The answers have come in from Steven Erikson regarding your Dust of Dreams questions. Usually these answers appear in-thread, but when they get fairly lengthy we parse them out into a separate post for a nice bit of lunchtime reading.
All answers include their originating questions. A big thank you to Steven Erikson for taking time out to answer!
Sorry for the delay. I am just back from MisCon (Missoula, Montana), and am about to take a genuine vacation for the first time in over a decade (to Italy) for the month of June. Yes, I know, what’s with a vacation in the middle of writing a novel (Fall of Light)? Well, the original plan was to finish that novel before taking a full year off, but life got in the way of that. Upon returning in July, I will be bearing down and finishing Fall of Light for a November delivery date. The simple truth is, I need this break. It’s been nonstop for quite a while now and the battery’s run low. Granted, I took three weeks off to write ‘Willful Child,’ which comes out in November and may have a US tour attached to it, but that novel had been gnawing my ankles for almost ten years, and I just needed to get it done. By way of teaser, I am fairly sure that ‘Willful Child’ will offend almost everybody. But in a good way. I hope. Regards the leaked cover: that was an early take and has been quickly discarded in favour of just spaceships, which I think suits the novel just fine.
For all you Fantasy purists, sorry, but ‘Willful Child’ is SF. ‘The Devil Delivered’ was my first foray into SF and that was a novella besides. This new book’s the real deal. Deadly serious, tackling heavy themes, plunging to the very nadir of Future Speculation, with two more to follow in the series already in the works (well, I have titles).
If the tour happens, I hope to see some of you in my travels to bookstores all over America. But go light on the torches and pitchforks. I didn’t mean it.
Now, onto your questions…
1. Kulp: My question relates to your writing process and how you plan out your characters and their arcs.
I just reread Deadhouse Gates, and the Blistig we see in Deadhouse is drastically different from the Blistig we see in Dust of Dreams/The Crippled God. In DG, Duiker’s viewpoint on the wall at Aren shows Blistig is visibly shaken by Mallick Rel and Pormqual’s choices not to help Coltaine and the Chain of Dogs. He even goes so far as to disobey Pormqual’s orders to march his garrison out of Aren. He is the voice of reason in the command structure at Aren, and he’s ignored.
His journey over the series leads him from being a compassionate commander concerned for his troops in DG to the Blistig who is more interested in desertion in Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God. My question is this: when planning out character arcs, does characterization take precedence over plot?
In Blistig’s situation, he changes from being a compassionate commander (in my interpretation of the events in DG at least) into a commander who is contemplating abandoning the Bonehunters in DoD/CG. Are these choices made because this is the version of the character you envisioned from the beginning? Or did you need a character in the Bonehunters to represent the soldiers who are considering desertion?
This is a specific situation to illustrate my question, but there are many characters in the books who change drastically from the first time we see them.
Steven: Character development over a series this long ends up walking a fine line. On one side, there’s the readers who have followed that character through multiple books, and their expectations are that the character must remain recognizable in terms of their actions and thoughts. On the other side, there’s the risk of making a character static in terms of development, as if nothing that happens to them in the novels has any lasting effect on their personality, their beliefs, and the things they choose to do, or not do. Also, this raises the notion of characters whose inner strengths are tough and resilient, versus those who, for whatever reason (or no reason at all) are vulnerable. We’ve all met the Chameleon People, haven’t we? The ones whose entire personalities change depending on this month’s girlfriend or boyfriend? Or who become almost unrecognizable to you in certain company, at parties, with their buddies in a pick-up truck, or whatever. For some of them, that adaptability may be a strength, even a talent. For others, you wonder if there’s a hollow at the core, and if this need to reflect is in fact a desperate means of adopting some kind of identity, even if it belongs to someone else.
The ‘explanation’ for Blistig’s change is laid out pretty clearly in The Crippled God. I could have done so earlier, but in fact I wanted the reader to go: ‘what the hell’s wrong with him? This isn’t the Blistig we knew…’ because, sometimes, that happens to people, even ones close to us.
2. Triactus: I’m a first time reader and I’ve just started on The Crippled God. I have two questions that are related:
Firstly, some characters’ deaths are involved tightly with the plot and evidently serve a purpose (Whiskeyjack or Beak, for example). Others, while not necessarily major in terms of page exposure, are dealt a seemingly meaningless death. Keneb, for example, dies in Dust of Dreams after a lot on foreboding concerning his overloading responsibilities and his deteriorating relationship with Blistig (both play no role in his death). When you are writing, what makes you decide to kill off a character? I understand a theme recurrent in Dust of Dreams is the chaos of chance (being at the wrong place at the wrong time). Was that the point of Keneb’s death, which made you decide to have him killed and not pursue the other story threads you had begun?
Secondly, how do you decide which minor character lives and which dies when you write out a huge battle scene? There are hundreds (thousands!) of soldiers in the Bridgeburners or Bonehunters. Most are only mentioned in passing or briefly seen. How do you select the character you will kill and the characters that will survive? Characters like Pella in The Bonehunters, Primly or Ebron in Dust of Dreams are killed on page. Why them and not other characters? Do you write biographies of all your soldiers ahead of time and keep those that inspire you the most or basically pick names from a hat?
Steven: There’s a certain level of ruthlessness involved in determining who lives and who dies, to be sure. As much as even an author finds favorites, it pays to keep that kind of favoritism in check, since you might run into a situation where there’s no possibility of that character surviving, but you make him or her do so anyway—why? Because you like them. For me, that’s not a good enough reason. Deaths need to serve some element of the story, even if it’s only, as you say, the cruel vagaries of chance that needs hammering home. Fiction invites the notion that only the people who ‘should’ die do die, while the good ones miraculously survive, but I find that tendency objectionable on myriad levels—after all, if one was to extend that notion into the real world, what does that say of the fallen heroes of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and any other conflict that comes to mind? Survivors of such wars will tell you that the good ones didn’t make it—that’s not modesty, it’s a conviction. The sudden end of any life delivers a shock to the psyche that cannot be underestimated.
If I went through writing a battle scene and killed off only those characters I held no particular attachment to, then I would, in my own mind, be committing a disservice to the very notion of casualties. The names I threw into the blood-filled hat would mean nothing to me, and therefore nothing to anyone else, either. That would make it gratuitous. Rather, we’ve been with The Bonehunters for a long time now, and hopefully we all have an attachment to them. So when some of them die, it’s got to hurt. If it doesn’t, I’ve messed up badly.
