Jim C. Hines Brings the Fantasy Funny
Jim C. Hines is the comic mastermind responsible for the Snort-Fest Trilogy--my name for it--consisting of Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, and, now, Goblin War (DAW). In these hilarious novels, Hines pokes fun at anything and everything while still maintaining a tight plot arc and creating believable characters. The result, to an old fantasy buff like me, is both entertaining and oddly nostalgic. I interviewed Mr. Hines via email recently to see what makes him tick, and to ask that all important question, "Ogres or goblins."
Amazon.com: How hard is it to do humorous heroic fantasy that also spoofs or satirizes serious heroic fantasy? There’s Shrek, there’s bad serious heroic fantasy, there’s all kind of competition.
Jim C. Hines: Actually, this is the kind of writing that's always come naturally to me. My first big sale was a story called "Blade of the Bunny." I whipped that story out in a week, and it won first place at Writers of the Future. Then my insecurities took over, and I spent years trying to write deep, serious, award-winning literature. One of my proudest moments was the first time I made someone in my writer's group cry with one of my stories. (On purpose, I mean.) I still do serious stories sometimes, but I've finally gotten comfortable with the lighter side of the genre. Heck, if a Campbell award winner like John Scalzi can write chapter-long fart jokes, I can certainly get away with a nose-picking injury...As for the competition, I've found that there's a pretty wide range of silly. I don't want to do outright parody, because I like keeping my own characters and stories at the core of the books. And to be honest, I'm not smart enough to do the kind of wickedly sharp satire you get from someone like Pratchett. Mostly, I just try to have fun with the story. If I'm making myself laugh, I figure most of my readers will be amused as well.
Amazon.com: Do you have any rules when writing a book like this as to what kinds of humor you’ll use and what kinds you won’t? Like, I’ll bet slapstick is difficult to do in print.
Jim C. Hines: You'd be surprised how much physical humor you can do with goblins and a flaming spider. My biggest rule is that the story comes first. Working a reference to The Giving Tree into Goblin War was fun, but it also added to the story and helped to develop one of the characters. My salute to Firefly, on the other hand, had to be cut because much as I loved it, that scene did nothing for the story. People would probably laugh if they got the reference, but if they didn't, they would have just read an entire page for nothing.
Amazon.com: Is that a blue Woody Allen on the cover of your book?
Jim C. Hines: Actually, it's a heavily Photoshopped Johnny Depp. Which means if you pick up the first book, you get to see Depp in a loincloth. We were trying to attract more female readers, you see....And Smudge the fire-spider was modeled by Paris Hilton. I don't know what we were thinking on that one. Blame it on the folks in marketing.
Amazon.com: To what extent is Goblin War a satire of the current presidential race?
Jim C. Hines: Goblins are selfish, cowardly, scheming, little monsters who'll stick a knife in you the second you turn your back, then feast on your barbequed corpse. On the other hand, they're completely up front about it, and they never pretend to be anything but what they are. That puts them a step above most of the politicians I've watched this year. Now that you mention it though, some of the human rhetoric in the book sounds oddly familiar. "If you're not with us, you're with the goblins!" And there's a scene where Trok the goblin is recounting a battle with a tunnel-cat, only to have witnesses testify that the cat was old, toothless, and dying before Trok ever got there. That kind of exaggeration reminds me of someone ... I just can't put my finger on who.
Amazon.com: Ogres or goblins?
Jim C. Hines: Don't get me started. I wrote the first draft of Goblin Quest back in 2000. My memory is tinged by rage and indignation, but as I recall, I typed "THE END," walked into the living room, turned on the TV, and saw my first preview of Shrek. In 2005, the folks at Dreamworks actually bought my book into a meeting to decide whether they should make Goblin Quest: The Movie.. In the end, they decided it was too similar to Shrek. If you've read the second goblin book, you saw how the ogres were treated. You think that's coincidence?...I eventually got over my ogre issues, thankfully. Once I was done with the goblins, I turned to a new series of butt-kicking fairy tale princesses. (Fairy tales crossed with Charlie's Angels.) It was fun. It was brilliant! It was original ... and then I saw Shrek 3 and their bit with the other fairy tale princesses. One of these days, that ogre and I are going to throw down, and only one of us is walking away.
Amazon.com: Halflings or dwarfs?
Jim C. Hines: Well, dwarfs are very upsetting. (Bonus points to everyone who gets that reference.) On the other hand, halflings have that weird hairy feet thing going on. What I'd really like to see is the dwarfs and the halflings get together and go medieval on that Travelocity gnome.
Amazon.com: Armored death bears or naked mole rats?
Jim C. Hines: Naked mole rats! If you can't have a fire-spider, a naked mole rat is the next best thing. Actually, if you give him a lighter, a naked mole rat could be an acceptable fire-spider substitute. As for the bears, they might be big and tough and scary, but they just come close to the sheer awesome that is the naked mole rat. Can I hear a booyah?
Amazon.com: Finally, if birds are dragons without scales, what are terriers?
Jim C. Hines: To goblins? Lunch. Preferably roasted for a day or two, soaked in blood gravy and then brushed with a nice honey glaze. The more adventuresome goblins will probably add a sprinkling of fire-spider eggs for that extra kick. It would go well with klak beer. But then, goblins think everything goes well with klak beer.