An Interview With Robert Rhodes

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsFanLit’s own Robert Rhodes was recently interviewed by Jason M. Waltz, founder of Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE). RBE publishes Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure which includes Rob’s story “To Be a Man”. You can read Greg’s review of Return of the Sword here. This interview is reprinted here with Mr Waltz’s permission.

Jason Waltz: What drives your art? What forces you, rides you, hustles you, controls you until its latest needs have been met? What really drives you to create speculative fiction art, be it words or images?

Robert Rhodes: It seems to be in my blood. I’ve always been good with the written word and enjoyed stories of other worlds. In my better moments, I try to write for the classical reasons: to enlighten and entertain. If I do it well enough, I hope to brighten others’ lives.

If there was the possibility of becoming any speculative fiction character ever created (except your own), would you? Who? Why?

It would be tempting to become Aragorn: a noble, long-lived ranger and king with quite a queen. But the answer is actually “no.” I have a wonderful life, and an amazing wife and kids. I’m thankful.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIf you could only take one author’s works compressed on an e-book reader on a “one-bag-only” one-way trip to another galaxy, whose works would it be and why?

Probably Guy Gavriel Kay’s. His fantasy works–after The Fionavar Tapestry, in which his reach may have exceeded his grasp at the time–are remarkable: fully realized, epic, lyrical portraits of the conflicts between heroic yet vulnerable men and women. He explores the human condition with unflinching insight but never fails to show its potential beauty and meaningfulness. That said, for largely the same reasons, my favorite book is Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

Why Vasili? What initiated his story and made you complete this particular tale?

Vasili’s story began with the thought or image of someone in his dire legal predicament at the story’s beginning. From there, I suppose I worked backward to learn more about him–as he was with and without the infamous Titania. Now, where did she come from? That question might be one for a psychiatrist … but she’s actually less complex than Vasili–Red Sonja’s big sister, perhaps?

In the privacy of your favorite writing nook, do you act out your protagonist’s actions? Do you know how to use his weapons? Do you wear his clothes? Do you talk like him?

Ah … no.

Quick: List your first thought as your answers to these questions about the future of genre fiction:

Printing Methods: Offset or Print-on-Demand?

Offset.

Reading Formats: Electronic or Print?

Electronic.

Book Tours: Physical or Virtual?

Physical.

Reading Habits: Dead, Dying, Alive, Growing?

Alive.

Length: Flash, Short, Novella, 1970’s novel (60k), 1980’s novel (80k), 1990’s novel (120k), 2000’s novel (150k)

1980’s novel.

Robert E. Howard, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Fritz Leiber, Karl Edward Wagner, Louis L’Amour, Frederick Faust, Ian Fleming, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rafael Sabatini . . . the list could go on. Some lived long lives, some flared and burned out young. All lived life hard. All wrote pulse-pounding action-adventure, often dipping into the many different genres they share, yet each eventually establishing their name within a specific one. What do you believe you have in common with these authors, and what makes you so sure speculative fiction – heroic fantasy fiction to be precise – is your genre? Or is it?

I believe in the power of fiction to reveal who we are and who we can be. And I believe we can see these things most clearly and thrillingly in stories that lack the distractions of technology and history and that feature men and women confronting huge challenges directly with their bodies, wits, and wills. Fantasy fiction also suits my preferred writing style, which is probably more ornate than one usually finds in legal or political thrillers. If I continue to grow as a writer, I’ll probably attempt something more “literary” than fantasy fiction–to see what I have to say about this world as it is, not because fantasy fiction can’t be literary. Far from it, as the works of Kay or Patricia McKillip or Neil Gaiman (just to name three) can attest.

Thanks for taking the time to provide some insightful answers, Robert!

Robert Rhodes was among the 3rd Quarter 2008 finalists in the Writers of the Future Contest, and he co-authored with Howard Andrew Jones an essay on sword-and-sorcery in the newly released 4-volume Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Readingfantasy and science fiction book reviews. Learn more about Robert at his blog Shadow, Light, & Steel.

An excerpt:

…Something rustled outside the glade. I craned my neck to look and saw, instead of wolves, a magnificent warhorse, an enormous black stallion with white forelegs and a blazon on its brow. At once my soul grew warm and irritated. I knew that horse.

That is, I knew its mistress. The stallion walked forward into the moonlight, and the massive shadow on its back became Titania – Titania and a man seated in front of her. His head lolled, chin upon chest, and one of her powerful arms encircled his waist. She guided the horse forward till it stood beside me, then vaulted down. The man swayed and fell. Titania watched him strike the damp earth with a thump; she gave a snort of laughter then came and towered over me. Her wild reddish mane, black in the dark-ness, eclipsed the moon, and I willed all thought and passion from my face. Except, I hoped, a measure of quiet dignity.

“A fair evening, Titania.”

She scoffed. “Vasili, you worm. Why the hell are you still here?”…


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One comment

  1. Terrific layout here, FanLit! I love what you’ve done with the place and this piece.

    Robert’s story is rollickin’ fun from the start and a grand inclusion of Return of the Sword. I’ve enjoyed reading some of his other work and am confident his name will long be associated with tales of heroic adventure.

    Thanks for the interview, Robert, and for the support to RBE you’ve provided.