Win a copy of the limited edition of Dan Simmons' DROOD

I have a copy of the limited edition of Dan Simmons' latest novel, Drood, up for grabs, compliments of the cool folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "SIMMONS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

The Books of the South

Better late than never, as they say. Last fall, I finally read Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company, the omnibus comprised of the first Black Company sequence. I loved how the author kicked the fantasy genre in the balls on more than one occasion, dispensing with most of the tropes which made the genre what it is.

I was eager to pick up the tale of this motley group of misfits and see where Cook would take Croaker and the rest of the gang. South, I supposed. . . Unfortunately, this next sequence was not as fun and entertaining as the first trilogy.

In Shadow Games, the story picks up right where The White Rose ended. Darling, Silent, and the Torque brothers go their own way, leaving the others behind. Croaker and the remnants of the Black Company head south to reclaim the Annals and discover the secrets of the Company's origins in Khatovar.

Croaker remains the narrator, and his witty and sardonic observations are one of the highlights of this book. The man is aware of his strengths and shortcomings, and it's always a joy to follow his narrative.

"Huh?" I come armed with a whole arsenal of such brilliant repartee.

Even though the sparring between One-Eye and Goblin is at times hilarious, and the relationship between Croaker and Lady interesting, the truth is that not much truly happens in this book other than seeing the Black Company travel south. The story picks up near the end and Cook closes the show with a bang. But to a certain extent, it's a case of too little, too late.

Dreams of Steel has more to offer, but it suffers from the change of main POV character. Croaker was, for me at least, the true voice of the Black Company and his prolonged absence took something away from this second volume. Relegating Croaker to a secondary role wouldn't have been too bad had we learned more about Lady and her past. This was the perfect opportunity to get in the head of what used to be the most powerful woman in the world, yet we learn next to nothing about her. That was disappointing, to say the least. . .

Be that as it may, Dreams of Steel remains the Black Company installment which showed the most depth thus far. The Deceivers, Kina, the Daughter of Night, etc, this one sets the stage for what will follow.

But to my dismay, the stage is set for the next Black Company sequence, not the next volume. Indeed, The Silver Spike follows the misadventures of a band of rogues who steal the silver spike from the tree in the Barrowland. And though it's nice to see Darling, Silent, and other characters again, the absence of the Black Company is sorely felt. Case's narrative is entertaining, and so is Smeds'. But again, there was something missing.

All in all, The Books of the South omnibus is a fun yet uneven read. But it certainly makes you want to find out what will take place in The Glittering Stone.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Musical Interlude

NIN - Closer (Uncut)
Uploaded by rod_rubberduck

Probably the best NIN song ever!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 27th)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host maintain its position at number 2.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is down one position, ending its seventeenth week on the bestseller list at number 12.

Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor is down four spots, finishing its third week on the charts at number 31. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Just After Sunset is down thirteen positions, finishing its tenth week on the NYT list at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Tobias S. Buckell's Halo: The Cole Protocol is down one spot, finishing its eighth week on the charts at number 34 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' seven Sookie Stackhouse novels rank from number 7 to number 26.

New Glen Cook Interview

I know many of you have been waiting for this one, so here it is!

I've been meaning to interview Glen Cook ever since I read Chronicles of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe). And I'm just about done with The Books of the South (Canada, USA, Europe), so the timing couldn't be better!


- Without giving anything away, what can you tell you readers about your Black Company sequence?

It could be a generational thing or some different way of looking at what writers do, but I don’t understand this questions at all. The books are there. They are the answer. What could be given away? What else needs to be said?

Maybe you could clarify what you are asking.

- How satisfying is it to see both the Black Company and The Books of the South being reissued as omnibus editions by Tor Books two decades after their initial release? What about the Dread Empire omnibus editions from Night Shade Books?

I really loathed the Black Company omnibus idea. The books were all in print, all the time, in a format that fit peoples’ bookshelves. But they have been successful commercially. The first one has been through five printings already. The Night Shade Dread Empire omnibuses I favored because they were bringing into print books that had been gone for years.

- Will the Glittering Stone sequence get the same treatment in the near future?

I don’t know. A lot of my stuff I find out about when someone asks me to sign a copy.

- What can you tell potential readers about the Instrumentalities of the Night series? Are there any sequels in the works?

The setting of the series is a sort of alternate 13th century Europe shaped by counterfactual geography and the presence of ambient magical energy that makes possible the existence of all gods and devils. It’s also an experiment with a picaresque plot. In addition to the 2 published titles there will be SURRENDER TO THE WILL OF THE NIGHT (done and turned in) and WORKING THE GODS’ MISCHIEF, which is about halfway done.

- Tell us more about your Garrett P. I. novels.

Pretty vague query. The books are American P. I. but set in the fantasy city of TunFaire, where all Garrett’s cases involve the fantastic.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller.

I don’t know if I have an answer. I don’t think about that kind of stuff. Some people tell me it’s plot, others character.

- If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger Glen Cook concerning his writing career?

Use all the money he makes to buy Microsoft stock. And maybe to be nicer to his wife. Being married to a writer isn‘t easy.

- The Black Company saga has gained what can best be described as a cult following. Since it never became “mainstream”, how rewarding is it to realize how successful the series has been and continues to be to this day?

This was one of those queries I don’t quite get. I do like the fact that the Black Company series has never been out of print. I am particularly pleased that it has done remarkably well overseas, whence most of my writing income springs.

- What was the spark that generated the idea that drove you to write the Black Company books in the first place?

There was no special spark. I get ideas. I write some of them. The only thing unusual here was that the viewpoint started out as that of “the bad guys.”

- Characters often take on a life of their own. Which of your characters do you find the most unpredictable to write about?

The inhabitants of the Garrett Files series are the most willful and rambunctious. When they get moving I just sit back and let them run. They never go where I think they should when I start. Not one of those books is the one I set out to write.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out each Black Company series?

(There is only one Black Company series. The subtitle crap was made up by the publisher) No. Other than to tell the story from the viewpoint of the grunts, which was not some conscious Wow! Wouldn’t this be a kickass twist? kind of decision. I’ve never seen the Black Company series as especially different. Some people seem to disagree.

- In retrospect, is it safe to say that the genre wasn’t quite ready for the Black Company sequence in the mid 80s? Fantasy was dominated by powerhouses such as David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Raymond E. Feist at the time. Looking back, was your series too avante-garde in style and tone?

Another question I don’t understand. The world must have been ready for whatever people see as different because they never went out of print and my editors constantly carped at me to write faster. The books are still selling well. How about those other guys?

- You have been writing novels and short stories for over three decades. What has changed the most in the fantasy genre since you began your career?

