Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MEGABLOGTABLE: Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz (1970)

Back in June I was struck by the sudden urge to re-read Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. This had been one of my favorite fantasy series in my early teenage years (before I discovered edgy literary fiction and temporarily abandoned genre). I remembered it as more grounded in actual history than most fantasy, with great characters and an appealingly minimalist approach to magic. After re-discovering fantasy via A Song of Ice and Fire, some years later, I often found myself wondering how these books would hold up now, reading them as an adult. So after reading Kari Sperring's essay on the Deryni series, I decided to give it a shot (and loved it). Not long after, I wandered into a conversation among several of my twitter friends: Joe Sherry, Rob Bedford, Paul Weimer, Jonah Sutton-Morse and Fred Kiesche. Turns out we were all reading the first book! So we decided to have a little fireside chat about Deryni Rising, how it holds up after all these years and its influence on more modern fantasy. I offered to host the chat, and the rest is history. Here is the record (questions in bold)...


[The G] I think it’s fair to say we all really liked Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz--I know I did. But what is it, exactly, that makes this novel hold up so well? I mean, it’s more than 40 years old, but it feels quite modern in many ways. Am I right? Why or why not?

Rob Bedford: In large part, it is Kurtz’s ability to build up the narrative tension as the novel ramped up to the confrontation with Charissa. Good, gripping storytelling survives and continues to draw people in because it keeps people from stepping away from the story. I think it is the simplicity of the story and how elegantly Kurtz constructs the story.

Jonah Sutton-Morse: I think part of it is that the concerns are political.  The emphasis is on characters interacting, with the world and magic in many ways in the background.  It seems almost as though the concerns of fantasy have come back around to Kurtz after drifting away for a while.  Also it’s well paced.  There’s always a new mystery (aggressively signposted!) to keep moving forward.

Joe Sherry: Two things stand out for me. One: How quickly Kurtz gets into the action of the story and how tight the timeline is here. Everything that happens is so immediate,  but it feels appropriate with the political risk of Kelson being able to hold on to a crown he is barely prepared to accept because he is only about to hit his legal majority all the while he is about to face a challenge from an external threat with an internal agent. I’m not sure that stuff really gets old when it’s written so smoothly. Two: This may be colored by how I feel about some of the later novels, but what I like is the minutiae, the details of how things work behind the scenes - the Council sessions, the rituals of the church, the tidbits on Deryni history.

Paul Weimer: I agree with Joe. Kurtz drops us into things without as much of that ramp up as one might expect, especially given the era in which it was written. We also get very clearly defined stakes pretty early on and can follow Kelson’s line clearly. No meandering for the sake of meandering.

Fred Kiesche: My copious backstory on how I found the book might explain why I still think it holds up. I first encountered the book as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (get your mind out of the gutter, Rob, “adult” in this case means “not for children” not “boom-chicka-wah-wah”). That was a series that Ballantine Books ran from the (roughly) mid sixties to the (roughly) early seventies.

Rob: Thanks for the vote of maturity Fred! Seriously, I was aware that this was part of the BAF, and the only wholly original title in the program.

Fred: In those dark times there was scarcely an original fantasy market. Sure, you could score reprints of Conan (Ace Books!), find hardcovers in yard sales or even your library (Arkham House, for example), but most of the original paperbacks (and the marketplace was mostly paperbacks in spinner racks in drugstores and the like, the town I grew up in originally—Teaneck, NJ—did not get a bookstore until 1969 and the town that I then moved to—Kinnelon, NJ—did not get a used bookstore until around 1974 and a “new stuff” bookstore until 1976) were science fiction. Occasionally DAW Books would do something by Lin Carter that was “sort of” fantasy (much in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs), but for the most part there was almost no fantasy.

So: No Brooks, Donaldson, Weis, Eddings...no (fill in your favorite author here). Tolkien and Lewis and a few “classics” were around but not known (my mother took Fellowship of the Ring out from the library for me in 1969 and the introduction stopped me cold).

