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Saturday, September 02, 2017

Some things don't change

Mike Glyer reports that someone named Steve J. Wright is "reviewing" A Throne of Bones the way atheists used to do chapter-by-chapter "reviews" of TIA:
Steve J. Wright has assigned himself the quest of reading and blogging about Vox Day’s epic fantasy novel A Throne of Bones and has written half-a-dozen posts this past week. The first is: A Throne of Bones by “Vox Day” – Preamble, on Managing Expectations. Wright doesn’t think much of the writer either as a storyteller or a technician, and all the posts come at the book at an angle similar to this passage in the third post, A Throne of Bones – Chapter 1:

Well.  Basically, in this chapter, Beale is managing to do a little with a lot – his style continues to be ponderous, awkward and clunky, nothing very much happens, and the deficiencies of style lead to the failure of his attempts at characterization – Corvus is clearly meant to be a super-competent military commander, but his laboured and over-long dialogue make him come across as a pompous old windbag instead.

I think that’s the trap – Wright is giving a solid, honest review of something he doesn’t find very interesting. And it’s contagious. When a fanwriter feels contempt for the material he’s discussing, the only way to win is to treat it humorously, because otherwise an audience finds it wearing to keep reading someone taking a superior point of view.
I mentioned this before, and when I did, I was thinking this all reminded me of something else, though. Then, when I saw Glyer's reference to it, the recollection hit me, almost entirely unlike a cheetah. What it reminded me of is Michael Moorcock's nominal critique of Tolkien, although, as we know, Moorcock was really just whining about the fact that nearly everyone who is literate prefers Tolkien's books to his own tedious, poorly-plotted, scrawny little "epics". And even those who aren't literate would definitely prefer a Lord of the Rings movie to an Elric one.

Can you even imagine the latter? Ninety minutes of an albino, probably played by Idris Elba these days, repeatedly alternating between self-serving betrayals and self-pitying bouts of weeping. Moorcock's work didn't even rise to the level of Harry freaking Potter, never mind the lasting epic greatness of Tolkien.
The sort of prose most often identified with "high" fantasy is the prose of the nursery-room. It is a lullaby; it is meant to soothe and console. It is mouth-music. It is frequently enjoyed not for its tensions but for its lack of tensions. It coddles; it makes friends with you; it tells you comforting lies....

The Lord of the Rings is much more deep-rooted in its infantilism than a good many of the more obviously juvenile books it influenced. It is Winnie-the-Pooh posing as an epic. If the Shire is a suburban garden, Sauron and his henchmen are that old bourgeois bugaboo, the Mob - mindless football supporters throwing their beer-bottles over the fence the worst aspects of modern urban society represented as the whole by a fearful, backward-yearning class for whom "good taste" is synonymous with "restraint" (pastel colours, murmured protest) and "civilized" behaviour means "conventional behaviour in all circumstances". This is not to deny that courageous characters are found in The Lord of the Rings, or a willingness to fight Evil (never really defined), but somehow those courageous characters take on the aspect of retired colonels at last driven to write a letter to The Times and we are not sure - because Tolkien cannot really bring himself to get close to his proles and their satanic leaders - if Sauron and Co. are quite as evil as we're told. After all, anyone who hates hobbits can't be all bad.
You can always tell when gammas with literary ambitions have it in for an author that normal people like. They hone in on the "prose" and the "style" like lasers, because literary style is a sufficiently nebulous and subjective subject to let them natter on about it without risking being disproven. I've only seen one of his posts - I have no use for criticism that is not substantive - and saw he had already committed two major howlers with regards to military history and the use of magic. He'd be wise to stick to complaining about the style, which no one has ever claimed is any better than "workmanlike". Including me.

But let the critics natter on, by all means. This is a big step forward from simply being ignored. The more hate from these circles, the better. I expect that in another few years, they'll start hedging their bets by starting to mention a few of the positive aspects that presently manage to escape their collective notice. And it would certainly be ironic, to say nothing of highly amusing, if Mr. Wright's take eventually proved to be as much of an obvious joke as Mr. Moorcock's.

What's interesting about all this is that someone who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation, but is a Respected and Well-Known Name in science fiction and fantasy circles, told me some years ago that he expected I would eventually become a leading fantasy writer. I'm not there yet, to be sure, but the notion is considerably less ridiculous than it appeared at the time. I have to admit, I scoffed at it myself, not out of humility, but out of a recognition of my stylistic limitations. Of course, since then, I've learned that style is only one of the four major components of a novel, and it is far from the most important one. No one reads Eco or Murakami or Tolkien for their literary styles. If I'm very fortunate, perhaps one day someone will write a hate-review called "The Dichotomy of Day" about me in The Atlantic instead of merely posting it on a personal blog.

Anyhow, should you wish to judge my "ponderous, awkward and clunky" style for yourself, Summa Elvetica & Other Stories is still free.

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114 Comments:

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar September 02, 2017 7:02 PM  

I like the Moorcock universe. It worked very well as an RPG setting back in the day. I did not like getting confused and needing to go back and re-read a chapter in order to wrap my head around the progression.

Blogger artensoll September 02, 2017 7:05 PM  

Bloke's a twat.

Blogger Lucas September 02, 2017 7:07 PM  

"Vox Day" (in quotes)

"Beale"

I am pretty much sure you know what's coming when someone refers to you like that

Blogger VD September 02, 2017 7:09 PM  

Bloke's a twat.

That's probably true. Even so, you have to almost admire his grit. I mean, if I was going to hate-review an author I genuinely didn't like, there is NO WAY I would choose a 922-page book to do it. The mere thought of trying to do that with a Wheel of Time book, one of the later Shannara books, or just re-reading A Dance with Dragons, is enough to make me preemptively quit.

Blogger emx1 September 02, 2017 7:10 PM  

What are the other three components?