Regarding the interior progression of Keneb, to use your example, well, I can’t imagine him making an arc of his thoughts and feelings in order to sweetly conclude at his moment of death. He anticipates nothing of the sort: none of his fears, worries and hopes relate to a future marked by his absence, his ending. Unless we are contemplating an illness undeniably terminal and imminent, our thoughts engage in the illusion of immortality. If we didn’t, we’d have no reason to do anything, feel anything, or give a damn about any of it. This is, I suppose, the lure of nihilism, in that it absolves the self of struggle, aspiration, ambition, and so embraces the soul with a suffocating rejection of both value and virtue.
3. Isoroku: Kind of a vague question, but what’s the deal with the Jheck? We’ve seen them on several different continents. They shapeshift in wolves. They have some sort of link to Tellan and/or the Imass (from SW). They invaded Stygg in a single day and night at some point (from BF). Their ancestry goes back as far as the Thel Akai, and yet they seem to be still mostly living in fairly primitive ways.
Unlike almost all the other races, we’ve never had a PoV from a Jheck nor have they played much of an important role in the plot of the MBotF, so they remain quite mysterious. Any light you can shed on them? Was there ever a great Jheck civilization that collapsed and left them scattered across the world, or have they always been hanging around in the margins? Are they nomadic? Does being soletaken wolves make it hard for them to have pet cats or herd goats? I’m just curious!
4. parabola: Isoroku@3 Just preempting Steven to tell you that you see more of them in Forge of Darkness. I will say no more on that subject.
Steven: As parabola notes, there’s more of the Jheck in The Kharkanas Trilogy. That said, it’s also a case of the Malazan world being a big one, with only so much we can cover in any detail. Accordingly, even if the Jheck played central roles in a lot of the gaming Cam and I did all those years ago, they now operate as ancillary history, present but never central. In that manner, I think they serve well to convey a sense of verisimilitude to the invented world that is our setting. Crap goes on off-screen.
5. The Gunslinger: Can you provide any more information on the Battle of the Red Spires? It’s mentioned by the Orshayn T’lan Imass, and we really don’t get much about it other than the Spires were controlled by the Order of the Red Spires, and one of their enemies was “the Bearded One.”
Why are we only in the 12th century of Burn’s Sleep in the books? What happened 1200 years ago—did Burn wake up? Evidence seems to suggest that she couldn’t have, since her waking up supposedly means the end of civilization. Of course, we don’t exactly know the specifics on it, but it seems like the world of Wu is Burn’s dream, much in the way that the Warrens are K’rul’s blood (and perhaps the various worlds of the warrens exist through the dragon’s blood, via K’rul’s pact), so her waking up definitely wouldn’t be good.
Steven: The details you note regarding the Battle of the Red Spires is more than I presently recall, probably because sometimes the author just makes stuff up on the spot. More of that off-screen mention intended to create resonance, hinting of dramas unseen. Recall also that the notion of the unwitnessed has been playing throughout the closing novels of this series.
Re: Burn’s Sleep. No, Burn didn’t wake up 1200 years earlier. That’s just when those people started counting via her reference. But it may be that something happened 1200 years earlier that could have been interpreted as Burn waking up. Say like, an earthquake, or a sorcerous conflagration. Or the historian fell down the stairs after an all-night drinking binge. Bearing all that in mind, be advised that sometimes things are just made up because they sound intriguing. In fact, the invention of ‘Burn’s Sleep’ as a dating method most likely originated in a map I drew up somewhere, while preparing for a new gaming session.
6. CallMeMhybe: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I was hoping you could give us an update on your progress on Fall of Light. Have you managed to fit in the War on Death after all? Is the early-2015 release date listed on Amazon accurate? Anything you are willing to share would be great.
Steven: Believe it or not, I’m still undecided on whether or not to include the War on Death in ‘Fall of Light.’ In a way, it has to be in there, since Forge offered that invitation to the readers that this was a tale to be told, and that’s an incumbency I cannot ignore. The question then is: can I split them and make this a four-book trilogy? What’s the advantage in that? What are the disadvantages? On the one hand, an additional book offers up the room needed for that thread. On the other hand, well, it’d be a four-book trilogy. The challenge has been one of tone, since the War on Death chapters that I’ve already written have a distinctly different tone from the Kharkanas-set chapters, and I’m not sure how successfully they would play off one another. That said, the threads run in parallel and that remains an important part of the trilogy, and I have in the past always enjoyed the use of tonal juxtaposition to keep things interesting. The more I muse on it right now, the more I find myself leaning towards its inclusion, but then, how do I structure the novel? Alternating chapters? Well, I started out that way and found it cumbersome. Should I simply tag it onto the end of the book? That feels a bit bizarre. How about written as an epic poem? In iambic whatever? What I’ll need to do is write out both tales and then decide how it all fits (or not).
Does that push the deadline back yet further? I don’t think it will. That’s a hint as to how far I’ve come in the Kharkanas-thread of the book.
7. Remy of the North: Once again I would like to thank you for taking the time to interact with your readers/fans and I hope you realize you make a lot of people happy by doing this (I suppose you do). My respect for you has only grown over the years since I finally “got it”—after two aborted attempts at Gardens of the Moon, the third time was indeed the charm, and after that, I was sold. The highlight for me was Toll the Hounds, which I feel is the most artfully and skillfully and heartfelt in the series, and, I have to admit that coming from that book to Dust of Dreams was a little difficult. Though book nine carries my favorite title of the ten, it was a book I struggled with, but I don’t know if I can identify what I found hard about it. Lots of good stuff in there, too.
Anyway, my question is not directly related to the book. I was rather wondering if you ever find the time these days for a good old session of tabletop roleplaying these days, with Esslemont or others. And if you do, how about filming a session and put it out there? :-D As a game master I am very curious about the games you played that preceded the Malazan books, though I suppose you have other things in life to inspire you now.
Oh, and I also wonder about anything Fall of Light, of course, but so do we all. Love that title too, by the way!
This has also been the longest ‘dry spell’ I’ve experienced with regards to Malazan books, do you feel any pressure to finish the second Kharkanas book or are you comfortably confident with it? :-) no way complaining about the time you are taking, I’m used to Martin’s five-six year projects!]
Steven: answered some of your questions in previous post. Cam and I have not gamed together in a long time, as we keep finding ourselves living in different parts of the world. Even now, he’s up in Alaska and I’m here in Victoria, B.C. That said, what with that newfangled skype thingy I keep hearing about, I suppose running a game is possible, but to be honest, it wouldn’t have the sitting-across-the-table feel that, for us, generated so much spontaneous invention, so I’m not convinced.
