Wormholes and Swords is a blog dedicated to Science Fiction and Fantasy, with a bit of real world technical stuff thrown in from time to time. It is managed by T.D. Wilson, author of the Science Fiction book series, The Epherium Chronicles.

Friday, February 28, 2014

An Interview With R.A. Salvatore

One of the great things I get to do with this blog is to engage many of the great authors who have inspired me and captured my imagination.  I recently concluded an interview with another of my favorite authors, Mr. R.A. Salvatore.  I was originally introduced to his works, as many of us were, when I read The Crystal Shard, the first book of the Icewind Dale Trilogy.  Just last year, I was in Maryland and he was having a book signing at the John Hopkin's University Barnes & Noble in Baltimore.  I had to go, so I beat the incoming snowstorm and made it in time to listen to him talk about his works, one of my favorite characters, Drizzt Do'urden, and his upcoming novel at that time, The Last Threshold.  See, here is the picture.

T.D. Wilson:  I'm just glad you made it to the next stop after the snow storm the next day. So let's get on with the questions.  What was your path to becoming an author?  Was writing always a goal when you were younger?

R.A. Salvatore: I took a roudabout route, to be sure. When I was very young, I wanted to be a writer (and an astronaut and an archeologist), but by the time I got through high school, I wasn't much of a reader or a writer. School beat the joy of it out of me. I started college as a math major. Then I read Tolkien and the joy returned. I read every fantasy book I could get my hands on - there weren't that many in 1978-1981 - and when I ran out, I simply wrote my own (Echoes of the Fourth Magic).

People around me liked it, so I sent it out, got nothing, and kept working on it. In 1987, i was pleased with where the book was at, so I sent it around again, including to TSR. TSR couldn't publish it, but liked what I had done, so they asked me to audition for the second book in a new world they were creating: The Forgotten Realms.

Writing sort of found me, as it turns out.

T.D. Wilson: For some of my readers who don’t know how Drizzt Do’urden came to be, can you explain how you came up with the character when you started the Icewind Dale books?

R.A. Salvatore: Ah, the most asked question of all...I just did a big post on this on my Facebook Page, and actually pulled it from the Forward of The Dark Elf Trilogy omnibus...here goes:

Here's a bit of an FAQ for you...people ask me all the time where Drizzt came from. Was he a character in a D&D campaign I played? Is he someone I know?

Well, the answer is surprising, and, I think, kind of funny. I look back on it now and wonder how it ever got to this point, why my car has DRKELF for a license plate (and why people keep asking me, "Who's Dr. Kelf?"

Here it is, from the forward (written in 1998, I believe, just before The Silent Blade came out) of the Dark Elf Trilogy, for your reading pleasure:


They wanted Drizzt.

The folks at TSR wanted Drizzt, the readers of the Icewind Dale Trilogy wanted Drizzt, and well, let’s be honest about it, I wanted him, too. I wanted to find out where he came from and why he acted in such a manner, half-crazy, mostly lighthearted, but with a very definite dark side to him, during the three Icewind Dale stories. I know that sounds strange; we’re talking about a fictional character here, and one that I created, so wouldn’t his background be of minimal importance, perhaps even completely irrelevant, malleable to whatever I desired?

In a word, no. That’s the thing about fictional characters, they have a way of becoming real. And not just real to the people reading about them, but surprisingly multi-dimensional to the author, as well. I come to love, or hate, admire or despise, the characters I create in my books, and for that to happen, each of them must act consistently within the framework of his or her experiential background — whether that background appears in the books or not.

So when my editors at TSR called me, a short time before the publication of The Halfling’s Gem, the third and final book in the Icewind Dale Trilogy, in late 1989 or early 1990, and proposed to me that I do another trilogy, this one detailing the background of Drizzt Do’Urden, I was hardly surprised. The books had been quite successful, and I knew from the many letters I received and from the many people with whom I spoke at booksignings, that Drizzt had, for some reason, stood above the other characters. I averaged about ten letters from readers a week at that time, and at least eight of those ten readers would remark that Drizzt was his/her favorite, and would ask, repeatedly, how he got to where he was, and to who he was. TSR, of course, had been hearing the same remarks.

