Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Book Signing with Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I got to hear him speak briefly about his latest work, Ysabel.

He writes long and well-researched books with juicy detail and well-drawn characters. Sometime his books have extended downtime sequences, but mostly they are engaging. In fact, despite many other lofty intentions for his works, he said that his main purpose in writing is to keep you reading until 3 am.

Of his books that I've read,my favorites are Tigana and The Lions of al-Rassan. I've also read a number of his other earlier works. I haven't had a chance to read any of his books from the last decade or so.

Today's lecture was in an ongoing series of February lectures of authors in Toronto. This was the only "speculative fiction" event, and Guy appeared together with another writer, Nalo Hopkinson. Nalo read a passage from her latest book, while Guy simply discussed what went in to writing Ysabel.

Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy is very funny and has great presence. He started off by noting that this is the second time he has been sent on a book tour through Canada in February while his publisher has gone off to the Caribbean.

As for Ysabel, Guy noted that it draws extensively on some little known but important history in Southern France, namely the meeting of the Roman and Celtic empires over two thousand years ago. It conveys themes about the past meeting the present; about the differences in attitudes to childhood then and now; and how personal and world histories intertwine.

Guy said that he adds fantasy elements to his books simply to prevent someone from reading the book and saying "Oh, that's just a book about the period so-and-so," which would cause a distancing from the narrative.

I asked him what he thought of the term "speculative fiction" versus "science fiction" or "fantasy", and he said that all he really wants it to be called is "good fiction".

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo was also charming and her book sounded lovely.

Last night I went to a play which was fairly bad. Well acted, but very poorly directed and scripted, in my opinion. And tomorrow morning we're off to Tampa.

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