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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Criticism

I found this pair of tweets by government-funded wannabe Damien Walter to be more than a little amusing:
You should feel a little pity for Vox Day. He will never have the self-awareness to admit he can’t write, and so he’ll never learn.

I stayed in bed TWO WHOLE DAYS to read the 5th and final volume of The Malloreon. Felt grief, like all my friends had died, when I finished.
It's always fascinating to see this sort of supercilious superiority from people who aren't able to publish and sell books themselves. About the only way I could be less concerned about the opinion of someone who considers David Eddings to be the crème de la crème of literature would be if he also turned out to be a particular admirer of Dan Brown.

It would be bad enough if it was The Belgariad that Walter had so admired. My first thought after reading The Malloreon was: "I liked it better when it was called The Belgariad." My second thought was: "How did he talk his publisher into paying him twice for writing the same thing?"

And then, there is this:
As far as fantasy novels go, I think Pratchett is a better role model for new writers than Tolkien.
The Colour of Magic vs The Hobbit. Ye cats. You have to feel sorry for the poor would-be writers being taught by this poseur. In any event, there is only one real answer to these anklebiters, and that is to simply keep doing what you're doing. That's the beauty of writing and publishing these days. You don't need anyone's permission anymore.

In any event, since I have the very good fortune to read some of John C. Wright's work fresh from the pen, it's not as if I'm under any illusions with regards to my own writing.

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68 Comments:

Anonymous Salt May 04, 2014 3:57 PM  

Damian really has a thing for you.

Anonymous Varenius May 04, 2014 4:02 PM  

[Vox] will never have the self-awareness to admit he can’t write...

Based, no doubt, on an intensely thorough multi-day bed-bound study of your works.

Anonymous GreyS May 04, 2014 4:03 PM  

"That's the beauty of writing and publishing these days. You don't need anyone's permission anymore."

No doubt. If I were an aspiring SF/F author I would shudder at the thought of people such as Walter, Scalzi, Hines, and the Tor Trog Team deciding on whether or not I had a career.

Anonymous Erik May 04, 2014 4:05 PM  

Hey, Pratchett is funny. I'll be the first to say that The Colour of Magic is derivative and so are the next two books or thereabouts, being mostly humorous mockery of the Standard Fantasy Setting. But the setting grows and develops to become independent, and even advances out of the Standard Fantasy Stasis.

OpenID cailcorishev May 04, 2014 4:13 PM  

Yeah, I enjoyed the Mallorean well enough, but with the exception of the first book, most of it was pretty by-the-numbers. I don't remember anything special about the ending. Certainly nothing to compare to Garion dancing with Polgara at the wedding and Belgarath chatting with the Orb at the end of the Belgariad. I may have gotten a lump in my throat the first time I finished the first series.

On Pratchett/Tolkien, he might have a point in this sense: it might be easier for kids these days, with their short attention spans and Daily Show sense of humor, to emulate the snarky humor laden with pop culture references of Pratchett than the breadth and depth of Tolkien. That's not a slam on Pratchett; I enjoyed most of the first 20 or so Discworld books. But do his students want to learn to be great writers, or to find a lightweight niche and exploit it for all it's worth?

Of course, then he follows that tweet with one saying Pratchett's humor starts to grate about 1/3 of the way through each book, so why recommend him at all?

Anonymous H May 04, 2014 4:23 PM  

I thought the "noise" aspect of using magic in Eddings' books was a good addition, it stopped Belgarath and Garion from just blowing up everyone in their path.

I think Damien's love for the series shows his maturity level, if I make a comparison to myself. When I was in middle school I read the Belgariad + Malloreon and thought they were awesome, while I also read Dune and thought it was boring and dumb. Years later in college, I re-read the two, and thought the Belgariad was just some light fun, while I enjoyed Dune much more.

Anonymous Harsh May 04, 2014 4:23 PM  

I stayed in bed TWO WHOLE DAYS to read the 5th and final volume of The Malloreon. Felt grief, like all my friends had died, when I finished.

He says that like he really believes he has friends.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat May 04, 2014 4:30 PM  

When your characters are not only "aware" of being in a sequel, but you feel the need to have them COMMENT about how they feel like they're in a sequel, and sequels are a natural part of order, you've gone too far. I finished the Mallorean because I loved the Belgariad, not because I had high hopes of new and exciting places in literature.