So they asked for a prequel trilogy, and because I have three kids to support, and because I was planning on quitting my day job that same year (which I did, in June of 1990), and most of all because I, too, truly wanted to unravel the mystery behind this character, I gladly agreed.
I knew where Drizzt was conceived of course — that happened in my office (at my day job). And I knew when he came into being — that would be in July of 1987, right after my proposal to do The Crystal Shard was accepted and right before I actually started writing the book. Truly it is one of the strangest episodes of my writing career. At the time I began writing the asked-for proposal, you see, the Forgotten Realms was nothing more than a prototype and a single novel, the excellent Darkwalker on Moonshae by Doug Niles. When TSR asked me to write a Realms’ book, they sent me all that they had, which amounted to....Darkwalker on Moonshae. Thus, I came to believe that the Moonshae Isles were the Forgotten Realms. Well, the Moonshaes aren’t that large a place, and any epic-type story taking place in that region at that time would have to at least mention the story and characters of Doug’s fine book. Thrilled at a chance to be working with Doug Niles, but definitely not wanting to steal his characters, I came up with a compromise that would involve using Daryth from Doug’s book to introduce the hero of my book, Wulfgar, son of Beornegar, of the barbarian tribes.

When I later discovered the actual size and scope of the Realms, and was told that TSR did not want to share characters (as they did with Dragonlance), I was truly relieved, and that was the end of it — for a time.

Because then the proposal got accepted, and in that phone call, when Mary Kirchoff told me I’d be writing the second Forgotten Realms’ novel, she reminded me that, now that we had set the book thousands of miles from Doug’s stomping ground, I needed a new sidekick for Wulfgar. I assured her that I’d get right on it and come up with something the following week.

“No, Bob,” she responded, words I seem to hear too often from editors. “You don’t understand. I’m going into a meeting right now to sell this proposal. I need a sidekick.”

“Now?” I, in my never-before-in-the-world-of-publishing naivete (stupidity) responded.

“Right now,” she answered rather smugly.

And then it happened. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. I merely said. “A drow.”

There came a pause, followed by, in a slightly hesitant tone, “A dark elf?”

“Yeah,” I said, growing more confident as the character began to take more definite shape in my mind. “A drow ranger.”

The pause was longer this time, then, in barely a whisper, the tremors of having to go and tell this one to the mucky-mucks evident in her tone, “What’s his name?”

“Drizzt Do’Urden, of D’aermon N’achezbaernon, Ninth House of Menzoberranzan.”

“Can you spell that?”

“Not a chance.”

“A drow ranger?”


“Drizzit?” she asked.

“Drizzt,” I corrected (for the first of 7.3 million times).

“Okay,” the beleaguered editor agreed, probably thinking she would just change my mind later on.

But she didn’t of course, and in truth, and this is a testament to Mark Kirchoff, she let the creative person she hired do the creative thing and waited to see the result before taking out the hatchet (which never came out).

Thus Drizzt was born. Did I ever run him in a game? Nope. Is there anyone I based him on? Nope. He just happened, unexpectedly and with very little forethought. He was only supposed to be a sidekick character, after all, a curiosity piece with a slightly different twist. You know, like Robin to Batman, or Kato to the Green Hornet.

Of course it didn’t work out that way. The first chapter I wrote of The Crystal Shard had Drizzt running across the tundra and getting ambushed by a yeti. By page three, I knew.

Drizzt was the star of it all.

T.D. Wilson: That was awesome.  I remember you telling it at the book signing and everyone enjoyed it.  So, how much free reign did TSR, now Wizards of the Coast, give you for setting up Drizzt’s home, Menzoberranzan, in The Forgotten Realms world?

R.A. Salvatore: When i sat down to write Homeland, I looked around and realized that there really wasn't much source material to base the culture on. I had the old modules (Vault of the Drow, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, etc.) and a single-page entry in the Fiend Folio, but that was about it. So I called TSR and asked if they had anything else. They didn't, and told me I had carte blanche to set up the drow culture in the Forgotten Realms.

So (not kidding), I dragged out my copy of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, pulled from Gary Gygax's old work, and went to it.

T.D. Wilson: I loved the characters you created to face off against Drizzt.  Do you have a favorite antagonist for Drizzt and why?

 R.A. Salvatore: Artemis Entreri, of course. Here's the thing, Entreri started as a mechanical killing machine, devoid of emotion and bent on being perfection of martial skill. He was an instrument, nothing more. To Drizzt, he became the fear of what he, Drizzt, might have become had he stayed in Menzoberranzan.
Conversely, to Entreri, finding a passionate fighter who was at least his equal, made his life a lie. Drizzt didn't need to wall off his heart to be amazing with the sword, so what was the point of Entreri's great sacrifice?

T.D. Wilson: I agree, I think that Entreri was my favorite as well, but I also like Jarlaxle.  Let's go to the next question.  I know that the Sundering was a big transition for Forgotten Realms.  How much of a change was it to transition to the new Sundering setting and its effects on your characters?