I don’t know, except maybe the guys who made their names rewriting LORD OF THE RINGS aren’t doing so well these days. I’m no J. D. Salinger but neither do I pay attention to what others are doing. I write books. I send them to my agent. He finds somebody to publish them. Oh. I have noticed that books got a lot fatter for a while, but now they’re slimming down.

- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the Black Company books, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intentions? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the three series?

After thinking about it for several days I think I have figured out what you’re asking here. Firstly, the Black Company started out to be a single book, that would be a novel made up of a series of novelettes. Only one of those got published independently before my agent sold the book to Tor. The editor there did not like the characters at all. But she said she couldn’t get the book out of her head. So we got drunk and rowdy and worked out an agreement that I would make it a trilogy. But the time I finished THE WHITE ROSE I knew where the story would go from there, vaguely, all the way to the end of GLITTERING STONE. Which I expected to be one book the size of the others, but which needed six, some very fat.

I do not outline. I usually start out with a vague notion of where I want to get and let the interactions of my characters get me there.

- Many fantasy writers don’t read within the genre. Is it the case with you? If not, what authors make you shake your head in admiration?

Other than Steven Erikson I read nothing that resembles what I write. Fantasy folk whose books I attack the day they come out include Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, and Tamora Pierce.

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of the all SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what is being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is this too much of a distraction?

No. I don’t think I could figure out how to go find something like that, anyway. It sounds like a huge waste of time all round. When I have time to fritter I watch a ball game, CSI, or maybe indulge one of my secret vices, like Power Rangers or InuYasha. Or I read a book.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your books?

I generally hold my nose and try not to cry too much. You have no control. If you’re really lucky you get an art director who will let you use Vaseline when he bends you over. That said, I have had some fine covers. The Hildebrandts on the first 6 Garrett books. The covers for the French first editions of the Black Company books by Didier Graffet are genius. The covers for the first 6 Black Company books here, because they were painted by a very good friend. Though they’re a little primitive they do have some actual connection with what is inside. A few others.
Generally speaking, cover art is worse overseas.

- L. E. Modesitt, Jr., once claimed that Tom Doherty is one of the most under appreciated men in fantasy. Do you agree with his assessment?

I wouldn’t know if Tom is under appreciated by others. I love the man myself. He and his crew have been very good to me. He seems to have brought forward a goodly number of both excellent writers and writers who have been big commercial successes.

- Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

For me this is a great steaming shovel full of I don’t care. Good stuff will stick around. Not so good won’t. Some professor pulling his intellectual pud over it isn’t relevant. Jack London and Charles Dickens, Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, were all hacks. And they’re all in print today. And, for the most part, still scorned by the mutual masturbators of the literati.
From my seat high on the mountainside I think too many people associated with fantasy take the whole thing far too seriously. A failing of Americans in general. We all seem to be able to find a thing or two that we will insist on taking too seriously.

- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you’ll leave behind?

Continuing the “too seriously” theme, the answer here is, I really don’t care. I hope there’ll be enough residual royalties to provide some extra income for my wife. Otherwise, I expect to go the way of Bulwer-Lyton … although, come to think, he did bequeath us “It was a dark and stormy night.” Maybe there is something like that somewhere in my stuff.

- What project will you be tackling next?

Projects in hand include the final Instrumentalities book, WORKING THE GODS’ MISCHIEF, the next Garrett novel, working title GILDEN LATTEN LOVE(RS), a new Dread Empire novel, working title A PATH TO COLDNESS OF HEART, and a Black Company novel entitled PORT OF SHADOWS.

- Anything you wish to share with your fans?

Thank you. Stop taking it so damned seriously. And get out there and buy backup copies of my stuff. I have kids in college.

Quote of the Day

The world is only as deep as we can see. This is why fools think themselves profound. This is why terror is the passion of revelation.

- R. SCOTT BAKKER, The Judging Eye (Canada, USA, Europe)

By the way, you can now read the first chapter here.

C. S. Friedman contest winners!

Our five winners will get their hands on copies of C. S. Friedman's upcoming Wings of Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe), as well as the first volume in The Magister trilogy, Feast of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe), if they have yet to read it. All of this courtesy of the nice folks at Daw Books!

The winners are:

- Jeremy Walker, from Midland, Ontario, Canada

- Christian Cole, from Allen, Texas, USA (Vega1 on

- Valerie McClintock, from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

- Jennifer Kingsbury, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Guinevere Seaworth on

- Elizabeth Strangways, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Win a copy of Adrian Tchaikovsky's DRAGONFLY FALLING

There is a copy of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, sequel to his fantasy debut Empire in Black and Gold, for you to win, compliments of me! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "DRAGONFLY." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Ken Scholes Interview

Since so many people appear to believe that Ken Scholes' Lamentation (Canada, USA, Europe) could well be the fantasy debut of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to invite the author and give him the opportunity to introduce himself.


- Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is LAMENTATION?

Windwir, the greatest city of the Named Lands, seat of the Androfrancine Order and home of its Great Library, is utterly laid waste in an act of terrible violence. LAMENTATION follows the lives of several key witnesses to that city’s fall as they seek to solve who caused its destruction and why.

- Tell us a little more about yourself. What's the 411 on Ken Scholes?

Well, I’ve been showing up here and there in the short fiction world for nearly a decade with my first short story appearing in Talebones magazine back in 2000.

I’m originally from Washington State though I currently live in Oregon with my amazing wonder-wife, Jen West Scholes. I spent most of my younger days in a trailer near the foot of Mount Rainier. I started writing stories in second grade and started trying to publish them in high school.

I’m a former gamer (D&D, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret) who misses his Xbox 360 these days and has occasional visitation rights to it between novels. You can find at least a few videos of me singing and playing guitar out there on Youtube. I’ve done a little bit of a lot, work-wise, to include running nonprofit community and economic development organizations, fixing label guns, serving in two branches of the military and (for a short spell) being a Baptist minister. Currently, I work in procurement and contracting for a local government agency.

- Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel?

The Psalms of Isaak, the series LAMENTATION is a part of, started out as a short story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise.”

When Realms of Fantasy bought it, they hired Allen Douglas to do the art. And when I saw Allen’s artwork I had the sudden realization that there was much more to the story than I had realized. I quickly sketched out what I thought would be a sequence of four short stories around the destruction of Windwir, then wrote the second short story.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite stand alone for Realms of Fantasy’s tastes, but the editor wrote a nice note on the rejection, encouraging me to write a novel in that world with those characters. I’d also recently won the Writers of the Future contest and there was suddenly a lot of encouragement from friends, family, editors and readers to write a novel.