Blogger VD September 02, 2017 7:10 PM  

I am pretty much sure you know what's coming when someone refers to you like that.

Every single time. Especially when even the mainstream media has given it up.

Blogger VD September 02, 2017 7:16 PM  

What are the other three components?

Story, Characters, and Originality. World-building falls under Originality. But I try to focus on a meta-aspect I think of as verisimilitude. Tolkien tried to write history that read as if it were real. I try to write in a manner that lets the reader experience the non-existent events.

If the Lugbol chapters don't feel different than the Fjotra chapters, I'm not succeeding in my literary goals. Flashy literary pyrotechnics would only interfere with that, even if I did them well, which I don't. That being said, I'm observably better at literary sleight of hand than most authors. I never cheat to create fake drama.

Blogger Fenris Wulf September 02, 2017 7:24 PM  

The spirit of Alexei Panshin lives.

I'm reading ATOB right now and the style is clear and lucid, which is all I can ask for. I haven't read VD's fiction before and I wasn't sure what to expect. Right away, I picked up on his distinctive moral perspective and his harsh realism about the price of stupidity.

Anonymous Steve September 02, 2017 7:27 PM  

I mean, if I was going to hate-review an author I genuinely didn't like, there is NO WAY I would choose a 922-page book to do it.

Yes, but to be fair - you have a life.

Blogger Cataline Sergius September 02, 2017 7:31 PM  

Well. Basically, in this chapter...

He managed to lose me at the words "Well. Basically..."

Impressive.

I could just picture the voice going high and the pudgy features wrinkling up in superior disgust.

Why I was writing better stuff for the fanzine I used to edit when I was a sophmore in college.

Blogger Bill September 02, 2017 7:37 PM  

I didn't realize I liked ponderous, awkward and clunky, but then again, I didn't realize I was a nazi, either.

However, I bet "ponderous, awkward and clunky" describes his girlfriend.

Blogger Tyler Wollmann September 02, 2017 7:50 PM  

I really enjoyed ATOB. Charged through the last 200-300 pages like a raped ape.

Anonymous Icicle September 02, 2017 7:59 PM  

His name is "Moorcock."

Blogger Tyler Wollmann September 02, 2017 8:01 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Northwest Watching Thing September 02, 2017 8:07 PM  

One of the things I've found with VD's books, is that they feel longer than they are. I don't mean that they are a boring slog, but that he is able to pack a lot of detail in in such a way that a lot more happens in his books as compared to most other writers.

Anonymous Icicle September 02, 2017 8:12 PM  

Never go full Dickens though.

Blogger Wynn Lloyd September 02, 2017 8:17 PM  

I suppose everyone has a right to his opinion, but I don't trust any critic who hasn't written his own successful book.

This guy and his kind are resentful spectators, criticizing from the sidelines while those on the field are actually creating literature.

I've encountered people talking about TOB way outside of VP or the manosphere in general. This guy has probably published about as much as me, which is to say not at all.

Anonymous Anonymous September 02, 2017 8:25 PM  

"However, I bet "ponderous, awkward and clunky" describes his girlfriend."

Don't you mean his boyfriend?

Blogger Duke Norfolk September 02, 2017 8:28 PM  

Bill wrote:However, I bet "ponderous, awkward and clunky" describes his girlfriend.

Zing! No doubt true, if there is one, of course.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 02, 2017 8:32 PM  

Are there any particularly bad examples of fake drama?

Blogger Duke Norfolk September 02, 2017 8:32 PM  

What a complete dork, little mr. moorcock. So predictable. Just the picture of the little lefty peckerhead who thinks he's so friggen clever. This just screams loser.

Anonymous a deplorable rubberducky September 02, 2017 8:40 PM  

No, I disagree, style is king in literature. But I'd also agree not to sweat it. It will out.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 02, 2017 8:49 PM  

I never cheat to create fake drama.

What? You mean you're not going to surprise-decapitate Lodi for no logical reason to climax Sea of Skulls? Come on, Vox. What kind of post-Christian post-modernist post-writer are you anyway?

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 02, 2017 8:51 PM  

I could just picture the voice going high and the pudgy features wrinkling up in superior disgust

... as he accidentally spilled his Orange Crush between the creases of his belly fat rolls.

Anonymous EmperorKhorne September 02, 2017 8:53 PM  

Is "Amorr" an homage to the "Amarr" Empire of Eve Online?

Anonymous Booch Paradise September 02, 2017 8:56 PM  

I was skimming through it and found this gem.

Not only do the five experimenting mages come to gory or fiery ends – Lithriel is positively in fits of laughter throughout – but the heat from the dragon’s fiery breath bleeds through the crystal ball (evolution may be nonsense in this world, but electromagnetic radiation works the same as it does in ours) and sets fire to the furniture and an incautious senior mage.


Oh silly Christians, you can pretend to ignore the truth of evolution, but even you wouldn't be brave enough shrug of the cold hard science behind the effects of dragons fire on crystal balls.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy September 02, 2017 9:04 PM  

Despite claiming to have the initials SJW, the reviewer writes like an actual SJW. I don't think anyone who has been around here could be writing it as a parody.

Mr. SJW and his commenters have no clue about good style, at any level. On top of that, they're making an effort to not understand what they are reading.

VD wrote (emphasis added):They hone in on
Et tu? In my day, the phrase was “home in”. “Hone in” still makes me cringe.

Bill wrote:However, I bet "ponderous, awkward and clunky" describes his girlfriend.
Er.
Mr. SJW wrote:If I want to see clumsy and flabby, I’ve got a mirror handy, I don’t need a book.

Blogger James Dixon September 02, 2017 9:10 PM  

> ...the way atheists used to do chapter-by-chapter "reviews" of TIA:

So, at what chapter does he give up an move to Vegas to become a gigolo?

