Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Is Coming

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pat Rothfuss on Thanksgiving

I've been extra busy at work these past few weeks, so updates have slowed, but I did find a moment to read Pat Rothfuss writing very movingly about Thanksgiving and his son, Oot:
Actually, that’s not true. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine exactly what it would be like to not have enough food for my baby. It’s a horrifying feeling. It’s a huge feeling. When I think about not being able to feed my baby, my mind brushes up against the edge of something very big and dark in my head. Like nighttime swimmer who feels something firmly bump against his foot. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Steven Erikson - News

Pat is reporting that Steven Erikson is done with the revisions to The Crippled God, which means it will be published on schedule, February 22 2011.  Also of note, Steven says on his Facebook page that he's working on a new Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella called Excesses of Youth.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A Game of Thrones - Set Photos

Tor has posted some photos from the set of the new HBO series A Game of Thrones.

That's Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly.  They also have a shot of Daenerys, and Cersei.  I'm not sure about Dany but Cersei looks spot on.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - NoK Ch.6 & Epilogue

Amanda and Bill wrap up their Malazan Re-read of the Fallen with the final chapter and epilogue of Ian Esslemont's Night of Knives:

What I felt I was seeing in NoK was an author relatively new to his craft, still trying to feel out how to pace a novel: what scenes to select, which to omit; where to go slow and where to speed up; where to show and where to tell, when to let the reader find the meaning and when to help them along or just tell them. It was rough, but the potential was clearly there. Return of the Crimson Guard has, I think some of the same flaws, improves on many of them, and manages to find a few new ones. But I do think it is a better book, Amanda. And my assumption is Stonewielder will continue that progress and I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on it (wink wink hint to our Tor overlords).
They move back to the main timeline next with Deahouse Gates.  


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - Nok, Ch. 5

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapter Five of Night of Knives in their Malazan re-read:

Do you know that this book is reminding me a little of the story behind the classical music piece Night on a Bare Mountain? The idea of one man (Temper) being sorely tested by demons and sprites on the night of a witches’ Sabbath. There are also hints of Night of the Long Knives from history. The idea of a night of terror, where it seems as though the dead walk. Very, very atmospheric.
Add your thoughts in the comments.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Fantasy Novelist's Exam

Over at Rinkworks David J. Parker and Samuel Stoddard have crafted The Fantasy Novelist's Exam:

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this "great, original fantasy" is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we're sick of it, so we've compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering "yes" to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
  2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
  3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?
  4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
  5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
  6. How about one that will destroy it?
  7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
  8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
  9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
  10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
  11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
  12. Does "a forgetful wizard" describe any of the characters in your novel?
  13. How about "a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior"?
  14. How about "a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons"?
  15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
  16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
  17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?

Anything look familiar?

Source: Pat (as always).


Friday, November 5, 2010

Chain Mail

This week I received a cryptic piece of mail from someone asking: "Where is fox pass?"  Given the nature of this site (and my own obsessions) I immediately took it to be a location in an RPG the person was playing, but if it is, it's not part of a game I've played.  A quick google revealed a band by that name, a myspace account and some other bits and bobs, but nothing that resembled a map or clue I could hand to this person.

I also got an enquiry from Seventh Star Press asking if I'd like to review Thrall, the latest novel from Steven Shrewsbury (yes please!) and K.J. Parker taught me (via Devices and Desires) how to make boiled leather, and explained that if you want to make the leather even harder you should use melted beeswax but you have to be careful on a hot day.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - NoK Ch. 4

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapter 4 of Ian Esslemont's Night of Knives:
“By the Autumn Worm. It is he.” The wonder in this statement means that the cultist must be someone that Artan really didn’t expect to seeDancer or Kellanved? Ahh, seeing the scene from Temper’s perspective reveals it is Dancer. Now this is interesting: finally coming face to face with one of the most mysterious and charismatic characters of the series so far.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Heroes

Joe Abercrombie says he's finished his read-through of the page proofs for The Heroes:

You might think I would feel an overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction on the completion of this long and involved project (well, a sense of self-satisfaction even greater than my usual one), but in fact I find you don’t tend to get that as a writer.  No moment of typing “THE END” on your clackety-clackety typewriter then perhaps flinging the final sheet away like Stephen J. Cannell used to at the end of his TV shows.  Finishing the first draft segues rapidly into revision and editing, the editing process is naturally spread out and winds down through various stages, each with less impact on the final result than the one before.  Writing a book peters out rather than ends with a sharp bang in the way the reading of a book does.  And of course over the next few months people begin to read the book, and respond to it, and so it is very much still in your thoughts.  Plus the nebulous end of the writing process for one book dissolves naturally into the nebulous start of the process for the next.  Tis a strange business, all in all.
He also writes that this will be his shortest novel in a while.  Joe has been on a good pace since The Blade Itself, hopefully he's got another title churning around inside him already.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Conversation with Erikson and Esslemont

Tor is hosting a conversation with the Malazan co-creators Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont:

Esslemont:  An earlier question posted asked 'why' we'd started the Malaz series. I'll tackle this since Steve wants to go out for a smoke. 

One reason we gave the Malaz world, the series, the character that it has (overturning fantasy warhorses (ha) of noble kings, etc) was that we decided to try to infuse the genre with some elements of literary sensibility. One of these is a kind of 'social realism' and any social realist examining human history cannot help but see that the traditional images, tropes, romanticisms, projected into the past have been laughably distorting. I mean, happy peasants? Generous Kings? Give me a break. We decided to stick a sword in all that.

You can ask your questions in the comments section.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - NoK Ch. 3

Amanda and Bill continue re-reading Ian Esslemont's Night of Knives:
Hmm, the section about the tattoo is interesting. Sounds like there are at least two factions at play this nightI suppose those who wish Kellanved and Dancer to make their ascension, and those who don’t? Or maybe just people hoping to take advantage of such a powerful night. It is also interesting that Kiska knew about the Claws but not the Talons. Is this because the Talons are just too old an organisation and are being removed? Or is it because the Claws are just more open about their activities? It gives a good observation on whether fear is caused more by shadows in the night, or by the open threat that you know is coming but can’t combat. Your thoughts?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stonewielder in the Malazan Timeline

If you're wondering where Stonewielder falls in the sprawling Malazan timeline. Pat has the answer for you:

Many of you have been asking me where Ian Cameron Esslemont's Stonewielder fits in the Malazan timeline. Obviously, the tale takes place a few months following the events from Return of the Crimson Guard, but I couldn't say for sure beyond that.