Yes, it does seem like a long dry-spell, but recall, my SF novel is coming out in November. Also, that dry-spell relates only to your side of things. Fall of Light, when I get to writing on it, is not in any way blocked. Rather, I’m finding that I am taking much more time on the language than I used to. It may be that my creative engine is slowing down, and what once came easily now doesn’t; or it may be that I am actually doing something different in the creative process, something that I haven’t yet pinned down, but demands a more measured approach. Either way, I can’t afford to sweat it, or work myself into a panic. I’m pleased enough with what I’ve written (mind you, I was pleased with Forge of Darkness too, and its reception was quiet, with nary a notice or nomination in any Fantasy awards, etc—I can only conclude that something fundamental is eliminating my novels from consideration, but damned if I know what that might be—but even here, I can only shrug and continue on my way. External validation is a weird thing: as authors we seek it, even as we deny its importance, and from all that back-and-forth stuff we have no choice but to ignore its absence, if only to sustain the self-faith necessary to actually write).
8. Not-Not-Not-Not-Apsalar: Steve, how do you feel about the newly-revealed cover art for Willful Child?
Steven: the space ships in battle are now the central image. The pic of Captain Hadrian didn’t work: but don’t blame TOR. My description of what I wanted on the cover included him, but in my mind’s eye I saw something out of Fifties’ SF pulp covers… As it stands, the spaceships work in my opinion.
9. Werthead: It’s that time of the decade again when the cartographers try their hands at the Malazan World Map, for the very last time before ICE reveals Assail to us (finally!). Just wanted to see how warm or not the latest effort is?
PS The map was created by D’Rek at Malazanempire, with myself pasting Jacuruku in.
Steven: Alas, I’m unable to access the map images.
10. stevenhalter: You’ve mentioned that you often have a particular cinematic moment in mind as you begin a book. In the case of Dust of Dreams, we get (at least)
two three several great moments:
Chapter 23 with the inital battle between the Bonehunters and the Nah’ruk has several moments (Quick Ben and Ruthan Gudd).
Chapter 24 with the battle between the Keeps and the Unrooted or the sealing of the rift or the view of the battlefield or…
Which one was your cinematic viewpoint for DoD? (Or a different one—like a line of children walking through a desert)
Did you know Icarium’s journey from the first or did it evolve as the story evolved?
Thanks, as always.
Steven: Cinematic moments are a constant with my writing process. I don’t recall suggesting that I worked from one in particular for each novel. There are moments, however, that end up standing for a novel, and yes, they have a cinematic component, but not in any primary sense. For Dust of Dreams, hmm, sure, the one that comes to mind is a grim one: Hetan stumbling away from the camp, in her last moments of life.
Regarding Icarium, the split away from Mappo marked this new thread for him and the Trell. I think if I hadn’t instituted some kind of change, that thread would have paled in its repetition: more to the point, I would probably have abandoned it, implying that nothing was ever going to change for Icarium and Mappo. But I didn’t want to do that, particularly since I found a role for Icarium in approaching the perennial mystery of the creation and the nature of Warrens, and through him, giving the reader some hints.
11. Esg: Love the series and my question is kinda offtopic, but I was wondering if there are any plans to reprint the hardcover books for the entire series? I would love to own them all in hardcover but since I found out about this series only two years ago, prices for the early hardcovers are extreme to say the least...
Regardless wish you the best of luck and cant wait until the next book!
Steven: you’ll have to petition the publishers on that one.
12. Tanaephis: No question from me—there’s so much I would like to know about the Malazan world that it would probably need a couple of encyclopedias.
I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful, wonderful saga you’ve given us. It was truly incredible.
Hope to read more about Karsa Orlong one day—he’s probably the single most fascinating fantasy character I have ever encountered.
Steven: thanks for reading…
13. Rollak: First, thanks for all your hard work in making a world in which I love to lose myself. This book in particular, was the one I was reading while I sat with my grandpa when he was actively dying, and many parts of it really struck close to home. Anyway, on a lighter note, my question is: If you lived within the Malazan universe, in which region and time period would you want to live? Also, would there be any gods you would find yourself following?
Steven: my sympathies for your loss. The poem heading one of my chapters, entitled ‘Song of Dreaming,’ might offer you some comfort—many readers have written to me, in similar circumstances, to say as much.
Regarding where and when I’d live, well, I’d hazard that Darujhistan would interest me, but not in the period of the Tyrants. That city was our Malazan Byzantium. As for following any of the gods … no. I’d rather stay beneath their notice.
14. Burnbridger: First, I’d like to point out that such collection of awesome names and nicknames have not been witnessed since, maybe the Iliad.
You have: prophecies, fate, it’s written, and destiny on one side ,and freedom, randomness, frustrated gods and chaos (both the mathematic al kind as the “convergence” and the poetic kind) on the other.
The question is, what is your prefered dosage of these opposites when you’re building a world as an artist, and does it mach your view on such things in real life.
Steven: If destiny exists, it’s outside our realm of knowing: we experience life more on the random side of things. So, I would say, forget destiny until the notion gives comfort, and accept the notion of chance and ill-luck as benisons against blame where absolution is both possible and necessary. There is too much of the judgmental in the world, delivering wounds to both the one who judges, and the one judged.
15. Tufty: Since Wert already posted the map question I was going to ask, I’ll throw a couple quick geography bits at you.
—Is Quaint (from the Healthy Dead) on a particular continent? Or is its location deliberately vague?
—Likewise, does Farrog and the Great Dry from Crack’d Pot Trail have a location?
—Does Stratem actually have any nations on it (before the Crimson Guard started their governship between RotCG and SW) or is it all just city-states like Toll City and scattered towns, as we saw in RotCG?
—We know Nemil is in the centre of the 7C continent at the south end of the Catal Sea. Perish is west of that, and Shal-Morzinn is somewhere around the western side of the continent, too. The Cabal Archipelago is also somewhere around there but no specifics known. Since 7C is so big, are there other nations in western 7C we’ve never even heard of? If so, how much information have you and Cam made up about them that you’ve never gotten a chance to use in your books? I do like that there are big chunks of the world we only see ever-so-briefly or not at all in this series, like Umryg, Nabraja, the northern Genebacis cities, Itko Kan, so I’m quite content with only getting hints about western 7C from the Perish, Rythe Bude and the Goats of Glory. I don’t really want to know all the history and culture of those places, unless/until a Malazan story visits them “properly.” However, in the interests of having a world map that isn’t quite so empty in some regions, if there are nations out there we haven’t heard of would you like to share some names that we can write in and speculate about?
