phil:  Dear Steven: I originally intended to let this question await my reread of GAP, which I agree is your best (and most difficult) completed work to date, and most political. Do not get me wrong. If stranded somewhere with sufficient notice, Mordant's Need would certainly accompany me because it's way up on my ultimate list. But there is, in my humble judgment, so much more to GAP--notably the vagaries and ambiguities of capitalist society--even if it takes much more work to find it.

As for my question, which is really a comment, you frequently state that beyond your published works, your politics and religion are your own (a laudable sentiment in any times, and particularly now in the USA). But you also wrote in Dec. 2004 that you wouldn't vote for anyone who seemed to want power. I suggest that you can't really mean what you said. For example, whether we're talking about King Joyse or the Allend Contender, many people covet political office because they honestly believe they can do better than others, and better for others. Further, you obviously wouldn't want a computer programmer editing your books. Political power is not fundamentally different. Yes, too much power for too long in any context, such as being head of the UMC, can corrupt. But don't you want a combination of inspirational vision and experience everywhere, most of all among our leaders? The notion of the "reluctant" warrior or here, politician, is obviously deeply ingrained in the American pysche, and with good cause--it serves the ruling class quite well, thank you. The notion can glorify and sanctify violence, while simultaneously denigrating both vision and experience. Remember, both Lincoln and FDR wanted to be president, not just Nixon. And though before my time (dob-56), I'm grateful for their efforts, as threatened as they may currently be. As always, peace and prosperity.
You raise a thoughtful and worthy point. I must have been in a parTICularly bad mood when I wrote that I "wouldn't vote for anyone who seemed to want power." <sigh> Our political system typically excludes anyone who *doesn't* want power (no surprise there), and I still vote, so I can only conclude that my assertion was: a) bullshit; b) "exaggeration for effect"; or c) taken out of context (OK, I just threw that one in to console myself).

It's one of the essential conundrums/paradoxes of human life that we have far more potential, for good or ill, in groups; and groups by their very nature require leadership (or else they're just mobs); but--and this is admittedly a huge generalization--groups tend to behave worse than individuals do. If people didn't cooperate to form groups, we wouldn't have Mayo Clinics--or hospitals at all--but we also wouldn't have the war in Iraq. And take a look at "Human Resources Departments," many of which are viciously inhumane. It probably isn't fair to say that "Power [always] corrupts," but it is certainly true that "Power tends to corrupt." (Some interesting studies have been made about the effect of being prison guards on otherwise-decent people.) And it seems clear to me (just my opinion) that whenever a group fosters an "us vs them" attitude, terrible things happen.

Your point about "the 'reluctant' warrior" is also interesting here. U. S. Grant may have been our most "reluctant" President; and he is generally creditted with running a profoundly corrupt regime.

My point is...well, I don't really have a point. I'll simply admit that I'm often taken aback by the inherent contradictions of my own attitudes and prejudices. My "flexibility of mind" runs deep--which is a great strength for a storyteller, but which may make me pretty useless as a political analyst. That's one of several reasons why I try to keep my personal beliefs (politics, religion, etc.) out of the GI.


Talon:  This could be a spoiler for Runes..

Taking into account hints (or bits of text my delusional mind has taken as hints)..

1. ... was Foul truly betrayed at the way things turned out at the end of the Second Chronicles or was someone else...?

2. Linden Avery's hole in her shirt from being shot sure would fit a krill blade nicely... (Does that count as a question or a statement?)
1. Wait a minute. Who says that Lord Foul was "betrayed" at the end of "The Second Chronicles"? I thought he was "defeated," which may be the same thing from his point of view, but which is not the same thing at all from everyone else's point of view. But was there *some* kind of betrayal hidden away in Lord Foul's defeat in "The Second Chronicles"? Or even in the first trilogy? Hmmm.

2. You're visualizing a different dagger than I am. The one that I have in mind has a flat double-edged blade, so it isn't likely to produce a circular hole.


John:  Mr. Donaldson,

I was surprised, but delighted, to read in the GI that you alone read and respond to our questions. To be honest, I wouldn't think that you had the time to do so without someone to help you screen the questions. Not that I wish you to stop! But I would like to ask if you answer *all* questions posted? I assume that for you to answer all questions would require too much time, which is a very finite resource. Do you cull questions you think would be helpful to the GI, or do you in fact answer all in due time?

Now, another topic, if you would permit. Throughout your stories the "evil" characters share a particular trait. They trust. They trust that those they plot against and those who oppose them will make the wrong choices. Though their plans may be intricate, your "villains", from Foul to Holt to el Senor, rely upon those who oppose them to in fact help defeat themselves. Foul, nor the others, can not see the future. As example, Foul did not know Elena would break the Law of Death (as you stated in the GI). He, and the others, simply trusted that those who oppose him would act out of desperation and by doing so fail. As Nakahatchi told Brew, "You will not be ready indeed until your pain has become separate from your anger." This was the failing of the High Lords, the Haruchai, and many others, including and up to Brew.

I know you have stated that our own observations are our own, and in that sense correct. But I hope this was what you intended. Your stories are about people, from Foul to Covenant, from Terisa to Holt and Morn, and Brew and Ginny and el Senior, attempting to "judge" a persons nature, and based upon that understanding manipulate (for good or bad) the environment to their desired ends. Truly wonderful.

Thank you for your stories and your time.
First, about the GI. I've already covered this, but the information bears repeating. 1) I don't use "creative writing time" to tackle the GI, so this interview doesn't delay my "real" work. 2) I read every message. And I delete a fair number of them. Some vanish because I'm tired of answering them. (E.g. "When will the next book be released?" "Why isn't there a 'Covenant' movie?") Some are too personal for a public forum. (In those cases, however, I try to send a personal response when I've been given an e-mail address.) And some (fortunately few) are just plain abusive. (Naturally I want to strike back. But in situations like this "striking back" is a lose/lose proposition. It gives the attack legitimacy, and will never sway the attacker.)

Now. "Evil" characters and trust. I don't see how you could be wrong. EVerybody everywhere "trusts" in one form or another. We *all* form perceptions of people and situations, and we act on those perceptions. In fact, we all gain most of our insights into other people (as well as ourselves) by observing actions and thinking about the perceptions implied by those actions. To pick a crude example: core-level pessimists tend to live their lives flinching because they "trust" that nothing good can happen. In the case of my "evil" characters, as with *all* of my characters, the content of their "trust" reveals who and what they are inside. It seems perfectly true that characters like Lord Foul, Holt Fasner, and el Senor "trust" Covenant, Warden Dios, and Brew/Ginny to participate in (and even enable) their own defeats. Foul, Fasner, and el Senior are egocentric cynics, "despisers": how could they think or act otherwise? But the same kind of statement could be made about Covenant, Dios, and Brew/Ginny themselves. They may well be haunted or redeemed by doubt, but in the end they "trust" that valor, love, and sacrifice will suffice.


Chris Dupee:  Hello! I'm a huge fan of your books and would really like to have a
couple of my books signed for my collection. I'm
not sure what the proper protocol is here, but I thought I would ask! Are
you having any promotional appearances around
Toronto, Ontario, Canada? Signings are pretty rare up here! If not, is there any way for me to have you
sign a couple books or bookplates for me? I would gladly pay all postage charges! They would be the
prize of my small but growing collection!

Thanks very much for your consideration!


Chris Dupee
7 Redwood Crt
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8H 2P9
I don't control where I go on book tours; but information on how to obtain autographs is available on the "contact" page of this site.


Patrick Supeene:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

I have really enjoyed reading the Thomas Covenant books and your short stories. I find your vocabulary astonishing and your descriptions extremely vivid.

I wonder, though, about your use of the word "transubstantiation," in The Runes of the Earth. My understanding is that the term refers to a change in substance that is not accompanied by a change in the accidents. After the consecration during Mass, what was bread and wine still looks, tastes, feels, etc. like bread and wine. The accidents remain, but they have no substance in which to inhere. The substance has become Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Many thanks for the outstanding literature you have produced.
I'm afraid I don't understand your question. By your definition, I've used the word correctly--at least far as I can tell. What's the problem? Is it your contention that the word can only be used in reference to the Christian sacrament of communion? In that case, yes, I've mis-used the word. But I like to think that words can be used as metaphors, or can be extended (in some form) beyond their most literal denotations. That, it seems to me, is part of the glory of language. Why can't the general concept of "incarnating the sacred in the mundane" be applied in contexts that have nothing to do with churches, priests, or even coherent religions?



