Further Curated Sayings of Cû'jara-Cinmoi

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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2017, 07:05:59 pm »
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
(Monday, July 25, 2011)

These questions have to do with a lot of metaphysical stuff such as damnation, magic, the Inchoroi, and more. As you can expect, this is true hardcore stuff! Many thanks to all the fans who submitted questions for this interview.

Be forewarned that some of the answers contain information that could be construed as spoiler material. Nothing major; nothing that can spoil the books for you. But still, something to keep in mind. . .

Enjoy!
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We see that the interpretation of damnation is local in the sense that, e.g., sorcery is viewed as damnable in Momemn but not in Shimeh. Is the reality of damnation local as well? In particular, is a Cishaurim who dies in the streets of Carythusal damned?

Damnation is not local. There is a right and wrong way to believe in Eärwa, which means that entire nations will be damned. Since the question of just who will be saved and who will be damned is a cornerstone of The Aspect-Emperor’s plot, there’s not much more that I can say.

The caprice of the Outside (where the distinction between subject and object is never clear) is such that those rare souls who walk its ways and return never seem to agree on the nature of what they have seen. Since only demonic (as opposed to angelic) Ciphrang can be summoned and trapped in the World, practitioners of the Daimos can never trust the reports they receive: the so-called Damnation Archives in the Scarlet Spires are rumoured to be filled with wild contradictions. The Damned themselves only know that they are damned, and never why.

Unlike the Gnosis or Anagnosis, Psukhe seems to have come from humans directly(instead of Nonmen). Did the nonmen ever have anything to do with Psukhe? Did humans prior to Fane have anything to do with Psukhe?

Prior to Fane, the Psukhe as an arcane art was unknown, though there are legendary hints and mythic innuendos of certain sightless individuals harnessing inexplicable powers in moments of extraordinary anguish.

Everything comes down to meaning in Eärwa. Where sorcery is representational, utilizing either the logical form (as with the Gnosis) or the material content (as with the Anagogis) of meaning to leverage transformations of reality, the Psukhe utilizes the impetus. Practitioners of the Psukhe blind themselves to see through the what and grasp the how, the pure performative kernel of meaning–the music, the passion, or as the Cishaurim call it, the ‘Water.’ As a contemporary philosopher might say, the Psukhe is noncognitive, it has no truck with warring versions of reality, which is why it possesses no Mark and remains invisible to the Few.

This is why the Psukhe never occurred to any of the other more ancient arcane traditions. As the old saying goes, the man with a hammer thinks every problem is a nail. For the bulk of Eärwa’s history, it’s very possibility remained invisible.

Is Aurang special amongst the Inchoroi in his ability to use Sorcery? Or were all Inchoroi, his brother included, amongst the Few?

The Inchoroi only possessed the Tekne when they arrived in Eärwa. All of the Inchoroi are the products of successive Graftings, species-wide rewrites of their genotype, meant to enhance various abilities and capacities, such as the ability to elicit certain sexual responses from their victims (via pheromone locks), or the capacity to ‘tune sensations’ and so explore the vagaries and vicissitudes of carnal pleasure. The addition of anthropomorphic vocal apparatuses is perhaps the most famous of these enhancements.

The Grafting that produced Aurang and Aurax was also devised during the age-long C no-Inchoroi Wars, one of many failed attempts to biologically redesign themselves to overcome the Nonmen. But they had been outrun by their debauchery by this time, and had lost any comprehensive understanding of the Tekne. The Graftings had become a matter of guesswork, more likely to kill than enhance those who received them. The Inchoroi filled the Wells of the Aborted with their own in those days.

Aurang and Aurax are two of six who survived the attempt to Graft the ability to see the onta.

Wutteat mentions that he journeyed with the Inchoroi across the void, and that Sil rode him. The Appendix of TTT says that dragons were created after the first engagement between the Nonmen and Inchoroi, where Sil was killed. Did the Inchoroi, for some reason, leave their dragons behind in the first battle?

Wutteat is the prototype, the genotypical template the Inchoroi used to spawn the Wracu. In a sense, he is no more ‘another dragon’ than the original 1889 prototype for the metre in Sevres, France is another metre.

Were there ever Nonmen in Eänna? And if not, why not? They certainly seem to have had both the time, capability and inclination for an invasion before the Inchoroi showed up. Instead they just fortified the passes. Why?  

The Nonmen do not multiply anywhere near the rate as Men. Their ambition, moreover, has little regard for geography for its own sake. For them, to conquer means to gain power over their brothers: all other forms of dominance are beneath their contempt. This is the reason they paid so little attention to the Halaroi in Eärwa, apart from their need for labour and congress. What transpired in Eänna, they cared not at all.

When the Inchoroi began using Men to master the Aporos and produce the first Chorae, they gave the first sorcery-destroying spheres to the Sranc, only to discover that the creatures were far too reckless. Having fixed and morbid habits of ornamentation, the Sranc rarely valued the spheres, and were thus prone to lose them.

So the Inchoroi began giving them to the Men of Eärwa, hoping to incite them to rebellion. But the Halaroi had no stomach for rousing a feared, and most importantly, absent master, and so rendered the deadly gifts to their Nonmen overlords. The Inchoroi then looked to Eänna, where the Men were both more fierce and more naive. They gave the Chorae to the Five Tribes as gifts, and to one tribe, the black-haired Ketyai, they gave a great tusk inscribed with their hallowed laws and most revered stories–as well as one devious addition: the divine imperative to invade the ‘Land of the Felled Sun’ and hunt down and exterminate the ‘False Men.’

The Nonmen only rebuilt and reinforced the Gates after the first great migratory invasions generations later.

What can you tell us about the Consult's level genetic engineering? 

I would love to tell you about the Consult’s level of genetic engineering, but they insist on revealing the mad extent of their depravity themselves in The Unholy Consult.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2017, 07:08:34 pm »
Why Fantasy and Why Now? by R. Scott Bakker

Why do people read fantasy?

