David Thomas Moore is the commissioning editor at Abaddon Books, sister imprint to Solaris, and last year I absolutely adored his Sherlockian anthology Two Hundred and Twenty One Baker Streets. When I saw that this year he is publishing an anthology of novellas inspired by Shakespeare’s world, his fictional world that is, I was totally stoked, especially given the line up of writers he presented. But David isn’t only an excellent editor, he’s an allround good egg and funny guy, who often makes me laugh and think deeply with his posts on social media, so I was happy when I got to interview him for the publication of the first of the novellas from Monstrous Little Voices, Coral Bones by Foz Meadows. The stories will be published separately as e-only novellas, with a collected print edition to follow in April. I’ll be reviewing them in the near future, but for now: enjoy the interview!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is David Thomas Moore?
Ooh. Well, for starters, David Thomas Moore feels a little odd talking about himself in the third person. He concedes it has a certain patrician flair – even imperial; “render unto Caesar,” etc. – but it raises questions about the objective reality of his experience.
Who is David Thomas Moore? A husband, certainly, to a wise and accomplished wife; a father, to a small person who pronounces her name “Beatwix.” Commissioning editor of an imprint – Abaddon Books – founded by his friend and colleague Jonathan and given into his undeserving custodianship. LRPer, writer, karaokist, modest cook and mediocre carpenter. But these are only labels! Is the man the label? Is there nothing – no thing, no essential haecceistic truth – to the man besides what defines him? If David is not an I, a self that knows it exists only because, as Descartes observed, it must exist to ask the question, then surely he is nothing?
Er. David Thomas Moore is getting uncomfortable with this line of thought. He would like to answer another question.
How would you introduce people to Monstrous Little Voices?
Monstrous Little Voices is a mosaic novel, an interlinked collection of five long stories (or short novellas): a coming-of-age, a love story, a redemption tale, a picaresque and an elegy. Each stands on its own, with its own heroes, obstacles and triumphs, but taken together, they tell – or perhaps reveal – another story, which circles the collection as a hunter circles her prey, closing on the reader in gradual steps, until in the final acts it fills the world.
The stories are all set in Shakespeare’s world. Not the world he lived in, but the one he wrote: a world of fairies, witches, sorcerers, kings, wars, potions and fateful stars. A single world, where Duke Orsino plays host to Queen Titania, and Friar Lawrence studied herbalism with an old friend of Sycorax’s. Most of the characters have walked straight out of Shakespeare’s plays, in some cases only hours before. You don’t need to know any of the plays, but if you do, it’ll be rather like meeting old friends.
What inspired you to pitch the ideas of stories set in Shakespeare’s fantasy world?
This April 23rd is the 400th anniversary of the Bard of Avon’s death. It’s a nice round number, and I wanted to do something to honour it. He’s pretty much the big one, isn’t he? The ultimate authority in the English canon. Not to mention an important influence on my life, both in a youthful stint in the theatre and as an academic and professional.
What to do was less clear: science fiction and fantasy revisions of the plays? Two Vampires of Verona? The Merry AIs of Windsor? (The Space Tempest was already taken.) Eventually I realised that, of course, Shakespeare’s own world was a fantasy world. I didn’t want to relocate the stories: I wanted new stories from the same world. That was the germ of the idea.
Did you go in to the process of editing this anthology looking for a smaller number of longer works or could it have been an anthology of short stories like your previous anthology Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets?
Could have gone either way. Couple things decided it for me. First, talking about it with Adrian and Emma on the convention circuit last year, I felt like giving them the extra space to write in would allow them to stretch their wings, show me what they could really do. Second, the decision to try and cross the stories over, to set them all in the same world, seemed to make a big fourteen- or fifteen-person anthology unwieldy. This way I only had to bounce backwards and forwards a few times, rather than be endlessly checking and double-checking between stories.
You occasionally write a column called Word Nerd on the Abaddon blog, which I love. Now there is much in the English language that can be directly traced to originate with Shakespeare. As a fellow word nerd, it made me wonder, what is your favourite word or turn of phrase coined by Shakespeare?
