~ News Interview with Robert Stanek on the creation of Ruin Mist
I learned about your books from [a recent magazine article]
talking about Ruin Mist, the fantasy world you created. What
do you say
to those who are calling you the Tolkien for the new millennium?
Stanek: I'm not a Tolkien Scholar.
I don't know enough about Tolkien the
man to answer that. The epic story and history written into his books
my life. That's what I've said for the record. I don't know what
others are saying [about my writing].
Okay, for the record. I see from your resume that you worked in
Intelligence in the military. You were a linguist. Tolkien
linguist. You are a combat veteran, a very distinguished one. Tolkien's
writing was shaped by his love of language
and his experiences during
World War II. How did those things influence your writing?
Stanek: First, clarification.
Stanek: Tolkien knew Middle English, Latin, Finnish and a half dozen
other languages. I've studied, "studied",
Spanish, German, Japanese,
Korean and Russian.
Tribune: You lived in Germany and Japan.
speaker when I lived there, but that was years ago.
Tribune: [Smiles] Okay, I'm rooted back to earth now. It's refreshing
that you are so down to earth about all this. Can we get back to how
language and war influenced your writing?
Well, I started writing about Ruin Mist in '86. I was stationed
in Japan then. I learned a lot about eastern cultures
I studied the language. Having just come from the Defense Language
Institute's intensive Russian
Language course, I had an easier time
learning Japanese and then Korean. Eastern culture and philosophy is so
A lot of the language and culture spilled over into my
writing, especially the history of Ruin Mist. Ruin Mist has three
realms: Over-Earth, Under-Earth and Middle-Earth. A lot of Under-Earth's
feudal history comes from ancient Japanese
and Korean history.
Tribune: I'm Polish. I see a lot of Slavic influence as well.
Stanek: Definitely. Many philosophies
from the Slavs. I am a Slav. My
father is Polish-Hungarian. I've borrowed words and word bases, like
Kapital and Zashchita.
Many others. Ancient Elvish in Ruin Mist has a
Slavic base. Hence "Eh tera mir dolzh formus tan!" are the words of
Xith speaks to activate one of the Gates of Uver. Loosely
translated, it means "From the earth the gate must form." Contrast
to Tolkien, who might have thought this language too harsh for his
romantic notion of elves.
You mentioned Tolkien, I didn't.
Stanek: Fair, I did. [Smiles]
Tribune: Have you worked on Ruin Mist steadily
Stanek: No, on and off. I wrote the first part of the history and
several of the books in the 80's while
stationed in Japan. After that I
went to Combat Air School, then to Germany. Things changed after that.
The Gulf War?
Stanek: Yeah, that changed a lot of priorities for me. I saw things so
differently afterward. The
experiences changed my view of everything.
Tribune: You started college. '91 to '96. Earned a bachelor's and a
degree, both with distinction, while still in the military.
Stanek: You did your homework.
You could say I became a little bit obsessed with work. After
the Gulf, working practically 24x7 for all those months,
it was hard to
shift gears. If I wasn't doing something, I'd go stir crazy. I still
can't just sit down and relax
without making myself do it.
Tribune: Where was Ruin Mist during this time?
Stanek: On my mind frequently, but
I didn't have time to write that
often. My wife and I had our first child in '92. That changed a lot of
well. I did manage to complete the realm maps and more of the
Tribune: Do you plan on publishing the history
as well as the books?
Stanek: I've written a companion volume called Ruin Mist Heroes, Legends
and Beyond. That
has some of the history, but I don't think I'll ever
publish the whole history. Who'd want to see it anyway?
About a billion Tolkien fans for starters.
Stanek: You said Tolkien? [Smiles]
Tribune: I did? [Looks at his
watch] We've run over. You said you had to
finish by 3.
Stanek: Yeah, I really do need to. Is that okay?
Next time, then?
Stanek: Sure. I think it'd be fun.