The typical answer is that people are searching for ‘escape.’ Fantasy represents, many would say, a retreat from the harsh world of competition and commerce. Another answer is that fantasy provides, like much fiction, a specific kind of wish-fulfillment. Fantasy allows us, for a time, to be the all-conquering warrior or the all-wise sorcerer. The problem is that neither of these answers in any way distinguishes fantasy from other genres of literature. Fantasy, I would like to suggest, offers a very specific kind of escape and wish-fulfillment, one connected, moreover, to its profound role in the great machine which we call contemporary culture.

Fantasy, I will argue, is the primary literary response to what is often called the ‘contemporary crisis of meaning.’ And as such, fantasy represents a privileged locus from which one might understand what is going in our culture in general.

What is the crisis of meaning? Since the Enlighenment a few centuries ago, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in our culture, a signature characteristic of which is the rise of science. Science as a socio-historical phenomenon is related to the crisis of meaning in a least two ways: 1) the disenchantment of the world; and 2) the monopolization of rationality.

Since the Enlightenment, science has quickly replaced all of our prior ‘intentional’ explanations of the world. Events are no longer the results of some spiritual agency, where thunder, for instance, might equal the ‘anger of the gods,’ but rather the result of indifferent causal processes. To say that the world is disenchanted is to say that it is indifferent to human concerns. Where our ancestors saw the world as extended family, as more cryptic members of the tribe, we see the world as arbitrary and inhuman, utterly disconnected from the puny tribe of human agency.

It is the power of science to explain, and the technological dividends those explanations have reaped, which has led to science’s monopolization of rationality. The only socially legitimate truth claims that remain to us are scientific truth claims. To be rational in our society, is to be ‘scientifically minded,’ to reserve our judgement on the truth or falsity of various claims pending ‘hard evidence.’

The problem, however, is that science does not provide value, does not tell us what is good or bad, right or wrong. And so we find ourlselves in a curious quandry: the only socially legitimate means we have to make truth claims has become divorced from questions of value. Certainly there are some very reasonable sounding moral philosophers and theologians out there with innumerable claims to the truth of this or that moral principle, but the fact that they can never agree on anything demonstrates to us the futility of their rationalizations. Only the evolutionary biologist can give us a scientific theory of morality: morality is an illusion which generates the requisite social cohesion necessary for the successful rearing of offspring. There is no ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ not really, only the successful transmission of genetic material.

The power of science to monopolize rationality has reached such an extent that one can no longer ask the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and still be ‘rational.’ Since there is no scientific answer to this question, and since science is the paradigm of rationality, the question becomes irrational, silly, the subject matter of Monty Python spoofs.

Thus the crisis of meaning. The world we live in has been revealed by science to be indifferent and arbitrary. Where we once lived in a world steeped in moral significance, now we live in a world where things simply happen. Where once the meaningfulness of life was an unquestioned certainty, the very foundation of rationality, now we must continually struggle to ‘make our lives meaningful,’ and do so, moreover, without the sanction of rationality. Questions of the meaningfulness of life have retreated into the fractured realm of competing faiths and the ‘New Age’ section of the bookstore. In our day in age, the truth claim, ‘My life has meaning,’ is as much an act of faith (which is to say, a belief without rational legitimation) as the truth claim, ‘There is a God.’

It is no accident that fantasy is preoccupied with our pre-Enlightenment, pre-crisis past. The contemporary world is a nihilistic world, where all signs point to the illusory status of love, beauty, goodness and so on. This is not to say that they are in fact illusory, only that at a fundamental level our culture is antagonistic to the claim that they are real. Nihilism is a fever in the bones of contemporary culture, afflicting all our assertions of meaningfulness with the ache that they are wrong.

Fantasy is the celebration of what we no longer are: individuals certain of our meaningfulness in a meaningful world. The wish-fulfillment that distinguishes fantasy from other genres is not to be the all-conquering hero, but to live in a meaningful world. The fact that such worlds are enchanted worlds, worlds steeped in magic, simply demonstrates the severity of our contemporary crisis. ‘Magic’ is a degraded category in our society; if you believe in magic in this world, you are an irrational flake. And yet magic is all we have in our attempt to recover some vicarious sense of meaningfulness. If fantasy primarily looks back, primarily celebrates those values rendered irrelevant by post-industrial society, it is because our future only holds the promise of a more trenchant nihilism. One may have faith otherwise, but by definition such faith is not rational. Faith, remember, is belief without reasons.

Reading fantasy represents the attempt to give meaning to one’s life by forgetting, for a time, the world that one lives in. In the escape offered by fantasy one glimpses the profound dimensions of our modern dilemma. Fantasy is the primary expression of a terrible socio-historical truth: the fundamental implication of our scientific culture is that life is meaningless.

If so many religious groups are up in arms about Harry Potter, it is because they see in it a competitor–and rightly so. Fantasy novels can be construed as necessary supplements to the Holy Bible. In a culture antagonistic to meaning, the bald assertion that life is meaningful is not enough. We crave examples.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2017, 07:19:22 pm »
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
(Friday, June 10, 2016)

- Now that the galleys have been sent out and THE GREAT ORDEAL will finally see the light this summer (at least on this side of the Atlantic), can you shine some light on what caused the prolonged delays that precluded this book from getting published as planned?

It turned into two books, basically. This meant it took twice as long to write, but it also meant that my contracts had to be renegotiated, and this process took far longer than anybody expected—on either side of the table. These are strange days in the publishing world to begin with. As far as they were concerned, I went dark for four years, then suddenly reappeared, whipping curve balls.

The crime is mine, but unfortunately my readers ended up doing the time. I was determined to not rush the process, to let the story call the shots. All I can hope is that the series rewards their patience.

- In an interview we did in 2011, here's what you had to say about the glossary you were planning to include in the final volume of The Aspect-Emperor:

"I’ve already started working on the ‘Expanded and Revised’ Encyclopaedic Glossary, in fact, but more and more it’s looking as though The Unholy Consult will be larger than even The White-Luck Warrior. If so, I’m guessing that the Glossary will have to be published... gulp... separately."

I understand that one of the main reasons THE UNHOLY CONSULT ultimately got split up into two installments had to do with the size of the glossary. If that is indeed the case and not just a question of the novel itself growing larger and larger with each new chapter, did it ever occur to you and your publishers to publish the novel as you had always envisioned and perhaps release the glossary as a companion ebook?


