The OF Blog: Interview with Patrick Rothfuss, Part II

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Interview with Patrick Rothfuss, Part II

Part I is here. Now for the fun stuff. Enjoy!

Which authors would you hold up for readers to consider reading?

Whoo boy. I could talk about this all day. You care to put a some sort of limiting factor on my answer?

How about me giving you only 4,000 words with which to reply, or only two hours of write time for this? Would this be enough of a limiting factor? I am quite curious to see which authors you'd hold up, whether it be for personal influences on your writing or just because they are kickass entertainment or a mindfuck of an experience.

Oh yeah. You can't tell that you've been around academics for a while when you think that a 4000 word cap is a way to nip things in the bud. Try again.

Fair enough. So let me slip back into middle school teaching mode here: How about, without cheating or looking at another author's list, you tell me between 1-5 authors that you admired growing up, 1-5 authors that are criminally neglected these days, and 1-5 newish (within past 5 years) authors that you think might be interesting. And an extra credit question, worth an extra 10%: Which author/s do you think have the coolest manes of hair?

Oooh. Now this I can work with.

Five authors I admired growing up:


C.S Lewis

Anne McCaffrey

Piers Anthony

Terry Brooks

Five authors that are criminally neglected.

NB: I'm adding hyperlinks to these authors' websites as Pat requested me to do. Please check into them. Some really good authors here. - Larry

Tim Powers. People who take their fantasy seriously know who he is. But when I walk into a bookstore and they don have a single one of his books on the shelf, I pissed. He doesn't get the attention he deserves.

Peter S. Beagle. I know he gets good attention, and he just won the Hugo. But The Innkeeper Song is out of print right now. That criminal.

Aaron Williams. He does comics and doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves. Especially considering that he does his own writing AND the art. My current favorite is his PS 238 comic. I remember another comic artist saying something along the lines of it being, "The comic idea so brilliant that Hollywood has stolen it... twice."

Tony Ballantyne. He's written a brilliant trilogy of clever, unique, science fiction. Recursion, Capacity, and Divergence are the names of the three books.

Joan D. Vinge. I loved Psion when I first read it in the sixth grade. I still love it now. But a lot of new readers haven't experienced her stuff. They're really missing out.

Five new-ish authors that deserve attention.

David Keck. I really liked his first book, In the Eye of Heaven. Gritty, mythic dark ages fantasy.

Cecil Castellucci. She wrote a great comic called "The Plain Janes." It's not superheroish or anything. Just a great piece of graphic storytelling.

Derek Kirk Kim. He tells a brilliant, touching story.

Tarol Hunt. He's a webcartoonist telling a really interesting story about goblins who get tired of constantly getting the short end of the stick, so they decide to take matters into their own hands and go out and seek adventure themselves. It's got a fair amount of humor and more than a few gaming references, but there's some really incredible storytelling there as well. Some very touching stuff.

Umm..... I can't think of a fifth off the top of my head. Me, I suppose. I'm new and I deserve some attention. NB: Deserved attention given

Best Hair:

Alan Moore.

Samuel Delany.

Tad Williams.

There has been quite a few comments about the "barechested male" cover. Ignoring the more obvious responses, I am curious about something else related to that - to what extent are our preconceptions of "manliness" and "beauty" shaping how we imagine fantasy characters? Is the notion that fantasy world main characters are chock-full of buxom lasses and hardy, brooding, ruggedly handsome lads something that just goes with the territory or a sign of something else?

We read books to escape our own lives, even if only for a little while. We read for other reasons too, of course, but entertainment and escapism are a big piece of it.

That said, it only makes sense that we would want our vacation from reality to be.... well.... sexy.

But there's no reason we have to be stereotypical about it. What's wrong with a rugged lass? Or a buxom lad? By the way, most people assume "buxom" means "with impressive boobs," but it doesn't. It means, "lively and frolicsome."

....Wait. I just looked it up to make sure. Turns out it can mean both, or either. Huh. Good word. There's a lesson to all you kids out there. Make sure you check your facts, or you'll be wrong and look like a dumbass.

So maybe what we see so much is not merely the fetishization (I think that's a word and if not, I'm claiming it!) of certain physical traits, but perhaps also an idealization of how we'd like our summer vacation babes/dudes to look at while we're sprawled out there on the beach?

Fetishization is a word. It generally refers to a pathological erotic attraction to something that's not ordinarily sexual. Like feet, or Tupperware. The more common use is Fetishism.

So would it be safe to say that those who prefer “big tits and thighs, the kind of girl that would knock out most guys” have a fetish that is a bit more commonly accepted than Tupperware or Velveeta, but that it might not be quite as harmless as the others mentioned above?

The key here is pathological. Guys who like boobs are just normal. Boobs are cool. But if you're obsessed with them, that's different. There's a difference between someone who tells a little fib once and a while, and a person who is a pathological liar.