As always I’d like to give you another big thank you! DoD absolutely wrecked me emotionally the first time I read it, in the best possible way!
Steven: All places mentioned in the novellas exist on one or another of our maps. Stratem was a kind of frontier subcontinent. Whatever existed there before the present age is buried deep (except for the K’Chain Che’Malle stuff at the southeast end).
There are so many places on our maps that didn’t get mentioned I don’t know where to start. But bear in mind: the less we say about them now, the more Cam and I have to work with should we ever decide on plunging into some unknown territory or region. So forgive me for declining your request, and can only say, you may one day thank me for it.
16. SkyinDecember: My question is about the chapter heading of Dust of Dream’s Book One, which is a striking statement, “The Sea Does Not Dream of You”.
I discovered later that the line reoccurs throughout your books, like a kind of echo– in a poem somewhere and spoken by a character somewhere else.
My question is whether there was any particular reason you had for repeating this line, or any special inspiration to it? I feel that the ‘You’ is also addressed to the reader as well as characters of the series—and that it was like a firm warning sign to all who read this book.
Thank you for this wonderful series.
Steven: Yes, the line comes from a poem, and yes, in a meta fashion, it does include the reader in that second-person ‘you.’ But as a warning? Not so sure about that one. In the poem the line is simply a reminder against egocentrism, both as an individual and as a species. But it also directs us to humility, which is an increasingly rare virtue in our modern age of display and preen (enough selfies already!).
For me, titles and subtitles do have an added resonance, which I why I selected those phrases over the countless others in these books. If for whatever reason, a phrase from a sentence or a line from a poem that I’ve just written, rings a secret bell in my head, I know now never to question it. I pluck it out and write it down in my notebook as a potential future title or subtitle. Writing involves a lot of conjurations, invocations and assorted other alchemies.
17. Algon33: Hello Mr Erikson, I have a bit of a tangental question here: Is Assail the last novel about the malazan empire, as it seems to say so in its blurb. Also, if warren’s are Krul’s blood, does that make Chaos the rest of his body? Finally, is the Abyss outside of space-time, or is it just space. Thank you very much for this Q&A and your brilliant books. You’re the (tied for) best!
Steven: Assail is the last in the present time-line set up between Cam and I for our present series: it concludes in parallel with The Crippled God. One could argue that when I return to Karsa’s story, the Malazan series resumes, but I won’t, and I’ll be treating that trilogy in a way that makes it less Malazan than what’s gone before. Does that sound ominous? Relax, it’s not meant to be.
18. Billcap: As always, thanks for taking time out of your schedule for this.
I was wondering if anything surprised you in the writing of this penultimate book (or really ultimate, since it was concieved as one and had to be split?). What I mean is, now that you were moving into the end stage, and you were moving down some character and plot paths that I assume (feel free to correct the assumption) were pretty laid down at this point, in the writing did anything or anyone suddenly branch off unexpectedly? Did you go, for instance, “Huh, didn’t see Quick doing that!”
Steven: there are always surprises in what characters do or don’t do, etc, but nothing comes to mind that was big. I think that by this point I as well focused on the finishing line, and nothing was going to tug or veer me away from it. Recall, I had all the closing scenes in my head for years and years, so that focus I mentioned felt almost inhuman in its intensity, not unlike the long-distance runner seeing that tape stretched across the track ahead. Having said that, whatever exhaustion I was feeling stayed well beneath the surface. Until the series was done.
19. Journeyman: I’ve finally caught up with this re-read and would like to ask you my first question. We have seen the return of Draconus as well as Hood awakens to mortal flesh once again. So why not Anomander Rake? Did you felt that he is already done? I believe many readers would feel that he should be not yet done. Thanks for a wonderful series. I have been reading fantasy books for 40 years by many writers, none of them could match your focus. Many of them started brilliantly but fumbled on their later books and took years to deliver the next book of equal quality. However you managed to deliver all ten high quality books within 20 years so to me you are the best.
Steven: I like playing with the notion of cycles: one falls, one rises. Periods of domination oscillate. A return for Rake in this series would feel wrong, somehow. Draconus, after all, was only a name and then an occasional POV in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. In that sense, he was never a major player on the page. While Hood was the God of Death, making his ‘return’ a descent of sorts, a stripping away of an implacable mask. Both Draconus and Hood existed as remote entities until their final return, which begins a process of humanization for them. I was able to achieve all that for Rake within the series, and left him with a sense of completion concurrent with his sacrifice.
Before anyone goes too far with this, the notion of sacrifice (for our sins) is not unique to Christianity. That said, Judeo-Christian imagery has been an undercurrent in quite a few subplots in this series, be they Coltaine, Icarium, Beak and Rake, and that of course wasn’t accidental. Writers (and all artists) emerge from their culture’s embedded mythos, carrying with them, consciously or otherwise, a whole host of belief structures, archetypes, symbols, iconography and whatnot. There’s really no escaping it, actually. Given that, it pays to realise them (as the artist) and make use of them where applicable.
Glad you’ve enjoyed the series.
20. BDG: Hello, as I have mostly had my plot questions answered during the reread I’ll just jump into thematic questions:
A) For me, DoD was easily your most cynical book about the nature of humanity. Extintion is abound, a lot of ’last of their people’ walking around, violence for violence’s sake, so on and so forth. Did you do this because you wanted a dip before the triumph (as bleak as that triumph may be) finish or had you always planned for this book to be the one where you looked more starkly and perhaps more damning at the human condition than any previous book?
You’ve often said that MBotF is a postmodern series and while I can see where you could make the arugment for TtH being one I can’t wrap my head around the entire series being one. There is side glances but nothing as overtly as Kruppe awareness of the narrative. So can you explain how it is one? (I am, barely, more familiar with Postmodernism in a socialogical context, than a literature one but mostly it just goes over my head).
Lastly I’d like to thank for both the Snake and Jaghuts, good day!