This question has been hidden since it is listed in the following categories:

Spoilers - The Runes of the Earth

To view this post, click here.

You can choose to bypass this warning in the future, and always have spoilers visible, by changing your preferences in the Options screen.

Anonymous:  Hello to my favourite author. I have read all of your books, but there is one short story that I just don't get. It's the conqueror worm, and I really feel like I'm missing the whole point of this story.

What message are you trying to convey?

Try thinking of the centipede as a metaphor for--or an incarnation of--Creel's jealousy. His own internal poison (in the form of the centipede) eventually causes him to un-man himself. In essence, "The Conqueror Worm" is a mediation on the self-destructive nature of Creel's emotions.


Zoppo Tarchen:  Mr Donaldson: Praise offered as a thousand blessings upon you.
Having read all of your works and now to be able to ask a question of you directly is awesome.

In Tibet there is a wonderful fruit known as Goji (Tibetan Goji is a different species from Chinese Wolfberry which share the same genus but have vastly different properties and is often proffered as Goji) a small berry that is energetic and nourishing though it has cranberry, cherry, plum, raspberry overtones. While you were a child in India or at any time did you encountered this fruit and is it the inspiration for Aliantha? Perhaps of any food Goji comes closest to your description of Aliantha's healing and nourishing powers. I look forward to FR and anything else you produce.

Zoppo Tarchen
Thanks for the information! I've never heard of "Goji" before. All of my time in India was spent south of Bombay (Mumbai): I never went far enough north to see the Taj Mahal, never mind the Himalayas. So nothing Tibetan ever entered my, well, sphere of perception.


Steven John Andrews:  Dear Mr Donaldson
i am at the moment raeding the gap series for the second time (having read thomas covenant 3 times)and am amazed at the differance between the two books.what was your inspiration for the gap? the detail is brilliant.thankyou.
if you ever come to the land down under(god's own)please let me know as i would love to pick your brain. If at all possible iwould like to have a signed copie of the gap series,willing to pay for shipping ect.. once agian thank you for your great books.
steve andrews.,
waikiki,west australia
Well, I suppose it's theoretically possible that I was influenced by "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" books. I read them long before I ever imagined writing sf myself. But the conscious inspiration (this is the short version) was a desire to combine the three-way drama between Angus Thermopyle, Morn Hyland, and Nick Succorso with Wagner's "Ring" cycle.

It's unlikely that I'll visit Australia anytime soon. If you want autographs, information about how to get them is on the "contact" page of this site.


Todd:  You said in an earlier answer, "As for Foul's reasons for messing with the Lords: why do you assume that they had no real power to release him from his prison? The very fact that Berek created the Staff (an organic instrument vulnerable to destruction) shows that the Lords were (inadvertently) helping to create the conditions necessary to Foul's release: they were (unintentionally) devising ways by which Law would be made vulnerable to damage. In addition, I see no reason to assume that Foul *knew* the Arch of Time would survive the Ritual of Desecration: he may very well have been hoping that such a draconian violation of Law would be enough to spring him free. Remember, he, too, is learning as he goes."

So - my question is, how did Foul come to learn of white gold, and perhaps more importantly, how did the people of the Land come to learn of white gold?

Hope all is going well with Fatal Revenant.
In every reality, the past is always full of mysteries. Most remain mysteries. But sometimes we get glimpses.... Other than that, all I can say is, RAFO.

Not very satisfying, I know. <sigh>


Brian, UK:  I was first introduced to LFB by a friend who said they were like LOTR with a hobbit dying every other chapter (bet you're pleased that didn't appear on a cover) but were the best read around. Like so many others, I have loved your work over the years and am pleased to hear that us in the UK have suppoeted you well.

My questions :
1) Your writing pattern seems to have been, TC1, Man who1, TC2, Man Who2, Mordant, Man Who3, Gap, Man Who4, TC3, Man Who5? When did you write the short stories? Did they get written over a long span or in a great outpouring of stored up ideas (and obviously have you got any fermenting away at the moment)
2) The name Hergrom always struck me as unusual compared to the generally simpler and harder (for want of a better word) names of the rest of the Haruchai. Does it have any significance?

Thanks for the time & effort you put into this, hope it keeps refreshing and inspiring you.
1) My actual pattern is: big project, a few short stories, a mystery novel, then another big project; and so on. After "The Second Chronicles," I accumulated enough stories for "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales." And after the GAP cycle, I had enough new stories for "Reave the Just and Other Tales." This pattern is likely to continue (although I don't have any particular ideas "fermenting" at the moment); so after "The Last Chronicles" I'll probably write some short stories before I tackle The Man Who 5.

2) There is no literal significance to the name Hergrom. Admittedly it isn't as "punchy" as most Haruchai names. But I wanted to keep my options open. And there *is* precedent for two-syllable names (Bannor, Tuvor, Korik, Handir). Someday I may experiment with *three* syllables. <grin>


Brian Wellman:  Hello, Mr. Donaldson.

Ever since I read the first Covenant series I have wanted to beg this request of you <smile>: to please, please, please write out the full back story of the Land in the time of High Lord Kevin, from the making of the bond with the land to the making and hiding of the seven wards, etc., etc., etc. I would love to read the prequels to the first read about the Land in its hey-day, so to speak.

Thank you for a terrific series. I'm looking forward reading the next four.
I'm sorry. I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again. I don't, won't, and probably can't write prequels. I don't like them when other people write them, and I have no inclination to tackle the challenge myself. My imagination just doesn't work that way.


djb:  It seems that white gold can destroy the land in two different ways: 1) by destroying the arch of time and 2) by waking the worm of the world's end.

Am I wrong in thinking these are essentially the same thing?

Well, in effect they certainly come to the same thing. But they require different methodologies.

You might well ask why Lord Foul doesn't just rouse the Worm himself. That sure sounds simpler than trying to manipulate a white gold wielder. But I suspect (just guessing here <grin>) that he's afraid he might get eaten.


Olaf Keith:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
just a short notice in case nobody told you already. Heyne, your German publishers, will publish THE RUNES OF THE EARTH as DIE RUNEN DER ERDE (literal translation) in September 2006 as a trade paperback original. The first two trilogies will be reprinted in the same month in two massive one-volumes trade paperbacks with matching cover art.

The artwork for all three books is already online at
Die Runen der Erde
Die Macht des Rings (First Trilogy)
Der Bogen der Zeit (Second Trilogy)

Merry Christmas,
Olaf Keith
Thanks for the information! I'm glad to make it available here.


Thanatos:  Ok, first things first: your GAP books must be my current all-time favourite book series. I suspect that you and I must have a very similar mindset, because there were only a couple of chapters in all five books that I didn't "get".

Now, to the question: I was wondering if you could explain how you came to use the name "Hashi Lebwohl" for your "Loge/Loki" equivalent. I think I understand your thought processes for the other Wagnerian god-equivalents, but Hashi's name eludes me.

BTW, nice trick with naming Holt's mother after the Norse Fates. (Norna/the Norns.)

FYI, there's a page about the GAP series at wikipedia:
some of which I wrote.
Some things I can explain. Others happen purely by intuition or "feel," and them I can't explain. So:

"Leb wohl" ("farewell") is what Wotan sings to Brunhilde as he puts her into an enchanted sleep (as punishment for defending Sigmund and Sieglinde against him) right before he summons Loge to guard her with fire. (All of this, of course, is from Wagner's "Ring" cycle.) Thus Loge's fire becomes the symbol of Wotan's love and respect for Brunhilde, and of his bereavement at losing her--and at everything that follows from her defiance. So it isn't much of a stretch to see the fire (and therefore Loge) as Wotan's farewell gift to Brunhilde, the magic which eventually enables her to bring about his destruction.