So a little liking of boobs/package/etc. is okay, but all in moderation? to clear my thoughts, as it seems we’ve wandered from Denna to talking about “assets” here - is this a common thing in fantasy convention panel discussions?

Hmmm... at the conventions I've attended, there's been very little boob talk on the panels. In the lounge of the hotel, sure, but not much in the panels themselves.

One of the things about The Name of the Wind that I and other reviewers have commented upon is how while the world might feel familiar at first, the characters often don't behave in a Society for Creative Anachronism type of way.

First, I have to say that I have nothing against people in the SCA. They have a lot going for them, and have really, really cool parties. I have a lot of friends in the SCA.

That said, they are, in some respects, total wankers. The way they talk and act isn't realistic. It total nonsense for the most part, actually. If you traveled back in time 400 years you wouldn't be poncing around in brocade speaking in a bad British accent. You'd be digging ditches or dying of black lung in a mine somewhere. Odds are, you'd be a peasant.

But that's why they call it CREATIVE anachronism. If it was the society for faithful historical reenactment, then I'd have a beef with them. But they're just having a good time, no harm in that.

How do I know so much about them? Because I've hung out with them in the past. Not just once or twice, either. As I've said, they know how to party.

The problem is, a lot of authors don't put much more thought into the worlds they create than the SCA people do into their reenactment. They think that if they want their setting to be old-timey and fantastic all they have to do is use different words. That's why so many fantasy novels read like bad fanfic, the authors are trying to take a shortcut to avoid the work of worldbuilding.

For example, instead of a tired farmer ordering a mug of beer, they'll have him order a flaggon of ale. When he talks with his friends, he doesn't worry about the lack of rain and taxes. He worries about the Carethnaxian blood-blight spoiling his crops.

Yes. We get it. You're writing fantasy. Please stop beating us over the head with it.

I wanted my book to be more subtle, and more realistic. In my world, things are very real. Farmers worry about drought and taxes. They drink beer and bitch about the government. Does it sound ordinary? Of course. It should sound ordinary. They're ordinary people. I'm going to save the remarkable stuff for later in the book.

How much, if any, were your non-SCA style characterizations a deliberate amount to break with these stereotypes and how much was it just a natural outgrowth of the story?

A lot was a deliberate attempt to break stereotypes. Let say 85 %.

Let’s say you’re in your favorite local bookstore and you happen to be walking past the SF section when you overhear a debate among two people about which would be a better buy: Your book, or Season Four of Buffy. What would be your reaction in such a situation?

Wow. That's a great question. That's a really... wow.

Have they already watched the first three seasons of Buffy?

Let's say they have. What do you do next?

Okay. Then they have to keep buying Buffy. I can’t stand in the way of that. You can’t stop the signal.

If you were to own several monkeys, how many would you own, what would you have them do, and what names would you give them?

I sense that this question is asked in order to throw me off my stride. It an attempt to catch me off-guard by making me respond to a subject far outside my ordinary realm of consideration.

If that's the case, I'm afraid you've strayed from the path. Just two days I was talking to my girlfriend about this very thing.

If I were given the opportunity to own as many monkeys as I wanted, here's how it would go down:

Monkey one. He would be a dexterous chimp that would live in my backyard. He wouldn't be a pet in the conventional sense. He would be more of a friend. He would have free reign of my yard and house, so long as he didn't fling his poop. We would communicate with sign language and have wonderful adventures together. And play Xbox.

Monkey two would be a baboon that I would use as an accessory whenever I needed to attend a formal dinner party. I would wear my tuxedo with my collapsible silk top hat, walking stick, and my trained baboon on golden chain. He would also have a little tuxedo, but only the top half, as putting a monkey in pants isn't really cool.

The baboon would be trained to respond to respond to subtle non-verbal cues. That way, when someone I was talking to expressed opinions I found distasteful, he would viciously attack them, maiming and traumatizing as only an enraged baboon can. This would save me the trouble of getting into irritating political discussions with dullards and fuckwits, and, now that I think of it, would probably guarantee that only good things were said about my book....

We would also, on request, act out scenes from William Burrows' Naked Lunch.

Thirdly and lastly I'd get an entire colony of Bonobo chimps. Those are the ones that use sex to resolve most social conflicts. I think it would be awesome to have a bunch of monkeys endlessly having sex in my backyard.

Sure it would piss of the neighbors, but it would be worth it just for the headline in the paper: "Local Author Instigates Monkey Orgy."

You can't buy that sort of publicity.

*chokes* Burrows and baboons? I think you just made me speechless there for a moment, Pat! Now if Ginsberg was involved, reciting a primate version of "Howl," I think the world would come to an end or we'd all be having a Coke and a smile and...well, don't know about the STFUing happening, but it'd be seriously trippy! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us. It's been a blast

I’ve had fun too. Thanks much for having me.

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