Thursday, June 30, 2011

Malazan Re-Read of the Fallen - Ch 25 & Epilogue

Amanda and Bill close out their re-read of Memories of Ice over here and it's understandably filled with emotion and anguish:
Those Bridgeburners are everything characters should be in novels: realistic, three dimensional, humorous, angry, mournful. Their dialogue is sarcastic and biting, but at times honourable. We’ve seen them despairing, desperate, furious, bantering and soldiering. We’ve seen the very best of them and, dear Gods, I’m going to miss them. Someone asked in the comments why I didn’t mention Hedge’s death particularly in a previous analysis—the fact was, I couldn’t face yet another of the Bridgeburners to have gone down. I love them. And this tiny remnant is almost worse than if all of them have died. The survivors having to dwell on the departed is more than painful.
Memories of Ice is my favourite novel, in any genre, by any author - it has everything I want out of a novel: compelling characters, interesting story arcs, awesome set pieces, pathos, humour, stone, swords... - and following along as Amanda reads it for the first time (and Bill re-reads) has been great fun.

The next in the series, House of Chains, was a jarring change of pace for me and I wonder how Amanda will take to it.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing, Narrative - N.K. Jemisin Interview

Here is an interview with N.K. Jemisin (author of The Inheritance Trilogy) in which she writes about the crafting of her first novel:
Well, I wrote the novel twice.  The first time, back when I first came up with the idea, it was very traditional epic fantasy:  third person, a male protagonist; there was a journey to acquire the MacGuffin of Power (the Stone of Earth), I think there was some swordplay here and there.  Very traditional, and a bit boring.  It didn’t sell — rightly — and I trunked it.  But years later I decided the concept had good bones, so I shed the treatment and started fresh, stopped trying to adhere to tradition and boring myself, and wrote it the way I felt like writing it.  That basically meant using the old novel as a kind of very detailed outline, and otherwise completely revamping the whole thing.
That’s not my usual writing process, though — who can afford to write every novel twice?  I usually write a detailed outline of maybe 15-20 pages, including character profiles and brief worldbuilding notes.  Sometimes I start a wiki — I’ve done that with the Inheritance Trilogy, so I can easily look up concepts or made-up words I’ve forgotten from book 1 to book 3.  Then I usually write a few “test chapters” to get the voice of the story right — I try different characters’ PoVs, different tones, first person and third person, and so on — and once I feel that one of those chapters works, I start writing in earnest.
 The piece is short but there's some interesting stuff in there.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI Ch. 25

Over at Tor.com, Amanda and Bill are tackling Chapter 25 of Memories of Ice.  It's a very large chapter, with lots to discuss, so they broke it down into two parts.  Part 1 is here, and Part the Two is here:
And now here is the price of war writ large: “His gaze fell once more on his few remaining followers. All this, just to get fifty paces inside the gate.” Makes me feel that this is what the soldiers in World War I must have been thinking as they advanced their trenches a few feet and counted the cost. And yet, we know that had this offensive not been launched, the Pannion Seer would have continued to advance and do to other cities what he did to Capustan. Is the cost worth it? When you’re measuring the cost in lives, it’s always a hideous choice to make. A duty—the duty we’ve seen mentioned by people like Whiskeyjack and Paran and Picker.

As always, don't head over there unless you've read the book; these breakdowns are festering with spoilers.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Never Judge a Book By Its... Title

n.k. jemisin writes here about the process of having the titles of her books changed and selected by her publisher:
The original titles of all three novels were The Sky God’s LoverThe Bright God’s Bane, and The Broken God’s Get. And I’d labeled the trilogy as a whole a somewhat hippieish “Earth and Sky”, though I was waffling between that and “the War of Earth and Sky” because I thought fantasy trilogy titles needed more words. (OK, not really. I was actually just trying to capture the feel of old-school epics, a la “the Epic of Gilgamesh” and “the Sundiata Cycle”. But also, I thought it needed more words.)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI Ch. 24

Things are coming to a head in the Tor re-read of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.  Amanda and Bill are up to Chapter 24.  For those joining us late, note that these articles are packed to bursting with spoilers.  Only if you've read the series, follow along here:
This just gets harder and harder for me to read. Now we have Picker’s desperate last attempt to keep the K’Chain Che’Malle busy—and we all know what just one of them is capable of... We really need something to come to the rescue of the Bridgeburners. NOW. Please! And I’m getting sniffly at that last exchange between Picker and Paran, and her slightly awkward comment about the knives being put aside. Basically, Paran is now considered one of them. I mean, he damn well should be! He’s about to head towards some crazy demon birds to try and keep them busy—having watched just one of them take out thirty Moranth. Hmm, the enemy seem to hold all the cards right now, don’t they? Where is that last minute rescue, DAMMIT?

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Good Brain, Bad Brain

Scott Lynch, author of the outstanding Gentlemen Bastard sequence, writes here frankly and painfully about his ongoing battle with depression:
There is an unfortunate undercurrent of tradition and feeling in our society (in many societies, in fact) that prescribes guilt, shame, and stoic self-isolation for mental illness. I know this as well as anyone because I spent years buying into this myth myself. This is not to say that there aren't times in our lives when we need to summon up the courage and the will to take a risk, but you can't simply will yourself to not have a genuine illness. Part of really, truly dealing with depression consists of realizing that it is an illness, and it needs to be monitored and mitigated just like asthma or diabetes or any of a thousand other chronic ailments. It has no moral dimension. It doesn't care how bright and beautiful your positive thoughts are. 
I send you good energy, Scott.  My selfish desire for the third part of your trilogy was long ago replaced by the sincere hope that you climb your way out of the pit you find yourself in.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Obvious vs The Oblique

Over on her blog, the excellent N.K. Jemisin (author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and The Broken Kingdoms) has been ruminating on transparency in narrative:
When I first started out as a short story writer, I had a rough time of it. Some of it was just stubbornness on my part; change is hard. The rest, though, was that I kept making the novelist’s mistake: instead of writing short stories, I just I tried to write shorter long stories. Then, finally grasping that short stories are something different, I went to the opposite extreme. My next attempt was a story full of complex ideas and character interactions in a very strange setting — and no explanation of any of it. Explaining would’ve taken up too much space, I told myself at the time. I’d read several stories at that point which didn’t bother to explain things, so I thought that might be the trick of short story-writing: write it all in media res, toss in some technobabble or magicobabble, bam, done.
The question of how much insight to provide the reader is a tough one.  Some authors, like Steven Erikson, make their audience work to keep a grip on a slippery narrative, others seem to lay our their plot like they're writing for a chromosomal retard.  I think it's a hard balance to maintain: sometimes the story must get ahead of the reader to hook them in and maintain interest, but then the author must also let the reader get ahead of them, now and again, so they (the reader) feel like they're staying on top of things.  I would think, until an author has built up a reserve of experience, a fleet of Beta Readers might be the best test of how well a piece of writing manages this balancing act.

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