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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Cartooning the controversy

I've been pleased to see that most of those who have taken on the task of slogging all the way through A THRONE OF BONES appear to think rather well of it.  And while my publisher suffered an understandable amount of angst prior to publication, I'm not terribly surprised that there haven't been too many serious objections to the presence of vulgar language, graphic violence, and sexual scenes in the novel.  I think this is because most of the individuals prone to thoughtless knee-jerk reactions aren't going to go to the trouble of wading through an 850-page book in order to go through their fainting couch routine.  Not when there are so many shorter books available about which they can more easily complain. 

Those who take the requisite time to read through the book tend to see that the inclusion of these less-family friendly elements adds to the verisimilitude of the reader's experience.  None of us may have experienced an arrow grazing our cheek or piercing our arm, but we have all had that moment when we misapply the hammer or slip with the knife, and we all know what tends to come out of our mouths at such moments.  It is seldom hosannas of praise to our Maker or calm and reasoned discourses on the manifold wonders of Science.

In like manner, many of us have been away from our wives for a month or more, and we all know the intense combination of desire and hunger that we feel upon seeing them, smelling them, and touching them.  To omit such aspects of the human experience is to deny reality, it is to deny a vital element of God's Creation, and it is to make the fiction even more of a lie than it already is.  I don't criticize those authors who choose to omit these more mature elements, as I am sure they have their reasons for making such compromises, but I am staunchly opposed to those readers and publishers who would deny authors the ability to make such decisions for themselves.

What the SFWA writers who have mocked me for preferring, (and know that it is a choice on my part), to be published by a small and independent press fail to understand is that freedom is now more important than advances, marketing muscle and retail distribution.  The beauty of Hinterlands is that I can not only write exactly what I want to write, but I also have the freedom to use my books however I see fit.  By the end of this year, the significance of that should become obvious in a way that has implications that go far beyond with whom I happen to publish.

The cartoon makes a valid point.  Many of those who question or condemn the vulgar legionaries in A THRONE OF BONES don't hesitate to watch NCIS or read A DANCE WITH DRAGONS.  I'm entirely willing to accept criticism from those who limit their media consumption to 50-year old Disney movies and Christian bonnet fiction, but not from anyone who betrays even the slightest familiarity with secular entertainment.

I know I'm not the ideal standard bearer for the cause of historical and intellectual verisimilitude in science fiction and fantasy, much less the cause of behavioral realism in Christian fiction.  I'm too outlandish, too controversial, too vulgar, and too intellectual.  I'm also insufficiently talented as a wordsmith; the primary role of my prose is to simply stay out of the way of the story and the reader's experience of the world and the characters.  The problem is that there doesn't appear to be anyone else who is willing and able to point out the observable problems, provide the counterexamples, and then face the inevitable criticism.

So we're left with a literary movement that consists of one writer, of limited literary abilities, who is published by a small press that doesn't sell to the retail chains.  It shouldn't have a chance in Hell of making any difference whatsoever, and yet, it has one key thing going for it.  It is aligned with the truth, and the truth always wins out in the end.

Labels:

48 Comments:

Blogger Nate February 09, 2013 6:03 AM  

Always out numbered...

Anonymous jaciii February 09, 2013 6:13 AM  

And never outgunned.

Blogger SgtGideonsDad February 09, 2013 6:23 AM  

I really enjoyed your book VD. The 854 pages went quite fast. The Magic Broken went the same way and it doesn't matter if you read them in order either, I didn't.

Blogger Heuristics February 09, 2013 6:32 AM  

>"I'm entirely willing to accept criticism from those who limit their media consumption to 50-year old Disney movies and Christian bonnet fiction"

And off course here in Scandinavia the opposite problem happens. Those 50 year old Disney movies are the ones that get censored.

http://www.thelocal.se/45080/20121214

Anonymous Outlaw X February 09, 2013 7:24 AM  

And never bowed or kneeled.

Anonymous daddynichol February 09, 2013 7:30 AM  

Perhaps those who would object to a ATOB are too busy reading and discussing "50 Shades of Grey". The have been several professed Christians in my circle of friends who admit to reading the book, but were shocked, SHOCKED at the vulgarity all the way to the end.

