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Richard Morgan Interview at CHUD.com

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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2007 - 09:25 pm:   

Quiet around here, so let's be sure that we've all seen the interview with Richard up at CHUD.com:

http://www.chud.com/index.php?type=interviews&id=11912

There you go.
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Monday, October 22, 2007 - 04:36 pm:   

Thanks, Will, nice interview. Also check out
fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com (Pat's Fantasy Hotlist) for a teaser of Richard's new fantasy. Sounds like it's going to be really good. Maybe Richard could give us a hint as to when it's coming out (sooner or later in 2008?).
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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 08:37 am:   

errm - seems like it's August 08. Which is nice, gives me some elbow room while I shake out the specifics of plot.

Hope it lives up to expectations - positive AND negative expectations, that is, because from the comments following Pat's post, and on some other sites as well, it seems the news is already causing something of a minor squall among those who think variously (a) I shouldn't be writing fantasy at all, or (b) I shouldn't be doing it like this, or (c) no-one should be doing it except George R R Martin.

heheheh......
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 09:28 am:   

Well, who can say about people's expectations...

If you want to live up to expectations, just re-write Altered Carbon over and over. However, there are those who appreciate that you don't do that, actually find it refreshing for an author to have the nerve to do something different with each book. Of course, those of us in this group must be the more mature, intelligent readers. Truthfully, most fantasy/sci-fi fans I've talked with lately are getting tired of fantasy series where every book is the same, and they're savvy enough to appreciate an author who dares to be different.

As for GRRM--I think I finally threw his books in the trash. He seems to have something against women, because his female characters are either cold and manipulative or whiny and ingratiating. And talk about reading the same thing over and over...heheheh

Now, how soon can I pre-order??
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richard morgan
Posted on Friday, October 26, 2007 - 01:29 pm:   

Can't really comment on GRRM - the last thing of his I read was "Fevre Dream", which was fine, I thought, a very workmanlike southern gothic vampire tale. But that was back in the late eighties, which was.......eeek, twenty years ago....which in turn means I must be.....old. The point was rammed home when I saw a copy of FD in Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks. Time passes, shudder.

Anyway, I do hear from all and sundry, editors, readers, other writers, most with no axe to grind, that Martin is pretty good, a major benchmark for modern high fantasy and so forth. Once I get done with The Steel Remains, I'd better go and check him out. (Though I rather suspect Steve Erikson is going to be first in the line, I've been meaning to get to his stuff for some time).

The female character thing is an interesting point, though, and problematic, as I'm starting to find. Basically, it's very hard in a krypto-medieval setting, to have credible strong female characters in any number. Any culture where people wander round wearing swords and axes (and using them on each other on a regular basis) is just not going to value females as anything but breeding machines or trophies. There are a couple of escape hatches from this (women borne into very high status, belonging to an alien race, having the assistance of a very powerful male), but it doesn't do to overuse these options, otherwise the fabric of your willing suspension of disbelief starts to tear.....
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Friday, October 26, 2007 - 02:51 pm:   

Hmm...well, this is interesting. I do enjoy your strong female characters, so that's one of several reasons I've been looking forward to The Steel Remains. Now I'm a little concerned. It seems in fantasy you'd be able to have strong female characters as well, I mean, it isn't real life, can't you do whatever you want w/o a suspension of disbelief? I'm having a hard time buying your explanation of the difficulty of writing a strong female fantasy character--but then I'm not the one having to write it, eh. So basically are women either needing to be rescued or just in the background as a trophy? Hope not...I like the idea of female warriors weilding swords. When women to through tough times they either become the little match girl or get tough.

It's true GRRM is popular, gets plenty of kudos, and I don't know why. Guess that's a subjective thing. Will be very interested to hear your honest evaluation once your read his series. I did enjoy his first book, but each book after, the characters didn't seem to develop or learn anything from their experiences, they just kept being more victimized. However, it's been awhile since I've read them, maybe I'd have a different opinion these days. One of my friends said she thought his characters are just plain mean, with no other redeeming qualities. (And I'm not sure what "high fantasy" is).

On the other hand, you must read Erikson once you have time! He's best when he's being sardonic. And most of his female characters are wacky, or strong, and thus interesting. I like Erikson for his wit and wacky characters, you for your passionate characters, but you both I think have a similar message in your books. I'm finishing up Bonehunters now--the British edition has much better artwork than the American edition, btw.