So I went ahead and asked Esslemont, and here's his response:

As to timing. Stonewielder certainly follows Return of the Crimson Guard, by about ten months or so. Because timing is tight, the further I can push it back the better. Certain continuity limitations must apply, however. Putting it between Reaper's Gale and Toll the Hounds is a good place, but one might think of it as more current with Toll the Hounds.



There you have it! ;-)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Crippled God - cover art

Cover art for The Crippled God, book 10 in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen:

Who do you think that is?

Source: Amazon U.K.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Heroes - Review

Speculative Horizons has posted a lengthy review of Joe Abercrombie's upcoming novel, The Heroes:
As always, everything is delivered and bound up in Abercrombie's distinctive style. You know when you're reading an Abercrombie book, and that instant recognition is a very useful thing for any author to have in their locker. There's the dark wit that was often lacking inBest Served Cold, and this humour provides a nice counterpoint to the bleakness and violence. Furthermore, The Heroes is primarily a war novel, and is full of wry details and observations about the nature of war and how it affects people in different ways. The story arc of Beck, in particular, is a good example of this (even if it feels a little contrived and predictable). Subsequently, the use of the word 'heroes' in the title has various meanings: a reference to the physical stones, an ironic play on the nature of the men involved in the struggle, and so on. War, as The Heroes ably demonstrates, is a confusing, messy business.
I guess I was one of the few who really liked Best Served Cold, but it sounds like Joe has had a growth spurt between that novel and this one.  I'm a bit disheartened to read about the dearth of compelling female characters but will have to see for myself when The Heroes is published early next year.

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - NoK Ch. 2&3

Amanda and Bill continue their Malazan Re-read of the Fallen with chapters 2&3 of Night of Knives:
I thought the descriptive passage of the motley band in the inn was a skillful way to introduce the mix of races and conquered groups and thus do a bit of world-building. Skillful because it made perfect sense in the context of scene: Temper would of course be carefully scrutinizing everyone in the group, looking for points of weakness or danger, places to poke and prod, possible allies, etc. So to settle on individuals or small groups for a time and catalog who they were, what they were like, feels natural, rather than an artificial moment of authorial intrusion.
I really liked this book and will enjoy again sending some time with Temper and Kiska.  This is clearly a first novel - the scope is small, and some of the characterization is a bit wonky - but there is a scene with Temper and Dassem Ultor that, line by line, rivals anything Erikson ever did in the main sequence of novels.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has posted a review of Stonewielder, the third of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Malazan novels, and the words are all good:
Although Return of the Crimson Guard was good story-wise, the novel suffered from a number of shortcomings that made it less than it should have been. I was thus curious to see if Esslemont, building on his experience and two yarns under his belt, could elevate his game and bring the house down. One of the facets that left something to be desired in Esslemont's last effort was the sometimes clunky narrative and uneven dialogue. Hence, I'm pleased to report that Ian Cameron Esslemont has obviously matured as an author. The prose's flow is now a lot more fluid than in previous installments, and his improved writing skills allow him to create a more vivid narrative. The same can be said about the dialogue, which feels a lot more genuine.
Stonewielder is due in a few weeks.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Dance With Dragons nearly done?

The word coming out of the New York Comic Con is that A Dance With Dragons, George R.R. Martin's long-delayed fifth book in his Game of Thrones series, is nearing completion.  Anne Groell, senior editor at Bantam Spectra has this to say:
"We're hoping to have a finished manuscript by Christmas. He's told me he has five chapters left and bits of each chapter are done. He really wants it done by the end of the year. We really—I mean really—want to announce the pub date in January."
I think the world Martin created for his series is bland (too much adherence to the rules of chivalry) but there's no denying what an amazing storyteller he is.  I loved the first three books (and was a bit cool on book 4, which focused on characters I cared less about) and I'm excited about book 5 which supposedly returns the focus to Dany and her dragons.

Many Martin fans have grown tired of waiting for him to finish this sequence, and have been fairly vocal in their disapproval when it appears that he's off doing other things, like watching football, rather than slaving away for them 24/7.  I say, give him a break: do you want it to be quick, or do you want it to be good?


Friday, October 15, 2010


Yesterday I received, from the kind folks at Errant Press, an ARC of In The Shadow of Swords, a new book by Val Gunn:
When legendary killer Ciris Sarn ends a life in an empty city plaza with a single dagger thrust, little does he know that an insidious game has been triggered by the brutal slaying. Turning predator into prey, this part fantasy, part espionage novel races along as it follows the now hunted Sarn across the brilliant white sands and sparkling seas of Mir'aj, pursued by the widow of his latest victim who will stop at nothing for vengeance.
It will take me a few weeks to work it into my lineup but expect a review in mid-late November.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - NOK Prologue & Ch. 1

Oh frabjous day!  Amanda and Bill are continuing their re-read of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, beginning with Ian Cameron Esslemont's Night of Knives:
I share with you the sense of clunkiness w/ the jaghut line and the scorpion bit and felt a bit the same about the lines concerning the Riders, that “they were here for another reason . . .” which I thought felt a bit stilted, too heavily ominous, and diluted the impact of the prior line, “The riders cared nothing for them.” It will be interesting to see the differing reactions from readers, especially new readers like yourself, coming from GotM’s near absolute refusal to immediately or bluntly “explain” things to this. I can see some finding this a breath of fresh air and others missing the sense of challenge or disorientation. (I fall into the latter camp personally.)
Marvelous!  An interesting choice to veer into Cam's book instead of going directly to Deadhouse Gates.  I hope no one loses the thread when they get back to the main timeline.


Paul Park Interview

Over at The Fantasy Authors Handbook there's an interview with author Paul Park, who has some interesting things to say:
I often start by imagining the character as a physical and psychological object, and then imagining how that object appears to other people in the drama, including me. Then I start adding detail to justify or confound those assumptions. Then I go deeper, to see if I can discover an interior landscape that challenges the exterior one—in other words, how the character appears to him or herself. Then I invent a personal or family or romantic history that explains, or at least resonates with, those differences. Character motivation derives out of that process; it’s not what I start with. But if everyone in the story knows the same things about a character, or imagines him or her in the same way as the author does, and there’s no gap between what the character perceives and what the reader perceives, there’s usually a problem.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Castle Ravenloft AAR

Wizards of the Coast have released a new Dungeons and Dragons board-game called Castle Ravenloft.

