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15 Minutes of Fame: Caitlin R. Kiernan


15 Minutes of Fame is's look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

I've wandered around inside the fiction of Caitlín R. Kiernan, and I'm not at all certain I'd feel safe wandering around in her version of WoW. As it turns out, though, Kiernan plays WoW much like many of the rest of us do - smacking the "brain off" button at the end of a long day, tooling around various zones with a significant other, and somehow finding ourselves utterly embroiled in the microcosms that are the lives of the characters we spend so much time with. So an interview with Kiernan turned out to be a long, WoW-centric turn that she attacked with relish. "Truthfully, I think it's one of the most interesting interviews I've done lately, if only because I spend so little of it talking about writing," she blogged. We think it's pretty darn interesting, too.

Main characters Shaharrazad; Kalií

15 Minutes of Fame: I think anyone who's read your books can imagine that you might be captivated by a game like World of Warcraft. What do you find most appealing about the game?

CRK: I look at WoW as an escape from the sorts of worlds I write, as much as I see it as an escape from this world. WoW is an easy way for me to slip out of the grit and darkness I put into my own stories. There's something delightfully candy-colored and pleasingly campy about the game. I have been characterized, as an author, as "high serious," which I suppose is not so inaccurate. But in the game I can escape that.

I remember the first time I created a blood elf, I was just so smitten with the look and feel of Silvermoon City - the brooms that sweep on their own, the cats everywhere you look, the magical stacks of levitating books, and so forth. Those bright colors, and a sort of sparkling, wide-eyed 1001 Arabian Nights meets Lothlórien via Disney, but then you wander into a basement and find succubi forcing leprous gnomes to work, and I loved that sly, unexpected bit of social commentary. How the Sin'dorei maintain this fabulous fairy-tale existence with a slave workforce.

Have you played any MMOs prior to WoW? What about other games (console, PC games, etc.)?

The only other MMO I'd played is EVE Online, which I loved, but the learning curve was horrifically steep. Mostly, I'm a console gamer, PlayStation and Xbox. Or at least I was, before I became so hooked on WoW. I'm a big fan of ... oh, too many games to list. I love the Tomb Raider series, Prince of Persia, Jade Empire, the Ratchet and Clank games. And Final Fantasy, especially Final Fantasy X and X2. A lot of my favorites are quirky, unusual games that didn't sell so well, like Iko and Shadow of the Colossus, Primal, Beyond Good and Evil, Okami, Rise of the Kasai, and so forth. I loved Crimson Skies.

What's your WoWstyle?

I'm not even sure I was aware there are WoWstyles. I haven't done much PvP. I tend to either solo or play with my partner, Kathryn. In fact, usually, we play together.

I do have a weakness for alts, and at this point, I have 11 characters spread over three servers. A couple are bank alts, but I have this undeniable fondness for the first 30 or so levels. Every now and then, I find myself wanting to go through them all over again. Just this past weekend, I created my first troll, Jornda, and I don't know how much I'll play her, but those first few levels are always a rush. And part of the alt thing is wanting to see Azeroth and the game from the perspectives of all the races.

Mostly, I'm a solitary player, I guess. I've only recently even started playing with a guild. My draenei joined the Knights of Good (Zangarmarsh) back in the summer, and it's been kind of nice, being in a very well-organized, well-run guild, though I still mostly solo (or duo with Kathryn).

As for how I got started, I always blame the 10-day free trial.

You play both Horde and Alliance characters. Do you have a preference for one faction or the other?

The Horde, definitely. More specifically, the blood elves. Most of my time with the game has been spent on my Sin'dorei warlock. I love the design of the b'elfs, both the race and their world. Well, except for their mounts, those ridiculous emu-like bird things that remind me of psychedelic feather dusters with legs. Fortunately, warlocks get the felsteeds, which is mostly what Shaharrazad rides, though she's also fond of the undead mounts. But the backstory for the Sin'dorei, I think it's especially well done, so they've won my loyalty.

The draenei come in a close second, though, in terms of design and backstory. In truth, I think it's a shame the Exodar crashed near an Alliance city, instead of a Horde city. I feel like happenstance dumped them on the Alliance side of the fence. If only they'd crashed off the coast of Durotar, instead.

But, yeah, Horde. Strictly from a storytelling sense, I think the Horde works better for me. If I view the game as a story - which is how I tend to view the game - there's something awfully hypocritical about the way the Alliance presents itself. WoW's not a game of good against evil, not so far as the Alliance/Horde division is concerned, not for me. And the blood elves are no more corrupt or fallen from grace or whatever than the Kaldorei, who - if we're keeping score - went and planted Teldrassil without the permission of Nozdormu, leading to all sorts of corruption, and so forth. The Sin'dorei are just more honest and open about what they're up to, I think. The dwarves and humans are no more noble than the orcs and trolls and taurens.

One of the things I appreciate about the game is how, as we progress in The Burning Crusade, then into Wrath of the Lich King, we come to see the recognition of common foes and the setting aside of old prejudices. The largely arbitrary division between Alliance and Horde becomes increasingly less important.

You've admitted to becoming "horribly addicted" to the game. How do you balance WoW against the pull of deadlines, appearances and the other demands of a writer?

Sometimes it's extremely hard. I recall the interview that Catherynne M. Valente gave you, and she admitted to having stopped playing WoW because the game can be such a time suck. A very enjoyable time suck, but a time suck, nonetheless.

Usually, I only play at night, long after my day's writing and whatnot have been taken care off. And I also have to try to balance the time I spend on WoW with the time I need to spend reading and doing research, just getting out of the house, seeing people, etc. ... It's no secret that I'm a somewhat reclusive person, and it's easy to allow myself to fall into the trap of writing all day, playing WoW all night and doing nothing much else. It doesn't help that I'm kind of obsessive, a completist, and I want all the achievements and rep and titles. That's where the real time suckage begins, not with the quests, but all those ancillary aspects of the game.

I try not to play every night, but I usually do, at least a couple of hours. I just checked, and as of right now, I've spent 25 days, 7 hours, 13 minutes and 45 seconds playing Shaharrazad since I created her last autumn. She'd have eaten up more time, but I spent so much of this past summer leveling my draenei paladin. I see numbers like that, and it sort of scares me. That's a lot of my life I'm giving over to the game.

Do you find WoW to be a recharging getaway from writing, or do you have to guard against expending precious creative energy and time in game when you have a pressing writing project on your plate?

For me, WoW is an escape from work, from thinking about work and worrying about all the real-life stuff we have to worry about. I don't have to guard my creative energy from the game, because I've come to approach it only as a game, and not much in the way of creative energy goes into the way I play (which I guess gets back to the question about playing style). It's a way that I relax, and that actually helps with the writing. I can go into WoW and switch off my brain, or at least try to switch off my brain. In that sense, it is a sort of recharging.

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