Blogger SmockMan September 02, 2017 9:10 PM  

SJWright, what a name.

Blogger SouthRon September 02, 2017 9:12 PM  

So when does he head to Vegas and start working the pole?

Blogger Rough Carrigan September 02, 2017 9:18 PM  

First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.

Blogger Tatooine Sharpshooters' Club September 02, 2017 9:24 PM  

I've never heard of Moorcock before, but anyone leveling a charge of "infantile" at Tolkien must be someone who needs to be reminded regularly to remember to breathe.

Blogger OGRE September 02, 2017 9:27 PM  

Its rich irony indeed that he needs a 70 word sentence to label Vox as "ponderous, awkward and clunky."

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr September 02, 2017 9:34 PM  

Tolkien? No literary style? I consider LOTR to be among the finest works of prose in the English language.

I'll grant that style is, to a degree, a matter of taste. But Tolkien had it in gobs...he's one of the best examples of why a prose writer needs a command of poetry to get the timing right.

Anonymous 7817 September 02, 2017 9:36 PM  

I have really enjoyed both ATOB and ASOS. My only complaint (not a complaint really) is that they are so readable I just charge through them. The non-action parts are still active in some way.

They would still be great books at 3 times the length.

I'm curious if others have had this experience with them, and if so, what is the cause? The only reason I can think of is that the books are so focused on the characters that there is always something going on; something to discover next, as opposed to Tolkien, who wrote a lot of visual description, or description of what a long hard slog the characters were going through, that tended to slow down the story or give you a breath.

It may sound odd, but the parts of the books that offer insight into values are parts that I loved. Tolkien also has that, except a bit more of it. It's good to read fantasy books with bits of Truth jutting out of the landscape.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable September 02, 2017 9:42 PM  

I just charge through them

Yes. I have the same problem. I'm waiting for the hardcover ASOS to re-read the entire series S L O W L Y.

Blogger tz September 02, 2017 9:51 PM  

Who will guard the guardians? Who will edit the editors?

I found several things "jarring" with AToB, but I doubt it would serve any purpose to bring them up here. There were some entertaining points, but when the original idea to do epic Sci-fi/Fantasy I warned there was a danger that because it would be easier to be blue-SF/F (anti-pink) rather than the epics of Lewis, Tolkien or even Niven, Herbert, or Asimov before the 1980's.

I have not read the review in question, but I assume it is along the pink-blue axis. Just as Scalzi's work is praised unquestionably by his sycophants.

That is the tragedy. Epic fiction is clearly possible, but if the criterion of success is not objective aesthetic greatness, then other things like sycophantic praise (like the pink works get), or number of sales, etc. substitute.

The wise man pointed at the moon. The crowd looked at his finger.

With each incremental work which is celebrated as the greatest work ever, I become more cynical, simply because it isn't. The tropes aren't universal, they fit into the curent mileau, paradigm, or zeitgeist. They simply aren't. They have a few spikes of greatness among a sea of mediocrity. Or greatness is displaced by context - in Donaldson's second Thomas Covenant series, he brings in a SF spaceman who proceeds to destroy the context.

I do have a few things in my queue if I ever get bored, but they are likely to be yet another insufferable pastiche of disjoint styles, storylines, allegories, or allusions that I know will be rated as "5 stars" by most readers, just as Scalzi's "Red-Shirts" carries an equally high rating. Or just look at the final convergence beyond the event horizon into the black hole the latest Hugo's have descended.

Blogger tz September 02, 2017 9:55 PM  

Correction - It was Mirror of her Dreams that had the SF Spaceman, I think in a Man rides Through.

Blogger tz September 02, 2017 9:57 PM  

Tolkien was a modern Homer. Or at least the greatest English author since Shakespeare.

Lewis was better at exposition, but mananged to do well in his Space Trilogy and Narnia chronicles and his lesser works.

Anonymous BN September 02, 2017 10:05 PM  

He talks like a fag, and his shit's all retarded.

Anonymous Random American September 02, 2017 10:09 PM  

I've never read Moorcock, but criticizing Tolkien as "infantile" is just silly. Tolkien was a great stylist and was focused both on our highest good, and the often humble roots of that love and wisdom among men (or hobbits).
I guess to "sophisticated" people, that seems "infantile".

Anyway, I'm a huge fan of the blog, Sjw's Always Lie, and Cuckservative. Might as well give the fiction a try as well!

Blogger Steve Mackelprang September 02, 2017 10:11 PM  

I am looking forward to your next peek at this world.

Blogger David The Good September 02, 2017 10:18 PM  

EmperorKhorne wrote:Is "Amorr" an homage to the "Amarr" Empire of Eve Online?

No - if you read the books, Amorr is based loosely upon Rome.

Blogger David The Good September 02, 2017 10:20 PM  

The intelligence of the series is quite obvious as well, particularly in the details. You could literally build your own pieces and play the betting game the dwarves engage in while traveling. And it would be fun. Unlike quidditch.

Anonymous teepee September 02, 2017 10:41 PM  

What searches should I do to get your posts about the four components of a novel? I'd like to print them out for reference.

Blogger James Dixon September 02, 2017 10:41 PM  

> I've never heard of Moorcock

The Eternal Champion series (including Elric) has it moments. I can't recommend anything else he's written. Here's Razorfist on Elric: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P80UTMrpFIY

Anonymous Deplorable Winning September 02, 2017 11:00 PM  

Then, when I saw Glyer's reference to it, the recollection hit me, almost entirely unlike a cheetah.

N. b. "Then, when I saw Glyer's reference to it, the recollection hit me, almost entirely unlike a cheetah armed with a deadly laser, commanding the flaccid prow of an NGO rapefugee raft".

