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Read an Excerpt From Tremontaine, the Prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Queer Cult Classic Swordspoint


When I was growing up, Ellen Kushner’s novel Swordspoint was one of the first I read that depicted LGBTQIA relationships in a positive light, and I adored it. Now Kushner and a bevy of talented writers return to the Swordspoint world of Riverside with Tremontaine, a “fantasy of manners” full of swashbuckling, sex, scandal, and sweets.

I met Ellen Kushner at a party several years ago, and midway through our conversation, she mentioned her name. My eyes grew quite round, and I choked on a lot of air before ecstatically fangirling, “YOU’RE ELLEN KUSHNER? I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOUR BOOKS. ELLEN KUSHNER!” In her gracious fashion, Kushner continued to speak with me, and I’m lucky enough to consider her a treasured mentor these days.

So I’ve been exposed to some of the processes behind Tremontaine, which first came to life through the innovative publishing medium Serial Box. Serial Box publishes narratives as weekly text and audio chapters—it’s like your favorite novel mated with must-see TV—and Tremontaine is now in its second season. But the first was such a delight that its stories have been gathered and published into an omnibus by Saga Press.

This deliciously thick book (or much lighter Kindle edition) is the best kind of escapist read to take to the beach or on summer vacation. Personally, I’ve been reading it on the subway, traveling beyond the overheated platforms and packed cars into a distant world that’s “inspired by Elizabethan London, 18th-century Paris, and New York in the 1980’s.” What better blend of backdrops into a fantastical whole could you ask for?

(Tremontaine author Tessa Gratton recently described the series as “The Three Musketeers if everybody were queer,” and noted that she has to “dig around to find a non-queer character.” In case you needed any more incentive.)

One of the coolest elements about the creation of Tremontaine is that Kushner looked to skillful Swordspoint fanfiction authors (alongside more established author-types) when she set out to build her writers’ room. I know I speak for many a fic writer when I say that an ultimate dream is being acknowledged, let alone employed, by the creator of the property that you admire.

In choosing writers who were already rooted in Riverside, Kushner ensured that she was surrounded by people who understood the history and importance of Swordspoint and were perfectly poised to help expand its environs. The team includes Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant.

As you experience Tremontaine, you can sense the writers’ affection for the richly detailed world and their dazzlingly diverse cast of characters. If you’ve never read Swordspoint, however, Tremontaine stands on its own, and is a great place to start.

And now I’m going to get out of the way and let you see for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Tremontaine, written by Ellen Kushner:

Ellen Kushner’s Tremontaine Excerpt by The Mary Sue on Scribd

(via Saga Press, Serial Box, image: Saga Press)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.