A brace of interviews: Richard Morgan and Neal Stephenson

Paul Raven @ 22-10-2008

It’s just like buses; you wait ages for a decent in-depth author interview, then two come along at once. Not that I’m complaining, mind you!

First up is a chat with Neal Stephenson on the Barnes & Noble website, which is mostly about Stephenson’s latest breezeblock novel Anathem, but contains other goodies too:

JM: You write with a fountain pen.

NS: Yes.

JM: Have you always done that?

NS: No. I started that with the Baroque Cycle. Cryptonomicon was the last thing I wrote with a word processor. What I was noticing was that I’ve become such a fast typist that I could slam out great big blocks of text quite rapidly — anything that came into my head, it would just dribble out of my fingers onto the screen. That includes bad stuff as well as good stuff. Once it’s out there on the screen, of course, you can edit it and you can fix the bad stuff, but it’s far better not to ever write down the bad stuff at all. With the fountain pen, which is a slower output device, the material stays in the buffer of your head for a longer period. So during that amount of time, you can fix it, you can make it better, you can even decide not to write it down at all — you can think better of writing it.

How many bad or boring blog posts would have been avoided if we all had to blog with fountain pens? Actually, no, don’t answer that… 🙂

Next up is Richard (K) Morgan, who provides what must be the longest article io9 have ever run, interview or otherwise. If you’ve read any of his fiction, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that Morgan has strong opinions regarding politics and governance and human nature, and there’s plenty of that sort of thing in between the more fiction-focussed material:

One of the great things about American culture is that it’s a great borrower. America sees something it likes and says, “Oh yeah, we’ll have that. How much money do you want to reproduce that for us?” Leone came in with what is a very Catholic vision of the American West. And was able to sell that template. In that sense the Western never looked back. And you see a similar second wave of revisionism with Unforgiven in 1992, and the same thing. What’s been taken apart is Leone’s mythology of these lightning fast guys with guns that can produce a Colt and shoot the pits off of an apple. And of course Unforgiven comes along and says no, no. There’s something very cleansing about that, about taking something that’s been mythologized and saying, “Let’s give this a wipedown and see what’s really underneath.” Part of the brief I gave myself [with The Steel Remains] was, let’s see if we can’t do a Sergio Leone on the Tolkien landscape.

Anyone in the Futurismic audience read Anathem yet, by the way? Or The Steel Remains? Both are still buried deep in my to-be-read pile, but they’re rising steadily…

[The Stephenson interview deserves a hat-tip to Big Dumb Object; in the interests of complete transparency I will point out that Richard Morgan is one of my clients.]


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