Please pardon this intrusion; I'm working on my writing skillz. One day I hope, yea I dream, of becoming an actual Hugo Award Winner (6 of 5, of course) just as Steven Justice Wright must.
http://voxday.blogspot.tw/2017/07/mailvox-bad-writing-is-cancer.html#c1225973862731198754

Blogger Dave September 02, 2017 11:08 PM  

teepee wrote:What searches should I do to get your posts about the four components of a novel? I'd like to print them out for reference.
For starters click the Label/keyword writing at the end of the OP. Here's a post from a couple of years ago re the four elements of a book: http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/06/mailvox-bad-science-fiction.html

Anonymous Rigel Kent September 02, 2017 11:26 PM  

Do you think he'll make it past chapter 4?

Blogger Timmy3 September 02, 2017 11:33 PM  

We should all have our books reviewed by a hater. That means you can't be ignored.

Blogger Brian S September 02, 2017 11:35 PM  

I find your writing style to be very readable, and therefore, enjoyable. With other writers, including Tolkien, I find my mind tends to wander when they try to say something simple in a "style" that just leads to confusion. Maybe some people like that, but not me. After reading that post about Donaldson yesterday, I'm glad I never read that series as it would have probably driven me insane.

Anonymous EmperorKhorne September 02, 2017 11:39 PM  

I know Amorr is culturally Roman. I am 30% of the way through AToB.

Amorr is also very similar phonologically to Amarr, and my question is whether Vox Day, sci-fi afficionado, is giving a nod to the Eve Online universe.

Blogger Brian S September 02, 2017 11:42 PM  

More likely the Amarr name and background were inspired by the same source. I used to enjoy looking into all the names of the ships in EVE to see what an unfamiliar name was in reference to, as it was usually something interesting.

Also, I thought a space ship outfitted with giant howitzers was pretty funny and cool in a ridiculous sort of way.

Blogger Nate September 02, 2017 11:54 PM  

"ponderous" is the least applicable adjective one could apply to VD's writing.

Workmanlike. Utilitarian. Those apply. Ponderous isn't even in the ballpark.

Anonymous Anonymous September 03, 2017 12:02 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Anonymous John VI September 03, 2017 12:05 AM  

Is clunky the new fat?

Anonymous Anonymous September 03, 2017 12:05 AM  

@EmperorKhorne - I doubt Vox was thinking of EO.

Rome in Latin is Roma. Rearrange the letters and you get Amor. Add an extra R to give the reader the idea to give the end a hard r sound and you have the much more likely inspiration for Vox and for EO in separately coming up with such names.

Anonymous Nathan September 03, 2017 12:15 AM  

@52,

If I had to guess, Amorica (now Brittany) is the likely inspiration. I always get an impression of France when I read about the human empire in Selenoth.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan September 03, 2017 12:18 AM  

If you can talk Mr. Stanley into another book try and convince him to make part of the plot a gentle send up of us in Flyover, America.

For the gentle readers of this blog if you like your fantasy lit in smaller doses try "A Magic Broken."

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 03, 2017 12:40 AM  

Amar is also "red" in some language or another. Don't remember which.

@58. Nathan, France is the little cavalry-kingdom (big horses, heavy armor, what's infantry?) off over the mountains beyond Amorr. The one where Fjotra and Co. currently are, and where Theuderic hails from, unless I very much miss my guess. M is also roundabout by way of maniacal tunnelage.

Anonymous SciVo de Plorable September 03, 2017 12:56 AM  

Bill wrote:However, I bet "ponderous, awkward and clunky" describes his girlfriend.

To be fair, that's because he likes a challenge; his other hand is just too easy.

Blogger Shimshon September 03, 2017 1:46 AM  

I bought the printed Marcher Lord Hinterlands edition of AToB and am finally close to the end, after slowly (ponderously?) reading it in fits and starts over many years, can say that this is the best fantasy book I have ever read. Never having read any Tolkien, I suppose that's an easy statement to make. Nonetheless, I truly felt immersed in the world "Vox Day" has created.

Anonymous 2106 Things I Hate September 03, 2017 1:51 AM  

Mike Glyer is a slimy "tell me where the bad Man touched you" Santa Claus looking MF-er.

Atob is neither the best series I have read, nor is it the worst. AAMOF, it deservedly is one of the *better* series I have read, and I am looking fwd to the rest of the series.

Blogger bruce September 03, 2017 1:51 AM  

I'd like to see a movie with a wimpy, whiny albino who turns into the Incredible Hulk as soon as he draws Stormbringer. What's more, Hollywood could do it. They have wimpy, whiny actors. They have great CGI. It would be dumb fun. That's their skill set.
The Lord of the Rings books were too smart for today's Hollywood, and the movies dumbed down and doubled down on dumbing down, and it was just embarrassing. I skipped the Hobbit movies.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim September 03, 2017 1:59 AM  

OT ... Evergreen college professor adds further credence to SJWs Always Double Down... @2:56
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G59zsjM2UI

Blogger Ingot9455 September 03, 2017 2:18 AM  

Elric is interesting as a funhouse mirror of Conan, but then people kept trying to pay Moorcock for more long long after the satirical effect was lost.

To the point where he was writing knockoffs of his own books to pay for his failing New Wave fiction magazine, thus the Eternal Champion.

But the thing which really grinds my gears is the total lack of combat verisimilitude. I can't count how long Elric just sort of... rode away on a horse while a dozen people held crossbows on him. No magic wind spells, and random armor and never a helmet.

Blogger VD September 03, 2017 2:20 AM  

Amorr is also very similar phonologically to Amarr, and my question is whether Vox Day, sci-fi afficionado, is giving a nod to the Eve Online universe.

No, despite my respect for it. It's a combination of two things, one, the "secret name" of Rome, which some believed to be Amor. Two, amore, which of course is Italian for love.

