Leah:  I am a huge fan of the Covenant series, the characters and situations opening my eyes to entire new views on life and death, right and wrong. My question is, what inspired your interest in dealing in paradoxes and such heavy subjects?
And, secondly, how do you portray them to well? (the last question is more of a compliment than a question, but if you can answer it I would be most interested.)

Thanks for the Experiences,
If I could explain *how* I’m able to do what I do, well…I probably wouldn’t need to do anything else. I could make a very tidy living just doing that: i.e. explaining how the imagination works; how the relatively mundane transactions of neurons combine to produce results which exceed the parameters of those transactions. (Admittedly, there are *billions* of neurons--and many more possible combinations than there are neurons. As Karl Marx observed in a different context, “Differences in degree become differences in kind.” But that merely describes the *problem* of explaining how the imagination works: it doesn’t bring us any closer to an answer.)

In response to your first question, I suppose I could say that an interest in paradox was a necessary condition of the specific story I wanted to write (a fantasy about a man who rejects the fantasy world). Or I could say that an interest in paradox is a necessary condition of being a storyteller (since human beings are nothing if not self-contradictory). Unfortunately we all know of storytellers who pay no attention to such details. A more honest--or at least more personal--answer is that my mind-set is an effect of being raised in an artificial “reality” constructed by fundamentalist missionaries. As young children, we were taught, “We know that X, Y, or Z perception of reality is a lie because it contradicts Scripture.” But as we became older, we couldn’t help noticing that every brand of fundamentalist drew its own unique conclusions from the “same” Scripture. And as we became still older, we noticed that X, Y, or Z consensus realities didn’t go away just because the missionaries called them lies. So then we were taught, “Faith is more important than reality. In fact, true faith necessarily contradicts reality. ‘Credo qua impossibila est’ (Tertullian): I believe because it is impossible.” Well, in my case, such training was so intensive, and so hermetic, that now efforts to resolve contradictions between belief (perception) and experience (reality) are inherent to the way I think. I can’t *not* write about “paradoxes and such heavy subjects”.


Teresa/Soulquest1970:  Ok, I have a question. They say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but I do have one. It is something has been bugging me for years. How does Thomas Covenant get a haircut?
Very carefully.


Bob M.:  Mr. Donaldson, thanks so much for your willingness to answer our questions. I truly love your work.

You mentioned in the GI that you had met Stephen King, and that you liked (loved? ) his work.

I love his work as well and grew up reading It, The Stand, Salem's Lot, etc.

I cannot think on which conversation I would most like to eavesdrop on: You discussing your thoughts and feelings about his work, or him discussing the Thomas Covenant chronicles.

SO to my questions:

1. Did Mr. King say whether he had read the TC chronicles, and if so, would you care to divulge what they were?

2. What was your favorite Stephen King book, and why.

thanks :)
I believe that Stephen King has referred to "The Chronicles" in print (favorably?). Years ago, he let me know that he liked them.

My personal favorite of King's many books is "The Eyes of the Dragon." I think he writes what might be called "pure" fantasy exceptionally well.

Incidentally (for you trivia buffs), he and I once collaborated--with quite a few other writers--on what I think of as a "gag" story. It was so long ago that I've forgotten most of the details. But the purpose of the exercise was to raise money for a charity at an sf/f convention. Without any prior discussion, each writer in turn wrote for 30-45 minutes, then folded the paper so that only the last sentence was visible. With only that last sentence for "context," the next writer attempted to continue the "story". I had to go on from King's last sentence. The result, as I recall, was hysterically surreal.


Ian Boulton:  Hello Stephen,

Haven't asked a question for a year or so but during that time I have read three out of the four Axbrewder stories and am currently re-reading Mordant's Need for about the third or fourth time (what a fantastic and gripping story that is, by the way)!

You don't get too many GI questions/comments about The Man Who books so I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed them. There's no question here; I just wanted you to know, that's all!

Anyway, my question is slightly frivolous. I lost my original copy of The Mirror Of Her Dreams and when I bought a new copy last month it was an American edition. My first laugh out loud moment during my first read through of my original copy back in about 1988 was when Havelock says "horror and bollocks"! It's an expression that has since been part of my (clearly limited) vocabulary. However, my new American version of the book has the phrase as "horror and ballocks". My question is: what did you actually write? And do citizens of the United States really say "ballocks"?

