Thursday, 15 November 2012
INTERVIEW: Miles Cameron
Miles, you are a new Fantasy writer. Why fantasy?
Hi Gareth, thanks for having me. Why fantasy? It’s the genre I read. It is also the genre that many, many people read, and it is fun to write for an interactive audience—one that writes comments on blogs, for example, and complains when their favorite character doesn’t get enough word count. But really—it’s just that I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy novel—the sort of novel I like to read!
What do you like?
I like Tolkien, and I like a lot of ‘old school’ fantasy writers, some still popular (like Tolkien) and some almost forgotten, like E.R. Eddison and William Morris. I got to know Celia Friedman as an adolescent, and she probably had a major influence on my fantasy thinking—certainly on how I design a magic system. I loved Glen Cook’s Black Company when it came out, and I was, and still am, rocked by Steven Erikson’s gigantic Malazan series. I love his characters, and I love his plotlines, and I love how at some level it is very Canadian, or at least North American. I am a huge fan of C.J. Cheryh. I think her Foreigner universe appeals to me almost atavistically—the meeting with the Alien—and liking it… I mentioned elsewhere that I’m a huge Ian M. Banks fan.
You write about knights and chivalry. This is mainstream fantasy, isn’t it?
All that said, when I think fantasy, I like chivalry—knights, clerics, and mages. I love the Middle Ages—I love how it really worked, and warts and all, and I like to tinker with how things like magic might have altered our world. Or some other world. I wanted to write in the major ‘theme’ – is that the right word? Of chivalric literature—King Arthur and Gawain and Lancelot and Merlin. But I wanted to do with it what Erikson and Glen Cook have done with military fantasy—I wanted to answer the question ‘What would it be like to actually fight a dragon?’ I wanted to push some ideas (like heroism!) and play with some others—just for example, I have a heroic sixty-five year old woman and a sexy fifty-year old and faeries who can suck your soul away—all a little outside fantasy’s norm. I hope I haven’t out-subtled myself, but one of the themes I’m after is that of public order—if you have all these killer knights and mages, how do normal people manage to till the ground and children and/or have lives free of the tyranny of violence? What keeps the knights and the Wild and all these powers from making a desert? It was a central question of the real Middle Ages, without magic powers or the Wild.
Is the Wild Evil?
Far from it. I love the wilderness, and I hope that I have come up with some interesting riffs on the common AD+D bestiary, but I’ve tried to create an ecology of ‘higher powers’ (dragons, wyverns, boggles and the like) who balance each other and have niches. And I’ve tried hard to suggest that most of them are animals—with no moral vector—and others are fully sentient, and as complicated as humans—or more so. As the series progresses, I hope to demonstrate to the reader that the perception of the Wild versus Humanity is, like many wars, an artifact of misunderstanding. But also a good vehicle for a lot of fight scenes.
You like to write fight scenes?
I love fly fishing, I sometimes write poetry, and I truly enjoy making things, especially sewing. But—really—I love all the combat arts, and I do all this stuff. I fight Italian long sword—Guy Windsor, who I view as the best scholar and the best teacher of swordsmanship in the world, was kind enough to write a piece on my website. I fight in armour—I have a set of plate armour that has taken me twenty years to collect and perfect; I fight poleaxe and ghiavarina and sword and buckler and some rapier; spear, spear and rotella, axe; two handed axe; dagger, and unarmed. I’m just learning to joust, and I’m just improving my wrestling and unarmed combat. Knights were expert at all of these, which is why they were amazingly fearsome as individual fighters. I suspect that a late 14th century knight was more like the popular image of a samurai than a 14th century samurai—in terms of overall martial prowess. And in the real world, that was just to fight other people. I love to write about these things—I usually leave my sword school afire to write about whatever I learned that night. I’ve been doing all this for thirty years and I’m still learning, so I guess I won’t get bored.
And I’m guessing you love to camp?
I do. I love to go as far into the wilderness as I can, and just sit and drink it in—watch it function, if that makes sense. I love to fish, and I’d do more hunting if I had time and less of a drive to reach it—but I don’t have to kill the Wild to love it. I try and go with my friends every year—sometimes twice a year—into the deep wilderness with minimal gear. I hope that my Wild seems authentic.
Is the Red Knight set in England?
Well—yes and no. It’s my fantasy world and it is quite old; but constantly updated. So Lissen Carak is very like a number of places in upstate New York, but the towns and sheep came from the Lake District in the UK; the Green Hills are Vermont, but also the Island of Mull; there’s Greece and France and Arizona and the Canadian Shield all mixed together.. It’s fantasy—right? I’m allowed to do that? Anyway, hope you enjoy it.