Ian Esslemont on world-building, grimdark and the Malazan world


Purveyor of Nerdliness
Jun 4, 2012
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For those of you who don't know, Ian Esslemont is co-creator of the Malazan world (along with the more famous Steven Erikson). One of my collaborators recently had the pleasure of interviewing him as a part of the blog tour for his new book, Blood and Bone.

There's a lot of interesting stuff in there, particularly when he talks about how he and Erikson created the Malazan world, how their Malazan stories intertwine, the peculiar ecology in Blood and Bone and--of course--on the nature and purpose of violence and darkness in "gritty" fantasy. Here's an excerpt on that topic:

NoaF: The Malazan books are pretty dark and violent, and as I’m sure you’re aware, darkness and violence in fantasy has been the subject of some debate lately. We weighed in on this topic a few months ago with what was basically a middle position: all of the fantasy reviewers at this site like a lot of what could be considered dark or gritty fantasy, but get frustrated when it’s just dark for darkness’ sake. We want violence, when it’s presented, to tell us something that couldn’t be told another way, and I think the Malazan books are notable for not just presenting violence, but exploring the consequences and implications of that violence in meaningful ways. Could you speak a little to your approach to these topics?

ICE: That is reassuring to hear. Steve and I believe firmly that any violence must be accompanied by its consequences, the way effect follows cause. Darkness and violence for its own sake is shallow and immature. I hope that if the Malazan world conveys anything, it is that a violent world is a scary place, and not to be desired. If there is violence, then it is the violence of the Eddas, or the Elizabethan stage, with all its stabbings, beheadings, battles, duels, poisonings, regicide and fratricide. As well as all its exploration of justice, morality, and the depths of the human soul.

There's lots of interesting stuff in the interview, which hopefully will serve as the basis of a good discussion!

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