Hope you don't think my submission is a waste of your time. I appreciate you are a very busy man on a very important mission but I just felt the GI needed a light-hearted non Covenant interlude!

Regards and best wishes, Ian Boulton
Aw, shucks. I probably just misspelled "bollocks". After all, I'm an Amurican. What do *we* know?

But seriously: "horror and bollocks" is definitely *not* an Americanism. Which is why I like it, even if I can't spell it.


Perry Bell:  Hello Stephen,
I was wondering if you had ever come across a character that you regret creating? I know that happens in the trial stages of a book, but I meant, is there any one character in particular that you regret creating?
Thank you,
Perry Bell
I don't think I've *ever* regretted creating a character, even "in the trial stages of a book". I've certainly regretted screwing up when I created a character, but in cases like that I just try to get to know him/her better. (In other words, the fault--if there is one--is always mine, not the character's.) In fact, I can't even *imagine* regretting the creation of a character. That would be like regretting that I *have* an imagination.


Allen:  By the end of the Second Chronicles Thomas Covenant is reasonably dead. Is he trapped within the Arch of Time like Lord Foul?
"Trapped"? No. He is *part* of the Arch of Time, an aspect of the structure which constrains Lord Foul. I suppose you could call that being trapped--but it's a very different *kind* of "being trapped" than LF experiences. And he's there by his own choosing, which sort of negates the whole concept of "trapped".


Jory:  Hi Steve,

Were you aware one of your books were sent to the Mir Space Station? Astronaut Shannon Lucid was talking about her months aboard Mir:

"In another letter, Lucid wrote about reading the books her daughters hand-selected:

“I picked out one and rapidly read it. I came to the last page and the hero, who was being chased by an angry mob, escaped by stepping through a mirror. The end. Continued in Volume Two. And was there Volume Two in my book bag? No. Could I dash out to the bookstore? No. Talk about a feeling of total isolation and frustration!!! You would never believe that grown children could totally frustrate you with their good intentions while you were in low earth orbit, but let me tell you, they certainly can.“

See the pic here:

Yes, I knew about this. As a supporter of the National Space Society, I receive their magazine, "Ad Astra," which ran an article about Shannon Lucid and included a picture of her bookshelves (where my books were clearly displayed). I'm quite proud of that.


Ryan:  G'day.
I have recently started reading the Gap series and noticed the similarity between Lord Foul and Angus Thermopyle, their Yellow Eyes. I was just wondering if this is a deliberate connection with Lord Foul, or just a coincidence. If this was a deliberate connection, Why did you use it.

Thankyou very much.
It's just a coincidence. I was visualizing a very different kind of "yellow" in each case. Angus has human eyes with a yellow-ish tinge to the whites (I've seen people with eyes like that). Lord Foul has what might be considered yellow flames that resemble fangs instead of human eyes. The only "connection" is the fact that I happened to use the word "yellow".


John Walsh:   I would like to start off by saying your writing resonated with me on some deep emotional level and helped me change my outlook on life, if not my life itself. (Covenant series) Reread them many times along with all your books.

I also appreciate the authors you've introduced me to in your gradual interview. McKilip and Powers especially.

I wonder how you put yourself in the land or space as in the Gap books? How do you take your mind out of your *real* life and go to the places you take the rest of us? What mental or physical preparation if any do you undertake?

Thanks in advance and thanks for all the hard work on our behalf.

Ah, another "how do you do what you do?" question. Honestly, I can't explain it. I just push myself as hard as I can, and you get the results.

But on a much more practical level.... The GI is already full of "tips" based on my own experience and my conversations with other writers ("creative process," "writing & publishing process"). In one way or another, I think it all comes down to a form of self-hypnosis. Superficially, the idea is to cut out the awareness and intrusion of the external world. Beneath the surface, the idea is to cut out self-consciousness. There's nothing worse for being creative than watching yourself try to be creative.

Of course, I have a whole list of personal rituals and mechanisms to, well, hypnotize myself. But what works for one person is useless for another. Every writer--every creative individual--has to discover/develop his/her own methods of mental or physical preparation.



