As Steven Erikson nears the completion of his tenth and last book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, readers get a rare glimpse into the author’s thoughts and motivations by the author himself. — Editor
There are readers of my novels who despise Badalle and the whole story arc that is The Snake. One recent comment on the fan-site had someone calling her ‘that poet bitch’ or something similar. This seems an especially bitter growl, but I admit that I’m kind of used to it now. Happens all the time, this heat, this nastiness. The internet is one giant mouth and who knows what’ll come out from it at any given time. And as for one’s writing triggering high emotions among readers, well, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?
Regardless, there are times when the narrative in my novels scrapes hard at the veil separating that internal world with that of the reader in this one. Another way of saying that is that there are metafictional elements to what I’m up to, and they’ve been there since the very beginning.
Gardens of the Moons, the first novel in the series, is clearly framed as being the beginning of a ‘book’ which is opened to reveal all that follows. The pretense we’re invited to accept is that the person ‘opening’ the book-within-the-book, is someone much closer to the history about to be recounted; is, in fact, someone living in the Malazan world. But of course no such person exists. Instead, the reader here in our world stands in for that pretend-witness. If there is one central key to the cipher of this series, that’s it.
Time and again, I cut little slits in that veil: I acknowledge the audience without ever fixing in place its details, meaning it could still be that fictional Malazan one, or it could be you. If I get specific on that count, the fictive dream is shattered and there’s no going back. So I have stepped carefully throughout.
But one element holds to both options: and that is that this audience is human and as such shares the human condition. Accordingly, I do not hesitate in using a narrative point of view to directly challenge the reader – the witness to this history – and, in the one novel where I made that a central point to the entire narrative (Toll the Hounds), why, the fur did fly.
I knew the risk I was taking, and to this day the jury’s seriously divided on that novel.
I don’t care. I’m prouder of that novel than any other I’ve written.
The poet bitch of the excerpt plays a mental game, beginning with this paragraph:
“In her head, Badalle was singing. She sensed the presence of others – not those ahead of her or those behind her – but ghostly things. Invisible eyes and veiled thoughts. An impatience, a harsh desire for judgement. As if the Snake’s very existence was an affront. To be ignored. Denied. Fled from.”
In the context of what I said above, who are these ghostly invisible presences in her head? And more importantly, how many of them want to be there? A few are content. Others would, if they could, unleash venom and spite. Still others will skip right past Badalle and her tale.
But she knows her own story, and in the lines that follow she makes claim to her right not only to exist, but to tell that story. In fact, she demands that they listen, pay attention and, dammit, feel something of her world. Or, for fuck’s sake, to just feel anything, anything at all.
Within the fictional setting, it works. But it resonates beyond that, too. People are quick to judge. Some people take pleasure in cruel thoughts. It gives them a feeling of superiority, maybe. Who knows? Still other people cringe and look away, as if to shield one’s own eyes yields the magical effect of obliteration – poof! The unpleasantness vanishes! Pour me another beer, Madge, American Idol’s on.
One truth of this crisis upon me, here at the sun’s setting on this series, is the one that whispers what’s the point? Words are powerless. Nothing changes and the only change still waiting to find me is accepting that, leaving me to then slink off into the night without another murmur of protest. Is it nothing but conceit to want to wring emotion from people – those who are my readers – and really, where do I get off thinking I’ve the right? And in those times, it’s invented characters like Badalle who turn to me and tell me to wake the fuck up.
So here you were all thinking that those ghosts in that paragraph were you. Maybe they are, but before they’re you, they’re me. I’ve been talking to myself for nine thousand pages, and still, it seems, I remain not quite convinced. Of anything. Accordingly, I can hardly mind the naysayers out there, can I? Sometimes, in my bleaker moments, I’m right there with ya, mate.
But luckily for me, most of the time people like Badalle shake me back to some semblance of humanity, and I look at the pronouncer of the poet bitch and I think: man, you are one tragic wasteland. Not because you don’t like a character I’ve created. Not because I bore you on occasion. No, it’s because every wasteland is tragic and right now somewhere in the Sudan children are lying down on the ground to die, and not one of us (me included) seems to have the time to spare them a moment’s thought.