 R.A. Salvatore: Not so much, since Wizards let us authors in on the ground floor of the FR storyline for the changes. 4th Edition rattled me, but from the day we were told our marching orders for 4th, I began plotting the inevitable shift that would come with 5th. In other words, I was more than ready for this!

T.D. Wilson: Moving to a different topic, what are your thoughts on Disney’s plans to change or eliminate the Star Wars Expanded Universe?  As one of the authors who has written one of the core novels, do you plan to do anything else for the Star Wars storyline?

R.A. Salvatore: I have no plans to return to Star Wars, and haven't been asked to do so. If they asked, I'd listen, sure. As to their direction - it's solely up to them and I have no problem whichever way they choose to take it. Just make it fun for me!

T.D. Wilson: What projects are you working on now?  There always seems to be something going on like your work with your Demonwars world and more Drizzt novels.

 R.A. Salvatore: It's been a very busy winter in the Salvatore household. On the Drizzt front, I've just finished up the rewrite of Rise of the King, this summer's sequel to Night of the Hunter (I just returned form the warehouse, where I signed stacks of that one for the March 11 release). I've just started the next in line, which is planned for a March, 2015 release.

My sons and I are tying together the last pieces for DemonWars: Reformation, the pen&paper, tabletop roleplaying game we launched through a successful kickstarter. I wrote a 30,000 word novella, The Education of Brother Thaddius, for that one. I'm working on a couple of other projects, but I'm not at liberty to discuss those right now.

T.D. Wilson: Finally, I know you’re a softball player.  I’ve played for years.  Does your team consist of other writers and do you play in any competitive or charity tournaments?

R.A. Salvatore: It's a family team, including my two sons, four nephews, my niece's husband and his twin brother, and a few close friends. we play in a very competitive league.

T.D. Wilson: Well, that's all we have time for today.  Mr. Salvatore, I want to thank you again for agreeing to this interview.  Your work has been an inspiration and immerses us into a fantastic world where we can walk side by side with you characters.  Who wouldn't want to follow a Drow Ranger and big black mystical panther across the countryside?  I know I would.

As one of the fantasy genre's most successful authors, R.A. Salvatore enjoys an ever-expanding and tremendously loyal following.
His books regularly appear on The New York Times best-seller lists and have sold more than 10,000,000 copies. Salvatore’s most recent original hardcover, The Two Swords, Book III of The Hunter’s Blade Trilogy (October 2004) debuted at # 1 on The Wall Street Journal best-seller list and at # 4 on The New York Times best-seller list. His books have been translated into numerous foreign languages including German, Italian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Turkish, Croatian, Bulgarian, Yiddish, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Czech, and French.
Salvatore's first published novel, The Crystal Shard from TSR in 1988, became the first volume of the acclaimed Icewind Dale Trilogy and introduced an enormously popular character, the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden. Since that time, Salvatore has published numerous novels for each of his signature multi-volume series including The Dark Elf Trilogy, Paths of Darkness, The Hunter's Blades Trilogy, and The Cleric Quintet.
His love affair with fantasy, and with literature in general, began during his sophomore year of college when he was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift. He promptly changed his major from computer science to journalism. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Fitchburg State College in 1981, then returned for the degree he always cherished, the Bachelor of Arts in English. He began writing seriously in 1982, penning the manuscript that would become Echoes of the Fourth Magic. Salvatore held many jobs during those first years as a writer, finally settling in (much to our delight) to write full time in 1990.
The R.A. Salvatore Collection has been established at his alma mater, Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, containing the writer's letters, manuscripts, and other professional papers. He is in good company, as The Salvatore Collection is situated alongside The Robert Cormier Library, which celebrates the writing career of the co-alum and esteemed author of young adult books.
Salvatore is an active member of his community and is on the board of trustees at the local library in Leominster, Massachusetts. He has participated in several American Library Association regional conferences, giving talks on themes including "Adventure fantasy" and "Why young adults read fantasy." Salvatore himself enjoys a broad range of literary writers including James Joyce, Mark Twain, Geoffrey Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, and Sartre. He counts among his favorite genre literary influences Ian Fleming, Arthur Conan Doyle, Fritz Leiber, and of course, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Born in 1959, Salvatore is a native of Massachusetts and resides there with his wife Diane, and their three children, Bryan, Geno, and Caitlin. The family pets include three Japanese Chins, Oliver, Artemis and Ivan, and four cats including Guenhwyvar.

When he isn't writing, Salvatore chases after his three Japanese Chins, takes long walks, hits the gym, and coaches/plays on a fun-league softball team that includes most of his family. His gaming group still meets on Sundays to play.

