The Geekettes Talk to Lev Grossman

At Book Expo America this year, Daily Geekette Editors-In-Chief Kayla and Megan had the opportunity to sit down with Lev Grossman, author of the bestselling Magicians trilogy. When Grossman identified himself as a feminist with zero hesitation at the beginning of the interview, citing hopes for his daughters to become “the people they’re meant to be,” we knew we were in for a great conversation. In addition to Grossman’s own writing, we discussed the controversy around the Hugo Awards, the adaptation of The Magicians for the Syfy channel, and the growing acceptance of fantasy as a genre in the “serious” literary world.

Photo: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the biggest things on our minds as fans of The Magicians trilogy lately has been the upcoming television series on Syfy. We asked Grossman how he thought the show might affect him, considering the way Game of Thrones has raised George R.R. Martin’s public profile. Grossman described himself as being “pseudo-famous” at BEA (and in fact the interview was briefly interrupted twice by people wanting to talk to Grossman after we were done), but said he “will never get to where George is.” In fact, Grossman credits Martin for opening up his own understanding of what fantasy could be: “Game of Thrones was the book for me that demonstrated…that fantasy was changing, that you could do all of these things with it…Break all these rules that I didn’t know you could break. It was transformative…”

When asked about the one scene of sexual violence in the second book being brought to the screen, Grossman admitted that there may be some controversy about it, but stated scenes like those “must be justified, dramatically, emotionally – they have to proceed out of the logic of the story you’re telling.” He was also hopeful about the show bringing possible new readers to the books: “…you write books, you want people to read them. It would be so great if people who should find them found them because of the show.”

Jason Ralph as Quentin in Syfy's The Magicians
Jason Ralph as Quentin in Syfy’s “The Magicians”

Speaking of reading, Grossman is currently reading his way through Sir Thomas Malory’s Arthurian writings, as research for a possible future project. As he describes Malory: “…it gets really boring…. who pushed who off a horse with a stick, over and over again. But that world is so interesting and weird…. I’m sort of getting into it.” When asked if he could have any project green-lit by a publisher, Grossman ultimately settled on a Magicians graphic novel, “a project that has sort of flickered on and off for a while.” He said that upon seeing British artist Christian Wildgoose’s comic Porcelain, he thought “if there’s ever a Magicians comic, he doesn’t have to draw it, but this is what it should look like, and it would be cool if he drew it.”

As an aspiring fantasy author myself (Megan), I was curious what Grossman thought of the aversion to genre writing in many MFA programs, especially considering his mother used to teach in one at Bennington College. Grossman replied that “there’s no question which way the pendulum is swinging [because] fantasy is so much more present in the mainstream than people tend to acknowledge…We’re already there, I think people just have to sort of wake up and realize that.” He also described the controversy around this year’s Hugo Awards as “a complete nightmare,” but felt like George R.R. Martin had already addressed it in a very definitive way (Martin made numerous posts on his blog about the issue). Grossman’s feelings were: “It’s upsetting that people are using the Hugos to make a political statement. It’s like, to the power of ten of upsetting that they’re using it to make the utterly witless and offensive political statement that they’re making.”

As the interview wrapped up, Grossman shared a really cool tidbit about Holly Black: “…people come to her so she can fix their books…. people call her in the middle of the night ‘I have this plot problem’ and she’s just like ‘Okay, do this.’ She always knows.” A week after BEA, as I was starting a new book – sure enough, the author thanked Holly Black. Grossman also told us about a great (but sadly no longer active) Twitter account that existed solely to remind people not to read the comments. Ever.

Not only did we enjoy a fantastic conversation with Mr. Grossman, we learned quite a bit as well. Lev Grossman is a brilliant feminist author, and the staff of Daily Geekette can not wait to read whatever he writes next!

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