Originally, I wrote it as Aemor, which is how it appears in the Marcher Lord paperback edition of SE. But that struck me as a bit precious, so I changed it by the time I wrote A Magic Broken.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash September 03, 2017 2:24 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash September 03, 2017 2:26 AM  

I recently read AToB and ASoS. (thanks, Vox). I would say, as far as "style" goes, that the writer mostly just gets out of the damn way and tells the story.
I appreciate this.
What passes for "style" in writing is mostly the author demanding your attention. I find it jarring, pointless, stupid and irritating. Style per se is usually a net negative for me now.
Workmanlike storytelling is a HUGE improvement over what is being pushed by the vast fleet of huge English Lit grads that run the publishing industry.

Blogger Troushers September 03, 2017 2:58 AM  

I got a couple of chapters into this fellows review, but lost the will to continue when he started complaining about a preponderance of male characters...on a battlefield.

Anonymous RobertL September 03, 2017 3:07 AM  

Never really 'got' the Elric books, far preferred Corum, but Jerry Cornelius was a fun ride for anyone who'd been in London in the 1970s. His later Pyat works were good too, with some more debunking of epic tropes, kind of a bitter George MacDonald Fraser. Funny that there's so many who haven't heard of him in the comments, the Eternal Champion has provided fodder for BoC and Hawkwind at least, as well as directly informing one comic series that I know of. On the Moorcock/Tolkein thing, Moorcock deprecated his own fantasy work and always wanted to be a Serious Writer. Also big buds with Andrea Dworkin, make of that what you will.

Anonymous Raw Cringe September 03, 2017 3:31 AM  

Re: Tolkien's "infantilism", I'm pretty sure the essential core of the fantasy genre is the idea that the universe is inherently just, whether through the action of magical karma, a wise king, the gods, or God. Writing about unjust universes with no inherent justice is an intentional subversion of this core. Now, to a filthy heathen, the idea that the universe is inherently just is bound to seem infantile. But it's a charge that can be equally levied against any real fantasy. This book is comforting, dagnabbit! Only BABIES need comforting! INFANTILE!

Anonymous Perfunctory Solecism September 03, 2017 3:55 AM  

IIRC, Moorcock wrote some parodistic faux-gospel about Jesus, Behold the Man.

In the novel, Moorcock weaves an existentialist tale about Karl Glogauer, a man who travels from the year 1970 in a time machine to 28 AD, where he hopes to meet the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behold_the_Man_(novel)

Anonymous Perfunctory Solecism September 03, 2017 3:57 AM  

I just have to include this part. It tells you a lot about Moorcock.

"He then makes his way to Nazareth in search of Jesus. When he finds Mary and Joseph, Mary turns out to be little more than a whore, and Joseph, a bitter old man, sneers openly at her claim to have been impregnated by an angel. Worse, their child Jesus is a profoundly intellectually disabled hunchback who incessantly repeats the only word he knows: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Karl, however, is so deeply committed to the idea of a real, historical Jesus that, at this point, he himself begins to step into the role, gathering followers, repeating what parables he can recall, and using psychological tricks to simulate miracles. When there's no food, he shows the people how to pretend to eat to take their minds off their hunger; when he encounters illness caused by hysteria, he cures it. Gradually, it becomes known that his name is Jesus of Nazareth."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behold_the_Man_(novel)

Anonymous JAG September 03, 2017 4:11 AM  

I read a dozen Moorcock books in the 8th grade. These included the first six Elric paperbacks, and both Corum trilogies.

Tried to read them again a few years ago, and couldn't do it.

And Elric movie could be pulled off, but I think Ice T instead of Idris Elba for the lead is the way to go.

Blogger KRW September 03, 2017 4:12 AM  

Bravo all commenters above. Well said and all applicable. The subject person does not know that the word "fiction" does not mean what he thinks it means. He could certainly use additional education on the matter. Readers will not like, like, really like, or really really like a particular work. Deep critical analysis does not serve much purpose for fiction work for most readers....the number of stars rating has that power. This guy did his critique for personal reasons to satisfy himself and not provide guidance for anyone else. I have done the same for myself on Amazon.

ASoS review: I see in your eyes the same reading fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the books of men fail, when we forsake the authors' prose, and beak all bonds of readership, but it is not this book. The books of social justice warriors and pink science fiction/fantasy can shatter the intellectual sensitivities of readers causing the age of reading to come crashing down. But it is not this book. This book we read! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth I bid you stand, men of the west, and read this book!

This book follows "A Throne of Bones" and is necessary to follow up the that story. The writing and format is the same as the predecessor book and flows with the same riveting intensity. Please enjoy this read. I am certain that you will.

AToB review: Excellent. I am a type of reader that will "get into" a story in a visual manner. Like I was actually floating around observing from all angles the interactions of the characters and all that they were doing. Better than any movie could be no matter the CGI. When I read a great book my mind builds the show based on the words and descriptive nature of each moment. High quality descriptive nature THROUGHOUT an entire book is hard to find. R.A. Salvatore wrote great fight scenes and I enjoyed reading his works, but I do not really remember much about the stories. Drizzzt the Dark Elf was a great character from another author's series and I remember the elf well but the story line...not so much. A Throne of Bones (AToB) has the story, has the battle scenes, all needed descriptions of everything everywhere, and a balanced switch back and forth of the characters and events that moves the storyline in such a manner that a person can not possibly get "tired" of a single event or character. The story develops very well and keeps your interest and , quite frankly, excitement level peaking and near peak throughout the book. That is why I must let my eyes rest and regroup. I could not stop reading when I knew I should have done so. My heartfelt congratulations for a book well done. The follow on book "A Sea of Skulls" is up next and is a must read as well.

Later,

KRW

Anonymous Anonymous September 03, 2017 4:25 AM  

I read Moorcock's runestaff series (Runestaff? Some kind of staff, I think.) After which I swore never to subject myself to Moorcock again. It was just plain not very good.