But "Hashi" I can't explain. It just popped into my head--and felt right. However, it may conceivably be a reference to "hashish," and therefore to Hashi's rather dissociated (or perhaps I should say oblique) relationship with people and events. (On the other hand, I may just be grasping at straws. <grin>)


Nigel:  exam question:

Covenant's leprosy is a metaphor for Lord Foul on The Earth. Discuss.
Have you ever wanted to lynch one of your professors? Or laugh out loud at an exam question? Tsk tsk.

In a pure world, I would respond by asking you to define your terms. Are you referring to the Earth of Covenant's "real world" or the Earth of the Land? But I'll skip all that.

Of COURSE Covenant's leprosy is not "a metaphor for Lord Foul on The Earth." Despite is expressed, not by his leprosy, but by the attitudes of people (in the "real world") toward his leprosy--and by his own subsequent attitude toward himself and other people (in the Land).

So there.


Joel McIver:  Hi Stephen. Forgive me if you've answered this question before, but why didn't Hile Troy -- a man from our world with military expertise -- attempt to introduce some sophisticated communication and weapons technology when he was asked to take on the Raver's army? We know the Land has swords (and therefore forges etc) so guns might be feasible, for example.
I'm glad you *didn't* have him do these things, of course -- such things would have seemed a bit incongruous -- but the fact that he made no attempt at all to import homeworld methods doesn't seem to square with his character.
It probably goes without saying that I disagree with you. Troy's behavior is perfectly consistent with his character: he loves the Land just the way it is. But remember that he's never actually *seen* a gun--or a radio. And assuming that he's actually studied how such things are made.... Try this experiment: assuming that there is no language barrier, and leaving all of your equipment and supplies behind, hike out into the wilds of Borneo until you encounter a totally isolated tribe that uses iron in weapons; then make a gun. Let me know how it goes. <grin>


Vix Johnston:  I have only just begin to read the first of the Chronicles, and so I am not yet an official fan - what I have read so far has been somewhat confusing. I have two questions...

Firstly, how did you come to create the Land? Did you have ideas about the people then try to build thier landscape around them and thier way of life, or did you draw the Land then work out who belonged where?

Secondly... Why do you think fantasy novels in general have to use such involved vocabulary (and I don't mean the coloquial terms for world-specific items and events). I've noticed this in every fantasy novel I've ever read - it usually seems like the author has been dictionary-surfing and either decides to use the same (very complex and little-used) word at least once in every chapter or decides to throw a few in whenever the hero sits down and looks around him. I expect it of Tolkien, but it happens everywhere from Anne McCaffrey through to yourself... vertiginous, recidivist. I'm not above actually looking these things us, but don't you think that it pushes less-dedicated readers away (younger ones especially)?
How did I create the Land? Well, the short answer is: I started with the character of Thomas Covenant and tried to imagine a place that was the opposite of having leprosy. Then I tried to imagine what kind of people, races, beings, landscapes, creatures, etc. might occupy and complete such a place.

Vocabulary in fantasy is a complex issue. Some words fall into the genre simply because they've become familiar to fantasy readers (and therefore fantasy writers). Some words are unfamiliar to the reader but are normal and ordinary to the writer (because the reader and the writer naturally have different experiences in/with life). Some words are used *because* they are unfamiliar: some writers (such as yrs trly) are trying to create a sensation of the exotic and the magical through language. And some words are used because the writer (yrs trly again) isn't actually *trying* to attract "less-dedicated readers." (My books are really only worth reading if the reader is willing to do some of the work.)

Curiously, "younger" readers have been attracted to "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" in droves.


Scott McGreal:  Hi Stephen,
I've been a great admirer of your work since I was introduced to the TCTC in 1982 when I was still in school. I just finished re-reading the First Chronicles for the fifth time and am now well into the Second. I'm really looking forward with great anticipation to the remaining works in the Last Chronicles.

I was wondering recently why in the Second Chronicles, the Dead appear to people only in Andelain and not elsewhere in the Land? I understand that Law resisted the Sunbane in Andelain, but I'm not sure what the connection is with the dead appearing there.

I also have a comment rather than a question. Recently you said that you were unable to say what color Covenant's eyes were because you are not a visual person. I think you may underestimate yourself! Shortly after you made this comment I happened to be reading The Illearth War, and in chapter 6 (p. 79 of the Fontana edition) Covenant notices that Elena's eyes are "grey like his own." Even though you may not be a visual person, The Chronicles do contain alot of visual information.

Thanks very much for conducting this Gradual Interview, I have found your comments and answers very illuminating.
Yet another reader who knows more about eye color than I do.... <grin>

There's more than one way to look at why the Dead only appear in Andelain; but the crucial point is that their appearance is in some sense a manifestation of Earthpower (Law-ful or otherwise). I think of it this way: Earthpower flows closer to the surface in Andelain than elsewhere. Meanwhile the Sunbane is also Earthpower, but in a form so corrupted that its energy isn't available for most natural--or quasi-natural--manifestations. And the appearance of the Dead *is* a "quasi-natural manifestation": it's a natural consequence of the fact that the Law of Death has been damaged.

Plus I have to say: having the Dead appear only in Andelain just plain *feels* right to me.


Edward:  Well, this isn't a question more of a comment that I'd like to know your opinion on. You said that C.S. Lewis's approach was "homiletic" that's the same as allegory I guess, but Lewis himself said in a letter that an allegory has a definite meaning a direct correlation and there was no intended or even implicit connection between Christianity and the Chronicles of Narnia. It's there if you want it, if not, not. And that his stories were intended more to remind you of the scent of a flower that you can't quite place, so to speak. And after all this effected Tolkien as well who had to constantly deny that TLOTR was about World War II, and Sauron was Hitler, etc. Do you think that you overplay the significance of "story arch". What I like in stories are usually things that are not strictly necessary for the narrative. James Joyce's idea of the epiphany for example. And Lewis and Tolkien have a great many epiphanies in their books, for me. Describing a character as being not just pale but absolutely white "like a sheet of paper", or a castle being the color of red sandstone, or the way a lion will crouch when running, this kind of vivid substantiality is very magical in writing, and is even more important than narrative. Or the way Tolkien will mention a character only once, but endow it with solidity and vast implications.
Your question appears to be in two parts. First, about Lewis, Tolkien, and allegory.

You know what they say: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. No matter what Lewis may have said, the allegorical elements in "Narnia" are too obvious to miss. In fact, many tens of thousands of people have failed to miss them. In contrast, LOTR can't be read as allegory without pushing the definition of "allegory" past all recognizable usage.

(Of course, none of this has anything to do with the qualities that you enjoy in Lewis and Tolkien. For every reader, books are what they are. Calling them "allegorical," for example, doesn't change what they are: it merely describes how they're perceived. And "perception" is nothing if not idiosyncratic as well as mutable.)

But "Do you think that you overplay the significance of 'story arch'"? Are you equating "allegory" with "story arch"? I don't. And as a man who prides himself on "story arch," I can say with perfect certainty that a "story arch" (however beautiful or well-designed it may be) that isn't filled with what you call "epiphanies" doesn't satisfy me. At the same time, "epiphanies" (however profuse they may be) that aren't held together and concentrated by a good "story arch" don't satisfy me either. I need both.


phil:  Dear Steve: To be more succinct than I have previously, institutional religion and even theology of any sort play little or no role in any of your fictional worlds, or even in any or your major characters. I gather such absence is not coincidental. Given your personal background, I suspect there's much you could say/write on such matters. Why have you chosen to speak to them only by your silence? As always, peace and prosperity.
You're right, of course: I make virtually no use of "institutional religion" in my stories (with the obvious exceptions of "Penance" and the "tent revival" in TPTP). "Theology" is a different matter: if you held a gun to my head, I could probably argue that my work is full of theology in one form or another. Haven't I already quoted--or misquoted--S. P. Somtow: "Fantasy is the only valid form of theological inquiry"? Still, your point is a valid one. "Religion" plays no role at all in the lives of the vast majority of my characters.

I've often asked myself about that, and I've concluded that the subject is simply too personal: it elicits very strong emotions in me, emotions which would overwhelm any story in which I attempted to include them. Throughout this interview, I've tried to explain in various ways that--for me--storytelling requires a certain "impersonality." Storytelling can't be about *me* (except to the extent that it articulates my convictions about storytelling). It can't be about my beliefs or emotions on any subject: it can only be about the story. (Which probably explains my irrational insistence that the ideas for stories come from somewhere "outside" me: a necessary fiction which allows me to treat the story as if its existence is independent of my self; my ego, my emotions, my needs.)