The game has scenarios for 1-5 players so prior to playing a game with Sula I decide to tackle one of the solo adventures.  This is my AAR (After Action Report) from Escape The Tomb:

You wake up alone in the depths of Castle Ravenloft.  The last thing you remember was when the man with the piercing eyes and long cane approached you on the dark street outside the Inn.  It had to be Count Strahd, the vampire!  Outside the castle , you know that the sun is high in the sky.  Now you have to find your way out of here before the sun sets and Strahd returns to finish whatever foul plot he began last night.

There are five classes to choose from: a Dwarven Cleric, an Eladrin Mage, a Human Rogue, a Human Ranger, and a Dragonborn Fighter.  I select the Dragonborn fighter.

The Fighter has 17AC, 10 HP, and 5 SPD.  
Powers for this session are:
Precise Strike
Tide of Iron
Dragon's Breath

The treasure item I begin the game with is a Potion of Rejuvenation, which lets me flip over a daily power that I have exhausted so that I may reuse it.

Turn 1

I head south and reveal another crypt.  There's a Skeleton (16AC, 1HP) here looking grumpy.  Since the revealed tile has a black triangle (instead of a white triangle) I must draw an Encounter Card: Prowling Ghost: the ghosts of past adventurers materialize and attack me (+9ATK, 1DMG) - since my fighter has 17AC, and the attack is +9, the ghosts need to roll +8 to hit me...miss (1).  After the attack the Encounter Card tells me to place a new dungeon tile at the unexplored edge closest to my hero, place a new monster on that tile and then move my hero to that tile.  Another crypt, this one with a Kobold Skirmisher (13AC,1HP) waving a spear around.  

Skeleton: moves 1 tile toward me.
Kobold: attacks me (+9ATK, 1DMG)...hit (16), and I am down 1HP to 9.  

Turn 2

I attack the Kobold with Tide of Iron (+8ATK, 1DMG) and...miss (4).  Not wanting to reveal a new tile, and consequently a new monster, I chose not to move to the edge of the tile I'm on.  Because I didn't reveal a new tile I must draw an Encounter Card: Voice of the Master: oh, it's a card that is intended for a game with more than one player. Sometimes I draw a card that, due to the game I’m currently running, has no effect. When that happens I discard and draw another (choose whichever rule you like, just be consistent in its application).  The Encounter Card is Animated Armour: attack each hero on the active hero's tile (+7ATK, 3DMG, miss 1DMG)...hit (11), and I am down to 8HP.

Skeleton: charges to me and attacks with Slice (+9ATK, 2DMG)...miss (4).
Kobold: attacks me...miss (4).

Turn 3

I have a power called Cleave (+6ATK, 1DMG) and if I land a hit with it I can choose another monster on my tile and that monster takes 1DMG.  I elect to Cleave the Kobold...hit (16)... The Kobold is dead and the Skeleton is down a hit point to 1HP.  I find a Potion of Healing (2HP) in the Kobold's pocket.  Handy.  

My speed is 5, and I can move after attacking, but the Skeleton has a weaker adjacent attack, so I don't want to move away from it so it can use it's charging Slice attack.  I also don't want to move to the edge of my tile and reveal another, with incumbent monster.  I stand my ground.  Since I didn't reveal a tile I draw an Encounter: Corner of Your Eye: roll the die, 1-15 a monster rushes you from the darkness (place a new monster on the same tile as your hero), 16-20 a friendly spirit inspires you to fight on (flip up one of your used powers).  [RULES MOMENT: I have no powers that have been used, so half this card is void, but the other half isn't.  I decide to play it]. 11...which triggers a Skeleton, but since a player can only 'control' one of the same type of monster at once I discard that and draw...a Wraith (15AC, 2HP) which materializes from the shadows!  That's bad.  Wraiths hit hard (+6ATK, 3DMG, miss 1DMG) and when they die each hero on the same tile takes 1DMG.

Skeleton:  the Skeleton swings it's scimitar (+7ATK, 1DMG)...miss (6).
Wraith: the Wraith rears up, fills it's insubstantial form with energy and forces it's will toward me...miss (8) but I still take 1DMG from its noxious body odour (I am down to 7/10HP).

Turn 4

So, this is unpleasant.  I decide to use Precise Strike (+11ATK, 2DMG) on the Wraith...hit (19), the Wraith is dead and I take another point of DMG (6/10).  Killing the Wraith fills me with adrenaline and until the end of my next hero phase I get an ATK bonus equal to the number of heroes on my tile.  

Again, I don't move (this time because I'm too scared) which triggers an encounter: Overrun: each hero takes damage equal to the number off monsters they control: Ouch! Down another 2HP (4/10).

Skeleton: the skeleton swings it's scimitar (a bit wildly, I might add, displaying very poor form there)...and hits (12)...down another HP (3/10).

Turn 5

I chug my Potion Of Healing (2HP) and am back to half (5/10).  I decide to, again, remain where I am (i really hate this smelly Skeleton now and want it to fall down a lot) which triggers an encounter: oh balls!  King Tomescu's Portal: I fall through a portal and hit my head and shoulder on the way down (attack the active hero 3 times (+8ATK, 1DMG)...miss (8)...hit (12)...hit (14)... I am down another 2HP (3/10).  I wonder where this portal leads?

Turn 6

I land hard on a stone slab back in a crypt I wandered through earlier.  Nothing broken, but I am leaking blood.  My potion is gone and my adrenaline depleted, which means my blessing was wasted.  What to do?  I'm going back for that skeleton.  I did move, but I didn't place a tile, so I draw another Encounter, maybe it will be raining candy this time?  Eww.  Grey Ooze: a pseudopod attacks me (+8ATK, 3DMG, miss 1DMG)...hit (19)...for 3HP which puts me at 0/10...I drift into oblivion, the last thing I remember thinking is, "Oh, grey ooze; better not step in that..."

Turn 7

I come around and pop a Healing Surge (I was given 2 when I began) which puts me back to half health (5/10).  I'm too woozy to walk far, so since I don't reveal a tile I trigger an Encounter: blast!  A Trap!  Oh, beru fend!  It's an Alarm: the clatter of distant bells starts up somewhere in the complex.  Place the alarm marker on the hero's tile, trigger the trap during the villain phase, place a new monster on the unexplored edge that is closest to the alarm marker.  The Alarm has roused a Wolf (14AC, 1HP).  I can try to disable the alarm instead of attacking (+10, a Rogue gets +5) but I'm a bit worried about this place rapidly filling up with monsters and that Skeleton (remember it from Turn 1?) is still half dead.  I move onto the skeleton's tile and attack it with Tide of Iron (+8ATK, 1DMG)... hit (16), the skeleton is dead and I must have hit it really hard because it's bones snap and break, manipulated by some unseen hand, and reform into a Glyph of Warding (the first monster that moves to, or is placed on this tile, takes 1DMG).

