GRADUAL INTERVIEW (October 2008)

SPOILER WARNING!

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.


Kevin Munoz:  There is an inscription on one of Asclepius' temple-sanitariums (I believe the inscription is from IG 4 but I could be wrong) which was installed by someone who had been healed by the god: his withered hand had been restored. In the inscription the man describes coming to the temple half-heartedly, not really thinking that the god will heal him. He falls asleep in the temple and in the morning his hand is restored. And he writes in his inscription that Asclepius healed him in spite of his unbelief.

I've been wondering for 15 years, ever since I saw the inscription, whether or not this is something you were familiar with. I would imagine not, since it's a fairly obscure inscription, but I thought I'd ask... It gave me chills when I saw it, and recalled Covenant.
Sorry. I don't know anything about those temples, or sanitaria, or inscriptions. I've scarcely even heard of Asclepius. So I don't see how I could have been influenced.

And it's not like my thematic obsessions don't have plenty of *other* sources.... <wry grin>

(10/01/2008)

Keith Cary:  You mentioned some time ago that you and dirt are starting to have more in common. I'm beginning to understand. More and more quickly, I am returning to the dirt the graces that the dirt loaned to me in the beginning. In my perspective, I get to keep and share whatever improvements I made of that gift. Those ideas led to a pair of questions.

Have you observed yourself integrating lessons or morals into your work intentionally or otherwise to carry forward what you have learned during the past decades?

If a young author wanted to fully learn from your experience, avoid errors, and better capitalize on successes, what would you offer for such a foundation? "Be a lawyer"? Hire your agent?
I don't doubt that the gradual shift in my (entirely personal) emphases when I'm writing is an effect of what I've learned in life: I've learned X, therefore I'm more inclined to strive for Y. But I'm much more conscious of trying to integrate the "lessons or morals" of my work into my life. For better or worse, I've always imagined what I am *not*. Later (sometimes much later) I try to benefit from the things that my imagination has tried to teach me.

But I don't think that there's any way to learn--directly--from someone else's experience. We're all too different. I may (or may not) be able to "get it" when writer X describes his/her experience; but that doesn't make the implied lesson relevant to my own life or work. As I keep saying, relentlessly, we all have to figure it out for ourselves. That's life. Unearned knowledge isn't wisdom: it's merely dangerous.

(10/01/2008)

Bryan Jones:  I have read both yours and Robert Jordans books(and many others) and enjoy reading them completely. As a reader I am confused by your denial to read Jordan. When I found out that Jordan was going to pass away without finishing his last book leaving his lagecy unfinished I was saddened. When I found out they were looking for an author to finish his books I was surprised that you were not first on the list. Is there an anamosity between you and Jordan? I think you would be the first and only author that could do justice to the Wheel of Time. Would there be any way for you to be a part of the developement of the last book? It will be a shame for a story to end horribly when I know that you could make the ending book the best it could be.
I am sorry if I offend you by asking this question. I mean no offense. I am trying to understand why the only choice for ending Jordan's saga with the very best author isn't being done. Isn't the story the most important thing?
I can't answer a message like this. It's a bit like asking, "Why haven't you stopped beating your wife?" There are so many underlying--and unwarrented--assumptions that no answer is possible.

Just one example. Why do you think that I would consider giving up my own work for the sake of someone else's? Does that sound reasonable to you?

But I'm posting this because I want to make a more general point. I wouldn't agree to work with someone else's characters, settings, themes, or stories, even if you held a gun to my head. That's what hacks are for. (Don't get me wrong. Being a hack can be a perfectly honorable profession. It simply isn't *my* profession.) Now, if you held a gun to the head of someone I love, I would naturally agree to anything. But I would be lying. Unashamedly. Stalling for time until I could take a whack at you. The very idea of trying to do someone else's work fills me with existential nausea.

(10/03/2008)

Mike Brown:  I know that you have written many times that the Gap Series is what you believe is your finest work to date. I agree, but which of your stories would your recommend to the uninitiated? Sort of a SRD primer to turn on a new reader. The first book of the GAP series I think is a bit harsh for many with the cruelty inflicted on Morn by Angus. I have bought up a number of used "Mirror of Her Dreams" off various websites and like to pass those out to friends who might be interested but now I wonder if maybe Mordant's Need is too large and that perhaps I should try to get folks started with copies of your short stories. I'm an epic kind of reader so the short story collections hold less interest to me but maybe I'm not doing justice by giving out a larger bite than many might care to take.
BTW-I finally watched the Fantasy Bedtime Hour episodes with you in them. Takes a brave man to put yourself in the middle of that.
Thank you again for your time,
Mike Brown
Whenever someone asks me where to start, I always suggest picking up one of my short collections. And I usually add something like, "You can find out whether you like what I do without making it your life's work." Specifically? Perhaps "Unworthy of the Angel" and "The Killing Stroke," just to get an idea of my, well, for lack of a better term, my range.

