New Steven Erikson interview

Some of you have been waiting for this one for quite a while, so here it is! Sadly, I didn't have time to do a Q&A when Dust of Dreams came out. Fortunately, Erikson was happy to oblige when I queried him about the possibility of doing an interview late in the game.

Ken from helped me out with this one. In addition, a few questions came from fans from All in all, this is another interesting interview with the author, if I may say so myself!=)

If you have yet to discover Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by all means do so ASAP!:

- Gardens of the Moon (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Deadhouse Gates (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Memories of Ice (Canada, USA, Europe)
- House of Chains (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Midnight Tides (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Bonehunters (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Reaper's Gale (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Toll the Hounds (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Dust of Dreams (Canada, USA, Europe)


- Are you happy with the way DUST OF DREAMS has been received thus far, what with the cliffhanger ending and the fact that it is essentially the first installment of a two-volume novel?

I track things for a time, usually at the start, but invariably someone decides to trash whatever book is being discussed; it's not the trashing that bothers me, it's the often inane observations accompanying that trashing. I'm as human as the next guy, after all, though over the years my skin has toughened and, ultimately, I continue to go about my business unaffected by criticism -- even still, it does sometimes seem that reviews (ie amazon reader comments) attack with a hidden agenda that baffles me. What's become clear via the internet is that some readers of certain writers confuse their pleasure at that writer's work and end up positioning themselves in some weird kind of belligerent loyalty: as if other writers were somehow competing with their favourite. It's an odd notion, and for what it's worth, I often hang out with said writers and, surprise, we get along just fine, and bizarre ideas about competition or rivalry, well, they are the exclusive inventions of fans, not us writers. As to the lengths such fans will go, now that's alarming indeed. But it's all misplaced and a waste of energy, as far as I can see.

Having said all that, the only thing that rankled me in some of the reviews was the expression of doubt regarding my ability to pull off this finale, to which I respond: for fuck sake, there's been nine books so far, and each one has delivered the punch I intended (even if some readers objected to some of those punches), so where does this doubt come from? I'll deliver. I always have and there's no sign of stumbling this time around. Yeesh.

But generally, it does seem that most of my genuine readers remain on board, which is a relief (especially after the ruckus with Toll the Hounds), and certainly the cliff-hanger ending was forewarned enough for people to be all right with it.

- A decade following the release of your fantasy debut, how rewarding is it to see the 10th anniversary edition of GARDENS OF THE MOON hit the shelves?

Very rewarding, and that one combined with the Sub Press editions, well, wow, I couldn't be more pleased. See below!

- A few months back, Subterranean Press released a gorgeous limited edition of GARDENS OF THE MOON. How special was it to see your fantasy debut receive such a treatment, and what are your thoughts regarding the sublime artwork by Michael Komarck?

I loved the lower priced edition, and then upon my return from San Jose I discovered the high-end edition had arrived in the mail. I was floored. Simply gorgeous, and the thought (dream?) of one day seeing the whole series in that format has my mouth watering. The privilege of being given a list of potential artists and then being able to choose one was wonderful, and how can I have any regrets over Komarck? The illustrations are simply stunning and I'm reminded to see if I can beg some prints from him....

- What has changed the most about the genre and writing in it since GARDENS OF THE MOON was published?

I don't know. Hmm. Cover designs have to some extent moved away from what they once were, with more efforts to cadge fantasy novels into the mainstream. A flurry of young writers have arrived to push the limits, which I think is healthy. Seeing the resurgence of Glen Cook's Black Company series was most pleasing (and after reading that interview with Glen, why, next time I see him I'll buy the first round).

One discernible change is the role of the internet, but that almost goes without saying. Once, thousands of years ago when I was just starting out, writers produced stories and books and all they had to say was in their fiction. Now, they speak in their own voices, in blogs and such, and that's stirred things considerably. We're no different in feeling the need to fire a salvo every now and then, across the bow or rather more directly on target, and sometimes the fallout gets ... heated. And, for all that I said upon beginning this interview, ultimately I think a writer should speak through his or her work; all the rest is just fluff. Often well-written fluff, but still. That said, some writers truly know how to exploit the new media, in terms of self-promotion, and my hat's off to them. But for me, even the thought of it has my head ducking down. Gun shy, I guess, or maybe it's that I'd probably end up sounding off on things a little too forcefully. Best I keep my mouth shut, for the most part (and these interviews are like cracks in the smoky glass, I dart out, then back in again).

- How do you feel that your writing (including interests and goals) has evolved over the years you’ve been writing the Malazan books?