So how does this work for me? Badalle is my reminder, and her cry to be seen is my admonishment to myself. Can it not work for you, just this once?
In the writing of The Crippled God, the last novel in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the players are burdened beneath a vast weight of helplessness.
Is it any wonder?
The great thing about fantasy literature (and maybe all literature, to some degree) is that one can take characters (people) from this world and transplant them to another, and in the process give them the one thing they don’t have in this world: power.
If I had simply transposed the plight of refugee children in the Sudan, into the Malazan world, and left them as powerless as they are in this one, then in effect all that I am doing is exploiting their existence. I am borrowing their tragedy for the sake of fiction. If, however, I empower them, give them a voice and a will that won’t be denied, I am asking my reader to not turn away, and if I work hard at imagining their moment by moment existence, I am telling myself the same thing.
This could be attacked as facile on my part. After all, if I really cared as much as I seem to be saying here, why am I not over there saving the lives of children? Fair question. I’m afraid I know myself too well, and my tendency to feel things too deeply (touched on via the T’lan Imass). I can imagine wearing myself down to nothing working to save lives only to, eventually, put a bullet in my own head (ever take note of the suicide rate among photojournalists? What you see can kill you and what you cannot reconcile will kill you).
Over the years I’ve learned to put on armour to protect myself, but for all that it inures me to external dangers, it does nothing for what’s going on within that armour. And for that, I need a way out for what I’m feeling, and that way out, thus far, has been my writing. And that is self-serving, but without it, I wouldn’t be here right now. Not a chance.
I’ll resume the more specific deconstruction stuff next time. What you saw here was deconstruction of my motivations as a writer. But I thought I should get it out of the way. I’ll try not to touch on it again. Promise.
Bantam Books and Wikipedia
Recent Steven Erikson Articles:
- Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (8)
- Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (7)
- Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (6)
- Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (5)
- Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (4)
The internet makes it all too easy to cast stones and most of the time it’s simply for the sake of casting stones. Of course, the most talented people often feel the deepest sting of the most wicked barbs out there. Writing is such a personal craft that I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a piece of brilliant work slashed at by anonymous whiners simply looking to criticize something they couldn’t accomplish in a hundred generations. I often try to ‘assume the best of intents’ when dealing with people but that rule definitely does not apply to comments/reviews on the internet.
I will be the first to admit that I was hesitant when I first entered the Malazan world, I tend to shy away from fantasy novels where magic is so dominant as it tends to relegate the non-gifted to a significantly subservient class, but the Malazan world has many balancing acts amidst the chaos that it manages to provide the ‘opportunity’ for equality but not guaranteeing it.
Needless to say the Malazan series and short stories have leapt to the top of my list of favorites. Not only has it reintroduced me to my love of short stories, but has also rekindled my long dormant desire to write. I am at best a primitive hack, but have vowed to spend the rest of my life to improve at the craft. I may not ever manage to get anything published but I will get the stories rattling around in my head down in a legible fashion. To put it simply, I write for me, I have a story that I want to tell, I’d like to tell it well, as close to how the movie in my head operates, but in the end, it’s a piece of my soul.
I was always frustrated in high school and college with the creative writing classes that I took where we were clubbed over the head that we shouldn’t be attached to what we write, that any reaction to criticism is a bad thing. In short, bullshit. I also feel the same way about software code (computer science major, please forgive the merging). I think that writing and coding are two of the most personal activities we can do. Coding reveals a part of who you are by the way you order processes, handle potential errors and the scope of your logic.
Writing on the other hand is a million times more personal. In the end, it’s your story that you’ve allowed us to take part in. To tell your story you have opened up a lens to how you see the world and applied pressure to show us the extremes of the human condition. I have to believe that one of the reasons the series is so popular is that you are brutally honest in your assessment of the human condition throughout our evolutionary process.
