Posts Tagged: Malazan

Anomander RakeLast night I had the opportunity to meet with Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and The Kharkanas Trilogy, at a book signing and then at dinner afterwards. I didn’t spend any time picking his brain afterwards, as the dinner was a more casual affair with a group of several friends and family members, though his story about climbing to the top of the Flatiron building in New York City, home of the Tor Books offices, was somewhat harrowing, but there was some interesting information that came out of the reading, some of which, I believe, is new.

  • Regarding the oft-rumoured Encyclopaedia Malazica, Erikson suggested that there is, of course, interest from publisher (presumably Tor, though he didn’t indicate which publishers), but that work won’t begin on the project until Ian Cameron Esslemont has finished his currently planned contributions to the Malazan series. This includes one more novel after Blood & Bone.
  • He didn’t say much about Esslemont’s fifth book, but mentioned that it will be set on the continent of Assail. He also discussed the process they use for writing an interweaving the stories, indicating that they focus discussions more on thematic elements rather than plot, allowing each other to explore those decided themes however they choose, including killing off characters and significant world-altering plot points, if necessary. It sounds like a very organic way of allowing two writers to work in one world.
  • There’s a significant encounter in Toll the Hounds between one of Erikson’s characters and one of Esslemont’s characters (fans who have read TtH will know the encounter I speak of) that was decided, in true RPG-nerd fashion, by a good ol’ fashion roll of a twenty-sided die. Erikson suggested that the end of that novel would have been much different if the die had rolled differently.

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Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

If the Malazan series emphasized a postmodern critique of the subgenre of epic fantasy, paying subtle homage all the while, the Kharkanas Trilogy subsumes the critical aspects and focuses instead on the homage.
- Steven Erikson

I’m not much of a Malazan reader these days, but I know a lot of my readers love Erikson and his work. I remember when Erikson first told me about this trilogy, years ago, and it’s kinda cool to finally see it take shape. I wrote a bit about the experience here. Thanks to Tor.com, Erikson fans can now read the Prelude and Chapter One of Forge of Darkness, in advance of its September, 2012 release date.

ORB, SCEPTRE, THRONE, a MALAZAN novel by Ian Cameron Esslemont

In the nameless shanty town rambling westward of Darujhistan, an old woman squatted in front of her shack carving a stick beneath a night sky dominated by the slashing lurid green banner of the Scimitar. Her hair was a wild bush about her head tied with lengths of string, ribbon, beads, and twists of leather. Her bare feet where they poked out beneath her layered skirts were as dark as the earth the toes gripped. She droned to herself in a language no one understood.

An old woman living alone in a decrepit hut was nothing unusual for the shanty town, peopled as it was by the poorest, most brokendown of the lowest class of tannery workers, sewer cleaners and garbage haulers of Darujhistan. Every second shack seemed occupied by an old widow or grandmother, the menfolk dying off early as they do everywhere – the men claiming this proves they do all the hard work, and the women knowing it’s because men aren’t tough enough to endure being old.

And so this woman had lived in her squalid hut for as long as anyone could remember and none remarked upon it, except for all the surrounding old widows and grandmothers who amongst themselves knew her as ‘that crazy old woman’.

Squatting in the mud before her hut she brought the thin stick she was carving close to eyes clouded by milky cataracts and studied the intricate tracery of curve and line that ran end to end. She crooned to herself, ‘Almost, now. Almost.’ Then she glanced fearfully, and rather blindly, to the starry night sky and its intruding alien banner, muttering, ‘Almost now. Almost.’

Malazan fans are wide and plenty these days, so surely there’re a few people out there who will ravenously gobble up this excerpt from Ian Cameron Esslemont’s bizarrely titled Orb, Sceptre, Throne, the latest instalment in the overarching Malazan story. Me? I’m not one of them, for various reasons.

You can find the excerpt from Orb, Sceptre, Throne on Tor.com.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven EriksonThough he has no website of his own, Steven Erikson is in the midst of blogging over at Life as a Human. In the latest in his series of articles title Notes on a Crisis, Erikson digs deep into his craft.

