One of my favorite books of 2017 was Alex Wells’ novel Hunger Makes the Wolf. Well, now they’re back with the sequel, Blood Binds the Pack, which was released yesterday!
Can you tell us a little bit about Blood Binds the Pack and Hunger Makes the Wolf?
They’re both biker space witch novels about labor standing up to corporate abuses, set in a future where interstellar travel is a monopoly. Hunger Makes the Wolf is something like the fifth or sixth first novel I’ve written, while Blood Binds the Pack is the first second novel I’ve ever written. And it took me about five years to get Hunger Makes the Wolf done (and a lot of drafts), but I basically got Blood Binds the Pack finished from outline to final edits in about eight or nine months. That’s something of a weird experience.
Did your background as a geologist have any effect on the books?
Definitely. Desert landforms are my favorite, so it meant I got to use those a lot while I was writing. Hopefully it makes the planet seem a little more lived-in and real. And it also hit in smaller ways, like the reason the sand is orange is that I realized black rocks mean iron minerals, generally, which means lots of hematite to coat your sand grains.
Speaking of geology, what’s your favorite fictional world?
Arrakis. As I said, I have a thing about deserts.
I loved how Hob and Mags were very different people, but they were both leaders. What do you think it means to be a good leader?
They have very different leadership styles, but I think what they both have in common is always looking out for the best interests of their people in a long-term, big picture kind of way. (Though Mag is significantly better at long-term thinking than Hob.) They care about everyone in their group, even if at times they don’t like certain individuals very much. And even when they’re thinking about their own wants, they’re not forgetting that they’re dragging other people along with them and what that means. So I suppose that reflects what I think are the best qualities of a leader… caring while trying not to play favorites, putting the interest of the group ahead of personal ones (something Hob occasionally struggles with), keeping an eye on the big picture, and balancing being visionary and being pragmatic as necessary.
What was the inspiration behind Coyote and Shige?
I’ve always really loved characters like Coyote, because he’s That Friend. You know, the one who always has the best worst ideas, doesn’t care if he gets in trouble and drags you with him, but still manages to have a heart of gold beneath it all. He’s also a nod toward trickster or fool characters who often exist just to take the hero down a peg or two when they’re starting to believe in their own legend too much. (A problem Coyote has himself, though.) And then Shige… he came from the fact that I needed someone in the book who could give Hob information that she could rely on, and it had to be clearer and more useful than anything the Bone Collector could manage. Shige was only supposed to be a minor info dump character, and then he took on a life of his own. At which point I thought… what was the absolute worst thing I could do to both him and Coyote? Make them brothers, obviously.
Something that really stood out to me about Blood Binds the Pack and Hunger Makes the Wolf was the focus on labor rights. Can you talk some about that?
I grew up in a union household—my dad was at the time a chief steward for the CWA Local 7750. We went through one strike when I was fairly young, and that made a real impression on me. The first job I had as an adult, I was also in the CWA. And since then, I’ve worked a lot of non-union jobs that have really made me appreciate the benefits of being in unions… and it’s incredibly easy to see how workers are exploited more and more because there isn’t collective bargaining power. That personal history led me to look at a lot of local Colorado history, especially the Colorado Coal Field Wars that basically ended with the massacre at Ludlow. It’s a subject that’s incredibly important to me because we have seen in the past and again today just what unfettered corporate power will do to their laborers if allowed, and I wanted to write about those laborers. I’d really like to see more fiction centered on workers, rather than lionizing nobility or the wealthy.
What’s your favorite line from Blood Binds the Pack?
If I can only pick one line instead of a conversation, probably Mag saying, “This is my house. All these are my houses. You go back to yours.”
Is Blood Binds the Pack the last we’ll see of Hob and Mags? Or are more stories about them in the works?
Right this writing, those are the only books about them I’ve signed contracts for. There’s definitely more stories between the two of them, though. We’ll see if I get the chance to tell them in the future! 🙂
About the Author
Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and dapper AF. Angry Robot Books has published their novels HUNGER MAKES THE WOLF and BLOOD BINDS THE PACK under the pen name Alex Wells. They’ve written scripts for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, Shimmer, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. For more information, see http://www.alexacks.com.
You can find them on Twitter at @katsudonburi.