You could say that I exclude "religion" from my work because otherwise my personal emotions would distort and ultimately destroy the story. Or you could say that my personal emotions on the subject are so intense that they swamp my imagination, preventing me from even conceiving--never mind executing--any story.


Joshua Arnold:  Mr. Donaldson,

First, allow me to express my deep respect for your work. Chronicles managed to capture me in a way few other books ever have (if any!). I am anxiously awaiting the conclusion to the series.

My question is not about the Chronicles, per se. Instead I direct my inquiry to the subject of writing itself. As an aspiring author myself, I have enjoyed your insights into the craft, which I have gleaned from the GI.

Creative writing, I've discovered (through personal experience) can be a dangerous thing. It is all too easy to lose ourselves in the stories we weave--mostly because that sort of obsession is necessary to create a truly compelling narrative. I wonder if you have ever found yourself, while in the process of working on a story, so immersed in the story world that you begin to lose touch with the real world.
Well, "lose touch with the real world" might be an over-statement. But being deeply immersed in what I'm writing does have a tendency to exacerbate my natural absent-mindedness. When my subconscious is hard at work, it can interfere with my more mundane awareness of what I'm doing when I'm not writing (e.g. from time to time I simply "forget" where I'm going when I get in the car). And I've been known to experience a kind of sub rosa "leakage" as the emotions of what I'm writing spill over into my personal life. (When I was much younger, this "leakage" sometimes ran in the other direction: my personal emotions spilled into what I was writing. But that hasn't happened for a long time. I'm more vigilant now.)

However, none of this prevents me from coping accurately with "the real world"--*as needed*. I don't "lose touch" with people or situations that I consider important. (Except when I'm exhausted <sigh>: none of us are at our best when we're exhausted.)


Gary S Swimeley:  Mr Donaldson,

I have always found something visceral about your books. Your characters have a depth and breadth about them. I found Covenant in the early 80s and craved more. While waiting for the second chronicles, I dug out my Marvel comic collection. As I reread the Kree-Skrull war in the Avengers, I stumbled across letter written by you.

What impact did comic books have on your writing? Who are/were your favorite comic book writers?

Thank you for the hours of enjoyment you have provided me.

Comic books didn't have any impact on my writing that I can see (although I still enjoy them), but they probably accentuated my natural interest in "long form" storytelling. Mostly they fed my need for fantasy and even adventure at a time when my studies (college, graduate school, and afterward) precluded such things. Today in some places (admittedly few), you could write a thesis on the Kree-Skrull war. That would have been inconceivable in my day.

Probably my all-time favorite comic book writer (and sometimes artist) was Jim Starlin. I really loved his vast saga on the Infinity Gems, as well as his all-too-brief work on Warlock.


Jerry Erbe:  This may seem obvious to most readers, but I'm a simpleton and often times don't grasp the deeper or hidden references often made by writers. That being said, you've mentioned on several occasions that Wild Magic tends to increase in intensity the more it is used and that the more it is used the harder it is to control. This sounds to me as though you're describing an addiction. IS Wild Magic some sort of conscience or unconscious metaphor for addiction as we in the "real world" may perceive it?
Second, if you had been unable to support yourself as a writer, what would your second career choice have been? I’m not sure why this interests me, but it does.
Standard Disclaimer: You're the reader. You have the right to interpret the books however you want. Without you, there *is* no story: there are only arbitrary black squiggles on sheets of wood pulp.

With that in mind....

Do I consider wild magic to be a "conscious or unconscious metaphor for addiction"? Absolutely not. (Except in the rather extreme sense that most of us are "addicted" to being alive.) Wild magic is just energy. It's ruinous or redemptive, according to how it's used. You might think of as the sun: terribly destructive if you get too close; but from a "safe" distance, the fundamental source of all life. Energy is all good--until it isn't (until it becomes too much); just as control is all good--until it isn't. Or might think of it this way: how often do alcohol, heroin, crack, or crystal meth save the world? Even if you decide to consider wild magic comparable to addiction (in one form or another), you still need to take into account the fact that what you're addicted *to* makes an important difference. Being "addicted" to "doing as much good as possible for other people" may well become self-destructive, but it simply isn't the same thing as being "addicted" to "getting other people to give you everything you want all the time, regardless of the cost to them."

Your question about what I would do if I couldn't support myself as a writer reminds me of an old Carol Burnett skit, in which she says, "Last year, my husband died. So I did the only thing I could do. I became a widow." I suppose I would have tried to become a teacher; but it's more likely that I would simply have become dead--perhaps not physically, but in other equally-important ways.


Daniel:  In the TC Chronicles, why the different spellings of Weird/Wurd/etc.? How, as an author, do you choose which to spell when?

Thanks for the opportunity to communicate with you.

The words are all spelled so that they sound similar because I want the reader to know that the concepts are related to each other. The words are spelled differently because each race (e.g. ur-viles, Elohim) has its own unique understanding/interpretation of the concept. And as the author, I hope I keep them straight when I'm writing about those races (e.g. Weird for ur-viles and Waynhim, not for Elohim).


Andrew, Rio, Brazil:  Mr. Donaldson,

I suppose the relationship between an author and his publisher is not always easy. So, on this subject:-

1) Don't you feel frustrated that publishers can assume so much control over your work? (Haven't you ever thought of, perhaps together with other authors, setting up your own publishing company and contracting professionals to deal with day-to-day activities, to avoid this, without needing to take time away from the writing itself?).

2) Does the publisher "filter" the questions submitted via this GI, or do you receive them all directly? ;-)

Thanks for your excellent work, especially Covenant.

My sincere best wishes for health, wealth and happiness in 2006 for you and your family !
1) Sometimes I'm frustrated by both the process and the results. And I suspect that whenever an individual deals with a corporation, frustration looms (and the bigger the corporation, the worse the frustration is likely to be). But the basic concept doesn't frustrate me at all: I get paid; and they do all the things I either can't do or don't want to do. (In fact, the very idea of setting up my own corporate entity to take the place of the corporation I deal with now makes me want hide under the bed.) Just *think* of all the jobs the publisher does for me, which range from choosing the font to arranging book tours to suffering the immediate consequences if the book doesn't sell. And in practice, large corporations have advantages with which no small entity (e.g. an authors' co-op publishing company) can compete, such as the power to negotiate favorable deals with printing and distribution companies. No, I like the basic system just fine. Most of my personal complaints revolve around how mega-corporate ownership actively prevents individual publishing companies (however large) from doing good work.

2) I own my web site and am solely responsible for its content. My webmaster does all of the maintenance: I do all of the answering--and all of the filtering.


Paul:  Given that Covenant is a writer, how is it that he never draws parallels between his ring and the 'One Ring' in Lord of the Rings? Did LoTR not exist in his reality, did you never consider that crossing his mind or did you deliberately avoid it crossing his mind?

Thanks, and looking forward to TFR so much!
I want to ask: What am I, crazy? But what I mean is: Why on earth would I want to *encourage* comparisons to LOTR? My career has already been damaged enough by Tolkien's irresponsible determination to write about a ring when he could have used practically anything else. <grin> And in any case, I'm a writer of fiction. On every level, I construct my "realities" to suit the needs of the story I want to tell. As does every writer of fiction. Introducing LOTR to Covenant's "reality" would have done nothing except distract the reader from *my* story.


Matt:  Dear Steve,

I've long been a huge fan of your work and it's brought me many hours of pleasurable reading. Thanks!

Anyway, I've recently been re-reading "Reave The Just" and I wanted to ask you about the two Reave stories. Reave is definitely one of my favourite characters, perhaps because I like the concept of a non-hero, a man who through the purity of his actions allows other people to free themselves. A sort of catalyst.

What I'd like to know is where you came up with the idea of a character like that and do you think that many of your characters have the potential to be heroic, only they trap themselves in webs of their own devising?
As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, the original inspiration for the story "Reave the Just" came in the form of the first sentence. In practical terms, I sort of discovered Reave through Jillet. The more I knew about Jillet, the more I understood what he needed Reave to be.

