A quarter turn to the Fantastic: Guy Gavriel Kay on historical fantasy
Why is this man smiling? Perhaps because he will never lack for interesting backstories for his novels.
Over on io9, Charlie Jane Anders interviews Guy Gavriel Kay on the occasion of his latest historically inflected fantasy, Children of Earth and Sky, a novel centered on the city of Seressa, a canal-and-lagoon locale that leads a trading empire facing the encroaching invasion of the Khalif from the east. Mr. Kay may be best known for his first historical fantasy, Tigana, a book that the Beamers read in its 10th Anniversary edition (2000). Or Tolkien fans will appreciate his work with Tolkien’s son Christopher to bring out The Silmarillion in 1977. And roleplayers may associate him with the Fionavar Tapestry, a gamers-meet-magic saga inspired by his work on The Silmarillion.
Whatever the connection, readers finding Mr. Kay will encounter a level of verisimilitude in placing history inside fantasy that is unmatched by other current authors. And a range that is broad, as well, whether it be Renaissance Italy (Tigana), the Spain of El Cid (The Lions of al-Rassan), China in the Tang and Song dynasties (Under Heaven, River of Stars), the Provence of the troubadors (A Song for Arbonne) or a contemporary Provence haunted still by the echoes of Roman legionnaires marching to war (Ysabel).
In all cases, Mr. Kay will focus on the full spectrum of people who make up history, from princes to paupers, often with a determined sympathy for the folks who make history but seldom get recorded in it. Children of Earth and Sky was inspired by his research on the Uskok inhabitants of the Croatian town of Senj, noted as pirates, as brigands, as noble Christian warriors, and as loyal defenders of the Habsburg emperors. Needless to say, all of it is true and none of it is, at the same time.