I viewed “The Snake” like a song from a favorite artist, something that reaches outside of their normal genre, something you would normally never listen to in a million years, but since your favorite artist is giving it a go, you trust them so you let yourself feel it. At first it’s a bit awkward and the melody just doesn’t hit the right spot, but a little while in you start to get it, you start to feel the flow of the vision and it finally unfolds before you. It may never become your favorite song, but it stays on your playlist because of the reach.
Back to the point at hand. Your series has touched an amazing amount of people and it will definitely stretch for generations and for far more reasons than simple entertainment purposes. I think that you will find a loyal following in whatever genre/series you choose to pursue after you end the Malazan series. Though you will always have people begging you to write more in the world as it simply has too many great characters and challenges to ever truly leave.
It’s late and I’m babbling, but I figured I would ramble on in a vain hope that someone may read it and find something positive in it for a tiny moment.
Thank you for the inspiration to be better at my chosen craft (No, not the one I get paid for, the one I dream of doing until my heart stops).
I think Mr. Erikson is a little hard on the internet here. The internet gives people a voice. A lot of people. You’re basically getting the thought processes and opinions of people that 20 years ago would of been silent. But, not through any choice of theirs.
Because of this, you’re going to hear a lot of things that a writer in the 80s didn’t have to worry about. Granted, sometimes the people and their opinions on the net are a little over the top but, that’s neither here nor there. It’s still their right to call Badalle “the poet bitch”.
I wasn’t a really big fan of The Snake parts either. I discovered Erikson about 4 years ago. I have read only 3 other authors in that timeframe. I’m such a fan, I have read books 1-8 no less than 4 times each. While I think TtH and DoD were absolute masterpieces as far as writing style goes, The Snake hurt DoD. Not enough to derail it, mind you. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got through a chapter involving The Snake. It felt like it insisted upon itself (if you don’t mind me sounding like a complete asshole). It felt forced.
Keep up the absolutely amazing work, Mr. Erikson. You’ve no idea how much you and your books mean to me. I was at a poetry reading last night and read (besides some pieces by Bukowski and my own original work) some Fisher.
Just wanted to give a bit of a shout out. Reading through your comments, I saw that Zohar’s comment grabbed you. I truly hope that you don’t let ignorant comments like his get you down. I imagine you’re smart enough not to. At any rate, thank you for you continued work on the MBotF, what is, in my opinion, one of the most incredible series in Fantasy today. I enjoy that your books are written not just to entertain, but to make us think, feel, believe, learn, and emote. They make us look at the darker sides of our personalities, and have made me think twice about what makes those darker sides bad, or why, or if they really are ‘bad’. Anyway, rant rant rant! Thanks for this blog, thanks for the books, and I look forward to reading The Crippled God, as well as future novels!
Kevin Martin says
Dear Mr. Lundin/Erikson,
I’m a huge fan of the Malazan series. I’ve just completed rehab for various reasons and I wanted to express my immense gratitude and respect for your work. Your series has inspired me to right my own poetry and live my life to the fullest. The vast scope of your and Mr. Esselemont’s novels have gone beyond imagination to a world so full of the complexities of life it seems real. My reading of fantasy started at six years old with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. From there I advanced to The Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth series. Finally to George R.R. Martin’s The song of Ice and Fire, you blew them all out of the water. The antcipation of awaiting your next novel, The Crippled God will hopeful mark the completion of the greatest fantasy series ever!!!
Yours truly, Kevin Martin aka. The Kev
Sometimes giving up is better than failing,
But, sometimes you need to fail, in order to Suceed!