Write on, Mr. Day.

Anonymous daddynichol February 09, 2013 7:34 AM  

This quote from A Throne of Bones is the one that created a distinct image in my mind.

"Behind them, twelve pairs of sightless eyes watched their retreat with the indifference of the dead."

Anonymous MikeH February 09, 2013 7:40 AM  

I consider myself to be a fairly pious person. Yet, when I was in the Navy, I would talk like a sailor. In fact, keeping the vulgarity out of my daily discourse is a conscious rather than an unconscious act. If I am tired, stressed, etc. I will slip out with the colorful language that betrays my past. The idea that you could have a group of soldiers that are deployed for the lengths of time that they were in the book, face the hardships that they did AND maintain a G-rated vocabulary is preposterous.

Ain't gonna happen. In any language. In any army. EVER.

The reality is that your description of the language was toned down a bit. Real troops speak in their own language that would be difficult for an outsider to understand without context.

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 7:58 AM  

The reality is that your description of the language was toned down a bit.

True. As was the marital reunion scene, which was edited so heavily that barely anything was left. I was just happy that at least it was still recognizable for what it was.

Anonymous RR February 09, 2013 8:06 AM  

The reality is that your description of the language was toned down a bit.

True. As was the marital reunion scene, which was edited so heavily that barely anything was left. I was just happy that at least it was still recognizable for what it was.


I remember being amused by the rough talking bits because of the word you used to replace the F-word. Was that your change or the editor's?

And what was that word again? Fuzzle? Foggle? I can't quite remember...

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 8:18 AM  

"Futter": coined by Richard Francis Burton from French foutre. It was my choice. I liked the vaguely medieval sound of it, especially since it's not used as an expostulate, it only describes the act.

Blogger Nate February 09, 2013 8:28 AM  

i confess I was somewhat disappointed with the editing of the reunion seen. I am not looking for literotica here... but honestly... when reading it... it felt disjointed... I literally had "over edited" pop into my head. Maybe it was just me... but it seemed like a real slash job.

Anonymous dh February 09, 2013 8:31 AM  

It is aligned with the truth, and the truth always wins out in the end.

What the hell is going on with you? Did some give you a magic unicorn shot of happiness and optimism? The truth no more wins in the end than the guy always get the chick or the good guys always win.

Anonymous Stilicho February 09, 2013 8:33 AM  


Ain't gonna happen. In any language. In any army. EVER.


Quite true. Not in Cromwell's oh-so-Puritan New Model Army, nor the Knights Templar, or Hospitaller, and likely not even amongst the Swiss Guards. As Kipling put it "'e learns to drop the "bloodies" from every word 'e slings" and "single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints."

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 8:45 AM  

What the hell is going on with you? Did some give you a magic unicorn shot of happiness and optimism?

Pretty much. About more anon. Not today anon, but eventually.

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 8:46 AM  

Maybe it was just me... but it seemed like a real slash job.

It is about one-quarter the length of the original. Editor's call. I have no complaints.

Anonymous John February 09, 2013 9:31 AM  

As a relative newcomer to the site, and Vox' writing, could someone offer up their opinion on which of Vox' books they regard as the best? I plan on buying one, and want to start with his best effort.

Love the blog. Very entertaining stuff. Seems the Rabbity business has, to a large degree, run its course, but oh what fun it was.

Anonymous Fatherof10 February 09, 2013 9:50 AM  

I am in the group that complains about senseless language, sex and violence. I have gotten to the point where controlling my language is subconscious and not conscious any more. I don't have cable and just watch stuff on Netflix that I heavily monitor. But I thought TOB was appropriate for the most part. A few times I thought it unnecessary, but it didn't stop me from reading and enjoying the book. As of how however, I haven't given it to my 13 year old son to read. Although all my kids have seen Red Dawn.

The book was slightly slow to develop. I was constantly trying to figure out who was who with 3 names and 2 titles apiece. But I loved it and was left wanting more at the end.

Anonymous Rantor February 09, 2013 9:50 AM  

@ John,

His latest book, A Throne of Bones is his best novel. If you want a good intro, A Magic Broken is great. As e-books they are not expensive.