Now that the book itself has been split, this is no longer an issue. I still expect The Unholy Consult will have an embarrassingly fat ass. Including the Encyclopedic Glossary between the covers is crucial to what I’m trying to accomplish, so I was never comfortable with the prospect.

- Many readers are concerned that splitting up a novel that was never meant to be released in two separate parts could ultimately hurt both THE GREAT ORDEAL and THE UNHOLY CONSULT. Were some of the delays in getting this one into production caused by a reshuffling of chapters and/or a rewriting of certain portions to ensure that THE GREAT ORDEAL would stand well on its own? Otherwise, that would mean a more or less arbitrary ending with no punch or resolution, thus relegating THE GREAT ORDEAL to some sort of set-up book while the endgame and all the fireworks would take place in THE UNHOLY CONSULT. By the same token, were you able to balance the storylines in such a way that both novels can stand well on their own and each pack a powerful punch? Because if THE UNHOLY CONSULT is only made up of 200 pages or so of actual storytelling and everything else is one giant glossary, given the prices of books, many a reader might find that off-putting, to say the least.

To make a long story short my publisher found themselves short an editor, and so stranded with a monster series no one had read. A scramble ensued. These things happen.

As it happened, all the main story arcs—Achamian’s search for Ishual, Esmenet’s struggle to rule the Empire, Sorweel’s journey to Ishterebinth, and the Great Ordeal’s march—take profound twists all at around the same time. As strange as it sounds, the story had already decided these were two books. I only came to the realization afterward.

I often feel like I’m taking dictation, but the experience of writing these two books was nothing short of surreal in that regard. Time and again I found myself collecting old narrative marks, wrapping bows on plot lines, without even realizing anything was outstanding. The spears kept sailing over my shoulder, hitting targets I couldn’t even see.

- As things stand, is there a tentative pub date for THE UNHOLY CONSULT?

July or August, 2017.

- Since the beginning of your writing career, you've claimed that The Second Apocalypse has been a slow reveal over the course of many books. Fans of the series have even coined the term "Layers of Revelation" to refer to how each book published reframes the events of previous volumes. How do THE GREAT ORDEAL and THE UNHOLY CONSULT differ from what has come before?

Well, we actually find Ishual, actually delve into Ishterebinth, and actually storm Golgotterath. For the entirety of the series so far, these places have been little more than rumours of distant peril, but the story has been closing on them all along. The last of the interval vanishes in these two books.

This has been the big gamble, right? Layering to conjure that sense of reality that many fantasy readers find narcotic is pretty risk free. But introducing a plot in Book One that turns on settings concealed until Books Six and Seven turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. The idea all along was to use ‘setting reveals’ the way novels generally use plot reveals. My sense so far is that it’s worked very well, but not without exacting a toll.

Consider the PC criticisms made against the series. From the beginning, I committed to telling a complicated story, one where bootstrapping souls free of oppressive cultures proved every bit as difficult as it happens to be in real life. “Just give the series time,” I would say to critics, even though I had drafts of episodes like the Whalemothers written before The Darkness that Comes Before was even published. It’s hard to make arguments based on story arcs only you have seen, but then that’s part of the adventure of relating an adventure such as mine.

- Now that you have reached the end of the second series and looking back at the story that was the Prince of Nothing, how well do they fit the vision you had of the tale you set out to write? Is there anything that you wish you had done differently? Are there any plotlines or characters which grew well beyond what you had initially envisioned for them?

I would rewrite the whole thing if I could, and I also wouldn’t dare touch a thing. It feels biblical to me by this point, a monument somehow blessed for its imperfections. Some days I just marvel over the fact of what I’m writing, smack my head thinking, This is Golgotterath!

Golgotterath!

The details of the vision have mutated in numerous ways, but the frame remains the one I came up with so very long ago. I had always assumed I would come to this point feeling anguished, overmatched, chronically dissatisfied, and following The White-Luck Warrior I was initially, but as I mentioned above, something happened in the course of writing these two books. Who knows? Maybe living with a vision for thirty years was what it took. It all came together so effortlessly, so, well, perfectly...

For me, that is. What others make of it is an entirely different story!

- You've previously described The Aspect-Emperor series as ending in a 'Gordian Knot' of plots. At which point do you think the reader will have all the pieces to elucidate the problem, let alone the answer?

Plot closure, yes. Thematic closure, not so much. The problem of the books—the problem of ourselves—has no solution, of course. All the things that make fantasy fiction fantastic—the magic, the spirits, the gods, the objective morality, the fate—also happen to be staples of Scripture, be it Christian or ancient Greek or Hindu or what have you. Fantasy celebrates and critiques our most natural way of conceiving the world, a way that has been and continues to be undermined by the findings and proceeds of science. The way I see it, fantastic literature is the dirge of our civilization, a final retelling of our most ancient and primordial songs. The song ends when our voices fall silent. No one knows what follows the song. We can only hope that we’re somehow stronger for the singing.

This is what the best storytelling does, I think: arms us against what we cannot understand. Given my themes, ending any other way would be a betrayal.

- With both THE GREAT ORDEAL and THE UNHOLY CONSULT turned in, has work begun on the yet-to-be-named duology that will follow The Aspect-Emperor?

Nothing more than notes and fragments. At the moment I’m rewriting The Unholy Consult, buffing, polishing, strapping muscle on some bare bones.

- If you could collaborate with another writer to write stories set in Eärwa (or whatever the Eärwan universe would be called), who would that writer be, and what would you want to write with them?

Roger Eichorn. Without a heartbeat of hesitation. If I were to croak before finishing, he’s the one I would want to finish the series. What I would most like to write with him is some kind of intrigue set in the Thousand Temples—I’m still haunted by his fantastic reimagining of the ecclesiastical in Three Roses.

- What fan theories and ideas have surprised you when you've heard them? Any that you thought 'wow, I wish I had thought of that' or something along those lines?

I’ve stopped lurking on boards where my stuff is being discussed a long time ago. The big reason wasn’t so much that I found myself tempted by other plot possibilities (though many of them struck me as excellent), but that coming across those who guessed right given this or that plot twist was making me inject more mystery into my writing, instead of less.