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MRK:  Mr. Donaldson,

I'm a bit late in saying this: Ever since I have discovered and begun to read "TCOTC", I have been unable to get enough of your incomparable work. I've since moved on to "The Man Who..." mysteries, "The Gap Sequence" and "Mordant's Need", in that order. Your work has created a high benchmark for me and very few authors now are up to snuff against the standard you have created for me.

After I read "TROTE" I began to wonder something about the Elohim and the Ranyhyn. If I understand it correctly, both races are made up of beings that are essentially manifested Earthpower. They are, of course, vastly different in many ways, not the least of which is their respective attitudes toward lesser beings. I had the feeling that the Elohim would laugh (or perhaps scream) at the idea of having some kind of servitor race, such as the Ramen, attached to them. Then, of course, there are their somewhat opposing abilities, i.e. Ranyhyn are physical beings which can transcend time, Elohim are ethereal beings which can transcend space. Does it follow that the Ranyhyn are simply an expression of a certain aspect or aspects of Earthpower, while the Elohim embody *all* aspects? Or am I totally off the mark and/or making much ado about nothing? (this would not surprise me)

Thanks and Good Wishes,

You are essentially correct. The Ranyhyn are mortal horses embued with a certain amount of Earthpower as part of their essential nature. (In this respect, they are more analogous to the Haruchai than to the Elohim.) The Elohim are pure embodiments of Earthpower. They are immortal (i.e. lacking in mortality) in the same sense that Earthpower itself is immortal: Earthpower is the life-blood of, well, life, and the Elohim will live as long as the Earth lives.


Michelle:  Dear Sir,
I am working on reading through the Thomas Covenant stories, and I find myself identifying greatly with him as so many others probably do. I was wondering if you know of and would mind explaining the solution to the problem presented regarding how a person forgives himself. I see the redemption themes in the books I've read so far, but to know one is redeemed with the mind is greatly different from knowing it and forgiving the self from the heart. Redemption does not seem necessarily to bring about forgiveness. Thank you for your time.
Questions like this sort of scare me. Other reasons aside, they seem to impute a degree of wisdom that I know I don't possess. I'm just a guy who muddles through life like most other people. The fact that I routinely talk like an "authority" doesn't mean I actually *am* one.

But I can tell you one thing that I've learned from experience. Self-forgiveness--like self-acceptance--usually can't be acquired in isolation. It's an interactive process: it requires other people.

Of course, we all need people with whom we can be honest about the things for which we haven't forgiven ourselves. Talking to people who don't judge or reject what they hear can let a little light into the dark places of our hearts. But--and I must emphasize that I'm just talking about my own experience--that isn't enough. Other people serve a deeper purpose in this interactive process.

(See? This is what I was referring to. I *sound* like an authority, even when I'm not. <sigh>)

The real secret, it seems to me, is to forget about forgiving or accepting ourselves, and to concentrate instead on forgiving and accepting other people. (Which first requires us to *understand* them: a challenge that can only be met by looking at them without judging or rejecting them; a challenge that--I believe--constitutes the underlying purpose of storytelling.) Something mysterious happens when we forgive and accept someone else: some of that forgiveness and acceptance leaks back into us. It's slow; it's hard; and it requires the kind of concentration outward rather than inward that gradually changes "Covenant the rapist" into "Covenant the man who is filled with compassion and grief for the woman he raped". But it does work. At least in my experience.

Incidentally, this is why storytelling is good for *me*, whether or not it's good for anyone else. It forces my concentration outward, onto settings and situations and characters, rather than inward, onto my personal sins and woes. The fact that this "concentration outward" is happening entirely inside my own head <rueful smile> doesn't vitiate its benefits. I honestly don't think of my stories as an expression of *me*--much less of my ego--so I really am concentrating outward. (Naturally I'm aware that this is just a trick of perception. Of *course* my stories are an expression of me. And my ego. But I sure don't *see* them that way--at least while I'm writing them.)

But I digress. My point is this: in my experience, striving to forgive and accept other people does me more good than struggling to forgive and accept myself.

Hmm. One more observation before my head explodes. Knowing what self-judgment, self-rejection, and even self-loathing feel like can be very useful when we try to forgive and accept other people.