Of course, I understand wanting the more complete involvement and satisfaction of a novel. But that only works if you *like* the novel. Hence my decision to push shorter works.

(10/03/2008)

SPOILER WARNING!

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

Spoilers - Fatal Revenant

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.


MRK:  I have another response to the Name a Female Donaldson Villain challenge: how about Queen Damia in "Daughter of Regals"? Does she qualify? Granted she's only one of several in that story.
Queen Damia. Of course. How could I have forgotten? (Does the passing of more than 25 years count as an excuse?)

(10/03/2008)

Kuldip Wesson-Caberwal:  Hello Mr Donaldson, I nearly have all your books and re-read them with keen excitement quite often, thank you so much for your inventiveness and giving me so much enjoyment. I have been writing a book too for fun mainly,Which i started many years ago. I would be very honored if i could put you in it as a character (cameo appearance)as yourself.I know i don't know your character but will make it up on the lines of 'your a nice guy.'The story is complex but a lot of it is set in Nirvana (which is a place in my book, but same as that 'spiritual' place)where i wish my character to meet you, as you meditate and have reached enlightenment (reason why you are in Nirvana.I hope that makes some sense, and hope for your permission/endorsement. Many thanks, Kuldip, Mid-Wales, UK
As far as I know, you don't need my permission to write me (real or otherwise) into a story--as long as the story is clearly a work of fiction (which yours obvious is). Otherwise any form of satire would be impossible. (In contrast, if what you write is demonstrably intended as a personal attack, even if you call it fiction, you have a problem.) And I never want to interfere with other people's creativity. So from my perspective, you have nothing to worry about.

(10/03/2008)

Eric D:  Hi, Steve.

I like to think that almost all villains or antagonists have some measure or capacity for redemption. Two individuals who come to mind are the Harrow and Roger. If not redemption or change, do you have plans or thought to explore their drives and motivations more?

I am guessing that you do - at this point I have a lot of faith in your storytelling and attention to detail. My initial impression of Roger was that he was easy to hate and the Harrow seemed shallow (self-absorbed). But this has only whetted my appetite for more time with them.

The greatest journey seems to be reserved for your protagonist(s) but I wondered if you might be considering similar journeys for some of the minor characters?

Thank you for your time and this wonderful realm you have created. It has generated a bounty of food for thought!

-eric
(But don't *spoil* anything. <rueful smile>)

I've said on any number of occasions that I want my characters to have "dignity": reasons, motivations, a story of their own, the power to make choices. But there are a couple of obstacles that I don't know how to avoid. First, it simply isn't possible--even in a story as large as "The Last Chronicles"--to give all of my characters *equal* dignity. In some cases, I have no choice except to rely on--for lack of a better term--inference to supply whatever dignity is available.

The second obstacle is inherent to the *kind* of story I'm telling here (one that confronts archetypes explicitly). This kind of story encourages, even benefits from, the reliance upon some comparatively "pure" characters: characters defined by one or two (very) strong traits rather than by the full complexity of--again for lack of a better term--real people. Take the Giants, for example. I like to think that they have individual differences. But their individual differences are small compared to their similarities as, well, as Giants. They are all clearly recognizable as Giants even when their individual names, descriptions, and experiences have faded.

In a different kind of novel, I would see this as a serious weakness. In "The Chronicles," I consider it a strength. It allows me to concentrate my themes in ways that aren't available in other forms of storytelling.

(10/11/2008)

SPOILER WARNING!

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

Spoilers - Fatal Revenant

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.


drew:  Mr Donaldson,

Recently, you answered a GI question about your writting/rewritting process. You stated that you tend to write out the story first, and then go back and do the rewrites.
I'd like to know about when you wrote the Mordant's Needs novels, which you'd written in four parts. Did you write part one, and then rewrite part one? Or did you write Novel one, and then rewrite Novel one? Or did you write the entire story and then rewrite the entire story.

I'd like to let you know that I've just finished The Mirror of her Dreams, and am getting ready to begin A Man Rides Through, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the entire series...just as much as the Covenant Series' and the Gap series.

Also one more qick question: Do either you or your webmaster proofread and edit the GI questions for speling erors?
When I write--and when I rewrite--I work in *books*. I mean in physical volumes, not in structural subdivisions. Although "Mordant's Need" is structured in four units (called "books"), I wrote and rewrote the story in two phases, "The Mirror of Her Dreams" and then "A Man Rides Through". The same is true of "The Chronicles". A majority of the volumes are subdivided; but I worked (and work) on them in the same "chunks" used for publication. All of "The Runes of the Earth" until it's done, then all of "Fatal Revenant" until it's done, then you get the idea.

