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INTERVIEW WITH ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI

    Note: English mini-version of the interview made to Andrzej Sapkowski in Madrid, November 2001. All the rest of the website and this special is in Spanish. If you are looking for more info, take a look at the Spanish version and get a translator :)

 

    CDK: So well, it's very difficult to start, because I've read the interview made by Luis to you published in Gigamesh magazine. I've tried to make some new questions, different, from the usual ones people ask you in the interviews.

    I've read on El Mundo that some of your fans in Poland are not very happy the film.

    ANS: They have the right to be unhappy. The film is completely trash.

    CDK: What is different in the film?

    ANS: Everything. It's very correct if you want to make a movie out of one's book. But it's very good to read the book before [laughs]. The people from the film have done it about I suppose a very very small part of it, they didn't understood a shit.

    CDK: The film on screen is the same as the TV series one?

    ANS: Yes, yes, it's the same and the same errors and so. So they found out things that I have never written. And what I have written they considered it not important at all.

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    CDK: What a pity. Sure we'll never see the film in Spain.

    ANS: And they, evidently, have taken all the success of the book, without the false modesty, as far as foolish situation of the polish writers is concerned. So they imagine that all the success is based of such things, the contents of the book are completely completely not important. The important is the history of a guy who kills people, and sometimes fucks the ladies [laughs].

    CDK: Conan.

    ANS: Conan!, not Conan, it's worse [laughs]. Dialogs! Not important at all, because, you know, who's reading? [the author takes a copy of the Spanish edition from the table] Look at these small letters, can you read it? No!, it's impossible [laughs]. They cannot read any books.

    CDK: For example, The Lord of the Rings...

    ANS: Oh, if I may ask you one thing, let's not speak about the movie.

    CDK: Not the film but the book, ok. The film has brought many people to read fantasy. They have LOTR as their first books on fantasy. Do you think this is good? People starting in LOTR?

    ANS: It was the case with me. And I consider is by good.

    CDK: But every time Tolkien, Tolkien,...

    ANS: Sorry, he was the first. The first, together with Robert E. Howard, who created this all. So they have all the right to be great and to be on the first place, all the right. For sure, a respect on Tolkien. Everywhere is Tolkien.

    I'm not saying that the film is nothing. I didn't see it. I've no time to comment it.

    CDK: You haven't?

    ANS: No, no. People stay with the open mouth when they hear that I haven't seen it. I've heard very good opinions from many people, so maybe I will see it.

    CDK: I'm going to tell you something about Spanish fantasy, not the authors, but the readers. What they use to read is Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, what we call "dragonadas" [dragon stories]. For these people, what does have Geralt different, than, for example, let's put a similarity, Drizz Do'Urden.

    ANS: I don't like Drizz Do'Urden. Maybe Geralt has nothing in special. I suppose is just a well-conceived personage. The point is that, in my opinion, what it's most important is the story. What you call "dragonadas" we call "game-books", because they're mostly set in a world of RPG, Forgotten Realms, for example, or Dragonlance. Dragons of Winter Dawn, Dragons of Autumn Dawn, or Winter More [laughs]. They're simply sessions of RPG written, so there's no story at all.

    It's, eh, one guy walks, hits the dragon, dragon is death. Guy walks walks walks, meets two goblins, two goblins are death, and so on! Without stoping, without thinking, without anything. Sometimes he sits and thinks what to do next. Who shall I kill? It's not a story at all, just a protocol, a protocol from the book [laughs]. The stories set in the world of Warhammer are very popular in Poland. For me there's no story at all.

    CDK: So you write "in your own way".

    ANS: I suppose, a lot of people write like this, I told you. I'm not a great fan of long sagas, or cycles. There are cycles and cycles. Look at the cycle Amber, from Robert Zelazny, look at the cycle Lyonesse, look at Stephen Donaldson, and the story about Thomas Covenant. They are also cycles, where you have tome I, tome II, Tome III, and so on, but they are very well told stories.

    CDK: Did you ever imagine the success you have in Poland?

    ANS: Frankly speaking, no.

    CDK: And when it came, like a writer, like a man, what did you think?

    ANS: It's was quite unexpected... it's considered something it cannot be repeated. People don't talk about the book but the sociological event. Will never happen again, because it was the right time, the right place, the right moment, the right people, and the right book. Everything was right at the moment.

    CDK: Luis is trying to create the same "effect" here...

