Sometimes we find ourselves among the giants, their immense talents casting shadows ever-long between which we small but steady lights dance and play and fade. Their dreams are our own, because they give them to us: flickering images of knights and dragons, statesmen and generals, all captured chiaroscuro and fragile in ink and paper.
George R.R. Martin and Bernard Cornwell stand among the tallest of our creative giants, masters in their chosen domains: epic fantasy and historical fiction, respectively. Rare it is when giants meet, but when they do, sparks fly and we are all enlightened by the experience.
There is a fantastic conversation between these two great men at Amazon.com’s Omnivoracious.com today. An excerpt:
GRRM: A familiar theme in a lot of epic fantasy is the conflict between good and evil. The villains are often Dark Lords of various ilks, with demonic henchmen and hordes of twisted, malformed underlings clad in black. The heroes are noble, brave, chaste, and very fair to look upon. Yes, Tolkien made something grand and glorious from that, but in the hands of lesser writers, well … let’s just say that sort of fantasy has lost its interest for me. It is the grey characters who interest me the most. Those are the sort I prefer to write about… and read about. It seems to me that you share that affinity. What is it about flawed characters that makes them more interesting than conventional heroes?
BC: Maybe all our heroes are reflections of ourselves? I’m not claiming to be Richard Sharpe (God forbid), but I’m sure parts of my personality leaked into him (he’s very grumpy in the morning). And perhaps flawed characters are more interesting because they are forced to make a choice . . . a conventionally good character will always do the moral, right thing. Boring. Sharpe often does the right thing, but usually for the wrong reasons, and that’s much more interesting!