Lynne H:  The Axbrewder/Fistoulari novels have been a very pleasant surprise. High praise from a non-reader of mysteries. Generally, most mystery novels are too formulaic to hold my interest. I find that authors tend to count on reader loyalty, taking it for granted that their fans will buy anything they write no matter how bad it is. I searched the GI and couldn't find any reference to which, if any, mystery writers influenced you (positively or negatively) as you were crafting your stories. I'm also wondering if you're a film noir buff.
The mystery writers who influenced me positively were Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, and (to a lesser extent) Dashell Hammett. Negatively? Agatha Christie and--damn, now I've blanked out on the name of the man who wrote all those Perry Mason novels (the Donald Lam books were better).

I wouldn't call myself a film noir "buff," but I do enjoy a good film noir.


Dennis Scroggins:  [cut to save space]

Here is my question, and forgive me if you have addressed it before: Do you have an emotional attachment to characters that you write? I ask, because in my experience in role playing games, I grow attached to my characters to the point that I can't play anymore because I care too much for them, my brain children, my creations. Similarly, your characters I also grew to love. You wrote them, but in reading them, they became a part of me, so to speak.

I just now had this thought: you wrote yourself into your books, didn't you? I think you wrote yourself as the old beggar, and as the creator whom, and also as the Land, whose need drew TC from our world.

Thanks very much in advance for responding, and I hope to read the last chronicles soon. Godspeed.
Of course I have emotional attachments to my characters. How could I not? I "experience" everything that happens to them. In fact, sometimes my personal (non-writing) life gets pretty complicated because I'm full of emotions that don't have anything to do with the people and circumstances around me: they belong to the story I'm writing, but they don't just evaporate when I leave work. This makes being me an adventure in all kinds of unexpected ways. <rueful smile>

I wrote myself into my books? Where? The old beggar? Surely you jest. In a manner of speaking, I *do* write myself into my books; but I do it through *all* of my characters, not through any particular individual. And I do NOT mean that my characters speak for me--or represent me. Quite the reverse. I'm their advocate: I speak for all of *them* as honestly and accurately as I can.


John Dunk:  Live Poetry Society-Villanelles
I'll save most of my praise, except to say I like most of what you've written that I've read, and I've read most of what you've written that I can find. I waited 2 years for The Power That Preserves when the publishers said you lost the MS in SA.
Do you have a personal definition of poetry? what makes non-rhyming poetry different from descriptive prose, if there'e no metre?
I like poetry, although most self-proclaimed poets I've met piss me off..
Anyway, your Covenant books have given me a great deal of pleasure. here's my attempt at a villanelle, maybe it'll give you some pleasure also. This poem is for the men that sailed on the Great Lakes of Michigan.. some never reached port.

Deep water hides the light of those who sail
Alone, they cross the desert of their need
Go down, go down to the dark sea and bail
They only seek to conquer or to fail
Not cattle, but an independant breed
Deep water hides the light of those who sail
Yet when the light above begins to pale
As ocean's depths accept their fragile seed
Go down, go down to the dark sea and bail
Dark waters close and lock their frigid jail
Forgetting valor or heroic deed
Deep water hides the light of those who sail.
When seas are calm, no evidence of gale
As tho a holy hand has drawn a screed
Go down, go down to the dark sea and bail
Against their fate, bold mariners must rale
Upon their bodies, scavengers do feed
Deep water hides the light of those who sail
Go down, go down to the dark sea and bail

Thanks for your writing, It has given me much pleasure.
John Dunk

First, I like your villanelle. The form you've chosen helps convey the "knell" of the sailors' fate.

The definition of poetry that we used in graduate school was: "the most efficient possible use of language." Toward that end, things like metre and rhyme are powerful tools--but they're only tools, and they aren't the only tools. Another is implication: poetry often asks the reader to infer a great deal of its content (which is one reason poetry seldom functions well as "descriptive prose": poetry usually doesn't use enough words to be explicit in the same way that good descriptive prose can be explicit). And just because a poem lacks predictable metre doesn't mean that it lacks rhythm or cadence.