One of my biggest weaknesses as a writer, I think, is the inclination to make everything mysterious. Those with unfortunate inclinations should avoid inclines.

(My wife refers to me as “Misterrrr Mysteriosoooo” those rare times she gets drunk.)

- Which character in the series has been the most difficult to write for, and why?

Kellhus has always been the most difficult, simply because he’s a super-intellect, and I’m lucky if I’m smart enough on any given day to fake a super-intellect for the span of several words... like I just did back there... just a few words ago... Didn’t I?

I have my daughter fooled at the moment, I think, but my wife has always seen through my facade. My drinking buddies think they see through it, but that’s always been part of the master plan.

- How much of the history and the details of the history were set in stone when you started with the series, and how much have you added to it since you started?

The bulk of the history has been roughed out since before I began writing The Second Apocalypse. Fleshing out the details has always been one of the joys of writing the series for me. I rewrote the Ishterebinth chapters several times, for instance, simply trying to get the Nonmen right. Details are what conjure the depth, so how do you balance that against the primary driver of interest, the action? There’s so many ways of walking this tight rope, so many ways to stumble. Sometimes I have too much prior information and I find myself pruning, and sometimes I don’t have enough, so I begin tending to empty plots, and these quite often turn into seeds, and I find myself pruning again.

- Are there any plans for you to explore Eänna or the south of Kutnarmu?

One of the things that makes ancient worlds ancient is the way they find themselves encircled by terra incognita. Since shedding light on the globe spoils that, I fear cryptic references are the most anybody will get. Ancient maps are supposed to be blank about the edges.

- In terms of scale, do you have any plans to write another fantasy series as vast in scope as The Second Apocalypse?

Only every time I step out of the shower. In other words, no.

- The Atrocity Tale, The Four Revelations of Cinial’jin, is quite confusing and purposely so, as a stream of Nonman consciousness. Even breaking the story into its narrative threads doesn't yield much by way of answers, only tantalizing clues. Any plan to expand on that story? Or its backstory?

Not directly. It’s tied into the history of the World, of course, so it’ll always be an exotic puzzle piece in a tragic whole. I love the piece myself, but I realize it’s not for everybody.

- You have what can best be described as a cult following. How does it feel to have such loyal fans?

Fortunate. It means people get the vision, appreciate that something different is going on with this series. I genuinely have a message, right? I truly do believe we’re sailing drunk into the mirthless night, that we are murdering meaning as a civilization. Pretty much everyone can feel it, I think, the growing sense of technosocial vertigo. Those who share this sinking feeling and who also happen to be lovers of dark, hyperrealistic fantasy tend to really dig my books.

They also happen to be very rich and good looking.

- Outside of Eärwa, do you plan to publish any other fiction/fantasy/sci-fi in the near future? Any other short fiction in the works?

My New Year’s resolution was to get. Shit. Out. The door. I’ve accumulated a huge back-log over the years. I’ve got a novella, several stories and articles at a wide variety of venues. This summer I have an article called, “Outing the It that Thinks” coming out in Digital Dionysus, an anthology of Nietzsche essays. “Crash Space,” which I think is the best short story I’ve ever written, recently came out in Midwest Studies in Philosophy special issue on philosophy and science fiction (which you can read here). I’m writing the Forward as well as another Atrocity Tale for Grimdark Magazine’s forthcoming Evil is a Matter of Perspective anthology, a collection of stories featuring evil protagonists written by several dark fantasy luminaries. I have Through the Brain Darkly, a collection of material from my philosophy blog, Three Pound Brain, ready to be sent out. The same could be said for Light, Time, and Gravity, my ‘CanLit’ piece, but I’ve just been too busy rewriting The Unholy Consult.

There’s even more... ugh.

- Have you/would you considered publishing a short run of limited edition with someone like Subterranean Press or Easton Press?

I’ve always thought it would be nice. Maybe somewhere down the line, who knows? It all depends on timing and the project.

- What has been the worst/hardest decision you have been forced to make through the editing process? Has anything come to light through the editing process that has made the books better than they would have otherwise been?

Ishterebinth... O’ Ishterebinth! I killed so many ‘babies’ in rewriting those chapters. The problem was that I initially worked so hard to bring the place alive with detail that I killed the action. (That’s all writing amounts to, I sometimes think: well-planned and executed bloodbaths) It took a lot of work to get the pacing right, to generate a relentless sense of going too deep.

Otherwise, rewriting lets you see relationships between disparate parts of the text and to explore them. In the case of The Great Ordeal, for instance, there’s deep parallels between Momemn and Ishterebinth that editing allowed me to craft in interesting ways. I’m a rewriting writer, so there’s countless examples, really.

- Will you be touring to help promote the release of THE GREAT ORDEAL? If so, are there any details you can share with your readers?

Alas, book tours are no longer counted among the perks enjoyed by cult authors. They reserve that for world religions, at least nowadays. They say Buddha is thinking about retiring, but every time I shop my resume they say I’m too fire-and-brimstone, not enough redemption.

- Anything else you wish to share with your fans?

Thank you, all. We’re nearing the end of what has to be considered a very unlikely series of books. Controversy could have derailed them. Delay could have derailed them. You are the primary reason the Slog of Slogs marches on.

And now there it is. That golden pinprick on the horizon.

Hard to believe, actually...

There. It. Is.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

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« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2017, 08:10:22 pm »
R. Scott Bakker on A Game of Thrones and deconstructing the epic fantasy genre
(March 9th, 2012)

Over the last few years, R. Scott Bakker has established himself at the forefront of the epic fantasy genre,  known not just for his tales of grand battles, dangerous intrigue and explosive sorcery, but also for his detailed worldbuilding and the philosophical undertones in his writing.

His latest novel THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR [UK | ANZ] is now out in mass market paperback, and is his best novel to date. Adam Whitehead, of excellent UK genre blog The Wertzone, had this to say:

“The White-Luck Warrior (*****) is a powerful, engrossing, ferociously intelligent novel that sees Bakker at the very top of his game. It leaves the reader on the edge of their seat for the concluding volume of the trilogy, The Unholy Consult, which we need yesterday.”