The whole subject of "the potential to be heroic" may be too large and complex for my poor frayed brain to encompass. But I sure do write about it a lot. <sigh> And Nick Succorso leaps to mind (as does the phrase "mind-forged manacles" [William Blake]). Now *there's* a character who has all the raw materials of a hero, but who is completely trapped (and doomed) by the (entirely internal) mechanics of his bitter ego-centricity. Certainly I write about characters who display no apparent potential for heroism (Maxim Igensard?). But "the potential to be heroic" is always on my mind, as are the profound and insidious ways in which perception either distorts or enhances that potential.


Niddy:  Dear Lord Donaldson,

I have two questions:

a) What are your feelings about missiles? Do you have a lot of respect for works of literature which centre around missiles?

b) What are your feelings about shovels? Do you feel they contribute a lot to the fantasy genre?

Yours sincerely,
Dear Acolyte Niddy:

a) Being phallic, missiles demand respect. "Works of literature which centre around missiles" deserve all the esteem they get from me.

b) Shovels are essential to the fantasy genre. However, they are primarily used by the authors rather than the characters.

Signed by my own hand,
Lord Donaldson


Jim Melvin:  Dear Stephen:

Do you believe that it is possible, within the literary boundaries of epic fantasy, to write a novel that rivals any other in terms of artistic quality and integrity?
Absolutely! Henry James himself insisted that a work of literature cannot be judged by the *nature* of the author's ideas, but only by the quality of what the author *does* with those ideas. And if that isn't sufficient authority, I need only observe that the oldest and most enduring works of storytelling in every language on this planet are *all* fantasy. Without exception. (Go ahead: think of an exception. Take your time. And if you *do* think of one, PLEASE let me know. The information would be good for me.)


steve cook:  hi Stephen, just brought the audiobook of 'Runes' read by Anton Lesser. it retails at less than £17 and with the sales bringing the price down i paid just over £11 for it.(don't know what that means in $ but it's a pittance) obviously i'm chuffed to bits with it, but the only slight bugbear is that it's an abridged version. my question is what percentage of the written word is lost?
by the time you get round to this question (no criticism intended) i'll have probably read along to the discs and worked out the answer for myself, but it's always nicer to check the page with the anticipation of seeing your responce.
thanks again
The Orion "audiobook" is on 6 CDs. The unabridged Penguin "audiobook" is on 22 CDs. So roughly 70% of the text is lost in the Orion version. Which is why I hate abridged editions. I worked *hard* on that 70%.


Martin Bennett:  My question is simple: how much do you actually like Thomas Covenant? I ask this because of the reaction I have had from a few friends that I have spoken to about The Chronicles - a profound dislike for Covenant, which seems to carry over into a profound dislike for the stories that surround him. In my opinion I doubt that any of these people have managed to read much further than the rape of Lena in LFB.

I personally have always admired and liked Covenant, but I have always admired the intellectual people I have met rather than the materialistic ones. I think perhaps my friends are put off reading further into The Chronicles by a greater reason than dislike for the character; that they pretty soon realise - if only on a subconscious level - that the battles in this story are mainly on an intellectual level.

Another way that I look at it is that I know people who will only admire a work of art - in the most obvious example, a picture - if it portrays a beautiful subject. To these people a wonderfully painted portrait of an 'ugly' old man will be repellent compared to a poorly painted portrait of a 'pretty' girl. Covenant may not be pretty to look at, but boy is he painted beautifully.
I respect Covenant--but then I try to respect all of my characters. And I admire him: he’s a braver man than I am. But “like”? Have you ever found that it can be difficult to “like” the people you respect and admire? It’s a curious phenomenon which I occasionally experience. If someone that I admire and respect has qualities which I know I lack--and which cause me pain because I know I lack them--then “liking” that someone can be a real struggle. If, on the other hand, the qualities that I know I lack are *not* ones which I yearn for but fail to achieve, then “liking” that someone becomes easy.

That may not be very clear; but it is *intended* as an answer to your question. <sigh>

Or, approaching the matter from a different direction:

When I sit down and read the “Covenant” books straight through, I admire, respect, and am moved by the character. But when I just dip into the books (perhaps researching a point of internal consistency), Covenant’s behavior jars and even offends me. In other words, taken out of context--out of the internal logic of his development--he’s quite UNlikeable. A lesson I try to remember when I’m dealing with real people rather than characters. Most of us primarily meet real people “out of context”: we have no idea what their personal stories are. So it’s often useful to reserve judgment.


STEVE M:  Can you clear up certain questions about the Arch of Time. Not to sound to naïve but what precisely is the arch of time. The description given in the text is that the Creator needed a place to for his creation to be so that he created the arch to hold the earth within its confines. Since it is called the “arch of time” does the term refer to a temporal explanation, i.e. the arch begins at the time of creation and ends at the end of time/destruction? Armageddon? etc.? If yes, is there in fact an end of time/end of creation or is the arch in and of itself infinite?

The second part of my inquiry has to do with the concept of the arch or the Land being a prison for Lord Foul. According to the creation story, the creator did not realize until too late that Despite had infiltrated his creation. If the creator were to extend his hand and interfere, the arch of time would be destroyed and despite would be free to wreak havoc in the Universe, hence the necessity of summoning Covenant or Linden to the Land and hoping that the exercise of their free will and choices that are made independent of the creator’s influence will save the Earth/the Land. This leads to another problem does the destruction of the arch of time necessarily mean the destruction of the Earth? In theory, the creator could interfere destroy, defeat or at the very least fight Lord Foul with the result being the Earth and/or the Land continuing along their merry way but with Foul free to wreak havoc throughout the universe. The problem is this. Isn’t despite already present in the universe? Isn’t the very essence of the human psyche a never ending struggle between good and evil? In essence isn’t the terminology we use designating good and evil more symbolic of two opposing forces which yield a new outcome. I.E. thesis + antihesis = synthesis. Moreover, the universe itself reflects a never ending struggle between these forces. Indeed, in many respects isn’t creation and despite manifestations of the same thing? I know that these inquiries cover a lot of ground but the prime inquiry revolves around the fact that the Arch of Time doesn’t really seem to be a prison for Foul at all. Practically speaking, Despite has always and will always be free to wreak its havoc in the universe. In retrospect, I guess this isn’t a question at all but more of a request for a comment on these observations and how they relate to the Chronicles.
Your questions go in so many directions at once that they’re difficult to address. For example, to say that “the human psyche is a never ending struggle and between good and evil” is enTIREly different than saying “the universe itself reflects a never ending struggle between these forces.” The former assertion is defensible, if open to debate. The latter is at best anthropomorphic, and at worst observably and even theologically suspect. So I’m having trouble filtering my way through to a subject on which I can actually comment.

But the most obvious and necessary comment is that “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” are a work of *fiction*, a construct of a human mind. They describe specific characters in specific situations in a specific IMAGINARY reality. They do not contain or even reflect “the universe”: in fact, they don’t pretend to do that. A statement like, “The Arch of Time cannot be a prison for Lord Foul because we see evil everywhere around us” is like saying--forgive me--“We know that oranges do not exist because I’m sitting in a chair.” (Now I remember that this is why I got so tired of “Creator” questions.) Your perceptions about the world, or the universe, in which you live naturally affect how you read a book--as they should--but it’s important not to blur the distinction between the book (a completely artificial fiction which--we hope--follows its own internal rules consistently) and the world in which you live. (And don’t even get me started on the UNIverse).

The Arch of Time *is* a prison for Lord Foul because he is an atemporal (eternal; unfettered by time, causality, or sequence) being who is forced to exist temporally, and who cannot--at present--return to his natural state. Such an “unrealistic” state of affairs is only possible in a work of fiction.

