Authors Toby Barlow, Nicola Griffith, Kelly Luce, and Robin Sloan recently gathered for Electric Lit to discuss The Art of Unpredictable & Unclassifiable Literature - something they all agreed Lian Hearn knows a thing or two about. Below are a few highlights from their thought-provoking conversation.
Toby Barlow: Somehow, the way [Shikanoko is] written, with the magic so organic and natural and the adventure so quick and sudden, it canters along and makes me feel almost childish in my joy. The book seems to work like a boxer’s jabs.
Nicola Griffith: I think Shikanoko would make a brilliant blueprint for collaboration in another medium, whether we’re talking film, animated TV series, graphic novels, or opera (it’s definitely operatic!). Hearn tells us what people say, she tells us what they think and why they think it, she describes the setting. It’s all there. And anything can happen — and frequently does. And those things are not small: death, demons, destruction, betrayal . . .
Kelly Luce: The world of the Shikanoko books is so richly imagined. The setting itself is novel to us, it is home to the unexpected, and yet it is populated with characters whose motivations and backstories strike an emotional chord. As readers, we then get to sympathize with these familiar feelings in an unfamiliar place. There’s a tension there between world and emotion, a safe and fruitful space. In that space, maybe, is where wonder and play and fun are created — the Fun Primordial Soup.
Robin Sloan: One of the books I’ve been interleaving with my reading of the Shikanoko saga is Philip Pullman’s new translation of the Brothers Grimm. In one of his story notes, he cites a poet’s characterization of the ideal fairy tale narrator’s voice: “serene, anonymous.”
I thought of Lian Hearn when I read that, because in addition to the qualities you all have enumerated — the joyful canter, the waking dream — I think these books are delivered in a voice that is (a) a huge part of their pleasure, and also (b) totally beyond me. That serenity; that straightforwardness (even in its depiction of the very strange); that confidence!
Be sure to check out the rest of their thoughts on voice, sensory experiences in literature and Prince here! But not before you catch up on Volume Two of Hearn’s explosive serialized fiction, Autumn Princess, Dragon Child.