How not to do a book cover

Everything in this cover is done wrong:

– Bauchelain (the one in the center) is described in the book as a lean, angular guy. Like someone you’d find in a library, and not like a bulky warrior. This one was more fitting but it looks like he put on weight.

– It’s not an easy book to sell, this one. It’s even worse when the cover gives bad expectations. Nothing in the cover refers to something in this book. The green hue isn’t even close to the kind of tone the story could have.

– The forest makes no sense. As far as I remember there are no trees in all the book, and for the most part they move through a barren land/desert.

– What’s written under the title is unacceptably misleading. This story has no connection whatsoever with the “Malazan Empire”. It’s so wrong that it’s not acceptable even as a vague cover blurb. It’s just completely false.

– I really dislike this new habit of using real pictures or 3D art for fantasy books. There are so many valid illustrators out there. Use them.

In general, it’s very bad when your publisher has no idea of what he’s publishing.

Erikson’s Midnight Tides and Bakker’s Darkness That Comes Before

Some redundancy in this post, but I’m at it.

In a forum discussion I suggested to someone who couldn’t suffer Erikson writing style to instead try reading Bakker. There’s a reason for this. I believe that both have a similar approach to certain themes. Yet, they do it on the page in a completely different style and someone who can’t digest one may have a good chance of enjoying the other.

I know that either writer would cringe if aware I’m drawing parallels, but I do this not to put them on a ladder of quality, but to try to underline qualitative differences.

It can be absurd to think I see Erikson series doing certain similar things to Bakker’s Prince of Nothing, so I’m giving one example of what I see.

Specifically in the titles of the books, and their theme. Midnight Tides and The Darkness That Comes Before.

“The Dünyain,” Kellhus said after a time, “have surrendered themselves to the Logos, to what you would call reason and intellect. We seek absolute awareness, the self-moving thought. The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before?

There are tides beneath every tide
And the surface of water
Holds no weight

-Tiste Edur saying

Who writes the best prose (what I want in a book)

Post taken out a forum discussion. Every time you like something you are branded like a “fan” who lost all objectivity, and blindness is elevated to higher status than sight.

If you want an idea on Erikson approach to writing you can read this article.

That’s Erikson explaining his approach to writing, including an example of dialogue out of GotM that I consider very well done. You can see that as an example like one of those you provided to prove the opposite. That’s for me good writing, and in the first book.

That said you can even read Adam Roberts articles on the Wheel of Time.

He almost exclusively analyzes prose and proves how dreadful it is. It’s not the occasionally clunky, it’s that sometimes it doesn’t even make sense and there’s verbiage that leads nowhere. For me the gap between Jordan and Erikson is already considerable. Jordan is one who’s not rarely *praised* for his command of language and flowing prose, meant as positive qualities of his writing. Other people may clump together Erikson and Jordan as very bad, but for me there’s enough a distinction to make.

Also, and I can comment on this, Erikson among fantasy writers is one who uses a rather rich language. Jordan or even Martin are easier to read for someone who’s not a native speaker. The language is usually easier and requires less attention. Say, from easy to hard: Jordan – Martin – Erikson – Wolfe

Gene Wolfe is the one considered the best prose stylist among those. I can definitely recognize that. But the bravura comes with its flaws. I’ve said in the past that Wolfe can sometimes say a very simple concept in a very complicate and ornate way. In my book that’s not a “talent”. In what I read I enjoy complexity, but complexity that is not there for its own sake.

DF Wallace is one writer whose prose is incredibly convoluted and layered. He knows this.

But the complexity to be found there is one of value. The content is DEEPER than the surface. That’s what I want from a book. Not something that lulls and dulls me, nor something that complicates without a reason.

Which brings me to Scott Bakker. This is a writer that to an extent I like even *more* that Erikson. He’s also the one who’s usually considered a better “writer” than Erikson by those who have read them (including the previous page of the thread).

Well, the aspect I like in Erikson MORE than Bakker is language. Bakker’s prose is flowing smoothly, well written and sometimes poetic even. But it’s straightforward and, to an extent, simple. It has no shadows or undertones. The complexity in Bakker’s work is in the concepts that rise from the page and the characters. The language is simple and usually undemanding. It does one thing.