Betty Ballantine brought out some collections of the art of Frank Frazetta that sold like hotcakes. The Ace editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard (with Frazetta covers and “expanded” by such people as L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter and Poul Anderson—this was years before some unknown named Robert E. Jordan started doing them!) sold well. Ace Books came out with an “unauthorized” edition of The Lord of the Rings (an interesting story in of itself) and Ballantine came out with the “authorized” edition (and sold very well because of promotion and the fact the author blessed it). Ballantine Books brought some other (older) fantasy works into print (William E. Morris, E.R. Eddison) which also sold well.

So they had the brilliant idea...why not an entire line of fantasy stories aimed at these adults (mostly college students) that were snapping them up? So the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was born, run by Lin Carter.

The line was mostly reprints. In addition to those names mentioned above, Carter brought back into print (or into paperback) names such as Fletcher Pratt, Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, George MacDonald, Hope Mirrlees and others.

And also, an original book: Deryni Rising, which appeared in the BAF series in August of 1970.

I don’t recall how early on I came across that. I know that during the summer of 1970, I tried the hardcover of The Lord of the Rings and bounced off of it. Then I found the Ballantine edition of The Hobbit, loved it, made the connection with The Lord of the Rings, read that again, loved it, and then started hunting down anything from Ballantine (they thoughtfully provided a list of titles in their books).

Some titles I found in those aforementioned spinner racks. Some were found in yard sales or garage sales or tag sales or rummage sales (names varied according to region visited). Some titles I grew to love as much as The Lord of the Rings (Mervyn Peake has no magic, is borderline “fantasy” at best, but the story and the setting...especially the middle volume...wow!), other books were stilted and archaic and difficult to get through (William Morris, E.R. Eddison and David Lindsay come to mind).

Then there was Deryni Rising. When I encountered it, I knew that it was a newly-written original book (Lin Carter wrote introductions for many of the books that were printed while he was running the line in addition to writing some non-fiction books and anthologies). It was short (when compared to  Peake and a few others).

But it was amazing. It took place over a short period of time, in a relatively small number of locations. There were no elves or fairies or the like, other than having powers (which could be manifestations of forms of telepathy for that kid who mostly read science fiction), there were only people in the book. The setting “could be” Europe (other than the rather strange proximity, it seemed to me of one desert locale; even then I thought about how topography would affect the land). There was a religion that I could recognize (there’s debate over what Kurtz based this one, but other than a lack of a Pope, it seemed Catholic to me!), no words that I stumbled on.

And… murder and plots… and secret meetings and magical rites ...and even a duel between wizards!

Before fantasy movies, before fantasy games, before a “fantasy genre” practically, this book had so many of the elements that we encounter and love again and again. Does it hold up now? You bet! It holds up because it is, in many cases, the “source code” (along with a few other works mentioned here, but also people like Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber and Ursula K. Le Guin).  Yes, there are some weaknesses. Yes, there is some cracking plaster from where subsequent volumes were added to the series (and shoved up against the original foundation). But...reading it again, after decades, it kept my attention and has (once again) made me want to read the rest of the series.


[The G] My big issue with the book was its treatment--or perhaps, more accurately, its non-treatment--of women. Charissa is a fairly cardboard villain, while Jehanna arguably embodies the negative stereotypes of women as petty, vain and overly emotional. Did this bother you guys as well? And were there other ways in which you felt the book didn’t age well?

Rob: It [the treatment/non-treatment of women] was noticeable, mainly because of how much discussion is currently going on in the genre in terms of gender parity. On one hand, it makes sense for Jehanna to have the feelings she does towards Morgon as well as the hesitancy about her son. On the other, Charissa could have easily been a man in the role she played and it wouldn’t have changed the story. The “treatment” of the women characters in the novel didn’t bother me too much, to be honest, but it was perhaps the only aspect of the novel that felt a bit dated. How does it compare to other novels of the time, in terms of treatment of women characters? Not saying that makes it acceptable. If anything, the mildly surprising element of the treatment of the women characters is that the book was written by a women.