To celebrate the release of THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR, Adam conducted an interview with Scott and the result is a fascinating discussion that covers Scott’s entire career, from his original influences to the development of epic fantasy in recent years.


Scott, I have to start by asking those most dreaded of general questions: how would you describe your books and what they are about for newcomers? Why should they read The Prince of Nothing and The Aspect-Emperor series?

I wrote The Prince of Nothing and The Aspect-Emperor for two kinds of fantasy readers: those who love believing in secondary fantasy worlds, and those who think they have ‘outgrown’ the genre. Over and above that, they’re dark, violent, cerebral and genuinely controversial. I’m beginning to think they have a real shot at becoming ‘classics.’

What was the original impetus behind writing the series? You’ve mentioned your appreciation of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert, and developing Earwa as a roleplaying setting when you were much younger. How did those influences feed into the writing of the series?

They say our neural architecture is wild and bushy throughout childhood, and then in adolescence the brain begins to prune and streamline its structure. This could be why our teenage reading stamps our sensibilities so profoundly: I’m sure when I die and the medical community dissects my brain in the name of scientific comedy they will find little Guild Navigators playing D&D with lecherous old orcs. The thing for me was never allowing university convince me I needed to turn my back on these things,  always remembering they were so popular and so appealing precisely because they were so profound.

Frodo read Nietzsche, you know.

Your work is noted for taking a darker, more philosophical approach to the epic fantasy genre than many other authors, whilst still retaining core elements of the genre like impressive sorcery, detailed worldbuilding, major battles and horrific monsters. You seem to be paying homage to the fantasy genre at the same time that you are deconstructing and subverting it. Is that a fair analysis? If so, how do handle these elements and keep them in balance?

Literary types will tell you that pulp genres are ‘cages,’ things that need to be dismantled, ‘deconstructed,’ when in fact they’re much more akin to dialects, different ways to communicate to different readers. Complicating is basically all that I do. I try to inject as much historical, psychological, thematic, and moral complexity into the epic fantastic template as I can, to write a kind of ‘high resolution’ version of a powerful traditional form. The only thing ‘subverted’ is the apparent simplicity of a particular genre of storytelling,

There seems to be a number of science fiction and fantasy authors emerging from Canada in the last decade or so who have found success in writing books that, whilst still part of the spec fic genre, are more challenging and ask more difficult questions of the reader than perhaps they are used to. Yourself, Peter Watts and Steve Erikson immediately spring to mind. Is there something in the Canadian experience that leads to authors taking this approach?

Because Canada never gave up on eugenics. According to recently declassified documents, in 1951 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker sanctioned an ultrasecret strategic initiative codenamed, How-do-you-like-me-so-far? At the time, Canadians were widely regarded the dullest people on earth and a number of experts had warned that this would seriously undermine the country’s economic position over the coming decades. Agents were dispatched worldwide, tasked with securing sperm samples from some of the world’s most interesting minds. The results were mixed. Some, like Operation Asimov, were arguably too successful. Whereas Operation Jimmy Dean ended in a widely publicized car crash (and years of strained diplomatic relations with Hollywood). Apparently, I’m the product of operation Tolkien. I can’t speak for the others.

Thanks to the vision of Diefenbaker, Canada is now the second least boring country in the world – after Scotland.

One of the trailblazers in the ‘darker, edgier yet commercially successful’ fantasy field has of course been George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, of which I know you are a fan. Did you find the success of that series a help in selling your own work? Certainly there seems to be a large crossover between fans of that series and your own (if the discussions on certain message boards are to go by, anyway!).

The whole fantasy genre owes George a huge debt of commercial gratitude–of that I have no doubt. There’s no counting the number of lapsed fantasy fans he has brought back into the fold. Personally, I would never have pursued publication at all had not the grittiness and complexity of A GAME OF THRONES convinced me that publishers might be interested in THE DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the crossover readership between my series and his is one of the things that has allowed mine to grow.

In a similar vein, a while ago you reported that Hollywood had taken an interest in adapting your books, potentially as a TV mini-series, before putting plans on ice due to the financial crisis. Given the immense success of the GAME OF THRONES TV series awakening an interest in other fantasy properties, have there been any more developments on this front? Could we yet see the Holy War rolling across our TV screens?

Nothing to report, I’m afraid. As soon as they catch wind of the Sranc they run for the hills–as well they should.

THE WHITE LUCK WARRIOR is the middle volume of The Aspect-Emperor trilogy and also the midpoint (more or less) of the entire Earwa cycle of books. Where do you see it standing amongst the whole? Certainly there are some big revelations and some more important questions about the world and the people involved are raised. Is it a challenge to know when to provide answers and when to hold back?

One of the things so fascinating about epic fantasy in particular is the way the boundary between plot and setting dissolves, so that learning about the world becomes a kind of narrative revelation. Through to the end of THE JUDGING EYE, the reader was largely confined to one world, the human fleshpots of the Three Seas. What lay outside could only be glimpsed in the form of obscure references. THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR chased them beyond these boundaries, into the inhuman wildernesses of the Ancient North and the metaphysical enigmas of the Outside. Because these worlds are so tightly bound to the story I really have little or no difficulty deciding what should be revealed when: it almost feels like the characters are calling the shots, telling me what they need to know when.

The next book in the series is THE UNHOLY CONSULT, which you’ve already spoken of as being the biggest gamechanger in the whole series to date. How is work progressing with that book and when do you think it might be done?

THE UNHOLY CONSULT has been progressing more slowly than I would like. I was hoping for a fall release, but it will likely have to be pushed back to next year. Each book has had it’s particular struggles attached, but none quite so profound as this. We have a small child now, and this has forced me to abandon all my old habits and routines–two things which have been the cornerstone of my productivity since the beginning. I’ve also had to do some teaching and other work; if publishing does go the way of the music industry, all mid-list writers need to be prepared. Good writing is typically a maniacal, obsessive, experience for me–of the kind which, quite frankly, parenthood and moonlighting simply do not allow (certainly when children are quite young). There’s life and there’s the book–and there’s me, trying to write in the middle of what seems a war sometimes!

