Martin Vs Erikson – My perspective on writing

In regards to the previous post, the author of the quote wants to make sure he’s not a Martin fanboy and that the first part of the phrase isn’t directly implying the second (even if it actually is). I’ll instead clarify that I simply extrapolate the quote to use it as a general example of a trend I sometime notice and don’t like. No idea if the author of that review is biased or not, fanboy or not, I just say that the quote implied certain things that are false and I used it as a general example.

Instead the other day I got an occasion on Malazan forums to elaborate on the differences in writing between Martin and Eirkson. These are things that I believe do exist and are not a result of my biased perception. In the end my preference goes for a particular style and I explain why. I’m not interested to see one of them triumph on the other, only that when a discussion takes place it follows certain rules of coherence and objectivity when it comes to objective elements. I respect every opinion, as long it is coherent.

I think the whole approach to flaws is different.

Whereas Martin would write 100 pages and then toss away everything that isn’t 100% working as expected, Erikson makes the process of writing part of the intent the novel is about. Erikson writes like a freeclimber. He knows exactly where he wants to go but the process of getting there is part of what you see on the page and his journey is your journey as a reader. Move after move. Sometimes you can’t go straight up as you wish and have to move sideways, a few times maybe you have to move backwards, but every move you make is essential and part of what you’re creating there and the final destination. Erikson is insanely ambitious in what he does and even when the task is quite hard to reach he doesn’t back off, he just gets more motivated. So the books are indeed “flawed”. There are parts that work better than others, some amazingly successful and some not quite reaching, yet this is what makes the books much more interesting to read for me. They are filled with experimentation on all levels and that’s what keeps my interest and lightens up the brain and the fun feedback.

Reading Martin I think makes easier to forget about the book itself and engage with the story and characters. Erikson instead requires a certain detachment and look at things from multiple perspectives (what he calls “layering” the writing, sometimes to insane levels). With Martin you get a final product that is perfectly crafted and ready to be enjoyed. With Erikson instead you have the process of crafting itself as part of what you are experiencing. So while what Erikson writes feels rougher, to me it also feels like he’s telling me something that is “true” and that offers me a lot more. And where Martin may respect all good rules that make a classic narrative without any slip of control or mastery, Erikson may as well go and break them all just because of his rebellious soul. You decide what you like better ;)

I’ll also point out this post that, while not quite to the point on Erikson, I think underlines well certain canons that Martin follows and make me say there’s not a whole lot of originality involved. He just picked certain canons that were not typical in “fantasy”.

On the merit of the legitimacy of battles between writers, as the title of this post would suggest, I say that there’s plenty of legitimacy in comparing things (or writers).

Where the thing breaks is when the intent is trying to have one being declared superior to another with a pretense of objectivity and absoluteness. Who can say who’s the better writer? A final judgment made on what rules? What is the canon everyone agreed upon as the ultimate judgment? The only real objective and usable canon is: “sales”. And sales will only declare which author is more accessible and able to reach a large public, leaving out everything else that belongs to writing. It basically tells nothing really useful beside the economic possibility of the book existing as a physical object and the writer being able to survive by writing as a job. We have no ultimate way to proclaim the better writer. So a discussion is only useful when it brings up characteristic of writing that are true and observable, so that the discussion helps to have a correct idea of the writer and his writing. Everyone will have a preference for something different. What is important is that the analysis is true to the writer and his style.

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