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An Interview with Christopher Wolf, aka “Slimebeast,” Creepypasta Author Extraordinaire

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‘Tis the season for spooks and scares, which means I’ll be taking a break from my general focus on fantasy to bring you some Horror! And not just any horror, but a sneak peek at the web’s weirdest and wildest writing sub-genre…the Creepypasta. These short scare-stories often make their debut as writing simply done for fun, but occasionally go viral in a big way, propelling their authors to internet stardom.

Christopher Wolf is one such author, responsible for the infamous Abandoned by Disney short story, and writer of several other horror-themed stories. I sat down with him recently to discuss Creepypasta, how the internet shapes writing, and the viral nature of web-based media.

MARTIN: So Christopher, as a fan of horror fiction and Creepy Pasta, I’m already familiar with your work. But I’m sure there’s still a lot of folks out there who have no idea what it’s all about. Why is it creepy, and where do noodles fit into all this? Can you give us all a quick rundown of what exactly this web-based horror subgenre is?

CHRISTOPHER: “Creepypasta” began as corruption of the word “Copypasta”, or “copy/paste”. The original term referred to bits of text that could be easily copy/pasted on various forums in order to share them. Creepypasta, naturally, is the horror version. Usually short horror stories that could be spread across the web. Creepypasta as an idea has grown a bit beyond that, including a lot of different forms of creative work. People consider images and games to be part of the Creepypasta “world”, now. It has also produced a lot of sub-genres, such as Cr*ppypasta, Trollpasta, Iconpasta, and so on.

MARTIN: You’re the author of one of the more famous Pastas, Abandoned by Disney. It’s gained a bit of viral fame, with dramatic readings and reactions on Youtube. In fact, I watched a Disney Parks fan video not too long ago and even they referenced the story! How does it feel knowing that a short web story you wrote has become that huge?

CHRISTOPHER: It’s nice to know people enjoyed it, and are still enjoying it. “Abandoned by Disney” was written during a period of time when I would sit on a forum at 2AM and just write out something strange until I was tired and went to bed. So, naturally, to see any of those stories shared on a global scale, translated into various languages, and inspiring other creators, can be confusing and wonderful.

MARTIN: So aside from the aforementioned “Pastas”, what other stories have you worked on, web-based or otherwise?

CHRISTOPHER: I’ve been trying to make the move away from Creepypasta, to “FearFic”, or “Fear Fiction”. Something that will ideally provide a more open area to work in, even if it’s just a label. With Creepypasta, there’s a strong idea that you must be writing something similar to Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, and so on. When you present work that very much doesn’t fit any of those molds, it tends to be overlooked or
rejected as not following the tropes and traditions. Prior to getting involved in the genre, I wrote comic book scripts. Mostly unpublished, but a few found homes with indie presses. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek graphic novel reimagining the 1920s film “Nosferatu” as a modern film in 2010, which is probably still available online somewhere. I also have another comedic look at horror, titled “Love Monster: The Ballad of Baghead”, which is available on Amazon. Beyond that, I’ve written short fiction here and there over the years, but nothing people would probably recognize. More for my own enjoyment and local distribution through zines, and the like. (You might also find something kind of interesting if you were to look up facelessinc.com, but it’s in the middle of getting a redesign.)

MARTIN: As a horror writer, do you ever feel that Creepypasta or horror fiction in general is a current target of scapegoating or censorship? I recently watched the HBO Slenderman documentary, and while I found it interesting, I also felt the film carried with it a slightly unfortunate message. The idea that internet-based independent entertainment is “dangerous,” especially for children. It almost feels as if it’s a modern (albeit less prevalent) version of the EC comics scare. Would you happen to have any thoughts on this?

CHRISTOPHER: In this case, I think Creepypasta benefited a lot from being a largely unknown genre. At least as far as mainstream news and entertainment was concerned at the time. Blaming video games, movies, and music brings in a lot of interest. Creepypasta, not so much. I think that, at a certain point, the majority of the “controversy” was coming from the community rather than outside sources… Sort of like a major PR issue would actually validate us. It was a weird time. I feel like we’ve successfully gotten past the problem. Slenderman as a character will always have the stigma, but I think the general realm of Creepypasta is unaffected, personally.

