In the Dragon’s Den: Interview with Steven Erikson Part 2
TCD: So carrying on then from the other day, you also have The Fiends of Nightmaria about to be released, a new Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella. For those not familiar with this series of Malazan novellas how would you describe them?
SE: They’re just stories following two evil, insane heroes. Nothing unusual there, really. Oh, and it’s a lighter side of the Malazan world, assuming one can characterise ‘lighter’ as darker. The whole Malazan Book of the Fallen is just the necessary frame for my Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas. Most people have got that the wrong way round. Everything important and vital that I feel the need to say shows up in the novellas. Like, breasts with mouths instead of nipples and men who use beard trimmings to insulate their houses. I understand that most of my readers are proceeding under a misapprehension about all of this, but I expect Fiends of Nightmaria to put them straight.
TCD: I know that Fiends is due to be released as a limited edition by Subterranean Press, are there plans for a more mainstream release?
SE: Yeah, that usually comes out about a year later (from Tor and TW). And, while you mention Sub Press, the novella is also published by PS Publishing.
TCD: Sorry, I should have mentioned the PS Publishing as well. Are they two different editions, or is this a case of US/UK distributors?
SE: I’m not sure. I think PS and Sub Press have some kind of deal.
TCD: Personally I loved Fiends, especially the Party of Five, did you have any particular inspiration for them as I thought I caught glimpses of an RPG gaming group there?
SE: No way! That said, I think the Party of Five would make an exceptional adventuring group. I mean, they’ve got all the necessary skillsets covered. In fact, I invite all GM’s to gather together six players and have them model their character generations based on the Party of Five. Hours of gaming enjoyment will surely follow.
TCD: Speaking of gaming, do you still game?
SE: No, alas. No time, and I’m more inclined to hoard my resources in terms of creative energy.
TCD: Do you miss it?
SE: Sure, though running a game can be a bit exhausting.
TCD: With the comedic B&KB novellas being set in the same world as the far more serious MBotF, how do you reconcile those very different styles of stories being in the same setting?
SE: Well, TCD, I don’t. Admit it, it’s more interesting that way.
TCD: Both the MBotF as well as the Kharkanas books exhibit complex morality as an essential element of the characters and the world, and yet Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are almost irredeemably and unrepentantly evil, is this just a matter of a literary sorbet to cleanse your narrative palette, or is there other method to your/their madness?
SE: Well, they both arrived as GURPS characters I rolled up for a game run by a friend of mine when I was back living in Winnipeg. The campaign didn’t last long as he found my duo too scary to deal with. So, my motivation for playing these two was simply for entertainment value. I’ve done this before: in an SF campaign run by my old friend David Keck, I played a caretaker in a tenement block called the Charles Mansions, and that guy was the creepiest character imaginable. It’s just my twisted nature, I guess, but I always saw comedic possibility in odious characters.
For the novellas, I don’t give much thought to it, to be honest. That said, employing a character like Bauchelain can give me the opportunity to defend the indefensible via his particular world-view, and that’s fun.
TCD: I can’t help but notice that in Crack’d Pot Trail there was a certain … emmm… I was going to say undercurrent, but let’s face it, it was fairly blatant, criticism of critics and scholars of literature.
SE: What an outrageous suggestion. In any case, I wasn’t being strictly critical, I was simply deconstructing some of the characteristics that exist in the relationship between author/artist and audience. You’ll note that artists don’t fare much better, do they? I try not to laugh at anybody else unless I can first laugh at myself. It remains one of my favourite works of mine, particularly for that voice, which seemed to come out of nowhere, full-grown, only to dance off into the sunset again once the book was done. It’d be nice to find that voice again but I don’t know if I ever will.
TCD: Out of interest, what is it about fantasy that attracts you as an author?
SE: As a genre, it is the most unencumbered form for storytelling. So it lets the imagination cut loose without the mimetic restraints so common to other genres. Internal consistency is all that matters, and that comes as a consequence of the inventive exercise in world-building. Of all the genres, I think, it is most like archaeology.
TCD: But with Willful Child and also Revolvo you clearly enjoy writing SF as well.
SE: I do. So you’d call Revolvo SF? Sure you don’t mean The Devil Delivered? I read SF mostly; it’s a rare thing these days for me to read fantasy, to be honest. I find it more relaxing, and more in keeping where my thinking is right now.
TCD: Let’s take another break here and pick this up another time to finish up, if that suits you?
SE: Sure, and thanks for the bread and water.