Still, I make a distinction between poetry and verse: as I see it, verse is a concentrated or elevated use of language that nonetheless doesn't rise to the level of real poetry. By my standards, I doubt that I've ever written poetry. Certainly I would describe virtually every "song" in "The Chronicles" as verse rather than poetry. (Possible exception: "My heart has rooms that sigh with dust")


Jon Myers:  Hi! I have only recently learned about the GI (I am a bit of a technophobe), and I think it is the most wonderful thing any author could do. I love all your work (that I have read), and TC has been an important part of my life for nearly 30 years now.

Two burning questions:
1) Where did the Land's original settlers come from? The Legend of Berek Halfhand glosses over this, and seems in fact overly simplified. I would assume that they came from beyond the region that became the Southron Wastes (before it was a Waste). Did the King and Queen have any ties with their homeland? Did they all live in Doriendor Corishev, since there seems to be no evidence of any other ancient cities? Does that people still exist somewhere? Okay, so that was more than one question.
2) Have you ever thought about writing more books in the "Gap" universe?
1) One of the implications of Berek's story, I think, is that the Land was already "settled" when the southern kingdom ruled from Doriendor Corishev went to war. This is confirmed by the forests: SOMEone had already decimated the One Forest long before Berek came along. Well, I've always assumed that people found their way into the Land from a variety of directions long before Berek's war: shipwrecked, perhaps, on the coast of the Lower Land; trekking up through the Southron Range or down from the Northron Climbs (for example, I can picture tribes in bearskins against the cold, with travois and heavy axes, being harried southward by arghuleh). Certainly the Ramen had to come from somewhere.

As I read them, the given texts are unclear, or even contradictory, about whether the Land's earlier inhabitants were united in any way before the kingdom where Berek was born began its incursions through Doom's Retreat. (That the texts are unclear or contradictory is no surprise. Every "real" historical record, oral or written, ever produced has the same problem. Human beings are like that. As is the author of "The Chronicles." <rueful smile>) At the moment, I'm only sure that the war between Berek's King and Queen was waged in the Land.

2) I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I go where my ideas take me. At present, I have no ideas for any more GAP books--or any more MORDANT books, for that matter. This may change, or it may not: I don't have a crystal ball. (Actually, I *do*--but it doesn't work for shit. <grin>) All I can tell you is that I'm going to continue doing what I've always done: writing what comes to me to be written.


Susan:  Congratulation on completion of Fatal Revenant! I eagerly anticipate its publication - and will now re-read the rest of the series in preparation.
How do you honestly feel about the non-start of the movie? Are you disappointed?
(Personally - I'm not. I love movies, but I love books more. And some stories live stronger and longer on the page than they ever will in CGI.)
Thomas Covenant lives somewhere better than Hollywood. I honestly don't think that I have read a series that impacted me more, or with such longevity. It's also the series that I have recommended or purchased for more people than any other I have read. Well done, and thank you so much.

PS Mick "Brew" Axbrewder in films - now that's something I can see happening, and I'd watch those without fearing disappointment.
In fact, I *am* disappointed--primarily because I'd like to be better known, but also because I'd like to have a more comfortable income in my <lugubrious sigh> declining years. But I've always thought that the "Covenant" books are essentially unfilmable. They're too inward for movies, and rely too heavily on language. "The Man Who" books would certainly work better on film--as would "Mordant's Need," and even some of my novellas.


Teresa from South Carolina:  Mr. Donaldson, I don't have a question. (When browsing through the GI, I always see you as Will Shatner in the SNL sketch about Star Trek convention-goers: "sigh") I just wanted to thank you for the Thomas Covenant books. I can't "get into" the books about fairies, dragons, and wizards. They just don't appeal to me at my age. I identify with Thomas Covenant's pain, his self-imposed emotional imprisonment, and his need for "salvation" from himself. I have read these books repeatedly until the pages are yellow and falling out of the bindings. Thank you for writing fantasy-genre material for the mature adult mind. I am looking forward to the rest of the story.
Thank you! Personally, I'm fed up with elves and dwarves--although fairies are high on the list of things I don't want to read about, and vampires are climbing fast. For some reason, I'm still comfortable with dragons and wizards--perhaps because I've seen both "used" more imaginatively than any elf, dwarf, or fairy I've encountered. If you want to start liking dragons again, read McKillip's "The Cygnet and the Firebird".


Mark A. Morenz:  Hello Stephen:

Thank you for your responses to my most recent questions. Especially I enjoyed your description of "resonance". I wonder if I could follow-up?

