Wired into the Imaginary...

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Scott Bakker, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    I never planned on being a writer, and yet I wrote and wrote for a period of almost twenty years. I built this immense and very dark world for nobody. It just occurred to me that I'm really not sure why - aside from the fact that I obviously enjoyed it. Certainly it has a lot to do with Tolkien and Herbert and Howard, the three men who scarred my imagination the deepest.

    There's something about digging your fingers into the muck of emotional and historical associations we all share, and sculpting something at once both ancient and new. That's probably it. A good old fashioned god-complex!

    So there you go, I started this thing not having a clue as to what to say, and now I've gone and said too much. Which is pretty much all a book is, if you think about it.
     
  2. Spears&Buckler

    Spears&Buckler MJ Dusseault

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    Very interesting way to start off, which leads me to a question for you, Mr. Bakker, if I may be so bold. I have your book The Darkness That Comes Before on deck right after I finish The Runes of the Earth. It definitely seems very dark and also extremely detailed. One answer you have already stated: you've been writing this story for twenty years. Was it ever difficult for you to keep going with it? How much patience must one have to build a world so in-depth as the one you've created seems to be? I only ask, because I find myself at my wits' end most times while I write. Thanks.
     
  3. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    I'm on deck after Donaldson, you say?

    *gulp*

    For me the biggest problem, hands down, was that I was never satisfied with my writing ability. I had this story I wanted to tell - that I had to tell - but my writing never seemed to do justice to my expectations, and so I found myself spinning my wheels in the space in between. I sometimes think I spent so much time expanding and deepening the world because that allowed me to avoid writing the story... I 'loved' writing, but my writing didn't seem to love me back.

    The thing is, I was in university all this time, writing essay after essay, reading primary text after primary text, and then at some point I can no longer identify, my knowledge and my ability suddenly seemed a plausible match for my ambitions. I was suddenly happy with what I was writing.

    The old adage is true: people love what loves them back. The key for me was to keep at it until I my writing seemed to love me back.

    That's my story, but so much depends on your temperment, and I'm constantly surprised at the descriptions different authors give of their own creative process. The only constant, I think, is to make sure you keep doing it.

    At least that way something is always happening.
     
  4. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Hey Scott, I am so glad that you will be here now with your own forum. I am kind of getting used to chatting with you. This makes it easier.

    I honestly believe that anything you write would be compelling and thoroughly interesting! PW doesn't lightly make superlative comments about new authors. Knowing you, I will be able to read your books with a different insight, and I think that forums like this one will help everyone to understand and appreciate the complexity and thought that goes into your books.

    Have you considered writing a novel in any other genre? I have written a few myself, but my love is undoubtedly fantasy. As I have told you before, when I am writing fantasy, I close my eyes and my mind just flies.

    I am certain that there are direct links in the brains of those who gravitate toward deep thinking, speculative philosphy, self-understanding, and the love of speculative fiction. And yet it astounds me that so many people fail to see the genre of fantasy as more than swords and sorcery.
     
  5. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    Thanks to you, Gary! This was a great idea. Thanks for the invitation for the kind sentiments - right back at you!

    I actually have a draft of a novel I wrote immediately following The Darkness That Comes Before called Neuropath. Once I'm finished The Thousandfold Thought I intend to rewrite it so my agent can start shopping it around this fall. It's a near-future psycho-thriller.

    I'm one of these crackpots with literally hundreds of ideas for different books - in all genres. But I suspect epic fantasy will remain my true love for some time, with breaks now and again to do something science fictiony.

    The heat that fantasy - and epic fantasy, in particular - take from the 'literary mainstream' burns my ass. There was a time when I referred to my 'hobby-that-dares-not-speak-its-name' as 'speculation fiction' because I was actually ashamed of the words 'epic' and 'fantasy' used in conjunction. I stopped as soon as I realized I was being a poser. Since then, I've literally lost count of the number of times I've seen eyes glaze over when I tell literary types that I write epic fantasy. Sometimes I swear I can even hear the door click shut.

    Stereotyping lives. Flourishes in fact. Those literary bastards ;)
     
  6. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    It's even funnier with me sometimes. I say that I write fantasy, and when people question whether I write for children, I always say, "No, it is quite adult." They then assume that I write pornographic novels!

    Myself, I have always been proud to be an author of Epic Fantasy. For me, since it has been such a source of enjoyment and fascination all my life, as well as a provocative experience during some very formative and impressionable years, I have no hesitation about telling people. But then again, i am no longer in an academic situation professionally, so I don't have to contend with that mindset.

