Mar 2 2012 1:00pm

Ask Steven Erikson Your Midnight Tides Questions!

Midnight Tides Q&A with Steven EriksonNow that Amanda and Bill have concluded their reread of Midnight Tides, we’re opening up the floor to Malazan series author Steven Erikson for your Midnight Tides-related questions!

The procedure this time around is pretty direct. Steven will do his best to answer your questions in the below thread as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the timing of the answers is subject to Steven’s schedule, of course.

There are no strict guidelines for questions, but concise and well-composed questions are always always always best! And once again, a big thank you goes to Steven for taking time out of his schedule to engage in depth with fans of the Malazan series!


Malazan Reread of the Fallen: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Chris Lehotsky
1. Tel_Janin
First off, thanks to you and ICE for inventing such a vivid world, and for telling such great stories in it. I'm sure this has been asked in other forums in the past, but here goes. How much of the Letherii storyline did you have planned out before hitting HoC and MT? I know there are small bits of it floating around in DG and MoI, but I think I read somewhere that the Lether/Kolanse continent was added to the world later on in the creation process. Thanks again! I can't wait for Forge of Darkness.
Darren Kuik
2. djk1978
Hi Steven, thanks as always for taking the time out for questions.

Most questions I could think of were recently addressed in the reddit Q&A so I don't have a question as much as a comment. Midnight Tides is Trull's story to the T'lan Imass. I anticipated on first read that we would see the exact final straw that leads to Trull's shorning and being chained in the Nascent. Yet for all his doubt and indecision and the varying degrees of hints as to what the cause of his shorning will be, we don't see that final event in Midnight Tides. For me at least that was a surprise. I should probably have expected it from you. I guess in terms of a question did you always intend to leave that part out or did the end come as a natural break with anything to follow resonating as a bit anti-climatic?
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
Hi Steve,
First a Midnight Tides kind of question:
I've often wondered how Tehol & Bugg first met. Tehol posting a want add, Bugg selling knitting? Any glimpse there would be fun. As @4 points out, Tehol says he met Bugg while Bugg was embalming their parents. I had forgotten. So, I'll modify the question to what did Bugg see in Tehol to become his servant and just what was he doing as an embalmer in Letheras?

Then, have you read "A Path to Coldness of Heart" the next Dread Empire from Glen Cook yet (or seen that it is out)?
4. Osyris
@3: I seem to recall this being alluded to in MT actually. It was stated that they met when Bugg was involved with the burial of the Beddict parents. Someone correct me if I am wrong. I wonder then, if this was by design on Bugg's part or simple coincidence?

Steven, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I do not have any specific question but would just like to say that I am in awe of your writing and your books have made an everlasting impression on me. I cannot wait for the Kharkanas trilogy!
5. McflyCahill90
Hey Steven!

First of all, just wanted to say that I read through The Malazan Book of the Fallen like a thirsty man gulps water; I couldn't get enough of it. My jaw was just about on the floor by the end. Masterful storytelling, and a hell of a ride, nothing but respect to you and ICE.

My question then is, as an aspiring writer, especially in the epic fantasy genre, I find I'm having trouble really outlining and planning my story. In a series such as MBOTF, what was your process or your frame of mind when planning such a massive undertaking? Book by book, character arc, story arc? I feel I'm being swept up in too many ideas and not concretly planning my story step by step. Any thoughts would wonderful.

Also, just a hopeful secondary question, any tips when it comes to worldbuilding? I find yours was some of the deepest and best in the business. Any tips or ideas on worldbuilding would be super cool, but totally fine if you can't get to it. I imagine you're going to have a lot of questions!

Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions and thanks again for a wonderful story. Best of luck with all your new writing. Can't wait for Forge of Darkness!
Dustin George-Miller
6. dustingm
Hi, Steve. Let me add my voice to those thanking you for making yourself available to fans to ask questions about your writing, your characters, and your world.

My question, which may or may not have been addressed prior, is this: As a devoted devouer of audiobooks, is there any chance that we might see your Malazan series on CD/digital audiobook at some point? And who would you like to see (hear?) read your novels? (I'm partial to Steven Pacey, but I'll settle for... well, anyone)
7. james lockwood
Thank you for such a great series. Our there going to be more books in the malazan saga?
8. Tufty
Hi Steve!

