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First volley of questions posted 18 July 2005 in Author Q & AFirst volley of questions by Ryo, Commoner

Hello again, Scott. I've been hard at it for the past week, and I think I've got a few pertinent questions to fire off, the first of which, of course, is whether I have your permission to use your answers in my actual paper. Naturally, a few well-placed quotations from the author himself that I attained through direct correspondence would make the presentation infinitely more glitzy (!), but I'll understand if you'd rather I not use them.
Anyway, here goes:

1. Being that I am working with The Prince of Nothing in the context of Canadian epic-fantasy, my thesis largely concerns the extent to which our fantasists promote or undermine the notion of a national "mythos". What role does the nation play in your work, and if the answer is none, why?

2. I tend to regard TPON in opposition to Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, largely because Fionavar serves the older colonial idea that for Canadian writers to produce the "fantastic" they must reinvoke Celtic Britain in some way. Earwa, however, is a clear departure from this. To what extent is it an assemblage of world mythologies / histories, and to what extent is it your creation? To what extent is fantasy (your own included), then, determined by what comes before the author who writes it.

3. Religious, linguistic, racial, and philosophical differences create troubling sense of fragmentation and otherness in Earwa. This is in stark contrast to the unity and synergy of Fionavar. Why did you create the world to be as disparate as it is? Also, being that the people of the Three Seas descended from the Ancient North, which was something of a militarily dominant hegemony, Earwa really doens't have a "golden age" to look back to. Was this intentional?

4. The abscence of gods is striking in these books, considering their subject of holy war. This, in combination with the textual captions which begin and set the tone for each chapter, establish Earwa as a man-made, man-written (Ajencis, Sejenus, Seswatha) man-driven world that is devolving terribly - gloriously existential. In Kay, the characters not only meet but often copulate with gods! The suggestions that come to my mind that there are any governing metaphysics in Earwa are when the plains of Mengedda "vomit up" the dead (which stumps Kellhus a little at first, being the ultimate atheist) and when Mog-Pharau's servant appears at the end. Are there gods in this story? If so, why are they abscent?

Alright. That's all I have for now. I'm sure as soon as I send this off another dozen questions, all better than these, will come to me. If it's alright, I might pop a few more your way as I proceed.
Thanks SO much again for helping me. Let's keep in touch (I'll even send you a copy of this thing when I'm finished it!)

Ryan view post


First volley of questions posted 18 July 2005 in Author Q & AFirst volley of questions by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Hello again, Scott. I've been hard at it for the past week, and I think I've got a few pertinent questions to fire off, the first of which, of course, is whether I have your permission to use your answers in my actual paper. Naturally, a few well-placed quotations from the author himself that I attained through direct correspondence would make the presentation infinitely more glitzy (!), but I'll understand if you'd rather I not use them.


I haven't managed to copyright everything I say - yet. So by all means, quote at will.

1. Being that I am working with The Prince of Nothing in the context of Canadian epic-fantasy, my thesis largely concerns the extent to which our fantasists promote or undermine the notion of a national "mythos". What role does the nation play in your work, and if the answer is none, why?


True story. Where I grew up on the north shore of Lake Erie we had 5 channels, one Canadian (out of London, ON), and PBS, NBC, ABC, and CBS (out of Erie, PA). Since I pretty much lived out-of-doors, I was typically keen on knowing tomorrow's weather. The problem was that we preferred the American channels (primarily because we only had to point the aerial in one direction to get four channels), and they only showed the weather up to the south shores of the Great Lakes. My little corner of Ontario was always a blank space between Michigan and Ohio, so I would literally extrapolate the lines and icons to figure out what I could expect. Years after, especially once I started living in Nashville, I realized that this was a good metaphor for my experience as a Canadian in general: an extrapolation from foreign shores.

I think this makes Canada a quintessentially modern nation, in that our identity as a nation is not a thoughtless inheritance, but rather a self-conscious construction. You have to work to 'feel Canadian,' which is why there's this sense in which Canadian identity is perpetually stuck at 'year one.' It's a conclusion that must be continually justified (which is probably why Canadians talk about being Canadians more than any other nationality I know of...)

And of course, this is the revelation that Kellhus brings the Three Seas: modernity. The self-conscious representation of what comes before makes its thoughtless repetition impossible. Beliefs and biases that were once simply assumed, such as the animus against homosexuality, find themselves dragged into the social game of giving and asking for reasons (where, since they require commitment to arbitrary authorities like the Bible or the Quran, they generally don't do very well). The old, traditional imperatives, including those dealing with ethnic and national identity, become more and more meaningless, and so we fall back on those imperatives that transcend our fractured cultural backgrounds: our biological drives, which is to say, our need to feed and to fuck and so on. Consumption, as opposed to salvation or submission, becomes the central structural feature of our collective life. Our universal animality rather than our distinctive cultural background becomes more and more decisive.