MARTIN: Can you tell us a bit about your Kickstarter project? Looks like some scary fun!

CHRISTOPHER: A few years ago, I wrote a story that “explained” where lost episodes of TV shows and movies come from. Essentially, it was a meta origin for a really popular sub-genre of Creepypasta. People would write stories about haunted VHS tapes, episodes of cartoons that suddenly turned scary, and so on. In my story, they were all created by a single person who was obsessed with re-cutting and replacing recordings of popular media. So now, I’ve sort of expanded on that general concept with the Creepypasta Field Guide. It lists 30 (or more, based on stretch goals) Creepypasta monster and killer “types”. The Stabby Teen, the Faceless Stranger, the Redactive Researcher, and so on. I then gave them various original origins and histories. Each character is described in detail so any prospective “victim” can identify them on sight. Basically, I’ve tried to disassemble all of the cliches and tropes regarding Creepypasta characters, and form them into a fun, funny read that will show off just what makes each type of creature unique… or not so unique, in some cases.

I’m hoping to fund the book well enough to commission an artist named Nikita Kaur to illustrate each of the original entries in the book. I feel like it lends an additional “Monster Manual” style to the project. Hopefully, this book will be something to go back and read over and over again as time goes on. Every time you see a new Creepypasta Icon emerge, you can go back and determine which type it is!

MARTIN: So what are some future projects you’d like to work on, or are currently planning?

CHRISTOPHER: Right now I have a bunch of projects going. I launched TooSpooky.com a while back as a place for authors to show their work, get critique, etc. without having to be “ready” to post them to other Creepypasta sites that require a finished version. There’s also FearFic.com, where I’ve enabled people to archive stories without the fear of having it deleted by staff for “not being horror” or being unrealistic, etc.
Beyond that, I’ve also launched a “Fear Fiction Podcast” on YouTube along with Abysmii and Dead Palette. We essentially take a look at any and all horror-related stories from the internet (even romantic fan fiction) and just have a good time discussing the content… and our reading errors. Pretty much anything I’m doing is linked at my main homepage, Slimebeast.com. Every so often I write an original story “inspired by” a popular pre exsting tale. I’m thinking of working with Eyeless Jack next.

MARTIN: How do you see the Internet affecting writers as a whole in the future. Like you said earlier, you were just writing these stories for fun, and they really kind of blew up. But with the advent of Youtube, Podcasts, Self-Publishing and even web serials like Worm, what do you feel the future of writing will be like?

CHRISTOPHER: I think the internet makes it a lot easier – and harder – for authors. It’s easier because anyone can (and should) publish their own work online, quickly and easily. It’s harder because that makes it very, very simple for others to take your work and use it inappropriately. For example, a Halloween mask company recently not only made a bootleg mask of a popular Creepypasta character (Laughing Jack), but actually had the audacity to copyright it. We’re in a weird place where creator’s rights are being trampled on a large scale. Since we’re talking about amateur authors for the most part, there’s little they can do about it. I feel like the future of writing on the internet will end up skewing toward authors becoming well-known/popular and then moving to closed platforms like Patreon. The more people are punished for freely sharing their art, the more we’ll all move away from the public forum. At least, that’s my personal prediction.

I guess if I had to give “advice” to anyone hoping to post “Creepypastas” or other creative work on the web, it’d be this… Enjoy yourself, do it for your own pleasure, and be ready to fight for your work. Don’t be shy about telling people what you do or don’t want. Look into Creative Commons licensing and pick the license that works best for you, then attach it to your work wherever you post it.

MARTIN: Aight, now for a spooky Halloween Question! As of now, you’re trapped in a room with the last horror monster you read about. You have at your disposal an iron crowbar, a crucifix, and a small bowl of mellowcreme pumpkins. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not very” and ten being “I’m already dead,” how screwed are you?

