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RB: With Star Wars thereís a lot of invented history, with the Age of Unreason you had to do a lot of the plumbing around in the history. How different is your approach to something like Babylon 5 or Star Wars: The New Jedi Order compared to your original fiction?
GK: Thereís obviously a difference. To a certain extent with Star Wars...with Babylon 5 I was much freer. With Babylon 5 I had a pipeline straight into Babylonia, I did in fact meet Stracynzski and watch him film an episode. There werenít that many books and the books before mine werenít generally not considered canon by Stracynzski. All I really had to as research for those books was watch all the shows which I was already doing and provide a brief outline. I had a great deal of creative control.
Actually in Star Wars, I had a lot more than I thought I would. For instance, before my book we hadnít yet really seen any of the Yuuzhan Vong castes except for one warrior or lieutenant, so I got to shape up the place and the Shaper class and the underclass and that was a lot of fun. A great deal of fun. The biggest difference between Star Wars and The Age of Unreason in Age of Unreason, the people I felt accountable to, the people glancing over my shoulder to see if I was getting everything right, were a handful of individuals somewhere. Essentially, professors of some sort who would know ĎPeter the Great never did thatí whereas with Star Wars I have these fanatical fans who know everything...they know what color the light sabers are, they remember what Mara Jadeís said six books ago about something. Youíve also got these beloved characters that if you get something wrong, people really donít like you.
RB: Yeah, Iím sure R.A. Salvatore got some slack for knocking off Chewie even though it wasnít his decision.
GK: Oh yeah, it was not all Bobís decision. I guess it was Troy who killed Anakin in the next book after I set him up as a cool guy. These decision were not really made by Troy or Bob. I guess I understand why people get mad at us with Chewie and what not. .
You may have noticed in The Briar King thereís a kind of a high attrition rate after the introduction of the early characters. Part of that is I feel that if I donít make you believe right away that somebody will die, you will never believe it.
RB: Yeah, everybody will get resurrected at the end...
GK: Whereís the tension if you know that none of the original, Han, Leia none of those people can ever really actually get killed.
RB: Unless the Big Guy on the Ranch says so.
GK: (laughs) Yeah (laughs)
RB: With your success, within the genre (Locus Bestseller, le Grand Prix de líImaginaire Award for Newtonís Cannon) has your approach to writing changed?
GK: That award was kind of a surprise, it was a French award. The Grand Prix de líImaginaire French equivalent of the Nebula.
GK: Like the Nebula in that itís voted on by writers, publishers and editors. My book won for best foreign novel. They called and ask if they could fly me there to come and pick up the award. And this was not too long after 9/11, but they thought we would be leery of flying. I said, no give me the ticket and Iím on my way. It was very interesting, very, very interesting convention because it was unlike any American convention that Iíve been to. It was very, very seriously about Science Fiction and Fantasy. There were no Hello Kitties running around.
RB: No costume parties and the like?
GK: It wasnít about fans really, though there were a lot of fans there. They were there to have deep discussions about "What is Science Fiction for?" "What is Fantasy for?" I did these panels in which, besides the fact that we are doing them in 3 or 4 languages with a translator, they took it real seriously over there. I go to conventions here in the States, and they are fun, I try to had as much fun as anybody at DragonCon, but the level of discussion [in France] about SF&F was not something I was used to, it was a lot of fun. It was also fun to get some very different perspective. There are all these writers from all over Europe over there, and Asia for that matter.
These are people, who are...say youíre a Polish Science Fiction writer, odds are you arenít in it for the money. Thereís a real fervor about that I just donít often see around here
RB: Doesnít sound like its as commercial over there.
GK: No, itís really not. Obviously everybody who is a writer there is trying to sell their work. Itís to be read, not to make a lot of money on it, because frankly, they are not. I know what my foreign sales are like and I couldnít subsist on that. It was really interesting, I had a really good time.
RB: Is The Briar King going to be published in the UK, or will people need to go through amazon.com, to get the US edition?
GK: No as a matter of fact we just concluded a really nice deal with the Pan Macmillanís newly launched TOR imprint. I think its just there and Germany so far.
RB: Was the Age of Unreason handled over in the UK?
GK: Nobody. England wouldnít buy the book.
RB: A shame, I guess theyíre still may be a little sensitive about the Revolutionary war.
GK: (laughs) No. (laughs) My first two novels sold in UK and that was done by Orbit.
RB: One thing I find is that the way you were saying that people at the French Convention were taking the genre more to heart, I donít know if this is a misperception because I am an outsider to the UK, but it seems to me in the UK as if they take Fantasy & Science Fiction more seriously Literature.
GK: I understand your point and I think youíre correct. Here it is taken as sort of light entertainment or it isnít taken seriously at all. Mike Stackpole and I were just talking about the phenomena, and sort of referring to the certain classes of the literary science fiction writer, something I admire very much. He said we were all fighting to see whoís going be the first one in line to never to enter literary canon. Itís just a paraphrase...thatís where a lot of SF&F writers have made a name for themselves, being taught in grad school and Yale and comparative lit course.
RB: Seems to be happening though at least on the undergrad level. When I graduated years ago as an English major, one of my higher-level lit courses a few years ago was a Science Fiction Literature course books like Dune, Frankenstein, watching Blade Runner, etc.
GK: I was an anthropology major so I was sort of disconnected exactly from what was going on in Lit crit. I do know there is a bias against it on that side. Thereís also another bias against that in the general reading population, in that people just think its strange or weird, they just donít want to deal with it.
GK: The problem with it from a literary view is that, talking about it earlier are the data dumps. In science fiction and fantasy we have to spend so much time explaining the world to you, take up so much ink on that. We donít get to spend as much time doing classic, things people do in classically well-written literature recognized
RB: Literature with a capital "L"
GK: Yeah, Literature with a capital "L." We donít have as much time to spend on character development and other things because we are trying to explain this world to you and these ideas. Iíve noticed things that do get into the canon are dystopian, Brave New World. They tend to be these dystopian allegories. But if I am writing a novel in the here and now in the present, not Science Fiction or Fantasy, and I say "Heís driving a blue Buick," thatís pretty much all I have to say to give you the image of it. But if start describing some far future contrivance moving around in space, I have to explain it all to...explain exactly what a Ďblue Buickí is, explain about internal combustion engine and all of that.
RB: Info dump, almost.
GK: Exactly, when you spend more time doing that, frankly traditionally SF&F writers havenít been nearly as concerned with the things that go into Literature with the Big L. I think thatís changed, it certainly has changed. As you know, there are certainly writers out there who can write every bit as well as....
RB: Like Gene Wolfe...
GK: Oh yeah...Gene Wolfe would be certainly somebody I would point to.