A two-time winner of the British Fantasy Award, Mark Chadbourn is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. His newest book in the U.S., Jack of Ravens, starts the Kingdom of the Serpent trilogy. A former journalist, he is now a screenwriter for BBC television drama. His other jobs have included running an independent record company, managing rock bands, and working on a production line. He lives in a forest in the English Midlands.

Paul Weimer had the opportunity to ask Mark about his latest novel, trilogies and not thinking in terms of genres or sub-genres…


SF Signal: For those readers who haven’t read any of your novels…Who is Mark Chadbourn?

Mark Chadbourn: I do a lot of different things. In The US, I’m just drawing to a close a long – I guess you would call it – urban fantasy sequence, which began with World’s End and will end with Destroyer of Worlds. NIne books, a trilogy of trilogies. What would happen if the ancient mythological gods returned to our world today? Standing stones, prehistoric sites, magic, mysticism, fabulous beasts, the wild hunt, the original iterations of vampires, philosophy, psychology, politics. If you only like secondary world fantasy, it’s not for you. Save yourself the trouble. I’m not supposed to say that, am I? Sell, sell, sell! If you’re interested in the Occupy protests and the Burning Man Festival, you might like it. These books were first published outside the US starting about 12 years ago now.
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Every reader holds out for a hero, but be it movies or novels, its the antagonists, the villains, that often bring the heat, spice and power to a piece of work and make it sing.

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q:Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?

Here’s what they said…

Scott Lynch
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, Scott Lynch is the author of the Gentleman Bastard sequence of fantasy crime novels, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues with Red Seas Under Red Skies and the forthcoming The Republic of Thieves. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and twenty countries, and he was a World Fantasy Award finalist in the Best Novel category in 2007. Scott currently lives in Wisconsin and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005.

.I’ve always had a great admiration for the Lady, from Glen Cook’s Black Company series, with an honorable mention for all of the Ten Who Were Taken that serve her. She’s ruthless but multifaceted, a romantic and tragic figure as well as a provisioner of all the dark arts and fell deeds a reader could desire. As for the Ten, they’re just so fun and iconic, sort of more extroverted Nazgul.

If you’ll allow historical fiction as a cousin to fantasy, I’d also vote for Livia, from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. Subtle, pitiless, and patient, the deadliest woman (hell, the deadliest person) in a deadly milieu.

Last but not least I’d bring up O’Brien, from George Orwell’s 1984, the chillingly contented ordinary man who patiently explains to Winston what it’s all about… that all the chanting and ideology is a fog, that the politics of Oceania are meaningless, the nature of its wars completely unimportant. The whole point of the crushing pyramid of human misery is to keep a tiny elite with their boots on the throats of the rest of humanity, forever and ever, amen. To conceive that sort of thing, to accept it, to rise and sleep as a happy part of such a brutal mechanism… now that’s villainy.

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My recent and long overdue discovery of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories made me wonder about other good sword and sorcery stories, so this week’s panelists were asked:

Q: What are some of the best sword and sorcery stories? What makes them so good?

Check out their excellent suggestions…(and share some of your own!)

Martha Wells
Martha Wells is the author of seven fantasy novels, including The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. Her publications also include two Stargate: Atlantis novels and several short stories.

I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of sword and sorcery, including the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series, and Robert E. Howard’s Dark Agnes stories. One of my earliest favorites was Charles Saunders’ Dossouye stories, which first appeared in the anthologies Amazons! and Sword and Sorceress in the early 80s. When I read the first one, “Agbewe’s Sword,” I was about fifteen years old and desperately looking for strong female protagonists. The setting of an alternate version of Africa, using cultures and myths that I wasn’t familiar with, also really set the stories apart for me. The stories are available now in a collection titled Dossouye, and I highly recommend it.

I also loved Tanith Lee’s sword and sorcery, like The Storm Lord and Vazkor, Son of Vazkor, the sequel to The Birthgrave, and her Cyrion stories, which had the main character solving magical mysteries during his adventures. The settings are so lush and rich and detailed, with the feeling of starting out in a strange place, only to follow the characters somewhere much stranger.

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Recent events and discussions once again bring the topic of genre fiction’s mainstream respectability to the forefront. So we thought it’d be timely to ask this week’s panelists:

Q: In your opinion, does literary science fiction and fantasy have mainstream respect? Why, if at all, does it need mainstream approval? What would such approval mean for genre fiction?

Read on to see their level-setting responses…

Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is a science fiction author noted for his complex and dense prose which is liberally influenced by his Catholic faith. He has won the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award four times and has been nominated for the Hugo Award multiple times.

That’s a softball. No. Literary sf and fantasy are not respected by mainstream critics or the mainstream professoriate. Neither needs mainstream approval, which would diminish (and perhaps destroy) both. Just look at what they DO respect. Look at what poetry was as late as the early 20th Century, and what it is now.

Now and then I’m asked at cons why I don’t write fiction of the respected sort. You know, he is a professor and she is a professor and they are having adulterous affairs, and they are almost overcome with guilt and angst, and there is no God, and scientific progress doesn’t enter into it, and just about everybody in the world is upper middle class.

When that happens, I ask the questioner abut Martin du Gard. Have you read him? Have you heard of him? Invariably the answers are no and no. Then I explain that Martin du Gard won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year H. P. Lovecraft died.

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