This mini-site serves as companion to Moonbound, the new novel by Robin Sloan, coming from MCD×FSG in June 2024.

The widening aperture

Memories of a map

Moonbound reads as fantasy in its opening chapters, but then the aperture widens, and it becomes science fiction, although the flavor of the fantastic persists: epic, archetypal, rich in symmetry and resonance.

The widening aperture is at the book’s heart. It might be the reason I wrote it.

One of my favorite moves in story­telling is the progres­sive disclo­sure of scale. It’s a central pleasure of certain fantasy novels and video games, in which the scope of the story steadily expands, from farmstead, to village, to countryside, to city, to capital, to continent … and with every ratchet click, there’s a thrill — for a young reader, especially — as you realize what you thought was the whole world was just a pixel in a larger picture.

This is the expe­ri­ence of growing up.

There’s a classic video game, Final Fantasy II, released in 1991, that was, for me, as formative as any book. The plot is dense and weird, basically Shakespearean; there are political maneuvers, moral metamorphoses, wrenching sacrifices. Imagine: you’ve been playing this game for hours, scouring towns, solving puzzles, fighting monsters. You have guided your little bug-like avatars across an expansive map, one step at a time, tap-tap-tap on the Super Nintendo controller.

Section of the Final Fantasy II overworld map
Section of the Final Fantasy II overworld map

Then, you discover an AIRSHIP.

You take off, rising into the Z-axis of the world, which you didn’t know had a Z-axis. The map shrinks beneath you, revealing that the complex landscape you’ve been exploring repre­sents just one continent among many, all floating in a scin­til­lating pixelated ocean.

The Final Fantasy II overworld map
The Final Fantasy II overworld map

It was dizzying. It was thrilling!

There’s a parallel between that feeling and the feeling I had, fifteen years later, sitting in a dark audi­to­rium in San Francisco for the Seminars About Long-Term Thinking, listening to a geologist or a biologist dance across the epochs.

Whoa, space is bigger than I thought.

Whoa, time is longer than I realized.

Learning just how far scale can stretch, through space and time, has been important for me: intellectually, politically, emotionally. I think scale is a useful, healthy, moti­vating thing for people to grapple with. I want these books to provide that opportunity, and that challenge.

First published:  October 2023
Last updated: November 2023