In the Dragon’s Den: Interview with Steven Erikson Part 3

 

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In the Dragon’s Den:  Interview with Steven Erikson Part 3

 

 

TCD:  Picking this up again, we were talking about SF, and it and your love of absurd comedy masking some pretty pointed observations and satire brings me on to Willful Child 2: The Wrath of Betty (coming from Tor in October I believe).  What can you tell us about it?

 

SE: Willful Child was a bit thin on the background universe.  I mean, I didn’t really have time for that stuff.  It just got in the way!  It definitely got in Captain Hadrian’s way.  But having set up the situation and the main characters, the second novel needed to bit more depth (depth, in fiction-writing terms, is what the characters have to wade through), which in turn meant more of the background information brought to the foreground, thus adding, er, depth.

So it’s a deep novel.  Deeper.  With more depth.

Anyway, my advance readers recoiled at first, since for some inexplicable reason my satire meter was cranked way over.  It bears keeping in mind the fuel that powers satire.  It’s a savage thing.  As much as one may go for laughs on the surface (and interestingly, most of the reviews of Willful Child more or less got locked on that surface stuff, with only a couple exceptions that I’ve seen), it’s the vicious current beneath it that drives the impulse to write this kind of fiction.

In other words, I needed to be fed up in order to write these books.  So, that inclines one to turn language into a weapon (and why not, we’ve weaponized everything else).  The way I see it, satire can use a scalpel, or it can use a broadsword.  It can also use both and everything in between, depending on the circumstances.

Curiously, if you look at some of the best satire, say, the stuff on television (The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy), you can probably track how each series got more and more vicious as it went on.  This ramping up may appear on the surface to be nothing more than the need to escalate the shock quotient (possibly in acknowledgement of the numbing effect of multiple shocks), but what I see in it is the growing desperation of the creators in their efforts to shake us all out of our apathy.  And the more you fail, the angrier you get.

Wrath of Betty started out wielding not a scalpel, not a broadsword, but a flamethrower.  I had to halt part way through to toss the weapon and run around stamping out fires.  And then tone things down some.  So it took a bit longer than the first book.

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In the Dragon’s Den: Interview with Steven Erikson Part 1

 

Steve Erikson

 

 In the Dragon’s Den:  Interview with Steven Erikson

 

TCD:  Firstly I would like to thank Steven Erikson for agreeing to be the second author (and second Malazan author) to undergo my clumsy attempts to master the technique of interviewing.  So thank you Steve for doing this.

SE:  Just release all the funds you stole from my bank account and we can call it even.

 

TCD:  You promised that you wouldn’t mention the financial blackmail.  Anyway, it seems like you are going to have a busy year of releases as you have Fall of Light (Book 2 of the Kharkanas Trilogy) coming out this month and a new Bauchelain and Korbal Broach Novella Fiends of Nightmaria about to release from Subterranean Press.  Oh, and you also have Willful Child 2: The Wrath of Betty coming out this year as well.  But before we get started on that, I did have a couple of questions about the Malazan world and series in general if you don’t mind doing it that way around?

I recently posted an article about Worldbuilding and the Malazan World and I called your writing and world feminist.  I know critics are supposed to assume the author is dead and ignore their perspective, but I figured that given we were speaking I would ask your opinion on it and get some answers from the horse’s mouth.   It seems like too good an opportunity to miss.  So did you read the article, and if so, what are your thoughts?   

 

SE:   Yes I read the article and yes, of course I consider myself a feminist, in that I believe in equal opportunity for women and men, and that I continue to see all around me the persistent oppression of an intrinsically patriarchal society, and, finally, that the Malazan universe Cam and I created was explicit in its addressing that particular issue.  It was also consciously colour-blind.  To be honest, I am somewhat astonished that anyone would think otherwise of me.  One of the first things we realized in creating the Malazan world the way we did, was that we would not sign-post these fundamental shifts away from the real world.  After all, no-one in that world thinks about it either way.  It’s not a point of debate, period.  That said, it’s not, strictly speaking, an egalitarian world.  To be egalitarian in the proper sense would require doing away with class divisions, entrenched and institutional disparity of wealth (and anyone who would argue that our disparity of wealth is not institutional needs to open their eyes), and systems of exclusion.  We weren’t interested in a Utopian vision.  The Malazan world is a messy world, a world of vast inequalities (at least on the surface, with, say, a lowly thief on one side and a god on the other) and injustices.  Which is why a central theme to the novels relate to an argument in efficacy or potential efficacy, an assertion that someone like that lowly thief can turn the tables, can take down a god and change the world.  We were writing about agency and the power to change the world, one small gesture at a time.  Was that an idealistic notion?  Depends on how cynical you are.

It was interesting that in your essay you drew on the SF ‘what if’ premise when describing our approach to creating the Malazan world.  Personally that’s not surprising, since Herbert’s Dune was a huge inspiration for me, especially with how the first novel, Gardens of the Moon, was structured.  Dune drops you into the middle of a story.  I liked that.  I stole it.  I guess I didn’t do as well with it as Herbert did; or maybe the Fantasy genre readership was more resistant to that approach (though Glen Cook’s Black Company did the same).  Probably the former over the latter.  Anyway, one could easily write an essay on the parallel structure between Gardens and Dune; it’s all there, right down to epitaphs and quotes opening chapters.

Back to the feminism thing.  Unquestionably there has been a strange backlash to the notion.  Even the word has become pejorative.  It seems to me the only way to fight that is to identify directly with the label, not defensively, but matter-of-factly.  I admit that when I hear someone speaking against Feminism, I am dumbfounded.  If only in the name of fairness, and how can one argue against fairness?  Apparently, one can, and some do.  For me, I don’t get that and I’ve yet to see an argument raised against feminism that isn’t self-serving and specious.

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In the Dragon’s Den: Ian C Esslemont Interview

 

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Ian C. Esslemont Interview

Here we have my very first interview with an author, and I was lucky enough to get Ian C. Esslemont to agree to this.  So thank you ICE, and please forgive my unpolished interview technique.

TCD:    Your latest novel Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy Book 1) (currently available in the UK, and forthcoming in the US) is the first book of a prequel trilogy set in the Malazan world.  So, if you can forgive the bluntness, I wanted to ask a few questions about it and thought we would get some of the straightforward ones out of the way.  So what is Dancer’s Lament about?

ICE:    Firstly, many thanks for the opportunity to talk about the Malazan books. One of my main hopes for Dancer’s Lament is that any general fantasy reader who has previously never read anything from Steve or I can pick up the book and enjoy it, and perhaps become interested in the wider world portrayed.

For that reason what I will say about it is that it’s about character.  It is really, at its centre, a character(s) study – what choices they make and what the consequences are of those choices; how seemingly innocuous moves can have huge consequences later in life; and further, how the traditional history of “great events” and “great men and women” is to my mind completely misleading.

I will also say that I am very leery of the “prequel” word.  Don’t like it.  I see this as a new series in the Malaz world – the Path to Ascension – that (could) prove as long as it need be to tell its tale.

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