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Throwback Thursdays: Ian C. Esslemont on Collaboration

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

The world of the Malazan Empire is beloved by many, many fans—for good reason. The world, co-created by Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson, has been well developed over the course of many books and multiple series. Now, with the publication of Assail, a new Malazan novel, we thought we’d dive into our archives and share a piece that Esslemont wrote in May of 2011. In it, he explains how his long-time collaboration with Erikson works. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

In a recent interview I commented that Steven Erikson and I have often been approached by people expressing surprise, even disbelief, at our long-standing collaboration in a co-created world (The Malazan Empire). These comments always come as a surprise to us because in retrospect the process seemed an entirely natural one. It simply unfolded organically—we worked the world out together, bouncing ideas off each other and laughing an awful lot in the process.

In many ways writing is actually a profoundly lonely and isolating undertaking. For me it was a privilege and a pleasure to have someone to share the material with. And I benefited enormously. I hope Steve did so, too. And I’m sure the product, the stories themselves, benefited as well. The give and take, the topping of ideas and undermining of each other’s characters’ goals, all added an extra layer of complexity and—dare I say realism—to so many threads. So many times one of us picked up what the other had added only to turn it completely inside out, or reverse it entirely, all to the surprise and enjoyment of both. I remember one particular immortal exchange between us (one that has yet to see print) wherein I explained that the paranoid Kellanved, then owner of a bar named Smiley’s, was spying and listening in on his employees by drilling holes in the floor of his office over the bar. Later, Steve had Dancer come upstairs, see Kellanved with his ear pressed to a hole and his bum in the air, and promptly kick him across the room. We threw that scene at each other across a table in Victoria, B.C.

After those early years the material lay fallow for quite a while. Yet the dream of writing never went entirely away for either of us. In the end it was Steve’s stubborn determination (and extraordinary talent!) that dragged it through to its eventual realization. Then, even though time had intervened, it was the natural thing to simply pick up the material once again knowing full well what had to be done. And since then, for me, it has all been a matter of attempting to do justice to what we begun. All I hope to do is give fullest depth and emotional truth to what we created.

This article is originally from the May 2011 Tor/Forge Newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox every month!

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Ian C. Esslemont on Collaboration

In a recent interview I commented that Steven Erikson and I have often been approached by people expressing surprise, even disbelief, at our long-standing collaboration in a co-created world (The Malazan Empire). These comments always come as a surprise to us because in retrospect the process seemed an entirely natural one. It simply unfolded organically—we worked the world out together, bouncing ideas off each other and laughing an awful lot in the process.

In many ways writing is actually a profoundly lonely and isolating undertaking. For me it was a privilege and a pleasure to have someone to share the material with. And I benefited enormously. I hope Steve did so, too. And I’m sure the product, the stories themselves, benefited as well. The give and take, the topping of ideas and undermining of each other’s characters’ goals, all added an extra layer of complexity and—dare I say realism—to so many threads. So many times one of us picked up what the other had added only to turn it completely inside out, or reverse it entirely, all to the surprise and enjoyment of both. I remember one particular immortal exchange between us (one that has yet to see print) wherein I explained that the paranoid Kellanved, then owner of a bar named Smiley’s, was spying and listening in on his employees by drilling holes in the floor of his office over the bar. Later, Steve had Dancer come upstairs, see Kellanved with his ear pressed to a hole and his bum in the air, and promptly kick him across the room. We threw that scene at each other across a table in Victoria, B.C.

After those early years the material lay fallow for quite a while. Yet the dream of writing never went entirely away for either of us. In the end it was Steve’s stubborn determination (and extraordinary talent!) that dragged it through to its eventual realization. Then, even though time had intervened, it was the natural thing to simply pick up the material once again knowing full well what had to be done. And since then, for me, it has all been a matter of attempting to do justice to what we begun. All I hope to do is give fullest depth and emotional truth to what we created.

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From the Tor/Forge May newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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Sweepstakes: 25 Fantasy Books from Tor

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Servant of a Dark God by John Brown Lamentation by Ken Scholes A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot Passion Play by Beth Bernobich Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson Blood Song by Cat Adams Dreadnought by Cherie Priest Twilight Forever Rising by Lena Meydan Shadow Prowler by Aleksy Pehov Brooklyn Knight by C.J. Henderson Green by Jay LakeImager by L.E. Modesitt Jr. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan Spellwright by Blake Charlton Knight of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont Hawkmoon: The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock Libyrinth by Pearl North Prospero Lost by Jagi Lamplighter Elfland by Freda Warrington The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt The Immoral Prince by Jennifer Fallon Wizard's First Rule by Terry GoodkindThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

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The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen on Tor.com & Gardens of the Moon Giveaway

Today, Tor.com launched the epic fantasy re-read of the novels by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont’s in their co-created Malazan Empire world. Modeled after Leigh Butler’s fabulous Wheel of Time re-read, capable bloggers and fantasy critics Bill Capossere and Amanda Rutter (FantasyLiterature.com) will reintroduce Whiskeyjack, Anomander Rake, Quick Ben, Kalam Mekhar, Fiddler, Iskaral Pust, and all the other great characters from this dark and complex fantasy world, a few chapters at a time. And with the completion of each book in the re-read, Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont will weigh in with their reactions to the posts, comments, ideas, and theories of the fans and bloggers.

So head on over and check out the welcome post or jump right in with the prologue and chapter 1 of Gardens of the Moon.

Need a copy of Gardens of the Moon to start the re-read? Enter for a chance to win on Goodreads.

Ian C. Esslemont’s Return of the Crimson Guard gets starred PW review

Ian C. Esslemont’s Return of the Crimson Guard, set in the same universe as Malazan co-creator Steven Erikson’s New York Times bestselling series, receives hearty praise in a starred review in the current issue of PW:

“In a long, bloody, explosive-filled battle to end all battles, Esslemont handily outdoes series cocreator Steven Erikson, evoking the gore and grit of the battlefield while cannily expanding the labyrinthine Malazan world.”

Full review below:

Return of the Crimson Guard Ian C. Esslemont. Tor, $27 (720p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2370-5; $17.99 paper ISBN 978-0-7653-2372-9

Nearly 100 years ago, the Crimson Guard vowed they would not die until they destroyed the Malazan Empire. In this riveting sequel to 2009’s Night of Knives, the time has come for that vow to be fulfilled. The empire has been stretched too far, too thin. Empress Laseen is boxed up in Unta, the imperial capital, while the conquered and the conquerors clash on the Seti Plains. At last the call comes for the Crimson Guard to re-form and add their undying forces to the melee. In a long, bloody, explosive-filled battle to end all battles, Esslemont handily outdoes series cocreator Steven Erikson, evoking the gore and grit of the battlefield while cannily expanding the labyrinthine Malazan world and untangling the wickedly intertwined stories just enough to keep readers from feeling lost. (Apr.)