Thursday, 3 March 2011

Katherine Langrish - Guest Post Creating World( West of the Moon blog tour)

Katherine Langrish


Welcome to the fifth stop of the extensive Katherine Langrish 'West of the Moon' blog tour. Today, is actually the official publication date for the release of "West of the Moon". This book combines all three of the original Troll stories, in just one handy, Troll-size book. Although it has been adapted slightly, just a few tweaks here and there, it still retains the magically captivating story, but with a fresh new look and feel.
Today's post is all about creating worlds. Read about Katherine's interesting musings into the many different worlds that have been created. 


All fiction is about creating worlds, of course, and each of these worlds is distinctive, personal.  Take Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens. Their versions of Victorian England are quite different, even when they’re talking about the same kinds of thing. Dotheboys Hall in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘Lowood Institution’ in Jane Eyre are both highly unpleasant schools – both even contain abused, tubercular pupils who befriend the main character and later die in their arms – but they inhabit totally different fictional universes. You can’t imagine taking a journey from Bleeding Heart Yard to Thornfield Hall.  Mr Rochester’s mad wife is no Miss Havisham.  And no matter how I try, I can’t imagine Jane Eyre meeting Mr Micawber.  

So all fiction is about creating worlds – but fantasy writers come straight out and admit it.  We don’t even try to deceive you.  How could we?  You know that unicorns and dragons, werewolves and vampires, orcs and trolls and elves, do not exist and never have existed.  So what’s the point of it all?  Why on earth do we write it?  Why do some of you – quite a lot of you, actually – want to read it? 

Surely because fantasy is no more and no less a pack of lies than any other type of fiction. Or to put it the other way around, the truths of good fantasy are exactly the same as the truths of all good fiction: emotional truths about characters, about situations, about life. 

And because it’s fun sometimes to leave the mundane behind, to stretch the imagination a little further, and to say not just, ‘What if there was a boy, and one foggy day he met an escaped convict in a graveyard and was terrified into helping him’ (you can argue the case for a strong fantasy element in Dickens) but also, ‘What if there was a hobbit, and one day in late summer he found out he owned the most dangerous object in the universe – a ring of power – and had to leave his comfortable world behind and journey to destroy it?’ 

It’s fun to try and create self-consistent secondary worlds, in much the same way as it’s fun to construct a model railway with diminutive hills and valleys, bridges and cuttings and stations, and to put little people on the platforms, holding rolled up newspapers, and briefcases, and handbags.  It’s fun, and then it becomes serious, because in fiction you can bring the little people to life.  You bring them to life, and watch that man help that woman get a smut out of her eye, and before you know it, they’re falling in love and holding agonised discussions over cups of tea in the station café, and breaking one another’s hearts and parting forever.  

You can have emotional truth in a secondary world even when that world is full of impossible things.  When Aslan dies in Narnia; when Ged, in ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, summons the spirit of Elfarran from the dead, and we know that he has done an abominable thing out of arrogance and pride; when Lyra finds out the terrible truth about what happens to the children and their daemons in the Bolvangar Experimental Station – these are not lies.  

In my own fantasies, in my own way, I too do my best to tell the truth.  In ‘West of the Moon’, (the new omnibus edition of my ‘Troll’ trilogy set in the Viking age), I wanted a hero who wasn’t in any sense the Chosen One.  Rather, Peer Ulfsson is a sort of Everyman.  He has no particular talents, apart from being a good carpenter.  He isn’t a great swordsman or fighter.  He can’t do magic.  He’s good-looking, but nothing out of the ordinary.  What he does have is tremendous integrity and a basic goodness – which can get him into trouble.  

The Viking age was a violent one.  The Icelandic sagas are full of ‘heroes’ you really wouldn’t want to have living next door to you – real leaders of men, good with swords, equally good at quips and jokes and off-the-cuff poems – charismatic multiple murderers who today would be locked up in high-security prisons.  Reading the sagas, I wondered at our ability to romanticise not just the past, but the present too. A sword is no better than a gun: both are meant for killing.  

How, I wondered, would Peer – or any of us – cope, if he were to meet a real ‘hero with a sword’?  From this was born my anti-hero, Peer’s nemesis, the handsome young killer Harald Silkenhair.  Why do we admire warriors – heroes like James Bond, whose message seems to be that you have to fight fire with fire, ruthlessness with ruthlessness?  What is the nature of this romantic obsession we all have with violence? In ‘West of the Moon’ I found myself seriously exploring some of these questions.


I'd like to thank Katherine for providing a fantastic post for this site. I'd also like to thank everybody who's visited this post as part of the blog tour. I hope you enjoyed the opportunity to gain an insight into the creation of so many different worlds.
The next port of call on the blog tour is  scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com 

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