CHRISTOPHER: I’d use the crowbar to open the door. 🙂

Christopher’s latest spooky creation, The Creepypasta Field Guide, is currently up on Kickstarter. With 40 days to go, there’s still plenty of time to jump on in and get yourself some backer rewards! You can also check out his website at http://slimebeast.com, or check out a narrated version of his original viral story for free on Youtube. Also, please consider liking and sharing this post on social media. Every share helps me get the word out about writing, and keeps the man with the traffic-cone face far away from your vital organs. Your precious…slippery vital organs….

And remember…avoid mirrors at 3:45 AM, or else ✡︎□︎◆︎🕯︎●︎●︎ ♌︎♏︎ ♐︎□︎❒︎♍︎♏︎♎︎ ⧫︎□︎ ❒︎♏︎♋︎♎︎ ■︎□︎⧫︎♒︎♓︎■︎♑︎ ♌︎◆︎⧫︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♏︎❖︎♓︎●︎ ♍︎♒︎♓︎♍︎🙵♏︎■︎ ♌︎♓︎⧫︎ ♐︎❒︎□︎❍︎ ⧫︎♏︎❒︎❒︎⍓︎ ♑︎□︎□︎♎︎🙵♓︎■︎♎︎🕯︎⬧︎ ⬧︎⬥︎□︎❒︎♎︎ □︎♐︎ ⧫︎❒︎◆︎⧫︎♒︎📬︎

An Interview with Alec Hutson, Author of The Crimson Queen

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Alec Hutson is a Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off ’17 finalist, and the author of the critically acclaimed Raveling series. While a new face in the SFF community, his work is already making waves as a bold new example of Epic Fantasy’s rise in independent fiction. I sat down with him recently to discuss self-published fantasy, his experience living in China, and the shifting landscape of SFF fiction.

MARTIN: Alec, Your Raveling series has garnered quite a bit of buzz as of late! Not too long ago, all the positive feedback surrounding the first book in the series (The Crimson Queen) convinced me to buy a paperback copy of my own. And I have to say, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of this world you’ve created! So as a newer writer, and a self-published one at that, what’s your reaction to all the positive feedback?

ALEC: Well, thank you for the kind words. I have to say the success of Queen caught me pretty much completely off guard. I’d always wanted to write a fantasy book, but I never really seriously entertained the notion that my writing would resonate with others or that my book would achieve a small measure of success. When the positive reviews started coming in and the book began selling at a reasonable clip I was pretty shocked. It was like I was in a dream, to be honest. Along with the surprise, I did feel a small measure of satisfaction regarding the nature of The Crimson Queen – I would consider it very much a book in the mold of a classic high / epic fantasy, and a kind of book that it appears to me that traditional publishers have almost stopped publishing. One of the reasons I self-published was because I simply didn’t see many debut books in the mold of Jordan or Feist being trad published today . . . with the exception that sometimes a book like this does so well self-published that it is eventually picked up (like The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington) Queen’s success in self-publishing *I think* is partly due to the fact that there is a large number of readers who still love classic fantasy, and their reading needs are no longer being well met by the big houses.

MARTIN: So for those here who haven’t yet read the first book, what can they expect from this world you’ve created? What sort of realms, magic systems, monsters and civilizations lie waiting for the curious reader?

ALEC: It’s a classic high fantasy world, with parts of it modeled after different Earth-analogous cultures. For example, one of the main empires is based off of Tang dynasty China (or, at least, the romanticized version that exists today in modern Chinese media), another is a more Classical-era Mediterranean empire, and others are cobbled from several different civilizations. For magic, I really prefer a ‘soft’ magic system – no formulas or complicated explanations. Hopefully, this preserves some of the wonder. Monsters also exist in the world, though they don’t run rampant over the country-side like in D&D. I have a race of ancient creatures called the Ancients who slumber in the deep places in the world, and I was going there for a Lovecraftian vibe. I tried to create my own creatures rather than rely on some of the fantasy archetypes. Basically, I wanted to pay homage to all the classic aspects of fantasy that I love – the magic, the world, the monsters – but put my own little spin on it. Comfort food, but filling.