As for the Arch itself: well, I admit that the language is inherently misleading. It implies a pre-defined structure with--among other things--two necessary ends (because an “arch” can’t stand without two ends which are attached to foundations). I regret that. I simply don’t have (and perhaps the people of the Land don’t have) a better way to refer to what is actually a *process*; or a set of on-going rules or mechanics which simultaneously enable things like chronology and consecutiveness (without which life as we know it would be impossible, and the Earth of “The Chronicles” would certainly cease to exist) and prevent things like wandering through eternity, or being everywhere at once, or even being in two places at once. My best analogy is the act of storytelling. “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” would be gibberish if I didn’t abide by a number of rules (like the Law of Time), some of which are so obvious that we don’t even think about them. Like sequence, linearity: sentences don’t actually mean anything unless the words are arranged in a very specific order. If you change the order, you change the meaning. And if you remove “order” itself, you remove all meaning. *That*, in its simplest terms, is the Arch of Time. It both imprisons and enhances each individual word, each individual character, each individual situation; each LIFE.

I could go on and on about this; but I’m sure you get the point.


Ian Boulton:  Hi Stephen - First off, thanks for all your fantasy works. The Chronicles are profoundly moving and like many on the GI, I consider them to be a part of my own life, which has been enriched by them.

My understanding is that you conceived the First Chronicles as a self contained story before being persuaded to write the Second Chronicles - in which case Covenant's defeat of Foul at the end of TPTP was initially intended to be considered as the end of Foul (at least to the satisfaction of the readers and presumably, the author) - even though the eventual revelation that he was merely diminished had a precedent (The Ritual of Desecration).

After Covenant’s victory, the reappearance of Foul in the Second Chronicles makes it obvious that diminishing him at the end of WGW was also not the end of Foul and it therefore made sense to find out many years later that you conceived the Last Chronicles at the same time as the Second Chronicles.

So – and please just ignore my whole question if it amounts to requesting the biggest spoiler of them all – if Foul is the eternal being certain replies in the GI indicate, is it possible to permanently destroy him? I’m not particularly adept at understanding all the parallels and metaphors made with our own despite or Covenant’s or Linden’s and take the story pretty much at face value.

Thanks for your time.
It sounds like you may be asking: Is there a “final solution” to the Problem of Evil? And I suspect that there *is*--but only on a case-by-case level, one individual at a time. (And no, I don’t mean death. <grin>) On the other hand, I can’t prove it. All I can do is tell stories and hope that they convey a worthwhile degree of emotional/psychological/spiritual credibility.


Sean Casey:  The question I wanted to ask was 'Given that he's a multiple-murderer and worse, shouldn't Angus have died or faced some other punishment at the end of the Gap series?', but I suspect your answer would be something along the lines of 'No, because that's not the story I wanted to tell.'

My question, then is this: How would the effect of the Gap books differ if Angus, after redeeming himself, faced justice - poetic or literal - for all the crimes he's committed, if he was killed or went to jail for the rest of his life? Why did you choose to have Angus sailing off into the sunset (not that suns actually set in space)?

Putting the same question in yet another way, what would the friends and relatives of the mining family Angus incinerated in The Real Story feel about his fate?
“Should” Angus have experienced some form of “justice” at the end of the GAP books? I have a couple of problems with your question. First, I’m not sure that “should” is a very useful word, in storytelling or in life. Certainly the word has an undercurrent of judgment, of denunciation, which runs counter to my convictions about storytelling. And life certainly doesn’t care about such things. I know that *I* don’t care: whenever people tell me what I “should” do--or not do--I just stop listening. <grin> Then there’s the difficulty of defining what either of us mean by “justice.” Apparently you think of justice as some form of, well, punishment or retribution. A re-statement might look like this: You caused pain, therefore you deserve pain. Which sounds reasonable enough. But a) who caused pain *first*? (in the GAP books, isn’t it really Angus’ *mother* who should be punished? or the person who started *her* down the road of pain?), b) where does it *end*? (since no one ever gets through life without causing pain, we’re stuck in a never-ending tsunami of “justice”), and c) at what point do we start taking into account the fact that some people change? that some people (like Morn) just plain grow, while others (like Angus) are dragged kicking and screaming into growth? (And, by the bye, do you really want to punish people for turning their lives around? Do you think that a world without forgiveness, restitution, or amends would be a better place?) Answering an earlier question, I was speaking about “context.” What can the concept of “justice” possibly mean if it doesn’t take “context” into account?

But you’re right <rueful smile>: all of that is really irrelevant. My only true answer to your question is: That’s not the story that came to me to be written. And lest you think I’m being glib: doesn’t Angus’ fate seem to *fit* the narrative world in which he exists? Would the GAP books really be the GAP books if they were about “justice”? What about some “justice” for Morn, who after all committed a capital crime with a zone implant, and deserves SOMEthing a little better than “the thanks of a grateful planet”? Part of the underlying sorrow--and, perhaps, the underlying significance--of this story lies in its fundamental lack of resolution.


Sean Casey:  Are you worried that after answering all these questions, no one will have anything to ask you when you go on tour? Or, given how stressful you find touring, is that the real reason you do this GI? :)
I should be so lucky. But the sad fact is: only a tiny percentage of the people who attend my author events have ever looked at my web site (or, perhaps, at *any* web site). And a majority of the people who *do* look at my web site don’t read this interview. So I’m really not saving myself any trouble.


Michael from Santa Fe:  Whoa! OK, thanks for more than I ever wanted to know about the word "cornhole"! I guess instead of a question I have a request: please never tell us where you learned this word! :-)
Ha HA, Foolish Mortal! I have you in my power NOW!

I picked up that word from Faulkner.


Paul:  Sorry, a flippant question...if you had to choose one of your characters to be stranded on a desert island with, who would it be (and why)? And would it make a difference if the stranding were temporary (let's say a week) versus permanent (which in your case is a very long time given your reluctance to shuffle of this mortal coil).
Be serious. How could I pick anyone who wasn't a total babe? <grin> So that pretty much restricts me to Linden Avery, Terisa Morgan, Morn Hyland, and, well, Koina Hannish (who would probably bring a whole lot less luggage to the island than the others would).

Permanent, temporary, what's the difference? We're all supposed to live in the "now" anyway. But I suspect that Linden might bring more variety to the experience. That would be a plus over the long haul.


Karen:  Hello Mr Donaldson I hope you are well

I know you have explored with other contributors to the GI how you come up with the various character names in your books. But I have noticed that many of the names have meanings which are very apt to the characters. For example in The Gap, 'Warden Dios'. He is in essence the Warden of Earth and Humanity and 'Dios' means 'God'. Was this intentional?
The same with Thomas Covenant. A Covenant is a kind of agreement, or pact, which in a sense Covenant has with The Land and it's people's, as well as with his own conscience. Are there certain characters that you have purposely given such meaningful names to or is it just because you liked the names and they seemed to fit?
My first requirement is always that a name has to satisfy my ear: if it doesn't "sound" right, I don't use it. But with both Warden Dios and Thomas Covenant I actively wanted to give those characters meaningful names. So I searched until I found both sound and meaning.

In the case of Dios, I meant "Warden" both as "one who protects" (such as a game warden) and "one who protects against" (such as a prison warden). But I also had double meanings for Thomas Covenant. "Thomas" was, of course, the "doubting" Apostle. But in the Bible there are *two* "covenants," "the covenant of law" and "the covenant of grace". If you think of "law" as the restrictions (commandments) imposed by Covenant's leprosy, and "grace" as his eventual ability to become more humane (to sacrifice himself for people and causes other than himself), you'll see what I mean.

In other cases, of course, meaning is sort of a by-product of sound (Sunder; Angus Thermopyle). And in still others, only sound matters (Hollian; Koina Hannish). But if a particular name in my stories seems to you to have meaning, that's usually deliberate.

In some cases, I'll admit, those meanings would surprise you because they're derived from languages that aren't English (primarily Marathi). Or because the references are so obscure that only I can possibly "get" them. In others, I'm playing "sounds like" rather than using real words or names.


djb:  In the "chronicles," TC and LA both translate into the land without breaking the Arch of Time. Why can't Lord Foul just translate out of the land similarly? If it requires someone from outside the arch to "pull" him out, why doesn't the creator?

Sorry if this paradox should be obvious, but I seem to be missing something here.
Some things are so "obvious" to me that I can't figure out how to explain them. This usually means that the "obviousness" is intuitive rather than rational, so it tends to defy explication.