'Nation,' in my work, is one of many traditional categories that Kellhus threatens to collapse.


2. I tend to regard TPON in opposition to Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, largely because Fionavar serves the older colonial idea that for Canadian writers to produce the "fantastic" they must reinvoke Celtic Britain in some way. Earwa, however, is a clear departure from this. To what extent is it an assemblage of world mythologies / histories, and to what extent is it your creation? To what extent is fantasy (your own included), then, determined by what comes before the author who writes it.


There's no way to communicate period, let alone create a 'fantasy world,' without referencing some shared set of associations. The question is one of fidelity - understood in a value-neutral sense. I self-consciously chose Tolkien's 'middleroad,' as opposed to Kay's high fidelity (quasi-historical) or Mieville's low fidelity (carnivalesque) use of extant cultures.

Ultimately there's no escaping what comes before. We're all oracles, mouthpieces for forces--for pasts--greater than ourselves; it's only our brain's inability to see itself as a brain that generates the illusion that things are otherwise - that we possess these bootstrapped things called 'souls' or 'minds' that somehow stand outside of things.

But then that could be my new book, Neuropath, talking.


3. Religious, linguistic, racial, and philosophical differences create troubling sense of fragmentation and otherness in Earwa. This is in stark contrast to the unity and synergy of Fionavar. Why did you create the world to be as disparate as it is? Also, being that the people of the Three Seas descended from the Ancient North, which was something of a militarily dominant hegemony, Earwa really doens't have a "golden age" to look back to. Was this intentional?


To be embarrassingly frank, I set out to outdo Tolkien (not because I thought I could, but because I'm addicted to setting outrageous goals) in something that I call 'narrative transcendence': the peculiar ability of language to construct realities. But where Tolkien had concentrated on creating a mythical reality with historical overtones, I wanted to create a historical reality with mythical overtones. Thus the absence of a 'golden age' in the mythic sense. I took our own world history, with its murderousness, countless details, and numerous strata, as my model.

4. The abscence of gods is striking in these books, considering their subject of holy war. This, in combination with the textual captions which begin and set the tone for each chapter, establish Earwa as a man-made, man-written (Ajencis, Sejenus, Seswatha) man-driven world that is devolving terribly - gloriously existential. In Kay, the characters not only meet but often copulate with gods! The suggestions that come to my mind that there are any governing metaphysics in Earwa are when the plains of Mengedda "vomit up" the dead (which stumps Kellhus a little at first, being the ultimate atheist) and when Mog-Pharau's servant appears at the end. Are there gods in this story? If so, why are they abscent?


The gods in our own past were essentially explanatory heuristics: rough and ready ways to explain natural and historical events. Our ancestors anthropomorphized their world: they explained the results of what were in fact blind processes in human terms. But since natural and historical events are random and human-activity is generally not, only certain 'character types' would work. So the gods were capricious or remote or jealous or mysterious, and never forthright or even-handed or articulate--you get the picture.

This is why the Hundred Gods are aleatory agencies, both inaccessible and indiscriminate. But they play more of a role than you might think.


Great questions, Ryan! Keep firing if you still got ammo... view post


First volley of questions posted 18 July 2005 in Author Q & AFirst volley of questions by Ryo, Commoner

I will! And thank you for the detailed responses. This stuff is gold! Your claim that consumption defines collective existence (modernity) fits beautifully, because many of the secondary sources I'm applying to your work - scholars who rightly or wrongly can be called "post-national" theorists - say similar things. That is sort of the structure of my paper: Kay as ultra-national (which in a Canadian context can mean obsequiously anglophilic), and your work as post-national, meaning you've written away from the nation by voiding your colonial context, and you've refused to deliniate a cultural standpoint. In effect, I argue that your work frees Canadian fantasy from Canada.

Anyway, when I digest what you've given me and come up with some more questions I'll send them off. Thanks again, so much!

p.s. Is Neuropath a philosophy book you're working on, or fiction? This is the first I've heard of it. view post


First volley of questions posted 02 August 2005 in Author Q & AFirst volley of questions by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Everyone should be free of Canada! <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

Neuropath is a near-future psycho-thriller I'm presently writing to take a wee break from the fantasy. view post


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