June 4, 2010
Just wanted to say I really enjoyed The Gnoll Credo! Fantastically imagined, and of course the Grykka character steals the show.
I did have a question about the bestiary, or rather the non-human, non-gnoll inhabiants of the TGC universe. Without giving too much away, it seems there are other fantastical beings in your story besides Gnolls. Were these picked from a certain universe (e.g. Tolkien)? In your mind are they a key part of the story, or do they function more as artistic flourishes?
February 22, 2010
Thank you for the kind words!
To answer your questions: no, they weren't picked from a specific universe. Orcs in the modern sense originated with Tolkien, but have basically passed into the public consciousness. Elves are Germanic in origin, trolls are Nordic, and animal-men (e.g. wolfmen, lion-men) come from just about every pre-monotheistic culture.
Furthermore, they are definitely not just artistic flourishes, though none of them appear in the book except by offhand reference. The Gnoll Credo takes place in a well-defined world, one with the same rules as ours: you'll note that there are no dragons or undead in it, because that would require magic.
And that is one of the key concepts behind the book: what if these 'fantastic' creatures existed in a world without magic, and had to survive on their own merits -- instead of being preserved by some mystical force that basically comes down to "It's a cool plot device and everyone likes elves, so I'll gloss the details"? What do elves do when they're not being beautiful and noble and awesome? What do they eat, where do they sleep, how do they survive?
This subject connects to a lot of other interesting details about the book, but I'll stop here for now.
In summary: yes, the world of the book does exist and is internally consistent. It's a fascinating place, and I look forward to exploring it in more detail.
Finally, Gryka isn't 'stealing the show'...it's her book :) I just wrote it down.
June 25, 2010
Hello! Gnoll Credo was very fun and fascinating, I'm likely to read it a couple more times and I'm recommending it up and down... maybe my mistake since if its not out for another month! /o
So maybe I'm just typical cold north-eastern guy and sentiment is just over my head. Or maybe there's a beastial explanation! Are Hyenas in fact cuddly?
February 22, 2010
Hello! Gnoll Credo was very fun and fascinating, I'm likely to read
it a couple more times and I'm recommending it up and down… maybe my
mistake since if its not out for another month! /o
So maybe I'm just typical cold north-eastern guy and sentiment is
just over my head. Or maybe there's a beastial explanation! Are
Hyenas in fact cuddly?
J: I'm glad the book spoke to you, and that I was able to pass on some of the joy and knowledge I got from knowing Gryka.
Thank you for your efforts to help spread it! Though Amazon is perfectly happy to take pre-orders. you might remind people at the end of July, just in case :)
Are hyenas cuddly? Yes and no. They're extremely expressive, and can be downright cute. Don't you just want to scratch this guy behind his ears?
And hyena cubs, of course, are the cutest things in the world.
CAUTION: Extreme cuteness! (I can't get the embed to work, so you'll
have to click through.)
But they are predators, after all, which means that you'll often see them doing this:
In conclusion: like other social carnivores (including humans),
spotted hyenas are both cuddly and aggressive, both cute and deadly.
Anyway, we're glad to have you here. Pull up a log, have a seat by the fire, and tell me how the book spoke to you. (I'm still discovering things in it myself, even after reading it hundreds of times during the writing and editing process!)
October 17, 2010
Without running afoul of copyright or getting too deep into the various products out there, can you tell us how much of your conception of gnolls was based on research or information gleaned from the various roleplaying games they've appeared in, or other genre work?
I don't mean to imply that you haven't done a great deal of very excellent, original work - you clearly have, and developed the gnoll culture and mythos well beyond any I've previously come across... but I was lead to your book, in fact, by searching for just such supplemental reading while working on a character for a D&D game.
Aside from your book, there isn't a whole lot out there on the subject, and I think you actually mentioned looking into that in a different thread. I came across a couple websites related to some of the online fantasy roleplaying games and there seems to be a small but fairly active group of people who actually dress up as gnolls in costumes and masks who've developed some cultural/behavioral norms but, as I said, yours is the most rigourously developed work I've come across.
