Patrick Rothfuss is the author of the mega-bestselling novels The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and is currently hard at work on The Doors of Stone, the final volume in his epic fantasy trilogy The Kingkiller Chronicle. His latest book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is a novella set in the same world. This new book is enough of a departure that Rothfuss took the unusual step of writing an author’s introduction that begins, “You might not want to buy this book.” That may cost him some sales, but will hopefully result in fewer disappointed readers.
“If only five percent of my readers end up reading this and hating it, that’s still kind of a lot of readers,” Rothfuss says in Episode 122 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’ve got upwards of half a million here in the US alone, and pissing off five percent of those is kind of a lot of people.”
The Slow Regard of Silent Things delves into the mind of Auri, a quirky, mysterious character from the earlier books. Rothfuss warns that the story is likely to be confusing for new readers, like starting a movie in the middle. The book also lacks many of the qualities readers might expect from his writing, such as vivid action scenes or witty banter. In the afterword Rothfuss recounts how the story grew in its own peculiar way despite his best efforts to force it into a more conventional shape.
“This story is about who Auri is and what she’s like,” he says. “The people that are curious about Auri, and about this piece of my world, that’s who this story is for.”
Since Auri is such a peculiar character with such an unusual worldview, it took a great deal of time and energy to maintain her voice for the length of an entire book. Spending a lot of time on each project is something Rothfuss is known for. He did 80 drafts of The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and solicited feedback from about 50 beta readers. And he reports that most of them have liked it a lot, despite his fears to the contrary.
“Am I obsessive? Yes I’m absolutely obsessive,” he says. “It’s entirely possible that I am not a well person. I’m fully willing to admit that.”
Listen to our complete interview with Patrick Rothfuss in Episode 122 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (above), and check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Patrick Rothfuss on Tunnel Bob:
“Auri started from stories my father would tell me about a guy that he knew called Tunnel Bob. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s just a little different from the rest of us, and he is constantly getting arrested for being in the steam tunnels underneath the university, you know, the access tunnels that every big city has. My dad used to run engineering for one of the hospitals down there, and so he had to learn how to deal with Tunnel Bob, like everyone in the city, because he gets into your tunnels. What do you do? And so my dad actually solved the problem by saying Tunnel Bob could volunteer there three hours a week, but the rest of the time he couldn’t be in there. And it worked like a charm. Suddenly they didn’t have to worry about him wandering around when he wasn’t allowed, because he would do anything to protect these three precious hours where he was officially sanctioned to be in their tunnels. … ‘So what do you do down there in the tunnels?’ my dad would ask, and he’d say, ‘Well, the first hour I walks around a bit, and the second hour I cleans up some, and the third hour, well, that’s just for me.’”
Patrick Rothfuss on childhood:
“I was a very good boy. I was not terribly rebellious. I was not terribly wild. I liked to stay at home and read books. I lived out in the country, and the only neighbor within any sort of walking distance was my grandpa, who lived up the hill. And then he moved out of that house and some other people moved in, and there was a kid who was exactly my age, and he kept coming to my house. He would come to my house and he’d knock on the door, and he’d say, ‘Do you want to do something?’ Because he came from a suburb where there were a ton of kids, and they were always playing and doing things together. And he’d come and he’d knock on my door, and I’d look at him like, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ because I’d never had anyone of my own age to play with before. And he’s like, ‘Let’s do something,’ and I’m thinking, ‘I am doing something. I’m reading a book, and you are interrupting me. Go away.’”
Patrick Rothfuss on Acquisitions, Inc.:
“I told my publisher, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go play D&D with the Penny Arcade guys,’ and she’s like, ‘You should probably stay at home and work on your book.’ And I said, ‘No, no, no. You don’t understand. I’m going to go play D&D on stage in front of two thousand people, and another twenty thousand are going to watch it live streaming, and then another couple hundred thousand are going to watch it online, after the fact. And she was just flabbergasted by that, in the same way that those of us who aren’t into sports just can’t understand why anyone would go to a football game. But it’s a little more understandable if, instead of ‘role-playing’ or ‘D&D,’ you say, ‘I’m going to watch a group of incredibly quick-witted, articulate, funny people engage in interactive, improvisational storytelling for two hours.’ And then suddenly you realize that what it really is is Whose Line Is It Anyway? with a strong narrative thread. … And as a bonus we get dragons and sword fights too.”
Patrick Rothfuss on Infocom games:
“They called it ‘interactive fiction,’ and it was absolutely interactive fiction. You read the text, and you took actions, and your actions influenced the games. And one of these games, Zork III , I played with my friend Chad, in like the sixth grade. We started in sixth grade and we played that game for two years before we solved it. … It was pre-internet. It was vastly pre-internet. We had no answers and no way to get them. … When I talk to the brilliant people in my generation — people doing things, telling stories, making things, they played Infocom games. Neil Gaiman played Infocom games, Terry Pratchett played Infocom games, Felicia Day played Infocom games, and they were all frustrated, and they all spent months trying to get the frickin’ Babel Fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy . And now it’s virtually impossible to write a game that successfully provides challenge and frustration, and that’s a shame. We are going to lose something that makes scientists, that makes doers, that makes hard-minded, witty, clever people, and I worry that those people aren’t being made these days.”