(And why did the editor let Eddings and Eddings get away with it? We bought the dang books.)

Anonymous kh123 May 04, 2014 4:32 PM  

"I stayed in bed TWO WHOLE DAYS"

Public expenditures at work. Though Keynes would prefer broken windows.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 04, 2014 4:45 PM  

Look I like most of Pratchett's stuff but if you are going to write fantasy you don't have to accept or reject his influence on the field. You do have to do that for Tolkien. Offering Pratchett as model is ridiculous. Much as I liked Making Money, its not going to stand the test of time.

Anonymous REG May 04, 2014 4:47 PM  

It looks like Damian has has arose from his bed, pulled his big boy panties up... to meet the challenge of - Vox Day? I foresee many happy days of cow chip kicking in the future.

Anonymous bild May 04, 2014 5:17 PM  

Vox - Don't be too critical of your own writing. I've enjoyed most of your stories. They are not great literature but certainly interesting and I'm looking forward to more of Selenoth. They also gave me an incentive to follow your recommendation to read Wright's Night Land. Thanks for that.

Anonymous jack May 04, 2014 5:20 PM  

@Vox. John C. Wright fresh from the pen. [you name dropper you] and, no illusions about my writing.
Look, you're being humble in the presence of the Man [Wright] There is nothing wrong with your writing except you cannot seem to turn out an epic novel in three months.
We like it. We like it. Keep going....

Anonymous andy May 04, 2014 5:27 PM  

I'm a big fan of Vox's work. I think he's talented and an extremely good world builder. It is interesting to note that liberals would say that Sarah Palin's writing is "sublime" and "inspiring" if they were misled to believe it was Baracks. There was actually an experiment that did this...

These people are blinded by hate.

Anonymous Daniel May 04, 2014 5:35 PM  

Stop teasing him. I experienced the exact same thing while reading Chicken Soup for the Soul. Except for 2 days, it was 5 minutes and instead of bed, it was the toilet. But I did lose all my friends because of it.

Anonymous maniacprovost May 04, 2014 5:56 PM  

I'd never thought of emulating either until recently... I have a strong interest in using linguistics to create consistent, distinct character voices, without resorting to ridiculous accents or overly stilted speech. It's not really a cost effective way of churning out pulp, though.

Anonymous Brad May 04, 2014 5:58 PM  

Is John C. Wright's stiff getting the fake reviews at amazon? when I look at the low reviews, they all read as if they were written by the same person.

Anonymous Speaker-To-SFWAs May 04, 2014 6:08 PM  

... and, on a (somewhat) related note: How 'Star Wars' Ruined Sci-Fi, by one "Lewis Beale." (No relation, one presumes.) ;)

Excerpt: There are, for example, no light sabers, spaceships or Death Stars in the 1979 novel "Kindred," by Octavia Butler [...] Butler's main themes are race and sex, and in "Kindred" she wrote about a modern black woman who travels back in time to the antebellum South, where she is enslaved. [...] But Hollywood has yet to adapt it for the screen. Maybe if the lead character had a Wookie by her side..

"It's all George Lucas' fault that little kids routinely insist upon having a good time, running around playing Good vs. Evil with plastic light sabers in hand, instead of sitting quietly in dark corners and pondering sullenly on the absolute unforgivability of their own maleness and/or whiteness! THAT BASTARD -- !!!"

Anonymous Daniel May 04, 2014 6:26 PM  

It's not really a cost effective way of churning out pulp, though.

I disagree. Once you get very good at the linguistics, esp. semiotics, it can be a major tool for speed when developing distinct fantasy and/or alien groups, cultures, or readable but believable languages. The strange becomes native to you as a writer, and makes the storywriting extremely efficient. You front-load the time spent, of course, but once you've invested in that, what you get is pure speed on the other end.

Anonymous Ostar May 04, 2014 6:26 PM  

"Look, you're being humble in the presence of the Man [Wright] There is nothing wrong with your writing except you cannot seem to turn out an epic novel in three months."

I know you're jesting, but Lord of the Rings took 20 years after the Hobbit, and Tolkien had been creating his world for decades before that. He would sometimes write only ONE line a day.

