World of Warcraft: Traveler
Cate: Thank you very much, Robert. Now we come to a critically acclaimed novelist Emmy-nominated animation writer, Greg Weisman. He has his fans. Give it up! You might remember Disney’s Gargoyles and Star Wars: Rebels, among other little projects; and now he is here to talk to us about World of Warcraft: Traveler, Blizzard’s new action adventure book series, primarily targeted at kids age 8 to 12; but it’s really a wonderful read for people of all ages with illustrations by Samwise Didier.
Some people might know him from Blizzard Art. Now Greg, when you first came to us we already had a fairly fleshed out road map for the characters and storylines we wanted Traveler to explore, but a lot of what is in book One is pure Greg Weisman. Tell us what you brought and what inspired you?
Greg: Well, it was a lot of fun just absorbing all the material, and there was a lot to absorb because there’s a lot of lore in World of Warcraft.
And yeah, Blizzard had a pretty clear idea about the lead character Aramar, but as I went through the materials, I felt that the book was sort of very male, very masculine. Most of the characters were male. All the significant characters were male. It wasn’t a very diverse universe that didn’t seem to fit the Azeroth that I was seeing online.
So one of the things I wanted to do was create a second lead character named Makasa Flintwill, who was (A) female, and (B) of color, and for the crew of Wavestrider — which is the ship that they are both sailing on, there are other species on there, but among the humans I wanted to make sure that that was a diverse group of individuals as well.
So a lot of what I was doing was trying to sort of, on the one hand, create a more general diversity; but also, with specificity just create more individuals in the book as opposed to types, because that also seemed like an important theme to the book that Aramar sort of is very naive and he enters this world assuming a lot of things about species and people; and one of the main lessons he learns throughout the first book is just not to do that, and to realize that everyone is an individual in that everyone is more connected than he thought; and Aramar is a sketch artist, and he carries a sketchbook with him everywhere he goes.
So all this art that Samwise did for us is really in the book. You don’t see Sammy’s signature on it, you see Aramar’s signature down in the corner there, because those are all in theory his sketches, and what Aramar found by drawing all these different species whether they were gnolls, or ogres, or night elves, or whatever, was that there is a basic musculature that we all have in common, and in drawing these creatures, and species that felt alien to him, by drawing them he connected with them, and that to me was a sort of an important element, that he began to see what everyone had in common as opposed to what was separating them, and that really changes who he is in the book.
Cate: That is one of the great lessons in the book, and about how your family are the people you find over time. I really love that.
Greg: We talk a lot in the book about everyone sort of has at least two families in their lives. There are the ones they grow up with, and then the one they sort of form, whether it is your wife and kids, or the crew of the Wavestrider, or whatever family is… it is a flowing concept and not a stagnant one.
Cate: Speaking of family, Greg you had a unique challenge, because you had to take World of Warcraft which is a game that was conceived for teen and older audiences, mature themes, violence, and you had to translate it for younger readers age 8 through 12. Did you encounter any difficulties with that?
Greg: Not a lot. I mean, my background mostly is in animation. And when we write a cartoon like Gargoyles, or Young Justice, or Star Wars: Rebels, we want to make sure that we’ve got plenty of fun stuff for the younger audience, but we write it on layers. So there is stuff there for an older viewer in the case of the cartoons, or in the case of this book, for older readers to appreciate as well.
Stuff that isn’t going to leave the younger readers out, but which they will sort of glide by because it doesn’t register for them, but which an older reader will sort of get and hook onto. Look, ultimately, I say this all the time: I write for myself. That’s all I know how to do, because I need to be passionate about the work, because my assumption is that if I’m not passionate about it, how can I expect any reader at all to ever be passionate about it; and so I don’t write down to kids. I don’t believe in doing that. I never did that in the cartoons I’ve done.
Right now, I work for a pre-school show called Shimmer and Shine. It’s for 2 to 4 year-olds, basically, and I still try not to write down to the audience at all. I just think it’s really important that we respect kids, and we respect their intelligence, and their ability to interpret things. I mean, there was a little bit of violence that we toned down, not in terms of what happens, but just in terms of the way it’s described on the page.
Cate: A few decapitations, if I remember.
Greg: We still have decapitations in this book, but it’s been described in a reader-friendly way. Kid-friendly decapitations, and there is one there actually that I love in there, that I fought for a little, because I think it’s kind of hilarious. It’s a really funny decapitations. So I do think the book is great for ages 7 to 107, If you hit 108, you’re way out of the age range; but otherwise I really think it’s a book for all ages. It’s not just for kids, and even for kids younger than 7, it’s a great book to read aloud.
When my kids were younger, I read the Harry Potter books aloud to them, and all sorts of other books; and to me that’s a great way to connect with your kids. It is reading aloud to them, and it’s amazing what they can handle when they’re reading with their parents.
Next: StarCraft II: Evolution
|BLIZZCON 2016 BLIZZARD PUBLISHING PANEL TRANSCRIPT|
|Warcraft: Lord of the Clans||StarCraft II: The Keep||World of Warcraft: Chronicle|
|World of Warcraft: Traveler||StarCraft II: Evolution||Panel Q&A|