Orctober – Creator Spotlight – Scott Oden


Scott and I go way back. He was one of my first supporters post-Kickstarter in 2014 and we became friends sometime last year after I realized he was the same Scott from the Sword & Sorcery group on goodreads.

Scott is probably a bit of an odd one out for the creators this month as he is a much bigger fan of Tolkien’s orcs. Scott’s the rare orc fan who doesn’t like the green-skin (not that he would ever turn them away). His first book, A Gathering of Ravens, comes out next year and, like Amalia, plays with mythology in a big way and errs on the side of the grand epic. We joke that our protagonists could be distant cousins as Ravens stars Grimnir. There’s just something about Grim- names.

When did you start creating?
I started writing with an eye toward making it my career in 1981, at the tender age of 14. Before that, I’d been tinkering with writing role-playing games — indeed, my first published work was a RPG that seriously mimicked the world and tropes of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. But, in April of ’81 I recall reading an article in an old issue of Writer’s Digest where it talked about being paid to write. That was the first I’d heard of this phenomenon and it caused the classic “lightbulb” moment. “I like writing, and I’d love to be paid for it!” Thus, I set out to learn how to do that. Mostly, my textbooks were the stories I loved: JRR Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Fritz Leiber. Another issue of WD talked about starting by copying your favorite writers and then going off on your own when you felt comfortable. So, that’s what I did. Took decades of trial-and-error and enough rejection slips to paper a large room . . .

Why do you love orcs?
To me, they are the ultimate “other”: outcast, hated, who most “civilized” races feel compelled to kill on sight. Sure, they can be quarrelsome, violent, profane, barbaric — any number of associated descriptors — but they are also undeniably us. I think that was Tolkien’s intent when he first wrote them, to give 20th century man a place in his saga. The same sort of men he recalled from his time in the trenches during WWI.

When I was a child, if ever I found myself on the receiving end of a bully’s attention (which, I’m glad to say, was rare), I would persevere through the abuse and find myself later daydreaming about revenge. That revenge invariably involved having an Orc at my disposal — a big, crook-legged brute like Grishnakh, with fangs and a jagged knife. Sometimes, my daydream would shift to me becoming an Orc, like a skin-changer. I still dream about it, about having or being an Orc. Now, though, I use fiction as an outlet for those dreams. I imagine therapists would have a field day with that one.

What’s your favorite piece of your work?
Overall, A Gathering of Ravens (coming in June of 2017); specifically, there’s a chapter in the first part of the book where my Orc and his Christian captive fall afoul of a Norse dwarf and find themselves inside Yggdrasil. Cool Nordic imagery, combined with twelve stanzas of Norse verse . . . I think I was on fire the day I wrote that chapter.

What’s your favorite piece of someone else’s work?
I’d say Tolkien’s “Orc chapters”: “The Uruk-hai” in The Two Towers, “The Tower of Cirith Ungol” and “The Land of Shadow” in The Return of the King. But, there’s a scene in “The Tower of Cirith Ungol” that has stuck with me for many years. The scene where Shagrat is hunting Snaga around the roof of the tower; a badly-injured Gorbag nearly gets him, but Shagrat triumphs. That whole scene is the quintessence of Orcishness.

What’s your biggest hope for orcs in media?
I would love for some enterprising filmmaker to make a serious film on Orcs, something with more depth and pathos than the usual fantasy fare. Get decent physical prosthetics rather than CGI, good actors like Stephen Ure (who played several of the Orcs in LOTR), and a script that is more than a collection of rehashed tropes and tired cliches. Or, you know, just option A Gathering of Ravens 🙂

Once again, we all really want to see more movies starring orcs. I am shocked, folks. Are you shocked? I am shocked.

One thought on “Orctober – Creator Spotlight – Scott Oden

  1. Thanks for the spotlight, Ashe! Yeah, I’ve always been more a fan of the “classic” Orc than either the pig-faced variety or the Green-skins. And I’m very fond of JRRT’s later-discarded notion that his Orcs were bred from tortured Elves. I borrowed a few of his themes for my Orcs in A Gathering of Ravens (my fourth book, actually — the other three run from straight historical fiction to light historical fantasy).

    I wish some enterprising producer would take a hint and put a serious Orc flick into production . . . 🙂


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