Ultimately, I wrote LAMENTATION on a dare from Jay Lake and my wife, Jen. I took the first and second short stories and then just filled in the gap of time between them. Jay had told me that if I had the first draft finished in time for World Fantasy 2006 (just seven weeks away) he would introduce me to everyone he’d met so far that might be helpful in finding a publisher for it. Jen had told me that if I would just write in all the gaps of time I had, she would take care of everything else in our lives. I was frequently writing in the car, on lunch breaks, in the evenings, in the early mornings.

In the end, I finished in time and the result landed me an agent and a publisher within just 13 months of starting the novel.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels? Any tentative titles and release dates?

The series continues to carry the story forward as the characters from LAMENTATION (and new ones we meet along the way) continue dealing with a world without Windwir.

CANTICLE will be out in October 2009 – it picks up about seven months after the events in LAMENTATION. I’m currently working on ANTIPHON, which should be out in Spring 2010. I’ll start drafting REQUIEM in the next few months and should have HYMN, the final volume, finished by Summer 2010.

Beyond that, I have a few other series in mind for this world. Some with the characters we meet in the Psalms of Isaak and some of the ancestors and descendants of those characters.

- Will you be touring to promote LAMENTATION this winter/spring? If so, are there any appearances you would like your fans and potential readers to know about?

I’ll be making appearances as far north as Village Books in Bellingham, WA near the Canadian border and as far south as Borderlands Books in San Francisco. I’ll be in Seattle at University Bookstore on February 17, Powell’s in Beaverton on February 18 and back in Seattle February 20 at Third Place Books.

I’ll also be at Radcon in early February and Norwescon in April.

Folks can get more details either through my blog ( or at

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write LAMENTATION in the first place? I know it all began with the short story "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise."

I think I touched on this one above.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I think my strengths are probably in creating characters that feel real and in creating novels that move at a fast pace using an economy of words honed during my time in the short fiction world.

- By the same token, what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

I think setting – and the more mundane details of world building – are probably the areas where I could do the most work. But at the same time, I’m really not too interested in overdoing those, either. For me, I like Elmore Leonard’s notion of pulling everything out of a manuscript that isn’t story.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write LAMENTATION and its sequels?

No, not especially. I just found the story in my characters and followed it. I’m sure along the way that I twisted or broke conventions but truly, I don’t think much about those things. Telling the story – making it true to the characters and their world – is what I keep at the forefront of my mind. I think at the heart of it, conventional or unconventional, people read for story.

- Tor Books seems to be pushing LAMENTATION as if it might be the fantasy debut of the year. Are you happy to have such a positive buzz surrounding the book, or are you afraid that this might raise readers' expectations too high?

Tor has been amazing to work with. And I had wanted Tor – they were my first pick for The Psalms of Isaak because I like the way they take care of their other series. They’ve really gotten behind the books and have been a great support to me.

The buzz is definitely a two-edged sword. On the one hand, I’m delighted that people are loving the book so much. Because Tor made so many ARCs available, I’ve been getting a great deal of feedback both in reviews and in reader response. It’s been highly favorable so far and that’s been a great encouragement to me as I’ve worked through the second volume and now the third. On that other hand, there are times when I get a bit nervous. What if the second or third or fourth or fifth books don’t live up to the promise of the first? But really, the best thing I can do is focus on telling the story and try not to think too much about the other stuff.

- You have been a prolific short fiction writer these last few years. Do you have a different approach when you write short stories and novel-length projects?

Definitely. Because I can write a short story in a handful of hours – either in one burst or over a span of a few mornings. My average short story length is about 4,000 words and I can usually knock out about a thousand words per hour in short fiction. But if short stories are a spring, novels are more of a marathon. Though I wrote LAMENTATION fairly fast, the other volumes seem to take about six to eight months to complete. That’s a lot of time, and those words come slower – maybe because I’m still pretty new to novels. There are days when I’m getting 300 or 500 words per hour on a book. And with a short story, I can contain most of the story in my head while I’m writing it. A novel is just too big so I end up using a combination of brief notes and an outline to keep it all straight.

In the end, it’s the same principle: Apply butt to chair. Apply fingers to keyboard. And then work steadily until it’s done.

- The fact that there is a website dedicated to your work is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

I think interaction with readers is not just special but crucial. I see writing a bit like owning a tour bus and my readers are those brave souls who plunk down their dollars to climb aboard and let me take them on a spin through the wacky woods of my Imagination Forest. Interacting with them is an important way for me to know if they feel they’re getting their money’s worth out of that tour. It often encourages me and sometimes it even gives me a nudge in a new direction based on what I learn they’re interested in or curious about.

I’m sure as I get busier that I’ll have to find clever new ways to interact with my readers but these days, I’m pretty easy to find. I can be reached through my website and blog...I’m also on FaceBook. And I make a point of getting out to a few conventions per year. Usually Worldcon and World Fantasy along with a handful of local ones – Orycon, Norwescon and Radcon. And of course, I have book store appearances here and there. Down the road, I’m hoping to add a couple of random conventions that will let me get around to meet my readers in other parts of the country.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

Well, given the choice, I’d like a few dozen of each, actually. Still, this is a good question. I think I’ll have to go with the bestseller. It would indicate a level of commercial success that ideally would let me focus on writing full time as a way of supporting my family.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many speculative fiction authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

There have been quite a few and my influences have changed as I’ve grown both as a reader and a writer. Bradbury was probably my first. Burroughs, Howard, Moorcock, Leiber, Waldrop, Dick, Ellison, Zelazny and Stephen King have all left me slack-jawed in wonder at one time or another. I also enjoy Elmore Leonard, Tom Clancy, Ken Follett and Nelson DeMille.

I’ve always read outside the genre – I grew up reading mysteries, westerns, and spy thrillers along with a smattering of classics, poetry and non-fiction. But since I started writing novels, I’ve noticed that I read less SF/F. Presently, I read mostly non-fiction though I often find myself pining for a good novel.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces LAMENTATION?

I think a good cover can get a reader to pick up a book and give a closer look. Irene Gallo, the Art Director at Tor, does an amazing job of finding the right artists for their books. I was delighted that she hired Gregory Manchess for my cover. He is a brilliant artist and his cover for LAMENTATION blew me away. I know he’s working on CANTICLE’s cover even now and I can’t wait to see how that comes out. I know it will be stunning.

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

I try to keep an eye on what’s discussed but I’m sure I miss a lot. I rarely keep up on blogs and barely keep my own blog maintained. And lately, I’ve just not had time between the novels and the day job and my really busy life.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

I’m not sure that it matters much, truth be told. I think a lot of genres get overlooked but ultimately, it’s individual books that are proven over time to rise to the level of veritable literature. I don’t worry too much about my work being part of a “respectable” genre. For me, I’m happy to just tell a story that readers enjoy, that carries them through to the end.

