The Incrementalists

The new book by Steven Brust & Skyler White

The Incrementalists—a secret society of 200 people; an unbroken lineage reaching back 40,000 years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about just how to accomplish this is older than most of their individual memories.

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Steven Brust

Author, Poker Player, Wearer of Hats

I had read “To Reign in Hell” before I met Steve Brust at a con, so I knew him first as subversive and funny, but because I hadn't read his Dragaeran books, I didn't yet know his wide and enduring popularity. We were on two panels together. He was insightful and provocative, but restless as a shadow boxer in a room of fluorescent light. If I had known him better, I would have picked a fight. Maybe the one about whether Wash has to die.

Later, when I saw him at another con, I'd read more of his work. It's an impressive portfolio: thirteen Vlad Taltos books, with four more set on Dragaera, five free-standing novels, and two co-written books, one with Emma Bull, the other with Megan Lindholm. So, by then I knew him as a masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery. At that point I probably knew enough to tangle with him, but I wouldn't have dared.

Here's what I know now: Steve is a charming combatant. He grew up in a revolutionary household, one of three children, whose parents married on Christmas – the only day they were willing to take off work. He inherited both their work ethic and muscular intellect. He came of age at protest rallies and on picket lines and still has the outsider's fierce critical eye – but his twinkles. His prose is insightful, nimble, and rigorously crafted. He only makes it look easy.

Politics pepper what he writes, but they dictate how. His fairy tales are kingless and all his characters work for a living. And from his full-length collaborations to his contributions to the shared worlds of Terri Windling, Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, Roger Zelazny, and Joss Whedon, he's always looking for ways to widen the playing field and open up his stories until the territory between artist and audience is walled only like a sandbox is, to keep the fun deep enough to play in.

We cobbled The Incrementalists sandbox from an idea Tappan King suggested to Steve years ago, tacked to a Werner Hertzog movie I'd just seen, an experiment Steve had started earlier, and a loose end I was hoping to tie up. We wove its frame in a single night on my porch, with the kind of wild dreaming you do when its late and you're drinking and you're both stoned on the new-project optimism that comes from a shared love of structure, a passion for language, and a competitive delight in hiding little Easter eggs. He left for home a few days later.

Steve lives in Minneapolis amidst writers and musicians, his four extraordinary adult children – artists and tech wizards – nested inside an online community of friends and fans who collectively are experts on damn-near anything. Really. We've asked a lot of obscure questions.

About a week after he left my porch, the opening pages of a book showed up in my email with a note that said, “Your turn! Write until it isn't fun anymore, then send it back to me.” So I did. The sandbox was full of sand. He's a laughing Buddha with a whiskey glass, an industrious scholar with a thigh-holstered throwing knife. He is a profound and giddy intelligence and a steadfast friend, and I've written less the bio I intended than a personal testament. But it's my little sandcastle. I'll leave it on my beach.

—Skyler White

Skyler White

Word-witch, Dancer, Woman with Dreadlocks

I don't remember exactly what smart thing Skyler White said on that one panel at that one horrid convention, but I remember thinking, "Hey, that was a smart thing." I ran into her again a year later, I think, at that same horrid convention (I don't know why either of us went back), and we turned out to be on another panel together, and she said more smart things. Then I met her at Armadillocon 2010 (a good convention) and we actually started talking about writing and stuff.

Then I read her first novel (and Falling, Fly, Berkely, January 2010) and thought, "This is really good." Then I read her second novel, In Dreams Begin, Berkely, November 2010) and thought, "Holy shit this is good! Who is this person?"

I think it was a little after that that we first started kicking around the idea that became The Incrementalists and then wrote it. It's the most fun I've ever had working on a book, and it is, insofar as I'm able to judge, the best book I've ever been involved with writing. I love how she keeps a story moving so fast that, on first reading, you miss a lot of the Cool Stuff hidden in her prose, so each time you reread it you find more. I'm still finding surprise Cool Stuff in this book, and I wrote half of it.

Since then, I've learned a few things about her. She grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was graduated from Franklin and Marshall where she studied English and Drama. She has been a ballerina and a dramaturge.

She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Scott (aka Mohawk Daddy), 12-year-old son Egan ("You are making me cry from mirth"), and daughter Kaki (The white sheep of the family). And I lied, because Kaki doesn't live there any more, having gone to college. But, like, what was I going to do, leave her out?

Skyler was recruited as an Incrementalist by Jimmy in January of 2012, taking Marcy's stub. Her Garden appears as a beach and her sense triggers are the sensation of air on her skin, and the feeling of standing a little too close to the edge of something very high. At least, that's what she told me once when she was drunk. But from the look on her face when she said it, she was just kidding. I'm pretty sure of it.

Litterarum Opinionem

(It sounds cooler than "Blurbs")

"It's cleverly constructed, populated with characters readers will enjoy hanging out with, and it's packed with twists and nifty surprises. If you have to call it something, call it genius at work."


Fans of cerebral fantasy will enjoy the layered mystery, innovative concept, and fast-moving plot...[A] philosophical and inventive urban fantasy.

—Publishers Weekly

"Steve Brust is becoming the John Fowles of the sf world. Just when you slip comfortably into one of his novels, he throws you a major curve that is utterly and powerfully convincing. Or maybe Skyler White, his new writing partner, is making him even better. Don't miss this latest!"

—Jane Yolen, two time Nebula winner, author of Devil's Arithmetic, Briar Rose, Sister Light/Sister Dark, and many others

"Powerful, manipulative and yet oh-so-very-human, the Incrementalists are my favorite secret society ever. This book is the perfect introduction to these imperfect history makers, with Brust and White as charming, knowing guides to their world."

—John Scalzi

"Spare, dangerous, strangely whimsical, damn fine. Read this. It's good."

—Elizabeth Bear

"I adored everything about this novel…Steven Brust's subtle prose combined with Skyler White's gift for the sensual create a recipe for literary intoxication of the best kind. If you're interested in reading what could very well be the best speculative fiction novel of the year, get yourself a copy of The Incrementalists as soon as you possibly can…Because books like this? They just don't show up that often."

—Little Red Reviewer

"Brust has worked with others before, to good effect; this time is even better. I hope they continue to work together; theirs is an exciting synergy."

—Locus Magazine