Author Aaron Allston Passes Away

One of great authors of the Star Wars Universe has passed away at the age of 53.  Aaron Allston collapsed yesterday of a massive heart attack at VisionCon in Springfield, Missouri.  He wrote several novels for the Star Wars brand, including some of the X-wing Squadron novels, the Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi series.  He will be sorely missed.

Here is a link to the latest story.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Godzilla Movie Trailer!

The first full Godzilla movie trailer is out and it looks intense!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Embrace: Chapter 2

We are officially one week away from the release of The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace and, as promised, I have posted Chapter 2.  I look forward to talking with anyone who wants to post about Embrace or the series for that matter.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crucible Cover Reveal!

The Epherium Chronicles: Crucible will be released May 26, 2014

I know that Embrace's release date is just over a week away, but I wanted to post the production cover for Crucible, the second book in the series.  It looks really good and captures the theme of the story well.  Post your thoughts.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


May 16

Wow!  Godzilla is huge in this new movie.  I could almost here Wedge Antilles yell, "Look at the size of that thing!"

Monday, February 17, 2014

How Did You Get Interested In Sci-fi/Fantasy?

We all have our beginnings we can crossed that imaginary line and became of fan of fantasy or science fiction.  It could have happened a number of ways: a book, a movie, TV, or even an old radio show.  Now, it may not have happened all at once, but once you realized you liked genres, you were hooked.  Admit it.  I did, a long time ago.  I grew up with my family watching westerns, campy sit-coms like the Brady Bunch, and even cop shows.  SWAT and Adam-12 were my favorite at one point, even though I was only in the second grade. But weekends had the escape shows that enhanced the imagination.  I was exposed to shows like Lost in Space, Star Trek, big Japanese monster movies, and of course, The Six Million Dollar Man.   At that age, I spent more time watching TV for fun than reading and when movies like Star Wars arrived, I was already entrenched.

Those early TV shows spring boarded me into the 80s and 90s.  I was ready to uncover new shows like Buck Rogers,  Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Movies with cool special effects were on the rise, but now I wanted to read the stories behind them and books became a focus.  I also think the 80s time period saw the real rise of the modern day fantasy novel genre.  So many good books came out in the mid 80s and into the 90s that attracted readers who wanted to go beyond what we had experienced from J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Some of my earliest reading was the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  To me, those stories weren't detective mysteries, they were fantasy, set it a Victorian age.

You see, it's hard to pick just one point where we leap over the line and declare ourselves sci-fi/fantasy geeks.  The experiences I've had over my 45 years on this planet have led me to new worlds, far off planets, different dimensions, and distant times.  Take a moment and think back on what first got you interested in these genres and post it.  I bet it brings back some great memories.  For me, it already has.

The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace

Chapter 1

As we close in on the two week mark for Embrace's release date, I wanted to release an excerpt of Chapters 1.  I'll post another excerpt next week. Take a look and remember that March 3 is the official release date.  It is available on the Carina Press website and most online retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ITunes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Star Wars: The Clone Wars 6th and Final Season

Well it looks like Star Wars: The Clone Wars will have a 6th and final season, but it will be on Netflix.  According to the news release, the shortened 13 episode season will address many of the open topics from the series, including what happens to Ahsoka Tano.  There is also an episode where Qui-Gon Jinn will appear to Yoda.  Liam Neeson is going to reprise his role and provide the voice for Qui-Gon.

New episodes will be available March 7 and as part of the Disney/Netflix deal, all five previous seasons will be available on Netflix for streaming.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

More Sci-fi Trivia

I thought I would throw an easy question into the mix early this week.  In the Iron Man films, Jarvis is Tony Stark's artificial intelligence that helps him with just about everything.  When Tony created him, it was J.A.R.V.I.S.  What does the acronym stand for?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Science Fiction Trivia Time!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

Now that I have a brief lull in what I've been working on, I need to catch up on my trivia posts.  This one comes from 1956 with the US release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters!  This film was a edited version of the original 1954 film released in Japan, which was the first kaiju or huge monster movie to be created.  Since I haven't made a trivia post in awhile, I'm going to ask three questions.  Post what know and share it with everyone. 

Question #1  What island off Japan did Godzilla first appear?

Question #2  In the 1956 edited version, a US reported was added to the film covering the Godzilla sightings.  What was the name of the actor who played him?

Question #3  What was the weapon used to destroy Godzilla?

Take a crack at them and be sure to share them online and with your friends.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Railguns "The Series"

Part 4: The Epherium Chronicles

I decided to wait to post this next segment in my series on Railguns, since what I want to talk about will have more relevance to the first two books of my sci-fi series, The Epherium Chronicles, that are about to be released.  In my previous posts, we looked at history of railguns, the science behind them, and how we have used different versions (railguns and coilguns) in science fiction books, movies, and even video games.