Why thank you! *taps Groucho Marx-style cigar* Flattery will get you everywhere. (I plan to bring Word Nerd back shortly, after its recent hiatus.)
And oof! As soon make me chose a favourite limb, a favourite child, a favourite breath in my lungs!
I’ll give you two, both about the Devil. The first is “like the Dickens” (as in “hurts like the Dickens”), which most people assume relates to Charles Dickens in some way. In fact, it’s from Merry Wives; “Dickens” was an Elizabethan nickname for the Devil (they had loads; I’m also fond of “Scratch” and “the Old Gentleman”).
But probably my favourite is “give the Devil his due” (or occasionally, misquoting, “to the Devil his due”). It means “pay what you owe,” but I like the idea that the Devil has an allocation, a rightful due that we should respect and honour. It’s a bleak sort of view of the world, but sort of reassuring.
You’ve now played around in 221 Baker Street and traveled to Shakespeare’s world; will you be visiting another part of the literary canon to give it a speculative spin in the future?
Absolutely! It remains only to decide which part. I’m sort of considering Chaucer? Stevenson, perhaps, or DeFoe? I don’t have to decide just yet.
You’re not only an editor, but an author as well. Do you have any fiction slated to be published soon?
Erg, I’ve been rubbish for a bunch of reasons. Couple of plans upcoming, but really I’m cracking on with a novel for an uncertain period. It is about aliens.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I’ll certainly be at Nine Worlds and British FantasyCon (I quite like Scarborough!). We’re debating in the office, but World Fantasy in Columbus is looking likely. And we’re looking into the possibility of a launch for Monstrous, and I’ll jolly well go to that, you may be sure.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Roleplaying games, more than anything, chiefly tabletop. My Dad got me my first D&D set (the red Basic box) in 1983, and I didn’t look back. Every other hobby comes and goes as budget, time and headspace allow, but the one thing I never sacrifice – the core of me – is playing make believe with pens and dice.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Ooh, okay. Well, Em’s got a new SF novel, After Atlas, out next winter, and if it’s anything like Planetfall, it’ll be great. Adrian has a fantasy novel called The Tiger and the Wolf, and I’m hugely biased here because Adrian tells me my wife and I appear in it as characters (albeit heavily disguised)! Norah Jemisin’s got another Broken Earth book out this summer, so look out for that. I heard an upcoming writer, Anna Smith-Spark, read from unpublished Court of Broken Knives at Fantasycon, and when it eventually comes out it’s going to rock the publishing world.
Ooh, did you mean “by Rebellion”? Obviously I’m not allowed to pick a favourite, but aside from Monstrous, which has been a big ol’ labour of love, we have the terribly exciting Extinction Biome: Invasion, kicking off a new, complex and challenging military-SF series by Abaddon, which like Monstrous is coming out in novelette form, starting real soon.
Solaris has Paul Kearney’s The Wolf in the Attic out in a few months, which I hugely recommend. Paul’s a hugely talented writer, and never more happy than when he’s allowed to wax prolix and bucolic, and this is a rich, strange pastoral which features JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis as characters! My colleague Jon has Five Stories High coming out, a horror collection a little like Monstrous, with five authors a working together on a shared setting. Jon’s anthologies have all been brilliant – justly award-winning – so far, and the talent list is amazing, so give this one a try.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Heh. Currently it’s a bit of a mess due to space constraints, but generally alphabetically by author surname, then by series within an author name (if the author’s responsible for multiple series), then chronologically within series. Films are alphabetically by title (numerals 0-9 before A), but film series are grouped under series name and then ordered chronologically. Music is alphabetically by artist surname (for solo artists) or band name excusing a and the (numerals before letters), then chronologically, but soundtracks and compilations by album title excusing a and the.
My mother and I have long, serious discussions about alphabetisation.
Bio: Born in Australia, David Thomas Moore has lived and worked in the UK for the past twenty years, and has been writing for roleplaying magazines, fiction websites and short story anthologies for eight years. The Ultimate Secret is his first long work. He lives in Reading with his wife Tamsin and daughter Beatrix. You’re glad you met him.
You can find David online on Twitter at @abaddondave