The phenomena that many writers best books are the first one is probably due to taking years sometimes to get that book done. When they try to churn out their work faster to make more money, their quality drops precipitously. (Not referring to Vox or any specific author.)

Anonymous jack May 04, 2014 6:39 PM  

@Ostar:
I know. If he turned out an epic in three months I probably would buy it and then nothing else ever. I just wish he could.
Now, lets see, a AI that never sleeps and has the inspiration of a Tolkien. That would be interesting. Can you imagine an AI, say a John Wright X1000 or so. Would it not be entertaining to have such a being latch onto the bottom feeders at the SFWA and, metaphorically, clean house? Wright and Vox do this now....but, but, the possibilities.

Blogger RobertT May 04, 2014 6:50 PM  

" They are not great literature ... "

People who try to write great literature write trash. Just keep cranking 'em out and who knows what people will think of your writing in 200 years?

I've read great literature because I was forced to, not because I found it interesting. From time to time I still try to read great books of literature, just because I think I should. Right now 'great books' are stacked up knee deep and unread on my iPad. Now that I'm not obligated to read them, I can't get to the end of the first chapter. I think you have to be pompous and boring to write great literature. I mean really, who would want to turn out that kind of drivel?

Anonymous JamesV May 04, 2014 7:05 PM  

It's funny to watch people argue about matters of taste when the objects of debate are all clearly good enough. I found the writing in the Belgariad to be adequate enough to convey the story and not get in the way. I don't recall finishing the Mallorean. I'm reading Dune for the first time and can't discern any difference in the quality of the prose between it and ATOB. I don't recall being blown away by the prose in Heinlein works either.

The writing in LOTR was clearly, to me, a higher quality than all of those works. I read my first John Wright book last week. The writing was some of the best I've consumed in a while but I can understand if t doesn't appeal to everyone.

The criticisms of Vox's books is stupid. The writing is, to me, better than average. The stories are unique and while they can take a while to get into once captured I can't put them down.

Those reviewers act like the rest of us read at a 2nd grade level and can't spot the obvious bias in their reviews. They hold up certain works as highwater marks of a genre and associate themselves in an effort to qualify their opinions as better than others. All it takes to realize how full of crap they are is to have read enough to be able to make a reasoned comparison of styles and be confident enough to admit that you like one style while knowing that some like other styles.

Bottom line...I've read enough to know that Vox's work is as good as anything else out there, with allowances to taste, and if they aren't biased then they are clearly ignorant. That doesn't speak well of them if they are supposed to be experts in the publishing industry.

Anonymous Jonathan May 04, 2014 7:17 PM  

Dan Brown is a pretty swell writer, but he's no Nicholas Sparks.

Anonymous wEz May 04, 2014 7:52 PM  

Its a little creepy that the guy spent TWO WHOLE days in 'bed' reading your work. Closet admirer obviously. Hopefully his palms and wrists arent too sore.

Blogger Manach May 04, 2014 8:02 PM  

Yes, the Mallorean was a cut and past job - but, like a second cup of well brewed tea from the same pot, I still enjoyed it.

Blogger Eric May 04, 2014 8:05 PM  

The phenomena that many writers best books are the first one is probably due to taking years sometimes to get that book done. When they try to churn out their work faster to make more money, their quality drops precipitously.

It's also that if the guy's first book isn't that good you'll likely never know who he is. I'm guessing there are a whole lot of people who write a book, put it on Amazon, get panned, and decide it isn't worth the trouble. Some percentage of those people have a great book in them, but they'll never write it.

Anonymous twitter May 04, 2014 8:15 PM  

"@timmaughan: because hey, let's put politics aside for a second. - this vox day cunt can't write."

Blogger Brad Andrews May 04, 2014 8:38 PM  

Stupid Google preview. No option for me to go back and edit....

Blogger Michael Maier May 04, 2014 8:40 PM  

The Malloreon sucks, even compared to the Belgariad. And that's even after how I think Eddings had an ear for fun dialogue.

There is no reason to read the Malloreon. Other than a few interesting moments, it was exactly the same as the first, but less good, less interesting and far less compelling. I loved the Belgariad and read it prior to the Malloreon coming out. I felt far less connected and interested.

The climatic battle? I cannot even remember anything about it, compared to the first series.