As for Tolkien, the man wrote dialogue like a university don that seldom talks to real people. The movies - with real actors trying to deliver the stuff - made this very, very clear. "Not all tears are evil". I cringed, I'm sure everyone cringed.

There's also the issue of how Denethor managed to run from inside a castle to a precipice outside while on fire. Asbestos undies, one supposes.

But apart from the odd thing or two, Tolkien above all is an enjoyable read.

Anonymous deplorable six pan September 03, 2017 4:25 AM  

Re. "Hone In v. Home In": knife receiving final polishing, or homing missile finding target? Metaphor is malleable.

(I secretly judge people who pronounce "chipotle" as "chuh-poll-tay." Not asking you to learn nahuatl, just say "chip-oat-lay." Not hard to do, and it shows mad rispeck to heritage America's Aztec overlords. We owe them our hearts!)

Anonymous Bz September 03, 2017 4:42 AM  

Moorcock started out with an old-school leftist SF magazine (to subvert SF, Christianity, etc), but, since it turned out nobody cared, is most famous for his crying and complaining about Tolkien and Robert E Howard (via Elric).

He of course also nearly managed to call Tolkien a nazi. Par for the course.

"While there is an argument for the reactionary nature of the books, they are certainly deeply conservative and strongly anti-urban, which is what leads some to associate them with a kind of Wagnerish hitlerism. I don't think these books are 'fascist', but they certainly don't exactly argue with the 18th century enlightened Toryism with which the English comfort themselves so frequently in these upsetting times."

http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=953

I have read that Moorcock mostly wrote his books on meth binges, which shows. He was quite productive though.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/07/michael-moorcock-i-think-tolkien-was-crypto-fascist

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/anti-tolkien

http://www.oldenhammer.com/2015/04/epic-burn-moorcock-versus-tolkien.html

Are there others he could turn his eye to? I suppose he's a bit too old to do it, but:

"“I do understand that Game of Thrones is different. It has its political dimensions; I’m very fond of the dwarf and I’m very pleased that George [R R Martin], who’s a good friend, has had such a huge success. But ultimately it’s a soap opera. In order to have success on that scale, you have to obey certain rules. I’ve had conversations with fantasy writers who are ambitious for bestseller status and I’ve had to ask them, ‘Yes, but do you want to have to write those sorts of books in order to get there?’”"

He must be a lot of fun at parties.

I'll leave this as the finale. As they say ... Every -

"As a child, Michael Moorcock used to see ghosts. They would float in through the window into the family parlour. Among them was Jesus, an unexpected guest, considering that although Moorcock is half Jewish there had never been any significant religious element in his upbringing."

Anonymous Bz September 03, 2017 4:46 AM  

"And Elric movie could be pulled off, but I think Ice T instead of Idris Elba for the lead is the way to go."

Elric was no albino but a high yella.

Anonymous Bz September 03, 2017 4:56 AM  

When it comes to style, I always enjoy reading B.R. Myers evisceration of the literati: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-readers-manifesto/302270/

Anonymous Anonymous September 03, 2017 5:00 AM  

I don't know if those "Steve J. Wright" reviews are an elaborate false flag trolling, or is someone really so butthurt. The sheer volume points at the latter. On the other hand, he's at the point where you not sure if anyone capable of writing a text this long can unitentionally be so stupid. While I do agree with some of his points (the initial goblin battle in AToB was a slog with a wargame feel, too many PoWs were introduced too fast), he used the tactic of raising retarded strawmen so that he can strike righteous poses while knocking them down just way too much, even before he started lying outright.


As about Moorcock, some of his books were quite entertaining. But he's certainly does not have the right to accuse anyone else of poor style, and, well, once you read enough of him, you realise that his books don't really HAVE plots worthy of a novel format. It is almost always a straight line quest from point A to point B, where characters remove all obstacles on that straight line that cannot be removed with old fashioned violence through applying magic or magical artifacts, and occasionally stop to mope usually because magic or magical artifacts had undesirable side effects. Moorcock's strong point was imagination, but that eventually waned.

Blogger Yorwak Kaheen September 03, 2017 5:19 AM  

I always found his attacks on Howard to be rather bizarre, as Conan (in his original Howard incarnation) can be as far from "moral goody-good shoes" as you can get without having actual villain protagonist. Plus he often relies on his cunning rather than on brute strength.
Heck, Moorcock's own Hawkmoon is basically strawman Conan that he was attacking - two dimensional pile of muscles with no brains to speak of but with with good and noble heart.

Anonymous Perfunctory Solecism September 03, 2017 6:18 AM  

Moorcock clearly had the proto-SJW mindset.

"Besides using fiction to explore his politics, Moorcock also engages in political activism. Specifically, in order to 'marginalize stuff that works to objectify women and suggests women enjoy being beaten,' Moorcock has encouraged W H Smiths to move John Norman's Gor series novels to the top shelf."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Moorcock

Anonymous Andy September 03, 2017 6:45 AM  

Your books are not 'ponderous, awkward and clunky,', I'm afraid this is the view of someone of limited intelligence, not understanding the words being used but knowing they are 'bad' and will play well with the crowd he is playing to. Think the puppet of Matt Damon at FAG in 'Team America'

To suggest Tolkein or specifically the LoTR is 'more deep-rooted in its infantilism' is absurd. Again this individual is not intelligent, he's another Matt Damon.

I really enjoyed 'A Throne of Bones' and the other related books, I read them back to front, but still enjoyed them. You are quite correct you are getting better at writing.

Oh and they are both Jealous of you, deeply deeply Jealous.

Blogger Tatooine Sharpshooters' Club September 03, 2017 7:16 AM  

"There's also the issue of how Denethor managed to run from inside a castle to a precipice outside while on fire. Asbestos undies, one supposes."

That was the work of the hacks Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, not Tolkien.

