Thursday, 19 August 2010

Excerpts from Locus magazine's interview with N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin's debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has been well-received, and Locus magazine have conducted an interview with the author herself, extracts of which can be found on the Locus website.

“The way we write traditional epic fantasy now is making the whole genre look bad. I’ve heard so many people who read my book say, ‘I stopped reading epic fantasy years ago, but I liked this. It doesn’t feel like those epic fantasies.’ I think what they’re saying is that the genre has become so formulaic that it’s almost stagnant. I’m tired of fantasy medieval Europes in general, but what really bugs me are bad medieval Europes. … There’s no reason for medieval Europe-based fantasies to be as boring as they are. It’s time to shake things up.”

Refreshing to hear such views, especially from a newcomer to the genre (many debut authors seem reluctant to rock the boat too much, which admittedly is understandable). It's important that authors speak up about issues like this, rather than just leaving it to the fans to debate.


Adrian Faulkner said...

Waitaminute! You're not supposed to rock the boat? No-one told me!

The bit on medieval europe-based fantasies did make me laugh though. You seem to either get fantasies that lazily take on the tropes and don't try and do anything new with them in the hope of commercialism, or those which abhor anything even remotely trope-like.

I also liked the bit where she thought "this has no chance of getting published". I think every writer feels like that

WordTipping said...

I have never understood why epic fantasy has such a bad reputation. There is nothing bad about the format, only the amount of poor writers flocking to what was once en vogue.

Personally, I like the format. I don't mind the fact that you can generally guess what the outcome is going to be by just reading the rear of the book. I just like reading the path the author takes to that ending.

No matter the format, nothing will over come poor story telling.

James said...

Adrian - that's an interesting point, how there's often no middle ground: most settings do either seem to be a vanilla medieval setting with little to differentiate it from others, or it's completely different and bears no real resemblance to these settings at all. Why no more middle ground?

And yes, I like her honesty in this interview.

Wordtipping - I'm not sure it does have a bad rep these days, as slowly the genre has managed to move away from the Tolkien clones. I think in more modern times the genre has reached new levels.

WordTipping said...

Well, bad rep in the sense that people equate it with Tolkien clones. Normally that expression is accompanied by an eye roll. It is assumed questionable by default. New styles are viewed in a more open manner simply because they are new.

Sword and Sorcery to me suffered that sort of rep as well. I have always had a soft spot for this style of fantasy having spent my youth reading Robert E. Howard pulp.

The Dude said...

I agree with James, it's almost become an internet meme to say that epic fantasy is in a sorry state and that every book resembles the other, with farm boys going on quests and discovering that they have huge powers, etc.

But I honestly don't see it. All you have to do is browse through the hundreds of fantasy blogs like this one to see that (in my opinion at least) fantasy as a genre is doing really well, and it's far from stagnant.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Statements like that Jemisin quote make me wonder what sort of Fantasy she - and others who've made similar statements - have read. Not Glen Cook, Gene Wolfe, GRR Martin, Steven Erikson, Scott Bakkter, Joe Abercrombie or JV Jones, it seems; to name just a few.

I've read the online sample chapter of Jemisin's book. It sounds like chick lit and to be honest, I don't like chick lit, not even if it comes with an epic Fantasy world. But I can image it may appeal to readers for that reason, and the chick lit tone surely makes it sound less 'epic Fantasy-ish', but the book is not for me. I'll wat for the Way of Kings to get a dose of the good ol' epic stuff. :)

Clint said...

Started reading this at work today and was so engrossed on the platform that I missed my train. Already 238 pages in and I only started reading it at lunchtime. Fantastic book...