    ANS: Let's go, let's go [laughs]. Of course, right now I can count on a wide group, an "elite", of polish fans, but I'm still very far from the selling of Stephen King.

    CDK: Stanislaw Lem is polish, is the "unique" polish writer...

    ANS: Is not the writer of the writers anymore. Maybe forty years ago, not anymore.

    CDK: Some people think that you have inherited Lem's spirit, what do you think?

    ANS: I know what science fiction is from the histories of Lem, that's for sure, because Lem was to be read in many polish newspapers, when we have practically not imports of English books, translations, and so on... because, you know, political times where not so good for an author in Poland. So if you wanted to read something about science fiction you must buy Lem. Lem has written many books that are milestones, "canonical" books, there's no doubt about it.

    CDK: With communism in Poland it was difficult to find foreign books, did it change with the "change"?

    ANS: Absolutely. Science fiction was translated in Poland without any problem, we had Tolkien, LeGuin, Zelazny, a lot of Russian as Strugatsky, but they were very hard to get, don't know why, in bookshops. After the economical and political change, like mushrooms after the rain, some people started to publish books, maybe three of four, mostly fans, and saw that fantasy and science fiction sells well. It's quite a good business. You approach foreign authors, you translate them, very quickly, translate the books in weeks, not months. Everywhere is full of these colorful covers, everywhere.

    In my city, for example, there are a few bookstores which consider themselves "higher", on the "higher level". They only sell "very serious books", not science fiction. "Not speak about fantasy at all!". But now they are falling, Sapkowski is there, because money is money.

    CDK: Typical question, sorry. How Geralt was born, and why? Were you inspired by something, not an author, but an idea?

    ANS: Ok, again, it's very typical. I was writing the story for a competition. I tried to make something very untypical, something that made people say "oh! something new", not a Conan, or another RPG. This "something new", in my opinion, should be made taken something typical, a fairy tale, and make out of this fairy tale a fantasy history. A fairy tale is just that, a tale, for children. A fantasy story is something that happens for real. In fantasy dragons, goblins, unicorns, exists. A fairy tale is like this: in some city, there is a princess, which is under a spell, by some creature, like a magician or a witch. Here comes the hero, the small, very poor guy who is the seventh son of the shoemaker. Everybody try to kill the monster or the witch, knights, warriors, no one success. And this shoemaker successes, gets the princess for wife and gets the kingdom. So, how to do fantasy out of such a fairy tale? You make it real.

    If someone have to do this work, who comes? A professional.

    CDK: A professional monster-killer [laughs].

    ANS: He looks on the trees or on the sticks put on the markets squares for "We need someone to kill the witch", "We need someone to kill the demon". So he comes he and kills it. My hero was born, who is a professional, let's say, "Rating Exterminator".

    CDK: Would you have changed things, literally talking, of the first books of this series, when you were writing the last?
   
Did you feel your hero was changing in this process, maybe even your way of writing?

    ANS: Not really. If was the result of some deeper thinking, never the result of searching the market. But of course I would rewrite many things that I've written. Many things that I was sure that will be not important, just an episode, I made them bigger. Sometimes another people appear, another things happen. But it never was like a RPG, "I don't know what to do, I take two dices, I roll the dices. If it'll be one, I'll kill you. If it'll be six, I'll heal Mary the Princess". No.

    CDK: Then, nothing to regret about the first books.

    ANS: Everything it's ok, nothing it's ok. Every thought was according to a plan, planned so and made it so.

    CDK: Do you have any goal in the future? You're now writing historical fantasy, will you write again heroical fantasy?

    ANS: I don't know. I cannot tell it for sure. Zelazny also said he would never write another Amber book, and he did. But now I have another plans, I'm not planning another story of such type, like Geralt ones.

    CDK: Well, you can afford that. You're famous, I suppose you've earned money; you can relax and decide what you'd like to write.

    ANS: More or less, more or less, it's never that way. The writers in Europe don't earn as much as American ones. In America, if you have one best seller, you get rich.

    Also, many famous writers, like Silverberg, Eddings, Jordan, publish in many publishers. It Poland it's completely different.

    CDK: Are your books published in the United States?

    ANS: No. I'm trying to do something but it's very hard without a good agent. I've plans, an anthology of polish short stories, and one story is mine.

    CDK: Would Geralt be the new Conan?

    ANS: Let's hope no [laughs]. I consider Howard a milestone of fantasy, the grandfather of fantasy, but I've never write so. You must to know who Howard was.

 

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