MARTIN:  It’s interesting you bring up unique creatures and worldbuilding elements, because I kind of feel that this is the path fantasy as a whole is taking. Hero’s journey stories are obviously never going to go away, but the way we tell Epic Fantasy is bound to change over time. And I notice in more modern fiction that there’s a shift away from the Dungeons and Dragons mold of “oh look, here’s these archetypes you can find in the Handbook/Monster Manual,” and more of a focus on new and unique creatures and worlds. I even talked with some editors in trad on this, and they seem to agree. How do you as a writer, feel about this genre shift?

ALEC: I think it’s a good thing. Personally, anytime I browse a fantasy book and see ‘elves’ or ‘orcs’ it’s a pretty good bet I’m not interested in picking it up. Usually, it shows a paucity of imagination, and if the same recycled races are in a book, most likely the plot isn’t going to surprise me. That said, there are exceptions. Two of the best books I’ve read this year included archetypal fantasy races – The Gray Bastards, which had orcs and centaurs and elves, and The Kings of the Wyld, which was a great nostalgia trip with basically every entry in the old Monster Manual.

MARTIN: It’s also worth noting that you participated in the SPFBO last year, and made it as a finalist. As a self-published author, how does it feel knowing that resources and awards like that exist? Do you feel that the self-publishing landscape is improving for SFF authors, and what advantages do you feel they have over trad publishing?

ALEC: It’s fantastic knowing that something like the SPFBO exists. Mark Lawrence is a saint for putting up with the headache it must be to herd those cats every year. And yes, I do feel like the SFF self-publishing landscape is improving. I’m seeing more and more authors choosing to self publish good books and ignoring trad publishing entirely. And it has massive advantages. Perhaps the biggest reason I self-published was that I looked at trad publishing and I saw virtually no classic high fantasy debuts being published, despite my feeling that there was still a massive market for it. This was back in 2016 when every new debut competed to claim the title of darkest grimdark. I do believe that the big houses decide ‘this’ is popular this year or this season and group-think publish only a few types of books – perhaps the kinds of books that the editors and agents want to read, and I don’t really think they represent the average fantasy reader. Or, at the very least, there are massive groups of readers undeserved by the books coming out of New York and London. Which is why we’re seeing self-published taking a larger and larger chunk of the overall reading market – I believe the most recent numbers put self-published fantasy at something like 35% of the entire pie, which is pretty incredible if you ask me. There’s also, of course, the advantage of speed, and that self-published writers can earn a more fair percentage of the money their work brings in.

MARTIN: That’s something I’ve taken note of as well, and while you and I both love a lot of what’s coming out of established publishing (I too own Kings of the Wyld!), I kind of feel the same way about the Epic Fantasy genre in particular. The self-pub scene has seen some fairly big releases that are Epic fantasy, with Queen being one of those. As a fan of fantasy — not necessarily a writer — what would you ideally like to see coming from that scene in the future? Are there any sort of cultures, myths or Epic Fantasy subgenres you feel are under-served by trad that could see a rise in self-pub? Wuxia, or Space Fantasy (ie Star Wars), something like that?

ALEC: WuXia is actually the perfect example, and more particularly – I believe I’m getting the term right – Xianxia. I think with the rise of gaming readers today have an attachment to the idea of character progression or leveling, and we can see this is LitRPG, which is another subgenre that trad seems blind to. In Chinese Xianxia books the main character starts out weak, but through a cultivation of qi or another internal energy they eventually develop into powerful warriors. They go from losing fights to the schoolyard bully to throwing mountains at the gods. There are a few websites of poorly translated versions of the popular Chinese stories, and they have a growing following. Will Wight’s excellent Cradle series (this is the most addictive self-published fantasy I’ve read) is, I think, a really great version of a Xianxia story, and shows how it can translate to the West. I’m toying with some ideas along this line for my series after The Raveling. I live in Shanghai and have met several Chinese SFF writers, and one of them is keen to collaborate on a project together. I’m not sure if it will happen, but co-writing a Xianxia style-story that’s aimed at both a Chinese and Western audience with a local Chinese writer could be pretty cool, and it might be the first such collaboration ever in fantasy fiction.