Jonah: yep, the treatment of women generally sucks, and I don’t feel that Jehanna comes across well.  Charissa is noticeable in part as the person interested in sex.  Men with men don’t think about it.  Men with women do, which was also frustrating.  Mostly, I just didn’t feel that either Charissa or Jehanna were real characters, though I think I’d extend that critique more broadly - I think that most characters are playing a role (some almost literally - Morgan the Dark Defender, Duncan the reluctant wizard-priest, Kelson the superman with his trusted Uncle).  It’s just that Jehana got to be the crazy emotional queen & Charissa the Dark Seductress which are even more unpleasant character types than the others.

Joe: Can I just agree with Rob?

Paul: To be fair: The portrayal in women in general in epic and secondary world fantasy has been evolving over the last two decades. I think if they were being published for the first time now, a lot of reviewers would excoriate them harder. It’s not excuse, but its explanation. To Rob’s point, this goes to the whole “writing to a male audience” that a lot of writers, women and men, engage in.

Fred: The treatment of women is no better or worse than any other contemporary fantasy novel. Kurtz was a new writer at that point and I don’t know if she was just shadowing the norm or was pushed in that direction by her agent (or editor or publisher). Given how few female characters are in the books of the time (or the books in the BAF series), she did, I think, a good job with several female characters playing major roles. And, I think, as the series grew, so did the role of women (think of—spoilers, sweetie—the role of the daughter’s of a certain person in a certain prologue series!).

Jonah: I’m willing to agree that standards have changed and reviewers would highlight this more, but  I stand by the assertion that the women are a symptom of not-very-fleshed-out characters. What do you guys think?

The G: You may be right, Jonah, but I read the female characters as poorly drawn relative to the male characters. I mean, Morgan, Duncan, Kelson, Ian, Brian--they are all capable, and all save Ian are also relatable. And they all have at least some depth. Of the female characters, by contrast, only Charissa is capable, and "none" are relatable. Why the scare quotes? Because there's only one other female character in the book--Jehanna, who basically exists to annoy Kelson and Morgan (and, by extension, the reader). Okay, I lied--there is one other female who appears momentarily, a courtesan who Morgan basically slaps out of her "female hysteria." This may be a sign of the book's age, but it doesn't read well today. Actually I found it very frustrating.


[Jonah] This book had me thinking a lot about inheritance & traditions.  Kurtz acknowledges debt to Dune, and having read that, the parallels jumped out.  Lots of political undercurrents, Kelson the superkid groomed to rule, even little things like the Stenrect crawler in the garden that he has to stay perfectly still to avoid.  Similarly, when I read The Goblin Emperor with it’s elaborate coronation rituals, court full of titled characters (the Supreme of Howicce!), and concerns above all with political undercurrents, I got strong echoes of Kurtz.  (All three books also arguably mostly posit good characters behaving honorably, a few obvious villains, and then a single traitor to show the danger of trust, while mostly reinforcing their main character’s interest in trust & showing good faith).  I don’t think I’d put these three books in the same genres, but I do think that each is very much inheriting from what came before (which I’m always nervous of because it tends very close to trying to interpret the author’s thoughts rather than the text).  Thoughts? Are there other books that you’d group here, or other inheritors of different aspects?

Fred: Given the setting (based strongly on England during the Middle Ages), the use of inheritance (the land is ruled by a king and administered by other men who inherit power) using traditions (a combination of practice and law). There’s the strong presence of a church (more traditions, a different ruling base) and magic (more tradition and ritual). There’s also a nice sense of time (with things having been lost, think of Strider in The Lord of the Rings being the representative of a lost culture or Old Ben Kenobi in Star Wars being the last of a once proud profession).

I never thought of any parallel to Dune, myself. Kelson is “groomed” but so would the son of any king, whether magical power was involved or not. This is, I think more of an aspect of any cycle of stories, which could be fantasy, set in this sort of society. Think of Mordred in L’Morte D’Arthur and the other stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table; he was “groomed” to rule and to get revenge.