I planned to start my comment with a query as to whether you actually read these responses, I am delighted to see that you must have been, before, I just hope you will read this one too 😀
Jay puts Beak in the same category as Badalle and i agree wholehearted, they are soooo beautiful they hurt. Any kind of writing that can make me feel so many complex and wonderous things is to be exulted. Wanky i guess but it should be. Every generation it seems our collective attension span is decreasing, we “skim” a shallow world because there is so much information we cannot/will not absorb it all. This series requires focus and commitment. I have been roleplaying since i was very young and there are two kinds of roleplayers, those who care about their stats, how many guns and what kind of damage they can do, and those who want to walk in another person’s shoes. I would guess that the people who are so dismissive of Badelle do not have the ability to process such emotional complexity, they just wanna kno how big their gun is. And that’s fine and fair enough, free will and all that. I guess their problem is that for most of your books you have catered to them as well as to me and my ilk. The Snake lacks that badass “stat” element, there are technically no kickarse characters. The thing is though when you actually focus, and commit to the character you realise that Badalle is a supreme badass. What she has survived, how she has held her group together, marked each moment, each death with words, make her truly powerful, even against unimaginable appalling odds.
A great many things in your books have made me cry, Coltaine, poor blessed Toc the younger, Beak ( I cried so hard I had to stop reading), and Mallick Rel who literally had me in tears of rage that all those i loved had died and he friggin well survived.
I know Im not alone in my response as a reader, I know you can’t force anyone to see what you see or feel what you feel, but i desparately hope that you find my observations gratifying.
P.S. Since English is my first language any faults are my own!
Steven Erikson says
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply. It strikes me that such a conversation as this one lies at the heart of what the internet is capable of achieving. As I write this, the series’ completion is one week behind me, and I feel that I am not yet fully extricated from the ordeal of its completion. In short, I feel sort of … numb.
Thus far I have received feedback from two very fast readers, on The Crippled God, and in both instances their comments have been very encouraging. Last weekend I was talking late, over whiskeys, with a friend, and I voiced the statement that I don’t know what I have done — I don’t know what this series is, only that it has been a weight, a vast pressure, under which I have toiled for so long it became a way of life. Now I stagger free of it, blinking, maybe broken, and I read here Claire’s responses to the story of Beak and I think, well, if I didn’t cry at the writing thereof, no reader would at a later date — the connection I am looking for is a visceral one. I am here. You are there. We know nothing of each other — our lives, our experiences. But still we seek to connect. It is remarkable and rather wonderful.
I elected to write, not fantasies with tragic elements, but tragedies with fantasy elements. It has since struck me that I may be alone in writing tragedies of any sort in this day and age (not counting nonfictional, confessionals, etc), and I wonder at the reason for that. Is it the cynicism of the age that so makes people distrust expressions of genuine emotion, or is it simply a matter of no one liking being made uncomfortable and accordingly we drink deep elixirs of forgetfulness and float dreamily through as much life as possible? Or is it simply the overwhelming deluge of real bad news that invites readers to flee the real world for escapist adventure? Considering that last one … I don’t think so. It is an absurd conceit to imagine that our times are any more fraught than times in the past. In the age of Bronze Age Greece — and the Iron Age to follow when Homer wrote his/their tragic tales — the world was a cruel place indeed. And yet, the culture was clearly predisposed to cathartic forms of artistic expression.
We’re not, and I find that curious. For all that, I am so relieved (granted, in a most selfish way) to discover again and again that through these stories we can cross that gulf between us. Maybe that’s the best way to view the value of storytelling, after all.
It will be interesting to see what the response will be to the completed series. And maybe then, one day, I will know what I have done.
“or is it simply a matter of no one liking being made uncomfortable and accordingly we drink deep elixirs of forgetfulness and float dreamily through as much life as possible? Or is it simply the overwhelming deluge of real bad news that invites readers to flee the real world for escapist adventure? Considering that last one … I don’t think so”
I hadn’t thought of your work as tragedies exactly, until you discussed that above, but now I see clearly that they are, and that is probably part of why I respond to them so strongly. Very few writers these days seem to have the courage to kill characters beloved by their audience, and if they do often the outcome is unsatisfying (Sirius Black to name the most obvious I can think of). George RR Martin kills characters but in a weird seemingly arbitrary way. No one in your books dies without purpose, even an awful one. A character that has been introduced in three lines dies a few pages later and I care. They were made real and then they died but not without meaning. In tragedies, or at least those i have read or studied death does have meaning, its is not the mindless slaughter of a computer game.