- Anything you wish to add?

Nope, I don’t think so.

Misogyny, racism and homophobia in SFF

Speaking of The Guardian, I just read an interesting article on misogyny, racism and homophobia in science fiction and fantasy. Here's an excerpt:

There is a paucity of simple respect and human understanding which would enable authors to create women who are not token geishas (or, given the genre, wild assassin women, escaping court hookers or muscly babes in bronze breastplates), non-white characters who are not noble magical heathens with psychic abilities and a strong connection to the earth, or perverted gay interplanetary warlords. It is odd that writers in fantasy and SF, the most imaginative of genres, can describe entire fictional planetary-wide alien societies with precise detail, but still not reflect the fact that women are the biggest group in society, and not all hot and young either.


The problem of how exactly to stop misogynists despising women, racists despising non-whites and homophobes despising gay people remains. The haters hate because they love it, it's a buzz and they're bullies. But science fiction and fantasy lovers must never forget that ours are the genres which imagine wild solutions. Ignore the bigots, log onto Amazon and get browsing, buying, recommending and commenting – better still, get writing. An entire universe of true human (and alien, and animal, and angelic, and cyborg, and part-werewolf, part psychic vampire) diversity awaits.

You can read the full piece here.

This article was written in response to this Elizabeth Bear post on her LiveJournal. Here's an excerpt:

So I was thinking this morning about what I said about having a problem with the lack of female characters (other than the redheaded assassin) in Ken Scholes' book, and that got me thinking again about an ongoing problem in all writing (and most art), which is, of course, Writing The Other without being a dick.

I still hold by the unpopular theory that it's actually pretty simple. (Simple, in this case, still does not mean "easy.") That in the long run, we are all people, and the basic similarities in the Venn diagram are more prevalent than the differences.

Please note, as a fantasy and science fiction writer, I spend a lot of my time writing things that are really Other--intelligent wolves and giant talking stag-headed ponies, for example. Also angels (fallen and otherwise), hyperintelligent supercolloids, virtual winged dinosaurs, and other stuff. So I keep thinking, well, if I can write something that doesn't even have the same senses I do, how hard can it be to write a Jewish former Army Captain from St. Louis?

As the Guardian piece pointed out, the geeks are a-buzzin'! So I thought it would be a good idea to post, as I believe this can generate a lot of discussions. . .

1000 Novels Everyone Must Read

The Guardian is publishing lists of novels everyone should read, and here are their science fiction/fantasy selections:

Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Brian W Aldiss - Non-Stop (1958)
Isaac Asimov - Foundation (1951)
Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin (2000)
Paul Auster - In the Country of Lost Things (1987)
JG Ballard - The Drowned World (1962)
JG Ballard - Crash (1973)
JG Ballard - Millennium People (2003)
Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory (1984)
Iain M Banks - Consider Phlebas (1987)
Clive Barker - Weaveworld (1987)
Nicola Barker - Darkmans (2007)
Stephen Baxter - The Time Ships (1995)
Greg Bear - Darwin's Radio (1999)
Alfred Bester - The Stars My Destination (1956)
Poppy Z Brite - Lost Souls (1992)
Algis Budrys - Rogue Moon (1960)
Mikhail Bulgakov - The Master and Margarita (1966)
Edward Bulwer-Lytton - The Coming Race (1871)
Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange (1960)
Edgar Rice Burroughs - A Princess of Mars (1912)
William Burroughs - Naked Lunch (1959)
Octavia Butler - Kindred (1979)
Samuel Butler - Erewhon (1872)
Italo Calvino - The Baron In the Trees (1957)
Ramsey Campbell - The Influence (1988)
Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Lewis Carroll - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)
Angela Carter - Nights at the Circus (1984)
Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
GK Chesterton - The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
Arthur C Clarke - Childhood's End (1953)
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel (2004)
Michael G Coney - Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
Douglas Copeland - Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
Mark Danielewski - House of Leaves (2000)
Marle Darrieussecq - Pig Tales (1996)
Samuel R Delaney - The Enstein Intersection (1967)
Philip K Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Philip K Dick - The Man in the High Castle (1962)
Umberto Eco - Foucault's Pendulum (1968)
Michael Faber - Under the Skin (2000)
John Fowles - The Magus (1966)
Neil Gaiman - American Gods (2001)
Alan Garner - Red Shift (1973)
William Gibson - Neuromancer (1984)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman -Herland (1915)
William Golding - Lord of the Flies (1954)
Joe Haldeman - The Forever War (1974)
M John Harrison - Light (2002)
Robert A Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
Frank Herbert - Dune (1965)
Hermann Hesse - The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker (1980)
James Hogg - The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
Michel Houellebecq - Atomised (1998)
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932)
Kazuo Ishiguro - The Unconsoled (1995)
Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
Henry James - The Turn of the Screw (1898)
PD James - The Children of Men (1992)
Richard Jefferies - After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
Gwyneth Jones - Bold as Love (2001)
Franz Kafka - The Trial (1925)
Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon (1966)
Stephen King - The Shining (1977)
Marghanita Laski - The Victorian Chase-longue (1953)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - Uncle Silas (1864)
Ursula Le Guin - The Earthsea series (1968-1990)
Stanislaw Lem - Solaris (1961)
Doris Lessing - Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
David Lindsay - A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
Ken McLeod - The Night Sessions (2008)
C S Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56)
Hilary Mantel - Beyond Black (2005)
Michael Marshall Smith - Only Forward (1994)
Richard Matheson - I Am Legend (1954)
Charles Maturin - Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
Patrick McCabe - The Butcher Boy (1992)
Cormac McCarthy - The Road (2006)
Jed Mercurio - Ascent (2007)
China Miéville - The Scar (2002)
Andrew Miller - Ingenious Pain (1997)
Walter M Miller Jr - A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas (2004)
Michael Moorcock - Mother London (1988)
William Morris - News From Nowhere (1890)
Toni Morrison - Beloved (1987)
Haruki Murakami - The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
Vladimir Nabokov - Ada or Ardor (1969)
Audrey Niffenegger - The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)
Larry Niven - Ringworld (1970)
Jeff Noon - Vurt (1993)
Flann O'Brien - The Third Policeman (1967)
Ben Okri - The Famished Road (1991)
Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club (1996)
Thomas Love Peacock - Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Mervyn Peake - Titus Groan (1946)
John Cowper Powys - A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
Terry Pratchett - The Discworld series (1983-)
Christopher Priest - The Prestige (1995)
Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials (1995-2000)
François Rabelais - Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
Ann Radcliffe - The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space (2000)
Kim Stanley Robinson - The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
JK Rowling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)
Salman Rushdie - The Satanic Verses (1988)
Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry - The Little Prince (1943)
José Saramago - Blindness (1995)
Will Self - How the Dead Live (2000)
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein (1818)
Dan Simmons - Hyperion (1989)
Olaf Stapledon - Star Maker (1937)
Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash (1992)
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
Bram Stoker - Dracula (1897)
Rupert Thomson - The Insult (1996)
JRR Tolkien - The Hobbit (1937)
JRR Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)
Kurt Vonnegut - Sirens of Titan (1959)
Robert Walser - Institute Benjamenta (1909)
Sylvia Townsend Warner - Lolly Willowes (1926)
Sarah Waters - Affinity (1999)
HG Wells - The Time Machine (1895)
HG Wells - The War of the Worlds (1898)
TH White - The Sword in the Stone (1938)
Gene Wolfe - The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
John Wyndham - Day of the Triffids (1951)
John Wyndham - The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
Yevgeny Zamyatin - We (1924)