Ha, you're not old, sorry.
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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 02:21 am:   

It's true GRRM is popular, gets plenty of kudos, and I don't know why. Guess that's a subjective thing. Will be very interested to hear your honest evaluation once your read his series. I did enjoy his first book, but each book after, the characters didn't seem to develop or learn anything from their experiences, they just kept being more victimized.

Well, they do learn, those that, like, aren't dead, not that this leaves many of them...

Personally, I find GRRM awfully good, and his later stuff much better than Fevre Dream which I found very self-consciously decadent. I just wish he got on with it and finished the damn thing.
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Javier Bernedo López
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 05:26 am:   

"As for GRRM--I think I finally threw his books in the trash. He seems to have something against women, because his female characters are either cold and manipulative or whiny and ingratiating. And talk about reading the same thing over and over...heheheh"

Well, the male characters are cold, manipulative, whiny or ingratiating too.

In fact, some of the strongest characters are women...

And for modern fantasy, the king is Scott Bakker, Prince of Nothing is the best fantasy since...well, itīs the best fantasy ever. In my opinion, of course.

P.D.: Congratulations for your new website, it looks great
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 09:11 am:   

Anna, Could you give me some specific reasons why you find GRRMS fantasy awfully good? I've been trying to analyze more carefully exactly why I don't like it one bit. So far, 1) being relatively new to fantasy, I tried to read the whole series at once (a mistake!); 2) perhaps because of this and because there are so many books, it seemed to be very soap-opera; 3) I never cared about any of the characters except Jon and the king's illegitimate son. I don't know whether or not I don't care what happens to the characters because they are cold and unlikeable on purpose or because they are poorly written.

Javier: I also tried to read Bakker but wasn't able to get past the first few chapters. Why is it the best fantasy ever, and did you find it so from the very first page? If I give it another go, at what point will I find it not boring?

Have either of you read Steve Erikson's Malazan Empire? That's the best fantasy series ever! (Perhaps only until Steel Remains comes out, no pressure on RKM!)

Richard: I don't know what "krypto-medieval" means. Obviously I'm naive about how difficult it is to write a fantasy novel (need to do more research in the various kinds of fantasy such as heroic, epic, etc.)
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richard morgan
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 10:45 am:   

Thanks Javier - glad you like it.

krypto-medieval - sorry, Linda, I misspelled that one, it should be crypto- (meaing "hidden", "disguised" - as in crypto-fascist!) What I meant by that was that most high (read "trad.") fantasy settings are basically the European middle ages (or even earlier) in some colourful disguise or other - there may be dragons, there may be magic, there may be demons, but by and large guns have not yet replaced swords as the preferred means of combat, royalty is still the default setting in government and the fastest known way of getting about is by horse. There may be other specific layers or anomalies to each author's particular world, but underneath it all an essentially medieval period landscape still holds sway. Generally, readers would be very surprised (and some scandalised) to find modern field artillery or electrical technology popping up in this type of fiction because there is a set of tacit assumptions at work.

Of course, not everyone is included under that banner - Naomi Novik's HM dragon series is set in the Napoleonic period of a parallel universe, China Mieville's "hidden" template for the Bas-lag novels is more reminiscent of the Victorian era, and David Gemmell, unless I'm much mistaken, wrote a whole series of "magic and muskets" novels alonside his more trad sword and axe sagas. It being fantasy, you can of course do whatever the hell you want. But a fantasy novel in which women are represented at all levels of society in numbers and significance appropriate to the late twentieth/early twenty first century western world is going to seem a bit suspect if there's no specified (or very very cunningly implied) explanation for why all these women are not locked into a lifetime of repeated pregnancy and eternal childcare. The odd exception to this dynamic wouldn't be strange (there've always been some women who somehow did manage to beat the odds and lead a life that was their own), but these would by definition be anomalies.
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 11:18 am:   

Thanks for the explanation, Richard.

Steven Erikson manages to represent women in all levels of society, as main and minor characters, and they are equal to men, and all without any explanation of the fact. It never even occurred to me to question it or to suspect that fact. However, I'm not certain now that his books represent any specific age (such as medieval/middle ages) or even if it takes place on earth. In fact I think the story takes place over hundreds of thousands of years. So would this not be a high or traditional fantasy then? I'm not sure how to classify it. All the other elements are there--the magic, swords, horses, etc. (And why is it I always thought using magic is cheating?)

