The “Green Bone Saga,” Martial Arts, and Authors Who Inspire | Q&A with Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee, author of the “Green Bone Saga,” deftly spans science fiction and fantasy. She talks with LJ about the connections and divergences in sff, martial arts, and the authors who inspire her.

Fonda Lee, author of the “Green Bone Saga,” deftly spans science fiction and fantasy. She talks with LJ about the connections and divergences in sff, martial arts, and the authors who inspire her.

With the conclusion of yet another successful series, what’s on the horizon for you?

More books, hopefully! I’m both sad and excited to be done [with] Jade Legacy [LJ starred review], and I’m taking some time to sort through the ideas I’ve had percolating in the back of my mind for years while I’ve been focused on writing the “Green Bone Saga.” This year, I spent several months writing novellas and short fiction because after completing a trilogy of doorstopper epic fantasy novels, I needed to reset my brain by working on some smaller projects. I’m now planning and outlining my next series, though it’s too early for me to say anything about it yet.

How did your background in martial arts inspire certain aspects of your writing? Is the combat in your titles reflective of the type of martial arts you personally studied?

The combat depicted in my books have involved magical jade powers, zero gravity, and alien armor, so, unfortunately no, I can’t really say they’re reflective of what I’ve personally studied, but I can say that having practiced martial arts for a long time has definitely influenced the type of stories I tell and the way I write action scenes. I can easily visualize fight sequences in my mind, so those are some of the easiest parts of the book for me to write, even when they involve styles or weapons that I have to research and I’m not personally an expert in, such as grappling or firearms.

Having written both sf and fantasy, is there a subgenre that you personally prefer to write? If so, why?

I don’t have a preference. I think of science fiction and fantasy as two sides of a coin, and I enjoy writing in both subgenres. I prefer to write speculative fiction that seems as grounded and real as possible, whether that involves magic or advanced technology, so whether you’re reading a science fiction story from me, or a fantasy story, I think you’ll find they have a similar feel and authorial style.

What connections, divergences, or interesting overlaps do you see between sf and fantasy?

Both science fiction and fantasy use speculative elements to hold up a mirror to our own world, but generalizing very broadly, fantasy tends to be in conversation with our past—where we came from and how we got to where we are now—while as science fiction examines our future—where we’re going from here. There is a lot of overlap, of course, and I especially like to work in the interstitial spaces and crossover areas between genres. That’s where I think a lot of interesting and innovative stories are told. The “Green Bone Saga,” for example, is a deliberate blend of epic fantasy, urban fantasy, crime drama, and even some aspects of science fiction.

If there was one thing you wanted librarians to know about the “Green Bone Saga,” what would it be?

I think the “Green Bone Saga” is a good entry point into epic fantasy for readers who might not necessarily see themselves as big fantasy readers, as well as for people looking for fantasy settings they haven’t seen before, because it’s set in a recognizably modern world and the magic is straightforward and limited. One of my main goals was to write a fantasy story that felt extremely real. At its core, these books tell a family saga set amid a changing modern society, with a lot of superpowered knife fights along the way. Oh, and I’d say this is a good book to give to anyone who enjoyed the Shang-Chi movie.

Which authors/series inspire you?

This year, I dove into Octavia Butler’s work, and she’s an inspiration not only as a master of the craft, but as a relentless trailblazer in the genre. I’m also inspired by Neil Gaiman, because across a long career spanning many categories and forms of media, he maintains his distinct authorial style—you just know when you’re in a Neil Gaiman story.

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