You mentioned that-- in the minds of editors (and, I suppose, Professors of Literature)-- writers have to "earn" the right to violate conventional usage. That is very reasonable, but it doesn't exactly get to my concern. I guess my question is better asked this way: *given that "conventional" usage often lags behind popular usage*, how much leeway should an author be given to create their own idioms? In scifi and fantasy especially, authors have unique opportunities to use language for effect. A Tom Clancy may have many ways of consummating the 'resonance' that he's created throughout one of his stories, but having the protag yell something like "Melenkurion Abatha!" at the climax isn't one of them.

I still surmise an overall bias against expressionism. You said clarity was a minimum, but to me Gibson's "Neuromancer" refutes that-- it was, it seems to me, deliberately unclear in places as to what exactly was happening. And I personally was troubled by "Neuromancer"s lack of clarity. But I respected how Gibson seemed to be infusing expressionism back into genre fic. By a strict definition, it was deficient storytelling in spots. But the book certainly was effective in communicating mood/emotional state/disharmony, etc...connecting with readers on a more direct emotional level, sort of a meta-storytelling (a trait that your COTC series shares, IMHO).

Thanks for your time!


Mark M.


BTW, just as an unsolicited recommendation: "The Time Traveller's Wife" (Niffenegger 2004) is the best individual novel that I've read in a very long time. I didn't know whether anyone had turned you onto that one or not, but if you ask I'm sure others whom you trust will agree! :-)
It seems to me that we've carried this discussion about far as we can in the abstract. These questions always come down to specifics: we would both have to have the same book open in front of us so that we could comment on specific words or sentences in specific contexts. As one example of the vagueness and general inutility that abstraction imposes on us: it's been a long time since I read "Neuromancer," but I certainly don't remember it being unclear. In addition, I'm not at all sure what you mean by "expressionism," or how expressionism might imply or necessitate a lack of clarity.

But I can say this. "Given that 'conventional' usage often lags behind popular usage, how much leeway should an author be given to create their own idioms?" As I see it, there is no "should". There's only what you can do convincingly and what you can't. In my experience, editors aren't theorists or arbiters: they're pragmatic readers. They accept what "rings true," what conveys conviction or authority: they reject what doesn't.

Here, unfortunately, we're veering once again into territory that can't be discussed--in this case because it's undefinable. All I know is that there are some writers who can make me trust them right from the start: although I can't see how they do it, they give me the clear impression that they know what they're doing, and that what they're doing matters. When that happens, I settle in to enjoy the experience. But when a writer does not inspire my trust--and inspire it early--I start to look for faults in what I'm reading. Infelicitous phrases. Obscure pronoun references. Faulty parallelisms. Whatever. At least in my case, my trust, my acceptance, my "suspension of disbelief," is won or lost fairly early in a piece of fiction. But I'm often unable to explain *how* that trust is won or lost. As far as I can tell, some writers just *sound* like they know what they're doing--in which case they get all the leeway they want--while other writers lack that *sound*--in which case they don't get much leeway at all. I know of one writer who has published entire novels that don't contain actual stories, but the writer gets away with it because the prose conveys absolute conviction. In fact, I was so entranced by the prose that I read those whole books before I even noticed that they had no stories. Now *that's* leeway.

btw, thanks for mentioning "The Time Traveller's Wife". I'll look for it.


Captain Maybe:  Would you agree with the proposition that UK book covers are classier (for which read 'better' <grin>) than US covers? If so, would you care to comment on why that might be?
It's hard to generalize. I've had some *gorgeous* covers in the UK--but I've also had some real dogs (look at the Dominatrix from Hell on the UK hardcover of "Forbidden Knowledge," or the abymal wizard on the UK hardcover of "Reave the Just and Other Tales"). I've also had some terrific covers in the US (I'm thinking of "The Man Who Fought Alone"). But in general, I've had more covers that make me flinch in the US than in the UK.

Speaking in the broadest possible terms: the difference in covers may result from the commitment of US publishers to the conventions of "category" (genre) publishing ("A fantasy novel won't sell unless it has a fantasy cover")--which in turn may result from the fact that books are usually harder to sell in the US than in the UK (we have so few readers, and the readers we do have tend to be snobs of one kind or another: "I only read mysteries," or, "I wouldn't touch that sci-fi junk," or, "Fiction is a waste of time").