All of those posts have just primed you for this one.  Trust me.  Now, The Epherium Chronicles story is set in the mid 22nd century.  The primary weapon of choice for space combat and for some ground force units is a railgun.  Why a railgun and not a particle weapon or laser?  Good question.  I looked at all viable types and humans were still developing a particle weapon for a large military application and in my series, ended up reverse engineering an alien design.  For short range point defense weapons in space, pulse laser cannons were most effective, but had limited range.  The high energy laser cannons required even more energy than several railguns and was their effective range was much less than the railgun.  The railgun could produce devastating effects if properly maintained and was chosen as the primary weapon on all Earth Defense Force ships.

So what kind of design are we looking at?  Well, let me put my engineer hat back on for a second.  In one of my earlier posts on the science of railguns, I described a hybrid style railgun that uses electrically energized plasma to help catapult the projectile along with the magnetic fields of the rails.  Well, the design is very similar to this.  Take a look at the picture of a hybrid style railgun.

This style uses a projectile carriage to carry the armature current instead of having flow through the projectile itself.  At the rear of the projectile, we can introduce another material across the rails almost as a spark to get the projectile in motion.  The high energy plasma moves the projectile the new armature current transfers to the carriage, launching it deadly armament at high velocity.  This design also solves a problem of the hybrid launchers.  During the reload cycle the carriage is energized in the reverse and is slowly clean the rails of any left over plasma that might interfere with the next ignition.

Of course, railguns generate a tremendous amount of recoil force and the rails have a danger of pushing out of alignment.  In the design I used for the EDF weapons, railgun are mounted on turrets capable of handling the recoil.  Also the rails are enclosed in a long tube of the neutronium alloy (incredibly strong and used for ship armor as well).  The tubes taper past the rails and provide a strong housing for the rails to prevent bowing and act as extended smooth bore for better accuracy past the rail exit point.  The interior of the tubes are lined with a near frictionless material that has to be replaced after 100 salvos or the cannon may overheat.  Speaking of heat, space is a great medium for heat transfer, but its not instantaneous for large generations of heat and buildups do occur.

Let's look at the projectiles.  The standard EDF projectile is solid and made for armor piercing.  Other rounds include high energy explosives encased in the projectile.  The launcher design helps to prevent any detonation, since the armature current flows through the carriage and not the projectile.  Lastly, I designed a flak round.  Yep, a space flak round for dealing with fighters and other small craft.  Once the projectile is launched, it is set to detonate at a predetermined time.  The explosion expels several hard metal chunks outward, but remember, momentum in space isn't hindered like in atmosphere.  So now I have hundreds or even thousands of small metal pieces speeding in the same direction as the projectile with little or no loss in velocity.  It can create a huge hole in a fighter formation.

So that's space, but what about on the ground?  The EDF Marines employ different types of weapons on the ground.  Conventional caseless ammo rifles, some small pulse rifles and other small arms, but there are two vehicle designs built with the railgun in mind.  First is the tank.  Much in the way the A-10 Warthog plane was built around a gun, the EDF Marine battle tank is the same design.  Tough armor surrounding a railgun.  The Marines do have a more conventional tank similar to ones we have today, but the railgun version is much more effective in little or no atmosphere.  The other is the Mongoose.  I created the Mongoose from a concept of this lunar rover.  Take a look.

The Mongoose is a high speed wide wheel base rover, with an anti-tank railgun mounted in the center.  To power the weapon, it has a small enhanced nuclear power plant which charges the guns capacitor.  Unfortunately, the capacitor can only hold enough energy for two shots and takes about two minutes to fully recharge, but that is where the Mongoose's speed and maneuverability comes in handy.  The real science in the design is what I added over the wheels.  To keep the Mongoose upright after firing its railgun, especially in low gravity environments, it required stabilization thrusters to offset the force.  So when the cannon is fired, large blue flames from the thrusters can be seen over its wheels.

Well, that is all I have time for in this segment.  Stay tuned for more as I will talk about coilgun designs for engines.  Yes, you guessed it, ion drives.

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Movie Trailers

There's new trailers for three new movies coming this spring/summer.  First up is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It looks awesome.  

Next up is the new trailer for Amazing Spider Man 2.  Wow...

And last, but certainly not least, is Transformers: Age of Extinction.  Dinobots!

Book Trailer for Embrace!

I posted the latest trailer for The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace on YouTube.  It's about two minutes, but I've received some really good feedback.  Take a look and post what you think.  Don't forget.  Embrace is to be released on March 3, 2014 and available for pre-order at several online retailers.