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Names from a dream...

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  • Names from a dream...

    Here's something that's fascinated me of late. The names of your earlier protagonists mostly seemed to me to fit the conventions of the genre. The Elrics and Hawkmoons of this world, Renark the Wanderer, the Scar-Faced Brooder and so on all sounded like the kind of names a writer might think up in order to convey a sense of otherworldliness. The Cornelius/Brunner circle of course had that indeterminate European feel that you were aiming for. Later on, though, the simple (?) business of attaching names to people, creatures and races seemed to take on new level of unreality, which I thought was wonderful. Names like the Off-Moo, the Spammer Gain and so on (the 'Multiverse' graphic novel is full of examples) have that cryptic, dream-like quality of nonsense that makes perfect sense while you're actually dreaming about it - then you wake up and have a kind of linguistic 'Naked Lunch' moment! Can I ask if there was a particular process at work here, and/or there are specific derviations involved? It could just be that I'm no longer sharp-witted enough to pick up on the references if there are any! : )

    (The only comparisons from elsewhere that come to mind are Abberlaine Arroll from Iain Banks's The Bridge and (in terms of events rather than names) Alasdair Gray's Lanark.)

  • #2
    I think it's probably a reaction to what grows up around you.
    When I first started writing fantasy there were very few other fantasy writers, so what I wrote had a certain freshness for me.
    Then came the BOOM. This is what has probably led me to come up with names that are unfamiliar (such as Off-Moo and all the stuff in Blood,
    Fabulous Harbours, War Amongst the Angels). The same impulse to
    do something which hasn't been done before. As I've written elsewhere, it's very weird to begin in a genre which almost nobody wanted to publish (note the obscurity of Tolkien's publisher, normally a publisher of philosophy and psychology texts and my own first Elric publisher, Neville Spearman) and which people had trouble even identifying. Certainly there was no ready market for this kind of work. Most of what there was appeared in obscure small press imprints (Lovecraft in Arkham House, Howard in Gnome Press) and were it not for the nostalgia of certain
    American houses, like my editor at Lancer, for instance, I would probably not have reached a very large audience. The Hawkmoon books, for instance, was first contracted for by Lancer and only later sold in the UK -- and only much later appeared in hardback. I was aware of writing for a very limited audience. As the audience has grown to a vast size, I have been forced increasingly to find names, plots, themes, goals which are as unlike the others as possible. Because, for instance, I was alarmed at what I saw as the somewhat fascist undertones of some fantasy fiction, I addressed it in The Dreamthief's Daughter. Because I felt Americans were spending too much time on King Arthur and not on their own mythology I did The Skrayling Tree. These are all responses to the conditions under which I'm writing, at least as I write fantasy.
    Currently, with the last Pyat book, I find myself writing in an atmosphere of increased antisemitism. When I began the sequence we could reasonably suppose that antisemitism was a thing of the past in the West. Now there are indications that this isn't so. Therefore I have to modify my methods in the final Pyat book. I simply don't work in isolation. My books are always conceived as part of an ongoing dialogue with my readers, which is probably why it seems perfectly natural to me to take part in forums like these!
    Hope that makes some sort of sense. Interesting question.

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    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
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    Comment


    • #4
      Mike, What kind of things are you refering to when you say the new anti-semitism? As a white, middleclass, anglo saxon male I sometimes feel I am part of the most vilified class of people on the planet and I will be glad when I can live free without the guilt of being a member of that class.

      I have been fired twice in my entire career, both times recently and both times my immediate supervisor was Jewish and both times it was very upsetting. On one of the occasions my supervisor immediately replaced me with another Jewish person, and in so doing deliberately flouted labour laws. I must say that I have never held a prejudiced view against anyone, because I have often been a victim and I always sympathise with a person who has been treated unfairly. How many times does it take before a person who has been mistreated can come to the conclusion that they are the victim of prejudice? I am convinced I was disposed of to make room for a friend. Also despite being on the side of the victim both times I find that I am unable to discuss what happened because anyone who starts to make a claim against someone who happens to be Jewish, is immediately made to feel anti-semitic and a bad person.

      If I can find work, which in these difficult times seems to depend on knowing the right people, and if I am then unlucky to be unfairly fired a third time, I fully intend to use the full resources of the law whatever the cost and whoever they might be, something I should have done the first time.