What’s neat is that he does so by taking an excerpt from his upcoming novel, The Crippled God, the final volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and breaks down what one short scene can reveal about the structure and thought process necessary to build a much (much, much, much) longer piece of fiction.

In a general sense, I write elliptically. By that I mean I open sections with some detail I want to resonate throughout the entire section, and through the course of writing that section you can imagine me tapping that bell again and again. Until with the final few lines, I ring it one last time – sometimes hard, sometimes soft, depending on the effect I want, or feel is warranted. It’s become such a habit now that I often do it without conscious thought.

On a most basic level it shows up in paragraphs (and no, there’s nothing unique to me in any of this). Look two paragraphs upward on this screen. The opening line talks about multiple points of view; the last line describes the many ways of seeing the world. But that last line isn’t just reiterating the first one. Something is added (in this case, a personal comment on my desire to experience every one of them). It’s probably the only structural lesson I learned in school that I still use on occasion – the whole introductory and concluding sentences to frame a paragraph.

Anyway, extrapolating this pattern is how I write — within a scene, from section to section, from chapter to chapter, from novel to novel. While the narrative infers something linear, as in the advancement of time and a sequence of events, in fact the narrative loops back on itself again and again. And each time it returns, the timbre of that resonance has changed, sometimes subtly, sometimes fundamentally.

I read somewhere that Scott Bakker has recently complained that I’m repeating myself in my series, but he’s missing the point. It’s more that I return again and again to particular themes, from as many perspectives as I can. Maybe it still rates as a flaw in my writing, but it’s also my whole point in writing. Forget the conceit of hunting for the right answers – let’s start with trying to find the right questions. Personally, I doubt I will ever get past that stage; for me, the more ways I discover of looking at something, the more humbling the whole exercise becomes (Think you got the answers? Sorry, don’t believe you. Never will).

Elliptical. Looping back. It can be an image, a detail of setting, a mood or flavour, a particular action, or an idea. There’s countless ways of coming round back to where you started, and I admit I like the sly ones, though sometimes it pays to be more obvious.

Erikson’s comments on Bakker’s observations are interesting (in no small part due to the fact that Erikson was a large influence on Bakker first being published), and reveal a little bit about why his series encompasses ten massive volumes. As he says, some readers consider this repetition to be a flaw in his writing (which is somewhat my issue with the Malazan books, though I’ve only read two); but if it’s the point he’s trying to make, then how does one judge whether the Malazan books are a success? Do you care if he achieves his personal goals of recursive reflection if it gets in the way of proper storytelling? Do you like his novels because of the themes and the similarities in the characters’ internal battles? Or do you like it because even the weakest of his characters could rend the world in half on a cranky day?

Whatever the case, Erikson goes into a fairly in-depth analysis of the excerpt, picking apart the structure and language he uses and gives rather lucid and insightful consideration to the nitty-gritty decisions made by writers almost every day. Will it be useful to everybody? Maybe not, Erikson has a very defined style. But it’s certainly a revealing look at the process behind one of the most complex, convoluted and, well… huge fantasy series on the market today.

You can read the whole article, and the excerpt, HERE.

Steve Erikson and IRobert, over at Fantasy Book Critic, just posted an interesting interview with Steven Erikson, author of the mighty Malazan Book of the Fallen. Among general questions about the series and tidbits about the upcoming novel, Toll the Hounds, Robert asks Erikson about what’s coming after he’s done with the ten volume Malazan series. Here’s what he had to say:

Release dates remain unknown. I am into the ninth chapter of Dust of Dreams/strong> right now and things proceed apace. I anticipate completing the manuscript some time in the autumn of this year. I normally roll straight into the next novel with not much of a breather between the two, then get slowed up doing the edited version (of the previous one) that comes back from the publisher. With a novella or two thrown in as well.

I don’t think it’s a secret any more that I’ve signed with Bantam UK for six more fantasy novels. Two trilogies, in fact. But not one a year – that pace (with novellas thrown in) is wearing me out. I won’t get into any details on the books, or whatever stand-alone works I may squeeze in here and there. Not yet. Too early.

Hmm… two trilogies? Could one of those be an exploration of the Ascendants’ pasts that I hinted about a few months ago?