Steven: Hmm, what do I see before me? Is that a can of worms? Let’s see. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, possibly ad nauseum, how each work is a dialogue between the author and the real world. Dust of Dreams (the writing thereof) coincided with a period where I was reading a lot of books related to extinction, past, present and future. The notion of ‘endings’ certainly fit well with my closing in on the end of the series. Accordingly, the narrowing down to finality (all that ‘last of’ characters and themes) also echoed the narrowing down of the series itself. We were all coming to an end to something, making me, the reader and the story all run in parallel, hopefully with matching sensations of loss and grief. I am sure I sensed a bone-deep finality as I edged ever closer to the series’ end. All the doors that had been opened were now closing one by one. So, in a very subtle way, structure, story, theme all leaked out from the page to stain author and reader both. That is, again in a most subtle manner, postmodern. If you consider that DoD was but the first half of a single book, a concluding book, then holding it in your hands was also a ‘last’ act. Last for the series, last for the investment made, last for our conjoining in this particular tale.
That said, for The Crippled God to have any impact, we all needed to make that descent first, although while you call the waiting ‘triumph’ bleak, I don’t see it that way. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, since the nature of that triumph must await our discussion of the tenth and final book.
21. Werthead: Is Assail the last novel about the malazan empire, as it seems to say so in its blurb.
Not Steve, but I think I know the answer to this one. ICE’s six-book series is informally labelled the ’Novels of the Malazan Empire’ to distinguish it from the ten-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen and the follow-up trilogies. Assail is, I believe, merely the final book of ICE’s six-book arc hence why it’s got that title. ICE has said he may write further books in the Malazaverse, including potentially prequels about the foundation of the Empire, so it’s not necessarily the last book about Malaza ever.
I also believe ICE and Steve have the Malazan encyclopedia (with more maps!) on the to-do list. Maybe Steve could let us know how far down that list it is? :)
Steven: I touched on this earlier, but the ‘conclusion’ being talked about here marks that of the period of the Malazan Empire history that Cam and I originally envisaged. At that point, who could have foretold what would come of it? Even the notion that readers would want more simply never occurred to us, except as vague hopes too fragile to voice out loud. My ten volume take and Cam’s six volume take marked our initial (and central) ambitions for recounting the history of the Malazan world. In fact, even the notion of one of us writing origins of the Malazan Empire did not enter discussions until just a year or so ago. There’s this weird thing with writers: we think in manageable blocks, and while engaged in filling those blocks with creative work, our sense of what lies beyond remains ephemeral—a formless void awaiting the reverberation from those dreaded words: ‘Now what?’ But it’s a question that arrives while one is in the midst of closing out the present project. So much of planning ahead is simply intent, sweetened with desire. It’s not a commitment until the contracts are signed (and even then, why, we might change our minds!). The advantage of that overlap is that you can then plant seeds in what you’re writing at the moment, to find fruition in the next series, the next project that waits beyond the present one.
As for the encyclopedia, well, it seems that we might end up going through the back-door on this one, as we’re in serious talks with a RPG 20D group who are keen to adapt the Malazan universe to a game. If this goes ahead, well, it will of necessity involve a release of all the relevant maps and game-notes presently occupying a cardboard box in my garage, and those from Cam as well. Said project demands full disclosure, don’t you think? Although, that said, the eventual release of everything could end up as installments, expansion packs, etc. Still, it does mark an opening of the flood-gates.
22. Midnight: Thanks for another great book! Dust of Dreams is definitely one of my favourites :) With such a rich book several questions spring to mind:
1. In the discussion between Kilmandaros and Mael they compare Rake’s actions in breaking Dragnipur to locking all the gods in a room to force them to deal with the Crippled God. It seems clear as to how the breaking of Dragnipur influenced the Tiste and how it frees Hood to act but how do Rake’s actions prompt the other ascendants to deal with the Crippled God?
2. It seems as though when the Errant encountered Setch and Kilmandaros they already had their own scheme in mind but it was not clear what that plan was. It seemed to be related to stealing the Crippled God’s heart and allying with Calm. Can you explain what exactly it was that they were trying to do and why? Setch’s motivations seem particularly opaque and his various thoughts appear to contradict each other in both Dust of Dreams and the Crippled God.
3. Tavore states that Fiddler’s reading was an insult and elsewhere it is stated that it marked those involved. What does this mean exactly? Who was marking the participants and in what way was it an insult?
4. Are the warrens that Grub and Sinn find themselves in new worlds, illusions or memories? Did Icarium create new worlds or simply incorporate existing worlds? Will we ever get more information on the fate and history of Icarium?
Steven: Answering the first three of your questions would, to my mind, take away some of the mystery when it comes to interpreting events and character observations. Any conversation in fiction that stirs up a swirl of questions is, to my mind, a good one. It’s an invitation to your imagination to work out possibilities, and then seek confirmation within the text, or even hints that you’re headed in the right direction. Those three questions all relate to motivations, and motivations are not always self-evident: often, the best ones are never self-evident. Accordingly, I can’t answer you for those.
As for the fourth question: Icarium’s creation of new Warrens was intended to hint at the past creation of the original Warrens—this was one of those seeds I mentioned earlier, as fruition arrives in the Kharkanas Trilogy. But even saying that, I should warn you that not all questions will be answered. But certain ones will. Icarium’s storyline here is a kind of condensed foreshadowing. Uh, condensed but extended. Will we get more of him? I don’t know.
23. Mayhem: As BDG mentions above, Dust of Dreams is a fairly unrelentingly depressing book—bad stuff happens to good people, and bad people, and people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We see the worst of human nature, counterbalanced only by little flashes of potential, and much of the darkness in humanity is concentrated in a few situations to really bring it home.
I recall from your Life as a Human blogs that it was between Books 9 & 10 that you took time off to recharge your batteries with a bit of archaeology, and you eloquently describe just how well that worked out ;)
It isn’t quite the right place to ask this yet, but what I’m curious about was whether that situation changed anything in what happens in both DoD and TCG? I consider the books to be one long novel, but the feeling, the atmosphere in both is extremely different.
Did your brush with mortality make you reconsider how any events were presented?
Steven: yikes, that’s a helluva question. Despite the break I took between the writing of DoD and The Crippled God, I always saw it as a descent preceding an ascent, in terms of human nature. In a general sense, this didn’t change despite my experiences in Mongolia, barring a renewed sense of urgency that accompanied writing The Crippled God. So, I suppose the urgency was new, but as to how that affected my writing the novel, I don’t really know. It’s already a few years behind me now, but I would think that, if anything changed, it was simply a sharpening of focus. Not sure if you’re ever experienced a close-call, but the world seems sharper in the moments afterward. The jungle I walked into in 1983, after forty minutes of having an M-16 pressed to the back of my neck, was the most beautiful, scintillating, profoundly alive jungle I’ve ever known. Who knows, maybe The Crippled God marked that almost painful clarity, stretched out across a novel.