But look at it this way: it's like storytelling. (OK, OK, I admit that I've used this explanation before. Give me enough time, and EVerything is "like storytelling". <sigh>) I create a story which--ideally--works by its own consistent internal rules or logic, and which therefore has its own integrity; integrity which--again, ideally--exists entirely separate from me. I cannot then *alter* the story (after the fact, as it were) without violating its integrity. You, on the other hand, are the reader. You can't *alter* the story under any circumstances. And you certainly can't pull pieces or characters out of it for your own purposes: not without violating *your* integrity (and risking a lawsuit <grin>). But you *can* let yourself be drawn into the story. And if you do that--and if the story has power--you don't fully return to your own life until the story releases you (ends). Meanwhile your imaginative/empathetic participation in the story violates neither its integrity nor your own.

So if you think of Covenant and Linden as *you* and the Creator as *me*.... Does that make any sense?


David Brown:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

I was just wondering if like many successful authors who have created such a popular world, you get legions of devoted fans sending you fan fiction?

And if you do, is it something that you read or do you find it cringeworthingly embarrassing?
No one sends me fan fiction. In part, this is because I protect my privacy (in other words, people don't know *how* to send me fan fiction); and in part, it's because I've often announced in no uncertain terms that I won't *read* fan fiction if it is sent to me. I have no real objection to fan fiction (unless it involves a copyright violation). But I'm not willing to confuse my imagination by filling it with other people's ideas.

Also, I suspect that there's something, well, *strict* about my stories which tends to inhibit people from spinning off their own ideas. I can't be sure of that, of course: it's just an intuitive perception.


Ken Zufall:  In response to another question, you said:

"And remember, I'm dealing with a "reality" which is inextricably bound to the mind(s) of my protagonist(s). According the rules I've created, we simply *can't* have the Land without Covenant/Linden. It really would be cheating if I suddenly announced, "OK, I was just kidding about that whole maybe-it's-not-real, you-are-the-white-gold shtick. Let's pretend it never happened." "

I had assumed that the reality of the Land was affirmed by people other than Covenant crossing over to it from "our" world (Troy, Linden, Covenant's wife, Linden's son, [forgive me, I'm horrible at recalling names /blush] Roger). I mean, the question of reality was always one for Covenant; bringing other people into the Land--especially Linden and the others crossing over without Covenant at the beginning of RotE--seems to verify that the Land has a separate existence without Covenant.

Is this not a safe assumption? Is there something in the text I've missed that lends credence to Covenant's earlier--and understandable--doubts about the Land's existence?
In most obvious ways, of course, you're quite correct: the story has left the whole issue of "reality" (is-it-or-isn't-it) far behind. But everything that I'm doing is still built on the foundation of Covenant's dilemmas and attitudes: Covenant's mind (his "psychodrama," if you will) provides the basis, the essential presuppositions, for everything that I've constructed since the first chapter of "Lord Foul's Bane." In "The Second Chronicles," I *think* I succeeded at expanding the foundation to include Linden's mind/heart/journey. But she and Covenant remain the only characters who really do provide a foundation. Troy doesn't count because a) he completely accepts the Land "as is" with little or no emotional baggage, apart from his inclination to repeat Kevin's mistakes (so in that sense he "reflects" the Land, he doesn't "generate" it, if you see what I mean), and b) he isn't in the story long enough to carry the narrative weight that Linden and Covenant do. And people like Roger and Joan don't count simply because they aren't POV characters: they don't provide the mind(s) through which the reality of the Land is created.

Beneath the surface--OK, perhaps *far* beneath the surface--it remains true that we can't have the Land without Covenant and/or Linden.


Russell Smith:  I am currently re-reading (again) the 2nd Chronicals, leading up to diving into Runes of the Earth. I found myself referring to the map in the books, and the glossary to reaquaint myself with some things. The thought kept occuring to me... did you (and do you now) work with a map (or many maps) of the Land as reference while writing, or is the Land clearly mapped out in your mind ?
Yes, I do work from a map, a hand-drawn, entirely personal, and virtually illegible design which as far as I'm concerned is the only *accurate* map. The published maps in their various manifestations have all been derived from *my* map, but right from the start they've introduced any number of errors. At the moment, I can't remember what's in "The Atlas of the Land" (and I'm far from home, so I can't check it), but every other published map of the Land has been at best a loose approximation.

I've put an enormous amount of effort into trying to correct this problem for "Fatal Revenant." But in the end I can't control what gets published. The artists my publishers work with (since I'm genuinely incapable of producing a publishable map myself) typically disregard my explicit instructions. If I had the time--which I do not--I would hunt down an artist myself and work with him/her to create exactly what I want. Certainly my publishers would be grateful if I took this problem off their hands. However, that's further than I'm willing to go. I need my time for writing.


Allen:  "Hellfire and bloody damnation" is a marvellous phrase. When I first encountered it as a whee child it learned me how to cuss and I was the envy of many who were stuck with more conventional burgeois forms of foul language.

Where, may I be permitted to ask, did you discover such fine language? It sounds British. I guess the Raj was before your time and fundamentalist missionarys don't swear like gentlemen (at least not on television) so I am left to ponder the origins of your character's flowery speech.
In general, I learned my rhetorical resources the hard way, by reading as much as I could (primarily British literature)--and by studying what I read assiduously. Which is why I'm now able to deploy a variety of different narrative "voices" as needed.

But the specific phrase you mention came from SOMEwhere. I remember that distinctly. I simply can't remember *where*. <sigh> At any rate, it isn't original.

It's been said that "Age doth make cowards of us all." (Shakespeare?) I disagree. But there's no doubt in my mind that "Age doth" induce a whole cascade of system failures.


Patrick Fisher:  Mr Donaldson,

The chronicles of the Unbeliever change my out look on life. I think that the messages and themes involved in your books are very relevant and important to all people. I think everybody should read them.

Unfortunatly, most people these days are unwilling to read books. "why read it if you can watch the movie" they say. Which leads me to my question.

If a movie was to come out, do you think the story would loose some of its impact? In areas like Andelain, the viewer would never 'feel' the sensations that the books give. The experience would lack the descriptive quality of the books.

It would mean that movie-goers are missing out on a large chunk of what makes the story so special. Do you see any way around this?

Thankyou for your time, and thankyou for writing the chronicles,
Patrick Fisher (Australia)
I've lost interest in the subject of a "Covenant" movie. (Please don't take this personally. It's not a complaint about your question.) But I've seen some evidence that a movie can cause a book to lose some of its impact. I know at least a couple of people who read LOTR after seeing the movies. They think the movies are much better. <sigh>


Mark Johnston:  As most readers of your Gradual Interview are aware, you do not subscribe to the notion of doing any prequels to the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Would you have any objections to any budding writers out there having a try?
Well, I have practical objections (copyright violation) and creative objections (I've insisted on several occasions recently that "you can't have the Land without Covenant and/or Linden"). So I'll never give my permission for other writers (budding or otherwise) to publish "Chronicles" prequels. BUT. I have no objection at all to what's commonly called "fan fiction": stories written without pay for the amusement and edification of the writer, and possibly of the writer's friends and associates--as long as the original sources are given appropriate credit. Who am I to try to interfere with the creative impulses of other people?


Nathan Reinhold:  Will any of the previous books be produced on compact disc? I have only found "The Runes of the Earth. I have not read any of the books but my brothers loved them. I spend a lot of time on the road and would like to get the chance to experience them while driving.


As I think I've said before, these things are a matter of sales. If a book like "Runes" sells well enough, and if the audio version sells well enough, publishers naturally go looking for other ways to make money from the same project. Well, "Runes" has sold pretty well as a book, but the CD sales have been abysmal. So it's *very* unlikely that any of my earlier work will appear in audio versions.

Except, of course, through the Library of Congress "Books on Tape" program. A few extra Donaldson titles are available there (I don't know exactly which ones).


Geoff:  Hi Stephen,
Thanks for the incredible books. They have been a recurring and important part of my literary diet since I was 13.

I have a quick question regarding the people of the Land. I was wondering if you ever considered that they be vegetarians? It just seems to me, that considering their reverent attitude to all things natural and their non destructive lifestyle choices (ie, fire without destroying wood), that a meat eating diet doesn't quite fit their character. Or would that have made them too hippy-trippy?
Honestly, it never crossed my mind. Which does seem like an over-sight, now that you bring it up. But every day I'm reminded--usually in some embarrassing way--that it really isn't possible to think about EVerything.