Questions like that are almost impossible to answer. What begins as balls ends up as confidence, but isn't that just a question of semantics? My writing changes all the time, in my own mind, as does my relationship with it. My interests shift, find focus, and then move on. As for my goals ... unchanged. I set out to do something and I'm almost done. It does feel like a long haul, but then, what else would I have done with my time (I shiver to think)?

- You spent the better part of last summer working in Mongolia. Do you feel that such a break was required for you to finish THE CRIPPLED GOD and The Malazan Book of the Fallen they way you and Esslemont have always envisioned the series?

Well, not that kind of break. It definietly wasn't what I had in mind, and if nothing turned out the way I thought it would, well, it doesn't seem to have affected writing the last novel. The effect of near-death experiences did serve one thing: my sense of mortality was heightened and with it arrived a combination of fear and desperation -- to finish what I started, to at least get that done before the clock stops ticking. Any psychiatrist worth anything would simply nod at that: it all comes with something coming to an end, with the closure of what has been a major investment in my adult life. And so, even as I write, I'm aware of the grieving process -- and I'm using it mercilessly, as I am with all the other emotions lit awake in me right now: a sense of getting old, breaking down physically, of seeking some sort of legacy -- now, apply all those to the characters in my tale, and to the series itself, and you'll see just how well it fits.

- Speaking of Esslemont, how far along is he with STONEWIELDER? Now that you are bringing the series to a close, do you two work closer together to ensure that everything works the way it was always meant to be?

He's delivered the manuscript a couple months ago. We worked out plenty in San Jose.

- Rumor has it that you and Esslemont are writing a Malazan novella together. I'm aware that it is probably in the early stages, but what can you tell us about the project?

We are, but the bigger stuff keeps getting in the way. It'll get finished, eventually. Basically, we're alternating chapters and running with our own characters, leading to some sort of ... you guessed it, convergence.

- The fourth Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella, CRACK'D POT TRAIL will soon be released. How different is your approach to writing short fiction compared to the process of producing the epic Malazan volumes? And no pressure, but when can fans expect the next adventures of our two favorite necromancers?

Oh my. Crack'd is a special case in every way imaginable, as shall soon become obvious. My approach in the shorter stuff only differs from that regarding the bigger stuff in the tone and voice I choose. I lighten up with the novellas, only to find that if anything it gets even more vicious and outrageous.

I hope to rip another one off as soon as I complete The Crippled God. This new one ... it's about yobs.

- Having released THE DEVIL DELIVERED, do you have plans to write another futurist/sf book at some point?

I do plan a near-future sf novel, though more 'literary' than sf. Can't say much more about it, yet.

- All of your novels have several themes which are present throughout the length of the book - referrenced by the narration and characters, or simply made evident through the plot itself. These often set the tone of the book and add a lot to atmosphere - thoughts on the cyclical nature of civilisations while the characters are in the ruins of Raraku, Nimanders musings on the nature of leadership leading up to the finale of TOLL THE HOUNDS, etc. Do you choose these themes before you start writing, or do they simply develop as you write? Do any of the themes have special meaning for you (other than the obvious links to anthropology and archeology)? And what would you say is the overarching theme of the series as a whole?

I try to tie themes to particular characters: their points of view with their story arcs, and if those two elements are tied together sufficiently, a biofeedback ensues to affirm both (the progression and growth of the character, and the sense of inevitability to their tales). I don't think it's simplistic to say that every age is an age of flux, at least in the history of civilizations (those pre-humans who made the same damned hand-axe for six hundred thousand years or whatever don't quite obtain, hence qualifying things with 'civilizations'). We have always lived in interesting times, to revise the Chinese curse. And it is in this sense that themes born on this world flood over into the created one: I don't think I ever fought with that. This world is my cattle prod and the charge is a sharp one.

All themes, alas, fascinate me, but if boiled down, they are relate to the relationship of our species with our world (including with our fellow humans); which is just another way of saying 'the human condition.' How can one not obsess over that?

- After the massive commercial success of the Lord of the Rings films, do you look at the growing mainstream success of authors like George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, following in the impressive footsteps of Terry Pratchett, and take comfort that genre fiction is starting to become more accepted as a whole by society? Do you think the perceived social stigma attached to it can ever be overturned so that authors such as yourself are compared on a level playing-field to those who write in other more widely "respected" genres? And, I suppose, do you actually care?

No, no, and sometimes. With each writer you have named, the critics invariably practise exceptionalism: these writers are not fine representatives of their genre; by virtue of their fineness, they have left the genre. By this alchemy the stigma remains. Will my stuff someday cross that threshold? What if it does? I will simply have been made ... exceptional.