Anonymous:  Steve,

Ok, why wasn't I told that long ago there was a Covenant 'brand' of clothing? Huh? I have just found a place that sells vintage clothing and have come across a "wounded land: stephen r. donaldson tee-shirt". Thanks for keeping us informed! *grin* Were there Covenant undergarments too, sort of like "underoos" from long ago? If so, I will have to hunt them down and, well, lets just say one 35 year old man will be wearing them (notice I did not provide my name)!
This is news to me--and I hope that you're just kidding around. Way back in '83, my Australian publisher produced a "Stephen Donaldson/Unbeliever" t-shirt to help promote my Australian book tour. But I've never seen, or heard of, a "Wounded Land: Stephen R. Donaldson" t-shirt. Whatever it is, it's unauthorized, and could be considered a copyright infringement. Not that I care: I actually think the idea is pretty funny, and I'm certainly not going to tattle. But I'm afraid you'll have to hand-paint your own "Covenant" underwear. (Now *there's* an idea I wish I could get out of my head.) <grin>


Anonymous:  I've been waiting for this one to be asked but haven't seen it yet. Why the name change for the 3rd book?
Ah, well. There hasn't been a name change for Covenant 9 (Book Three of "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant")--yet. I simply mis-remembered the line of verse from which I wanted to derive the title. I remembered the line (from "Lord Kevin's Lament" in TIW) as "shall pass utterly," but when I (finally) checked the text, I saw my mistake; so I corrected the announced title on this site.

Since then, however, my editors have let me know that they dislike "Should Pass Utterly" as a title. They think it will inhibit sales. By contract, they have the right to insist on a change. (When I was first published, I was told, "It's a rare writer who can call his title his own.") But they won't insist on a title I don't like, so I've been asked to come up with a new one. Sometime comparatively soon, a new title will appear here--after which I'll strenuously try to pretend that nothing has happened.


Hesham:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Thank you for answering my previous question, and looking forward very the much to the contiuation of the Last chronicals (I hope it never ends).
My question is in relation to Runes where you have used time travel. I find time travel whether in sci fi or sci fantasy confusing at the best times. Certainly the imlpications are complex,and genearlly it's guess work with lots of what ifs. Are the mechanisms you used based on scientic methodology or are they based on magic, or both?

I've spent some time discussing this (look under "Runes of the Earth--spoilers"). Doubtless I'll spend more as the story continues.

We're probably all familiar with the ol' time-paradox problem. An event in time A leads to disaster in time B, so people in time C go back to change A. They succeed: B is altered. Therefore the people in C are spared the consequences of the disaster--so they have no reason to alter A. Therefore A remains unaltered, the disaster in B happens, and the people in C go back to change A. It's a logical loop from which there appears to be no escape. No wonder it's confusing.

As best I can, I'm working with a paradigm in which people from C visit A in order to accomplish things that have no effect at all on B, but that produce otherwise-unattainable benefits for C. If my reasoning holds, this preserves the linear sequence which leads from A to B to C without disturbing the logic that induced the people of C to go back to A.

Of course, if time ain't linear, I'm screwed. <grin> But I console myself with the knowledge that if time *isn't* linear, I'll never know the difference. In either case, I think it's clear that my "mechanisms" are based on magic rather than science. I don't know enough about (among many other things) quantum mechanics to use any other approach.


Jory:  This is a followup to the anonymous post about a Wounded Land t-shirt. There was one on eBay recently; here is a link to the pic of the shirt (I hope it is still live when you get to this):

Damn. That sure *looks* like an "authorized" t-shirt. It even has the DEL REY logo. But if Ballantine decided to license t-shirts, they never told me. Not (as I say) that I actually care.


Donna:  I'm so glad to have the Runes of Earth on audio. Scott Brick is excellent. I hope when Fatal Revenant comes out it is also going to in an audio format. Will Mr. Brick will also be doing that narration?