    I find Fantasy to be among the most literary of genres today. Am I crazy? It's poetic, descriptive, imaginative, inspiring and thought provoking. What more could I ask for. I expect the same things from the music I listen to.
     
  7. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    It comes down to the all too human tendency to tar things with one brush. We'd rather dismiss and simplify rather than live with any real consciousness of the overwhelming complexity of things.
     
  8. JRMurdock

    JRMurdock Where have I been?

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    Scott, as I'm unfamiliar with your work (and the fact that you don't have a website), what are you current works? Or are you going to force me to go to amazon.com and search for them?

    I don't know when the appeared, but I think the new author forums is a great way for our 'local' authors to get the much deserved attention they need.
     
  9. Spears&Buckler

    Spears&Buckler MJ Dusseault

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    There is a website, although I don't know if it's an "official" website.
     
  10. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    Websites...

    The two books I have out are The Darkness That Comes Before, which was recently chosen for Publisher's Weekly 'The Best Books of 2004' list. And The Warrior-Prophet, which recently made Amazon.ca's 'Customer's Favourites: The Best of 2004'...

    My official website (which is woefully out of date!) is The Prince of Nothing

    My fansite (which always welcomes fresh avatars!) is The Three Seas Forum
     
  11. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    Hey, I'm a literary type! Mind you, mainly a poet, thus poor, marginalised, unknown and spat upon by literary novelists :) . You should see the average poetry print run.

    I know exactly what you mean by the snobbery, but one of the things that actually attracted me back to fantasy, after a break of two decades, was that it was rather disreputable, which is to say that it hadn't become hip like detective novels. That isn't lasting, I would say. It's becoming dangerously trendy. But that too will pass...

    When I first started writing this stuff, I was a little embarrassed: it felt a bit like I was coming out of the closet (I'm serious about "serious" literature and all that). These days I'm not embarassed at all. But I've noticed that the response when I say what I'm doing is a good way of sorting the sheep from the goats. I've been surprised by how many of my friends - serious experimental poet or musician types - have responded enthusiastically and positively, sometimes to an embarassing extent; and interestingly, I'm discovering that a surprising minority actually write the stuff themselves. Those who glaze over or tell me I'm "selling out" and will lose my "integrity" are usually people with a vested interest in the superiority of their calling over everything else and, I suppose, generally fragile pretensions. I always include my books on my literary biog, but only one person has edited them out because, well, it's a bit de trop, isn't it? But hey, that's their problem!
     
  12. Rocket Sheep

    Rocket Sheep I AM too a mod! Staff Member

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    Sheep, of course, being infinitely more desirable... ;)
     
  13. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    Naturally, Ms Rocket. (Behind me there's a chorus of showgirls singing: "There's nothing like a sheep", fireworks, sparklers and cannons going off, sparkly curtains coming down, smoke machines, SFX &c&c&c)
     
  14. Scott Bakker

    Scott Bakker New Member

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    Friends had better be supportive! Or at the very least polite...

    What I'm talking about are the people you meet at literary festivals and the like. I was invited to one at my alma mater, and at the reception (which was in an auditorium filled with formal wear) I was simply introduced as one of the authors (most of whom were Canlit types). Afterward, I had dozens of people come up to me asking what I wrote. My reply was simply 'epic fantasy.' Some were visibly embarrassed, others nodded, smiled and turned on their heel - not one was interested. Not one!

    The thing is I know that if I had euphemistically gussied it up by saying 'speculative fiction' - or even if I had said, 'hard core pornography' - people would have been interested.

    This has happened to me a few times now, leading me to the conclusion that epic fantasy is - in the minds of many - the antithesis of 'serious' literature. It's absolute boundary.
     
  15. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    Yes. My point was that interesting artists are generally not snobs, and that this boundary status is in fact a point in the favour of fantasy. For one thing, it's a real freedom. I am irredeemably middle class myself, but it's good to be able to get outside the rather bourgeois assumptions of most mainstream literature.

    I might add that the same set of attitudes tend to exist towards children's fiction.
     
  16. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    It does, though that is changing today faster than the perception of Epic Fantasy as literature. YA fiction is a broad and growing field, and there is a new cult rising among some authors and editors regarding the merits, literary and conceptual, of YA fiction today.

    Interesting artists are generally not snobs? You redeemed yourself there with the word 'interesting', though it did somewhat take the punch out of the statement. Have you been to many fantasy conventions in the US?

