, what other parameters did the stories in No Game For Knights have to follow?
Kacey: We asked our authors to give us brand new stories of 7K-10K words, though we were a little flexible on the word count. In addition to featuring the detective archetype, we asked the authors to give us stories that had a distinct, gritty noir feel, and that also included some element of speculative fiction, whether science fiction or fantasy…or in one case, alternate history.
Larry: This worked out really well because the authors we invited were all experienced pros. When you’re working with writers of that caliber all you have to do is give them some basic parameters and turn them loose, and what you get back awesome.
The two of you also contributed stories to No Game For Knights. What are they about?
Larry: My story, “Allegation Of An Honorable Man,” is set in my Monster Hunter International universe, but I wanted to do something I’d not done before, so I set in L.A., 1949. I went for a straight up hard-boiled detective on a case kind of story, only the client isn’t human.
Kacey: Mine, “Faint Hearts,” is a collaboration with my co-author Griffin Barber, and it takes place in the same setting / universe as our novel Second Chance Angel. It’s actually a prequel story, and in it we tell the tale of how down-on-his luck club bouncer Ralston Muck becomes friends with the rich and powerful Emerita Bellasanee.
As we’ve been discussing, the stories in No Game For Knights are both science fiction and fantasy, as well as detective stories. But are there other genres or subgenres represented as well? You mentioned one being alternate history…
Kacey: Yeah, Bob Buettner turned in a phenomenal alt history story called “1957” that was so good we decided to make it our lead-off story. Sharon Shinn’s fantasy story “Pandemonium” has shades of urban fantasy, with the contemporary setting featuring shape-shifters.
Larry: I enjoyed how we got such an interesting split of stories, not just in genre, but also in tone. Like G. Scott Huggins fantasy story “The Hound Of The Bastard’s Villa” is light hearted and funny, and then S.A. Bailey’s story “Pagan” is excellent, but dark. To me that’s one of the best things about theme anthologies: authors naturally come at that theme from all sorts of different angles.
Detective stories are also sometimes mysterious. How mysterious do these stories get?
Kacey: Since we required a “detective” archetype at the center of the story, we defined “detective” as a character with some kind of truth-seeking motive. So there are quite a few stories with some mystery interwoven in. But the one that stands out to me as the most classic whodunnit is Rob Howell’s fantasy story “The Incomparable Treasure,” which is set in his Shijuren universe.
While there are people who enjoy both science fiction and fantasy, there are also people who prefer one over the other. Was there any thought to having No Game For Knights just be fantasy stories, and maybe doing a second anthology of sci-fi stories, maybe called something like No Game For Aliens?
Kacey: I don’t think we ever considered separating out the two. In my mind, this volume was the answer to Noir Fatale, and part of the fun was showcasing how these different noir character archetypes of the “femme fatale,” and the detective can be integrated into multiple different speculative genres.
You’ve mentioned how doing Noir Fatale led you to do No Game For Knights. But did you learn anything while working on Noir Fatale together that made editing No Game For Knights either easier or better?
Kacey: I learned that when you ask phenomenal, professional writers to give you stories…you get really good stories. That definitely made editing No Game For Knights easy.
I also learned to keep really good records for tax and royalty purposes.
Larry: I’ve edited a few anthologies now, and Kacey is spot on. The most important thing is getting good professional writers because they already know what they’re doing. But I’d like to add it helps to have a co-editor who is really sharp and works her butt off.
Hollywood loves turning short stories into movies. Are there any stories in No Game For Knights that you each think could make for a good movie?
Kacey: Oh, so many of them. To be honest, most of our writers gave us stories that have a kind of cinematic quality about them. Two that come immediately to mind are Chris Kennedy’s “Midnight Ride” and Nicole Givens Kurtz’s “All In The Family.” I could see them both happening as I read them.
Larry: I learned a long time ago to never get my hopes up in the Hollywood lottery. I’ve had too many books optioned and sitting in “development” forever. But there would be some good ones, Michael Haspil’s mummy detective story “Storm Surge” would make a great action show, while Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Sammy Oakley And The Jewel Of Amureki” would actually make a great cartoon, I kid you not.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about No Game For Knights?
Kacey: No Game For Knights is a continuation of my love affair with noir. These are stories about the anti-hero, the Gray Knight. These characters aren’t necessarily nice men, but they’re mostly good men…even if it takes a bit of digging to see it.
Finally, if someone enjoys No Game For Knights, what sci-fi and / or fantasy short story anthology of someone else’s would you each recommend people check out? Oh, and no, you’re not allowed to pick one that you or the other one edited.
Kacey: Baen did a really cool sci-fi anthology a few years ago edited by Dr. Robert Hampson and Dr. Les Johnson called Stellaris: People Of The Stars. It asks the question “who will we become when we take to the stars?” There are some outstanding stories, but the cool thing is that the anthology also includes several non-fiction scientific essays about the topic. I just thought that was a really cool way to structure a science fiction anthology.
I’d also recommend We Dare 4: Wanted, Dead Or Alive, which is a collection of sci-fi bounty hunter stories, which full disclosure, I had nothing to do with, but my daughter has a story in there.