The "Prophecy" death was a cop-out by its choice. I mean, really... WHO EVEN CARED? Anyone would have been a more interesting,

I'd be ashamed to admit the story affected me, if it could have even been bothered to do so. And it really didn't.

Eddings other "Sparhawk" world was even worse by way of comparison.

As much as I loved the Belgariad after finishing it, I cannot stand his other works.

OTOH, the only story I think was weak by our blog host is the alien bug short story that was once posted on his old site. That's it.

But the other stories like "Master of Cats", I found fascinating.

DIfferent strokes for retarded folks, I guess.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 04, 2014 8:57 PM  

Anybody who says that ANY modern fantasy writer is a better role model than Tolkien should be dragged out into the street and shot.

OpenID cailcorishev May 04, 2014 9:02 PM  

The first book of the Mallorean had some pretty good parts. The bit where Garion has to go stop a war his friends start in Arendia had me laughing out loud. But once they head off on the quest and obediently let themselves get led along by the Prophecy at every step (by comparison, they only had hints in the first series, and weren't afraid to try to get ahead), there just isn't much left. Like others said, I plowed through it on inertia from the Belgariad and my liking for the characters. Ditto for the two prequels.

The Sparhawk series seemed like another repeat to me. Living magic blue gem, Sephrenia = Polgara, Sparhawk and his friends = Barak/Silk/etc, common sense henchman dies.... Then that single volume book about a young thief was reminiscent of Silk/Garath. Eddings was very good at writing certain characters and their dialogue; he just didn't have any other characters.

Anonymous Tom Bri May 04, 2014 9:16 PM  

I doubt the average new fantasy author can use Pratchett OR Tolkein as a role model. Tolkein was a genius. If you are not, then his example is right out. Pratchett is a little closer to achievable, but people underestimate just how clever he was. When I wrote my book, I knew I couldn't match the true greats, I don't have the firepower. So I just tried to tell a simple, straightforward fantasy story. Pulled it off pretty well, but I know I'll never be one of the greats.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 04, 2014 9:41 PM  

I might not be able to shoot like Michael Jordan, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't learn his technique.

Anonymous Vidad May 04, 2014 10:01 PM  

If you could just write deep engaging works like Infinite Jest... well, then you'd get acclaim. I recommend more scatological references and homoeroticism, plus a blatant disregard for punctuation and editing.

Anonymous Rico May 04, 2014 10:10 PM  

While this may be slightly off topic, ATOB damn near took my breath away. I bought the kindle version four days ago and read it in three. Short of du Maurier, I do not remember a writer who could express the emotions of people as well as Vox does. It feels as though most sci fi and fantasy writers are shut ins, despise the company of others, and truly do not understand people. The characters in ATOB actually acted like humans. I feel it compares very well with some of the best modern authors in the genre. The only thing that robs the book of true greatness was that it was written as a response to A Game of Thrones which leaves it simply remarkable instead of revolutionary.

Anonymous SkinDeep May 04, 2014 10:24 PM  

So not concerned with his opinion that Vox has written about him numerous times in the last 30 days or so. Because that adds up.

Anonymous Anonymous May 04, 2014 10:54 PM  

So not concerned with his opinion that Vox has written about him numerous times in the last 30 days or so. Because that adds up.

Just because I laugh every time the retarded kid falls on his face, doesn't necessarily mean I value his opinion...

Blogger rcocean May 04, 2014 10:55 PM  

The British are the masters of failed supercilious superiority. Sadly, for it work, you actually have to be superior - hard to do in country with standing of the UK.

Blogger Tom Kratman May 04, 2014 10:55 PM  

Damien's never felt overly encumbered by, or obligated to, integrity.

Anonymous zen0 May 04, 2014 11:10 PM  

I smell potential suicide material.

Anonymous Colorado Confederate May 05, 2014 12:14 AM  

Ye cats.

Anonymous Harsh May 05, 2014 12:24 AM  

I smell potential suicide material.

I didn't want to say anything but I agree 100%.

Anonymous Harsh May 05, 2014 12:30 AM  

Tolkein was a genius.

Tolkien, much like Shakespeare, was a talent that will likely never be equaled.

Blogger Desiderius May 05, 2014 12:34 AM  

"I'll never be one of the greats"

"Tolkien, much like Shakespeare, was a talent that will likely never be equaled."

