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 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 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 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.


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