His dialogue is written in a different mode than most are used to today, and may come across as stilted, especially in the mouths of modern actors, no matter how "real" they may be, and certainly seemed beyond aforementioned hacks' ability to direct properly. They dumbed much of the dialogue, nearly as badly as they dumbed down many of the characters (Denethor being a prime example).

Anonymous Anonymous September 03, 2017 7:19 AM  

VD

Does your preference for clear, mimetic writing also extend to your tastes in reading? Do you like writers like e.g. Nabokov & Joyce or prefer novels without language games?

Blogger OGRE September 03, 2017 7:55 AM  

@74 Perfunctory Solecism

I groaned out loud reading that passage. Thanks for sharing!

@77 If you are drawing upon the films for insight into Tolkien's writing style then you will find only a pale imitation, as a child mimicking its parent. Tolkien changes his tone and style for the speaker, the setting, and the mood of a given scene. @86 already explained how the Denethor scene was simply the spectacle of the screenwriter and not native to the original work. Given the setting and mood of Gandalf's "not all tears are an evil" I did not find it at all cringeworthy. Certainly nowhere close to the GRRM classics:

"Men call me Darkstar, and I am of the night."

"Ser Alliser Thorne walked from the room so stiffly it looked as though he had a dagger up his butt."

"The three men were erect. The sight of their arousal was arousing, though Daenerys Targaryen found it comical as well."

Theres plenty more from Martin to be had. And this is from the man himself; I could fill an entire chapter of nothing but horrible dialogue from the HBO show and not even use the phrase "Bad Pussy."

Blogger wreckage September 03, 2017 9:34 AM  

If you don't understand what Tolkien was doing with language, you're illiterate.
Emotionally so, if you find it "cringeworthy".

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 03, 2017 9:36 AM  

Style is complex. Mediocre intellects hide in abstractions because their bullshit is less obvious, and they can pretend to greater nuance. Wise men OTOH prefer to stick to what they understand.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 03, 2017 9:37 AM  

See also: commentary on quantum physics.

Anonymous BBGKB September 03, 2017 10:29 AM  

I am still not sure how Vox's magic system works(vancian vs mana based) after reading ATOB, SOS, & the last witchking. I would put a review on amazon but people would probably figure out who mentioned the gay goblin hero Meerfin Shistgurble

OT:Fake news CNN commentator was inciting riot at Cville
http://conservativetribune.com/cnn-panic-man-identified/

Anonymous Nathan September 03, 2017 10:37 AM  

Re: @67 and the source of the name Amorr:

One of the great perils of criticism is seeing relationships in a work that don't exist, like i did earlier. It is always good to be set straight by the author.

Blogger wreckage September 03, 2017 11:04 AM  

My only problem with Amorr, which is a good, strong name, is that a noisy and stupid part of my brain keeps saying "IT'S ROMA BACKWARDS!".

The last thing I'd say about Vox' prose is to call it clunky. It does a fine job of epic fantasy prose: unobtrusive and effective, letting the setting, characters, history and events unfolding, take the fore.

I'm surprised how well an educated and unsparing look at a not-quite-Rome sets off the fantasy aspects, but there's a lot of precedent for using a carefully rooted, "human" backdrop to bring fantasy elements to life. Tolkien's deep history is one, the bias to humans in original DnD is another.

It isn't belaboured, but our hero's perception that a foreign temple owes overmuch to its pagan roots - while never having noticed the plot-critical EXACT same thing in his home culture - is one of the off-hand touches that really makes the books work. To take that kind of observation of human nature, weave it into a fantasy setting, and then NOT crack out the intellectual equivalent of canned laughter, is to my mind, actually very stylish.

Blogger The Aardvark September 03, 2017 12:15 PM  

Vox:
"Home in"
As in a missile, or a pigeon.

I weep.
----------
When I was in college, Moorcock was The Thing. Never, ever got it. "Turgid prose".

Blogger Snidely Whiplash September 03, 2017 12:26 PM  

paulmurray wrote:There's also the issue of how Denethor managed to run from inside a castle to a precipice outside while on fire. Asbestos undies, one supposes.
Nothing to do with Tolkein, his Denethor throws himself on his son's funeral pyre, something those mad with grief have been known to do.

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar September 03, 2017 12:34 PM  

Tatooine Sharpshooters' Club wrote:"There's also the issue of how Denethor managed to run from inside a castle to a precipice outside while on fire. Asbestos undies, one supposes."

That was the work of the hacks Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, not Tolkien.

His dialogue is written in a different mode than most are used to today, and may come across as stilted, especially in the mouths of modern actors, no matter how "real" they may be, and certainly seemed beyond aforementioned hacks' ability to direct properly. They dumbed much of the dialogue, nearly as badly as they dumbed down many of the characters (Denethor being a prime example).


This^.
It seriously diverges from canon. In the books it is explained that ever after, only a very strong user could see anything but Denethor's hands being consumed by flame.
Very regrettable, but that would have been difficult to include in the film. Therefore, since any sequel is unlikely, I give it a pass.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash September 03, 2017 1:39 PM  

Cluebat Vanexodar wrote:Therefore, since any sequel is unlikely, I give it a pass.
You think the (((rights holders))) for Lord of the Rings are not working on a sequel right now?

Blogger Unknown September 03, 2017 3:52 PM  

I read the first chapter and yes, the narrator feels like the scholar that is the focus of the story.

The world setting flows in a quite smoothly and the descriptions are rich but not heavy.

I'm sort of expecting to see the narration tone and pace to change once some sudden action happens.

Anonymous logprof September 03, 2017 4:14 PM  

He said Moorcock.

Blogger RobertT September 03, 2017 4:18 PM  

Criticism is a sign of success. If you aren't getting criticized you haven't made it yet.

