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This Interview has been provided by Orbit, and is printed with their permission.
Tad Williams answers readers' questions
Tad Williams, author of the spellbinding Memory, Sorrow and Thorn fantasy sequence, has turned his amazing storytelling powers to something quite different in his new series, Otherland. Volume One, City of Golden Shadow, is available in paperback, and Volume Two, River of Blue Fire, is published in hardback in July. We asked Tad to tell us more about how his ideas for the Otherland books came about (and if you sent in a question for us to put to Tad - they’re all answered below . . .)
Tad Williams writes:
I wish I could tell you how brilliantly original the idea for the Otherland books is - a series of invented worlds linked together by a virtual river - but I'm afraid the concepts have appeared in bits and pieces in lots of other places. However, we already knew there were no completely new stories, didn't we? Synthesis is all.
The river-story itself is a pretty basic idea, both in and out of science fiction. If you stretch the metaphor ever so slightly to include the episodic sea-voyage, you can take it back as far as the Story of Sinuhe out of ancient Egypt, which is a clear and direct ancestor of the Odyssey, and all other pilgrimage-by-water stories which followed, leading right up to Huckleberry Finn and Heart of Darkness. (That's one of the reasons I've used the Odyssey as a theme in Volume Three, but that's a tale for another day.)
And of course other science fiction writers have done wonderful things with river journeys - Farmer, Niven, Simmons, just to name a few - all have found ways to reinvigorate one of the oldest of story ideas.
As for me, I have to confess that the river journey itself is mainly of interest to me in terms of the way the idea conveys adventure before you even begin - ‘We're going inland, where no one has ever been before. We don't know what we'll find. We go where the river takes us!’ But the real reason that Otherland got a grip on me and wouldn't let go was that it allowed me to do all the things that I like to do, but in a completely different way than usual. Those who are new to my work may not realize that I am known predominantly as a fantasy writer. This is not unfair - most of what I've published does fit into that genre - but it doesn't entirely jibe with my image of myself. I've always liked both fantasy and science fiction (as well as many other kinds of fiction, too, of course) and have always wanted to do both kinds of writing.
However, whether I'm truly a fantasist or not, I'm certainly not a scientist, so I always wondered what I could bring to the party, science-fictionally. When I first thought of the basic Otherland concept - thousands of invented virtual worlds, computer-created playgrounds for rich and powerful people - I realized that to an extent I could now have my cake and eat it too: I could write science fiction, in an area in which I had at least a little expertise (I worked for a while in multimedia at Apple Computer) but which would allow me to let me fantasy-urges run wild, too. Things could make scientific sense, and I could discuss likely events in our own near future, and at the same time I could write about magic castles, monsters, and supernatural spirits.
Besides my love of both fantasy and science fiction, I've been able to bring to the party my interest in really long books. (Okay, it's kind of a weird thing to be interested in, but everyone needs a hobby.) I realize that multi-volume stories are not for everyone, but I also have come to learn after doing the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn books ( a very long epic fantasy) that there are things that happen only when a story is long enough - certain kinds of themes and characters and plot-twists that arise purely because of the complexity.
Copyright© 2002 Orbit
. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. The interview has been provided by Orbit
and is printed with their permission.