- There doesn't seem to be any middle ground where the Malazan series is concerned. Readers either love it passionately, or hate it in visceral fashion. Do you have any idea what it is about your writing that makes the series so divisive?

Hee hee. Recall that crack in the smoky glass? It's squeezing shut, Pat. You just asked a most pointed question, and to it I dare not answer.

- What's the progress report regarding THE CRIPPLED GOD? Any tentative release date at this point?

Hope to be done by the beginning of the summer. It's coming along just fine. My son has read what I've done to date, and looks at me and says: "It's all going down, isn't it?" And no, he doesn't mean that in any negative sense. But he's right. It's all coming down. It's all coming down.

20 commentaires:

Jake Di Toro said...

Seeing this interview reminded me to look up Erikson for eBooks as I'm getting a Nook soon. It saddened me that the only results to a google search were rapidshare and torrent sites.

Perhaps a good future question for Q&As and interview wowuld be that authors eBook status and why they are or aren't publishing electronically.

Jeff C said...

Aahz: if you happen to live overseas, you can find ebook editions of Malazan. But yes, here in the US, we are screwed at the moment. I recently blogged about the lack of ebook versions of popular fantasy series. The situation is kinda ridiculous. Here is hoping the Malazan editions are out by the time book 10 hits shelves. Either that, or I figure out a way to buy them from a UK site (while living in the US).

alabrava said...

"No, no, and sometimes. With each writer you have named, the critics invariably practise exceptionalism: these writers are not fine representatives of their genre; by virtue of their fineness, they have left the genre. By this alchemy the stigma remains. Will my stuff someday cross that threshold? What if it does? I will simply have been made ... exceptional."

I found that comment particularly interesting, and for the most part true.

Jake Di Toro said...

Jeff C: Good point on the rights at home and abroad (wherever home may be). A followup/clarification to my original question then.

Anonymous said...

When he mentions the beginning of summer, does he mean summer 2009? Or 2010?

machinery said...

the man is gifted, there's no doubt about that.
the only thing that bothered me about the books is the huge span of years dealt with, and the histories that are kept after hundred of thousands of years.
but disregarding that, I find no flaws in the series.

The Amazing Buttcrack said...

Anon: Considering there are only three days left in 2009, doesn't stand to reason that Erikson meant summer 2010???

Just saying...

Anonymous said...

well yeah, but I thought this interview had taken place much earlier and pat only got round to posting it now. maybe i'm misunderstandng.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of Midnight Tides right now. I assume this interview has spoilers for those of us early in the series? I'll read it but I doubt that it is spoiler free

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another interesting interview Pat. Can bearly wait for the Crippled God and Stonewielder next year.

Don't worry for those who fear spoilers, there is none in the interview.

Anonymous said...

looks spoiler free to me. read and enjoy !

Unknown said...

Steeeeeeeve! He's the man. BTW I still haven't recieved the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach that I won back in Aug. :(

Lex said...

Nice interview! I like the part about the cracks in the smoky glass.

Chris V said...

I really need to get my hands on the high end edition of gardens of the moon. Is this the one?

Also I know it is kinda stupid but I am waiting for the mass paperback of dust of dreams, just so I have the entire series in the same size and with the same cover style..

Adam Whitehead said...

@ Chris

No, that's just the standard anniversary edition of GotM. The high-end one with Michael Kormack art is by Subterranean Press:

As you can see, it was a limited edition that's now sold out from Amazon UK.

Anonymous said...

"There doesn't seem to be any middle ground where the Malazan series is concerned. Readers either love it passionately, or hate it in visceral fashion. Do you have any idea what it is about your writing that makes the series so divisive?"

My brother and I are both fantasy fans, but disagree on the Malazan series. And it seems to come down to: I appreciate the 'realism' and my brother can't stand the 'bad things happening to good people.'

ediFanoB said...

Great interview!
I read Gardens of the Moon for the first time this year and it was breathtaking.
Not long ago I won a copy of the 10th Anniversary Edition of Gardens of the Moon published by Bantam Press. Tat was the trigger for a reading project.
In 2010 I will read all available Malazan Book of the Fallen books.Starting in January I will read one book per month.

irriadin said...

Should have at least asked him about the timeline issue, haha.

Chris V said...

@ adam: Thanks, shame they are sold out, should have guessed of course but still. I really would have liked to have one.

Anonymous said...

For those interested in electronic copies of the series, Waterstone's in the UK ( has the first 8 at reasonable prices - GBP 8.50 (around USD13) per volume, two books to a volume. Waterstone's will happily sell them regardless of your current location.