• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Malazanempire Interview (2005)

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago


Hi Cam, Once again thanks for agreeing to do this. Ok here we go...


One of the first questions people ask when finding out about "Night of

Knives" is who is this Ian Cameron Esslemont guy?


A fully justified question. The bio, acknowledgment page, and the intro

from Steve in NoK should go far in answering it. In fact, because I did

the acknowledgments before seeing Steve’s intro there is some repetition

of facts and such – I hope the reader will bear with it all.


Can you tell us anything more about NoK that's not covered by the synopsis?



It gave the Empire its name, but the island and city of Malaz is now a

sleepy back-water port. This night its residents are barring doors and

shuttering windows: a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon has arrived and

threatens to bring among them demon hounds and other, darker, beings.


This is also the night prophecied for the return of Emperor Kellanved,

missing these last years. As factions within the Empire battle over the

Imperial throne, the Shadow Moon summons a far more ancient and alien

presence for an all-out assault upon the island, one that will determine

the fate of the Malaz, and the entire world beyond."


Here it is difficult for me to add more without revealing too much. What

I can say is that not only does the novel deal with the assassination of

Kellanved and Dancer, but also provides what will very probably be the

only point of view on Dassem’s death at Y’Ghatan. (and Y’Ghatan, by the

way, has a starring role in the upcoming Bonehunters).


For comparison purposes of length and content, I would keep apples to

apples and compare NoK to Steve’s other Malaz novels that Peter Crowther

has put out through PS Publishing.


Steve has said that you and he co-created the world of Malaz. Can you

elaborate on that and do you still work together on what goes into his

MBotF books?


…Again, here, Steve’s intro in NoK goes far to answering this question

so I don’t want to just repeat what can be found there. In any case, the

short answer is yes. Steve and I co-created the world and worked out a

set of major novels (ten for him, five for me) that would carry it

forward. Since then (so long ago it amazes me), life intervened as it

does and we went our separate ways – he to Winnipeg and England, me to

Thailand and Minneapolis. Steve, to his enormous credit, kept hammering

away at realizing the project, and, eventually, Gardens found a home.

Since then we have always kept the dialogue going on events, characters,

sub-plots, etc.


What made you decide to “come out” after working more or less in the background?


The short answer here is I “came out” because Knives had finally found a

publisher. Readers of the Malaz world might look at Steve’s novels and

see a fully established fantasy series, but you may be horrified to know

just how improbable its birth has been.

Steve and I originally wrote Gardens as a full-length motion picture

screenplay. He and I pitched it and other screenplays but none made it

into development. Over the years Steve became fed up and asked if he

could just go ahead and novelize Gardens. I said: go for it! He finished

the novel and showed it around. It caught some interest in England and

Steve and I were thrilled. But there was a problem: this “shared world”

thing. Apparently, and this dumbfounded me, the fantasy publishers, the

agents, no one knew what to do with this “shared world” idea. They

couldn’t get their heads around it (still can’t frankly). That both

Steve and I did, could, and would continue to write in the world made

publishers uneasy – too “messy” or uncertain (God knows what they

thought). In any case, since even getting anything into print is so

unsure in fantasy, Steve and I agreed not to push the “shared” aspect

publicly until (fait accompli) the world became real and couldn’t just

be wished away by the industry.

Anyway, enough ranting about blinkered publishers. As to the second half

of the question, as you saw above, I have five Malazan novel projects of

the original ones Steve and I sketched out (not counting NoK). One is

written already and I am currently rewriting it to bring it up to speed.


Can you tell us or give us some hints to what the other four novels are



Here, I feel that I cant be more direct because even while the novels

are all sketched out and agreed between Steve and I, at this point in

time with no contract in the offing to develop them, it is all too

uncertain. Lets just say that by now it should be clear to many readers

that there are regions, cultures, groups, and individuals that Steve has

not yet run with in his novels, and nor is he likely too unless all

hope is lost for my possible continuing contribution.



There has been some criticism of NoK being a limited release and it's high

price. Is it a fair criticism in your opinion and do you think it likely

that a major publisher will re-issue NoK and/or future Malazan books of

yours in a less-costly format? Do you have any specific deal in the works?



The only thing I can say here is that it is very likely that Knives

would never have seen the light of day if it weren’t for Peter Crowther

at PS Publishing agreeing to take on the project. He didn’t have to. It

remains a big financial risk for him (hey, it might not do so well you

know). I think Peter has proven an amazing friend to Steve and I and the

Malaz world and we are very grateful.

As to the second part of the question, re-issue. This is the big secret

plan. If Knives does do well enough in sales and reception then (we

hope) things will look good for it to be taken up by a major publisher

for a mass market edition. As to a deal regarding all this – sadly, not

yet. However, the novel has only just come out!


Is fantasy the only form your writing takes or do you enjoy other genres?


I write and read all over the map. In my writing, I have tried and tried

to write contemporary literary short stories and novels, but I find

myself always drawn back to the total creative freedom that only fantasy

(and SF) can provide. So, currently, I am writing mostly in fantasy, in

and out of the Malaz world, with some SF – I have a finished novel in

that genre that I am hoping to do something with as well.


