Mar 27 2013 12:00pm

Ask Ian Cameron Esslemont Your Questions About Return of the Crimson Guard

It’s been a while since we asked Malazan author Ian Cameron Esslemont some questions! Now that the reread of Return of the Crimson Guard has concluded we’re taking a breather from the Malazan Reread of the Fallen (now in its... third year?) in order to open up a thread where readers can pose questions to Cam about the story and characters in the book.

As opposed to the Steven Erikson end-book Q&As, these questions won’t be answered in the below thread. So keep them as concise and clean as you can!

1. Tufty
Hi Ian!

There's been a lot of rumours/anecdotes that RotCG was originally written quite a while before it was published. Would you care to explain what truth there is to this, what (if anything) was changed between the original writing and release, etc?

One particular aspect of this is that it seems that the Old Guard characters rebelling against Laseen would have connected well with GotM's sub-plot of eliminating the Old Guard, and this may have not connected as smoothly with RotCG being released after tBH instead of after GotM.

Lastly, do you ever get annoyed that people seem to spell your name as Esselmont a lot instead of Esslemont? :P

Tabby Alleman
2. Tabbyfl55

I am wondering if, as co-creators of a world, you and Steven ever have any significant disagreements about how you want world-changing events to progress, and if you do, how do you resolve them? Or if not, how do you avoid them?

3. Nimander
Hello Ian! Thank you for doing this Q&A.

We've gotten glimpses of the Quon Talian continent in the prior malazan books, but up until this book it was just that -glimpses. Do you feel any pressure to deliver on all the build up? I'm thinking more of Korel and Jacuruku here, and speaking of which you're -hopefully- currently writing "Assail" (and oh how that place has been built up in -at least my- imagination).

Is it daunting to tackle the new continents/cultures with all that buildup seeing as Steve set "Book of the Fallen" on three continents (don't know about the crippled god) and you having to deliver on basically a new one every book (and one of them is Assail...)

I love the books by the way i liked RotCG, am currently really reading Stonewielder before tackling DoD/TCG, and i have to say I am really enjoying Stonewielder, such an improvement, looking forward to OST and B&B and yeah... that other book...

And as an aside, what are your favourite films?

Thanks again!
karl oswald
4. Toster
Hi Ian, thanks so much for the QnA!

On writing 'naive' characters - here i'm getting at Ghelel. she comes across as pretty naive several times in the story, and her instinctive reactions are almost glaringly naive sometimes. as you were writing her POV, did you sense that her character was in any way dislikable, and if so, did that affect how you wrote the character going forward, or did you continue to let the character 'be themselves', so to speak?

sticking with character, there seems to be a select group of people who figure more prominently in your books, and a group who are prominent in SE books. obviously the Crimson Guard are your realm, but specifically, i'm asking about osserc. it feels to me like osserc is much more your character than SE's, and so i wondered if the two of you ever had correspondence respecting how SE would write ossercs back-story in Forge of Darkness, and how that should play out.

lastly, i just want to say i love all your stories and treasure their additions to the Malazan world and the story of the malazan empire. (though i'm afraid the only salute i'll be giving emperor mallick rel is a one-fingered salute :P)
5. aaronthere
Hey Ian. Thanks for agreeing to answer our questions. Mine a brief and sort of silly, so thanks for humoring me.

1) is the short winged creature that mops around Oserc's feet in the shadow warren Iskaral Pust?

2) Is there a connection between the Elder race of the Thel Akai and the Jade statues?
6. Jragghen
Hey Ian, thanks for coming to do this Q&A. :) I've got a few (hopefully) quick ones.

RotCG is definitely larger in terms of scope and length than Night of Knives - how did this change your approach to writing the novel?

Ultimately, in the course of RotCG, Ghelel's plotline didn't really overlap with any of the other main plotlines, and ended up feeling tangential to the rest of the book (something which I'll note also seems to happen in your other novels, but in the other cases they seem to be used more to set up more central plotlines to future books, which - at least thsu far - doesn't appear to be the case with Ghelel). Was there any particular point or theme which you were attempting to approach or discuss with her inclusion?

From Erikson's talks, it's been established that a certain number of the plotlines of his books were gamed with you or with others amongst your friends. Is that also the case in your books, or are the stories more free-form? On a similar note, I know that Erikson has answered previously who you and he played at various times from your various character sets. RotCG deals with a number of the "Old Guard" whose adventures took place before the setting of the book series - are these other characters (Toc the Elder, Lassen, Urko, Caratheon, etc) the characters of other members of your original gaming group?

Is it possible to get a Word of God as to how Ryllandaras the Jackal in RotCG relates to the wolf D'ivers in Deadhouse Gates? I'm aware of the prevailing fan theory, but it'd be interesting to get confirmation one way or another.

And finally, I was wondering if you might be willing to enlighten us as to how Mallick Rel and Taya got into their business arrangement. This kinda ties into OST talk, so I'm not going to get into more detail than that (we may revisit it when we get to OST). Just curious, is all.

Thanks again!
7. BDG91

I have three questions and hopefully you can answer them. First Quon Tali seems to have just about every phenotype known to people (and some that we don't) and I am wonder if this was a conscious choice or did it simply naturally happened as you and SE were gaming?

Second, throughout your books there seems to be only a few characters that are carried through to the next book, unlike SE whose takes several characters through his run. Why is this? This is not a complaint, I've always enjoyed your variety of characters in all of your books, but I would like to know if were every going to see Nait again or is his story finished?

And finally third. Are you planning write anymore Malazan books after your sixth? If so would you mind detailing them somewhat? If not please just write a horror novel! I've always enjoyed your horror secitions.

