Years ago, when I first began my study of writing, I was both fortunate and cursed to land, right off the bat, a spectacularly good workshop teacher for fiction. My initiation into the craft of writing was through a teacher and mentor who knew precisely what he was doing, and by that I mean, he was conscious of everything he wrote. That was the fortunate part, as he awakened in me the same appreciation of the power of storytelling, and all that was possible provided you’d given serious thought to the effect your words would have, and could have, to a reader. But, alas, it was also a curse. I hesitate to say this, since it is bound to be misconstrued as arrogant (when the truth is, it’s more desperate and frustrated than arrogant). You see, what made it a curse was that, thanks to that first teacher, I proceeded on the assumption that all writers knew precisely what they were doing: with every word, every sentence, every paragraph and every story.
In one sense, consider Karsa’s tale at the opening of House of Chains as a walk back through time, to the world of, say, Beowulf. As much as we find Beowulf entertaining as a poem, and can even admire it, its ‘barbaric’ sensibilities are profoundly alien to us. Here we have a hero (Beowulf) who shows up as a stranger, only to spend an evening bragging about his superiority over all others, before ultimately usurping Hrothgar’s kingdom… if I may humbly ask this: if you saw Karsa Orlong sitting at Hrothgar’s table that night would you feel him out of place?
The question is: how far from our own sensibilities can we be pushed before it’s too much? Is it his brazen arrogance? Is it the culturally-acceptable rapes? Is it the slaughter of townsfolk, the rejection of Karsa’s companions due to their failures—their weaknesses? Is it his unquenchable self-belief? His need for vengeance? His excessive vows pronounced seemingly without thought? His rejection of civilization? His rejection of enslavement? In other words, where in that Conanesque code of conduct do we reel back a step, shaking our heads?
Through the years, at signings, book tours and in interviews, I am often asked about the RPG origins to the novels set in the Malazan world. Depending on the time and energy I’m prepared to commit to my answers, I have been both vague and specific; but generally such venues are not the place for an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the Malazan novels and RPG’s.
Recently, while attending Eurocon and taking questions from a large audience, I was again reminded that, despite the plethora of computer and console gaming, the old paper-based system of gaming remains popular and without doubt (in my mind) to a large extent continues to shape the approach many readers take to fantasy fiction.
Welcome to the first post in what’s sure to be a long and interesting project: the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by the hosts Bill Capossere and Amanda Rutter (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In the first article, they will cover the prologue and first chapter of Gardens of the Moon (GotM).
A fair warning to all: they’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, so while the summary of events may be free of spoilers, the commentary and reader comments most definitely will NOT be.
Welcome to a new blog series on Tor.com, the Malazan Read and Re-read of the Fallen! The hosts are Bill Capossere (reading the series for a second time) and Amanda Rutter (reading it for the first time), and in the coming months they will read, re-read, discuss, summarize, analyze, scratch their heads in confusion, wonder out loud, possibly argue (courteously), occasionally criticize (also courteously), marvel, and, at times, bow to the superior knowledge of Tor.com’s readers as they attempt to dissect the epic fantasy world created Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. As they finish each book in the series, both writers will appear to help to do a wrap-up!
The following ramble initially began as a personal letter to the author of Endgame by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006 by Seven Stories Press, a multi-volume treatise on civilization and its non-sustaining nature. It was basically written in two parts, the first being an ongoing commentary written while reading the books; and the second part a more direct ‘letter’ which I wrote after giving Jensen’s positions considerable thought, in particular his notions of how environmental destruction can end through the active destruction of civilization.
Initially, I was responding to various assertions Jensen made regards what he sees as the idyllic and only sustainable form of human culture: the hunter/gatherer society; and later to his avowed desire to return humanity to that state of existence. With respect to his observations on the psychotic nature of civilization, I actually have no argument: his vision is a clear one. Where I took exception was with his ‘solutions,’ namely, bringing down civilization.