But war can be good, so long as it finds its way to the page in the right way.

In the meantime you are releasing a series of short stories called THE ATROCITY TALES on your website, which delve deeper into the past and backstory of the setting. Why did you decide to write these stories? Any chance we might see them collected together in a short story collection at a later date?

The idea for the Atrocity Tales has been kicking around for quite some time. The two I’ve completed came about quite independently: the one, “The False Sun,” came to me in the course of working on the final two chapters of THE UNHOLY CONSULT. The intricacy of the plot and world is such that a single tale set in the past can have enormous significance, generating all sorts of meanings and possibilities. The other, “The Four Revelations of Cinial’jin,” is a narrative experiment I’ve had in mind for quite some time: what would a Nonman stream-of-consciousness look like? I’m not sure when I’ll be completing any others–certainly not before THE UNHOLY CONSULT is complete!

Many thanks to Adam and Scott for a great interview!
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2017, 02:46:12 pm »
Great Ordeal Feedback with R. Scott Bakker @ Westeros
(September 2016)

"Essmenet doesn't read well. Her insecurities and feelings of always failing would make sense if she was in her first to fifth year of ruling with Kellhus. However, being twenty years in bei royalty, I wonder why she always diverts back to being an old whore and can't make any confident decisions."

That's the way depression works. Learned helplessness is only a trigger away, that's what makes it so pernicious, so tragic. And that's what makes bootstrapping characters out of damaged pasts so unrealistic. But even still, despite the continual rain of hammer blows, the hardest a mother can endure, she remains standing. She is not always decisive, she continually questions her judgment, but she is not weak.

"1) it really stinks that esme didn't kill meppa, I was so bummed out by his survival and even more bummed out he was just kept alive for another Kellhus fatality

2) I cannot comprehend how kellhus knew about radiation poisoning.

3) our view of the inverse fire was rhetorically meh, given the three book build up, the viewpoint character is totally non plussed.

***

I thought each segment had pretty dramatic endings even if they're not resolution filled endings. The ishterebinth ending is pretty similar to Brienne at the end of AFFC in terms of cliffhangering on an open mouth, but it's still much more satisfying

can we get the glossary entry for Emilidis as a preview of what we are in for?

what is the name of koringhus' son?

how does Kierkegaard relate to koringhus' final action?"




Lokisnow--I'm glad you liked! All (2) requires is that Kellhus bumped into some ancient Nonman treatise, but there could be more nefarious explanations. (3) I'm not sure I understand--are you referring to the dream? The idea is that the character has been so savaged as to be beyond comprehending, but I can see what you mean.

Otherwise, the Crabhanded Boy, will have to suffice, I fear (because the boy has no name--he never needed any!)

For Kierkegaard (if I remember aright), the leap to the Absolute is the way the Absolute is manifested in the life of the conditioned. For the Survivor, it is the way to embrace Zero.



1) Just to answer the lingering question, I posted a comment on your latest blog post asking for confirmation you are @theRealRSBakker.

2) I really enjoyed the book. It provided answers to many of the speculations that people here have spent years debating. But it left several key mysteries for TUC.

3) The non men chapters were my favorite. Such an alien thought process and the conceit of Sorweel in the helmet was a very clever way to provide exposition seamlessly.

4) Akka and Cnauir together again! Enough said. And seeing the Outside leaking through Cnauir . . . the birth of a Ciphrang.

5) Agree with Lokisnow that Kellhus understanding the effects of a nuke explosion was jarring. Can imagine a few in story explanations that don't require Kellhus intuiting the effects in the spot, but that will need a mention in TUC if true.

6) Is there a head on a pole behind you or is there a head on a copper tree behind you?


unJon: It's me. Rob Lamb has a piece in Stuff to Blow Your Mind complaining about the radiation sickness bit. My thought writing it was that everyone would assume he had come across some ancient account of 'Scaldings,' because you know, this isn't the first time it's happened.

In the coffee shop I worked in, the way my screen reflected the plate glass window behind me created this image of a head on a pole that would vanish whenever I turned around to glimpse it's source. It creeped me out, and provided wonderful inspiration for the Outside flashbacks...

"Some questions:

Is Onkis the head on the pole?  What kind of magic did we see Inrau perform before his death?

How does Ajokli stay in the blind spots of the other gods?  And did the Nonmen shatter The God into fractions?"


I'm glad you enjoyed... I really thought everyone would dig the Ordeal line, tho. To answer your questions, it's not Onkhis, and its a remembered scrap of Gnosis that Inrau uses. It's not Ajokli who's invisible, and no, the Nonmen didn't shatter God, God did.

1. Can you give us an idea of how many Non-men are still sane? Does the consult have a method of staving off erraticism other than committing atrocity?

2. Is Mimara's judging eye definitive or is she being deceived, or seeing what she has been conditioned to see?

3. Is the crabhanded boy the last of the Dunyain, along with his grandfather?


Thanks to you as well, Valandil, but these aren't the kind of questions I can answer, I fear, if only because they all have potential future relevance (if not actual relevance).

How about a non-essential one? Was Lord Kosoter a ciphrang spirit in a mans body like what Kelhus did to the Zeumi emmisary at the end of TGO or was he just so weighed down with the sin of his deeds that the aura of the wrongs he'd done was starting to warp things, like Cnaiur (I assume).

We're not finished with Kosoter.

So anyways... Scott, In The White Luck Warrior; the WLW's point of view sees a notch in his blade that later causes his blade to shatter when Kellhus parries his blow allowing it to pass beyond his guard and lodge in his throat (or something along those lines... I quoted it in one of the myriad threads dedicated to TGO here).  However, in TGO during the climax of the confrontation, the WLW throws the blade while Kellhus is distracted by the earthquake.

Is there a reason for the discrepancy in the WLW's perception of what will happen/has already happened?


Rhom: There is a rationale for this (and other discontinuities) but for the life of me I can't remember this specifically, so I'm going to say this is likely a continuity error, even though I poured over the WLW passages... (in which case I would remember, wouldn't I?)

1) How long is TUC? You mentioned adding 4 new chapters. Is it about the same length as TGO, not counting the index? Is it longer? Shorter?