You asked why no one seems to write tragedies anymore, and I would agree that they don’t seem too, although I feel we could argue over the TV show “The Wire” as it surely contains tragic elements. But we do consume them, the wider audience, to a certain extent, old plays are still read and veiwed and remade into televsion still watched. I think some of us still like to challenge the comfort, still like to feel. But most people don’t seem to want to feel. They want stuff, and things.
Before penecillin, and pastuerisation and vaccinations and motor cars and telephones, people died constantly, children frequently, women in child birth frequently. The tragic stories of death and mayhem and brave fighting doomed to failure resonated with those audiences. I think the modern audience just wants to feel warm and comfy.
And that isn’t fair, because we don’t all feel that way, and in many countries children die, women die in childbirth and wars are waged stupidly over nothing. It just seems that western wealthy people don’t want to know about it, or think about it, or feel what those other people feel, even the junkies on their streets or the starving refugees begging for food, let alone people in another country.
And many of them just want to shoot endless bloody zombies/bad guys/mutants and get excited when they get a new upgrade for their gun…
I don’t know what you’ve written, but I’ve loved going on the journey. Probably no one will really be able to know what you’ve done for many years. Most large works of art need time to grant true perspective.
Aahhh, The Snake. Badelle. Heart-wrenching, sickening and a trial to read. But worth every syllable. In some ways I relate more to the ‘Poet-bitch’ than any other character.
Thank-you for the insight into this character and her plight. Lately I’ve been finding the trajectory of the Malazan world a little too akin to our own. I hope to finish Dust of Dreams soon – and then reread the entire series before reading The Crippled God.
As always, you inspire.
Hello Mr. Erikson,
I just wanted to pass along my appreciation for your work, and the insight you are providing via this blog. I can see from the replies above that you are a rarity, trying to make the anonymous horde of the Internet partake in an intelligent conversation. For that, thank you. I also would like to say that while your writing seems to be more intellectually-biased on the surface, the emotional aspects of characters like Beak are wondrous to behold. I have to avoid his scenes most of the time unless I want to turn on the tap-works 🙂
On a side note, I read David Keck’s first novel after you had mentioned it. Are there any other new fantasy or fiction writers you would like to mention?
I didnt want to write anything – mostly, because my written english really suck and also I dont like to look…smooth…or worshipping.
But OK, Ill try to be just…grateful. Because I love this blog entry. Why I like your work…its not spectacular fights (OK, I like them too, but…), enigmatic iconic heroes, but this thousand and one reference to our real world and its pain, problems… And now I add – I like it because you are trying to change it. I hate when someone blames me from idealism…but for god´s sake, turning face away and say “that happens” or “oh, I pity those …, turn the TV off, please”, thats inhuman…or rather “too human”?
So, please continue (OK, now it sounds like I didnt want to), stuck this serious stuff into your work, hit readers with it, repeatedly, and dont give it up. If literature, without artifical genre borders, wont appeal, who will?
Well I’ve been hooked no SE’s writing ever since i first picked up the book Gardens of the moon. For me the whole series is the pinnacle of high/epic fantasy, and I’ve read some of it, but in many other books and series most characters falls flat, and the author has a very very hard time to kill Anything at all in his stories, thus making them kind of boring.
Most characters in Se’s work feels so much more alive, with different views and motives, and they are not statically fixed in a way of thinking or in where their loyalties lie, all shifts as the stories progresses, which to me makes them feel very much alike alive and breathing people.
PS: sorry for my kind of poor English
Before I get to my comment I just want to say how great your series is. I am looking forward to the last novel more than any other this year. How would you compare the Snake to the Chain of Dogs? Both are refugees traveling across great land masses who survive despite the odds. Also the Snake is seen in a negative light by some readers while the Chain of Dogs is one of the best recieved story lines. Why do you think this is? I enjoyed both and look forward to finding out what happens to the Snake. Keep up the great work.
PS: Any chance of getting the prologue soon?