23. Mayhem: Also, by this point as you at last reveal the staggering ambition of the Malazans (hint, hint, show, TELL) it has finally become obvious to all that the overwhelming plaintive cry of the series is for compassion.
Are you willing to reveal what you personally considered the primary themes of each book?
Oh, and finally, is the Bonehunters versus the Nah’ruk right to be considered the mirror of Pale—both feature magical devastation of the elite forces, yet where the one triggers the eventual decline into a brittle squad level remnant, the other seems to be a final tempering into a cold iron blade.
Steven: I don’t think I’ll go into the primary themes for each book: they’re all there and it’s clear that your reading is sharp enough to pick up on most of what I was up to: the parallel or mirror reflection you mentioned occurs throughout the conclusion of the series. I echoed and echoed again and again, wherever I could when it made sense to do so. For me, that effort served two main functions: one, to show the warped mirror, which I believe essential to story-telling as one draws close to the end (for psychological reasons); and two, to call-back to various scenes early in the series, hopefully conveying the sense of the series’ entire span, and all the things that have happened and are now lodged in our memories. Just as in a single scene I’ll often near the conclusion ring the bell set up in the first few lines, so too for the entire series. Why? Well, in this case, I wanted to evoke nostalgia for what we’ve all gone through together. I was feeling it and I wanted you to feel it, too.
24. Fiddler: I have a couple of questions as well, but I will save those for the TCG Q&A. I find it more fitting to ask them there.
But I’m posting here to thank Steven once again for taking the time to answer questions. :)
You are awesome, Steven.
Ok, two questions then, related to the Kharkanas books.
1. You said earlier that you were having trouble to fit in both Tiste and Jaghut threads into the next book. Is this still the case?
2. If the answer to 1. is ’no’, are you expanding the series to 4 books, or will you be writing about the Jaghut in a separate book (or books)? I guess that would leave the Jaghut plot hanging after Forge of Darkness.
Steven: I assume you have your answers, yes?
26. Kah-thurak: When introducing the Barghast in Memories of Ice, did you allready have in mind how their journey would end in implosive self destruction on the continent of Lether or was that a decision you made when writing Dust of Dreams?
Steven: Yeah, they were heading to a bad end.
28. R.J.: What’s the deal with Ruthan Gudd
Steven: I love how characters lurk for pages and pages in the background only to shoulder their way to the forefront: you can’t fight them, and then it becomes a journey of discovery. So, that’s the deal with Ruthan Gudd.
29. Scourge McDuck: Thanks for taking the time to engage with your readers and for writing what I already feel is the best fantasy series I’ve read to date (even though I’ve only just started TCG). I have two questions.
1). I’ve always enjoyed how the Malazan world echoes our world in terms of its trajectory from the age of the dinosaurs (K’Chain) to early hominids like the Eres, on to Neanderthal-like Imass, and finally humans. Was this pattern always a conscious decision or coincidence (that maybe you ran with when you realized it)? Did the war between Che’Malle and Nah’ruk open the way for eventual dominance of the Imass and then humans similar to how dinosaurs’ extinction opened niches for mammals to occupy, or do you think Imass/humans would have evolved regardless?
2). This question applies more broadly to the series as a whole, but I’ll put it in terms of a DoD events specifically. It also echoes Bill’s question above. As the books went on, it became fairly obvious that Gesler and Stormy were destined to play a large role in some way as a consequence of their journey into Tellann (Thyrllan?). Finally, in DoD we see them take up the mantle of Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil for the KCCM and lead them to victory. Did you have this destination in mind for Gesler and Stormy back in Deadhouse Gates or did their role not become apparent until later while writing the series?
Steven: The parallel developments between the Malazan world and ours were one of those areas where I could play with ideas about hominid behaviour and culture; and the K’Chain were just an exercise in inventing a truly non-human culture. I tried not messing with all that too much, though.
As for your second question: Gruntle and Stormy were set up for all this almost upon their first appearance. Oddly enough, I don’t recall these two characters as being gamed ones. They showed up by accident when Duiker was fleeing the Uprising in Deadhouse Gates, and something about them told me from the very first that they had a role to play in the series’ end, so I worked out in my head what role that would be, and then just sat on it for, like, ever.
32. The Gunslinger: Not sure who manages your stevenerikson.com website, but is there any chance they could make a page for upcoming events that you’ll be making an appearance at? I never know when you’re going to show up to speak at various cons. I know lots of people would love a chance to see/meet you in person.
Steven: we’re in the process of updating that site, which will include more of my presence on it. That’s the plan, anyway. And we’ll do the whole upcoming events, etc.
33. ChrisK: Once more thanks a lot for taking your time and of course your books.
Since the first time I read Dust of Dreams I found it very difficult to understand Tool’s motiviation in sacrificing himself and his family. I mean here is a character who experienced first hand the painful loss of mortality. Then after thousands of years he gets a second chance and becomes mortal again—even finding someone to love and starting his own familiy.
Why does Tool so willingly throw away everything he longed for (or didn’t he?) to save a group of people who would rather see him dead and gone more than anything else? Is this just Tool’s sense of duty as a leader (if so, but what about his responsibility and compassion for his loved ones?) or was he rather forced to act the way he did? Be it by the influence of some powerful entity such as Olar Ethil or, as someone already suggested in an earlier post, do we see some characteristical Imass thread here, where compassion for their group always takes predominance over anything else. Would by great if you could share some of your thoughts on this topic.
Steven: no god manipulated Tool. One of the tragedies of a leadership role—across all venues—is the necessary sublimation of personal desires to a collective cause, or imperative. The latter invokes an honour that trumps the personal (in honourable people, that is). Tool was caught in that dilemma but to his mind there was no choice at all. Were he a more selfish, self-serving personality, he would have bolted with his family and to hell with the Barghast. But that would have refuted everything we knew about him. Good leaders are rare in every world, but all along in this series I wanted to pose examples of both good leaders and bad ones, even when the nature of being ‘good’ results in very bad things.
34. Marty Cahill: As always, thanks for taking the time to swing by and talk with us. I’ve got a few questions I would love your thoughts on.
Nearing the end of the series, we’re seeing a lot of callbacks to things from before, as well as major payoffs to storylines that were books in the making. How much of DoD/TCG did you see and know when starting out? And in terms of your plotting, were you always working towards these outcomes, or did you veer anywhere new as you went? How did you find yourself balancing chapters, storylines? With so many moving parts, did you actively focus on balancing everything together or did they just come naturally?
