C.M. Caplan is the author of the SPFBO7 semi-finalist The Sword in the Street, and the post-apocalyptic science-fantasy The Fall Is All There Is. He’s a quadruplet (yes, really), autistic, and has a degree in creative writing. He was awarded his university's highest honor in the arts for his work. His short fiction also won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Writers of the Future Contest. If you enjoy his books, you can rate them on Goodreads and Amazon.
Welcome to my favourite section of the web, talking with the authors. Today, we are accompanied by C.M. Caplan, SPFBO7 semifinalist and whose new novel The Fall Is All There Is we had the pleasure to read and review.
Let's dive in!
1.- What inspired you to write this kind of science fantasy world? I might be wrong, but could this be our world after several catastrophes?
This book actually started out as a far-flung future set in our world!!
I was riffing on a subgenre I think Jack Vance started with his Dying Earth series of novels and novellas and short stories. A lot of those were the basis of what became D&D. Husks of cities and people living in the shells of old civilizations is actually a hallmark of the kinds of stories I write about. The Sword in the Street was a bit of a fluke that wound up being a debut, but I’m constantly interested in the idea of what happens after the world ends. This world was just an exercise in how far I could stretch that concept, adding in a magical catastrophe and a sci-fi one that people are just now recovering from.
2.- Which challenges would you say that arisen during the writing process of The Fall is All There Is?
Well, the first draft was 208,000 words and barely any of that survived. It started out as a romance before beta reading revealed that I had set up a deep and meaningful relationship with a character who was not really mature enough or in touch with himself to really have that, so it felt incongruous. And I had to basically split the book in half, because the latter bits were basically unworkable by cutting the love interest, and the half that remained barely even survived revisions. I think the part between getting the beta feedback, and actually figuring out that the priority on this book needed to be the siblings, family, and quadruplets, instead of love interest, was the biggest hurdle. That was the hardest moment in the process for me, when I felt the most down. But when I figured out what the book needed to be everything really came together nicely.
3.- How it feels to have opened a new establishment of the Dripping Bucket franchise?
Oh, it’s fantastic to be part of that club!! I can’t wait for the day someone goes in to try and connect all the dots where it shows up in various books like some people will do for that Pixar movie theory where all of them are supposed to be connected!
4.- How do science-swords work?
You’ve got some model of sword—say, a saber, a backsword, a longsword. And inside the handle is a battery made of synthetic human thyroid. And the thyroid is responsible for regulating human body temperature. So when it’s plugged through this semi-magical wirework, it basically becomes a conduit, where you can turn a dial and heat the blade, and the blade is made of science steel and can carry the heat without softening the metal. Basically—I wanted lightsabers in this book, but they needed to be much weirder.
5.- Which one of all the crazy inventions you added to populate the Four of Mercies world is your favourite?
The first one that came up was the cyborg horses, which will always be my first love, because they changed a little with every draft. It took months to figure out they could explode. I had to call a friend whose stepdad makes/repairs watches to be like “SO IF A HORSE IS MADE OF CLOCKWORK AND IT IS SUDDENLY UNDERGOING A LOT OF TRAUMA WHAT DOES HE THINK WOULD HAPPEN.” Every part of that bit of worldbuilding was just an absolute delight.
6.- Is the character of Petre, to an extent, a reflection of you?
It’s kind of difficult to separate where I begin and he ends, at this point. He first set up shop in my head in early 2013, and he’s been living there ever since. He as a character has grown a lot in a way that feels semi-autonomous, even if that makes me sound a little insane. I think the best way of putting it is that it feels like he is a distinct side of my personality. We’re not the same person, but he’s the kind of person I might turn into over time with, say, poorer impulse control, and better improvisational skills for example.
7.- If I'm not wrong, the title is a reference. Could you explain it?
The title comes from one of my favorite things to ever exist, The Lion in Winter. If I ever write anything even half as good I can die happy. It’s also a family drama with royal siblings, except it takes place over one night, and there’s a moment at the climax where the sibling princes think their dad is going to kill them. And one of them goes “He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.” And one of the other ones goes “Why you chivalric fool as if the way one fell down mattered.” To which the response is “When the fall is all there is, it matters.”
So since I was writing about a royal having trouble with his siblings leapfrogging from unwinnable scenario to unwinnable scenario, I figured the quote about how when you’re completely fucked, the only thing you have control over is just how, specifically, you let the world fuck you over, I thought that encompassed the themes I was working with pretty well.
8.- Your first novel, The Sword on the Street, got to semis of SPFBO, did you expect it?
Absolutely not!! I actually remember how I found out. I’d been mentioning for days up to that point that I was probably gonna get cut from the contest sometime that week. And suddenly I got two notifications on the SPFBO discord, and an instant later Krystle Matar slid into my DMs like “hey Connor you should check out Fantasy Faction” and I went “I just saw I have two notifications, so I figure that means I got cut.” And they sort of more emphatically went “CONNOR YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT FANTASY FACTION!!” And I was just completely blindsided. It blew me away. I was so excited cause I didn’t even expect to get that far.
9.- What can we expect from C. M. Caplan in the future?
I’m currently working on the first draft of book two, The Diplomacy of the Knife. And barring any unforeseen changes where I have to completely redo the book like I did with book one, the ending will be brutal in a very fun way, I promise. I also plan to get an Avram novella out there at some point. I’ll probably start on that after I send book two out for beta reads.
From my side, I just want to thank Connor for taking the time to answer all of these questions, and for the enthusiasm that he always distills.