MARTIN: So your most recent book, The Silver Sorceress, was recently released. Without spoiling anything, were there any cool elements you enjoyed writing in that one? Maybe a sneak peek for those of us who read/are reading Queen?

ALEC: As in Queen, my favorite chapters in Sorceress were those written from the villains’ perspective. I like stepping inside the heads of the antagonists because it both humanizes them for the readers and perhaps provides context or justification for some of their actions. And villains are just fun to write.

MARTIN: On your Amazon page, you mention you live in Shanghai, and grew up in a geodesic dome and a bookstore? I mean, that right there kinda sounds like something from a novel! Do you feel any interesting events or places from your life helped with worldbuilding?

ALEC: Probably not my early life, as that was spent in a quiet Northeast coastal town. Though there is a fair bit of history where I live – my family has lived on the same land since 1600 or so, and the family farm where my cousin and her family now reside has been in the family since 1641. According to an old copy of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not it’s the oldest continuously owned family farm in America. Also, my hometown – Newburyport – was mentioned in an HP Lovecraft story. So perhaps I’ve always had an affinity for cosmic horror having grown up there. The biggest influence on worldbuilding for me was living in Asia for the past 15 years and traveling around to places like Angkor and Bagan and Tibet. There’s so much rich culture here, and it all becomes grist for the worldbuilding mill.

MARTIN: So normally this is the part where I ask a crazy question to see what creative response my interviewee comes up with…but right now? I’m just curious about the food in China! What are some of your favorite regional dishes and street foods? The intersection of food and culture is always one of those things that really fascinates me, and I’m just dying to know what’s out there!

ALEC: Oh, good question! As most folk know, American Chinese is completely different than real Chinese food. Real Chinese food is absolutely terrific and quite varied. It’s hard to choose individual dishes, so I’ll run through my favorite cuisines.

1. Sichuan. This is the most popular cuisine in China. Famous for its numbing peppercorns and fiery dishes. I suggest everyone eating at an authentic Sichuan restaurant once in your life.
2. Hunan. The really spicy stuff. More hot than numbing.
3. Xinjiang. This cuisine is from the northwest area of China, and the people here are actually Turkish. Lots of lamb and fried bread.
4. Dong Bei. Comfort food. Heart dumplings and noodles. The northeast of China.
5. Cantonese. Fresh ingredients and natural flavors, and dim sum is amazing. Dim sum in Hong Kong from one of the Michelin starred cheap restaurants will change your life.

My favorite street food is called jian bing. It’s kind of a breakfast crepe – here’s a very accurate video of what you’d see on just about every street-corner in China in the morning:

MARTIN: And as an added bonus, what would your main protagonist’s favorite Chinese dish be?

ALEC: I think he (Keilan) would like something hearty and rustic, maybe some di san qian (potatoes, peppers, and eggplant in a garlic sauce). Or for a special occasion some guo bao rou (fried pork in sweet sauce).

Alec Hutson’s latest book, The Silver Sorceress, is now available on Amazon. For more of his work, please visit his Amazon page and website. For those of you who’ve already read his books, please be sure to leave a Goodreads review if you haven’t already. Also, consider liking and sharing this post on social media. Every share helps me get the word out about great SFF, writing and more cool stuff!

 

An Interview with Scott Oden, Author of A Gathering of Ravens

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Scott Oden is a historical fantasy author, a fan of the Sword and Sorcery genre, and an avid gamer since 1979. Publisher’s Weekly called his work “…complex as an old tree’s roots, and a pleasure to read,” in a starred review. He’s gained a reputation for combining historical fact with fantastical elements more commonly seen in a Tolkien or Dargonlance book, yet his stories are grim, gritty and frightfully realistic. I reached out to Scott to get the scoop on his books, as well as his thoughts on historical fantasy, getting published, and the works of Robert E. Howard.