Never is a long time.

Anonymous pseudotsuga May 05, 2014 1:01 AM  

Pratchett is a role for new writers? Hmm...is that the early Pratchett who wrote parodies of modern fantasy, or the mid-Pratchett who wrote satire, or the late Pratchett who is writing "message" fiction? Perhaps Mr. Winters doesn't realize how hard parody and satire are to do well. First of all, it can't be mean-spirited--good parody is poking fun of things, not sneering and pointing at them. A writer really has to KNOW the background material well to make satire or parody work.
I can't really say much about his taste in heroic fantasy, since gustiubus non disputandum and all that. But Eddings was never known as a stylist, so his criticism isn't really about Vox's work at all but more about himself and what he likes.

Anonymous Smokey May 05, 2014 1:09 AM  

I knew that there was something wrong with The Malloreon when I first read it, but I couldn't really pin-point it at the time (I was young). Re-read it as an adult, first thought: "Holy crap, this is EXACTLY like The Belgariad! How the hell didn't I notice before?"

As for Pratchett, his brand of satirical humor took me quite a while to get used to. And even then, sometimes I get the feeling he's trying way too hard to sound witty and insightful, instead of being witty and insightful.

So not concerned with his opinion that Vox has written about him numerous times in the last 30 days or so. Because that adds up.

Pointing and laughing at an egotistic retard is not the same as taking said retard seriously. You people keep forgetting that for some reason.

OpenID malcolmthecynic May 05, 2014 3:11 AM  

The master of insightful humor for me will always and forever be Douglas Adams. I liked him because, despite being an atheist, I felt like he took the time to roast all philosophies equally. Nothing in the Hitchhiker's-verse was ever presented as the "right" philosophy, and so it ended up ultimately being some sort of magnificent absurdism coupled with brilliant satire.

Blogger rcocean May 05, 2014 3:37 AM  

Yes, he's one those types. Left-wing and not much else. Probably will end up as a suicide or killing his Gay Lover or giving it all up to become a Buddhist monk. Deep emotional problems working there way out through Lit criticism.

Blogger rcocean May 05, 2014 3:39 AM  

Reminds me of Robin Wood, who spent years claiming he was a straight apolitical film critic, then came out of the closet and admitted he was Gay and a member of the Communist party.

Blogger Whiskey May 05, 2014 4:40 AM  

Tolkein is a poor example for writers because he could:

Read and Write about half a dozen existing European languages.
Read and Write about five or six dead ones.
Was an expert on Medieval European history.
Was an expert on European folklore and WHY the different folklores took the different forms they did.
Was a devout Christian with an appreciation for Pagan Europe and the Pagan past.

In short, he was so learned as to be basically unapproachable by 99.999999% of the potential writing population.

Now, Pratchett was entertaining, but hardly THE name in fantasy after Tolkein.

What the heck about Michael Moorcock? Has everyone forgotten him? Yes he gets on poorly with John Norman, and has been an ahole in that regard, but talent is not equal to niceness or even wisdom. Elric? Has everyone forgotten that character?

How the HELL can you write about fantasy and not write about Aristocrats who act like Aristocrats and do Aristocratic things?

Heck Moorcock's inspiration, Edgar Rice Burroughs, is a good model for fantasy writers. There's a guy, churning out adventure stories in a fantasy setting, with a lot of stuff going on, easily identifiable, and digestable, as an example of what a guy writing to entertain for money can do, that a human being without thirty years of linguistic, folklore, and European history scholarship can do.

Or take Tim Powers. I don't know anything about him save his books (and don't want to know either, frankly). But "Drawing of the Dark," was superb. A fantasy set in the Early Modern Era and Siege of Vienna, involving beer, Merlin, King Arthur, Ifrits, and the Sultan? I'm there! The same with "The Stress of Her Regard," "the Anubis Gates," and "Expiration Date."