So I'm just curious about how you were led to the subject and why you decided to write about gnolls instead of elves or leonoids or kobolds or anything else. I never had much use for talk about "persuing your muse" when I studied art, so I'm wondering whether you were interested in gnolls [and how you got interested in them] before Grycka's character started to develop or appear or how much work you had to put into discovering her. [People have plenty of different ways of explaining their relationship to the creative process and I never know quite how to phrase questions of this sort.]
February 22, 2010
As far as copyright and sources: gnolls are apparently in the public domain due to an interesting series of events, most notably one of the original D&D manuals referring explicitly to Lord Dunsany (author of the 1912 short story "How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon The Gnoles".) This is why they're found in most fantasy RPGs, both video and paper. However, I have found no such source that casts them as anything but generic evil monsters, usually dumb and brutal…basically just big, furry orcs. Neither am I aware of any published fiction that refers to them more than incidentally, or in any other capacity than the aforementioned 'generic big, dumb, evil monster'.
None of this was terribly useful or inspiring.
My conception of gnolls began by taking the concept of 'hyena-people' seriously. Specifically, spotted hyena-people — there are several species of hyena, each substantially different in appearance and behavior (visit http://www.hyaenidae.org for more information). It turns out that the popular conception of spotted ("laughing") hyenas is absolutely wrong in all respects…and I won't rehash the book, but everything I wrote about them in TGC is correct to the best of my knowledge. Additionally, they are extremely smart (smarter than primates on some tests), have a rich and complex social life, and are emotionally expressive in voice, face, and body language.
They're also hated, persecuted, shot as vermin, misunderstood, and constantly battling to survive in a world of lions two to five times their size and strength. Yet somehow there are many times more spotted hyenas than any other African predator…and they survive in many places lions can't. In order to do so, the hyena needs to be absolutely, brutally efficient in its hunting and its social system. I hope you can see how this attitude carries over to gnolls.
As far as the broader question of "why gnolls"? I wanted to write about pure pack-hunting, meat-eating predators, and about what they thought and believed…but wolfmen, and even lion-men, carry a crushing weight of existing literature and mythology. With gnolls, I could simply write the story as I discovered it, without having to worry about readers becoming confused because what I wrote conflicted with what someone else wrote.
The Credo itself was the first thing I wrote. The annotated version (Aidan's paper) was my effort to explain it better. I met Gryka in the course of writing the Annotated Credo, and the rest of the book came from that.
I just finished the Credo and was literally floored by it. I have never read such an original, thought provoking story regarding fantasy creatures. Most revolve around Tolkienesque beautiful 'good guys' taking on vile and deformed 'bad guys' (elves vs orcs, etc..) It was very refreshing for something to be so neutral in it's approach. There was no real enemy, minus ignorance and fear. Which is arguably our one true real life enemy as well. Bravo.
February 22, 2010
I don't think of The Gnoll Credo as a fantasy novel. While it contains fantastic creatures, you are absolutely correct that it has nothing to do with the traditional fantasy plot (the epic quest) which requires mindless, faceless hordes of 'bad guys' (and why are they bad? Don't ask, they just are) to serve as obstacles to the triumph of good.
Such universes don't hold up very well under close scrutiny, in my opinion. There's an interesting discussion on that subject in this thread: "Who feeds all these warriors?" asks one of my readers. To take a Tolkien example, elves and their cities are indeed beautiful...but where are the farmers? Where are the herdsmen? What does Galadriel eat? And if Mordor is such a blasted wasteland, what are the orcs eating? Each other?
We have to ignore these questions in order to read that type of book. And, to be fair, many of them are so gloriously epic that it's easy to ignore the nuts and bolts...
...but, as I've said, TGC isn't an epic quest. It's Gryka's biography, as told by Aidan. And the more time one spends with individuals, the more difficult it is to dismiss them as a collective evil.
Thank you for writing! I always appreciate hearing from my readers. If you'd like some stickers to spread around, contact me through the link on the menu bar and I'll send you some. And feel free to ask questions about the book or the issues it raises...that's what this forum is for.
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