Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Joe Abercrombie Interview

The venerable Pat has posted a lengthy interview with Joe Abercrombie, for your looking and laughing:
The First Law was the thing I’d always wanted to write, and the ideas had been cooking slowly in my mind since childhood, in some cases. In a sense Best Served Cold was my difficult second novel – I had to come up with new ideas, new ways of writing on a schedule and that was pretty testing. There were two things I was particularly concerned about with that book. One was that it was much less self-consciously epic fantasy than the First Law had been, both in its plot and in the amount of fantastic elements. On the whole that didn’t really seem to bother people, though. The other was that I was pushing the “unsympatheticness” (if that’s a word) of the characters and the darkness and brutality of the action further even than I had with the First Law. Certainly I pushed it too far for some, and no doubt some readers found it hard to relate to the characters. Hard to find anyone to root for. And that’s not a good thing in a character-centred book, really, is it?

So yes, there are fine lines between gritty and too gritty, violent and too violent, interestingly dark and utterly repulsive, but those lines are in different places for every reader. There are people who haven’t found the characters appealing in Best Served Cold, but there are also plenty of people for whom it’s their favourite book of mine. That’s one thing I take a kind of pride in, actually - I haven’t really observed a clear consensus on which is my best book or my worst. Hopefully that shows that I’m trying out a slightly different variation on the recipe each time around.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

History in 'A Song of Ice and Fire'

There's a fascinating post over at Tor.com which examines the history of the realms in G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire:
It’s not so much that A Song of Ice and Fire lacks history...just that there’s toomuch, to their thinking. After all, the Long Night is dated to some 8,000 years ago, the wars between Valyria and Old Ghis to 6,000 years ago, and there are other events noted down as happening many millenia before. In thesecond episode of the TV series, Ned Stark informs his bastard son Jon Snow that Starks have been manning the Wall for thousands of years. There’s two difficult ideas buried in that statement.
First, an organization that’s been doing something for thousands of years (the Roman Catholic Church has nothing on the Night’s Watch). Secondly, a family that’s existed for thousands of years (the Imperial Family of Japan is about 5,500 years younger than the Starks claim to be). This sort of thing simply doesn’t happen in our world. It’s literally incomprehensible in any realistic sense. These vast time scales are comprehensible to us in the real world only because of the development of modern archeology over the last couple of centuries. To people in the Seven Kingdoms and on Essos, there really should be no knowledge, much less understanding, of such time scales....

As I struggle to locate my own writing project inside a solid and authentic mounting I find myself thinking  very hard about how much history to give my world; how thick should it be?  What about different languages?  How much of these Elder Races should be left in the world?  I don't yet know what the magic amount is and I suspect I'll only learn that mathematical equation after input from my beta readers.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is G.R.R. Martin Finished 'A Dance With Dragons'?

Many people are reporting today that George Martin is finished A Dance With Dragons the fifth installment of his wonderful Song of Ice and Fire series.

Over on G.R.R. Martin's (Not A) Blog there's a photo of King Kong laying flat out, dead; and Martin's mood is described as 'exhausted'.  The comment thread is filling up with people congratulating him, and Martin has not stepped in to stop them, so it looks like he might actually be done.

I can't wait to catch up with Arya :)

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Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI, Ch. 10

Over at Tor.com, Amanda and Bill have collected their thoughts on Chapter 10 of Memories of Ice:
With Buke and Gruntle here, we also see a discussion on the idea of sacrificing a few in favour of saving many—what with Buke contemplating the idea of pointing the two necromancers in the direction of the Pannions, and trying to disrupt the murders that will be committed before that can take place.
Ouch—the idea of a siege taking place outside a city within which two competing factions loathe each other really doesn’t bode well, does it?
And here we get a first glimpse at the forces arrayed against Capustan, and their allied forces. Around eighty thousand regular soldiers, and then the ravening horde of Tenescowri. (Which currently remind me greatly of the Reavers from Firefly!) Erikson never puts his characters into easy situations, does he? Itkovian’s reaction says it all, “A starving horde, and seeing them crumbled the professional detachment with which Itkovian had viewed Kulpath’s legions. He had left the walls, shaken for the first time in his life.”

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI Chs. 8 & 9

Amanda and Bill have logged their thoughts on Chapters 8 & 9 of Memories of Ice:
And here is the real formation of the Bridgeburners: “The hunters were embraced in silence, now. Raraku’s silence. Tempered, honed, annealed under the sun. The horses beneath them were their match, lean and defiant, tireless and wild-eyed.”
You know something? This section where Whiskeyjack tells some of the mystery of Quick Ben is SO MUCH MORE rewarding, coming as it does three books into the series, than if we had had it all info-dumped within the first novel to ensure all the readers that needed hand-holding could keep up. Knowing the characters, knowing the mysteries, makes this extraordinarily powerful stuff....
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Friday, April 15, 2011

I do not have a gentle heart...


