In the final weeks of 2020, I spoke with the writer Nate Crowley, videogames journalist and author of works including The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack, 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed), tie-in fiction for the Warhammer 40k universe, and the infamous Twitter thread Daniel Barker’s Birthday.
Nate’s new book, Notes from Small Planets,is a fictional travel guide which takes the reader through nine archetypal worlds of fantasy and science fiction, poking fun at well-worn tropes and questioning some of the assumptions which underpin the lands of make-believe.
In the first and second instalments of our conversation, Nate talked about world-building, map-making, piracy, capitalism, and what it’s like to “play with other people’s toys”, writing for a licensed franchise.
In today’s final part, Nate talks about the seductions of fantasy, escaping a career in financial journalism, and finding satisfaction in more mundane genres.
Are there any fictional worlds which have seduced you, until you found something dark about them which you had to question or critique?
Loads – but the easiest answer to this is Tolkien. If anyone so much as says, “Orcs are a bit racist, aren’t they?” – Tolkien’s orcs being black-skinned generic enemies – then people swarm from all over social media to defend him. Now, it’s not like Tolkien invented this. Soldiers in the Iliad are described just as Tolkien describes orcs; they’re dehumanized so they can be slaughtered.