And no, no one proofreads the GI questions for speling erors. I proofread my answers as best I can, but of course I don't catch everthing.

(10/11/2008)

Terry:  First...Thanks for the hours of escapism :-)
My question - your characters are always telling stories, interested in one another, searching out truths etc etc so why is it that no one ever inquires of Covenants/Lindens world (the real world)? Hard to imagine one of your giants not wanting to know given their love of a tale.

I searched but could not find this quetion... apologies in advance if it has already been asked/answered.
Kind regards
T
I can think of several answers. In no particular order: 1) The other characters (Giants, Lord Mhoram, etc.) *do* want to hear stories. Covenant and Linden just don’t want to talk. 2) I don’t want to bore the reader by spending pages on things the reader already knows. 3) Since the outer world is considered a reflection or externalization of the inner--an idea to which I cling even though I’m clearly in the minority--the other characters don’t *need* to know stories about Covenant and Linden. 4) Since pretty much all (or at least a huge majority) of the crucial actions take place outside Covenant’s and Linden’s “normal” lives, why talk about those lives? These books are already long enough without even more distractions from the main events.

(10/19/2008)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Time, or time travelling is a big element of the Last Chronicles. Thinking about this I realized that the people of the Land really don't have many ways that they talk about time, they don't have names for the days of the week, months, holidays, etc. Or at least you decided not to include such references in the story, or I can't remember any. Obviously, this was intentional, was it just that it was unnecessary for the story you wanted to tell? I'll admit that until recently it never even occurred to me that they don't talk about "time" much, the same way they don't talk about "money". You a genius!
Well, of course there’s the whole “unnecessary for the story” answer. But in addition, consider the implications if I had done something else. For example: why *exactly* do you suppose we name the days of the week the way we do? Clearly different day names have different meanings; but the underlying organization of those names is not only religious but predominantly Christian. “On the seventh day He rested” and so on. So what “underlying organization” could I have devised for the people of the Land--without imposing either a centralized religion (on the Land’s history if not on the Land’s present) or a centralized government (again, an historical one if not a present one)? No, the whole idea quickly becomes a conceptual morass; and a morass of a kind which violates the spirit of what I was trying to create.

Admittedly, naming moons, months, seasons, or years might not have been quite so messy. But why bother? Where’s the benefit to the story?

(10/19/2008)

Paul Bujold:  Since Book I of the Chronicles, I have always had to have a vocabulary list which I create by highlighting and then looking up the words that are not familiar. For the Runes of Earth, I laughed and laughed when I looked up 'incondign' and found this:

incondign
adjective
(context, especially, of punishment) inappropriate or disproportionate; be it excessively harsh or lenient.
1977, Stephen R. Donaldson, Lord Foul"s Bane, page 306

:"The hawk was ill, , a thing created by wrong for purposes of wrong " bent away from its birth by a power that dared to warp nature."
Etymology: Adjective derived from the French word condign, meaning wholly worthy or fitting.

Maybe you should create a "Donaldson Dictionary". Your erudition is one of the reasons I read your books, other than the fascinating ideas. I have only found one author that matched your ability to put unusual words into play.
Good God! What dictionary are you using? That’s a *whole* lot more immortality than I ever expected to achieve.

(10/19/2008)

Mark:  Do you plan to include any Haruchi women in the last 2 books?

Thanks!!
OK, you got me. I am completely bumfuzzled by the sheer perseverance of this recurring question. Why in, well, Someone’s Holy Name (at the moment, I can’t think whom to invoke) do you care? Apparently a number of people do (although the GI as posted probably doesn’t reflect that fact). But I can’t imagine why.

And since I can’t imagine why….

However, please feel free to speculate as much as you want. Broadly speaking, it seems that “warrior cultures” conform to one of two basic paradigms: 1) the women are warriors as well, indistinguishable in that regard from the men (although they may serve different functions in combat), or 2) the woman are rewards, and as such, their lives have very few features in common with the men. Anyone want to guess which paradigm the Haruchai are more likely to prefer?

(10/19/2008)

Chucklut:  Dear Stephen,

Regarding the Seven Wards of Kevin's Lore which he had hidden throughout the land only 3 or 4 of them were actually found during the course of the story. The story intent was that each new ward would reveal itself only after mastery of the previous ward.

However, with Covenant's "awakening" of Lorics Krill, Amok appeared. This is something that Kevin couldn't predict or prepare for.