Again, since I didn't reveal a tile I trigger an encounter: Spider Webs: attack the active hero (+4 IMMOBILIZED, miss SLOWED)...miss (3) but I am slowed (2SPD).

The Alarm keeps up it's keening racket and draws a Wraith to the room.
Wolf: the wolf lopes toward me, it's jaws open and drooling spittle, on the edge of the room it tenses to pounce, muscles bunching in its legs and along its back, it leaps at me and...triggers the Glyph of Warding, which explodes as the wolf is in mid-air, jagged pieces of splintered bone pierce it's left side killing it instantly.  Phew.  The Glyph is used up.  Boo.
The Wraith moves to me with impossible speed and swipes it's nails across my face...hit (18)...I am down to 2HP.  

What an eventful turn.

Turn 8

I am no longer slowed.
What can I do about this Wraith.  Let's do the same thing I did to the last one.  I pop my Potion of Rejuvenation, which lets me flip my daily Precise Strike (+11ATK, 2DMG) back over again.  I drop into an offensive stance and attack the Wraith...hit (19)...the Wraith is dead but I opened myself up to make the attack and the Wraith's defensive swing caught me across the ribs, I am down another HP (4/10).  I notice the Wraith is wearing a Necklace of Fireballs (+5ATK, 1DMG, attack each monster on a tile 1 tile away from you) so I take that and slip it over my helm. 

I don't reveal a tile which triggers an Encounter: Hands of the Dead: attack each hero on the active hero's tile (+6ATK, 2DMG, miss 1DMG)...hit (18) and I am down 2HP (2/10).

The Alarm has drawn a Zombie (+11AC, 1HP) into the room.  (That alarm is starting to give me a sinus headache.)

Turn 9

I use a Utility Power, Unstoppable, which gives me a boost of adrenaline (+2HP).  I move to the alarm and try to disable it...it is beyond my meagre fighter's brain (4).  Since I didn't reveal a tile I trigger an encounter: Patrina Veliokovna: a ghost materializes and attacks me (+7ATK, 2DMG, miss 1DMG)...but I spend 5XP from the 9 I have earned thus far to negate the encounter.  (Each monster is worth an XP value which goes into a pot that the group uses to either negate an encounter or to level up.  If you roll a natural 20, and have 5XP to spend, you can go up to level 2 which increases AC and HP and makes you a bit of a bighead). 

The Alarm has drawn a Spider (15AC, 1HP).  
The Zombie attacks me (+5ATK, 1DMG for each monster not the zombie's tile)...miss (10).

Turn 10

I use Cleave on the Zombie...oh my...I rolled a natural 20 which means a few things... 1) the zombie is dead (Treasure: Moment's Respite: place this card on the monster of encounter deck and negate the next card drawn from that deck.  I put it on the encounter deck). 2) Cleave kills the spider as well (only 1 treasure item per turn, alas), and 3) my hero levels up.  I spend 5XP from my pool of 7 (the Zombie and Spider were worth a total of 3) and flip my hero card over to level 2.  My AC rises by 1 (to 18), my HP rise by 2 (to 12), and my Surge Value (the amount a healing surge heals me for) rises to 6.  Nifty keen.  The only sad element is that my health isn't fully replenished.  But I am sitting at 4/12.  Oh, also, if I roll any more 20s they crit for +1DMG.

Since I didn't reveal a tile an encounter is triggered, but it is negated (or delayed, rather, since I just flipped the treasure card off the encounter pile) by Moment's Respite.    

The alarm brings a Kobold Skirmisher (13AC, 1HP) into the fray.

Turn 11

I try to clear my head, focus my thoughts, and disable that bloody alarm...oh Hood’s Balls! a 5...

Since I don't move (the disable attempt replaced my attack phase) an encounter is triggered: Mists of Terror, lovely: roll a die for each hero, on a 1-5 each hero takes 1DMG and is IMMOBILIZED...the mist missed (19).

The alarm draws a Ghoul (16AC,1HP).
The Kobold swings it spear at me (+9ATK, 1DMG)...miss (4).

Turn 12

I take a deep breath...I close my eyes...I can feel a trickle of sweat running down between my shoulder-blades...I exhale and examine the alarm...it defeats me again (8) and in frustration I whack it with my 2-handed axe.  It skips a bell but resumes with no other ill effects.

Not drawing a tile means an Encounter: Frenzy: each monster you control activates twice during the villain phase.  /gulp. I only have 2XP in the pot, so cannot negate this encounter.  

The alarm draws a Wolf and a Spider.
The Kobold attacks...hit (11)... -1HP...
The Ghoul bites me (+9ATK, 3DMG)...ouch 18...I vomit and fall, hitting my head on the flagstones.  I pass out.

Turn 13

Well, what a grueling session.  I have used my final Healing Surge (and am back to 6HP) but haven't done much exploring and really have no idea where the exit is.  On the plus side, there’s been no sign of Count Strahd.  (Revealing a tile with a black triangle on it triggers an Encounter.  Revealing a tile with a white triangle on it moves the sun token one step along the time track.  Once 5 steps have been triggered the sun sets and Count Strahd wakes up and comes looking for me.)

As I stagger back to my feet I feel something swinging against my gorget...my Necklace of Fireballs!  I have four monsters in the room with me and that damn alarm is still yelling for attention.  First though, I have a daily, Dragon's Breath (+4ATK, 1DMG), that hits everyone in the room and doesn't count as an action.  I try that first...16!  It kills every monster in the room and I slice off the right hand of the ghoul to act as a Lucky Charm (re-roll any die roll).  

Renewed, filled with optimism, I return my attention to the alarm...2... I use my Lucky Charm... Oh, thank Hood...I manage to crack the casing open and rip out it's innards (13).  The alarm fades away and silence returns to the dungeon.  I am alone again.  I catch my breath and push on to the next room, west...

An arcane circle with a Gargoyle (16AC, 2HP).  Because the revealed tile has a black triangle on it I draw an Encounter card: lovely, a Fire Trap: trigger the trap during the villain phase, each hero on the tile takes 2DMG.  Well, at least I can outrun that.

