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Science Fiction Book Club Interview

Page history last edited by PBworks 11 years, 5 months ago

Source: http://www.sfbc.com/doc/full_site_en...horId=10045576

 

The Science Fiction Book Club's contributing writer Edith Cohn had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series.

 

Q. I read that you originally developed the Malazan world with Ian Cameron Esslemont as a role-playing game. What made you decide to put it into a novel?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: There were probably a number of incentives at work. First off, we were creating games that reflected what we wanted to see in fantasy fiction, but with a few exceptions we weren’t finding it (Glen Cook’s Black Company series and his Dread Empire stuff were notable exceptions). At the same time, both Cam and I were in a writing program at the University of Victoria, which each of us would continue on into Master’s degrees, me at Iowa and Cam in Alaska, so we were both writing fiction. At some point, we began co-writing feature film (FF) scripts, and one of those formed the core of Gardens of the Moon. Shortly thereafter, as our interest in fiction writing developed, it was obvious that, ultimately, so much of what we gamed was already intrinsically novelistic, in structure and narrative (the spell-check just went "huh?" with "novelistic" but I’ll keep it anyway), and the transition seemed obvious. My adaptation of the FF script of Gardens forced an expansion of the basic story (the film occurred entirely in Darujhistan) and the introduction of innumerable new characters and sub-plots. While we’re good at co-writing scripts, we decided at the very beginning that for novels we would tackle those individually. And that is what we have done.

 

Q: Are there plans to launch a role-playing game based on this story?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: There have been a few queries in that direction, but nothing concrete as yet.

 

Q: You are slated for a total of ten books in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Did you have a basic map of all ten before you started, or what was the process?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: Yes, although I think much of Gardens was flavored by an unspoken disbelief or skepticism that such an ambitious project would ever see fruition; accordingly, Gardens is structurally different from all the rest and this has caused problems on occasion. It felt like a one-off at the time, which is probably why it kicks at so many tropes of the genre.

 

Shortly after finishing the first draft, however, I was at work compiling subsequent novels in the series, and that came out at ten (for me; Cam has five or six in mind). When Gardens was accepted for publication, I reworked much of it to suit what was to come, without massive structural changes. In a sense, I shoe-horned Gardens into the series.

 

Q: What methods do you use to achieve a sense of realism in your fictional worlds?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: That’s a hard question to answer. Zelazny said to try and fit all five senses into the narrative of each page - not as a hard and fast rule, mind, but as a guide to making the setting, scene and all the rest as immediate as possible. Technical mindfulness like that helps, but mostly whatever realism comes across is bound to point-of-view, to stepping into the shoes or moccasins of the character, and seeing, feeling, breathing their environment and circumstances.

 

Q: What was your inspiration for Seven Cities, the setting for Deadhouse Gates and House of Chains?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: Nowhere on this earth, that’s for sure. The settings and cultures of the Malazan world are, if anything, conscious, deliberate departures from our world and its history. Even when we gamed this stuff, we always pushed hard against stereotypical renditions. In devising settings and peoples, there is a chaotic mix of traits you might find in our world, and as many unique ones as we could think up (related mostly to the existence of magic and an active pantheon of gods, spirits and the like). Some of the events set in Seven Cities are inspired by specific historical events in our world - the Chain of Dogs can be related to the Indian Mutiny and the British Empire’s many travails in Afghanistan, but even then the "players" are not entirely as you’d expect (one could argue as many Pathans and Turkomen and Sikhs among the Malazans as among the "rebels" - in other words, and to be thoroughly blunt, skin color does not dictate cultural affiliation or cultural attributes).

 

Q: Do you face any particular challenges (research, literary, psychological or logistical) in bringing this world to life?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: As mentioned earlier, one of the challenges is to avoid laziness in devising the cultures of the Malazan world - it’s far too easy to just steal from ours (nomadic tribes all looking like Mongols or Huns or Apaches; or seafaring traders looking and acting like Phoenicians or Venetians or Greeks, etc). Personally, I can’t stand that **** in fantasy novels; and it extends to non-human races as well - dwarves in mountains, elves in forests, orcs in wastelands where nobody could live anyway, all that rubbish). Too easy, and it cheats the reader of true inventiveness and imagination. Granted, it’s very hard to keep one’s created fantasy world from being derivative, but I do think it’s mostly possible (once one allows that there are constants in the human condition, and in human/sentient adaptation to specific environments).

 

Q: How would you describe the artistic style in your books?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: I know I tend to write visually - I see in my mind’s eye the scene and action and then describe it; or I listen in to conversations and simply record them. That’s a conveniently coy way of saying I make it all up. I try not to think in terms of "style" because whatever that is comes naturally, it’s part of the writer’s internal rhythm - which can be altered to suit the scene, but invariably meanders back to a constant. From my very earliest days as a writer, people have always complained or commented that it’s dangerous to skim-read my stuff, whether fantasy fiction or contemporary fiction, and that does seem to hold to this day, given the extent to which my readers seem to enjoy re-reading the novels - finding new stuff every time.

 

Thematically, I probably tend towards tragedy in my fiction, although I do possess a tendency to slip humor in on occasion. To me, those two are oddly complimentary.

 

Q: Which character did you have the most fun creating?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: Always a hard one to answer. I love inventing characters, or maybe "uncovering" them is a better description, for they do seem to show themselves word by word, thought by thought. Sometimes they’re brazen. Other times they’re shy and diffident. So long as they’re never obvious. Some characters I enjoy returning to as a means to relieve pressure, to counter-balance other, harder characters/stories. And writing comedy is always great fun. But even then, there’s usually a twist of the knife somewhere, somewhen.

 

Relevant to House of Chains, certainly Karsa Orlong proved a terrific exploration, from what seemed a cliché) "barbarian" to something far more complicated - kind of an obvious example of how nothing is ever as simple as it first seems. Karsa’s proof of that.

 

Q: What can you tell us about current projects?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: I have just finished Reaper’s Gale which is the seventh novel in the series. I am now trying to fit in a new novella continuing the adventures of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach; and I am working with a production company that is shooting an SF series (online, live action) co-created by myself and David Keck and Mark Paxton MacRae. The series is called "The Dark"; first two episodes are "in the can" as they say.

 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

 

STEVEN ERIKSON:

A: For those readers who have yet to look in on the various fan-based sites of the Malazan series, I do encourage you to do so - the commentary at such sites is entirely fan-based (as it should be) and wide-ranging. And there are plenty of people there who are happy to answer questions, point out my inconsistencies, and generally delve into the novels with scholastic diligence.

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