old question

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Dec 15 11:48:36 EST 2003


>Otter:
>> Which came first:  the Tough Guide or Dark Lord of Derkholm?  Or
>> how are they related?
>
>I suspect Minnow will be able to give more chapters and verses on this, but
>I believe they're both step-children of Clute and Grant's *Encyclopedia of
>Fantasy*, to which DWJ contributed. *Tough Guide* came first, I seem to
>remember.

I can.

Maybe some sort of cousins?  The TG came out *before* the EoF, so it
shouldn't really be a step-child, should it?  Not if it is *older*.

DWJ had major surgery on her back, and found that after it the physical act
of writing was horribly painful and made her feel "as if she had backed by
accident into an electric fence".  She was going mad with frustration
because she had a book trying to be written and she was not capable of
doing it (her concentration was also rather shot because of pain).  So the
Plan of the *Encyclopedia of Fantasy*, also known as the "exp,tre", which
was a list of all the projected entries, was printed out on a stack of
paper six inches or so high, and every afternoon this mighty sheaf of paper
was taken to Diana's house in a cardboard box and read aloud to her, entry
by entry, for her to add comments (some of them not very polite!) and
suggest any book from her reading in which there was for instance a good
example of the use of masks, or rats, or playing cards, or whatever. [1]
This was great fun, and led to a lot of ribaldry, and eventually to her
jotting notes of entries that *ought* to be in there but obviously wouldn't
fit a serious reference work.  Such as "stew", or "embroidery".  (The
invention of the Embroidery Factory with all its ramifications doesn't seem
to have got much further, though.)

The Tough Guide grew from that and escaped in 1996.  Just for information,
the marginal icons were the last thing done before he died by the senior
editor at Cassell who dealt with books in this genre, and he had great fun
finding them, apparently.  That made DWJ glad.

For further amusement, the back cover blurb had a very fine typo when it
was presented to DWJ for proof.  Someone had added an "r" by accident in
the phrase "Elvish ancestral ape".  For some reason, every woman who saw
this fell about laughing, whilst at least three men got very upset and said
that rape was nothing to laugh about.  Strange.

The thing about the TG was that it didn't require such a concerted effort
as a book with plot and such, and could be done in a one-entry-at-a-time
way without too much strain.  This meant that it was a very good way to get
back into being able to write at all, as I understand it.

It was going to be called the Rough Guide, but the people who own the title
to the series of travel-guides refused permission.  (The same way that the
Crompton estate refused to let Gaiman and Pratchett call *Good Omens*,
"William -- the Antichrist".  No sense of humour, some people.)

*The Dark Lord of Derkholm* may have had its first seeds in a conversation
between DWJ and Clute during the editing process of the EoF; he came down
to Bristol to talk with her about it, and ignoring the scrawls in the
margin of the exp.tre that said things like "Bollocks, Clute!", got into a
serious discussion of the differences between what he was calling True
Fantasy and what everyone involved in the project was at that stage calling
"rote-fant".  I think there was a point at which it was suggested by one or
both of them that it ought to be possible to write something set within the
rote-fant place called "Fantasyland" that would have something more serious
to say than just "boy goes on quest, boy meets girl, boy turns out to be
Missing Heir" and so forth, with cuddly elves and talking animals for light
relief.  The EoF doesn't dwell much on Fantasyland [2] or on rote-fant,
(whatever it was that ended up being called in order to be a tad more
polite).... so there was room for both an encyclopedia specifically on that
subject, and later a book set in that world subverting the genre, without
in any way overlapping with the "real" EoF.

DLoD took longer to emerge because it required more concentration to write
a continuous narrative than to write a lot of entries as they came to mind.
So it wasn't published until 1998.

And *Deep Secret* came out first, because it had been being around in mind
(and possibly even almost finished) before the surgery intervened.  I don't
think it is *quite* the book that was trying to get written and causing the
frustration just after surgery; as far as I can make out from a few things
said at the time, some of what was going to be in that seems now to have
got into *The Merlin Conspiracy* instead, but not all.

I am still slightly sad that the TG entry on Potions never seems to have
happened: I can remember it being talked about, but it somehow got lost and
never actually written down.

[1] A lot of people, of whom I was one, were going through this exercsie at
that point.  Telephone conversations with Clute tended for a while to
involve such exchanges as "Hi, John, I was just..."  "Hold on,  Before you
say anything, can you give me an example of Billy the Kid in fantasy?"
"um.... would you settle for a six-foot-tall hamster that *thinks* it's
Billy the Kid?"

[2] The EoF entry on Fantasyland ends with the CluteGrantian remark
"Fantasyland is a particularly useful thought-free setting for authors of
shared-world enterprises and extended series."  Mee-ow.

Minnow


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