I also thought of the connection to the Chain of Dogs when reading this. For me, the biggest difference was that the context (or “frame”) to read the chain of dogs was apparent enough that I knew how to read it. I found it emotionally wrenching, powerful, and self-sustaining. I just couldn’t put it down. With the Snake I remember wondering “is this really happening?” (ie is it as “real” as any other action happening to the Bonehunters) “if so, when is it happening?” (was in 300,000 years ago, or happening at exactly the same time as the rest of the story?). Is this a dream? An allegory? Or what?
One of the things I love about MBotF is the different points of views. The cost is the context switch, but it always seems that the new point of view has its own momentum that carries the story forward – that is the genius of the series (or at least one of them). But the Snake didn’t do it for me. I just couldn’t figure out how to read it.
I am very grateful for these blogs because it will give me that frame and enable me to understand intent enough to read it with understanding. I’m looking forward to tackling the Snake when I reread the book right before book 10 is delivered!
Thanks again for writing the finest series I’ve ever read. Please keep trusting your audience to “get it” – we’ve learned that if we don’t, all we have to do is keep trying and it will come.
And it will be worth it!
No battles. I have noticed that the people who didn’t like the Snake refer to characters in the books in terms of “badassery”. If Badalle had turned into a dragon and had spewed fire and torn flesh, i think the section might have had a different response. I’m so glad she didn’t.
I saw the use of Badalle’s words as simply the channel she used to focus the power she had gleaned through the Snake’s suffering, the words being her means and not the source. As a child she doesn’t know about meditation or willpower or whatever you would want a more mature user of power to have. She got words so thats what she fights back with.
Also I realize both parties agreed to ‘leave it at that’ but I’ve go to say, what kind of a person can’t be entertained from something serious? Movies, books, discussions like this…the list would be long. The more I think about the notion the more I think its too inane to even reply to, but now I’ve gone and done it anyway.
Keep up the deconstruction SE, you’re one of the best writers ever, full stop. We’re keen to learn more.
I think this series is by far the best High/epic fantasy I have ever read. The intesity of the emotions portrayed in the writing bleeds effortlessly into my person. Props on that, seriously! I read 7 books in the series, and then, while waiting on the 8th (here in the US), picked up another fantasy series and was sorely disappointed. I won’t mention what series. I always told practically everyone I knew that one thing I absolutely love about this series is that there isn’t a black and white good guys and bad guys. Everyone is relatable. They all do what they believe they have to. My friend is a devout Wheel of Time follower, and I desperatly tried to get her to pick up these books. She got through the prologue, chapter 1&2 or Gardens and said “I am sooo confused” My reply, “Exactly!” Fiction that makes you think! What more can be asked for. I feel these books are of a the calibur that they should be taught in high school literature courses. I went back to MY high school and urged my teachers to read Gardens. Endless Applause for Steve! 🙂
All cool, but did it have to be a rap battle? I guess it’s subjective, but throwing words back and forth like a baseball reminds me too much of the disaster that was Lynch’s take on “Dune”. Maybe it’s that. But I’d say it broke one of the things I really like in the series – separating magic from ridiculous incantations and ancient languages. These might not be ridiculous incantations, but they’re still words of power.
All in all, the Snake grew on me with time. I grew to like the idea of it, the whole of it. Even if I don’t really want to include it in re-reads.
Steven Erikson says
You raise a concern I always had regards using ‘voice’ as a means of projecting magical power, which was why I made as little use of it as I could. I’m the wrong generation to have thought of it as a rap battle, but I can well see your point of view.
For what it’s worth, on your next re-read, try reading The Snake as allegorical, drawing from bibical motifs … see where it takes you.
I actually saw it going down like Moses laying down the Words or the Gandalf “You shall not pass!”, but with the words resonating and effecting the targets.
As always Steve, thought provoking and much appreciated.
I personally like the link between language and magic since it’s realistic. Words shape our reality, in this view, to me, the storyline of The Snake is very powerful. It magnifies the effect Steven mentioned, taking a real world problem and instead of giving Badalle awesome explosive powers, keep it closer to reality.
