Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Guest Post with S.M. Stirling - Theater of Spies

Photo Credit: Anton Brkic

Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverseseries.

I grew up reading the classics of adventure fiction – Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Buchan Rider Haggard, Kipling, with side-excursions into others like Kenneth Grahame – and then moved on to to the pulps, where science fiction, espionage, crime and fantasy mingled; writers like C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Robert E. Howard. In later years, I moved on to their children and grandchildren, to writers like Andre Norton, Poul Anderson and P.J. Farmer. Even Tolkien is in that line of descent, if on a collateral branch; he derives more directly from the ultimate sources in Classical and medieval epic and romance.

In terms of literary quality, those writers varied widely – and wildly – but what they had in common was drive. That’s my term for a combination of vivid color, narrative intensity, and an underlying quality of belief in what they’re writing, a feeling that at least while they write it, the story is on some level true for them. Throw in the longing for the extraordinary, the things beyond the horizon, below the quotidian surface, the place where ‘the strange roads go down’.

I never wanted to directly imitate those writers; fine as many of them were, they were of their day and the day is gone. We can still read them, but we inhabit a different world. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t have the same things – the drive, the color, the intensity and the love of the strange. That’s what I’m trying to achieve, and in particular in the “Black Chamber” books, of which “Theater of Spies” is the second.

The more so as it’s set in the 1910’s-1920’s, the age when science fiction first came together as a genre, and when pulp adventure, the planetary romances and lost worlds, were flourishing, and when the superhero was a-borning.

Teddy Roosevelt, who’s an important though not central character in these books, is himself an example of how fiction and life twine seamlessly together. A frail, sickly, timid child obsessed with the outdoors and with fearless adventurers and leaders, he set out to create himself in the image of the stories he loved. And he did so – he became the man who rode amid stampeding longhorns, faced down gunmen in frontier saloons, charged up San Juan Hill. And, incidentally, once leapt onto the back of an enraged cougar (a record at 215 pounds) and stabbed it to death with his bowie knife.

The second novel in an alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president once more right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America’s back.

After foiling a German plot to devastate America’s coastal cities from Boston to Galveston, crack Black Chamber agent Luz O’Malley and budding technical genius Ciara Whelan go to California to recuperate. But their well-deserved rest is cut short by the discovery of a diabolical new weapon that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the North Sea.

Luz and Ciara must go deep undercover and travel across a world at war, and live under false identities in Berlin itself to ferret out the project’s secrets. Close on their trail is the dangerous German agent codenamed Imperial Sword, who is determined to get his revenge, and a band of assault-rifle equipped stormtroopers, led by the murderously efficient killer Ernst Röhm. From knife-and-pistol duels on airships to the horrors of the poison-gas factories to harrowing marine battles in the North Sea, the fight continues–with a world as the prize.

Praise for the THEATER OF SPIES

“A masterly mashup of historical context and SF plausibility.” —Library Journal


“As a spy thriller, Black Chamber stacks up with the old classics of Kipling and John Buchan. As sci-fi, it comes off as terribly plausible, with Tom Clancy-like mastery of old weapons and potential ones.” 
Wall Street Journal

"Stirling crams his story with so much historical detail that it threatens to burst, but alleviates this with plenty of suspense and action to keep readers turning the pages." Financial Times 

"Stirling’s written a fast-paced, hectic adventure of a thriller." Locus Magazine

"A rollicking spy thriller set in a familiar WW1, but with a 'what might have been' America." Taylor Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of River of Bones

"A slam-bang spy thriller with an engaging female protagonist." David Drake, author of Death's Bright Day

"Nobody carries a bigger stick in the alternate-history game than S. M. Stirling. As always, he comes up with inventive twists that keep your mind racing and the pages turning. Bravo!" Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Quantum Night

"Once again one of the best story-tellers in the world takes you on a wonderful ride. Great tale, great characters ...love it. " David Crosby, of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash

"The nice thing about getting a Steve Stirling book in the mail is that you know for a few hours you can fly on dreams of wonder, travelling to a world so much more than this angry reality." John Ringo, author of Under a Graveyard Sky

"It's a great feeling being in the hands of an alternate history master. Black Chamber is a wonderfully fun transcontinental spy romp, and a great beginning to a new series." Django Wexler, author of The Infernal Battalion
You can purchase Theater of Spies at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you S.M. STIRLING for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Theater of Spies (Tales from the Black Chamber #2) by S.M. Stirling. 


  1. "At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?" The right arm rest, of course!

  2. Neither, I always seem to luck out on having an arm rest unless I am in the last seat of the row.