The G: I’m not entirely sure how to answer this question, but here goes: some of what you are picking up on, I think, is the common influence of medieval Romances and of nonfictional accounts of court intrigue. And, of course, it’s quite likely that Katherine Kurtz read Dune before publishing, and that Katherine Addison/Sarah Monette read both. It’s not entirely certain--after all, when I finished The Black Company, I was certain that it had been a major influence on Joe Abercrombie. Later I found out that he had not, as of a couple years ago (and possibly still), read the series.

Similarly, a lot of people who read Old Man’s War when it was first published assumed that Scalzi was responding to Starship Troopers and The Forever War. It’s true in the first instance, but not in the second--like Abercrombie, he hadn’t read the book that seemed like such a big influence on his own work (until some years later). I’d guess that Addison/Monette has read Deryni Rising anyway--she may even be making reference to it, a la George R. R. Martin to Tad Williams, Roger Zelazny, etc. But the more important linkage is, I think, the common approach of recontextualizing the medieval Romance and historical accounts of court intrigue within the fantasy form.

Rob: This question couldn’t be timed more serendipitously. As chance would have it, I went back to another “modern classic*” of Epic Fantasy, Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince (DAW, 1988), the first novel she published and the first in the “Dragon Prince” series. Over the first seven chapters I have been especially struck by just how damned similar Rawn’s novel is to Deryni Rising, in terms of story beats. You’ve got a royal hunt (in Rawn’s case, a Dragon hunt); a ruler mortally wounded in said hunt; the chosen Prince as inheritor who many think is ill-equipped; the chosen Prince acting counter in some ways to how, in historical context, he should behave; hints of powers beyond what is normal for him; and a scheming nemesis.  These similarities could be that Kurtz and Rawn are pulling from a similar well of tropes and story beats, but I would be very surprised if Rawn didn’t read (at least once) Deryni Rising.

*Classic being subjective term, of course, but Rawn has a pretty big readership and Tor.com is a doing a re-read of the books..

Rawn handles the gender roles more fairly, although the “women-folk” still stay at home while the men hunt, the main female character shows signs of being proactive and more than just a prop for the Prince’s reign. Again, only about 140 pages/7 chapters into the book as of this writing.

I read The Goblin Emperor before Deryni Rising; I’ll just say that Deryni Rising was far superior reading experience for me on nearly every level. Sure both stories/novels had court intrigue and an heir that many believed to be inept, but for me, that’s where the comparisons end. Connecting Deryni Rising forward to The Goblin Emperor never entered my mind until our twitter conversations and Jonah mentioned them both on his podcast.

Joe: Keep reading, Rob. While there are some “traditional” roles in Rawn’s work, many of the female characters are quite adept at wielding their own personal power and taking charge in their lives.  Back to Deryni!


[Jonah] Le Guin’s famous essay "Elfland to Poughkeepsie" situates the Deryni books firmly in Poughkeepsie: books with magic but where the enchantment has been drained away along with some of the peril of elfland. She relies heavily on stylistic critiques, but I think the point is equally valid just thinking about how the story is told and the ways the plot is concerned so much with politics and relationships. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the book, which I loved, but does raise some interesting questions about where it fits in the fantasy tradition & other books that are closer to the perilous enchantments of Elfland. (A Song of Ice and Fire looms large here, but the bits of magic are so *mysterious* that Martin is probably closer to occasional intrusions of Elfland than Kurtz?) I guess at it’s most basic, my question is: do you agree that Fantasy often has (or aspires to) bringing in the enchantment of a distant & mysterious land, and that Deryni rising mostly fails at this? with the follow-up of what does it say that it’s so successful despite not hitting that mark? but feel free to jump off other things.