2) Will the index contain repetitions from TTT's index, or is it entirely new stuff?


At last count, the narrative weighed in just a few thousand words shy, TGO. With the EG, it'll be a good 60 or 70 K larger, all told. The EG itself will feature most all the entries from TTT, many of them revised and expanded (a couple drastically), and then of course with a raft of new material.

OK, now the self-indulgent question, if you will (and sorry if you've answered this before): why is Mimara's POV in the present tense? I've found this interesting since TJE came out. She's the only present tense POV in the entire series, so it's not by accident. Since the gods (and the rest of the outside) exist outside of time, does this confirm that Mimara is rendered god-like status due to the TJE?... or did you just fancy playing with a different writing style?

The King in Yellow scarred me as a boy, you should know.

You're coming pretty damn close to answering the question, yourself, you know! The intellectual tradition has been to assign discursive knowledge to men, and intuitive knowledge (the knowledge of angels) to women, and to insist this distinction is actually flattering to women, even as it was used to systematically exclude them from public discourse and debate. I tell Mimara in the present tense because I presume this ontological distinction obtains in my world, and that Mimara is in fact closer to the god, possessing unmediated--immediate--knowledge of good and evil.

The questions is what this makes out of all of Achamian's reasons.

What more can you tell us about the Cuno-Inchoroi Wars? In the TTT glossary we get a very detailed narration of the Arkfall, the betrayal, the first battles, the womb-plague - and then it just skips to Nil'giccas finishing the war and sealing up the Ark.

What happened in the long war in between? What was Nin'janjin's fate? Why did the Inchoroi keep attacking until only two were left, knowing that they'd be damned after death?

Why is Aurax a basement-dweller and only Aurang appears in public?


Theres not much I can say vis a vis the history of the Nonmen or the Inchoroi until TUC has hit the shelves, I fear. I can say, that Ive always wanted to fill in the details of Cuno-Inchoroi wars...

Expanding on this edit a bit... Why did the No God ever take the field at all?  Why not just hunker down and let the cessation of the cycle of souls naturally reduce the population to the required amount?

No knows for sure, but there is speculation to the effect that the system is very difficult to maintain beyond a certain window of time.

Who would win a fight between Nayu and Mek if Mek was in possession of all of his faculties but only 12 inches tall?

Depends. Is Nayu naked?

Now, the not-stupid part of me understands this could simply be a stylistic choice to help jar our frame of reference from, uh, what just came before. But the stupid part of me (the part that seems to actually be in charge here) can't get over these three antecedents. I assume the he is Kellhus, but who the fuck are me and you? Is it actually you and I/us? Any clarity you can offer to what passes for my soul?

 No. This is one (of many) intentional 'fourth wall' moments, one meant to flatten the distinction between the time of the telling and the time told. I don't care much for the technique in post modern contexts, but I like the sense of aporia it conjures in various 'frame bending' instances, like these, because it actually amounts to a bending of the reader's frame of narrative reference.

If it has the effect of breaking the spell altogether, that's not so good, tho.

On that note, can you expand on the impact (if any) that Kellhus' hypnosis had in TTT on Akka's dreams? I'd love to have heard that conversation between Kellhus and Seswatha! Not long after the hypnosis, Akka dreams of Anaxophus using the Heron Spear on the No-God, and missing. Do the rest of Akka's non-canonical dreams come from Kellhus in some way?

Yes. These are good questions... ;)

1. Is Meppa dead? Do the Fanim or Fanimry have any more role to play in the series?

2. Is Esme dead?

3. How did the WLW fail?

4. In the Ishterebinth chapters, it's revealed that Men in Eanna received a tutelage of the vile, of deceit and hatred. Does that mean the Inchoroi were the ones who sent Men on the genocidal crusade against the Nonmen?

5. How did Kellhus know the effects of the nuclear weapon?

6. What is the Koringhus' son's name?


Thank you for the kind words! Some of these Q's I've already tackled, but the others, I fear you will have to wait and see what happens! How does the old acronym George uses go? WAFO?

I can say, regarding (4), that this is what some Nonmen believed. The Men of Eanna certainly didn't make all the Chorae they had in their possession.

"Why didn't Kellhus replicate or duplicate the Non-man flying chariot for the Ordeal?  Wouldn't they (or I suppose something resembling a miniature version of the Raft he uses to assault Dagliash) offer protection and mobility to his sorcerers?"

Kellhus hasn't plumbed the secrets of Mihtrulic.

"The mechanics of Wutteat's undeath was that he (it?) was so damned that he had become a living topos, right?  If so, why does Shaeonanra require such an elaborate design to keep his soul from the Outside?  Why couldn't he become undead like Wutteat?"

Because he has no interest in having half his soul trapped in hell (as is the case for all proxies, even those as elaborate as the Amiolas).

In TGO, it is noted that the Nail of Heaven appears in the sky years before Arkfall.  Is there a reason for this?

Perhaps.

Some have theorized that Aurax and Aurang were just average crewmen on the ship (space janitors maybe) and therefore had no real working knowledge of how the bios or the tekne really worked.  Would you say that is a fair assessment of their position prior to the arrival on Earwa?

No. The precise opposite in fact. But this is a big WAFO.

I felt the semantic density kind of lowered after TDTCB, but frankly it felt like a sun about to collapse into a black hole with TDTCB and a break from that density was a relief. And you're not just writing for the academics - for the bulk of us WP and TTT is dense enough. I've lent books to a guy and he seemed to rebound off it (stating that he had the Bible, Kora and Illiad to get through first). Density could be loosing you general readership, so celebrate the looseness a lil', man!

 And this is a big part of why I would like to rewrite TDTCB: I love the book artistically, but it's difficulty has meant that commercially speaking, the whole series has feet of clay.

This is why I really need to get my ass into gear and write an accessible prequel, something to level the learning curve posed by TDTCB. I'm really beginning to think Uster Scraul would be the perfect vehicle for that.

"How muxh of the Dunyain is genetics/selective breeding and how much is mental reprogramming? No worries if this is something that will be revealed."