The Gargoyle flies across the room to me and attacks (+8ATK, 2DMG, miss 1DMG)...hit (13) and I'm down to 4/12HP.  Oh, and I guess I take 2DMG from the fire trap.  2/12HP. I am in a bad way.

Turn 14

I need to escape from that Fire Trap, so leg it into the next room west.  A tile with a white triangle which moves the sun token one step along the time track.  3 more white triangle tiles and Count Strahd will wake up and being pursuing me.  I'm not worried, though.  I’ll be dead long before then.  Oh, and look there's a Ghoul here.  

Wow.  Because I revealed a tile and it wasn't a black triangle tile there's no encounter card drawn.  

The Gargoyle flies to me and attacks: ...ouch...13.  And that, as they say in pathology, is that.  I stare into the gargoyle's depthless red eyes as I feel consciousness fading from me...I wonder briefly what might have been if I knew how to use a screwdriver and could have disabled that bloody alarm earlier...then nothing...oblivion.

After Thoughts

That was a bit of a weird game.  Because I spent so much time fighting that damn alarm I didn't reveal very much of the dungeon, and since I avoided pulling out 5 tiles with white triangles on them, the boss never woke up.  However, it was a good illustration of the combat mechanics, and I did get to level up.  

I played two other solo games and lost one and won the other.  The game I won was a nail biter; I won on what would have been my final turn, with four monsters chasing me through the dungeon and a fifth on the same tile as my hero.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how varied the three solo games were.  Obviously, the dungeons are randomly generated, which helps enormously with replay value, but also there is so much uncertainty with the order the monsters are going to come out in and how the die is going to behave.  

I also played two multiplayer games (3 players total) and they were also interesting and varied (we went 1-1).  The game comes with 15 scenarios (plus two which can be downloaded from the Wizards website) and there are more being generated but even so, there is tremendous replay value in the adventures that come in the box.  

I like this game very much.  It feels like a good way to get a hit of D&D without the need for a Dungeon Master, plus the a game can be played in about an hour, which is terrific (my regular gaming group likes to play a variety of games during each session and we tend to get antsy if we play the same game for longer than a few hours).  Obviously, it's a dungeon crawl, and the only opportunity for roleplaying is the one you make yourself, but even so, this is a game with surprising depth and interesting mechanics.  I expect it will be folded into our rotation and we'll be playing it for a while.  


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Writers and Writing Workshops

Over on the Orbit website, Celine Kiernan has been doing some musing on Writers Workshops:
I come away from every one of these workshops refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose about my own work and a clearer idea of where I’m going. Even with (almost) nine novels under my belt I need to be reminded how to step back. I need to be reminded that writing is always going to be hard work, but that I can do it if I just keep a clear vision of what I’m trying to say. I need to be reminded to practice what I preach in other words.
I think any kind of workshopping is healthy.  Even if all that consists of is handing your manuscript out to friends and family.  You get so close to a piece of work that you need someone who doesn't see all the connective tissue you're trying to build in to hold it up; someone who will be frank and say, "I don't get it".  The hard part is taking their thoughts on board and trying to look at your work objectively.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Malazan and Role-Playing Games

I don't know how much of a secret it is that the world of Malaz began as a setting for a role-playing game that Steven Erikson and his friend Ian Cameron Esslemont (the co-creator of Malaz, and author of two Malazan novels, with a third coming to market this Fall), invented because they were unhappy with the state of Dungeons and Dragons games.

Over on his blog Steven Erikson has posted a lengthy rumination on the link between role-playing games and the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  Actually, that's the launching point for the piece, since he often gets questions from fans eager to learn exactly what the connections are, but he ends up writing quite insightfully about the fact that he doesn't game while he's working because they both feel like very similar acts of creation.  He also writes explicitly about his problems with AD&D:

Let’s go back to what most would consider the basic look and feel of traditional role-playing games. The first games we played were set in the AD&D world, and we almost immediately clashed with the class and alignment rules set in place by Gary Gygax. We recognized them, you see, because we’d read fantasy fiction; but now those particular gaming rules were in turn affecting most of the new fantasy fiction at the time (with notable exceptions). The tropes were bleeding back and forth, yet the literary foundation was fifty years old. We recoiled, I think, from what we perceived as an ossification of the genre (I could go off on a tangent now and talk about Glen Cook, but do recall, his Black Company novels were not widely-read the first time they came out; even more-so for his Dread Empire stuff—he seemed a lone voice in the crowd, but for a while there he was the only one we were prepared to listen to).
Fascinating, no?


Monday, October 4, 2010

Understanding, Tragedy

Richard Morgan (author of the excellent The Steel Remains, and many other titles)  does some thoughtful musing over here on the tragic arc, and the lack of its complexity:
What’s of most interest to me, though, re-reading this section of Steiner’s book, is the close parallel in didactics between the Romantics as he describes them and what seems to have happened to Hollywood movie making in the period since the rise of Reagan and, even more intensely, in the last ten years.
I can see what he's getting at and have been thinking it has to do with a movement toward simplification: some of the people who make stories happen want to reach the widest possible audience (or, less kindly, think the audience is dumb) and so, like a sauce on the boil, they reduce the constituent parts until only the most obvious and binary relationships remain.  (I see it in my own work with the notes I get back from network executives: it appears most of them want to craft their shows for the lowest point on the bell curve.  "Make it so a potted plant could understand it", they seem to be saying.  There's rarely any room for the viewer to get involved in the story because it plays out so simplistically.  We never get ahead of the viewer, or more importantly let them get ahead of us, which is the most effective way to get them hooked into the narrative.)

I think it's a complex issue, and has roots in the anti-liberal arts education sentiment that is so prevalent nowadays (Maths!  Science!  Study something that will be useful! - as if learning how to communicate effectively were not a useful skill ), and the need some people have to draw clear lines between an US and a THEM.   But the less critical thinking is encouraged, the more people will stop thinking altogether.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 24 & Epilogue

Even after having some of my edges ground off by Life, I still try to be an optimistic entity.  Witness the titles for these Malazan  posts: I included the book title because I hoped that, after they were done with the first book, Amanda and Bill would move on to the second, and then the third and so on.  Amanda signs off announcing that she is moving on to Ian Esslemont's Knight of Knives.  Hopefully Bill will follow along.

