Interview Footnote: Naomi Novik Promises a “Dragon or Two” in Unfettered

After submitting my interview questions to Naomi Novik, I discovered “In Favour with Their Stars,” another jewel of a story by her which I had not included in my queries. This short story contribution to Unfettered, edited by Shawn Speakman, began with the gift of a handmade plush dragon (Temeraire, of course) to Novik’s daughter.

In her introductory remarks to the story, Novik recalled, “She [Erika Swanson] offered me the lovely idea of the Temeraire-universe dragons encountering early attempt at human aviation.” After some initial ideas featuring her character Perscitia from Victory of Eagles, Novik confessed “I’ve rarely had a story so completely dig its heels in and run away in the opposite direction.”  No spoilers here, but she admitted “. . .there are no [hot air] balloons.  A dragon or two may have snuck in, though.” Reporting from Dragon Con 2014, and having read “In Favour with Their Stars,” here’s my shout-out to fans of the Temeraire series: be assured that you will love Novik’s story in Unfettered.

Artist/author Todd Lockwood, also a guest at Dragon Con, contributed the cover and interior art and the story “Keeper of Memory” to the anthology. Shawn related his involvement with Unfettered in his prefatory remarks to his story. He had been writing about dragons beginning in 2005 when he started work “on a book of dragons.” He related that “soon she who inspires the written word stirred . . . a demanding muse . . .,” finally resulting in Lockwood writing a full manuscript which he sold to a publisher.  “When he [Speakman] invited me to submit a story to Unfettered, I leapt on the chance to reveal a bit of backstory, a snippet of ancient history from my world.”

Unfettered, an anthology edited by Shawn Speakman, features a star-studded group of science fiction and fantasy authors including Novik, Lockwood, Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, and Carrie Vaughn, among many others literary luminaries. All the authors were free to write on the subject of their choice.

Rothfus, who wrote the foreword for the anthology, relates how Speakman started the project to help pay his medical bills for further treatment for cancer [Hodgkins lymphoma] after a first bout with cancer left him unable to obtain health insurance. He hoped to become free, unfettered, from a heavy debt load that would have left him bankrupt. “It was a no-brainer for me,” Rothfus wrote in the foreword, “as it allowed me to if not spit directly into cancer’s eye, then at least glare at it angrily from across the room.”

Expressing his gratitude for the community of science fiction and fantasy authors who joined together to help out one of their own, Speakman stated, “I am forever indebted to these writers as I am forever indebted to you readers. As long as I am able, I will pay forward that debt.”

That is exactly what Speakman plans to do. Unfettered II is currently in the initial phase of soliciting stories. The new anthology will extend assistance to other members of our community that have battled cancer.



Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at