So in your traditional medieval setting it would be problematic for women then. I think I get it now. And Steel Remains is more like GRRM in that kind of setting...a more traditional middle ages, medieval on-earth constraint. Well, this may be a challenge for you, as you do so well with strong female characters!

Is the synopsis on Amazon UK for Land Fit for Heroes still accurate? Between reading that and the synopsis on Pat's--I already like the story and the characters.
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 11:44 am:   

Thanks for the explanation, Richard.

Steven Erikson manages to represent women in all levels of society, as main and minor characters, and they are equal to men, and all without any explanation of the fact. It never even occurred to me to question it or to suspect that fact. However, I'm not certain now that his books represent any specific age (such as medieval/middle ages) or even if it takes place on earth. In fact I think the story takes place over hundreds of thousands of years. So would this not be a high or traditional fantasy then? I'm not sure how to classify it. All the other elements are there--the magic, swords, horses, etc. (And why is it I always thought using magic is cheating?)

So in your traditional medieval setting it would be problematic for women then. I think I get it now. And Steel Remains is more like GRRM in that kind of setting...a more traditional middle ages, medieval on-earth constraint. Well, this may be a challenge for you, as you do so well with strong female characters!

Is the synopsis on Amazon UK for Land Fit for Heroes still accurate? Between reading that and the synopsis on Pat's--I already like the story and the characters.
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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 01:13 pm:   

OK, let's see... I find his characterization very strong - his characters are all very flawed, but all in very different ways. Robert Baraethon is grandiose and oblivious, Ned is too honest for his own good, Sansa embraces all the delusions of her society without realizing or wanting to realize that they are lies, Aya (sorry, I don't remember her name well) is an incredible survivor, harder and smarter than most of her brothers - there are good-hearted traitors and simple psychopatic monsters, and vile-hearted traitors and monsters who unaccountably start to get human. Jaime, for example, as black a villain as one can picture, becomes a convincing pov character later on. Catelyn is a fiercely loyal character, smart and caring for her kids, but she can be terribly ruthless and very cold as well. Cersei has her reasons, and I can even sympathize with them.

His worldbuilding is simply derived from England during the War of the Roses, but where it differentiates from most fantay is that it aims (and, largerly, succeeds) in replicating the full rich and horrible complexity of that society - its economic reality (the war is doing more than killing a vast swathe of the characters - it is laying waste to the country - and the Winter is coming), its social stratification, and yes, the condition of women, who are invariably dealt horrible hands and have to make the most of it or succumb, the infinitely complex web of alliances, conflicts, neccessities and betrayal that makes the society tick - there is, for example, an innocent mistake made by one of the protagonists who tries to be honourable and precipitates a shift in alliances that ends up in a massacre of several major characters.

And Martin doesn't sweeten the pill, ever, and any. No matter how good, honest, smart a character is - he gets the chop because, in reality, that's what would happen. He doesn't gloss on the indignities, the cruelties, the injustices of history.

What he depicts, in the totality of the series, is the complete deterioration of a society. At the beginning, everything is more or less reconciled, and even the crimes of the past seem forgotten. It is clear who is the good guys and who is the bad ones. But the Winter is coming, and everybody is ignoring it but the Watch - and the Stark.

But as the story progresses every truth is uncovered as a falseness. The good guys are monsters, the bad guys are heroes. The upright heroes were moved by political necessity to countenance crimes. The criminals acted out of love and the inability to tolerate evil for longer. The characters we thought were our point of view are killed off - and so, symbolic, the reader is too, over and over again - his expectations thrown off in a way that they can't negate are justified, inevitable.

The country stops preparing for the winter. There is no longer a clear authority. Family, love, honor, mercy, all gradually disappear. Towns are laid to waste. The little people are swept here and there, with no defenders - and you start, gradually, seeing them, seeing what was through the cracks in the glitz and glamour of the high society.

Martin at one point joked that if people didn't stop speculating that there were going to be eight books instead of seven (or some such), he was going to WRITE the eighth book and it was going to be seven hundred pages of the wind shifting ash around bones. That is certainly where the story seems to go, and that is what Europe looked like after the Thirty Year War - it's not as if Martin is making any of this up.