P.S. So that’s where the idea of the Warrens and such came from…
I dont get why people bash the snake? I’m on my first read and the Snake is one of my faveroute parts.
And it would not be included if it would not have relelvance on the final arc.
I get the biblical motifs too. The first one that came to mind was Moses and him leading the Jews out of Egypit.
Also Love the Books Steven. I’ve only recently stumbled onto them as of last year and I’ve read all of them back to back.
When Badalle started giving inklings of the nature of the upcoming confrontation I couldn’t help being a bit nervous that would indeed be a typical weird-word spell party. But then my brain reminded me that SE hates cliches and when I finally got to the magic rap battle (Illy would want me to point out here that he coined the term ‘magic rap battle’) I really liked it and thought it went quite well with prior depictions of those behind the train (don’t wanna spoil anything).
And Gothos, well at least it’s far, far better than “Awaken the Seven within me!”
I liked the “rap battle”, as I felt that it gave me a real insight into the nature of “power” in the malazan world. It’s a world that includes the Bridgeburners, a military company whose STORY was so heroic that it gives them power beyond death. Back to Badalle and the snake, their STORY was so heart rending, so tragic that the telling of the story gave the teller power. So Badalle’s words become power, in a way that is way more fitting then “You shall not pass!”
That’s what I have always loved about the Malazan books, the truths are revealed during introspection. This introspection caused by my favorite works of fiction have in many ways defined my outlook on the world and life. So I agree that entertainment can be serious. But I’m a guy who’s central ideas about life were defined while watching the Matrix trilogy so maybe I’m way off
what a crock of shit! You mean if I do not like a character or a history arc I’m indifferent to the pains of the world? Dude, grow up and stop preaching. I like your books but you are not the center of the universe!
You’re obviously missing the picture. Steve is giving insight into a process and not preaching as far as I can tell.
Steven Erikson says
Hi Zohar. Thanks for your observations. Much appreciated. For what it is worth, I’m not asking you to like any of my characters — you either do or you don’t, and that’s fine. And whether or not you care about various tragedies in this world, well, as the section made plain, I really don’t feel that my words have much efficacy anyway, so I’m not really thinking about the linkage. After all, I don’t know you from Adam, so whether you’re working for world peace or selling guns is really outside my purview. Most of fantasy fiction is escapist, but mine isn’t. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is all about compassion; accordingly, I’m not preaching, I’m pleading. There is a difference. Oh, and should I ever find the centre of the universe, mine or anyone else’s, I’ll be sure to let you know. That aside, glad you like the books.
Understood. A word of advice: stop taking yourself so fucking seriously! Fantasy is entertainment, no more, no less. Beyond that you runs the risk of turning into a Terry Goodkind clone, for the love of God.
Steven Erikson says
Hmm, how’s this for advice: don’t give advice. The notion that entertainment can’t be serious certainly defines your position on things. That I beg to differ defines mine. Shall we leave it at that?
Now these are two great replies. Thanks, Steven.
Errr, the notion that entertainment can’t be serious only defines my position in THAT matter. Besides, the very notion of the word defies your arguments so yes, let’s leave it at that..
There are persons that, like me, read Fantasy to meditate on our real world, to look at it from another perspective. The reason why, after twenty years of Fantasy reading I was bored, is all in that: too many crap-books with the only scope to entertain (mind that I’m not saying that entertainment is “crap”, only that entertainment without a scope is empty, to me). And that’s why Steven Erikson has (and still is) woken up again my interest for Fantasy: his books reverberate with humanity and deep thoughts, making me feel less distant to understand something more about what it means to be helpless in front of day-by-day tragedies you cannot stop. Maybe I belong to a minority, but this kind of “Great Man advices” is exactly the reason why I don’t feel comfortable in this rich, cynical society I’m living in.
You dress yourself up as a sharp person, who do not lie to himself and do not take himself too seriously, maybe feeling wise. All I see, here, is cynicism. It’s not a good goal.
