Story behind Age of Godpunk by James Lovegrove

What? You don’t like novellas?

I do. I love ’em. I love reading them, because a novella isn’t the fast, intense jab of a short story and it isn’t the slow, mighty climb of a novel. It’s its own thing, a hybrid of the two, a deep, satisfying tale that’s easy to finish in one sitting but gives you full immersion in the characters and their world. It’s a burger that’s also a four-course meal. 

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What’s more, I love writing novellas. Usually they’re begun and done within three weeks, four at the most. In less than a month, a finished book! Sometimes, as an author, you just need that relatively quick gratification, that sense of accomplishment.

So when my publisher, Solaris, asked if I’d write an ebook-only novella whose release would coincide with publication of my fourth Pantheon novel, Age Of Aztec, I said sure, yes, only too happy, why ever not? Solaris were then testing the waters of e-publishing, and a novella seemed like a good way to go, cheaper than full-length novel, less outlay up front, less risk. 

That was Age Of Anansi, and it sold well enough for them to suggest my doing the same thing with the Pantheon novel that came after, Age Of Voodoo. By this time I had realised that I could use the format to deviate from the standard concept of my godpunk fiction, which is fusing ancient gods with modern-day military SF. Age Of Anansi was an urban fantasy tale, as was (even more so) its successor Age Of Satan. These stories didn’t need firearms and high-tech hardware. They were about the contemporary world, contemporary issues. They were personal, political and ever so slightly satirical.

They also drew on mythologies that are less extensive and less well documented than the classic ones such as those of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Whereas with Age Of Odin, say, I had the full range of the Norse sagas to explore and plunder, with Age Of Anansi I was looking at a much smaller, more concise tradition. That and the length of a novella, some 30,000 words, proved a good fit. 

Once I’d written two of them, it seemed silly not to add another. In the manner of Arthur C. Clarke’s Ramans, I like to do everything in threes. Also, by this time Solaris and I were in agreement that physical-format publication was the next logical step, so a third novella would round out an omnibus edition nicely. Hence Age Of Gaia, which is simultaneously appearing as a standalone ebook as well.

I suggested titling the omnibus Age Of Godpunk because we had been batting the term godpunk around for a while, putting it out into the ether to see if it would gain traction as a descriptor for this subgenre I was gradually carving and codifying. That seemed to be happening, so why not formalise it by sticking the word on the cover of a book?

The result is a piece of work I’m particularly proud of, something I – and I hope lots of others – would gladly have on the bookshelf. The novellas sit well together, even though they’re about very different deities: the trickster spider-god of African oral tradition, the Judaeo-Christian lord of lies, and the modern-day personification of our home planet’s environment.

That trio may not appear to have much in common, but they do. They’re all products of our collective imagination, and prey upon universal hopes and fears, and can be willed into existence by sheer belief. They’re all gods you really don’t want to cross, either. The consequences can be devastating.

So you don’t love novellas? In that case, I would humbly submit that you’re missing out on something. At the very least, I hope you’d care to try these three. I’m convinced you’ll love them.

James Lovegrove
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