Charis:  I am having trouble reconciling the names of the Ravers with the descriptions given for the states of enlightenment. Can you shed some light on something that I may be missing?

Moksha, Turiya, Samadhi

Sorry if you only got the last part of this earlier.
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the GI.... Oh, well.

Moksha, turiya, and samadhi are what the Ravers call *themselves*: the names reflect the self-image of the Ravers. Sheol, Herem, and Jehannum are "given" names which reflect what *other* people think of the Ravers.

Although Lord Foul probably revels in the name "Foul," I seriously doubt that he considers himself "evil." "Evil" doesn't often think of itself that way, in my (admittedly limited) experience: instead "evil" sees itself as a form of Higher Good. Just ask any self-respecting terrorist. Or Pat Robertson. Or....



This question has been hidden since it is listed in the following categories:

Spoilers - The Runes of the Earth

To view this post, click here.

You can choose to bypass this warning in the future, and always have spoilers visible, by changing your preferences in the Options screen.

Neil Sayer:  First of all the usual thanks for all the enjoyment you've given me and so many others over the years. Through my first discovery of The Land, through Mordants Need, The Gap, Brew and the short stories - it's all been wonderful.

A noticeable characteristic of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is the vast stretches of time it encompasses. I sometimes find it difficult to finish one volume knowing that the characters I have come to love over the most reason saga will be long dead and buried by the time I start the next.

Do you ever feel similarly affected by the 'loss' of these characters or do they somehow remain 'alive' in your previous work?

...or am I just being overly-sentimental?!

Best wishes

I certainly can't comment on whether or not you're "overly-sentimental". <grin> How would *I* know?

But I don't share your feelings--for the simple reason that the books haven't ceased to exist. I can revisit them whenever I want. Of course, revisiting them means that I grieve again for characters like Foamfollower. But that's OK. I'm just glad that books still have the power to move me.


Chris Allan :  Stephen

Thanks for answering my question on 01/01/06. Although you were rightly confused with my question, you did answer fairly and succinctly.

Just a quick comment. I know every artist is passionate over what they do, and most of us in the 'non art ' world can only envy that you can spend your life on your passion. Well done.

I do however take offence when you jump to a conclusion that if the reader does not 'love' a particular style or direction the author takes , then the simple answer is 'stop reading ,and go find another book!'

Don't treat readers( call them fans if you prefer) with contempt .I will read the Final Chronicles whether I enjoyed 'Runes' or not, if only in reverence to the first 2 Chronicles, and for the obvious rerason that I want to know what happens to Tom.
'The Life's too short' cliche does you a disservice .

Please accept my regrets. I didn't mean my response to your earlier message to sound either dismissive or contemptuous (although I think I can see why it *did* sound that way). Sometimes I'm in a hurry, and I'm more brusque than I intend to be. But I'm perfectly sincere about what I was trying to express. I'm not *entitled* to your attention--and certainly not to your respect. If I don't earn those things in your eyes (and in this case your eyes are the only ones that matter), then I honestly can't think of a reason for you to continue reading. Please believe me when I say that I'm not putting you down here. "Life's too short" has become a cliche because it's so *true*. Certainly *my* life is too short for everything that I want to do and accomplish--and read. When I observe that you and I are in the same boat, I mean no offense.


Charles W. Adams:  You have stated that the GI has been of value to you, and I think you have even said that you are a better writer for it.

Have you conciously altered what/how you are writing Fatal Revenant as a result of the GI? Or better stated: Is there any part of Fatal Revenant that is conciously influenced by the GI?
Well.... Nothing that anyone says is likely to affect what I want to do with this story. But there *are* oblique influences. One is that questions in the GI help me identify areas in which I've failed to be clear in the previous books. ("If one person calls you a donkey, laugh and walk away. If two people...." etc.) That's useful. And sometimes, quite unexpectedly--and VERY indirectly--the GI causes me to reexamine some detail of my intentions. Some question or comment somehow reminds me that I'm secretly dissatisfied (and in fact have been secretly dissatisfied for some time) with one facet or another of my Grand Design.

And no, I'm not willing to be concrete about this. Any concrete answer to your question would be a howling spoiler.


John Rollo:  A general never knows anything with certainty, never sees his enemy clearly, and never knows positively where he is. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Dr. Donaldson,

I have spent several hours reading through a portion of this interview, and I have observed that your patience and generosity are even more remarkable than your works of fiction. Thank you for this opportunity.

Recently having reread the first Chronicles for the first time since first reading them as a callow youth more than 20 years ago, I discovered that I was skeptical about Hile Troy's characterization as a strategy savant. I realize that we are talking about a work of fantasy where warfare involves magic and mythic beasts. Still, the assumptions that underpin Troy's *master plan* are highly suspect to the student of (Earthly) military history.

So I'll put it to you, Dr. Donaldson: how much research did you put into military affairs or strategy before conceiving of Troy's drama? Would the plot of the Illearth War unfold the same if you were writing it today? Would you moderate Troy's hubris and show him to be a victim of circumstance instead?

Thanks for your time and your wonderful novels. Lest you be concerned, I thoroughly enjoyed the novels the second time around... even if Hile Troy couldn't strategize his way out of a wet paper sack!
You raise a point on which opinions vary widely. Other people have told me that I must have done a great deal of research into "military affairs or strategy," and that Troy is realistically portrayed as "a victim of circumstance".

It's not an issue that I'm willing to argue either way. But I'll risk a few observations.

No, I haven't done any particular research into the subject of military strategy. Doubtless I'm completely ignorant about the practical side of such things. But then, so is Troy. He's a pure abstract theorist, with no practical experience of any kind; and his theoretical work involved a style of warfare entirely different than Napoleon's--or the Land's. From that perspective, his original plans still seem quite rational to me (using rivers for rapid deployment, trying to choose advantageous terrain, etc.). Just my opinion, of course. But if I were writing "The Illearth War" today, I wouldn't change any aspect of his role.

And let me just observe that in centuries past the Lords *have* tried other approaches to battling Lord Foul's armies--with disastrous results. In his own desperate way, Troy achieved a major victory. I still don't see how that victory could have been achieved by other means.



This question has been hidden since it is listed in the following categories:

Spoilers - The Runes of the Earth

To view this post, click here.

You can choose to bypass this warning in the future, and always have spoilers visible, by changing your preferences in the Options screen.

Padraig Timmins:  Stephen,

Have you been approached at all about any of the Covenant Chronicles being developed as a Radio Dramatisation?

I would have thought you get thoroughly fed up with comparisons to The Lord of the Rings so I humbly apologise for even suggesting any more links, but this is the best one I have in mind to make such a link to. In that the BBC's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, adapted by Brian Sibley, was awesome.

I would have thought that the BBC, or an organisation of similar quality, would be able to a great adaptation of the Covenant Chronicles too.

What do you think, and has anyone approached you about it?


No commercial entity or "person with money" has ever approached me on the subject. And since I don't listen to the radio, I actually have no idea whether or not ANYthing I've written could be effectively dramatized in that medium. Seems in theory like it ought to be more "possible" than a stage play; but I don't really know.


Mark:  Dear Stephen,

I was fortunate enough to pick up your second book
The Man Who Killed His Brother when someone put it on the table at work where people leace books for others. I was was so blown away that i ordered the other three books immediateky and am now reading The Man Who Fought Alone.

Is the a next ginny/Mick (excuse me axebrewder) on the way. Sure hope so...

Best Regards

Mark J Weinberg
I'm afraid you have a long wait ahead of you. I have a one-track mind, and "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" will consume my attention for the foreseeable future. I *do* want to write at least one more Brew/Ginny novel. But I can't promise anything at this point.


Another Obvious Geek.:  I see Gandalf in the role of the Old Man who both Covenant and Linden encounter in our world so I doubt Covenant could beat him up. The real question is, could Lord Foul lay the smack down on Sauron; they are both demigods.

That would be a celebrity death match I would like to see.
But they have such different methologies. Especially now. I like to think that Lord Foul would turn Sauron inside-out. <grin>