As for the non-fiction, it depends on your interest. I recommend both The Irrational Atheist and Return of the Great Depression.

Blogger JDC February 09, 2013 9:54 AM  

But Vox....Mark Harmon and GRRM are not Christians, so they are not obligated to follow God's law. This includes not only following it privately, but publicly as well, in the manner in which my grandmother would not find offensive.

I call these people monocle people. They walk around with their monocles, just waiting to be offended by something so they can righteously exclaim, "Oh my," whilst simultaneously extending the ocular muscles of both eyes, dropping said monocle.

How dare your characters express their anger, how dare the menfolk in the book joke with each other in a vulgar manner, how dare a man and a woman express a healthy (if not a bit naughty) sexual attraction to each other after years of marriage and time spent apart, how dare you write a young woman with sexual appetites, and finally, how dare you picture religious men as anything but pedophilic hermaphroditic necrophiliacs.


Anonymous grey_whiskers February 09, 2013 9:58 AM  

@dh on February 9, 2013 at 8:31 AM

VD: It is aligned with the truth, and the truth always wins out in the end.

What the hell is going on with you? Did some give you a magic unicorn shot of happiness and optimism? The truth no more wins in the end than the guy always get the chick or the good guys always win.

Think of the difference between reaction kinetics and thermodynamics.
Thermo *always* wins in the end...but the end may be a long time coming.

Anonymous Otlaw X February 09, 2013 10:33 AM  

John I recomend starting with The Irrational Atheist but if you are looking for fiction ask someone else.

Anonymous Tad February 09, 2013 10:43 AM  

@Vox Day

many of us have been away from our wives for a month or more, and we all know the intense combination of desire and hunger that we feel upon seeing them, smelling them, and touching them. To omit such aspects of the human experience is to deny reality, it is to deny a vital element of God's Creation

Many of us have been away from home or facilities for hours on end, having no access to modern conveniences and felt, upon arriving back in proximity to our homes or modern facilities, the urgent need to race past everyone—wife, kids, friends and co-workers—into the bathroom and squeeze out a long and demanding log into the toilet before signing with satisfaction. To omit such aspects of the human experience is to deny reality, it is to deny a vital element of God's Creation.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with including scenes of passionate reunion sex in a book. I'm just saying.

Anonymous damaged justice February 09, 2013 10:50 AM  

If Tad sees no difference between loving sexual union and defecation, that says more about him than either act.

Anonymous Daniel February 09, 2013 10:53 AM  

I must say you must take a lot of inspiration from famous Hannibals: the original, Lecter and Colonel Smith.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Anonymous Daniel February 09, 2013 10:54 AM  

And Tad, my condolences on your poo no longer loving you.

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 10:56 AM  

As a relative newcomer to the site, and Vox' writing, could someone offer up their opinion on which of Vox' books they regard as the best? I plan on buying one, and want to start with his best effort.

The consensus appears to be that A THRONE OF BONES is considerably improved upon my previous fiction efforts. I would therefore start with A MAGIC BROKEN, which is of comparable quality and considerably shorter. If you like it, then move on to ATOB. The two together will cost you less than the average ebook.

As for the non-fiction, it really depends upon your interests. If you have read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and/or Christopher Hitchens, then go with THE IRRATIONAL ATHEIST. If not, don't bother with it. If you are interested in economics, THE RETURN OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION will be worth reading. But if not, don't bother, you'll find it tedious in the extreme.

Anonymous Tad February 09, 2013 10:57 AM  

@damaged

No, it's not that I don't see the difference between loving sexual union and taking a shit. It's that we are talk about "a vital element of God's Creation" here.

Anonymous Josh February 09, 2013 11:01 AM  

Tad,

The difference between the is that the sexual reunion between corvus and his wife illuminates aspects of both their character and their relationship, as well as modeling a Christian example of marriage.

Someone defecating does none of that.

Anonymous Zartan February 09, 2013 11:06 AM  

Just finished ATOB. It must be the Churchianity "retreat from the world" Christians that are upset w/ the Idea that Married men and women have sex. Wasn't particularly graphic or titillating, less racy than seen on $PRIMETIMETVSHOW

Anonymous Tad February 09, 2013 11:07 AM  

@Josh

I would think it illustrates something well beyond what happens in a christian marriage, but that is beside the point.

