Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Silver on the Road"

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula-nominated author of many pretty-damn-good-according-to-reviewers F/SF novels and short fiction. She also dips her pen into the mystery field, writing the Gin & Tonic series as L.A. Kornetsky.

Gilman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Silver on the Road, and reported the following:
The setting: Isobel is a young woman who has been suddenly, unexpectedly, thrust into a position of authority - and then, in effect, kicked out to find her own way. In this scene, she’s just recently left the small, protected town that has been her home for most of her life, knowing that she has to represent her new position but aware she has neither the skills or knowledge required.
[The marshal was] judging, but not offensive; more like how Marie looked at someone who swore their silver was good, no need to test it, like you might be telling the truth but shouldn’t take her for such a fool to assume it. “Are you, now. And I’m presuming you have the papers to prove it?”

She bit the inside her of mouth and handed him the oilskin packet she had taken from her saddlebag. “I do.” What had she thought, that she would walk in and they would somehow know, would see it in her? She wasn’t the boss, so full of his own power, it spilled from him. She wasn’t even Marie, who’d soaked up enough of his easy ways that she could reflect it right back at you until you couldn’t imagine questioning her. She was ... green to the road, Gabriel had said.

Unproven. If this man had taken her at her word, he’d be a fool and unfit to carry the marshal’s badge and sigil.

He looked over the papers, careful, not just skimming the ink, then finally, after what seemed forever, held one up to the lamp to check the watermark. “New to the road, are you, then?”

“New to the road, but not the Territory,” she said, trying to pitch her voice like Marie’s, just sharp enough to deflect the teasing but not sound as though she were taking offense. He shuffled the papers back into the packet and stood. He was taller than she, and while his plain brown tab-collar shirt bore no insignia, she thought she would have known him for a marshal nonetheless.

“Welcome to the Junction, ma’am,” he said, handing her back the packet. “Any aid we can offer, please don’t you hesitate to request.”

He waited, and she nodded once, holding the packet under her arm, and turned and left the office.
This is a telling moment in Isobel’s personality, cluing the reader in, for the first time, what she is going to be facing, and showing us how she is going to handle it - ten percent bluster and confidence, and ninety percent shaking in her boots.

It also introduces us to one of the “competing” powers of the Territory, the marshals, and their ongoing uneasy (and yet collegial) relationship with the Devil’s Hand…

But what we don’t see here is Gabriel, the mentor who has been chosen for her, or the pervasive pressure of the magic around them - some of which she now carries within her, all unknowing. And that, in many ways, means that this page misses the true heart and thrust of the book.

Page 70, on the other hand…
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Anne Gilman's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Silver on the Road.

--Marshal Zeringue