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By Patrick (2006-06-29)Q: You mentioned that it was important for you to write "fun" novels. I found THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA to be quite refreshing in that regard. Are you trying to set yourself and your work apart from those dark and gritty fantasy epics that are now the norm?
Scott Lynch: Oh, I don't mind dark and gritty one little bit. I just like to vary the reader's emotional experience. I like my books to be beautiful and cruel, exhilarating and harrowing by turns. I find that makes it all the more effective when you do start, say, dropping axes on characters, or making their situations grimmer. Dark and gritty *can*be fun; just look at Matt Stover, Michael Moorcock, George R.R. Martin, Mary Gentle, Joe Ambercrombie, Alan Campbell...
Q: The advance praise and the critics have created a very positive buzz surrounding the release of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA. How happy are you about that? Are you afraid that this might raise readers' expectations too high?
SL: Well, of course that's always a danger... but would I prefer a lukewarm early response instead? Oh, god no... there's really nothing I can do about it if someone fixates on this book as a messianic event and then gets upset that it doesn't cure cancer, you know? I can only hope for each reader to be fair to the book, but each reader also needs something different from a book, and will react differently to it. If hype helps get the book into as many hands as possible, at least there's that, isn't there? In that respect, yay hype!
Q: Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?
SL: Ouch. I can't have both, said the author, grinning madly? I love the WFA statuettes, those little busts of H.P. Lovecraft... I think they're just about the coolest award out there. And the list of WFA-winning novels (I'm trying to read them all as we speak) is such a lovely, subject- and genre-spanning collection of great work, it'd be heavenly to have a book of mine join that company. But I also want to make a career of this, to have a steady readership for many decades, to have happy editors and publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. So if I had to choose just one, I'd say put me on that NYT list. Pretty please.
Q: Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.
SL: Well, you can't really escape the condescension. Sturgeon's Law,"Ninety percent of everything is crap," applies to everything. But as several people have observed, "literary fiction" tends to be judged by its glowing ten percent while genre fiction tends to be judged by its crappy ninety. There are an awful lot of gilded turds taking up shelfspace in the "Fiction and Literature" shelves of the big book chains, and as anyone with half a functioning brain knows, quite a few sparkling gems tucked away next to the gaming tie-in boxed sets.
I generally shun worry about this, because ultimately it isn't thecontemporary critical establishment that gets to choose which bodies of work will have a posterity and which will fade into the mists of time. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. Great literature chooses itself, and survives across the decades and centuries, regardless of what was said or done at the time of its writing. Do you honestly think, if given the chance, that the greatest critics and academics of the 19th century would have chosen to exalt Dickens, Austen, Conan Doyle, Twain, Poe, etc. above everything else they had on their shelves at the time? Those of us alive today don'tget to choose what will be remembered and cherished in the early twenty-second century. We pays our money and we takes our chances, you know?
Besides, as my editor said to me on my recent trip over to the UK, you know, so many "literary" writers and promoters would kill to have access to the support network that genre fiction enjoys-- the specialty stores, the eager readers and fans, the websites, theconventions, and so forth. Each time the "pity us, some know-nothing jerks in the literary world don't like genre" subject comes up, it might help to remember what a vibrant, involved, and invitingcommunity we have by comparison.