Cover of The Last Tsar's Dragons by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

The Last Tsar’s Dragons

So, I got an email asking for a short story for a new dragon anthology and thought: I am SO done with dragons. But no sooner had I said that aloud, then my traitor mind responded: “The tsar’s dragons were harrowing the suburbs again.” The next three or four sentences spun out quickly.

Not being a fool, I tried to think of what would come next, remembered Adam’s old band playing a rousing cover of the song “Rah, rah, Rasputin…and sent him an email with the first paragraph, and a note: “Want to play?” And we were off. Thirteen thousand words later (The computer counted them, I did not), we were done. Sold the story to the anthology. Got paid. Felt fine.

Fast forward a couple of years and I said, “I think we could make it into a novel.” Adam did not look impressed. I sent the 13,000 word story off to several of my editors who didn’t think it was a novel either.

Fast forward another couple of years and I was putting together several short story collections (of my own stories) for a small but wonderful sf/fantasy publisher, Tachyon, and I noted they were doing a lot of and interesting novellas. The aha moment was quiet but there. I sent them the story with a note about turning it into a novella. They loved the idea.

And so we began. . .

Now, a novella is about 35,000 words. The original story was about half that. Writing another 15,000 words was both easy and very hard. We shook the story up, added some major characters to the storyline, and surprised ourselves with what we discovered along the way, all the while the Tachyon team–editor and publisher and marketing director–cheered us on. So far the early reviews have been overwhelmingly good. Fingers crossed.

Around the Web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “History buffs and dragon fans will enjoy this mix of reality and fantasy.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “Everything’s better with dragons . . . We should be grateful for the whims of creative fate because The Last Tsar’s Dragons is a well-written, clever novella that’s worth your time.” — Elitist Book Reviews
  • “Vivid, gripping and actually riveting as the Red Danger takes a whole new meaning here. Loved it.” ― The Book Smugglers
  • “In essence, Yolen and Stemple create new origin or ending tales for key people of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The dragons, though a real part of the story, are also a metaphor for power, and the story becomes as philosophical as entertaining.” ― Grasping for the Wind
  • “Seriously clever and rigorous hard sci-fi about the difficulties of planning a political revolution.” — Caustic Cover Critic
  • “Spare and unflinching, with a dragon-red alternate version of Russian history.” — Yoon Ha Lee, author of Ninefox Gambit
  • “To include dragons in the Russian Revolution seems like the kind of inspired idea that, in lesser hands, could not possibly live up to a reader’s expectations; but Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple take that idea and soar with it, spinning a tale of alternate history that is both wondrous and sublime. The book is elegant, quotable, and at the end, I simply wished for more.” — James A. Owen, author and illustrator of HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS
  • “The Last Tsar’s Dragons is cheeky, wry, gruesome and sometimes shockingly dirty. It glorifies no one, poking fun at the characters in a style that reminded me a bit of Bulgakov. The authors are clearly masters of their form, with a well-proportioned story that doesn’t necessarily get too in-depth into character or historical detail. But the book is not meant to be a character study, or a completely new alternate history. It is speculation, not only because of the inclusion of the dragons but also speculation about the mindset of the characters -– real people -– in the final days of a very long epoch, and as such it performs admirably.” — Shoreline of Infinity
  • “…a delightful and multilayered example of the historical fantasy.” Greenman Review