A lot of fantasy is by the numbers, Martin is really painting: painting with history, characterization, and some ruthless yanking the carpet out of his readers' feet and giving them bitter reality when they expected the comforts of fictions. He also paints a genuinely grandiose picture, and what he lacks in worldbuilding (I think his names are silly, for example) he makes up in depth and complexity.

I don't know what kind of resolution he's planning and if it will be satisfactory. I suspect that he's counting on the gradual almost imperceptible emerging of magic to solve things.

I also find the narrative totally gripping, so much that, in fact, ahem ahem, I skipped a lot of plot strands because I just couldn't wait to see how others panned out, and therefore I suppose that sooner or later I'll have to go back and re-read the whole thing, which now seems a bit daunting.

I think, though, that while one can objectively admire what Martin is doing, wether one likes it or not is very subjective. I like it. A lot of people can't stand it.

(Hei, I can admire what Tolkien does and still can't stand re-reading LOTR. Same thing with China Mieville, I love what he's doing, I love his worlds, but just can't care enough for the characters to enjoy his books.)
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Javier Bernedo López
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 02:17 pm:   

"Javier: I also tried to read Bakker but wasn't able to get past the first few chapters. Why is it the best fantasy ever, and did you find it so from the very first page? If I give it another go, at what point will I find it not boring? "

Well, Bakker plays with A LOT of references. Some examples:

- The first book is a recreation of the crusades. The holy lands, Constantinopla, The Pope Vs the Bizantinum Emperor. The failed crusade. The motivations of crusaders. Itīs not a copy, but if you know crusades is amazing how he plays with them.

- There are sentences of Homer or Churchil in the book. And, for sure, there are more references to historical people in the book, but I just havenīt found it.

- Each land has his own philosophy. The people of the war has a complete philosophy around the war. For instance, they say: "to win a battle, the only thing you have to do is convince the opponent that they have lost the battle". And thatīs the exactly way the ancient battles worked. Not kiling more people, not "taking the flag", just convince the opponent. See Gaugamela, Zama, any ancient battle.

- The second book plays with the idea of the "god-sended". Itīs amazing the analogy between Kellhus and Christ. It makes you think about.

- It breaks all the expectations you can think reading the book. The book is, mainly the second, totally epic, but with a tone "epicless". Take the battles of The lord of the rings and writte it with a "Terramar" style.

- The caracthers of A song of Ice and fire are great. They have motivations and are intelligently explained. But the caracthers of Prince of Nothing have opinions, soul, differents ways of wathching life. And when you think you know them, they changed in a radical way because whatīs happening in the book, not in a illogical way, in a "real" way.

I think, Prince of nothing is the first fantasy book that breaks the limits of the genre. Terramar was the first attemp and I love it, it was a fantasy novel but not an epic novel. Malazan, A song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the rings are great, but void books. Itīs just pure (and great, really great) entertainment. Prince of Nothing has the environment of the great epic novels and the depth of Ishiguro, Lem or Steinbeck.

P.D.: Sorry for my english.
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Javier Bernedo López
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 02:22 pm:   

"Have either of you read Steve Erikson's Malazan Empire? That's the best fantasy series ever! (Perhaps only until Steel Remains comes out, no pressure on RKM!) "

Unfortunatly, thereīs only the first book translated into spanish. I read it and liked it very much. I have read half the second book (in english), but itīs too long and has so many "secrets" that you have to read carefully that exhausts me. Itīs really great, but the prose is just average (comparing with Bakker) and lacks the depth of Bakker.
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Linda Palapala
Posted on Sunday, October 28, 2007 - 09:27 pm:   

Anna, very good explanation of GRRM--I'll have to try and re-read it, keeping War of the Roses in mind. However, I found it interesting that, as much as you are impressed with the plot and characterization, you skipped a lot of plot strands! That's what I ended up doing. And wasn't it handy that GRRM titled each chapter with the character's name--it certainly made it handy to know whose plotlines to skip! (And I agree with you on Tolkien and Mieville--this is another reason I'm so looking forward to Richard's fantasy, as I always care so much for his characters.)

Javier, your English is very good. Thank you for your thoughts on Prince of Nothing (especially the depth you say it has) I'll have to try again as well.

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