"The importance of Tolkien to me as a person and writer would be hard to overstate.
Hes the guy who sold me on F&SF, so in the broadest sense, the fact that I have
written in the genre at all is directly attributable to The Lord of the Rings. In
that sense, I owe him, among other things, a life-long lack of credibility. [smile]
"Clouds End and Nobodys Son are very different books, in
terms of homage. Clouds End is much more profoundly influenced by Tolkien. In fact,
the plot structure of the book is explicitly modeled on The Lord of the Rings: four
Everymen plus two Heroes of legend (the hobbits, Gandalf and Aragorn, versus my Islanders,
plus Seven and Jo) set out from domestic beginnings on a great quest. That the quest has
to end, meaningfully and profoundly, at your own hearthside is a lesson learned from the
great "Scouring of the Shire" section of The Lord of the Rings. ...
"I began Clouds End with the idea that all truly great works of fantasy
are sourced in a moral and indeed religious vision: the Catholicism that underpins The
Lord of the Rings, the neo-pagan roots of Mists of Avalon, the
equilibrium-oriented indigenous religious vision that inform A Wizard of Earthsea,
possibly borrowed from Ursula Le Guins anthropologist father. . . .
"The idea that great fantasy is informed by a religious vision left me, as
an atheist living in the post-existential 20th Century, in a bit of a fix. Clouds End
is an attempt, among other things, to write a Great Fantasy Novel sourced in the moral view
of the latter twentieth century, one in which the problem of evil ("when bad things
happen to good people") is addressed as directly and honestly as I could (The Lord
of the Rings meets The Unbearable Lightness of Being). In that sense, I believe
that Clouds End has a surface that looks less like Tolkien that the imitators, but
is truer to the moral imperative underpinning that great work."
Extracts from an interview with Sean Stewart by Alex Irvine, The Journal for the
Fantastic in the Arts (Autumn 1999)
Sean Stewart is the author of several fantasy novels, including Nobodys
Son (1995) and Clouds End (1996).