      Comment


      • #5
        The problems between Israel and Palestine, for instance, have caused many people to voice a familiar antisemitism which I believe to be under the surface. This is particularly evident in the Mid-West and is linked to the anti-war feeling, which of course I share. But Sharon's heavy-handed and indeed often cruel response to Palestinian suicide bombs means that people who are actually antisemitic (rather than disapproving of his policies) have been able to voice these ideas without sounding as bad to the casual ear, as it were.
        I should add that as a white A-S male, in name and appearance if not in my mixed bloodlines (!), I know that I start with a natural advantage over people whose skin shades darker than mine. Even in Arab countries white skin is considered superior to olive. This is a simple anthropological fact. It means in other words that we tend to get the best jobs, best education and so forth. That kind of power, which wasn't asked for but just dropped into your lap, often doesn't seem like power,
        just as male power is taken for granted and not understood in the same way as women understand it. Those who do not naturally have this power are therefore inclined, quite rightly, to feel somewhat pissed off.
        It isn't your fault, but it's as well to be aware that you tend to start with a privilege, in a general sense, that the average black person, for instance, doesn't. Similarly, Jews have been the victims of prejudice for several thousand years, one way and another, and still experience it in subtle form on occasions in countries like the UK and US, where antisemitism is by no means predominant. I hear it fairly often -- even if it's just someone making a joke or remarking on a distinction. Those Jews who keep themselves separate from the culture could be said to
        'deserve' this form of isolation (it isn't really prejudice) as does any group (Amish, for instance) but where Jews are concerned there's too much history not to be sensitive to it. Personally, I'm all for assimilation and the sooner the better. I come from a city which has assimilated its immigrants far more readily than most American cities and I don't personally like the idea of separation or of any kind of prejudice, whether it's against white males or oriental people, but until we're all thoroughly intermarried I think we have to be sensitive to prejudice and fight it wherever we find it. I'm finding it where I had hoped it had disappeared and that disturbs me. I began the Pyat series because I was on a Russian ship coming into New York in 1977 and was appalled to be with a group of Germans and Russians who were making antisemitic remarks as bad as anything you might have heard in, say, Weimar Germany or pre-Revolutionary Odessa. The Germans were on their way back to Wisconsin, where they told me they found no prejudice against them...
        :?

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #6
          Because I felt Americans were spending too much time on King Arthur and not on their own mythology I did The Skrayling Tree.
          The Skrayling Tree and American Gods (Neil gaiman) are two of my favorite novels, and they both deal with American mythology. Interestingly enough, you are both British. Most American fantasists seem to be more interested in writing volumes of LOTR style phat fantasy these days.

          Just curious, what were some of the books you read to research for Skrayling?

          Comment


          • #7
            Well, TheSong of Hiawatha, for a start. Longfellow wanted to do for native American mythology what Tennyson did for Arthur. I also read a lot of native American myths (including Schoolcraft, which is where Longfellow got his material from mostly) and I immersed myself in my favourite American writers who were more or less contemporary with Longfellow -- Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorn and so on.
            Add a certain amount of Deerslaying, Pathfinding, Last of Mohicans re.
            Fenimore Cooper (who I happen to see with Scott as an ancestor of much modern fantasy fiction) and you have most of it there.
            The book specifically relates to Hiawatha, though, just as Gloriana is a sort of dialogue with Spenser's Fairie Queene.

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

            Comment


            • #8
              Mike, I agree with you that it would be helpful if people were more intermarried and I think I can say that I have done my best in that regard. I have wondered if having a muslim wife may have played a part in their decision to push me out. In such circumstances the mind can imagine all kinds of things that might have happened. The dishonesty, tricks and tactics that they used were extraordinary compared to what I had been used to in Europe. The VP of Eng actually faked falling out with the CEO and suggested that I copy my design files to a yahoo folder so that we could work on them together! His purpose being so that he could then use that fact against me should I try to contest unfair dismissal. At the time I was working too hard on the front cover feature of microwave journal to have time to even consider it and they fired me the monday after I finished the article. They told me that if I tried to appeal unfair dismissal that they would inform immigration Canada. This is just a very small summary of what took place, but somehow, just like Jhary threatened to do to the lost Gods in The King of Swords, I need to broadcast my message so that no other dogs will run their errands if and when the economy turns around. However, to do this I would probably need to leave Canada, bide my time and use the internet. On the other hand it would help greatly to put the episode behind me if the economy would improve so that I can find suitable employment, I should be at the peak of my career by this time.

              Comment


              • #9
                MM, it's kind of you to dignify my question with that response! I think in my own mind I'd probably trivialised the issue and was expecting a kind of craftspersons's answer - 'Well, I saw someone referred to as a spammer on this bulletin board, see, then a bit later I was turning up the gain on the Marshall stack I keep by my bedside, and suddenly I had this idea...' : ) But the explanation of your need to keep moving away, as it were, from the genre's existing conventions is intriguing. I have to say that yours is the only fantasy I've read for years, as I lost patience with the Conans and the Thongors of this (?) world almost as soon as I discovered them, so I've really got no idea where the genre's conventions have got to these days. Probably nowhere much.

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