Joe: I’m not sure I really care. I mean that in the best possible way. Again, I’m colored by having read all of Kurtz’s Deryni work, especially the earlier Camber-era novels so I’ll try to limit this to how things are presented in Deryni Rising. In Deryni Rising the magic appears to be somewhat mystical (with really awkward rhyming battles - somehow I think Alan Dean Foster should pay royalties to Kurtz for Spellsinger) - the methodology of the magic isn’t explained and Kelson appears to use it by instinct. But I’m not sure I agree that the enchantment of the magic is drained away - unless we take this to mean that because it is otherwise a low-magic world and the magic users are generally feared and persecuted in Gwynedd so that there isn’t “magic” in the magic. So - okay, I’ll grant that. But are we taking this as a negative? There is magic in ritual. You see this with the ward cubes, but it becomes much more evident later.

To answer your question, I’m not sure that we can narrow “Fantasy” enough to say that it does or does not aspire to the enchantment of other lands, Elfland if you will. Some of it does, sure, but just as much does not. I’m not sure the categorization is important, now or when Le Guin wrote her essay. Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks is set in 1980’s Minneapolis. I’ve been to a number of the locations she writes about, I’ve seen shows at First Avenue. But Bull ties in faerie and a supernatural conflict that is very much a “perilous enchantment” - so what do we do there? Does it matter?

Paul: I definitely want to unpack The Goblin Emperor and Deryni Rising in my own question to the group, so I will reserve talking about that here. I do think Deryni Rising is definitely working on the mechanics and nuts and bolts in a Dune like way--and that’s why Dune reads like an epic fantasy much more than a space opera.

As far as fantasy and enchantment, fantasy is, as has been said, the largest, broadest category of fiction that there is. By comparison to mimetic fiction, or even science fiction, the potential range of fantasy, from Amber to Deryni to War for the Oaks to Jim Butcher to Wizard of the Pigeons to Tolkien is vast. In fantasy’s house, there are many mansions. The enchantment of other lands, and Elfland argument sounds to me, like an argument made in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy about the diminishment of magic as being a major concern in fantasy. I think that was true, once. But I think it’s a leftover of Tolkienian “Fourth Age” concerns.

The G: Well, I’ve always thought of fantasy as this: take a plausible world (whether secondary or this one), then add some element of magic and/or concretized metaphysics that makes it different from the actual world we live in. The degree of variation between the created fantasy world and ours is, to me, unimportant. Both books where the magic and metaphysics are light, such as Deryni Rising, and ones that are positively dripping with the stuff, like The Black Company, work for me.

More to the point, I’m not sure why the degree of fantastical elements should measure “success” or “failure” at being fantasy. In fact, I’m tempted to suggest that even the basic definition of fantasy as dependent on some degree of magic or metaphysics is too restrictive. I mean, imagine a book set in a secondary world but without magic. What would you call that, if not fantasy? Regardless, if we do accept magic as integral to fantasy, for the sake of argument at least, then it’s better to think of Deryni Rising as embodying a specific approach to fantasy than to judge that approach as a qualitative indicator of how successful it is as fantasy.

Fred: Much like science fiction, fantasy is anything I point at and say is fantasy. I’ve used a lot of terminology in the past, some taken from Carter, some taken from Le Guin, even some developed by people like Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski in their Fantastic Imagination series of anthologies.

Kurtz “fits into” fantasy as much as any other book in the field. The amount of magic does not matter, the proximity to Elfland does not matter. It share so many tropes used throughout the field, mining the same traditions that “more elvish” books mined (be it Shakespeare or the or the Prose Edda or the Epic of Gilgamesh) and it been the genesis itself of so much subsequent telling of tales (be they other books and stories or people running roleplaying games) that we cannot exclude it from fantasy.

Rob: I’ll mostly borrow Joe’s earlier response: “Can I just agree with Joe?”  I think of, at least Deryni Rising as historical fantasy. There’s enough supernatural/magic in a non-real location it to place it outside of historical fiction I don’t see this book (not sure about the remainder of the series) as “bringing in the enchantment of a distant & mysterious land.” If anything, I see this the opposite: bringing enchantment to a familiar land (or at least a land that resonates with historical, real places, but renamed) with closer ties to Arthurian Myth.