What makes Powers a model for other writers is taking historic elements, describing them well: World Building, and adding interesting, compelling characters who are mostly, not modern, without modern concerns, and weaving various folklore and mystical elements: King Arthur, Vampires, Ifrits, Magic, West vs. East, etc. With I might add a very solid defense of the Western Way of Life. There are actual heroes, with barriers internal and external to overcome, they change in the course of the plot, and their inner quirks are what help make them victorious in surprising ways. Powers later, modern-day books are not as entertaining of course. Because, if I read fantasy it is to escape the modern world and modern attitudes and people. But hey, who else put Keats into a fantasy novel and made it work? With the Austrian monarchy the bad guys?

Blogger James Worrad May 05, 2014 4:40 AM  

Don't think we can't burn down your White House again.

Blogger Whiskey May 05, 2014 4:47 AM  

Last add, most fantasy books are totally repellent. They are essentially modern day stuff concerned about modern day people and modern day attitudes determined to push "diversity" and PC to the ultimate limits and then beyond. Just more depressing earnest modernism.

Which is not what fantasy is supposed to be about. At least the Conan books featured a virtuous barbarian against a decadent, dying civilization. Conan wasn't modern. Neither was Elric, or Merlin. None of them were concerned about trans-gender rights or were seal lesbians in space or fairy land.

There are almost no real fantasy writers available today at Barnes and Noble. I went and looked on Friday. It was depressing. Nothing but teen romance, lesbian stuff, and mermaids. I kid you not, mermaids. Or fashionista werewolves. Or Game of Thrones, which is Martin basically rehashing every nasty Medieval atrocity to show how "random" things are, which is about as entertaining as an Atheist Lecture with Hawaiian Punch served afterwards.

Anonymous smiffy May 05, 2014 6:14 AM  

Whiskey wrote: "Or take Tim Powers. I don't know anything about him save his books (and don't want to know either, frankly)". Mr Powers describes himself as a "conservative Catholic" -- http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/tpowers_intvw_sept05.asp

Anonymous Jeanne May 05, 2014 7:28 AM  

I'd be surprised if Pratchett is still being read in 100 years. I'd be shocked if Tolkien wasn't.

Blogger Joshua Dyal May 05, 2014 7:45 AM  

Tolkien is too often imitated by writers who don't truly understand his genius. And even those who do understand it can't hope to replicate it. I think standing too close to the shadow of Tolkien invites unfavorable comparison. Plus, I'm tired of reading retreads of Tolkien that only understand his work on a superficial level. I think for new fantasy writers blazing a new trail is good advice.

Anonymous emdfl May 05, 2014 8:03 AM  

Andy -" ...blinded by hate." More like blinded by base stupidity, and that can't be cured.
Wiskey - "Drawing of the Dark", true dat; read it many years ago. Every now and then my paperback copy pops up in the trash heap that is my front room, and I read it again.
Never saw anything else he did.
And ditto for Moorcock. Read most of his stuff way back when.

The problem is that far too many of the HOT!!! NEW!! younger fantasy writers have never heard of, let along read far too many of their predecessors. Heck, most of them don't even seem to know who ERB was.

Anonymous Dan Maguire May 05, 2014 8:03 AM  

Have we established that Damien really is taking a government handout to write a book? I know Correia mentioned it on his blog, but also clarified that he didn't know whether or not it was true.

If it is true, then Damien should not write or appear in public until he has paid back his ill-gotten gains with penalties and interest. And even then, his first order of business should be to beg forgiveness. It is shameful beyond comprehension to take others' money at the point of a gun to accomplish something other writers do on their own time and dime.

Anonymous CLK May 05, 2014 8:09 AM  

"Tolkien as a role model"

One of the things that should be clear about Tolkien is that the LOTR and the larger Tolkien universe was a product of many many years, subject to rigorous revision and was largely a product of love over a + 25 years....Look at the unfinished tales etc and you can see some of the earlier work product.. what you see in Tolkien's work is a well edited, constantly refined work of love ... and even after all that there area still areas where he still felt he could have done better by his own admission... Few commercial authors could dedicate that much time to a work today.

"it's not as if I'm under any illusions with regards to my own writing." .. what aspect of your writing are you not happy with ? You seem to be turn a good phrase and have a good handle on the rules of writing. If there was any observation to be made regarding you as a writer is that you seem committed in too many tasks at once.. and this is not a criticism and not a bad thing either...

Blogger James Dixon May 05, 2014 9:14 AM  

> Don't think we can't burn down your White House again.

If you'll promise to do it while the residents are home, I doubt most of the US would try to stop you.