MARTIN: So Scott, can you tell us a bit about your writing journey? What led you to become an author, and who or what are your biggest influences in your genre?

SCOTT: I first got it in my mind that I wanted to write as my profession back in 1981, at the age of 14. I recall seeing something in an old issue of my brother’s Writer’s Digest about authors being paid and I was, like, “say what? People pay you for that?” My brother was already a journalist with dreams of writing the Great American Novel, so he had a few books on craft; the rest I gleaned from skimming WD and from emulating my favorite author — Robert E. Howard. I embarked upon a thoroughly inconsequential short story career, after that, ultimately writing 30-odd short stories that earned me nothing but rejection slips over the years. I turned my hand to novel writing, choosing as my debut a pastiche Conan novel I intended to write for Tor Books (they were unaware of my intent, by the way; younger Scott was all about asking forgiveness rather than begging permission). A friend had recently hit the big leagues with his third or fourth novel, so I harassed him for feedback on my three Conan chapters — which had been endlessly written and rewritten over the past years. He took me to task: “It’s decent, but what will you do if you can’t sell it to Tor? Write your own characters, man!” He said a lot more, but that was the gut punch.

So, I regrouped. I went back to the drawing board, and in December of 2000 I started writing what would become Men of Bronze — which is barbarian fiction in the guise of a historical novel. A string of bad life events had left me extremely depressed at the time, so my motivation was literally “write or die”. I do not recommend this route, by the way. It is neither glamorous nor romantic. It is asking for trouble, really. Somehow, though, I pulled it off. Wrote my first novel by Spring of 2002, had an agent by 2003, and sold it in early 2004 to a small start-up publisher called Medallion Press. I have been under contract to various publishers since.

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An Interview With Daniel Greene

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A while back, I came across a Youtube channel discussing a book series I was looking to get into. That book series was the Wheel of Time, and the youtuber is Daniel Greene. A rising voice in SFF, Daniel Greene discusses his favorite fantasy book series, ranging from Brandon Sanderson’s epics, to grimdark fiction like the Witcher series. As a fellow fan, and a writer myself, I reached out to Daniel to get his opinion on all things SFF, Youtube, and more!

MARTIN: So Daniel, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your channel?

DANIEL: When I was a very little kid, I was diagnosed with fairly severe dyslexia. It was so bad I had to get special tutoring for many years. I was fairly embarrassed by having this error in my brain’s processing so I began to overcompensate by reading non-stop. I would go to Barns and Noble, or Borders (remember that glorious store?) and pick up book after book to work on. I guess over the years it slowly transformed from work to a passion. I still remember the first fantasy book I picked up on my own. “The Eye of the World” the first book in The Wheel of Time series. That book changed my life. Reading that series honestly influenced parts of my life I cannot even begin to put into words. I believe I reread the series about eight times by the time the last book came out and three more times since then. In my channel, I will set my biases aside and recognize how other fantasy books can be better than The Wheel of Time in some ways, but in my heart, nothing else will ever come close to the experience I had watching the Dragon be reborn.

I was born and Raised in Virginia but moved around a lot in the last few years. If I stay in one place too long I get this feeling of being trapped, so I don’t plan on putting down too many roots anytime soon. I think that is part of the reason I like the fantasy genre so much. Helps me scratch the traveling itch in a roundabout way.

I also have a bit of an obsession with rhetoric and public speaking in general. Something about it fascinates me. The ability to captivate people by the words you choose and their delivery (cadence, tone, etc,.) seems like a glitch in the human brain. The information is the same, but the packaging transforms how you receive it entirely. This has resulted in me studying everything from Aristotle to stand-up comedy to try and best understand what makes rhetoric so damn important to people without them even realizing it.

Those three things seemed to have come together to be the basis of my channel. 

MARTIN: There’s lots of “lore videos” about games and movies (Vaatividya, Arch Warhammer, etc), but not as many about fantasy novels. Where there any notable Youtubers that inspired you? Or was it something you just personally wanted to do?