Considering the long passage of time throughout the land, wouldnt these "lost" wards eventually be found by the curious and lorewise creatures of the land?
If you’re going to include “lorewise creatures,” I suppose the (purely speculative) answer is probably yes. But the circumstances of the Council of Lords were never as simple as mere curiosity and diligence or even total dedication might suggest. Once the Lords finished cleaning up after their recent troubles (no easy task in their case, considering what happened to Revelwood), they doubtless resumed their studies. But much had been lost. And it only makes sense that each new Ward would be more difficult to discover than the one before it. And--well, who knows how far they got before the Raver’s subtle manipulations began to take effect? But once those manipulations kicked in, the whole situation changed. (After all, why would Lord Foul or any Raver *want* the Lords to regain more of Kevn’s Lore?) So maybe several Wards *were* found. And maybe the Clave contrived to distort them, or re-lose them outright. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll never know.

My only real point is, sure, the Lords had plenty of time to go Ward-hunting--but LF (or the Ravers, if LF was still in his version of hibernation) also had plenty of time to think of ways to thwart them.

(10/19/2008)

SPOILER WARNING!

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

Spoilers - Fatal Revenant

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.


John Taff:  How is progress coming on Against All Things Ending? When might we expect to be able to read a posting of the first chapter, as we did with Fatal Revenant?

And do you take questions like this as flattering in their earnest eagerness? Or do they make you feel stressed and harassed? Just interested!

John
I probably shouldn’t answer questions like these. They reveal too much about me. But I’ve been sitting in this aiport so long I’ve forgotten where it is, and my judgment is impaired, so what the he*l.

If I were the kind of person who felt flattered by “earnest eagerness,” my mother probably would have drowned me while I was still a puppy. No, whenever someone asks me about my “progress”, my reflexive reaction is, Well, there’s anOTHer reader I’m disappointing. <sigh>

I think I covered “posting chapters” earlier in the GI. I don’t have the legal right to make my work public without my publishers’ permission: after all, I did sign a contract with them--and I did so of my own free will. But I can’t reasonably ask my publishers for permission if they haven’t even seen (never mind approved, in the editorial sense) the material in question. So the next “first chapter” is still a long ways away. Or it’s a hard rain gonna fall. Or something like that.

(10/19/2008)

Joe:  I have a question that has been nagging at me since I started reading Fatal Revenant. I have searched for this in the GI and have read about your disdain for creator questions or to explain specifics about a fictional universe. However, I decided to ask anyways.

Did the Creator actually create the Earth or just provide the circumstances for its creation?

If the Elohim are to be believed the Worm was around after the Universe but before the Earth. Also it was devouring stars within the Creator's creation. If it was after the Arch of Time had been sealed then the Creator did not make the Earth or the Land, and his only part in the creation of the Earth was creating the Worm. Also, by one of your responses in the GI you said the awakening of the Worm would break the Arch of Time and end the Universe. I do not think this would happen in this scenario if the Worm had been around after time had started. This also does not make sense with one of your explanations in the GI of Foul being inside creation placing Banes(like the Illearth Stone) in the Earth before the Arch was sealed.

If the Worm was around before the sealing of the Arch of Time, and thus able to break it. Then I can see only two ways that the story can play out with the Creator making the Earth.

1) The Creator made the Worm and then the Earth upon that, but that leaves out the Worm eating stars since time had not begun. Also I cannot see the purpose of making something that will inevitably destroy what you have made. Unless it cannot awaken unless some external force wakens it. Since it was said that the Worm is not fully asleep i do not see that as a possibility, even still thats a hell of a risk.

2) The Worm is something akin to the Creator/Foul beings i.e. not created by the Creator. In which case it entered into the creation and was eating stars before time started. Then if the Creator did actually create the Earth he must have known about the Worm in his creation and condoned it by creating the Earth around it. Again why create something that will inevitably destroy what you have made. In this scenario I also could not understand how the Worm could break the Arch where Foul cannot since they are both beings from outside the Arch.

Unless I am missing some vital knowledge, I cannot see how the Creator/Worm stories can possibly work together in the way you have them set up with the current information in the books. Also I cannot see how no one else has asked this question yet, unless I have skipped over something stupidly that explains it.

I hope that you answer, or at least tell me you cannot because it will spoil something to come that addresses this.

Thank you for your time,
Joe
I've been wrestling with this question for some time, mainly trying to figure out why I find such questions disturbing (in other words, trying to understand myself). Unfortunately, I can't claim that I've made any real progress. However, a few points are pretty obvious (if not actually *clear* <sigh>).

It bothers me not at all that "The Chronicles" contain Creation Myths which appear to contradict each other--or which literally do contradict each other. Creation Myths reflect the people who tell those tales: the tales may or may not reflect any external "reality".

In my own thinking, I don't grant the Elohim any more "authority" than anyone else. Their Creation Myth, like their understanding of the world in general, is no more true (or false) than anyone else's.

