While so many post-apocalyptic novels are bleak and hopeless, Carrie Vaughn bucked that tradition with her (relatively) more hopeful post-apocalyptic mystery Bannerless. In the following email interview about The Wild Dead (paperback, Kindle), the second book in The Bannerless Saga, Vaughn discusses where she got the idea for this second post-apocalyptic mystery, what inspired it, and where this series may (or may not, as the case may be) be going.
For people unfamiliar with this series, what are the novels in The Bannerless Saga about, what is The Wild Dead about, and how does The Wild Dead connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous book in this series, Bannerless?
These novels are post-apocalyptic murder mysteries set at a time when society is slowly recovering from a civilization-ending collapse by focusing on resource management and conservation. The Wild Dead is set about a year after Bannerless, in which Enid investigated her first murder. In The Wild Dead, Enid is sent with an inexperienced new partner to mediate a small community dispute in a far-flung settlement. The small dispute turns big when a murdered body washes up on the tide.
Where did you get the idea for The Wild Dead and how different is the finished novel from that original idea?
There’s so much about this world I want to explore, I took some ideas that didn’t quite fit in Bannerless and used them for The Wild Dead. I wanted to keep the structure of the murder mystery, and I also wanted to explore the interactions between the Coast Road and the nomadic peoples who live outside it, the wild folk. Mysteries are interesting to write because starting out I don’t always know “whodunit” or their motivations, so the writing itself becomes an exploration of those questions.
Because of that I can’t really say if the finished novel is different from the original idea, since the point of writing is to explore the idea.
Makes sense. So in the previous interview we did about Bannerless [which you can read here] you said that book was, “…a post-apocalyptic murder mystery.” Is that how you’d classify The Wild Dead as well?
Yes, Enid is in the process of becoming the Coast Road’s expert on murder, whether she likes it or not.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big impact on The Wild Dead but not on Bannerless?
I’m not sure, the influences on Bannerless are still in effect for The Wild Dead, particularly Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle For Leibowitz. Both my novels are reacting against a lot of the Mad Max or zombie outbreak type of apocalypse story. I’m interested in what survives, not the total erasure of what came before.
How about such non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had a big impact on The Wild Dead?
Weirdly enough, one of the biggest influences is probably all the “World Without People” kinds of books and documentary TV shows that have aired over the last few years, examinations of what happens to all our stuff if we just all disappeared. You start to learn how fragile civilization really is, how much of what we think of as solid will crumble in short order without constant upkeep. Also, recent current events — natural disasters and so on — have further illustrated this in a way that’s unfortunately useful in writing these books.
You also, in our previous interview, said that The Bannerless Saga was going to be an ongoing series, not a set number of books like a trilogy. Is that still the case?
Currently, the two books are all that’s planned. I’ll always have more ideas in this world so there may be more short stories. I’m not currently working on another novel, however.
Speaking of short stories, this series started with the short stories “Amaryllis” and “Bannerless,” both of which are in your short story collection Amaryllis And Other Stories. Have you written any more related short stories or made plans to?
There’s also the story “Astrophilia” which is also included in that collection. “Where Would You Be Now,” something of a direct prequel to Bannerless, appeared at Tor.com earlier this year [and you can read it here]. There may be more — it’s hard to predict which short stories will leap up and demand to be written.
Now, along with The Wild Dead, you also recently published the paperback edition of your space opera Martians Abroad. For those who missed it, what is that novel about?
Martians Abroad is about Polly, a third-generation Martian colonist who is sent to school on Earth with her twin brother Charles, and she isn’t happy about it at all. Adventures ensue.
Why do you think fans of Bannerless and The Wild Dead would enjoy Martians Abroad? Or not enjoy it, as the case may be.
I think some of them will; fans of classic science fiction in all its forms should like them both. But Martians Abroad definitely depicts a much different, more optimistic future for humanity.
In the interview we did about Martians Abroad [which you can read here], you said you had ideas for sequels but that, “The realities of publishing and making a career as an author will likely determine whether those get written.” Has anything changed in that regard?
Not really. I’ve moved on to some other ideas since then. I never lack for ideas, it’s just a matter of getting out there what publishers want to publish and readers want to read.
You’ve also written a ton of books in your Kitty Norville series, with the most recent, Kitty Saves The World, coming out three years ago. Are you planning on writing any more, or do you think that after saving the world that she deserves a break?
I still like that world, but I’m mostly focused on telling stories about some of the supporting characters, ones who didn’t really get to tell their stories in the novels. For example, “Dead Men in Central City,” a story about Rick the vampire meeting Doc Holliday, appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction last fall.
Going back to The Wild Dead, earlier I asked about the movies, TV shows, and video games that may have influenced that novel. But has there been any interesting in making The Wild Dead into a movie, show, or game?
With the popularity of detective and murder mystery TV shows, I keep thinking that would be a great outlet for the Bannerless books. Nothing planned yet, however.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Wild Dead, and they’ve already read Bannerless, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
I’d probably send them to either Discord’s Apple, which also has a bit of an apocalyptic storyline, as well as lots of literary and mythological references that makes it a lot of fun, or After The Golden Age, my superhero novel which is also something of a mystery with an unlikely hero who is a forensic accountant.