As many people have already pointed out, many of these titles are not SFF. But what the heck, right!?!

Every time lists like this one appear, I realize that I'm not as well-read as I'd like. In addition, I realize that many books that critics adore put me right to sleep and were a waste of my time. Still, I take heart from the fact that I agree with many of these selections. . .:-)

Speculative Horizons: Update

Didn't expect to have new tidbits to pass along so soon following the last update!

The powers that be at Subterranean Press have approved of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s short story. "The Stranger" takes place a few years following The Chaos Balance, and is some sort of prelude to the forthcoming Recluce novel Arms-Commander.

Can't say anything other than Recluce fans should enjoy it. As one myself, I found it pretty cool to return to the "mythology" of Recluce, at the time of Fall of Angels and The Chaos Balance. And reading "The Stranger" certainly got me excited about the upcoming Arms-Commander!

With quality pieces already turned in by both Hal Duncan and L. E. Modesitt, jr., this little project is becoming more and more interesting. . .

Stay tuned for more. . .

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

I'm always looking forward to a new Kitty installment. My agent says that Carrie Vaughn is my guilty pleasure. For the record, there's no guilt whatsoever on my part. Vaughn came up with a genuine protagonist, and she sure knows how to write an entertaining yarn! And the more you read, the more you realize that there is much more to the Kitty novels than meets the eye. I think you should all give them a shot!

After everything Kitty and Ben have been through in the previous books, they have more than earned a little vacation. Already the alpha pair of Denver's werewolf pack, they decide to make it official by eloping to Las Vegas. Kitty is looking forward to taking it easy in Sin City and then get married, but she has an uncanny knack for finding trouble. It all begins when she discovers that her hotel is hosting a gun show. To her dismay, a couple of Ben's old acquaintances are attending, all of them werewolf-hating bounty hunters. Endeavoring to find exciting guests for the TV debut of The Midnight Hour, Kitty stumbles upon a throwback magician whose tricks appear to be true magic. The Vampire family of Las Vegas hides a secret, one that Kitty uncovers while investigating a suspicious animal act. Soon, it starts to look as though this Las Vegas idea was a recipe for disaster. As Ben told Kitty:

You always manage to find the weird stuff, don't you?
Although we are introduced to a number of new threads in Vaughn's overall story arc, one gets the feeling that Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand is some sort of interlude meant to bridge what took place before and what will follow, beginning in Kitty Raises Hell. These short, fast-paced installments are becoming a bit episodic in style and tone, however. This could perhaps become a problem down the road, yet thus far Carrie Vaughn moves the plot forward and adds new dimensions to this series with each additional books. As long as she can do this, I reckon nobody will complain.

As was the case with its predecessors, Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand is told in the first person. Getting inside Kitty Norville's head always makes for an interesting ride. At times fragile and unsure of herself and at times tough and headstrong, Kitty's strengths and vulnerabilities make her feel "real."

Though this novel focuses on both Bitty and Ben, Vaughn once again came up with a great cast of disparate secondary characters, chief among those Evan, Brenda, and Odysseus Grant.

If you thought that this series would start to lose steam with this fifth volume, think again! Somehow, Carrie Vaughn manages to keep things fresh and exciting. Never a dull moment in a Kitty book!

And with Kitty Raises Hell (Canada, USA, Europe) being published in a few short weeks, we won't have to wait long to see what's in store for our favorite lycathrope radio host!

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand is another fun and entertaining addition to the Kitty series. I can't wait to read the next one!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Dan Simmons contest winners!

Thanks to the folks from Hachette Book Group, our three winners will receive a complimentary copy of Dan Simmons' Drood. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Sean Jackson, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

- Deidre Durance, from Alma, Georgia, USA

- Matt Bailey, from Quincy, Massachusetts, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 20th)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is up one spot, finishing the week at number 2.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is up eleven positions, ending its sixteenth week on the bestseller list at number 11.

Stephen King's Just After Sunset is down eight spots, finishing its ninth week on the NYT list at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor is down six positions, ending its second week on the charts at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Simon R. Green's Just Another Judgement Day debuts at number 31.

In paperback:

Tobias S. Buckell's Halo: The Cole Protocol is down twenty-one spots, finishing its seventh week on the charts at number 33 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Six of Charlaine Harris' seven Sookie Stackhouse novels rank from number 14 to number 30.

Win a signed copy of Gail Z. Martin's DARK HAVEN

I have an autographed copy of Gail Z. Martin's Dark Haven up for grabs, courtesy of the author herself! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "HAVEN." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Musical Interlude

Other than Döner kebabs and possibly the ShamWow, Rammstein could well be the best thing to come out of Germany in many years!

Synopsis for Robin Hobb's forthcoming DRAGON KEEPER

I've been meaning to post this news for a while, but somehow it always slipped my mind. . .

Here's the blurb:

Return to the world of the Liveships Traders and journey along the Rain Wild River in this standalone adventure from the author of the internationally acclaimed Farseer trilogy. Tintaglia the blue dragon has lost interest in the stunted dragons that emerged from the cocoons of Maulkin's Serpent Tangle. Dragons are fiercely practical about survival of the fittest, and now that she has produced her own batch of healthy hatching serpents Tintaglia no longer provides for the weak creatures abandoned near Trehaug, the main city of the Rain Wilds. The Rain Wild Council is as ruthless as Tintaglia: Deciding that the pack must be relocated they begin to recruit their least useful citizens to tend the beasts and escort them upriver to better hunting grounds. Because of their proximity to the acid waters and vapours of the Rain Wild River, Rain Wilders are born with deformities that shorten their life expectancy and must wed young and reproduce early if their family lines are to survive. Thymara is long past marriageable age. Having been born with too many abnormalities she should have been exposed as an infant, but her father chose to keep and raise her, against his wife's wishes. When Thymara's mother hears that the council is seeking tenders she grasps the chance to be rid of her wild, ugly daughter. But Thymara shows just as much enthusiasm at the prospect of adventure and grabs the opportunity to travel with the dragons. But the youngsters that will herd the dragons are as ignorant as the beasts themselves - both completely unaware that they are being sent into an exile rather than to a sanctuary.