Any Creation *must* contain the means of its own destruction. This seems so obvious to me that I hardly know how to explain it. Life would be impossible without death. My stories would have no power to engage people unless those stories also had the power to alienate people. And it seems inherently impossible for the finite to describe the infinite (hence the way religions always fall back on anthropomorphism, even though anthropomorphism falsifies what it tries to describe).

Well, *all* the Creation Myths in "The Chronicles" are anthropomorphic. On some level, therefore, they are all false.

And...and...none of this is relevant to my intentions in telling the story. ("I only invent what I need.") On the subjects that appear to confuse you, I haven't tried to provide more coherent information because I have no use for such information in my story. ** Hmm. ** OK, that last sentence may be somewhat misleading. Let me try again. In my view, *meaning* is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). That, among several other reasons, is why the Creator has effectively vanished from "The Last Chronicles": I'm trying to tighten my thematic focus and keep it where it belongs.

So when you ask me a question like, "Did the Creator actually create the Earth or just provide the circumstances for its creation?" my reflexive reaction is, WHA---? You've stepped so far outside the story I'm trying to tell that we are no longer speaking the same narrative language.

(10/22/2008)

Blind Mystic:  What in the hellfire and bloody damnation are the wraiths? I've read through 8 books of this brilliant story and they are so pervasive, yet so apparently unimportant to the story, I keep forgetting to ask. will they suddenly show their true value to the whole story in this last chronicle? I know... I know... rafo. they seem so significant, but so piss ant weak, they're almost like literary catalysts for action in the book. on a strange humor note, I once thought of a raver standing near them as they trembled and tinkled all over themselves and he bends down and lights a cigarette off of one of them.
"What we have here is a failure to communicate." World-building requires small inventions as well as large, minor details and powers as well as major. If Earthpower is really the essence of the Land, then it must express itself in lesser ways as well as greater.

But *unimportant*? Break out the cardiac paddles. I think I'm having an infarction. If you asked me to name just one thing that makes the Land worth writing about, I would probably pick the Wraiths. If you asked me to name just one thing from the Land that I would like to actually see in person, I would probably pick the Wraiths. *Unimportant*? I'm afraid you'll have to ask someone else. I can't get there from here.

(10/22/2008)

Tony Still:  Hello Mr Donaldson,

I have always wondered what Elena was looking at when she had that faraway gaze or that otherness stare you talk about in the illearth war. I think I just missed the significance of it...I can't imagine it being a RAFO.

Thanks :)
What does anyone look at when their attention is absent from their circumstances? Thoughts? Memories? An idea suggested by something seen or heard? I suspect that every human being alive occasionally looks like he or she isn't paying attention. In Elena's case, I don't know because the story isn't written from her point of view. But it probably wouldn't be unreasonable to guess that she's thinking about what she intends to do with the Power of Command--or what she wants from Covenant. Or why.

(10/22/2008)

Jim Melvin:  You're not going to pull a Covenant version of Brett Favre once you've finished Book 4, are you?
I would rather be dead. In fact, just thinking about what following Favre's example would entail might kill me. <rueful smile>

(10/23/2008)

Nathan Eddy:  A few of us are currently dissecting Fatal Revenant on Kevin’s Watch. Perhaps I’m obsessing over a detail, but your cryptic word choices invites detailed speculation. :) On page 167 of Fatal Revenant, you wrote:

“A few of [Berek’s people] had witnessed the salvific rampage of the Fire-Lions. Nonetheless it was likely that none of them had ever seen Earthpower in thetic fire.”

My question concerns the word, “thetic” in reference to the Staff’s manifestation of Earthpower. When I read “thetic fire,” I immediately thought of Edmund Husserl’s usage of this term in phenomenology.

“. . . the existence-belief is an indispensable part of the perceptual phenomenon: such experiences are essentially *thetic,* i.e., there can be no such thing as a perceptual experience without “belief-character”. . .” (The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/)

In this context, I understand “thetic” as an essential component of consciousness which is present in all perceptual awareness of the world. It is the act of *positing* existence of that which we perceive, a positing which occurs simultaneously (though often implicitly) in every act of perception. It is the underlying or unspoken belief that what we see actually exists--a phenomenological engagement, rather than an explicit ontological theory.

So, did you intend “thetic fire” to convey this sense of “positing existence?” Did you mean by this word that the Staff is the instrument by which she confers reality upon her beliefs? If I understand her relationship to the Staff correctly, she uses it to direct Earthpower according to her will, bringing her intentions into existence, making them real. Contrasted with the White Gold—the fact that Linden has a hard time accessing it and enacting her will through it—can we assume this is the connotation you intended?

Just in case I’m way off base, and you had a completely different connotation in mind, I have a simpler question about “thetic fire.” How does this phrase distinguish Linden’s use of the Staff from Fire-Lions in the above quote?

Thanks!

Nathan Eddy (Malik23)
There is, in a manner of speaking, less to this than meets the eye--for the simple reason that your understanding of what the word "thetic" can mean is more sophisticated than mine. I'm unacquainted with Husserl's thinking (although I recognize the rhetorical style <grin>), so I wasn't thinking in his terms when I used the word. (A word, by the way, which does occur elsewhere in "The Chronicles".)

If I recall correctly (by no means a sure thing--and I'm on the road, so I can't check my sources), my dictionary defines "thetic" (adj.) as "deliberate or intentional," with the added connotation that the intention is inherent or fundamental to the noun being modified. So a phrase like "thetic fire" implies both choice (and after all, choice does define reality--on one level or another) and--for lack of a better word--aptness. Linden's use of Earthpower is both deliberate (she has a purpose, duh, as if you didn't know) and appropriate (her purpose suits the nature of the power she's wielding).

Now. It isn't difficult to get from there to where Husserl is. But Husserl's elaboration of the concept isn't necessary in order to understand what I'm trying to say (and imply). And an overdose of Husserl could be misleading--at least in regard to my intentions. For example. Sure, you could say that when Linden uses Earthpower in Berek's camp she's "positing existence." But if you then went on to say that when she's NOT using Earthpower she's NOT "positing existence"--well, the ramifications would almost immediately become too messy to contemplate. In that (admittedly extreme) case, my use of the word "thetic" would lose its "thetic" quality.

Meanwhile, back on less abstruse footing....

No one who "witnessed the salvific rampage of the Fire-Lions" *without health-sense* would have any way of knowing whether or not the rampage was "thetic". Are the Fire-Lions sentient? Do they act by choice ("positing existence"), or are they responding instinctively/reflexively/autonomically to someone else's choices? People with health-sense might be able to discern the presence or absence of choice: Berek's people, at that time in their history, could not. By contrast, anyone who even glanced at Linden would see that she was acting deliberately.

(10/23/2008)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Did Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery fall in love at first sight?
I'm tempted to say, "No, Covenant used a Mac." An oblique reference to an extended quotation from Douglas Adams much earlier in the GI. The real answer is probably more along the lines of, "How would *I* know? It isn't in the text." But I suspect (pure speculation) that the answer is no. Covenant doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who falls in love at first sight. And Linden--well, I doubt that Linden even knows what love *is* when her story begins.

(10/23/2008)

Rick :  Dear Stephen,

Recently I came across Mekong Delta, a German progressive thrash metal band that has been around since the mid eighties. I was pleased to find their back catalogue contains two albums that are influenced by The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant. Just wondered if you’ve come across this before?

For info, the album ‘Visions Fugitives’ contains a set of six instrumental pieces collectively entitled ‘Suite For Group & Orchestra’ (despite the ‘thrash metal’ genre of the band, these pieces are more orchestral) the titles are as follows:
Introduction – The Danger In Dreams
Preludium – Lord Kevin’s Lament
Allegro – Mhoram’s Victory
Dance – The Corrupt
Fugue – Knowledge
Postludium – Lena’s Daughter

Their album ‘The Principle Of Doubt’ betrays its clear influence in the title. The album is more progressive thrash metal in style - and incidentally it’s good quality metal that is intriguing for its variety and complexity (this album is my personal preference of the two).

Just thought you might like to know that you’ve had this influence over a cult heavy metal band (and a respected one at that). As a fan of both thrash metal and Donaldson, I am enjoying this combination greatly :)

Interestingly the band website contains an interview where the main songwriter talks of influences from Wagner (though it seems he prefers Mussorgsky) through to Donaldson. I think the description he gives of TCOTC is great – clearly a guy talking a second language in a metal interview! :)

The interview can be found at: http://www.mekongdelta.eu/readarticle.php?article_id=11

PS The Gap Sequence is without question my favourite story ever. What a stunning climax! Thanks for signing my copies last year in Nottingham, UK – it’s hugely appreciated.

Best Regards,
Rick
I'm posting this as a matter of general interest. Personally, I didn't know there was (or is) such a thing as "progressive thrash metal". <rueful smile>

(10/23/2008)

Kelly W. Peavey:  Dear Steve,

While I can understand why someone would never feel comfortable trying to create in someone else's world, and certainly why you wouldn't give up your own work to do so; I was taken aback by your description of someone who would, as a hack. "Honorable" or not, the word has a horrible connotation.

There are several authors, perhaps hundreds, who participate in shared worlds of one kind or another, and I guess I never considered them hacks. I'm surprised you would. Here's a bit of info on the "hack" who agreed to finish the story: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/faq/section/3/Wheel-Of-Time-FAQ

Sincerely,


Kelly
I'm sorry if the word "hack" gave any offense. I guess some (many?) people see a negative connotation I don't. Maybe I have too many friends who proudly call themselves hacks. Or maybe I'm just too aware that during many periods in human history all the best art was produced by hacks. The idea that artists who work to someone else's specifications for pay are somehow inferior is a comparatively modern notion.

Regardless of connotation, however, shared world anthologies are a special case. Typically the writers who participate share in the *creation* as well as the use of their specific imagined world. That hardly fits the definition of "hack" as I understand the word.

(10/25/2008)

John Blackburn:  Hi there!

I've now bought the newly issued UK Gap book 1 (Real story + Forbidden Knowledge) and it looks very nice. I completely agree with your decision to put the first 2 books in one volume as they are strongly thematically linked both being set entirely in space ships.

I think the idea of humanity ravenous for minerals seems increasingly prescient. The only stocks going up are mining companies like Rio Tinto, Bilington. And China is buying big chunks of Africa to strip copper, tin etc.

A few questions from the Real Story:

1) What sort of body do you imagine Com Mine is orbitting? Is it orbitting a planet or a star or just free floating? How big do you think Com Mine is? I get the impression pretty large if Alpha and Delta sectors are rigidly separated.

2) Was the whole "supply ship Nick trick" necessary. Nick could have just put station supplies in Bright Beauty while she was docked (assuming Morn read the note and opened the hatches.)

3) Did you think of the Amnion when you wrote the Real Story or is that a theme that came later?

John.
Thank you.

1) I didn’t actually imagine that Com-Mine Station was orbitting at all--although it could be, I suppose. I was thinking more along the lines of a debris field that had not yet been captured by a gravity well. Certainly the emphasis on internal spin to generate g suggests a certain distance from any other significant source of gravity.

2) Huh? The whole point here is that the supplies were *stolen*. So if Angus and Bright Beauty are securely docked at Com-Mine the whole time, under effectively constant surveillance, when/how did Angus commit the crime of which he is accused? Nick had to stage the crime SOMEwhere to account for the simple *existence* of stolen supplies. (After all, if Com-Mine has no reason to think a crime has been committed, Security has no reason to search Bright Beauty.) How could he have staged that crime--on Com-Mine--in such a way that suspicion would naturally point to Angus? No, as far as I can see, the only way to convince Com-Mine that a non-existent crime has been committed is to stage the “crime” somewhere beyond the range of station surveillance.

3) It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that the idea of the Amnion came later. Remember that some years passed between the original drafts of “The Real Story” and my realization that the novella implied a much larger story. While I was first writing “The Real Story,” I naturally assumed that piracy is pretty much meaningless if there’s no market for stolen goods. But I didn’t think beyond that point until later.

(10/27/2008)

Todd:  Hi Steve,

You said here in the GI, back on 1/21/08, "I'm so in love with Linden".

Ever since you wrote that I've wondered how you could be objective when it came to her character. Perhaps you didn't mean that as I took it. But just as parents have difficulty being objective about their children, so do writers if they're overly emotionally invested in their characters. Or so I assume. I've yet to be published, so am hardly an expert.

I'm not trying to add to your aggravation with regard to receiving annoying questions from people who don't like Linden. (I like Linden.) Rather, I'm hoping that you'll take the time to explain what you meant.
[question and comments edited to save space]

Considering that all of my characters are--in some abstruse sense--me, I suppose I cannot truly be objective about them. Or do anything other than love them. Certainly I give them my loyalty; I look at the world through their eyes; I think the way they do. And yet…. I’m still the distant “puppet-master” who created all these characters. I decide their personalities as well as their destinies. In some respects, there is no one who can be as objective about my characters as I am.

So when I say that I am “so in love with Linden,” I do *not* mean that I’m blind to her flaws. I do *not* mean that I accept her reasoning simply because it’s hers. I do *not* mean that I consider her admirable in all her dealings. No. What I mean (or think I mean) is that I understand her deeply, I share her doubts about herself (they resemble mine) as well as her commitments (they also resemble mine), and I feel tremendous respect for the courage and toughness which enable her to hang in there against odds which would assuredly defeat me. What I mean (or think I mean) is that I wish I could *be* her. Or maybe what I mean is that Linden still needs me in a way that I find, well, endearing.

OK, OK, I admit it: I’m not sure *what* I mean. <sigh> What does ANYone mean when they say they’re in love? And, just by the way, have I ever written about a character with whom I was *not* in love, however briefly? (Yes, of course I have. What kind of fool question is that?)

btw, a trivia question for GI experts: can you tell when I'm answering questions in airports, or on airplanes? <sigh>

(10/27/2008)

Aaron Greene:  I appreciate the opportunity to revisit the land, throughout my life. It is a fresh view each time I arrive.