Blogger John Wright May 05, 2014 10:37 AM  

"I've read great literature because I was forced to, not because I found it interesting."

My experience, for whatever reason, was the opposite. I was at first wary of great literature, because I thought it would be pretentious crud. It won me over by a simple fact: the great books are great because they have what good books have in them, only more of it. More 'good' equals 'great'.

However, in the jungle of literature, there are true greats and there are organisms that mimic the outward signs of greatness (sort of how an edible frog will mimic the coloration of an inedible frog so the predators spare it) but inside they are actually pretentious crud.

The true greats are all over a hundred years old. 1914 is roughly the time when the Progressives invaded and corrupted the university system, and started inflating the reputation of pretentious crud like James Joyce, and stopped reading Milton and Dante and Virgil.

Blogger slarrow May 05, 2014 10:53 AM  

Pratchett's a terrible model for new writers because he's subversive and derivative. That's what satire and parody are all about: they require source material, and trying to model Pratchett would mean you're copying someone who is working off other models. You're two steps away from the source material, and that's no way to build craft.

As for Tolkien, study him, because he's a master. But recognize that there will never be a "new Tolkien", because anyone with that kind of impact will be significant enough to go by his own name. Besides, anyone who follows Tolkien will never have the kind of innocence, for lack of a better term, that permitted Tolkien to work on his Middle Earth and his languages as things-in-themselves. Anyone who writes today in that genre has at least one eye on the market and the competitors, and that can't help but shape the work.

See David Eddings for that, who got paid four times, not two, for his formulaic work. To be fair, he frankly acknowledged what he was doing (the Rivan Codex lays it out), and his paint-by-numbers approach let him cash a lot of checks. Deservedly so--they're fun reads, and Prince Kheldar's aphorisms and style make him one of my favorite characters in fantasy, despite his origin as Standard Rogue #8. But analyze-synthesize-deposit is a different animal than Tolkien's desire to sub-create a mythical world whether anyone else ever saw it or not.

Blogger Joshua Dyal May 05, 2014 12:21 PM  

Deservedly so--they're fun reads

It was reasonably fun once. I still have somewhat fond remembrances of The Belgariad itself. I can't say the same thing about any of the next three big series, which I also read, and which even as a teenager who'd read truckloads of bad books if it had the right cover art on it, I could see as embarrasing for the genre.

Blogger JCclimber May 05, 2014 12:53 PM  

2 days to read one book! Says a lot right there. Even War and Peace should be readable in 16-20 hours, if your IQ is above 110.
Even as a child, you should be able to read one of Edding's books in 4-5 hours. I though perhaps I misunderstood him and he was saying he read the entire series in 2 days, so I double checked.

Well, at least his attention span is better than most people out there if he can stay focused for that long. And I suspect the vocabulary of Vox's novels strains his brain too much, so he doesn't like it. Mindhurt + feelbad equals negative reaction by a liberal.

Anonymous maniacprovost May 05, 2014 1:46 PM  

^ I read Mission Earth in 7 days... took 2 off in the middle. It cut 10 points off my IQ and left me unable to say the Master Word.

Blogger James Dixon May 05, 2014 2:14 PM  

> 2 days to read one book!

Yeah, I boggled somewhat at that too.

Anonymous Don May 05, 2014 8:34 PM  

Re Tim Powers read 'The Drawing of the Dark'. I really enjoyed that one.

Anonymous Anonymous May 06, 2014 8:40 PM  

Michael Moorcock's head would explode if he knew he were being praised here.

If one takes seriously the forewords to a lot of his work, and some interviews he's done over the years, he claims he created the Elric character specifically to be an anti-Conan, specifically to express his gut-level revulsion with the idea of virtuous barbarians. Elric, like Conan, is melancholy--or at least Howard describes Conan as "given to gigantic melancholies." We don't often see Conan acting that way. Elric, on the other hand, is educated, sophisticated, philosophical, and pretty much clinical depression incarnate, moping his way through multiple novels, to the End of the World and beyond. Only the quality of writing makes this forgivable.

Speaking of great English-language fantasy writers, I am astonished that no one has brought up the late Jack Vance. "The Dying Earth" is an amazing work in an amazing setting. The "Lyonnesse" books are equally good.

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