Anonymous stg58/Animal Mother February 09, 2013 11:20 AM  

Of all the health risks Tad faces, constipation is not one of them.

Anonymous cheddarman February 09, 2013 11:26 AM  

I'm too outlandish, too controversial, too vulgar, and too intellectual. - vox

I also think you are a prophet, given your rabbit slaying in your latest work and in real life

sincerely

cheddarman

Anonymous MPC February 09, 2013 11:58 AM  

Guys come on, give Tad a break. For him sex and shit are often one and the same, he just doesn't know any better. See: Coprophilia.

Anonymous VD February 09, 2013 12:05 PM  

Folks, there is really no need to discuss Tad or his interests.

Anonymous SDH February 09, 2013 12:07 PM  

As a relative newcomer to the site, and Vox' writing, could someone offer up their opinion on which of Vox' books they regard as the best? I plan on buying one, and want to start with his best effort.

The Irrational Atheist, without question. I felt like Watson in the presence of Holmes while reading it.

I'm almost finished AToB; it is much better than his previous fiction. I'm not sure if this is because he really dedicated himself to write it or because his writing is improved from his blog and column. I suspect a bit of both.


Anonymous GreyS February 09, 2013 12:12 PM  

" If you have read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and/or Christopher Hitchens, then go with THE IRRATIONAL ATHEIST. If not, don't bother with it."

Disagree. If you are at all interested in that subject, definitely do read it. The same arguments used by D, H, H are used by virtually all socially combative atheists. I've used the facts as laid out by VD to counter many an argument and have often stopped the nonsense cold.

(looking for that post about the atheist kid parroting his father's question to the Christian in the classroom debate, and how you wrote of taking the false ground away immediately)

Anonymous John February 09, 2013 12:13 PM  

Thanks for the recommendations. "Rabbit slaying", you say? Think I'll go with A Throne of Bones, and The Return of The Great Depression.

Anonymous Red Comet February 09, 2013 12:40 PM  

@dh

What the hell is going on with you? Did some give you a magic unicorn shot of happiness and optimism? The truth no more wins in the end than the guy always get the chick or the good guys always win.

The truth always wins, even if it takes awhile, because it is the truth and has the real power. Anything and everything built on lies will eventually fall apart.

Blogger The Requital February 09, 2013 12:47 PM  

In like manner, many of us have been away from our wives for a month or more, and we all know the intense combination of desire and hunger that we feel upon seeing them, smelling them, and touching them. -VD

Read The War In Heaven, AMB, Elven, ATOB. The ATOB/AMB books are definitely a better written series for the story. I would say your word smithy has improved over War in Heaven, but it hasn't reached the obsessive level of Rothfuss. I would say if anything, that is the only weakness of your books. If you stepped up your game on your 'prose' as they say, very few would be able to match your realistic human interaction.

I think that if the reunion was more graphic it might have detracted from the book, just because it's not necessary for understanding the interaction of those two characters.

Having been away and come home to my wife, I am glad you made it clear where things were going, but there wasn't any need to peer into the bedroom to make sure it was happening. I am married. I don't need a word picture of sex: I live it.

I do appreciate the character interaction and the realism that you add to the different makeup of the characters. For instance, that the father and son Valerian are similar in character on certain points (expected because they are family) but still vastly different people because of their intelligence and experiences.

One thing you will note in ATOB that you do not typically get in fantasy: there is more than one smart character. Thank you. It takes an intelligent author to be able to effectively make characters witty/intelligent/wise. Even the leading role characters that I did not fully agree with had well thought out reasons for doing what they did. Thank you. I can't say that enough. I rarely see that anymore in fantasy.

Another major reason the ATOB series is good: realistic cultures/religions. The fact that a church exists and people actually follow a religion and its precepts... amazing. I have read history books where the author takes religion out of the reasoning for peoples actions and bases their action solely from the authors agnostic viewpoint. Explain history from that viewpoint? It's beyond stupid. Thanks Vox.

ps. couple places where timeline/perspective shift caused hitches in what was going on.