Do you envision the civilizations of Wu having a common calendar and seasons, such that the start of a new calendar year is the same in Darujhistan as it is in Unta?

Midnight Tides shows us the extreme effects a lone Jaghut ascendant can have on the climate of a quarter of a continent, lasting millenia - would this cause problems between, say, northern and southern Lether if they can't agree on what time of year the kingdom has "winter"?

The basis of this question is that as an obsessive fan I've realized that a bunch of supposed "timeline issues" aren't problems at all if Quon Tali and Darujhistan have opposite seasons a-la North/South hemisphere, but more importantly I'd just like to hear your opinion on the whole idea of international calendar sharing on Wu.
Iris Creemers
9. SamarDev
Hi Steven, welcome again in our small but dedicated reread-community! We have red and black names here, I wonder if the TOR-mods could add golden accounts for honorable VIPs like you? :-)

1. Your writings are very layered often, and you hide clues about peoples identities or plotlines along the road, before finally giving the last obvious info which definately resolves it. For example, in MT we had all those little bits about Bugg/Mael, like snoring like the tide in a cave.

When you write this, are you (chuckling or not) guessing about at what point an alert reader should be able to connect the dots? Is it kind of a game to be obscure about it for as long as possible, but obvious enough to create a 'slap-my-forehead-I-didn't-see-it-before'-moment when you look back as reader?

2. In the comments of the last chapter, there was a nice discussion about the qualities of the Beddict brothers. I take the liberty to quote Taitastigon's summary of this discussion.
* Brys = martial crafts, Tehol = economics, Hull = cultures.
* Brys brings his physical opponents down, Tehol brings economies down, Hull brings cultures down.
* Brys does it as his duty, Tehol on devious purpose, Hull inadvertently.
And all three are highly idealistic about their activities. Three interesting outcomes for idealism...
Could you say something about whether / how this fits to your own ideas about the brothers?
Tai Tastigon
10. Taitastigon
Hi Steven,

as ever, phantastic book and cycle. And the reread is pure gold.

Questions ?´s funny..during the reread, I have many; we get to the end, I am always so exhausted...damn...

But here goes: You seem to love your dynamic duos, especially for the lighter side. Iskaral Pust/Mogara, Telorast/Curdle, kinda Fiddler/Hedge, kinda Quick Ben/Kalam, Kruppe basically with himself ( ;o) ), and last but not least Tehol and Bugg. To come up with the dialogue, have you been influenced by some classic comedy groups in the past - like Monty Python or the Marx Brothers ? Because specifically in the case of Tehol and Bugg, I always got the *groove* that their *gig* was the Marx Brothers at their wildest, with a pinch of Unabomber and Lenin chipped in for spice (measured as an average of MT and RG). Am I too far off ?
karl oswald
11. Toster
Hi Steve! Thank you for joining us once again.

My question is about demons in general, and lilac in specific. you've presented us with demons who don't quite fit the trope before (Pearl), and now you give us Lilac, who is nothing more than a caster of nets, and yet everyone who knows him refers to him as a demon and allows that to colour their perception of him. we've had in-book discussions about the use of the word demon (Karsa and the Teblor after discovering Calm), so I want to put the question to you: is you're characterization of certain demons as more 'human' just an attempt to flip the trope, or is there something deeper at work? Specifically, I'm wondering if you think that 'humanity' as we understand it, is an inherent quality of all life, even that which we might refer to as 'demonic'?
Joe Long
12. Karsa
Hi Steven -- could you comment on the epilogue of MT? Mael kicks the CG's ass...but that is in retrospect that is a particularly large failure of "compassion". does Mael just not get it? or was it simply "you messed with mine, now you have to mess with me?" when you wrote it, did you expect (or hope?) people to realize how Mael fell into a trap that we all fall into and that when we first read it, we cheer...but in subsequent readings we realize that Mael's behavior was as "inappropriate" as the CG's lashing out.

question 2: if Trull went to Lilac's home, would Lilac's family think Trull is a demon? would they be right?
13. Mrglum
Hi Steve.
Last Q & A, I wasn't aware that these would get answered, so I made kind of a snarky comment which you answered with a question of your own. The gist was, why would I want an us versus them, what is this series about again? I would answer that the very next book we re-read here on had an answer inside of it, in that if we look at the other side of the battlefield, them will usually be an awful lot like us.