Steven Erikson contest winner!

I have a feeling I'm going to make someone extremely happy with this post! Our lucky winner will receive a copy of the stunning limited edition of Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, compliments of the folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and

The winner is:

-Marc Savoie, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Blend on

Thanks to all the participants!

L. E. Modesitt, jr. contest winner!

This lucky bastard will get his hands on an ARC of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Imager, courtesy of Yours Truly! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Josh White, from Sacramento, California, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of Carrie Vaughn's KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND

I have three copies of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand for you to win, compliments of the folks at Grand Central Publishing. Just finished this one, and it's another fun and entertaining addition to the series! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "KITTY." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

New Poll: SFF debut of 2009?

With Glen Cook an incredible runaway winner in the last poll, I'm now about a third into The Books of the South (Canada, USA, Europe). Not bad up to this point, but not quite as good as Chronicles of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe).

And in case you were not aware of this, I'm presently in the middle of an email interview with Glen Cook. . .

Ken Scholes' Lamentation (Canada, USA, Europe) has been making a lot of noise in the last few months. Advance praise is extremely positive, and this novel is being heralded as the SFF debut of 2009.

Will Ken Scholes be the next big thing, or will he just be next? Stay tuned to find out. . .

Here's the blurb:

An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.

Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city – he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.

Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.

This remarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will take readers away to a new world – an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn’t changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 13th)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is up two spots, finishing the week at number 3.

Stephen King's Just After Sunset is down six positions, ending its eighth week on the NYT list at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is up thirteen positions, ending its fifteenth week on the bestseller list at number 19.

Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor debuts at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Orson Scott Card's Ender in Exile is down four spots, finishing its eighth week on the charts at number 29.

Jim Butcher's Princep's Fury makes a return at number 30.

In paperback:

Tobias S. Buckell's Halo: The Cole Protocol is up one spot, finishing its sixth week on the charts at number 12 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Duma Key is down twenty-four positions, ending its eleventh week on the prestigious list at number 32.

Six of Charlaine Harris' seven Sookie Stackhouse novels rank from number 9 to number 28.

New R. Scott Bakker interview

Here it is, folks! The new Q&A with R. Scott Bakker!

With The Judging Eye (Canada, USA, Europe) now appearing in bookstores across Canada and the UK (only a few more days to go for those of you who have yet to see it), the time was just right.

My partners in crime for this one were Adam ( and Larry ( Without their participation, this interview would have been a lot less interesting, I'm sure.


- Are you satisfied with the way THE JUDGING EYE has been received thus far?

Gauging critical reactions to your work is a tricky thing, primarily because we all–me and you included–regularly confabulate reasons when trying to explain our judgments. It’s a terrifying fact, actually, but the research suggests that we should be exceedingly sceptical of the rationalizations we use to explain our likes and dislikes. We seem to just make things up. So when a reviewer tries to explain why this or that worked or didn’t work for them, chances are they’re just confabulating. (This doesn’t mean that reviewers should give up rationalizing their judgments, only that they should be sceptical of them. Sometimes you hate a book simply because your dog took a dump on the carpet).

So as it stands I’m obviously pleased that so many online reviewers are so enthusiastic about the book, and my own cognitive vanity makes me want to say these are most intelligent and good-looking reviewers to have ever walked a planet so benighted as Earth, but I always remind myself that it’s the readers I’m writing for, and that so long as the series continues its slow growth I’m doing something right.

- Are there any upcoming appearances to promote THE JUDGING EYE you'd like your fans to know about?

I’ll be launching the book in Toronto at North York Central Library on Saturday, February 21st, thanks to Peter Halasz and the excellent folks with the USS Hudson’s Bay. I’ll be at Ad Astra in Toronto this spring, of course. I’ll also be the Guest of Honour at SFERA in Zagreb, Croatia this April.

- Overlook recently elected to go with the UK cover art instead of the cover they had originally selected. Were you consulted on this? What are your thoughts pertaining to the covers of both THE JUDGING EYE and all three volumes of the Prince of Nothing series?

I get the odd query and image sent to me now and again, but unless a cover strikes me as horrible I tend to keep my counsel. Ever since I polled my students asking whether they liked the Canadian or the UK versions of The Darkness that Comes Before, thinking I could use the results to convince Darren Nash, my UK editor, to go with the Canadian covers, I’ve stopped pretending that I know what makes a cover ‘work.’

My students voted for the UK cover by a whopping 2 to 1 margin . . . Bunch of stoners.

- Did the researching and writing for NEUROPATH have any impact on writing or plot decisions made for The Aspect-Emperor trilogy, or indeed the earlier trilogy? I get the impression Kellhus and the Dunyain have a firm belief in The Argument.

When you have soup for brains everything sloshes into everything else. But in point of fact, Kellhus and the Dunyain would strenuously object to the Argument as it’s found in Neuropath. For one, the Dunyain make an ideological fetish of control, which Neil argues is a perspectival illusion. Neil is actually a far more radical character than Kellhus in this philosophical respect.

The Dunyain only seem like nihilists because for them all value is extrinsically determined. Everything and everyone is a kind of tool for the Dunyain, valuable only insofar as they facilitate this or that particular end. Since we generally think that people and things are valuable in and of themselves–which is to say, intrinsically–this makes them appear nihilistic.

- THE JUDGING EYE seems to be a notably less standalone work than even the individual novels in the Prince of Nothing, which whilst part of a greater tapestry did seem to have more resolution to each book. Was this a deliberate decision or more of a natural evolution given the story requirements for the sequel series?

When you try to tell a story as big as The Second Apocalypse, you have to go with what local resolutions you can get. This is even more complicated when your story slowly weaves together three narrative lines, as is the case with The Aspect-Emperor. What gives The Darkness that Comes Before a greater sense of closure, I think, is that it concludes with the various narrative lines coming together in the Holy War. Since I have no interest in manufacturing closure simply for the sake of closure, I had to settle for the one point where the development of the three threads of The Judging Eye lined up dramatically...

Then snip.