DANIEL: I had never even heard of “BookTube” before I started. That community is awesome though and so many people deserve so much more recognition for their awesome content. It annoys me seeing people doing such creative things talking about books and only having 5,000 subs, while other YouTubers will millions of subs…. do what we see in the headlines.

I have been watching Philip Defranco for about 8 years and love that man’s channel. Don’t agree with him on everything (most things), but he always gives a trustworthy perspective I respect. So I would say he is the most influential YouTuber to me in terms what I respect most.

Other channels inspire me to raise the quality of my content. Filmjoy, for example, does stunning work on his movie breakdowns.

KittyG gave me my first sub boost and I will forever love her for that. I was about to quit, then she got me to 1,000 subs, a community was born, and now I have followers I engage with on the regular and encourage me to keep going.

The internet is amazing.

MARTIN: You cover a lot of books on your channel, but one series stands out in particular. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I recall coming across your channel when I first started reading The Eye of the World, and really enjoyed your summaries and character analyses. But why The Wheel of Time in particular? As someone who’s read a lot of fantasy, what do you feel that series nailed that other books (both vintage and modern) struggle with?

DANIEL: The series was responsible for my baptism into fantasy. I have read it so many times The Wheel of Time is now brain candy for me. When I have gone through hard times, it turns into my comfort food. The detail Robert Jordan put into that world goes above and beyond what I believe any other fantasy author has achieved. Just like Harry Potter holds a special place for so many people my age, The Wheel of Time holds that spot for me.

On a side note, Harry Potter is still great. The recent trend of hating on it is just a part of any fantasy series life cycle. Calling it now, in five years it’s going to be cool to hate on Game of Thrones.

MARTIN: It’s kind of funny you mention that because I’m kind of one of those people that’s not as stoked on Harry Potter. I think it’s really good as a kid’s book and later on as YA, but pales in comparison to adult-oriented series like Stormlight or The Witcher, which it often gets lumped in with. And well that’s like, my opinion, man. Everyone’s got one, and sometimes even beloved series (like say, a certain story about a red-headed music kid) might not click with you. for whatever reason.

So as someone who expresses these opinions sometimes, do you get blowback for them? Has criticizing a really popular book ever felt like stepping into a minefield?

DANIEL: Well, I get loads of constructive criticism for my opinions and I really enjoy the dialog that creates. In the comments, I have the opportunity to get down and nerdy with my community and they often have been able to change how I view certain aspects of various series. I rarely get negative blowback for criticizing a fantasy series, in the sense that people seem genuinely upset.

Even the scathing review I did of ‘The Name of the Wind”, was generally well received, even by the fans. People just like talking books and disagreement just leads to more interesting discussion. Of course, there have been a few people who seemed actually offended by my opinions, but they are usually kids so it’s understandable. The adults who seem upset… they have their own problems they need to work on. I will never understand a grown man or woman getting angry about a work of fiction.

All of that being said, just yesterday I got a comment on my Wheel of Time Vs. Game of Thrones video calling me, “idiot scum.’ So that was nice.

MARTIN: Overall though, it seems the community is really receptive to these videos, particularly the ones where you compare different characters. As someone who’s read a few of these books, it’s nice to see familiar faces compared to protagonists and secondary characters I’ve yet to read about. Even if it borders into spoiler territory, I personally find it motivates me to check these books out all the more.

…Speaking of your “versus” videos, which character match-up was your favorite to make?

DANIEL: One that has yet to be released and would spoil a lot of outcomes for me to say. It will be in the final four of the bracket and deciding between these two literally made me lose sleep. I can’t really say to much more, but I will make a note at the beginning of video when it comes out letting you know it is that comparison.

MARTINAs someone who’s covered a lot of different traditionally-published fantasy series, do you think you’d ever consider featuring books from indie, or even self-published authors? Certain books like Master Assassins have garnered quite a bit of praise recently, as have self-published works like Rob J. Hayes’ Best Laid Plans series. Is that a space you might look into some day?