How would you compare your writing style to that of Steve's?


Oh man – this is the big thing I’ve been dreading the most. Firstly, let

me say that in my opinion (unbiased as it is) there is no one writing

today in fantasy who can be compared to Steve. Period. It was his

undeniable talent that pushed Malaz through all the barriers that stood

in its way and made it real. So, no, I would not compare my style to


I think the readers will find that Knives is like Gardens in a lot of

ways. Both are our first projects for Malaz, and both were first written

a long time ago. In fact, (if I remember correctly) Knives was written

shortly after Gardens and so is actually the second Malaz novel to see

completion. I hope it is written the way it should be written. The style

matches the form: tight and short.


Do you have a set writing routine and if so what is it?


I used to have a set writing routine of typing away into the early hours

every night but I was younger then and my schedule was more my own. Now,

with two kids, the challenge is finding the time at all.


Who or what has influenced your writing the most and what made you start?


I suppose I was most influenced by what I grew up reading: in fantasy,

Robert E. Howard, Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, Karl Edward Wagner, and of

course Tolkien. For me, what really opened up the possibilities of the

genre was coming across Glen Cook’s The Black Company. The first of that

series hit me like a revelation. I had always been writing fantasy

sketches but that series made me think that perhaps there was room in

the genre for what I wanted to do with it. Then I met Steve and found

that his aesthetic in fantasy was the same as mine. With his

encouragement I pursued writing more actively.


Will you be at Keycon?


Though also a Winnipeg lad, and one-time helper at getting gaming

conventions organized through the UofM gaming club, sorry, no. Still,

great question. Maybe I ought to be. Have to look at my schedule.


Do you have a favourite MBotF character and what plotlines do you enjoy

the most?


Do I have a favourite? It’s impossible to chose. With each of the Malaz

novels Steve finishes he always creates a whole set of new characters

who I’ve never seen before, but a large core exists (some of whom

haven’t even been met in print yet) which we developed together and so

of course I can’t pick favourites. I will say though that Kruppe came

out pure Steve and so because of that he’s real special to me.


Who are your favourite authors within the fantasy genre?


See above for the old favourites. For fantasy and related work I’d

currently add Iain M. Banks (love his stuff), Philip K. Dick, Neal

Stephenson, old Gene Wolfe (the Urth series), China Miéville, and

William Gibson. I would add here that I am familiar with G. R. R.

Martin’s Swords series, but I do not count it anywhere near a favourite

as I find his clinging to the clichés of medieval chivalry tiresome.


Have you visited the Malazan Forum and what do you make of all the

speculation that goes on there?


Yes, I was telling Chris that I’d been a lurker at the site for years. I

enjoy seeing the readers’ responses. It’s a real education – not in

terms of what worked or didn’t, but as a slice of what readers are

thinking – how certain elements have come across (so far).



"I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more

importantly, I've transcended it showing what more it can be-and is so

doing spread my readship to completely new groups who dont like and wont

ready typical fantasy. Agents and editors are screaming for more books

like mine."


That is a quote from a best selling author. Is it just his ego talking or

is there some truth to his view of the state of the genre?


As to this question… I really can’t respond as to whether there is

substance here without knowing who the author is. Maybe it’s true, maybe

not. As to the state of the genre; at conventions I hear fans dismissing

most fantasy writing as “E.F.P.” -- if I got that right: Extruded

Fantasy Product. So, from that point of view, yes, the genre is not

“thought provoking.” But then that is not the goal for most of it, so

why knock it for not being what it is not trying to be? The onus, in my

mind, is on us as readers. As readers we should be more daring, more

eclectic and more wild in our choices and the genre will follow along: a

conservative readership gets conservative writing.


Do you believe that MBotF is substantially different to the popular

fantasy of Brooks, Feist, Edding, Jordan etc? Is it breaking any new ground?


Ah, here I can be unequivocal in saying that, yes, I (and Steve) both believe that

Malaz is vastly different from the general popular fantasy series of the genre. We

deliberately set out to achieve this goal of convention challenge, contravention,

and reversal. It is deliberately anti-heroic in a genre heretofore reserved for

heroic indulgences all this because we have faith in the intelligence and

discrimination of genre readers to recognize when they are not being talked (or

written) down to. In many ways the entire series is an extended critical study of

the genre itself how it works, why it works how far can it be pushed to evolve?

But all that is sub-textual and academic; foremost the books must and do

remain a damn hair-raising read. If that falls down then it will all fall down

(and deservedly so).




To Chris and everyone at the site: Hello, and many thanks for the

opportunity to introduce myself and talk about the novel. Perhaps we’ll

have the chance to talk again once you’ve had time to digest the work.

Cheers, Cam.


"Night of Knives" can be purchased from the following sites:



Clarkesworld Books (USA)


Or you can order direct from Pspublishing.


Interview conducted by ChrisW, Hetan and Malaclypse.

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.