What instead I like specifically in Erikson, and like above all writers in the genre and often outside it (DF Wallace is a case I put above), is that Erikson’s prose is often densely layered. It needs to be interpreted and read on different levels and from different points of view. It does more than one thing, and sometimes hidden from the immediate attention.

Wallace and Erikson don’t write with a similar style, but I see a specific similarity in this layering of prose and complexity that is hidden in the text (in plain sight for me). Wallace opens universes with his writing. Is infinitely complex and gives me the impression I’m “falling in”. It opens the mind. I like Wallace because the prose is not complex for complexity’s sake, but because it opens up to meaning within.

Erikson has some of that layering and complexity. Scenes that you read “echo” with scenes coming before and sometimes across books. There’s resonance and there’s use of a number of key words that return and bring significance. The way Erikson writes the single scenes and structures whole books is similar to the idea Wallace uses of “refracted light”. A ray of light (meaning), that is refracted through scenes and characters. Every time it brings along what it was, and says something anew.

That’s the complexity I like, and that’s why I enjoy Erikson not just for what he writes, but HOW he writes it. It can take some time to adjust to the style and discover those qualities. They are there for me, I’m sorry if you don’t see or don’t want to see it.

Erikson on “writing”:

Find out what you want to write about. Choose key words and stack them in your head, leaving them to do a slow-burn through the writing of your story. Don’t look at the light, don’t fan the flames, don’t flinch when they burn. Write around the fire, circling, ever circling, working to edge closer as the story progresses. Drive for the moment when you get singed, scorched. Then pull back, smarting. Study the red welt. Good enough? If it hurts like hell … probably good enough.
Heal. Start again.

It’s not that Erikson put a spell of me and made me a brainless fan who lost all awareness and objectivity. It’s simply that I recognize those qualities in what I read. And it is rather presumptuous to state that NO, those qualities do not exist and I’m the one who’s blind.

I see stuff, you don’t. I’d say you are the one more indicate to have some doubts.

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Those who are discriminated, discriminate

This article represents EXACTLY what’s wrong, specifically nowadays about all genre discussions.

The most important TRUTH is how those who suffer discrimination have no restraint about becoming the discriminators without having the perception that they are moving through the same patterns.

The same patterns. There’s just repetition done by different subjects.

So Fantasy books, how they get discriminated by “serious” literature. Prejudices and everything.

But this kind of compartmentalization and affiliation is a pattern that always repeats. It is the constant across all forms of culture and all human categories. And the debate itself is ALWAYS an endless and pointless repetition. A pattern itself. It’s Internet redundant ceremony. A kind of meme itself that builds identity and gratifies those people who belong to the group.

Bakker: “Apologize for the in-group status quo.”

Basically people discriminate as a form of defense from discrimination. Us versus them. You are assailed and so answer in kind (while bathing in hypocrisy).

Hence, the “literary” branch of Fantasy builds its own self-praising group putting on the altar the China Mieville, Catherynne M Valente, Gene Wolfe. As indication of names and books that are “better” than Fantasy and because only those names have the courage of dealing with “truth” and adult literature.

The rest, as it is well known, is for kids.

Erikson: “the critics invariably practise exceptionalism: these writers are not fine representatives of their genre; by virtue of their fineness, they have left the genre.” (source)

Specifically about Truth, I gather three quotes:

Adam Roberts: Flattering the readers’ preconceptions and prejudices isn’t the same thing as telling them the truth. (source)
Glen Cook: You just write stuff the way it is instead wishful thinking. (source)
Steven Erikson: They wrote how they want it to be, not how it is. (source)

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Caitlin R. Kiernan on “writing”

Just saw this. It is relevant.

Utter chaos and panic today. Three looming deadlines. Fear I’ll break the novel. Fear of word limits. Fear I won’t have the collection edited in time. Fear of other looming deadlines, editors, agents, readers. Insomnia. Exhaustion. Fear. Panic. Rage. Money fear. Isolation.

If anyone wants this shitty job, I’m selling cheap.

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