Thing is, the material metaphysics of the World is rife with immaterial exceptions, so that it is never *simply* the case that what comes before determines what comes after. This gives me plenty of wiggle room.

"Also, as feedback, some of my favorite moments in TDTCB were when Kellhus was wrong, and how some characters could pick up on it (even if they psyched themselves out of not believing it, like Cnauir)."

I'm very proud of these moments. Every soul is lurking in the darkness that comes before some other soul in some way, shape, or form. Kellhus also.

"Also, from Kelhus's dreams of the Monk under the tree. We've noticed that certain aspects has changed. So, as the Gods can see all of time, that doesn't mean that things can not change, correct? Like H has theorized, Kellhus is indeed directing Kellhus through these visions. Hence, in the first dream the Monk has the legs of a beast, in TGO this is not the case"

WAFO, alas. Some very interesting questions which, if not answered by TUC, will certainly be transformed thereby.

"I think Esmi's entourage of royalty and appointed officers is too interchangeable, and they are replaced or get killed too often. It would have been nice for her to have a lover or a close friend she could fall back on."

This strikes me as a sound idea. I know it dawned on me that I could have ratcheted the interpersonal tension of those sections had I positioned Theliopa as an antagonist to Kelmomas from the beginning of TJE.

The map appears to have multiple impact points in far flung areas of the map.  Was there more than one Ark that hit Earwa?

Also, around these parts we have always referred to your proposed follow up sequence as The Series That Shall Not Be Named based on your prior assertion that even naming it would be major spoilers for TAE series.  So upon the release of TUC, will you then be free to tell us what you would intend to call it?


 There's only one Ark, but many cataclysms appear to have wracked the Promised World.

After TUC is out, I intend to do that very thing. It's one of the events I have been aiming for all these years. To be so close is some crazy shit, let me tell you.

"Maybe they were the source of previous 'scaldings'?"

Indeed. A close inspection of the historical record might turn up a few clues.

"You've talked about writing an introductory prequel type thing to ease readers in - have you thought about the First Apocalypse or the period when the Consult openly operated in the Three Seas?  The latter especially interests me, since I can't imagine how or what the Consult did in that period."

I have, but the problem with different era's is that they work against the point of such a prequel, which is to level the steep learning curve in TDTCB. I'm feeling good about Uster Scraul, but the problem here is that his story largely takes place after the First Holy War.

"As far as negatives go the Whale Mothers fell flat for me, felt like a needless atrocity inserted purely for the purpose of scandal."

It's actually as old as the Dunyain, compositionally speaking. The controversy the books have incited has created a lot of different lens for a lot of different readers (myself included), I appreciate this, but the theme of patriarchy has been front and centre from the very beginning. From my standpoint, a great deal of narrative engineering underwrites the discovery. Whether it reads as ad hoc provocation or no, Mimara has *always* been marching to the room of the Whalemothers, I assure you.

"But then I'm really weird and think serwe is one of the very best and best written characters of the first series, so I'm biased to select for things that reinforce my position."

And her character remains a thematic lynchpin of the series. But people have difficulty identifying with waifs, let alone one trapped between two very different masculine brutalities, like Serwe. Few people are inclined to root for losers, and a good many are inclined to confuse rooting for losers with rooting for *losing.*

"There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not Meppa was really Cnauir or Moenghus, or simply whether or not he was still alive.  I believe this was mostly based on a quote from you years ago stating or implying that his character arc was done.  (Just goes to show you guys to take authorial intent with a grain of salt )."

I actually think I remember that almost lie... He's been scheduled for this comeback since the very beginning.

"Momenm was disappointing to me because it felt like the earthquakes were a bit on the deus ex machina side of things, and that they seemed beyond the powers of the gods to manifest.  (If Yatwer can bring down city walls, why does she need the WLW?  Can't she just have Kellhus get hit lightning or something?)."

 Who better to play "god in the basket" than a God (Momus is in charge of earthquakes, just so you know)?

The question to ask is why bother gerrymandering anything, when that everything has already happened? The notion of Gods working within the framework of eternity is incoherent, but it remains a staple of our cognitive past. So there's no way the event is going to bear any sustained critical reflection. I tried to prepare the way in a host of different ways, to make the earthquake feel inevitable when it did happen... You're the first to raise this issue larry, but I'll definitely keep my open for seconds moving forward.

"Do you plan on writing an extensive summary and/or series of tales about the 'old days' of Nonmen glory, before the coming of the Vile?"

Nothing concrete, though their is a lot of new material by dint of all the new references.

"Atrocity Tales: a few years back you mentioned your goal was to produce around 100k or so words of AT before submitting for publication. Is this still the current plan? How many AT do you plan on writing?"

They continue to accumulate! I'm quite a ways from 100k though, I fear. I always have a bunch of story ideas simmering.

"Looking back on The Aspect Emperor, are there any structural changes you would consider making, if you could do it over again?"

As far as I can tell those who prefer PoN miss the continuous, often intense interaction between the characters. The Dunishness of PoN is missing from AE primarily because AE is a genuine quest tale, more LordofRingish, one split into four separate strands. The World becomes a much, much bigger character, which seems to alienate those who aren't world-junkies like us. I'm not sure if there's any way to accommodate this and keep steering true.

"Will the title of the Series That Shall Not Be Named be self-evident by the end of TUC based on how the book ends?"

Maybe. It all depends on how twisted you are. My guess is that you've already figured it out. ;)

"For a more prosaic prequel story, something involving Achamian's younger days and his tutoring of Nersei Proyas would more directly lead into TDTCB, but that depends if there's a good enough story there to justify the exercise." 

 I've always thought this would make an excellent Atrocity Tale, simply because you could use it to cast some pretty interesting semantic shadows through the series proper. The "What has come before" idea has never occurred to me before, and bears serious thinking.

As for sales, there's difficulty and then there's difficulty. If you think SA gets some rough treatment here, it used to just be regularly and royally savaged over on the Mazalan board, and for far different reasons. We're all Silmarillion people, and I'm a wanker to boot. The hope is to use sheer epic awesomeness to convince people to read something they might never think of reading otherwise.

Besides, it feels as if it should be a slog for some crazy reason. It would make it easier for me to trust that way.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira