Interesting, could you perhaps elaborate on that a little bit, or do we have to wait for the posthumous release of your version of a "History of Abercrombieworld"?
I'd rather not get into specifics. It wasn't a case of major changes, just introducing a few rays of light, and on consideration I completely agreed with her, and the book is much better for it. This is the great thing about editors. Often quite small things can make a big difference, certainly no extra cities were destroyed, no-one died that doesn't die now or anything like that.
That cheered me up though. I couldn't believe that after all the "breaking the mould" hype you chickened out from killing any of your lead characters. Especially when i wanted two of them to die in horribly painful ways for most of the book.
I thought that was an important reason why the ending is so damned depressing: most major characters survive, but they are not truly happy, and that bastard Bayaz keeps pulling everyone's strings.
I think there are going to be a lot of people who will dislike the ending. But I hope that there will be a few who, as Joe says, find it makes them think. There's a lot to think about.
I hope so. On the specific of character death, although most of the cliches of fantasy root back to Tolkein, it seems that the newer offshoot of gritty fantasy is starting to develop a few cliches of its own. It's almost par for the course now, a la martin, to have massive character death all over the place. So much so that I've seen threads around about The First Law where people are asking - who's going to die in the end, then? Probably they'll be more shocked and upset by only one central person dying, and him in a very ragged, unconcluded and unglamorous way, than they would by the whole cast being extinguished in a final ride for glory. For me there are potentially more interesting things you can do with a character than kill them off (not that you can't do that with huge effect as well).
Part of the problem, I think, is that killing your characters at the end of a book is almost as much of a neat resolution as the happy victory of righteousness and the kingdom reunited type ending. It's a sadder type , perhaps, but still a neat one, and I think people generally long for that. They laugh or they cry, but either way it's finished, resolved, comfortable. The main thing I was trying to do with these books was make them feel to some extent like real life, like the lives of these characters had gone on before the start of the books and would continue after. Life has few neat resolutions. There's war in Iraq, there's victory in Iraq, but clearly the story doesn't end there. It barely even starts there. So I didn't want glorious deaths for my characters any more than I wanted glorious victories. There are very rarely any such things, except in stories.
I don't myself feel like that was chickening out, but I know some people will, and I know some people will also just turned off by the futility of the whole thing, but them's the breaks, you have to call it as you see it.
Bayaz certainly did not get what he deserved, and that's the biggest sticking point. He turned out to be a far bigger asshole than I ever thought he would. But then again: although he might be an egotistical, arrogant, ruthless, hypocritical, vain, selfish, unscrupulous bastard, devoid of any sense of fairness or decency, how else do you survive for a thousand years as possibly the most powerful man in the world?
When I was pretty young I read Tolkien's foreword to the Lord of the Rings, in which he says something along the lines of, if the books had been an allegory for the World Wars, then Gandalf would have used the ring. I thought right away that would have made a very interesting book. I was interested in looking at that whole massive cliche of the goodly wizard advisor guide bloke which we're so familiar with. The righteous, benieficent, goodly use of power. Given how ruthless, manipulative and self-serving most mortal politicians seem to be, how ruthless would they almost certainly become if they were basically immortal and personally very powerful? It goes back to the whole issue of good and evil in fantasy as well, which of course I'm by no means the first to look at, but I wanted very much to look at those questions of - is there such a thing as heroes and villains, or does it depend purely on perspective? Is there a right side, or is there only our side?
Anyway can we ask you questions like what the hell is the Bloody-Nine ? Or what's the easiest way to kill Bayaz ? Or as a psychologist how you would profile Logen ?
I'd rather not get too much into the specifics, let the text do the talking and readers make their own conclusions about exactly what's going on. I like things a bit ambiguous, because life is, and everything is different from different points of view.
With Logen, though, I was interested in investigating the nature of violence, and particularly how it's portrayed in fantasy. As sexy and disposable, on the whole. We're often shown these men with a dark past and are invited to think of that as glamorous, that a man can be a killer but basically still be a good bloke. There's this dark glamour associated with someone being dangerous in real life, but on the whole, in my experience, being dangerous means being more aggressive, more willing to go to the extremes of violence more quickly than people generally will. It's pretty disgusting, in fact, and has a disgusting effect on everyone around. So the hope was that readers would just be caught up in the well-meaning buffoon side of Logen's personality, and give him a completely free pass on a brutal past (yeah, yeah, he's killed more men than the plague, whatever). Then when it's gradually revealed what a nasty, destructive, self-deluding, self-excusing piece of work he is, with any luck the reader feels kind of horrified to have been taken in. But then again, he's also a funny, warm, comradely guy. Like Jezal says, you're the best man I know, and for him that's true. Such are the contradictions of real people, he says pretentiously...