For a couple of years now I’ve been playing a sort of fan art game with my social media. I call it #MalazanMarch – the rule is simple, post a piece of Malayan themed art for as many days of the month of March as I can. They don’t all have to be new pieces, some are revisions to previous works, maybe I’ll finish something I started; but nothing beats the feeling of finding a piece to be suddenly inspired about and bring it to completion. Having it liked on various platforms is nice to, but there’s something about finding sudden inspiration and seeing it through that I find most nourishing.
So what’s Malazan?
According to the fan wiki: The Malazan Book of the Fallen [Ma-laa-zan] is an epic fantasy series written by Canadian author Steven Erikson. The series depicts a period of turmoil in the history of the Malazan Empire and the other nations that share its world. The series incorporates a vast number of characters (human, immortal and non-human), storylines and locations. Unlike most fantasy series, which depict one large story divided into lesser volumes, the Malazan sequence mostly consists of single novels with their own self-contained storylines with only subplots and some characters continuing between volumes. The closest thing to a main storyline in the books follows the machinations of an alien deity which has been imprisoned upon the Malazan world and seeks to escape.
True life confession: I’ve never read the books, but I’ve listened to each audiobook nearly least a half-dozen times. I discovered audiobook several years back as an effective cure to road-rage during commutes. Soon after they accompanied Milo and me on our long hunts…. um, walks. I discovered Malazan after looking for something as “meaty” to read as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Erikson is an archaeologist/anthropologist who brings that knowledge to bare when writing ancient and or immortal civilizations and their inhabitants. The audio book was frustrating to me at first as well, so many names (that sounds the same) so much going on… but when I got to the scene with THE DECK OF DRAGONS (Their version of a tarot deck, maybe a third way in) the cards in the story kind of reflected the story itself and let me connect many of the dots. I ended up restarting that book from that point and understood it much more.
To attempt to break down the 10 book series here would be a disservice to its approximate 300 hours of audio. The first parts of the book are really setting up the epic long game, so it’s understandable a portion of it would be opaque at first. But if you let the story wash over you at first it becomes much more plot driven as it proceeds. With-in all of that the reader/listener will encounter magical-undead-neanderthals wielding chipped stone swords! Moon Spawn a flying mountain/mini death star, its “Lord” Anomander Rake, leader of the nearly immortal Tiste Andii from a Realm (let’s call it a parallel reality) of platonic darkness. Upstart gods rolling a similar realm of shadow. Monsters, Demons, Shape-shifters, Magic, Dragons, Marines. Even winged monkeys. It’s true that the magicalness overflows particularly in comparison to something like A Game of Thrones, but that struck me as part of the post-moderness of the book, where everyone is living in a world so uncertain that you can’t even count on death & taxes.
But I’m not writing this to convince you to read this series. If you do, let me know, I’d love to talk with you about it. I’m writing all of this to explain why I take such joy in my attempts to depict those scenes. Why they strike such inspiration. I think it would be more effective to just share the results.
In my May MUSEletter I went into great detail behind the creation of this year’s piece The Moment of Truth. It included some developmental sketches and even video footage. One more reason to subscribe, it’s free & I’ll be offering more goodies as the year progresses, plus you’ll have access to all my archived missives and the goodies containing there in.
But before I go, I’d like to give shout out to fellow Malazan fans; particularly the handful that have been supportive of my ongoing artistic journey with the purchase of Malazan themed items from my online shop, or the occasional beverage. The fact that these pieces have become part of the official fandom wiki has been gratifying and motivating. Added to that, I’ve been invited to a couple of Malazan themed discord servers, it turns out there’s a thriving community for these books online and on youtube. Considering the depth and complexity of this series, it’s not all that surprising that the would still be plenty to talk about and plenty of folks will to talk about it. Check out a few of them below; the first couple are specifically Malazan themed, while the others are broader book-tube channels taking a close look at Malazan works.