- Some have observed in the past that one of the hallmarks of epic fantasy is its tendency to make metaphors into actualized, concrete representations. To what degree, if any, is this true of your writing?

You could say the concretization of abstractions, whether metaphorical or not, is the hallmark of fiction period, not just epic fantasy. The thing I was most interested in concretizing in The Judging Eye was the abstract, ontological notion of a moral world. Because of our native tendency to anthropomorphize our environments, to interpret complex phenomena in psychological and social terms, our interpretative strategies are thoroughly skewed. This is simply a fact, though it rarely sees the light of day because we are pathologically jealous of our beliefs–to the point of killing one another if need be. (No matter how much lip service we pay to "critical thinking," the sad fact is that we really want no part of it–which is why we teach our children absolutely nothing about all the ways they’re doomed to dupe themselves). In the meantime, we see conspiracies everywhere we look–ghosts, gods, spies, corporations, governments... Pick your poison. No matter what our culture, we posit hidden agencies that have something planned for us, good or ill.

Humans are born drama queens. It’s always all about us.

This is the primary abstraction I try to concretize in The Judging Eye. What would it be like, what would it mean, to live in a world where everything had objective value, where everything was ranked and ordered, so that men actually were ‘spiritually superior’ than women, and so on. The tendency in much fantasy fiction is to cater to readers’ moral expectations, to depict ideologically correct worlds and so avoid all the kinds of trouble I seem to get into with my fiction. In other words, the tendency is to be apologetic rather than critical (and then to be critical of those who refuse to apologize). My interest lies in the glorious ugliness that is a fact of traditional world making. Bigoted worlds. Biased worlds. Human worlds expressed through fantastic idioms.

This is what I’m interested in realizing.

- Power is a theme you explore in several ways, especially in your latest Eärwa novel. In particular, at times it seemed as though you were making the case that power is a form of discourse in which the "willing" and "unwilling" have more active (albeit largely subconscious) roles in creating said structures. Is this observation true, or are there elements to be addressed in the series that will cast a different light on the nature of power and how someone such as Kellhus gains and maintains his power?

Control a person’s beliefs and you control their actions. This is the ancient rule of human civilization.

Since our perspective is always the rule we use to measure the moral and cognitive propriety of other perspectives, we always assume that our particular beliefs, no matter how lunatic, are true. And since the precursors to our acts are usually utterly inaccessible, we generally think of ourselves as initiators rather than products. In other words, we generally don’t think that we’re manipulated at all.

I sometimes think that those people who find Kellhus’s manipulations unconvincing are those who are the most oblivious to all the ways they themselves are controlled. Since they assume they would be immune to Kellhus’s manipulations, they end up thinking all the characters who do are implausibly weak-minded, or they are simply not convinced by the moves Kellhus makes. But the fact is that all humans are weak-minded. We know for a fact that if you put humans in situations like Abu Ghraib that they will do the kinds of things they did in Abu Ghraib–we know that a large fraction of the responsibility belongs to the planners who made Abu Ghraib possible.

So why, then, are the individual ‘bad apples’ in prison while the planners continue drawing huge salaries? Because we all think that if we happened to be working at Abu Ghraib, we would have blown the whistle. We think we would have been the exception, and so blame the weak-minded fools who let their immediate social situation drive them, and not those who manufactured that social situation. We all think this, but the sad fact is that we are almost all wrong. Study after study shows that our counter-to-fact assumptions about how we would react in various situations are often dreadfully out of whack with how in fact we do react in those kinds of situations.

We literally live our lives believing in fantasy selves. We live and die deluded, with only a vague anxiety to point us in the direction of truth. This is one reason, I think, so many of us have so much difficulty identifying with realistic characters.

But I wank. Let me get back to the question. We act as we believe, and our actions interlock to form the vast system of institutions that we call contemporary society. (This is one of the things that makes the present economic crisis so frightening: our actions have become so specialized, and the over-arching social structures so complicated, that we could have crossed some kind of organizational threshold. As far as we know, we may have created a system that has to utterly crash before it can be rebooted. But I wank... still...)

In The Prince of Nothing, Kellhus and his father were the parasitic invaders who had to rewrite the established operating system to produce actions consistent with their ends. The authors of the ‘Thousandfold Thought virus.’ In The Aspect-Emperor, Kellhus is the new operating system, continually fending off other upstart viral invaders. And as I’m sure Obama is about to find out, gaining power and maintaining power are two distinct beasts. For Kellhus, the very weak-mindedness that made the former possible is what threatens to make the latter impossible. The more powerful Kellhus becomes, the more removed he is from his followers, the more he has to rely on his flawed worldborn tools to keep the masses in line.

- I have always enjoyed the quotes found at the beginning of every chapter. How do you come up with each, and what amount of research is involved in the process?

Some of them just occur to me. Some I adapt from other sayings–rip off, essentially. But at some point I hunker down with my pipe and take several days to revise and to brainstorm. Then I fiddle and fart and fiddle, all the way to the final proofs. It’s no walk in the park coming up with wise-ass shit.

- In a previous interview you stated that reading George R. R. Martin's A FEAST FOR CROWS forced you to reconsider the number of POVs to use in the writing of THE JUDGING EYE. How then did you select which POV characters would "tell" the story of THE JUDGING EYE?

I actually scrapped my initial attempt at writing The Judging Eye because I realized I was creating characters simply because I was burned out on my original cast. Everyone rationalizes the path of least resistence, but I sometimes think that writers are particularly gifted in this regard.

At the YMCA I frequent there’s an indoor track with arrows that tell you which way you should be running. Since they switch the direction every day and since I’m perpetually distracted, I often find myself going in the wrong direction. When I’m going against the arrow and I pass people going in the right direction I catch myself thinking, "Look at all the sheep! Baa. Baa. Must do what arrow tells me." When I’m going in the right direction and I pass people going in the wrong direction I catch myself thinking, "What? Too cool to follow the arrow are we? What a fucking asshole."

Which makes me either a woolly ass or a stinky sheep.

- Considering that the "darkness" that comes before has been discussed in several ways over the course of your novels, how does prophecy fall along the lines of what comes before and perhaps after?

I once wrote a paper on Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, and the misogyny hidden in the ascription of intuitive knowledge to women and discursive knowledge to men. Cassandra agreed to sleep with the god Apollo in return for the gift of prophecy, only to renege on the deal after receiving the prescient goods. Being the vengeful sort, Apollo cursed her with the doom of not being believed, of living with the knowledge of Troy’s imminent destruction and being utterly helpless to prevent it.

The thing about Cassandra and her curse is that if the Trojans believe her predictions then they act on them, but if they act on them, they change the future, which means that Cassandra is wrong about the future, which means that the Trojans had no business believing her in the first place. So Apollo’s curse is actually a farce, when you think of it. His ‘gift’ was automatically a curse.