Please, Steven, take *my* advice (well, I’m sure you don’t need it, so take it as a mote of appreciation): continue to take it seriously! You’re doing the difference on Fantasy fiction exactly for this reason, giving to person like me – I knew a lot of italian readers whose thoughts are similar – something worth the time and money I spend on a Fantasy book.
And, in case, sorry for my English.
Wow… just wow.
An interesting insight, as always. I like the idea of giving the Sudanese children an alternative reality. If I had caught on to that while reading it might not have seemed quite so depressing.
To be honest, I let out a small sigh of relief whenever I had made it through a ‘Snake’ episode. I’m not much for feel-good literature (not sure how I would feel about the Malazan series if I was) but I also do not like to feel bad when I read fiction. To clarify, I don’t mean feeling bad like sniveling and bitching at the end of TtH (there was some of that) but the kind of bad that gets outside the story itself and affects my mood in such a way as to leave me feeling depressed even after I have put down the book. To me, that whole story arc was a claustrophobic wasteland. It reminded me of reading the Trial for the first time and wondering where the anxiety came from. Sorry if that made no sense, English isn’t my first language and that particular feeling would have been hard enough for me to explain in Swedish. My point is, if you wanted to make people feel something it certainly worked on me and while I might not enjoy feeling gloomy I respect your ability to bring it on.
Keep up the good work and do it your own way, it has worked so far.
I just wanted to compliment your English. That was perfectly articulate.
Steve, keep up the great work. You inspire me with your rich writing sources and motivations. I think it’s cool that you take your writing onto your own level, and if that’s what you want to do, that’s all that matters. You’ve gone down your own road in the writing process – and your novels are all the better for it!
Steve, you rock.
The more I see, the more it makes sense. I was blind to some of the nuance in TTH until the re-read (a must). Upon further inspection the book comes alive and forces the reader to feel. The Snake seemed ephemeral at best on the first read through DoD. Upon a closer, and admittedly slower, re-read some details started to emerge but I knew I was far from the picture you were seeking to paint. Today you have added more clarity to my sight, by illuminating your own POV.
I check this blog because you do not waste my time. You help me to see something beautiful, knowing that a life lacking beauty is a horrible thing to behold…
It’s always interesting to get a look behind the eyes of an author, as it doesn’t happen nearly enough. I feel like we, as readers, would benefit from having a hint of where the author is drawing inspiration from – it would help us to tap into the feeling of the narrative on a more base level, I think.
This is why I check in to your blog every week – I’m supremely interested in your thought processes and technique.
As for the immense maw that is the Internet, all you can do is roll with its tongue-punches and do as Abalieno said: write the truth as you see it. Hell, that’s one of the things that makes great literature, great – the fact that readers can debate it for years and years after the story is completed. With an incomplete history such as the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the debates will – hopefully – rage forever.
Thanks for your work, Mr. Lundin.
I’ll just say that it’s also one significant strength of your series if it’s not just ambitious, staggering and broad in scope, but also personal, and so not a safe or steady, unfailing journey. Without that its echoes would be echoes of emptiness.
It’s the reason why while reading “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, a completely different book, I arrived to similar conclusions and similar feelings coming out of it. In the end the purpose of fiction, and other forms of art, is to say something truthful. Nothing else matters. So you’re right in what you imply: your crisis feeds this narrative, and your lack of definite(-ive) answers is itself a more important truth. Lots of writers had to come to terms with their craft (or at least those who explore uncharted lands). Some didn’t survive, some other found their hands empty and just felt helpless. It’s a kind of obsession.
It’s also why “magic”, even if it makes a significant impact, never comes ahead of the narrative. In the end it is all “fluff” if it’s not somewhere and somehow deeply rooted into something “true”. Creating fictional worlds gives that type of conceit and delusion, you think you are creating something other and independent, but it would be all truly meaningless if whatever level of abstraction doesn’t come back on the ground to feed on something true.
For the internet: just let it feed your venom 😉