Posted in The Inquisition

A Movement Within Fantasy?

I’m not even a third of the way through the Inquisition’s gruelling range of questions, but I’m still doing my best to confess, preferably while implicating everyone I can think of, innocent or guilty.  Inquisitor Colm asks:

A pretty art-w*nk question here:

Do you consider yourself as part of a general movement within fantasy (Third Wave?) and do you find yourself consciously comparing your work to traditional fantasy, or even some other new strands of fantasy (e.g New Weird – Mieville springs to mind)? Or do you just write what you know and others have imposed these tags/descriptions on you?

I think these ideas of movements naturally appear some time after books are published, and therefore necessarily a long time after they were written.  It may be that some writers come to the job with an explicit mission statement, but my experience was that I started writing with only the vaguest ideas of a purpose beyond producing the sort of book I’d like to read.  With time you maybe see a lot of readers making similar statements about your intentions and goals and approach and start to think, ‘yeah, they’re right, that is what I was doing, I AM A HIGHLY POLITICAL GAME-CHANGING VISIONARY.’

The truth of the matter, as far as I can remember it, is much less impressive.  I played a lot of role-playing games and read a lot of epic fantasy as a kid, got a bit bored with the way it seemed to stick closely to a predictable formula, largely stopped reading it at the start of the 90s and read other things.  Then I read GRRM’s Game of Thrones and saw that it was possible to do something daring, unpredictable, gritty and character-centred while still writing in the commercial core of the genre – I saw a lot of what I felt had been missing very clearly expressed in that series.  Some time after that, in 2001, I think, and largely because I found myself with time on my hands as a freelance TV editor, I started trying to write, initially without the slightest expectation of being published.  My aim, insofar as I had one, was to produce my take on a classic epic fantasy trilogy, very much in the vein of Lord of the Rings, David Eddings or Dragonlance, but with a tight focus on vivid characters with setting very much a backdrop, a grittiness and hence a punch and drive to the action, a lot of twists in the plot (almost a mystery plot, in a way), a stripped-down modernity to the prose, and above all a sense of humour.

I wanted to write gritty, honest, truthful, funny, surprising, exciting, entertaining, thought-provoking epic fantasy.  Whether I have succeeded in any of those aims is, of course, for others to judge…

Other than Martin, I was pretty ignorant of what had been going on in the genre during the previous decade, let alone of what people were writing at that moment, but it does seem that there were quite a few people with similar experiences and approaches to me, because around the time I was published in 2006 a whole crop of other authors appeared who have gone on to be very successful by employing various twists on epic fantasy – many gritty, many witty, many surprising in all sorts of ways – and I’ve heard quite a few of them give very similar answers about their influences and intentions to the one I just gave above.

So I guess you could say I’m part of a movement to that degree – a loose group of authors who write similar kinds of work based on similar experiences and intentions.  Is that “third wave”?  No idea.  Certainly the First Law was very consciously a take on epic fantasy – an experiment with and a comment on the form, as well as hopefully an entertaining example of the form.  The three standalone books have been slightly different, tinkering with combining epic fantasy with other classic forms and structures.  New Weird I know much less about, and has always been hard to define, but I’m less interested myself in that which deliberately eschews familiar structures and aims at something almost disorientingly strange, surreal and fantastical, than I am in twists and reinterpretations of the well known and well understood.

Art-w*nk enough for ya?

Read more | 36 comments | Posted in process, The Inquisition

Just How Bad Was Your First Draft?

The Inquisition should be uprooting treasons and bringing dangerous criminals to book, but they just won’t leave me alone, and it seems they’re fixated on the process of writing, or at least what passes for it in my case.  Today a question via email from Practical George Allen, who describes himself as, “a cringing, neurotic, self-deprecating […]

Read more | 15 comments | Posted in process, The Inquisition

Why the Third Person?

Inquisitor Joseph asks, presumably while fingering his glittering instruments in as menacing a manner as possible: When writing, what made you decide to use third person? Because its easier? Would you recommend writing in third person, or do you think it’s more of a personalised choice? Also, when describing things, do you think it is […]

Read more | 26 comments | Posted in advice, process, The Inquisition

Do You Read Lots of Fantasy?

Back to the Inquisition, and I get the feeling I’m going to be in the chair for some time.  Matt asks: Do you read pretty much every new fantasy book that comes out and are their any current sf/f authors you regard as rivals of yours? Ah, other writers, other books.  This one may land […]

Read more | 67 comments | Posted in process, reading, The Inquisition

Why no repeat Points of View?

Back to the Inquisition, and there are going to be some serious spoilers on this one right from the question, so if you haven’t read all my books, I would STRONGLY suggest you look away, right about NOW, and buy them all. Still here?  OK, then.  Tolmie Wright asks: “Read through Red Country, fantastic novel,” […]

Read more | 39 comments | Posted in process, The Inquisition

Why so Cynical?

Back to the Inquisition, and I’m working my way gradually through the many questions would-be Inquisitors have left there.  So without further ado, Pierre Colinot wanted to ask: “why you chose the ultra-cynical angle to write your books. Is it because you think it makes for better stories, is it because it is coherent with […]

Read more | 53 comments | Posted in opinion, The Inquisition

When is it Good Enough?

Judging from the response to the job advertisement for his Majesty’s Inquisition, there is some interest in putting me to the question, and I see several inquiries that already have my brain a-stewing.  Probably it’ll take me some time to get to them, but before I do, let us begin this interrogation with the question […]

Read more | 18 comments | Posted in advice, process, The Inquisition

The Inquisition

I started blogging way back in August 2007, would you believe.  That’s nearly 6 years.  There have been times when I’ve blogged more, times when I’ve blogged less, but by and large I’ve stuck to 1-3 posts a week, every week.  That’s a lot of posts.  Early in your blogging career you’ve a lot to […]

Read more | 156 comments | Posted in The Inquisition