Anyway, here is the final entry for the re-read:
Anyway, Gardens of the Moon...I started the novel with confusion and no little frustration as people I didn’t know had conversations I didn’t understand. But then gradually my understanding expanded, my desire to know more about the world grew and I immersed myself more fully in GotM. By the time the big finale came, I was a little bit in love with virtually all the characters, and I definitely don’t want to get off this ride!
My own re-read left this experiment behind long ago.  I'm now perhaps a third through House of Chains (previously my least favourite in the sequence) and I think reading it so close behind the first three books has helped with the confusion and dislocation I experienced.  Karsa's journey didn't seem to take as long this time around and I feel much more cognizant of who everyone is and why they're doing what they're doing.  My admiration and love for this series only deepens.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Questions for Steven Erikson

As the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen wraps up over at Tor.com, Amanda and Bill plan to mark the completion of Book 1 by having Steven Erikson stop by to answer questions:
Next week we will be wrapping up Gardens of the Moon in our Malzan reread with a look at the last chapter and epilogue and then a broad reaction to the book as a whole. The following week Steven Erikson will be here answering selected questions.
Selected from where, you ask? Why, from here, of course! From you few, you happy few, you band of rereaders... So think of what you’d like to ask Steven (just Steven on this one, Cam will do the same at the end of our Night of Knivesdiscussion) and put the question in the comments here or in this Wednesday’s coming reread discussion thread.
We’ll compile them all, weed out any repetitions, then send them along to Steven for his answers (or non-answers as may be the case—you know these author types). So start the questions coming; the sooner the better.
 So, if you have things to ask Mr. Erikson, or if you just want to say thanks for a remarkable series, head over to the comments section of this page and leave your mark.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Folding Knife

                                     “Violence is an admission of defeat” - Bassianus Severus

There’s a rumour that K.J. Parker, author of The Folding Knife, is really J.K. Rowling in disguise.  There’s another rumour that Parker is actually the partner of writer Tom Holt (witness this interview which people are using as evidence to support that claim).  I don’t see it myself.  I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, but based on the flavour, the waft, of that series, which I’ve absorbed via osmosis, I suppose it could be her.  In any event, for whatever reasons, Ms. Parker (who has revealed her sex) is a writer who wishes to remain anonymous.  Her barren Wikipedia page tells us, “...she has worked in law, journalism and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal”.  Numismatics.  Delicious.

The Folding Knife is clearly the work of either a preternaturally gifted writer, or a very experienced one.  The style is light and breezy, almost conversationalChapters begin with “The first thing anyone knew of it was...” and “Quite suddenly, the war was ready.”  Characters are described in quick, easy arcs, “His nose was so large that Basso wondered if he’d had it cut off someone else and sewn on special.”  (The prologue is a particular stand-out, vying with the prologue of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind for most compelling opening of the last few years.)  The prose is flowing and sometimes disarmingly poignant; this book can be laugh-out-loud funny, but is also very, very sad.  

It’s the story of Basso The Magnificent, the First Citizen (sort of a Prime Minister, but without a Monarch to kowtow to) of the Vesani Republic.  The novel is set in a vaguely renaissance, vaguely Mediterranean Empire, where skills in banking and commerce are highly prized and it follows Basso from childhood to late-middle age.  There are three or four main characters, and a half dozen minor, but we don’t get to know anyone as well as we come to understand Basso.  The book is third person, but is told through Basso’s lens.  I’m not certain, but now that I consider it, Basso may be in almost every scene.  Although that impression could also be a consequence of Parker’s writing style.

Almost all the battle scenes in the book are relayed second-hand, from one character to another; either via letters or by telling them.  That conveys to us a great deal about the character doing the telling, which was probably Parker’s intention, but because the prose is so light, the scenes rendered with such a delicate touch, this meant that I felt distanced from the action.  I felt a bit like I was reading the book through a keyhole.  I also would have liked a bit more meat on some of the secondary characters, but since it’s really Basso’s story I can see why we are only privy to his opinions and conclusions about the people in his orbit.

I loved this book, though and I burned through it in a few days.  The Folding Knife feels very airy and superficial but that tone is deceptive and the novel left a mark on me.  The pacing is well tuned, the story contains some surprising twists, and I couldn’t help be drawn in by Basso and his obsessions.  Parker has talked a bit about the fact that she doesn’t write villains, in the usual sense, and Basso is an excellent example.  Why do people do horrible things?  Does someone lose their humanity because of the things they’ve done?  In The Folding Knife, context is all.  This book is both very funny and very tragic and highly recommended.  


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 22 & 23

Bill and Amanda continue their re-read of Gardens of the Moon. here:
Gosh, we are certainly reaching the business end of the tale now! Finally we see that the Malazans have identified the T’orrud Cabal as the true power in Darujhistan, and the contact with the Assassins’ Guild always involved making a contract for their lives. This is terrible! I love the Bridgeburners, but I really enjoy reading about members of the T’orrud Cabal as well! Having affections on both sides of a conflict makes me torn. Interesting that Kalam had not realised that the Cabal were in cahoots with the Lord of Moon’s Spawn; and also that Vorcan is a High Mage (I can’t recall if we were told that explicitly before?)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post-Modernism in Fantasy

Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn series and the recently published The Way of Kings has written an article about post-modernism in Fantasy:
Fantasy (and the epic in particular) hit a postmodern stage with remarkable speed. Tolkien was so remarkably dominant, so genre-changing, that reactions to him began immediately. And, since so much of the audience was familiar with his tropes (to the point that they quickly became expected parts of the genre), it was easy to build upon his work and change it. You could also argue that the Campbellian monomyth (awareness of which was injected into the veins of pop culture by George Lucas) was so strong in sf/f that we were well prepared for our postmodern era to hit. Indeed, by the late ’70s, the first major postmodern Tolkienesque fantasy epic had already begun. (In the form of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.)
I'm not sure I really understand what post-modernism is in literature, apart from vaguely thinking it has something to do with the book being aware of itself as a book, a constructed piece of work, like having a baker named Dough, or a heavy infantry soldier named Shield.  I think Martin Amis is considered a post-modern author because he names his characters based on their jobs and frequently pops up in his books as himself; the author Martin Amis.

Post-modern seems like a heavy label for a book to wear.  It's like a signpost pointing to a place on the map that hasn't been charted: this book changes things.  It doesn't just tell a ripping story, it also winks knowingly at the reader.

I don't really read straight fiction any more, but I liked James Joyce's Ulysses, often considered one of the best post-modern novels, and I'm not sure I know enough about the history of Fantasy fiction to be able to notice when I'm being winked at.  As far as I can tell, as long as a fantasy novel isn't about a naive farmer discovering they have royal blood; isn't set in another pastiche of some nameless medieval European city state with faux-Tudor architecture; and isn't about a Dark Lord/Nameless Menace/Rising Evil then, for fantasy fans, it's post-modern.