Sunday April 17

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI, Ch. 6 & 7

Amanda and Bill are up to Chapters 6 & 7 of Memories of Ice:
Again we see Erikson’s deep and innate understanding of how civilizations work—how cities have come and gone, thanks to the vagaries of nature. Here we see a river changing course and hence destroying the fortunes of a whole city, despite their best efforts. This depth of detail and world building just adds to the trust of a reader—that Erikson knows and believes in his own world.

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The Revisions Process - Part The Third

Kate Elliot continues her thoughts on revising, editors and pragmatism:
I’ll give one example. I revise a lot, and I listen to my editors, although that doesn’t mean I always and necessarily do exactly what they suggest in specific terms. So when we were working on revisions for Crown of Stars, Book 4 (Child of Flame) and my editor at DAW Books said to me, “I think having Sanglant sleep with another woman [while he is separated for about three years from his wife] makes him unsympathetic,” I had built up enough good will via previous work with her to say, “that may be, but the fact is, he has sex with other women for several different reasons.” What I did then was work on making his frustrations with the situation clear, but I did refuse to make him celibate under the circumstances because it went against everything I knew about him as a character. I could refuse to make what was to me a major character change because I hadn’t been fighting over every change, large or small, through all the previous volumes.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Revision Process - Part Deux

Kate Elliot continues her thoughts on revising and focusing your manuscript:
I have worked massively hard in the last five years on the line editing level. Just as examples, these are things I work on constantly (you’ll find your own set):

Doubled actions that aren’t necessary: “He turned and walked to the door.” Except in rare circumstances, you don’t need “turned.” He really can just walk to the door.

As above, five details when the two best and most evocative make your point more clear.

On the scene level, mooshy conversations that can be tightened up by examining what the actual point of the conversation is and then sculpting it to that point.

The squoogy words that I take out incessantly but of which there are always more than I can possibly eradicate: like almost very a little but then and so, and so on.

And then, once I’ve done a thorough cut through all the clutter, by having cut through all that, I open up the thicket of words enough that I can find MORE to cut that wasn’t visible before.

I personally probably am not capable of working on all three scales--small, medium, and large--at the same time. I tend to have to settle my large scale issues over the course of Alpha and Beta Drafts before I can tackle the medium and small scales, although the truth is that to some degree I’m always working on the medium and small scales as I read back over things I’ve written and make constant changes as I go.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A Theory of Revising

The excellent Kate Elliot has gathered together a stew of thoughts on the revision process:
Me, I write long. My first drafts sprawl all over the place; conversations meander across hill and dale; I put in too much description and answer the same questions over and over and often in a contradictory manner and I repeat myself. And I repeat myself. More than once.

I often write placeholder scenes or even chapters, which I define as a scene or chapter that doesn’t really work and doesn’t have the right stuff in it but which needs to be there because something important will happen in that scene space once I figure out what it is, and I often can’t figure out what it is until I have the entire first draft written and sometimes not until the second or third draft (for instance, I had a short placeholder chapter in the first draft of Cold Fire that turned into three chapters when I expanded it properly).

Because I know these things are true of my early drafting process, I know that beyond whatever else the story needs--and each story needs a different revision--I will absolutely need to cut, trim, tighten, and sharpen throughout the book. I will have to go back through the whole and bring the heart of the story into focus by identifying scenes or conversations that ramble off the focus on the heart of the story, because I do tend to digress or get interested in that plot whisper over there which suddenly appears so mysterious and inviting. I must also flag places where I repeat information and then consolidate it in the most effective and dramatic fashion.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Ian C. Esslemont Interview

Over at Elitist Book Reviews there's an interview with Ian Cameron Esslemont in which he talks about coordinating crossover plots with Steven Erikson, and about his next novel Orb Sceptre Throne:
Cam: Currently, the feedback has actually been far slimmer than many would assume, I think. The time for most of that has passed. We shared enormous feedback in the mutual creation of the world. It was a dialogue in which we hammered out all to come later. Since then the feedback has been more ‘global’ judgments (as they say in creative writing workshops), as when I read a finished manuscript from Steve and give it the ‘thumbs up’ or he does the same for me. Occasionally, one of us would get snagged on a particular plot or character problem or such and we would kick it around together to come up with a resolution. For example, in my upcoming fourth: Orb Sceptre Throne, I tackle Kruppe and so I can tell you I was very apprehensive. I talked that one over a great deal with Steve – he even suggested how I might resolve that particular plot thread. Likewise, he knows I’m dealing with Jacuruku next and so he asked how I was developing the Ascendant Ardata. 
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As I mentioned, Orb Sceptre Throne will be out next. It is set in Darujhistan and follows up on Toll the Hounds quite closely. It is thus more or less contemporaneous with Stonewielder. Right now I am working on the next of the series, which follows events unfolding upon the continent of Jacuruku. The working title for this novel is City in the Jungle. After this (everything having worked out) I hope to tackle the final work of the main arc, which is titled, Assail.  

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