This book is definitly not a story of a monstrous culture of faceless brutes fighting a civilized and heroic culuture, though that is a theme which comes up all too often in both fantasy and sci-fi. Was it hard to humanize both sides of the conflict, in that in both of the cultures there are things both disgusting and inspiring?

For much of the book, many of the characters felt helpless to stop a headlong slide to war. Does it take a special kind of person to step outside of the zeitgeist of their own culture? Why do so few wonder why the us versus them mentality has gained such momentum, and even among those that do, why do so few try to make a difference?

Is it worse to not be aware at all, like some of Rhulad's friends or many of the Letheri officials, or to be someone like Seren, who understood what was happening but felt both powerless and apathetic?

Thanks for the good read in this series.
14. Isoroku
Hi Steven, I'm really enjoying reading your works!

My MT question is: how old are the Tiste Edur? I guess this is really two questions - the first being how old are the actual characters like Rhulad, Trull, Fear, Uruth, Mosag, etc and the second being how old can they live? They do seem a lot more human-like than the millenia-old, ennui-filled Andii from MoI.

Thanks so very much!
Bill Capossere
15. Billcap
Hi Steve
And as always thanks for taking the time to do this.

Now that we're a big chunk into the series, I had a more general question. Are there any characters in these first books that surprised you? Did you begin writing in a character thinking they weren't going to do much and then find them becoming more integral or entertaining and thus "forcing" you to write more of them? On the flip side, I was wondering if you recall any "failed" characters--those you came up with that for some reason didn't work or worked but needed to be edited out to streamline things? Finally, in this same vein, are there any characters in these first novels where the fan reaction to or reading of the character surprised you?

thanks again

16. ChrisK
Hi Steven!

First of all many thanks for your series. It's been a continuous source of inspiration, awe and emotional roller coaster since I got hooked on Gardens ten years ago. Never before (nor after so far) have I read and reread a single book let alone a ten book series so many times as I did and do with tMBotF. Guess that short story trick of yours is working.

As for Midnight Tides, it'd be more than cool if you could comment on these ones:

1) Shortly before Udinaas and Feather Witch pay their first visit to the refugium, you mention T'lan Imass present in dust form all over the place crossed by the advancing Edur. Does that mean the Imass inside the refugium are actually dream-like projections of those T'lan Imass, and do Ulshun Pral and his tribe essentially exist in two places simultaneously?

2) If that's the case, is leaving the refugium synonymous with waking up?

3) And finally, is there a connection between the refugium and the Mhybe's dream world (although I'd guess no, given that the refugium is apparently older.)

Many thanks and all the best,

17. Mythical
Hi Steven

It almost seems counter intuitive to ask any detail or plot orientated question about specifics within just this book. Part of the strength and depth of the series is that sense of mystery regarding certain plot points and devices. We quickly realised, even halfway into GotM, that we would not be "spoon-fed" and that some work and even trust, on our part as readers, would be needed to enjoy this world. You, yourself have always seemed patently against any sort of "meta" type question. Whenever I read a question in this vein ("Was that acorn not supposed to be brown instead of green?!", "How many ghosts actually trail Karsa Orlong and would I be able to tell this by reading through HoC very carefully?"), I cringe.

It seems that you have attempted to impart feeling and emotion, telling a story rooted in a surprisingly realistic portrayal of relationships, dialogue, actions and reactions. The specific details of the story are intended to be less important, particularly when weighed against this as well as the overarching themes and narrative. Do you think this is a fair assessment?
Tai Tastigon
18. Taitastigon
Hi Steven,

here a quickie one: What is ist with the Crippled God and his tent ? Why does Withal have to rip it off to be able to escape ? What is the connection between CG, that darn tent and his power ?
19. Tufty
@ChrisK - I'm not sure what the spoiler policy on these Q&As is but answers to those questions could very much constitute later-book spoilers. So, you might have to wait to get answers from SE about that.

On the other hand, you can always make a Refugium topic on the malazanempire forums and get some good (but spoiler-filled) fan answers.
Brian R
20. Mayhem
@18 Ooh, now that is an interesting vein to travel down.

On a related note, in MoI it is mentioned that the Crippled God's warren 'is known to wander', and access to it was found near Pale.
Can he be in more than one place at a time?
Does he have control over where the realm wanders to?
Is there any significance to the fact that the realm seems to be located somewhere near Lether for the duration of the book?
Sanctume Spiritstone
21. Sanctume
Hi Steven,

Are Warrens a separate space and time with the Malazan planet?