Oh yes, and even though this isn't a question, I have to add my voice to the many other fans to say again, thanks for writing. Thanks for writing more on the Land. Thanks for Linden be strong, be a woman, be a real character. I've enjoyed your books tremendously over the years. I look forward to more. D

Sorry, I have no way of knowing *if* Putnams will release an audio version of "Fatal Revenant," much less if Scott Brick will be hired for the job. It's way too early in the publishing process: Putnams hasn't even thought about such questions yet. In the end, it will come down to, How well did "Runes" sell on CD? Since I don't know, I can't predict what Putnams might decide.


Graham Clark:  I've just downloaded all 1103 pages of your Gradual Interview and spent most of the day reading the first 100 pages. My already high opinion of the emotive quality of your work has reached new heights with the care and attention spent on answering fans questions.

Anyway, just one question - do you tend to have difficulty finding writers who move you emotionally to the same depths that you portray in your own writing. Has anything fictional that you have read moved you tears?

Many thanks for all your hard work. I would appreciate and thoroughly treasure a response.
One unfortunate side-effect of the amount of time I've spent *studying* writing is that I'm very seldom able to read spontaneously rather than analytically. Books only (for lack of a better term) slip past my defenses when the storytelling and/or the writing is really superb Well, there isn't much out there that's *really* superb. And when the storytelling and/or the writing *is* that good, the writers often aren't aiming for the kind of emotional charge you describe. As a result, I'm almost never moved to tears by what I read. (Poetry is another matter. George Meredith's "Modern Love" sonnets get to me. And one of Robert Browning's poems for his wife, "To E. B. B.," hit me hard recently.) But Steven Erikson has managed it a couple of times in his "Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. The Chain of Dogs. The betrayal of Whiskeyjack. The eventual fate of the Mhybe.


Lee Jackson:  Thank you for keeping everyone up to date on the status of the film option to Lord Foul's Bane. It saddens me to hear that the option was allowed to expire without renewal.

In the September interview, you said that you preferred a live action version to anything else. With the option expiration in mind, would you now be open to other possibilities (e.g., anime)?
Depends on what you mean by "open". Am I inclined to accept free money? <grin> Yes. Do I think that, say, anime would be an effective approach to the "Covenant" books? No. In my personal opinion, anything that isn't "live action" would inevitably falsify some of the fundamental characteristics of "The Chronicles".


mark g:  now that the 3rd draft of FR has been accepted, is there anything else you need to do on the second book or do you dive right in on SPU?
I'm sure I've mentioned elsewhere that working on a particular books never seems to end: it just dribbles away. There's the map for "Fatal Revenant" to consider (always a painful process because the people who draw maps punish me for requesting corrections by introducing new inaccuracies). Both my US and my UK publishers will send me copy-edited copies of the text, which I will have to go over meticulously. (Copy-editors delight in destroying my prose, my meaning, and even--occasionally--my characters.) Later both publishers will send me new copies for proof-reading. Both will want my help with things like cover copy. Both will want my input on cover art. Both will try to orchestrate as many interviews as they can: always an arduous process. Both will probably ask me to sign several thousand advance copies. Both may wish me to go on book tours. And as if that isn't enough, I proof-read my books after they're released in hardcover, looking more for internal inconsistencies than for typos (although there are always typos) so that the paperback will represent the best possible version of my intentions.

What with one thing and another, getting started on Covenant 9 won't be easy.


Jim K:  As always, thank you for writing. I am reading Runes for the second time and want to know....
Are the Bloodguard part of the problem of Kevin's Dirt?
In other words, is their denial of Earthpower towards the common folk causing the phenomenon?
Also, I am starting to feel sorry for Foul. He and the stars are imprisoned, so to speak. Does the Creator hold some accountability towards the demise of his creation and Where is he?
thanks again. Jim K
No, the Haruchai share no responsibility for the existence of Kevin's Dirt. They don't do any magic. Withholding or stifling knowledge isn't the same thing as manipulating or tarnishing Earthpower. If asked, they might say that they consider Earthpower sacred: too sacred to be (mis)used by fallible human beings.

According to at least one of the Creation myths in "The Chronicles" (memory, don't fail me now), the Creator was unaware of the Despiser's presence within Time when he sealed the Arch. But even if you don't accept that hypothesis, imprisoning a being like the Despiser seems a pretty rational thing to do. (At the moment, I'm too tired to engage in a theological discussion about whether or not evil is a necessary challenge for human beings to face.)