As a person who is immersed in Geology as a profession, I often see so many references to scoria, granite, obsidian, etc. in your books. Your references to the "bones of the earth" and other statements make me wonder if you have found geology interesting enough to study? Do you simply take influences from the Southwest environments? Obviously, your settings are fantastical, but do feel you impose realistic geological constraints on your descriptions of the land?

By the way, I had a heck of a time occasionally with the vocabulary in the last book. So much for my knowledge base in your area of expertise... (sarcastic grin, I don't have a wry grin).
To my cost, I have no real knowledge of geology. Just a few smatterings of personal research. I’m like that, I suppose. I often become interested in subjects solely because they pertain to what I happen to be writing at the moment. When I start writing something else, I become interested in other things.

But do I “impose realistic geological constraints” on my “descriptions of the Land?” That’s a different kind of question. As I’ve said, I don’t know enough about geology to impose “realistic” constraints. On the other hand, I do try hard to impose “reasonable” constraints. Part of my, well, philosophy of world-building is that within the general framework of my imaginative constructs I need to be as rational, practical, logical, and even mundane as I possibly can. (Not to mention consistent, about which I’ve already commented at length.) Hence my smatterings of personal research. I don’t really want or need to know everything a real geologist knows; but I would like to know enough to be *reasonable* in my creative efforts.

(10/27/2008)

rob farrow:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

I read in one of the earlier posts that you think the Coveneant series is unfilmable. I also read that the main stumbling point was the ring and how this would be considered a "Lord of the Rings" plagarism. I am not so sure this is a valid argument because what else could be used, even if you remove the symbolism of the ring.

I think the main stumbling block must be the rape. In the book we are able to clearly understand the reaons for Covenants loss of control whereas for a film this would require a great deal of acting prowess, something not usually associated with a movie containing cgi. If you think about it, just taking the rape, the subsequent desctruction of Lena's family and the effect it has on Covenant would make a pretty good arthouse film. The rape is just too complex.

I wonder if you have ever considered the possibility of any movie adaptation of the books beginning with the second chronicles? By making a film from Linden's perspective, allowing the audience to identify with her growing love and respect for Covenant, the introduction of the rape becomes if not acceptable, at least defensible. Also, the agrument about the use of a ring becomes even weaker (given that this series has more visual indications that the source of the power is Covenant himself with the ring just being a conduit).

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

Rob Farrow
Please. We're talking about the movie biz, remember? This means two things (in the context of your message). 1) What does "a valid argument" have to do with anything? Hollywood rejected the "Covenant" proposal because of the ring. Of course, questions were asked. Is the rape the real stumbling block? Is leprosy? No, Hollywood replied. Over and over again. Who cares about things like that? Not us. We only care that the proposal is an *obvious* LOTR rip-off because of the ring. 2) Whether or not I've ever considered an idea like the one you suggest could hardly be less relevant. I've said it over and over again, and I'll keep saying it until someone believes me: I have absolutely no control over anything that does or doesn't happen in Hollywood. No one listens to me. No one cares what I think. This isn't personal. In Hollywood, money talks: everything else walks. So unless I have a few hundred million dollars to invest.... H*ll, I don't even have the power to say NO to a movie deal. Of any kind. My publisher holds the film rights: I don't.

If you really want to see a "Covenant" film, talk to someone who has enough money to make things happen in the movie biz.

(10/29/2008)

Vince:  Hi Steve

I have always loved Science Fiction and Fantasy, from my first readings of Asimov and Tolkien through countless others to your wonderful books, but I've only just realised (yes I'm a bit slow) why I love Mordant's Need and the Thomas Covenant books so much more than anything else I've read. Though many writers are adept at creating fantastic worlds in which to base their stories, there is something uniquely fascinating about a character from our own world being translated into a fantastic or magical realm.

Are you able to recommend any other works that follow this format?

I have my fingers crossed that when you have finished The Last (sigh) Chronicles, the next big idea that pops into your head sees 'one of us' embarking on another big adventure (maybe one that doesn't have to suffer quite as much as Covenant to get wherever their journey takes them! mmmmmmm... but then of course the lows amplify the highs and make them all the more delicious)

Take care
Vince
Well, there are the obvious antecedents. "Alice in Wonderland." "The Wizard of Oz." "The Chronicles of Narnia." Some Kurt Vonnegut Jr (I think). If my memory hasn't failed me, E. R. R. Eddison's "The Worm Ouroboros". A fair number of Tim Powers books ("The Anubis Gates" is one candidate). By some standards, King's "The Dark Tower" saga fits your description. And I'm sure there are others. Perhaps lots of others. I just haven't read them--or I can't remember them at the moment.

(10/29/2008)