Or are Warrens more a separate dimension (with its own timeline) that exists parallel to the Malazan planet?

Are Warrens like cities, and are Holds like states?

Is the CG's tent like a small mobile city that can exist in other states (Hold like Mael's) ?

Does the Jaghut ritual done on Lether act like a road block made of ice that prevented travel or use of warrens? But not Hold magic?
Robin Lemley
22. Robin55077
Steven, thank you as always for taking time to answer our questions.

My questions were nearly identical to Bill's. So I will just ask you which characters so far where you most surpised by the readers' reaction (either positive or negative).

Another general question: You write about the Malazan world with such depth that even many of the cities become characters for me as a reader. I sense that this is one of the main differences between this series and many others that I have read. As a reader, it seems that many writers write an action placed in a scene they are picturing, where it seems as if you are writing about a real place, thus we get so much depth into the Malazan world.

The skill which which you write about it makes it seem to me that it must have felt real to you. Did the Malazan World become "real" for you?
Ciarán Denny
23. pCiaran
I would firstly like to echo the chorus of awe above.

Two questions (with context for each) if you have the time

Firstly, while obviously there's lots about the series I loved / casued awe / etc, I find one of the things that brings me back to rereading again and again is the stunning scope of time. Reading through the malazan world one is confronted again and again with the scale of the past that has been worked out from First Empire to First Empire (to First Empire). My first question is when the world was still being worked out did you ever have to step back and say to yourselves "actually we're going to need another 300,000 years in there" to have the past make more sense? Prompted by the thought that while adding a continent is one thing (starts with filling in a bit of the map) filling in history has implications for the rest of the world.

Secondly, a much more general question. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy and as a result I've read a lot of the pulpier end of both science fiction and fantasy (which I still enjoy a lot). But when people criticise my choice of reading and tell me that fantasy can never be 'literature' I tend to respond by citing your books as examples of fantasy that is literature, books that have tragedy, that have comedy and humour, that have drama, that have pathos (my god do they have pathos).

All that said I rarely recommned your books for fantasy neophytes because they require a level of commitment that can be intimidating for people who get confused after more than 4 or 5 points of view.

Which is a very (very) longwinded way of asking what would you recommend as first book to read in the fantasy or science fiction milieu?

Sanctume Spiritstone
24. Sanctume
@22. Robin55077

From what I've read in various fan forums over the years, SE and ICE played their own version of board / pen & paper / role playing game using their own modified / hybrid version of AD&D and GURPS system.

One of then would GM (game master) while the other is the player. Being a GM writes the details in the campaigns, details about key events, scenarios and conflicts for the campaign. I've read they played it over many years.

It is really fascinating to play in a world framed by a GM while carving your own story by playing your characters who's survival is determined by dice rolls (most of the time, or at the GM's discretion).
Lynton Collins
25. PutCashIn
@McFly, although I hope the Legends will chime in on your post with an answer, I remember in an early (as in, just past half way) interview SE said "sure, we had the main plot arcs in place, from the opening scene to the end of, er, can't tell you but as a page by page basis, I write as it comes to me...for instance, there was a character whom I thought would be present in every book from start to finish but one day he just ... {then someone calls out from the audience "Kalam" ... SE looks suprised at the intuition, but perosnally I think SE was talking about another character but realised on the spot Kalam was also a good example of a 'writers liscence victim'}" ... Then SE carrys on to describe his 400 words a day target at the prompt of another question. Thats if my memory serves me right, which it seldom does :)
Chris Lehotsky
26. Tel_Janin
These other questions have jogged another one out of me. Re: the Crippled God's warren, is it something that he brought with him when he fell (it's always been aspected to him), or is it a warren or piece of shattered warren that he claimed for himself sometime after his Chaining? Or, if you choose to RAFO this, will we find out in the Kharkanas trilogy? Thank you again for your time, and for all of your works. They're a joy to read, even when they're not. If that makes sense.
27. Brian A. Fortier
I second the motion for UNABRIDGED audio books. I have listened to books for 20 years while doing art, traveling, and just going to work in the morning...I would LOVE to start out "reading" listening to your books start to finish 1-10...I belong to Audible and other audiobook communities that are huge and still growing...PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!

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