Steven: As noted in earlier answers, I knew the central elements of the series’ conclusion from the very beginning. Also, as I mentioned before, I went for the call-backs wherever I could. As for balancing characters and storylines, well, so much of that is down to preparation, to closing out or merging storylines as required in order to sharpen the focus and make the narrative tighter as it closed in on the series’ end.
34. Marty Cahill: A recent trend in fantasy lit seems to be magic in the world operating as science, with natural laws and rules as defined by the author and world. When developing the magic of Malazan, how did you view it? I’m curious as to your take on magic in general, actually. There seem to be hard and fast rules, a hierarchy in Malazan, but also a lot of wiggle room depending on the wielder. Would love your thoughts.
Steven: the rules of Malazan-based magic will always remain a mystery, because to lay it all out will force us to constrain ourselves. Let’s face it, the use of magic in fiction is the metaphor for what an author already does, but pushed into the quasi-real world into which we are plunged. The less anyone knows of its rules, the better. Yeah I know, damned selfish, isn’t it?
34. Marty Cahill: I’ve just gotten my friend into the Malazan series, (he’s loving it), and we’re using a term to describe your writing style as, “Philosoplotting,” which we’re both very curious about. As far as we’ve seen and discussed, you have this great ability to entertwine valuable character info, worldbuilding and deep discussions on the nature of the world, while also moving the characters to where they have to go. Don’t know if this is really a question, but I’m curious if this was on purpose, or just your natural writing style?
Steven: I prefer characters who think about what they’re up to over those who don’t bother, probably because, as I write them, I think about what they’re up to and more importantly, why, since that’s what feeds all the subtext going on, and I like subtext. A lot. But as you say, the challenge is in fitting that stuff into a narrative without bogging down, and that’s a juggling act. That said, it’s a style of narrative that’s not for everyone.
34. Marty Cahill: Finally, what was your state of mind at the end of DoD? After putting these characters through the wringer in every sense of the word, getting ready to dive into TCG, how were you feeling?
Steven: upon completing DoD, I more or less hunkered down to await the barrage from my readers. It’s an ugly cliff-hanger by anyone’s standards. But also, no matter how many times I said online and elsewhere that DoD was the first half of a very big book, I still got furious emails from readers denouncing the lack of conclusion—in fact, one reader wrote to berate me after apparently assuming that DoD was the final book in the series. Imagine standing in that guy’s shoes: thousands of pages invested and then I just seemingly kill everyone, and most of them off-stage. Why, I’d go gunning, too. It was a long rant, I recall, and I did respond by pointing out that the Crippled God was already out and he might want to read it. Never heard back.
35. KarlReadsTheseBooks: Thanks again, Steven. Two questions:
1. Could you clarify your intentions with Icarium’s new warrens and how they are represented? There is a fantastic theoryon the forum that describes them as “coins” and expands on the duality and economic symbolism. Was that anywhere near what you thinking of?
2. This was probably the most cliffhangery book you wrote up to this point. Was it any more fun to be able to stop almost immediately after the climax and leave so much in doubt? Because I see no other reason to have left so many loyal and dedicated and trusting readers in such suspense over the life of Quick Ben—and all the Bonehunters, really—except for a bewildering dark side that thirsts with malicious greed for the emotions that you, good sir, left me and many others with when you ended this particular book. And I love you for that.
Steven: 1. Not sure, let me read that forum thread and get back to you.
2. regards that ‘dark side that thirsts with malicious greed for emotions,’ what’s bewildering about it? In general, I don’t like cliffhangers, which is why I avoided them for as long as I could, but I recall warning people early and often that DoD would be a cliffhanger. Now, what is a cliffhanger? It’s stopping at a place that makes everyone curse and gnash their teeth. Anyway, since I knew I would have finally do a cliffhanger, I decided to go all in.
36. TedThePenguin: I want to thank you for this series (and universe) I have found reading it incredibly rewarding. The re-read enhances the experience (thanks Bill and Amanda), but even more than that, your willingness to respond here is just awesome! And I want to let you know that I truly appreciate it and certainly don’t take it for granted. To paraphrase from Forge of Darkness, I would guess that you are interested in our opinion on your work.
I have a line of questions about Ruthan Gudd:
Where did he come from? Will we ever get his backstory?
Why was he “borrowing” stormrider armor? How did he come by that privilege (curse?)? AND.... Where did the stormriders come from? Will we ever get their backstory? (I can try)
What about Sulkit? Will we find out what happens to her?
How much of these last two books were gamed ahead of time with Cam? Things like Tool’s storyline, was that all from a gaming session? Or did that come later? What about Hetan? Did you decide to add that particular detail later?
Steven: Ruthan Gudd and The Stormriders will be playing at a venue near you … or not, since there’s rumours they’ve disbanded. Creative differences or something. Backstory in this instance is like a giant vault full of gold, but I’ll be holding onto the key for a while longer. Sorry.
Apart from Fiddler and his squad, none of the other stuff was gamed, and what was gamed didn’t include any of the purely fictional threads, characters and so on (Gesler, Stormy, Icarium, Gruntle, Hood, Grey Helms, the Shake, etc), so it played out differently in its details and time-line.
37. Matrim Cauthon: Long time lurker, first-timer poster!
First, I just want to say I am STOKED I’ve finally caught up. First time through the series and it’s taken me about 10 months on and off reading, and this re-read blog has been invaluable in helping me get to grips with this epic series. I will wait until I finish tCH (and the other ICE books) before I try and rank it vs ASOIAF, LoTR and WoT, but it certainly deserves a seat at the table with those other great epic fantasy series... The seige of Capustan and the Chain of Dogs ranks up there with the most intense, emotional and rewarding plotlines I’ve had the pleasure to read.
Question for Steven: I’m aware from reading answers to other questions that Shadowthrone was a ICE character from your role playing days. Can you tell us who was your (main) character?
Steven: I npc’d Dancer/Cotillion, and Surly, Tayschrenn, Nok, Crust, Urko—in fact, I surrounded the poor guy with maniacs and/or highly dangerous and not entirely trustworthy people. Considering it that way, is it any wonder ST ended up the way he did?
38. MasterPatricko: Hi Steven! Another huge fan of your work and the Malazan universe.
One criticism I’ve heard from others about the Malazan series is that the power scales involved quickly become absurd.