Paul Boyd
8. GoodOldSatan
(Sorry folks, I don't seem teo be able to delete this (or one other). Only to edit. Please see below.
9. Clobene
Hello Ian,
Rather than a question I just want to say a quick thank you! I'm rereading the series right now, and I haven't made it to Return of the Crimson Guard yet, so I'm shady on the details I want to ask.

I can't wait to start Blood and Bone, so thank you again for sharing this amazing series.
10. IrwinJon
Why Kyle? Stalker, Badlands, Coots and...Kyle? It's not exactly the most fantastical of names.

I love the books by the way, RotCG is my fave closely followed by Blood & Bone. I cannot WAIT for Assail and whatever comes after.
Darren Kuik
11. djk1978
I think Mr. Esslemont goes by Cam, not Ian.

As for my question, how does one person keep everyone out of the Imperial Warren, even if that one person is Topper? Isn't the Imperial Warren huge?
Paul Boyd
12. GoodOldSatan

My question relates to the handling of shared characters ... Kiska, Tay, Traveller, Bars, etc. (and I wouldn't be surpised if thee were more to come ... at least for me ... in OST and B&B). Given the way these characters appear throughout the two bodies of work, there must have been significant allignment going on between you and SE regarding what each of you could (and could not) do to/with them. So, was that a negotiation? Gamed? Or where these characters included (say Bars in MT or Kiska in BH whited out and maybe even here]) primarily to provide continuity?

I guess I'm just trying to figure out how all of that was coordinated.


Paul Boyd
13. GoodOldSatan
14. Jordanes
Hi Cam,

Many thanks for taking time out of your schedule to tackle our questions, it's really appreciated.

A few of my questions have already been asked by others, so I just have a small one?

Just who was the girl Ragman/Topper fought in the Imperial Warren? Was it Apsalar or someone else? Lots of speculation on this but no definitive answer I'm aware of.

Thanks again!
15. KallorAndAshes
Mr. Esslemont,
Thank you for answering our questions. Orb Sceptre Throne has been my favourite book so far, followed closely by Blood and Bone.

When can we expect Assail? And would you write more about Malazan after that book? I really would love to read more about Kallor.

How has that sword Vengeance/Grief augmented Dassem's skill? Would he have defeated Kallor without that sword that easily? Or was Kallor just overconfident? And he did defeat Skinner with ease. Skinner was reputed to have fought Dassem to a standstill.

Will we see Ghelel again? Does Moss get her? Moss does seem to have appeared in Stonewielder.

Has it ever happened that between you and Mr. Erikson, one of you had disliked a character the other liked?

And thanks again for answering our questions.
Bill Capossere
16. Billcap
As always, thank you for the gracious use of your time here--greatly appreciated. A few questions.

I was wondering about the genesis of the Nait/Jumpy storyline (one of my favorites in the series, let alone this book). It seems that it is a kind of "origin" story of the sort of squads we've already seen in the Malazan world already fully formed. I was curious if you see it that way as well and if it was intended to be such from the start or if it sort of grew in the telling.

Laseen. She is, in many ways, a cipher to readers. Personally, I love how much that is true, but I had a few questions about that. One is did the two of you have any discussions over that aspect of her--the lack of a pov from her, the idea of keeping her a mystery to readers? And if so, did either of you ever chafe at that? How did it get decided whether/how/when to kill of such a prime character? Was that negotiated? Had you always planned that for this novel?

There seemed a general consensus among our readers that the battle scenes were a particularly strong aspect of the novel. Do you take any particular approach to these scenes?

I'm driving to Alaska this summer (picking up the would-rather-fly family in Fairbanks). Beyond the three days we have scheduled camping in Denali, what's your top suggestion (knowing we're driving a Toyota Prius and not an off-roader)?

Thanks again!
Sanne Jense
17. Cassanne
Hi Cam,

I hesitate, because it's another comparison - so feel free to ignore my question if it bothers you.

One thing I love about Erikson is how he portrays a society (army? civilization? whatever) genuinely without sexism or racism. Though he also describes cultures who have all kinds of flavors of it.
In this book I felt there was much more of that, I felt. Also thematically: for example Ghelel (in her head at least), the pregnant soldier, the 'nationalist' groups.
I wonder, was that a conscious choice? Is the 'equality' theme more Steve's thing? (Or is it just me?)

Second question: why did you choose to have so many different points of view in this book?

@10 - yes, I wonder that too. It kept distracting me. (Wondering if the rest of the tribe also had names like Bob, Jane, Kevin, etc :D )
Darren Kuik
18. djk1978
When's the last time you were in Winnipeg and what area of the city did you frequent (I live there myself). Any chance you are a Jets fan? What are your thoughts about a city that some people who have never been there like to slight?
Steven Halter
19. stevenhalter
Was Laseen's death here a planned or a played scenario. In other words, was there a chance of her surviving?
20. King of Flames
No questions. Just mentioning that I loved this book, so thanks.
Alex Raines
21. IskaralPust
I've been wondering about this for some time, but it is more of a general question that a RotCG question. Many different sources indicate that yourself and Mr. Erikson originally created the Malaz world for gaming and that you've gamed some of the story. My question is - would we be reading a completely different story if the dice bounced a different direction?
Darren Kuik
22. djk1978
Have I missed the answers anywhere or are we still waiting? Just curious.
Michal Jakuszewski
23. Lfex

I am apparently in a minority with liking Ghelel. I didn't mind her naivete, because, really, it was only to be expected with her background. I suppose she is dead, but will we ever get an answer - one way or the other?

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