I think Mr. Sanderson's article is interesting (mostly for the insights into his own writing process), but I think that before Fantasy can begin to de-construct itself there needs to be more varied examples of it.  The genre is still struggling with its legacy of sexism and male power fantasy wish-fulfillment.  Let's see more female origin stories, more varied and interesting world-building, more inventive and daring plotting, and less reliance on the tropes - Elves, Barbarians, Wizards - that were already stale 40 years ago.  Is a Fantasy novel post-modern because it doesn't have dwarves in it?  Or because it genuinely stretches the genre in a new and interesting direction.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 20 & 21

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapters 20 & 21 in their Malazan Re-read of the Fallen:
The exchange between Circle Breaker and the other guard, Berrute, showcases a number of the matters we have discussed previously in the comments to each post: an extremely minor character being given a name and a few tidbits of history; and a discussion between two characters being used to add flavour and depth to the novel, rather than just saying “Circle Breaker was able to swap shifts with another guard to enable him to be present at Lady Simtal’s fete.” Would love to know Circle Breaker’s proper name!
I am enjoying reading along, but wish that Bill would provide more of his own commentary as a re-reader, instead of commenting on the assumptions Amanda is making.  I feel like we get the perspective of a new reader and a veteran perspective on that.  I think Bill should be writing more about the things he is discovering and noticing on his re-read.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Enhanced E-Book of 'The Heroes'

I know, people are very passionate abut their books.  I am, too.  It took me a long time to understand that books are not sacred objects and that they can be sold or given away once finished.  Two of the last three books I've read were e-books consumed via my iPad and I found reading a digital book to be a very satisfying experience; convenient, and with added benefits (like a backlight, and not having to awkwardly hold a book open while reading laying on my side, in bed).  I would describe myself as an e-book convert.  And, while still in its infancy, with all the growing pains that entails (what's with the horrendous typo and grammar errors in the Kindle editions I read?) I believe it's only a matter of time before the e-book industry gains momentum and more general acceptance.

To help things along, Joe Abercrombie has just announced an enhanced e-book edition of his new novel The Heroes:
For those of you who might have more than a passing interest in fascinating insights into the development of my writing, and of The Heroes specifically, here’s the package we’ve come up with for an enhanced ebook of The Heroes.  Alright, alright here’s the package my editor’s come up with:

  • Full Text of The Heroes
  • Unabridged Audiobook of The Heroes, narrated by Stephen Pacey
  • Introduction by the author
  • Afterword by the editor
  • In depth behind-the-scenes interview with the author (in text, audio, and possibly video), covering genesis of the idea for the book, influences, discussion of the six central characters, the writing process, the revision process from plan to completion, the importance of maps, the development of the cover
  • Five maps showing the battlefield, and unit positions at the start of each day of the battle
  • A dramatis personae
  • A 20,000 word planning document, with rough early plans, character sketches, and more detailed plans for each part
  • Several chapters presented at varying stages of revision, annotated by the author to illustrate the editing process
  • Cover file – all the briefs, sketches, and rough versions of the different elements of the cover, and of the combined cover, hopefully with some commentary from the award-winning artists and designer
  • Author biography
  • Links to other interviews and relevant websites and blogs
  • Archive of all blog posts during the writing and editing period
  • In due course, I hope we’ll be able to add The Fool Jobs, a short story featuring characters from The Heroes, though that may not be available until later in 2011
That extra content looks fascinating, and resembles the kind of special edition treatment that movies often receive on DVD.  I'm surprised no one thought of doing this before.  Perhaps they have but no one told me.


Steven Erikson on Dialogue

Steven Erikson writes here about dialogue and how one should avoid having a character who exists purely to provide exposition:
You know the classic fantasy scene from AD&D where you walk into a tavern and ask somebody something and they actually tell you everything you need to know? Hate ‘em. No, hate’s too gentle a word. Despise. A perfect example of using dialogue to convey information – at the expense of character, realism, even imagination. Awful. Lazy. Insulting. Has this character no life beyond sitting there waiting to tell you all you need to know? No motivations? No secret likes, dislikes, fears, loves, weaknesses, hidden scars, sad memories?
Interesting stuff.  Particularly if you've just done a re-read of Gardens of the Moon, because he uses a scene from that book as an example of what he's writing about.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 18 & 19

Bill and half of Amanda (who is on holiday) continue their re-read of the Malazan series.  They are up tp chapters 18 & 19 of Gardens of the Moon:
Erikson employs one of his usual suspense techniques here, shifting between POVs and scenes quickly so the reader is constantly left wondering. Is Coll going to make it? Is Rallick? Will Paran break the sword? Will Rallick get Mallet in time? Will Mallet be able to heal Coll? Erikson shows some good decision-making as well in breaking up the whirlwind of tension with some humor as Mallet examines the wound and discovers “someone’s stuffed this with herbs!”
 Also today. Kate Elliot's new book Cold Magic became available for download on iBooks.  I have a few titles jostling to be the next book I read but this may be the front runner.  A trip to North Bay this weekend may be just what I need to burn through Kate's latest.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 16 & 17

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapters 16 & 17 on their Malazan Re-read of the Fallen:
That Rake/Baruk scene is one of my favorite Rake scenes (and I have a lot of Rake scenes I enjoy). We’ve discussed how often Erikson plays with point-of-view to leave us thinking one thing and then switches over to reveal we weren’t playing with a full deck, so to speak. But in this case, I immediately bought Rake’s sincerity in describing his sense of duty and eight books later I have yet to question that first impression of sincerity. 
 Interesting stuff for new and veteran Erikson readers alike.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Steven Erikson follow-up