Prophecy is a form of cognitive time-travel: information from an otherwise indeterminate future somehow finds its way to the present. As such it suffers the same kind of paradoxes that bedevil the notion of time-travel more generally. That which comes before conditions that which comes after. So if you were to travel back into the past and kill your grandfather, then you will never exist, so you can never travel back into the past and kill your grandfather, so you will exist, so you can travel back into the past... You get the point.

The really weird thing is that the very structure of agency seems implicated in this paradox. Our actions, from an experiential standpoint, are ‘goal directed.’ In other words, from the standpoint of experience, that which comes after determines what we do, and that which comes before is covered over, obscured. This is what allows Kellhus to so effortlessly manipulate the people around him. As marketers have long known, when people don’t believe they have buttons, you can push them at will.

In other words, the ‘darkness that comes before’ and prophecy are quite tightly intertwined, conceptually speaking. And of course I play with all these things at a subtextual level throughout the novels.

- Damnation is a recurring topic among the sorcerers. Will we see any of the mechanisms behind the judgments related to this damnation as the series progresses?

Likely not. The occult and the theological are hopelessly muddled in the real world, so in the interests of realism I intend to keep things the same in Earwa.

Besides, with the possible exception death-row inmates, does anyone ever really know why they’re being burned?

- Will you be able to maintain your long-standing 'Internet silence' in the face of what promises to be many months of intense debate over THE JUDGING EYE, particularly its ambiguous closing chapters?

You get jaded, I think. I sometimes feel I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to responses to my books, but who knows? Something might outrage me yet. I still see red every once and awhile, usually when I come across someone poo-pooing my books to position themselves in some flattering intellectual light. If I have a public reputation for being a smarty-pants, then taking me down a notch becomes an easy way to assert your own intelligence. (There really is no underestimating the degree to which these kinds of status ploys snake through our aesthetic judgments).

But then I imagine much of what I say strikes others much the same way. Look at that Einstein idiot. Ooooh, my relativity is so special...

- Whilst not trying to give anything away, the end of Akka's storyline in THE JUDGING EYE has been seen by quite a few reviewers as a homage to an iconic Tolkien sequence, although with a very different ending. Was this a conscious decision and if so how did you reach it?

Cil-Aujas was part of the original storyline from way back when–I’m a former D&D geek, remember! Since I was such an idiot back then, I’m really not sure whether the choice was deliberate or not. It certainly became self-conscious at some point. The thing to remember is that Tolkien himself was paying homage to the epic tradition more generally when he conceived his version. Homer, Virgil, and of course, Dante. You always kiss a lot of dead ass when you decide to embrace an established literary form.

- What's the progress report with THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR? In our last interview you seemed confident to be able to release volumes one and two a year apart. Is it still the case?

I’ve actually been working on both The White-Luck Warrior and the sequel, so I’m not as far as I hoped to be at this point. I also have an April deadline for Disciple of the Dog, another thriller. This might sound like I’m hopelessly overloaded, but in point of fact I’ve discovered that I write far more per day when I can swap through multiple projects. It actually feels like I'm going through some kind of creative renaissance or something. Even still, I’ve decided not to take on any new side projects until The Second Apocalypse is completed in its entirety. My goal is to have the entire thing finished in four to five years.

This story... man. I know it’s impossible not to fall in love with ideas you live with for a long time–and I’ve done everything but sign the pre-nup when it comes to The Second Apocalypse. But I’m telling you, people are in for one helluva a ride!

- THE JUDGING EYE is a vast introduction to The Aspect-Emperor series. Is it harder to write THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR, now that you have quite a few marbles in the air?

The Aspect-Emperor is actually proving to be easier to write simply because I have learned (the hard way, you might say!) how to keep a large number of narrative balls in the air. No teacher like experience!

- There seems to be a a complex relationship between the World and the Outside. What are some of the ways in which the World influences the Gods/Outside and will we see more of a metaphysical exploration of what seems to me to be a symbiotic relationship between the two?

If I were to give some definitive metaphysical interpretation of the relation between the Outside and the World, as opposed to the hairy, haphazard, contradictory mass of hints and explanations I’ve given, I think I would actually be doing a disservice to Earwa. The bottom line is that no one really knows... Though, like the real world, there’s no shortage of people who would pop a cap in your ass you for suggesting otherwise.

As much as people hate uncertainty, the best they can do is try to ignore it. Naysayers, on the other hand, can be put to bed permanently.

- What is "blindness" to a divinity? Can the Hundred Gods be fallible, or is this something beyond the ken of the people of Eärwa?

Once again, it depends on who you ask in Earwa. Maithanet says that Yatwer is deceived, whereas Psatma Nannaferi says otherwise.

- Are you baffled by the fact that, though you have pleaded your case several times, some readers continue to interpret your writing style as misogynic?

‘Disappointed’ would probably be a better word than ‘baffled.’ It’s human nature to mistake depiction for endorsement, I think. And I actually think the criticisms of more sophisticated readers, that negative depictions reinforce negative stereotypes, have a valid point to make–one that I would take quite seriously were I writing after-school specials. You know, stories about an Elfen child having difficulty growing up in a Dwarven home.

On the one hand I understand that many readers require overt ideological fidelity to enjoy books–why else would there be religious bookstores? People find agreement agreeable–full stop. On the other hand censoriousness is simply a fact of human nature, no matter where a person falls on the political spectrum. Since we all implicitly understand the power of representations, we often fear them as well. And of course, we all naturalize our values. So you have well-meaning fools like those behind the hate-speech legislation here in Canada, who have no real sense of just how prosperity-dependent democracy is, and so design legal tools to illegalize the public expression of bigotry, all under the daft assumption that those tools will always be used the ways they want them to be used.

- Which would be closer to the "darkness" that comes before: a symbol, a representation, or the "meaning" of an object, person, or event? Depending on the one chosen, could it be presumed that if one grasps an "essence," that one could gain a semblence of control over how that symbol/representation/meaning is applied in say religious or political affairs in Eärwa?

Like any philosophical concept, ‘the darkness that comes before’ can be used in innumerable ways. In The Prince of Nothing, I primarily use it to refer to the way our ignorance generates the illusion that we are always in control of our actions–an illusion that leverages simplistic notions of things like responsibility and the political intuitions that follow. But I'm just another reader now.

- Anything you wish to add?

Every time you hear some version of the imperative "Believe!" cringe and fear for the future. It is the clearest symptom that we live in a culture of wilful delusion–one that actively encourages billions to think they’ve won the Magical Belief Lottery.