    What are those assumptions today, Alison? Morals have changed so much, and acceptable behaviour has a thoroughly different meaning now than even 15 years ago.
     
  17. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    Hi Gary - No, I've never been to a con in my life. When I leave my burrow by the sea, where I live a conventional family life with school, shopping, and all those relationships of everyday living filling my day, I generally hang out with artists. Theatre people, musicians, composers, a few writers. Beyond my friends, I move in and out of a variety of artistic communities in a random sort of way. I wear quite a few hats (why I'm a bit suss of genres with fences placed around them). What I'm saying is a fair reflection of attitudes I've encountered over the years. By "interesting artists", I mean people who are not hide-bound or riddled by prejudices, who are open to different ideas. No, on the whole they're not snobs; why should they be? They want to know what's going on, what's interesting; snobbery limits your horizons.

    Don't forget about reverse snobbery, either. It cuts both ways. Either way, it's limiting. I'd rather talk across boundaries myself, because I find it interesting.

    Writers of children's fiction (not just YA) still struggle with legitimacy, despite stars like Pulman or Rowling. The magic word in YA is "crossover", which I think is another way of evading the writing itself (what of stuff that doesn't "crossover"? Is it inferior?) Crossover excites publishers, because it means more sales, but I'm not sure it really indicates as mcuh as people say it does. Scrappy reviews in the mainstream press is the most obvious indicator fo what I'm saying, I guess.


     
  18. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I happen to own a finance company in New York, and the strength and blood of my company for all the years that I have been running it, is to finance young, artistic entrepreuneurs, primarily in the fashion and design business. I actually have a number of Australian clients as well - Annabel Ingall and Rebecca Taylor, to name a couple. I have been immersed in the art world in NYC - art, fashion and music all run together here - and I have worked with some of the most successful desingers today. What I have learned is that I cannot generalize, ever! Some are incredible artists like the designer Yeohlee. Some are commercial and care only about the fame and the fortune. Some I love, some I hate. Artists should have better sensibilities, you expect it of them. They should be less crass and less materialistic, but that is not always the case. I look for sensitivity in a person first. I need to know that they can feel, and that when they do they cherish it, rather than run from it. I also need to be with people who respect honesty and are not afraid of it.

    I mentioned Fantasy Cons for a reason before. They can be odd experiences for many. On the one hand, you go to talk to other authors in your genre, to participate on panels and to do a reading of your own work, but once you arrive, it seems very much like one big promotion. I am very bad at self-promotion, so for me it can become quite uncomfortable. A con just proves that art and artists come in all shapes and sizes, and that perceptions and reality are never quite the same. Some people are wonderful and truly genuine, and many are as phony as they come, yet they all are artists in one form or another.

    I had a run in with a very famous YA editor in Arizona in October. Crossover was her 'big' word.
     
  19. alison

    alison Books of Pellinor

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    It sounds to me that we're saying more or less the same thing - that one can't generalise. I don't deny that a snobbery about fantasy writing exists within the mainstream literary/artistic world, but I've encountered enough people who don't fit that rule to challenge that it's a general truth. (Nor was I hinting that fantasy authors are not artists). But maybe we're talking about different things: elective affinities vs public fora, like SFF cons.

    I don't expect that artists are better than other human beings, though it would be nice to think so. They're prone to all the human follies, maybe even more than most people. Sitting at a desk all day trying to write can be bad for the mental health: an argument for having a "real" job, I guess.

    I have to admit that the promotion stuff, although I do it dutifully if asked, on the whole interests me very little. I like being able to meet readers or other writers, and I love talking to children/young adults. When I do readings or appearances, as poet or fantasist, my primary motive is something else than selling books. I figure that selling is the publisher's job...!
     
  20. Asraloth

    Asraloth Space Cowboy

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    For the life of me, I can't understand the "literary" snobbery towards fantasy.

    fantasy, no matter what the sub-genre (epic, urban etc) requires a lot more work, when well-written, to bring to life entire worlds and show things about the human condition that can't always be shown by straight literary fiction.

    in addition to this, fantasy has more potential to be subversive.

    you might say, "bad fantasy is what gives the rest of the genre a bad name." but every genre contains works that are not as well-written as others, so why is fantasy any different?
    even if every fantasy novel ever written was trash, it should be recognised that fantasy, as a genre, has IMMENSE potential.

    but in the end, who gives a shit. i don't need the approval of literary snobs. i read and write fantasy (among other things) and i love it.

    now, if the literary snobs somehow take over the government and form a police state, and begin burning good fantasy books, then we'll have a problem.