Over at the Malazan Empire, Steven Erikson has posted some further thoughts on finishing his 10 book series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen:
Hello all.
In a response I just posted on the Life As A Human site (not in the last installment, the one before that, I think, the one with 30-odd comments), I described my feeling as if I have staggered out from under an enormous burden. And it was last week, on my facebook page, when I announced the closure of an adventure that has spanned almost thirty years of my life, from those wild ambitions of youth – all that manic gaming with Cam where we forged an entire world from our imaginations and from all that inspired us from the literary genre of Fantasy – to this ageing man stumbling free, finally, not yet ready to look back, not yet capable of making sense of all this, and it may be that I never will.
I look out the window on my left now, onto the High Street of Falmouth, watching the crowds moving back and forth, and it was while seated on this leather sofa about a week ago that I wrote the last line of The Crippled God, saying goodbye to the most extensive story I will ever tell. I’ve since joked that my next project is a twenty-four volume saga set in the same world, chronicling the life of a character from birth to seven years of age, whereupon said character is jailed for being a career criminal. Called The Malazan Book of the Felon. Flippancy can be a useful defense mechanism, for a while, but eventually the silence returns. 
On the speakers here in Mango Tango, Dylan asks ‘How does it feel?’ and that acerbic tone invites derision, in my case self-directed, as if a voice inside wants to say ‘big deal. Besides, mate, the best is now behind you.’ And I’m reminded of the last poem in the book, which invites something very different, as if to answer my self-doubts with a caustic regard for the willfully blind. What do I mean with all that? Wait and see. As for me, the willful blindness persists, and I see nothing ahead and nothing behind. I’m empty, and it feels all right.
I often remind myself that The Malazan Book of the Fallen will never challenge the bestsellers within the genre; will never achieve the broad appeal of, say, The Lord of the Rings, or even The Wheel of Time. But still, I feel an immense gratitude for the readers I have found – for you who participate on this site and for all the lurkers staying in the shadows. We have been in conversation for some time now, you and me, sharing an investment in time and energy; and while I have been the one in the know when you have speculated and wondered, the time is coming when the roles will reverse – when I am the one who can only look on, not knowing what is coming next, as you (hopefully) continue to explore the series, with all the authority that only fans can achieve.
So, I have already begun my wait. To see what you think. What you feel. To see all that you take from these books, and to see what you will make of them. Forgive me if I stay in the shadows. But this is now yours, not mine. And that is as it should be.
With gratitude,
Steven Erikson
The full thread is here.

Yeah, I don't know what to say about the completion of this series. It is simply the most profound, insightful, nuanced and moving piece of work I've ever read.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

N.K. Jemisin - Rites of Passage

N.K. Jemisin, whose first novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is out now, has an interview up at Locus Magazine, in which she discusses the importance of writing short stories, and how bored she is with typical, epic fantasy.
   ‘‘The original version was a typical epic fantasy – different chapters told from different characters’ perspectives so you could see the big picture, side trips to other countries, a heavier emphasis on getting the Item of Importance to the Location of Significance – much more traditional in structure. When I started rewriting it, I thought, ‘I’m just going to write the way I feel like writing.’ It might not be epic fantasy anymore, if epic fantasy requires those tropes, but I was changing everything anyway, so I decided just to see what would happen.‘‘
The interview is an interesting read, and made me wonder about how stale the 'Medieval European' fantasy setting has become.  I'm an easy mark for fantasy authors because something about that setting really resonates with me, so I don't feel it's overdone but it's true that there are many, many books that do little more than plop their characters down in the middle of hills and dales, and toss in a castle for luck.  

I haven't read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I downloaded a sample to my iPad and, based on the first few chapters, I will be buying it.  I'll report back when I'm done.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 14 & 15

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapters 14 & 15 on their Malazan Re-read of the Fallen:
That bleak view of humanity is a constant undercurrent in this series and gives it a level of depth and seriousness that I at least really respond to. Lorn wondering if humans have inherited from the Imass along with the world, their single-minded focus on war and if humanity would also “bow to it [war] in immortal servitude, no more than deliverers of death.” And we get maybe the first direct questioning of whether the T’lan Imass war was perhaps not so benign as Lorn realizes the Jaghut would not have started the war. And we get the even more bleak sense of history repeating—this endless realization of humanity’s destructiveness and inability to do anything about it as “such tears had been shed before, and would be again . . . And the winds would dry them all.” Kallor, therefore, as the symbol of the whole human race: never learning, driven by ambition and desire for domination over people and the world itself to perform destruction upon destruction in either cruelty or obliviousness. In later books, we’ll see how much of this relates to our modern society. It’s a difficult view to argue against, I think.
 I am now up to chapter five of Memories of Ice (which, at this point, is my favourite novel in the sequence), and I have to admit that burning through the first three books in a month has brought all kinds of story details into sharp focus.  All the connective tissue is there, it's just that some of the story beats are only referred to once, or described differently by a secondary voice, which explains why this series can be so overwhelming.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - GOTM Ch. 12 & 13

Amanda and Bill continue their in-tandem re-read of Steven Erikson's Malazan series.  They are up to Chapters 12 and 13 of Gardens of the Moon.
The demon is summoned by Baruk, I recall? And ooh, we get to see more of the Tiste Andii assassins now—sounds like they are out to destroy Ocelot’s team. Does this mean that they are aware of Quick Ben and Kalam? Are they protecting them? Or is their presence just incidental?
...And there was a very quick answer to that, as Kalam is targeted by one of the floating assassins! One thing that immediately struck me during this sharp little encounter is that Kalam is aware his opponent is female, but does not hold back at all. She is shown to be just as good as him at hand to hand, and they have an equal-ish skirmish. This again is a fantastic example of women being written in a strong and realistic manner by Erikson.
 If anyone has been confused by this series, and probably that's all of us, this is a good opportunity to get the plot lines straight, get some story clarification, or just to notice things you probably missed.  I tried to re-read along with Amanda and Bill, but now I'm 3/4 of the way through Deadhouse Gates.  Oops.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Republic of Thieves - Excerpt

Scott Lynch has sent out what looks like Chapter 1 of his new novel, The Republic of Thieves.  Go to Camorr.com for a link to a rich text file that you can download and gorge yourself on.
Provided directly from an uncorrected manuscript of
The Republic of Thieves
for the reading pleasure of a certain group of people.
All contects Copyright 2010, Scott Lynch
This file may be passed from interested reader to interested reader, but may not be a) made avaialble in any public place save Camorr.com or b) transcribed and placed online in any other format or context. Violators of these rather tame stipulations will be flayed alive by methamphetamine-addled lemurs armed with chainsaws. Don't ask where my publishers get the money for stuff like that. 
The Republic of Thieves is book 3 of Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards sequence and is due to land next spring.


Revising, REvising.

Over on his blog, Pat Rothfuss (author of the excellent The Name of the Wind) has answered a fan enquiry about his revising process:

4. Added paragraph about the Mews.
5. Changed the name of a mythic figure in the world to something that sounds better.
6. Spent some time figuring out the particular mechanisms of sygaldry to prevent consistency problems.
Pat is currently revising A Wise Man's Fear, the much-delayed sequel to NOTW, due out March 2011.


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