Anonymous Krul February 09, 2013 1:26 PM  

Re: chedderman

My God, I can't believe I didn't see the connection until now.

To quote from ATOB, page 104, Nook version:

"Ser Borgulus the Bunnyslayer versus Ser Snotshafter Rabbitsbane"

In terms of humor, this Rabbit crisis is just the gift that keeps on giving.

Anonymous Stilicho February 09, 2013 1:44 PM  


Pretty much. About more anon. Not today anon, but eventually.


That should be interesting

Blogger tz February 09, 2013 2:49 PM  

Ask such women about war and I can almost guarantee you that there is no war crime or barbaric act so cruel, unjust, or evil, that they won't cheer and say 'more, and faster, please', at least when it is part of our crusade.

Anonymous the abe February 09, 2013 2:50 PM  

Vox's thoughts bring to mind a broader implication of many modern believers failure of being in this world versus being of it:

The paper-thin hypocrisy of sanctity and hygiene of thought and deed in the squeaky-wing of Churchianity is what puts many people off from taking a personal relationship with God seriously or even simply picking up the Bible with an open mind.

Both believer and non-believer alike fail to understand that we are redeemed for the here-after, not alchemically transformed into spotless lambs in the here-and-now.

Blogger Tom February 09, 2013 3:15 PM  

The Requital above wrote about the exact comment I was getting ready to write.

I actually really liked that the reunion scene didn't go over the top. Even though they are characters in a book, it would have felt like an invasion of privacy.

VD has improved his writing quite a bit from the Angel books.

I devoured ATOB in something like four or five days which was ridiculously fast for that size book for me.

SPOILER ALERT and all that: One thing that absolutely bugged the snot out of me though. When Corvus did what he did to the bishop in the throne room, I thought he had won because of the previous story revealed by the elven ambassador in the very old scroll. I was all like, why could it do that when that other one was trapped like that?

VD explained it later on a thread that each of those things were different from the others and each had different abilities. Perhaps I didn't have good enough reading comprehension, but I never saw that implied in the story prior to the ending of that chapter.

Oh, and I too saw the dwarf-sized thing in the dragon's claws as being, you know, a dwarf. Which to my surprise it wasn't.

VD, a question about gods in ATOB world. Is the entire world created by the God of the Amorrian religion? Does that God consider it wrong for creatures to worship other beings? Did that God create other beings with the intention of them being "gods" to other races and creatures?

One of the things that I've always found lacking the times I've tried to get into fantasy books not written by Tolkien or Lewis was a lack of internal consistency or even thought about first principles and origins.

Selenoth seems to certainly have a background story to it. I just guess I want to know more of it.

Tolkien had a weird story for where the dwarves came from, with a good guy making them because he got over eager. So dwarves there were different from the Children of Er and had a whole different afterlife, etc. which Tolkien seems never to have actually settled in his books.

What are the origins of Dwarves and Elves and Trolls, etc., according to the knowledge of the different groups in Selenoth? Do they all agree on where they came from? Did the elves observe the first men arrive there? Do they all even know?

Blogger Duke of Earl February 09, 2013 5:15 PM  

To be honest I scarcely noticed any vulgarity, but that might just be me. One of our local newspapers got into a bit of trouble for printing an uncensored picture of some nudists. When I read the article the fact there was a picture of naked people attached to it didn't register.

Blogger Duke of Earl February 09, 2013 5:23 PM  

Tolkien had a weird story for where the dwarves came from, with a good guy making them because he got over eager. So dwarves there were different from the Children of Eru and had a whole different afterlife, etc. which Tolkien seems never to have actually settled in his books.

Aule created the dwarves, but he couldn't give them life, they merely moved with his will. Eru challenged him for seeking to create his own living creatures to precede Eru's own. When he took up a hammer to destroy the seven fathers of the dwarves, Eru stayed his hand, showing him that he, Eru, had chosen to give the dwarves true life.

Perhaps Vox's creatures all have "created by Blizzard" stamped on them. :-)

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 10, 2013 1:37 PM  

the primary role of my prose is to simply stay out of the way of the story and the reader's experience of the world and the characters.

So many authors to which this would apply, so few who understand it and a handfull who act on it.

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