[Paul] Right, so my question: Deryni Rising feels like it comes from a somewhat different timeline of fantasy novels, or one that is an undercurrent. The emphasis on the process of politics and the *lack* of autarchy and the division of power.  Just as in the novels of Sherwood Smith and also in The Goblin Emperor, the politics of Deryni felt more complex than most epic fantasy. How did you find it? Did you like it?

Fred: Could this be an artifact of the age of the author? Or the time she was writing in? Deryni Rising was published when she was 26, so relatively out of college (or possibly still in graduate school) in 1970. You have a combination of both the time when most people are at their most political plus a year when younger people in the United States were (ahem) agitated over many things (civil rights, Vietnam, the then President). It would be very easy for “politics” to leak in.

I don’t think, however, that Kurtz was leaking her politics into the story or the politics of the time. As I said earlier, it appears, to me, that she was possibly just as influenced by a number of other literary sources (Shakespeare, etc.) and injecting the politics as part of the court and kingdom drama she was shooting for.

As for if I liked it, it is part of the charm of the book for me. Just as one of the books I read this year (The Goblin Emperor) would have been very much the poorer without politics, the same with this.

The G: It’s fairly sophisticated, and as I was re-reading the book, I kept thinking of A Game of Thrones--the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, that is, and wondered if Martin might have been responding to Deryni Rising in much the same way that he’s responding to other landmark fantasy series.

I mean, both novels are similarly preoccupied with the process of politics, with conspiracies and so forth. They’re obviously quite different, but I did feel that, whereas Kurtz presents a fairly Romantic view of royal and aristocratic politics (altered, of course, for a world that hews closely to medieval history but is made-up and features the limited use of magic), Martin is digging up the dirt to show ugliness for what it is (in a similarly constructed world). Charissa is evil, true, but no one in Deryni Rising is arbitrary in their use of power, whereas just about everyone in A Game of Thrones is--Ned Stark excluded (and we all know what that got him).

Whether Kurtz’s idealized or Martin’s anti-idealized visions of medieval politics is “more realistic” is another story. But I think it’s clear that Martin is trying to be “more realistic” (however misapplied that term is). And the lack of political process fantasies between the Deryni series and A Song of Ice and Fire makes me think that it’s not coincidental. Martin is very widely read, and the Deryni novels are, I think, rightly considered to be on the highbrow side of the genre. I’m sure he’s read them.

Rob: Well, the primary setting of the novel is a court and the challenge the prince has in ascending the throne so I’m not sure, like Fred says, the novel would have been as strong – or even worked – had politics not been part of the novel/story. To answer the basic question, I thoroughly enjoyed nearly every aspect of the novel. Kurtz did an incredible job of pulling off the story in such a competent fashion at a relatively young age and for her first novel. I haven’t read any of Sherwood Smith’s work, but I’ll say everything Addison tried to do in The Goblin Emperor was done much more effectively and enjoyably (for my reading sensibilities) by Kurtz here in Deryni Rising. (If it hasn’t become clear at this point, I wasn’t a fan of The Goblin Emperor)

Jonah: I think it’s best that I just echo Rob’s sentiments on Deryni Rising and The Goblin Emperor (since it was reading The Goblin Emperor for Rocket Talk many moons ago that prompted me to pick up Deryni Rising leading indirectly to this chat) and move on.  I want to return a bit to my question which I think I phrased poorly.  I feel like there are some fantasy novels where the geography and magical systems are systematic and predictable - the rules and laws of the world may be different from ours, but the general notion that things are more or less deterministic & predictable still holds.  In others, to borrow Tolkien’s language "You step into the road and if you don't keep your feet there's no telling where you might end up."  With the reference to Elfland above I meant mostly to suggest that Kurtz is on the predictable side of the Fantasy spectrum, but I did so very clumsily. This does, though (to circle back to Paul's question), get at politics.