DANIEL: Unfortunately, I had a few very bad experiences with ‘indie’ authors who had asked me to review their books. Basically, because I did not give their writing a 9/10 or above, one particular author demanded I removed the video and emailed me about every 30 minutes until I did. After I took it down they proceeded to write me a long letter basically calling me an idiot for not thinking they were the next Tolkien. It was about a fifty-fifty chance that the author would act in a way similar to this. I had an author complain I was not reading his book fast enough after having it for less than two weeks, and another claim I needed to read the 600+ page book he gave me three times minimum before I reviewed it.

Those experiences resulted in me just having a default, ‘Thank you, I am flattered, but no.’ response to authors reaching out to me.

MARTIN:  Despite putting in a positive word for indie authors, I guess stuff like this just proves how it’s kind of a mixed bag still. I mean, I personally think it’s gotten a LOT better in recent years, and I still swear by authors like Dyrk Ashton and Rob Hayes. There’s some utterly fantastic stuff to be found in indies. But sometimes you still get those authors who just need an editor and a reality check in a MAJOR way.

Speaking of authors, what advice would you have for anyone wanting to write a fantasy novel (indie or otherwise) of their own? What stories have you as a fantasy reader been itching to read, but never had the chance to?

DANIEL: Just this… do not care what I, or your audience wants to read. Write what you want to write. The greatest reads are the ones that were written with passion. If it feels like you are shaping your writing to what others want to hear, you will not stand out from the massive crowed. You may get some credit for mass appeal, but the books that have shaken up a genre, did not do so by reaching a common denominator. The authors wrote from a place of pure creativity that reflected themselves. This sounds corny, but it is so true. Many authors do want to write something that has mass appeal as, which is also completely fine. That is how something like Harry Potter comes around you make a billion dollars if you do manage to get momentum. But that is much more all or nothing in terms of success in my experience.

I really want to sit down and read the Sword of Truth series, because my subscribers have been so split on it, but I just have not had the time to. It will be fun to see what the comment section terns into. Hopefully well reasoned discussion. The internet is known for that right?

MARTIN: That’s great advice, and something I think a lot of new readers will want to hear. Obviously not every series is gonna be huge, but that’s really for the readers to decide. If no one takes any risks, what’s the point of spec fic?

Also…Sword of Truth. Jeez, I can already picture the flame wars. 

Anyway, last question! And this isn’t a serious one by any mean, but just for the fun of it. If your current top 3 fantasy series were flavors of ice cream…what flavors would those be?

DANIEL: Sword of Truth should be coming sooner rather than later, so we shall see.

To be honest not entirely sure how to answer that one. If pressed, I would have to say, The Wheel of Time is rocky road, Lord of the Rings is classic vanilla, and The Witcher is chocolate chip cookie dough. It has elements of past and presents blended perfectly.

And that’s a wrap! For more of Daniel Greene’s thoughts on the Fantasy genre and books, subscribe to his channel on Youtube. I personally recommend checking out his Wheel of Time retrospective if you’re curious about that series and not averse to spoilers. His VS videos and series reviews are also excellent, and a must-watch for any fan of the genre.

For more author and creator interviews, please follow the Tavern and reblog/share if you enjoyed this interview! There’ll be plenty more in the near future.

Author Interviews are Coming Soon!

Been a while since I’ve posted here. Had some personal/family stuff going on that’s kept me busy, but I wanted to make an important announcements!

So about a month ago, I wrote an article on self-published fantasy, and how it’s a vastly underrated segment of genre fiction. Long story short, it blew up a bit and ended up on the front page of r/Fantasy for a few days. Some authors sent me messages, or shared my post, which helped me get almost a thousand hits on this fairly obscure and new blog.

All I can say on that count is…wow. Thanks a lot, everyone!

Because of the positive reception that got, I’ve decided to start interviewing some authors and creators in the SFF community, particularly in small press and self-pub. I always love hearing all the different stories these writers have to offer, and nothing would make me happier than helping them sell a copy or two.

On that note, I’d like to announce my first interview! Michael R. Baker, author of The Thousand Scars, will be sharing some thoughts on his writing journey, as well as a bit about his books.

I’m working on a big project of my own as well, so stay tuned for news of that as well!