Last night I was so grateful to finally be able to attend a fantasy literary event! Not to play the mother card yet again, but it is difficult to attend cons etc when you have responsibilities and limited funds!
Which is why I was overjoyed that there was an event being hosted in Bath (only two hours away!) and it was an absolutely bargain (£3!). I couldn’t not go.
And so my babysitter was booked (thanks Mam!), hubby booked a half day off work, and we made an afternoon of it in Bath. Which, by the way, is stunning.
The Grim Gathering was at Waterstones, and hosted by Fantasy Faction as part of Peter V Brett‘s UK tour for his new book, The Core (the fifth book in his Demon Cycle series).
He was accompanied by authors Peter Newman, Anna Stephens, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence.
I know right
In my excitement at finally being allowed out, with books no less, I managed to take not a singly photo of the event. Not one. Not even at the signing. But I had a fantastic time, and I learned a lot; and I guess that’s the main thing.
I did manage to hastily jot down some notes! So (provided I can make sense of them this morning), here are some things I learned…
Realism in “Grimdark”
Peter Newman highlighted the contradiction that people claim grim dark fantasy is realistic, when it is fantasy and deals with the fantastic. However, the characters are usually more realistic. As Anna Stephens put it, grim dark is more “relatable” in that way. Mark Lawrence accused realism as being boring, what he strives for instead is being truthful.
The importance of killing off your characters
Peter Brett answered that he doesn’t feel its a necessary component for a book, the story can still be good; but that’s not the kind of story he wants to write. He wants his readers to be scared for the characters. He is a meticulous planner when it comes to writing, and he knows from the offset who is going to live and die.
Unlike Anna, who got to the end of writing a scene to discover she’d killed a character…
Joe Abercrombie explained that he doesn’t rush to kill characters “just because”. If war features in your story, and there’s not some death around, it feels fake. There has to be cost and consequence.
Quoting Warhammer, “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war“: how much room is there for hope?
Peter B pointed out that his books would be nothing without hope. Without light at the end of the tunnel, his books “wouldn’t be interesting”.
Alternatively, Mark voiced the kind of hope that readers carry with them. For example with his character Jorg, a reader may hate him and hope he dies, or they may hope he finds redemption, or they may hope he carries on kicking ass. “Books may end badly, but there’s always hope along the way. It doesn’t have to end well for a book to have hope in it”.
Peter N claims that for hope to be meaningful, it has to be surrounded by darkness (an interjection here from Joe, in his best sage wisdom voice, “You cannot have shadow without light”). Characters who keep going become more compelling; hope has to be earned and fought for.
Finally Anna highlighted the importance of hope for the writer. As she rather beautifully put it, “‘No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader‘, and that goes for any emotion”. There are different kinds of hope; Anna hopes her villain dies a horrible “twisty” death and that she gets to write it.
Quick fire questions from the audience:
Do you feel the need to dirty-up your writing to keep up with a society that’s getting used to violence etc?
General consensus was no!
Are there any book series you could see yourself continuing?
Again, consensus was no; Peter B addressed the elephant in the room that this question was dancing around, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. He respectfully discussed how this was a special case, as Robert Jordan had already laid out details of how the series would end, and he passed away before his time.
Do you worry about being melodramatic?
Mostly, the authors said no, as that was down to personal opinion. Anna rather melodramatically expressed that she loves melodrama; she’ll go over the top with a scene, and then edit it down to something more suitable. It’s important to get it out of your system!
I cannot express how grateful I was to be able to attend this event; it’s so inspiring, as both reader and aspiring writer, to meet authors whose work we admire and hear their points of view on the process of writing.