For example, when just a few K’Chain Che’Malle were tearing through armies in MoI, hearing about 15,000 Ve’Gath soldiers in DoD is mindblowing. People seem to either find this awesome or silly.
Did you ever worry about “power creep” through the series, and do you have a response to those that complain the Malazan battles and magic system are overpowered and unbelievable? Was balancing realism/believability against a desire to impress/exaggerate/surpass the last chapter a consideration for you when writing?
I quite enjoyed the sections of the books that have PoVs of non-superpowered characters. But in general they seem unaware of the true power of some of the heavyweight characters and the possibilities of the magic system. Is this the overall picture, that the average Malazan human isn’t aware of the existence of demigods and supermen among them? What do you think would change if the average person did know about the capabilities of the beings among them?
Were there any other issues with, or details you needed to make self-consistent, a world where “normal” people can coexist with beings of ridiculous power we loved reading about?
Steven: well, I’m not sure what I can say about the power-up thing: it always cancels out and that should be obvious to anyone who’s read the series. It’s like the old gaming thing: no matter how powerful you make your character, a good GM will throw at you a nasty just as tough, if not tougher: the numbers and skill levels and hit-points level out [ie, so you got a character with three hundred hit-points—that demon just delivered a single blow dealing two-hundred ninety hit-points of damage…]. The power-ups cancel out, or are leveled by some other way (a cusser). Thinking on it, that criticism doesn’t make any sense, since the whole thrust of the series was about non-powerful characters being able to take down gods. How could anyone miss the point of that?
@38 But werent those UNDEAD KCCM, akin to T’lan Inmass, I think that somewhat justifies the difficulty in defeating them.
Another comparison that might be better would be Karsa taking on the lone short tail, then seeing the Malazan Marines (and Heavies) take on an army. Given that was fairly early in Karsa’s plotline, and he did it bare handed, but still, Karsa!
Steven: all right, folks, let me explain that Karsa and the Short-tail scrap. It was all a lark! It was me doing the Conan thing since Karsa was my take on Conan in the first place! It was a Frazetta painting, a comic centre-spread! It was me having some fun with a ridiculous fight that no-one even witnesses! And how does he comment on it at the end? That comment is the punch-line. There. Finis.
40. kjtherock: Just wondering; as the author, how did all the deaths at the end of the book affect you? Were they difficult to write. Love these books by the way.
Steven: Yes, very difficult to write, but then, so were all the final scenes of all the surviving characters, too. Saying good-bye is never easy.
41. Tufty: We get to keep piling on more questions until SE finds time to answer them, right? :P Sorry, Steve!
I would like to add another question though:
We’ve seen throughout the series that the Jaghut can be extremely resilient. The more powerful among them don’t even need a physical form, and can keep their soul in the mortal plane and rebuild their own body, as Raest did, or spend eons separate from their body, as Hood did. They also toy around with souls, capturing some in Finnests, taking over human bodies as a disguise (ie: Pannion), and more. Then there’s Verdith’anath, where we didn’t actually see any Jaghut souls hanging around, nor have we seen any in Hood’s realm.
So the Jaghut certainly have some interesting death/spirit aspects going on, which in some ways is kind of odd because they are so heavily ice-aspected. But, on the other hand, Gothos’ ritual in the MT prologue lead to all sorts of counter-death effects (amongst other effects), like Shurq, Harlest, Kettle, the Azath, the Bentract T’lan Imass/Refugium, and more.
So perhaps all of this is connected. The Jaghut’s ice-magic can be used to “freeze” life itself, preventing death by preserving souls in abstract, magic-metaphorical ice? Which then leads nicely to the whispered-of Jaghut war against Death itself.
Finally, my question—am I on the right track? Could only the Jaghut have “succeeded” in the war against Death and accomplished what they achieved, because of their ice magic/aspect?
42. BDG: Since we’re double dipping, to riff off of Tufty’s question, many for the non-humans (the Jaghuts, and the Tebol, and the K’Chain, and the Assail...I’m not too sure about the Tiste or the Imass) seem to be physically different and socially different but they don’t seem to be that different from humans in term of their cognitive functions, emotions, or their behavioural patterns (outside of maybe the Short-Tails). Did you ever have a version of the Wu where those species (races?) were vastly different from humans or has there always been a focus on humanizing everyone?
Steven: The Giant (chaos), the Sage, the Judge—all aspects of the human condition given archetypal form. As for the Che’Malle, yeah, I wanted to do something different with them.
43. OPlz: Steve! This is unrelated to DoD and a little random but I think you and ICE should sign on an artist and do a graphic novel on the Seguleh. Something dark and gritty, about their exile from Daru to Cant and the last rule of the Tyrant. Or maybe a back story on Jan’s rise to 2nd and his relationship with the 1st and the tradition and lifestyle of those who follow the way of the sword.
Steven: we’ve had little luck with graphic novels, etc.
44. Cassanne: Hello mr Erikson. Thank you for your time, your attention and most importantly for all the books.
My question is also not about DoD, but about the whole Malazan series: could you tell us a little about names? Names of places, characters, etc.—there are many and very rarely you tell us the meaning of a name. Of course, many (nick)names are ’translated’ for the reader, but I mean the names that are in one of your fictional languages.
Is there significance to which names are translated for the reader and which aren’t? Do your/ICE’s names in made-up languages usually have a meaning, or were they picked for their nice sound? (If they have meanings, would you translate a few for me?) For example: series of names like Nimander / Anomander / Andarist make me feel these are words with meanings, but perhaps that’s just my obsessive mind.
I want to add that I really admire how you use names to add dissonance or hidden layers, for example Silchas Ruin (or is ruin here not meant to be a english word??), Clip, Whiskeyjack, Burn, so many more... And it fascinates me how all the soldier characters seem to have completely forgotten their birth names. Even the new recruits leave theirs behind eagerly, it seems. Was that a conscious choice, or did it just happen that way?
Steven: For me and Cam both, we always went for names the sound or meaning of which we liked and found appropriate. Some arrived as Dickensian (relating to some aspect of the character’s personality), others emerged from extinct or obscure linguistic roots (Nimander, Anomander, Kilmandaros, etc all Sanskrit/Indo-European), but above all, it was down to liking how the names sounded. The T’lan Imass names came from a fairly basic invented language and so all have meanings, but I don’t have the master-list on hand to give you any definitions.
We also got into the reversal of syllabic western conventions, loading up the syllables on the first name rather than the second name, since it both rolled and gave a perfunctory quality to it at the end. But all this is just saying the same thing: we liked how the names sounded.