Sci Fi Dimensions: Interview with Richard K. Morgan

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There is an excellent interview with Richard K. Morgan over on the Sci-Fi Dimensions podcast. Morgan and his new novel The Steel Remains are rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. His provocative essay on Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings drew charges of rabble-rousing and worse. As a shit-disturber myself I thought it was very cool, and though I could definitely see why the rabble might be roused. Morgan is calling things as he sees them – his vision has a dark tinge (but only in comparison to the vision of most) – he definitely sees our world with a jaded eye. His fictional worlds too are full of fallible humans. Everything he’s written seems happily noir. I really dig his ideas, and am very much enjoying the audiobook of The Steel Remains . If you’re not sure if you will enjoy it, have a listen to this interview, it will help you decide.

Sci-Fi Dimensions PodcastInterview with Richard K. Morgan
Interviewed by John C. Snider
1 |MP3| – Approx. 80 Minutes [INTERVIEW]
Podcaster: Sci-Fi Dimensions Podcast
Podcast: August 2008

Posted by Jesse Willis

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5 thoughts to “Sci Fi Dimensions: Interview with Richard K. Morgan”

  1. I didn’t really like Altered Carbon, and The Steel Remains was only average for me, but after listening to this interview I have a greater appreciation for where Morgan’s coming from. He speaks with intelligence, moderation, and a respect for humanity.

  2. Hi Jesse, I listened to the interview (well, about 80% of it), and my opinion has not changed: Richard Morgan has misread Tolkien to the core of his being.

    Tolkien does not glorify war in the Lord of the Rings. When Frodo returns home to the Shire, he is the wounded, disillusioned soldier of which Morgan accuses Tolkien of ignoring. He’s scarred, pale, a walking shadow, and his will to continue in this life is diminished. The Gray Havens (aka, death) is his only escape. The ending of the book is anything but “a bogus happy ending” as Morgan asserts. War’s reach has extended all the way back from the Eastern front to the Shire, which has been uprooted, mechanized, and stained. Middle Earth itself has been fundamentally changed, and magic is drained from the world. The elves are gone, Gandalf is gone, and the prosaic age of men has arrived. How did Morgan miss this? Maybe he’s a sloppy, inattentive reader. Perhaps he despises Tolkien’s politics and religion. Morgan seems like an intelligent man so I’m going to go out on a limb and say he enjoys stirring shit up and being iconoclastic (it worked on me).

    Morgan talks a lot about war in the interview. He writes about it in his books. I have no problem with that, and he has the right to do so. You don’t have to have played NFL football to be a sportscaster, for example. He may even write well-done battle scenes. But Tolkien fought in a war, arguably the worst war ever waged, in which two out of three of his closest friends died. Morgan is full of shit if he thinks Tolkien doesn’t understand war. Tolkien doesn’t use graphic violence in The Lord of the Rings; so what. There’s more truth about war in LOTR than in any other fantasy book I’ve read. I’ve said it over on my blog, but I would challenge Morgan to pick up John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War and still argue that Tolkien was a coward in his portrayal of conflict.

    Finally, Morgan also says he’s “ambivalent” about Tolkien, which is a flat-out lie. When he claims–as he has repeatedly around the internet–that Tolkien is for children, he’s proven himself utterly dishonest. Dismissing an author as for children is deliberately insulting.

  3. Brian. I love Lord Of The Rings. I also feel ambivalent some aspects of it. I think your critique of Morgan’s position is quite solid, you bring up a lot of good points about what happens later on in Lord Of The Rings – but are you overstating his position a bit? My take on Morgan’s position is that he’s being a shit disturber AND being honest about his ambivalence. The impact Lord Of The Rings has had on fantasy is stunningly monumental, he basically created the whole genre – and though it actually isn’t true that he did, it feels as if he has. The Tolkien paradigm is what Morgan is talking about. Tolkien does romanticize some aspects of war, but he also shatters individuals. Tolkien was doing a lot of different things in Lord Of The Rings. I think Morgan is trying to argue that a lot of the stuff people have picked up and gone on with is the more romanticized aspects – and that’s made for a lot of bad fantasy.

    That all said, I highly doubt The Steel Remains is going to end up being on the same level as Lord Of The Rings. Its good Fantasy, and has a refreshing change of attitude, but it isn’t the “anti-Lord Of The Rings.” It isn’t big enough or good enough.

    BTW Harry Potter is for kids. AND, that IS meant to be insulting to adults. But its pretty good for kids. When I see adults going nutzo for HP I feel exasperated. Rowling is a good writer, but she’s writing empty children’s pulp. The kindest thing I can say about her work is that she is quite good at naming characters.

  4. Lots of authors write books full of all the cool stuff they like, although they may choose one thing or another as the overall theme. What’s amazing, and depressing, is how few people are willing to give Tolkien the benefit of this rather basic insight. If you like medieval literature, you’re not exactly unfamiliar with the technique of plopping a bunch of slice of life shepherds with a thief problem into the story of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. If you’ve read Tolkien’s Beorhtnoth (sp?) play, you’ve seen him use the same technique in an even more realistic context. But at the end of that, you hear the monks of Ely sing just as the poet did; and that’s not wrong, because life and war is neither all sheen of blade nor all mud and blood. To be blind to either is to lose the ability to make out perspective.

    Now, if Morgan likes the slife section better than the rest of the story, there’s no shame in that. But there’s also no shame in Tolkien not doing that for the entirety of his trilogy. It’s like blaming someone for the horrible morality of making a shelf of mostly apple pie when you wish he’d have made more than one lemon meringue pie.

    So I’m glad he went off and learned how to make lemon meringue, but sheesh.

  5. Hearing this interview reminds me that those of us who create such things should probably keep our mouths shut and concentrate on the creating. In other words, don’t knock other works, don’t explain your own –let your work do the talking.

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