The elephant in the room: Did S. M. Stirling steal Steven R. Boyett's idea?
More specifically, did Stirling's Dies The Fire and the rest of his Emberverse series take too much from Boyett's Ariel (review here)?
First, a look at the facts:
- Ariel was first published by Ace in 1983
- Dies The Fire was first published by Roc in 2004
- The two authors are aware of each other as evidenced on the cover of Boyett's Elegy Beach where Stirling wrote "Haunting, elegiac, funny, and moving."
Second, a look at the rumors:
- Stirling stole the idea from Boyett and did not care
- Stirling is not a real person, it is actually Boyett writing under a pen name
- Stirling borrowed so heavily from Boyett's Ariel that he had to pay him a settlement
- Stirling borrowed so heavily from Boyett's Ariel that he agreed to help him promote Elegy Beach
As you can see, there is a huge gap between reality and fantasy. Now it is just a question of who can fill in the blanks.
In the meantime, I will digress to discuss my thoughts on the two books. I have long been a Stirling fan and really enjoyed how he took his original Emberverse series (the trilogy starting with Island In The Sea Of Time) and linked it to his second wave of books (starting with the aforementioned Dies The Fire). They showed both sides of the Change. Those people that were taken back in time with working guns and those left in our present without working guns. Both civilizations began to bend toward each other. Those in ancient times had a rapid growth in technology while those in current times had a relapse back to bows and swords. In fact, one could even argue that the ancient time line surpassed the current one with technology.
Both sets of books also showed a wonderful mix of characters. From a black, lesbian, Coast Guard officer that became the leader of the good guys to the free-wheeling, singing, Wiccan who led another group of good guys. Regardless of which characters you liked (or hated), they were fully formed, fleshed out, and felt so real. Many times I caught myself thinking of people I know (or have known) as these characters.
Moving over to Ariel, Boyett does not quite write with as much detail as Stirling. In fact, we barely learn anything at all about the Change, other than it happened, it was bad, and magical creatures came out of it. While the magical creatures certainly adds some spunk to the plot, the characters are not as fleshed out as Stirling's.
But while Boyett sacrifices some of the detail, there is a gain in speed and ease of reading. For those fantasy fans out there, it is like the difference between Joe Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin. Both write in the same genre. One writes fast-paced books while the other is very epic. Boyett and Stirling are the same way. Each author has weaknesses and strengths, but neither writes a heap of garbage. After reading Boyett's Afterword and learning more about him, I am impressed even more with his ability to churn out such a good book.
So who wins? Steve Stirling. Why? Simply because he has written more books for me to enjoy. Aside from that, I would say there's a bit of a three-way tie between Boyett, Stirling, and Taylor Anderson in the post-apocalyptic genre. Each author has pros and cons, but each writes a novel worth reading.