I don't think that the magic of Kurtz's world intrudes to provide the tension & plot. Nor is there an easy all-encompassing good and evil to fall back on. Instead, it's the people (characters shading into stock tropes) that drive the book - the Grasping Councillors and Superstitious Churchmen seeking to fill a Power Vacuum and opposed by the Young King and his Loyal Allies.  I do feel that many of the characters aren't fully fleshed out, but I don't feel that detracts from the tension of the political machinations.  I think comparisons to Goblin Emperor & Game of Thrones are both apt (the main difference I see in how each book plays out is how reliable trust is), and I've already mentioned I'd include Dune in that lineage (as Kurtz did in her intro)

As for how I find this - it's not my ideal fantasy. I prefer novels with a bit more enchantment in the setting & correspondingly less complexity in plotting, but the book still grabbed me & pulled me through, and it's held up incredibly well. I am always happy to reread Deryni books. I think partly this is because Kurtz's medieval setting is so closely modeled on a time I'm particularly interested in, and she actually takes religion seriously as an important and complex motivating force (spiritual & secular).

Joe: Being a long standing fan of Kurtz’s Deryni work, one of the things I have appreciated most *is* the political aspect and the details of the trappings of power. Compared to some of her later novels, Deryni Rising is rather light on the political aspects (the wonderful council scene notwithstanding). But move on to the earlier set novels and you’re intensely enmeshed in politics and more interestingly to me, religious politics. Kurtz’s use of the church in this series is hugely important.


[Rob] My question is a simple one. Given the length of the series, the legacy, and overall acclaim, isn’t about time that Katherine Kurtz was a recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement? Why do you think she hasn’t received such an honor?

Jonah: I know nothing about the award, but she seems like an extremely worthy candidate.

Paul: The same reasons why lots of worthy people haven’t gotten SF Grandmaster awards: The limited amount given out in a given year, the lack of shortage of worthy candidates, and the bias in genre awards toward male winners. Things are getting better but there is a lot of catchup up to do.

Joe: Despite how passionately we started a discussion on twitter (#deryni) and the fact that she is still publishing new work, Kurtz seems to be a borderline forgotten fantasy author. She seldom comes up in discussions regarding the genre and I’m not sure how much that hurts. But I don’t know what the politics of the selecting a Lifetime Achievement award for World Fantasy are. There are a number of writers I would love to see recognized, many of the major names of the 80’s who I grew up reading, but Katherine Kurtz is very much near the top of that list. I hope she receives the award soon.

Fred: The awarding of status to professionals by professionals is a crime. See Harlan Ellison’s crusade in the 1990’s. Things have changed...hardly at all. Still too many people dying before getting recognition from the SFWA or the World Fantasy. For pity’s sake, give out enough awards each year to catch up. Run a damned Kickstarter if you need funds.


[Joe] Now for the most important question: You’re all going to read more Deryni, right?

Jonah: Eventually? Rereading book 1 coincided with a crapload of really good SFF dropping that I'm still trying to get through, plus I want to finish Kate Elliott's Crossroads trilogy before Black Wolves lands. But it gives me great pleasure to know that the Deryni trilogies are waiting when I'm ready for them.

Paul: Eventually, yes. In my copious free time.

Fred: I’ve read ‘em before and I’ll read ‘em again. I was thinking of going right to the middle book of this trilogy, but I’ve changed my plans. One of my earlier comments talked about the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. I think I’m going to make that a (re)reading project and start with the first books published for that series (which actually predated the official name of the series. That way I’ll pick up the Deryni “in order of publication” amongst the other volumes of the series, plus revisit Tolkien, Peake, Munn and many others.

I wish the publisher of the Camber books would get their act together and come out with new editions (including eBooks). The same with the second Kelson trilogy. Back in print! Please!

The G: Absolutely! But my TBR pile has reached the near-insurmountable stage, so I don't know when. I've got the old SF Book Club omnibus of the first trilogy, though, so it's a near certainty that I will--eventually--get around to it.

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