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2017 6:23 PM  

"You can always tell when gammas with literary ambitions have it in for alan author that normal people like. They hone in on the 'prose' and the 'style' like lasers, because literary style is a sufficiently nebulous and subjective subject to let them natter on about it without risking being disproven."

Remember when not long ago you posted excerpts from that article by B.R. Meyers on the pretentiousness of postmodern literature? I read the expanded version published as A Reader's Manifesto. It was as much about the pretentiousness of literary critics. Who both shape and reflect the only kind of literary opinion they think matters, which for all I know may consist of the taste of 15 people in New York.

According to him, they focused as much on "style" in praising authors they like as in denigrating those of whom they disapprove. More specifically, they obsess about the Almighty Sentence. Every critical article comes down to the same thing, or at least used to when the article was written: quote a series of sentences, often set apart from the body of the text in their own special boxes, and bask in their glory. Don't dissect or parse, though you may break them down into parts you think deserve special praise. Mostly, just say, "Look, there it is. Isn't that wonderful!" Then continue to praise the author's work in language consciously or unconsciously borrowed from the author's style.

There's scant criticisms of things novels are known for besides sentences. Plot, character, theme, setting, etc. what're those worth compared to sentences? I mean, the actual story being told comes up, but "prose style" is what to them makes or breaks something as "literary" fiction. Everything else is "genre" fiction.

Thus, they feel free to spoil entire plots of "literary" fiction under review. Which they'd never do to "genre" readers, because they know one of the reasons "those people" read is to experience the plot as it unfolds. Especially not to have the ending ruined before they pick up a book. Apparently, the only reason anyone ever readHigh Fiction is for sentences

Blogger VD September 03, 2017 6:34 PM  

Ah yes, the "not one word is wasted" crowd.

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2017 6:49 PM  

@16-Dickens went full Dickens, and I've read like eight of his books. Dickensianism isn't my ideal, but there are so many worse "full-[blank]"s to go.

Will the tyranny of modernist Victoriophobia ever end?

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2017 7:06 PM  

@22-I'm not a strict formalist, but the fundamental purpose of prose is clarity and precision. There's more than one way to be clear and precise, and I don't insist upon maximizing either purpose all the time. Because there are other purposes to fiction, for instance memesis (what if your characters aren't speaking or thinking clearly?) and drama (what if lack of clarity will at least temporarily aid dramatic effect?), so I don't insist on nothing but the fundamentals of prose.

However, style can never be king. Worship of style, especially originality of style, is fatal to art. It ruined classical music, for instance. At some point it was thought necessary for every composer to "own" a style, which meant an identifiable kind of harmonic arrangement. The tendency was for more and more bizarre and unnatural arrangements, until harmony itself was abandoned and the multi-century classical project was finished. At least in the eyes of the public, though not to the mandarins in the Ivory Tower of supposedly higher culture. Beethoven was cute, Chopin was weird, Wagner was oppressive but still had a fanatical following. Debussy really pushed it, then the atonalists ruined the whole thing.

Something similar happened with literature. Really, the whole thing was ruined by Joyce. But unlike with music, which without order just sounds like noise, people will style read nutso styles. You can enjoy Ulysses without understanding a word of it--or just understanding the dirty parts--if you skim the surface.

But is that really what we want? Going "Oh, pretty!" as we skim by, not getting any meaning except maybe "everything is meaningless?" Or do we want some level of clarity? (Not to mention precision.)

If style isn't king, what is? I don't know. Go back to story and start from there.

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2017 7:18 PM  

@34-"He's one of the best examples of why a prose writer needs a command of poetry to get the timing right"

The fact that there's probably only been one novelist who was also a great poet, at least in English (I take the word of others for such writers as Pushkin, for instance, being great poets and prose writers)--i.e. Thomas Hardy--speaks against your point. Depends on what you have in mind for a command of poetry, I suppose. Maybe more than mere command spoils the effect.

However, I'm not sure you need even the proficiency of a Tolkien. Most great novelists probably fall fall short of Tolkien as poets.

I imagine poets are better generally at timing than other writers, because their form is all about rhythm (or used to be). But timing in prose isn't the sane as timing in poetry. And I don't think I'd like prose to be rhythmic in the manner of poetry (despite one of the commonest adjectives used to praise prose writing being "lyrical"). Because it would come off like a chant, or something.

Not if you used it sparsely of course. But who needs the skills of an actual poet to employ deliberate rhythm for short bursts?

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2017 7:29 PM  

@106-I should add that the reason why poets other than Hardy didn't also become great novelists, or vice-versa, could be because they merely didn't have an interest. Or because they specialized, in the manner of all-sport athletes who pick a sport and run with it before or after high school or college. In the case of Shakespeare, for instance, there isn't really any doubt he could've written a great novel--had he been interested in doing so and had the novel been a developed firm in his time--is there? His plays feature plenty of fabulous prose.

Ah, but that's Shakespeare. Plenty of known poets have written novels and novelists poems. They simply aren't as good, on the whole, at one or the other. Robert Penn Warren was a much better novelist than poet, in my opinion. The Nabokov novel Pale Fire, in a bit of formal horseplay, is told through pretended endnotes, as I recall, from a poem of the same title. Does anyone remember the poem separately? If they remember it at all, it's probably for the story wrapped around it.

Blogger Ja D September 03, 2017 9:34 PM  

Any thoughts on Davis Gemmell?

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 03, 2017 11:42 PM  

S.J.W. is a bad writer who writes bad.

Blogger pdwalker September 04, 2017 7:14 AM  

> Charged through the last 200-300 pages like a raped ape.

I think you were supposed to use the Cheetah metaphor, like... like a Cheetah, running away from a bad analogy

Anonymous Anonymous September 04, 2017 7:37 AM  

It's a wonder he's not invoicing you, considering the hours he's putting into it.

Anonymous Bowman September 04, 2017 9:57 AM  

How ironic the lefty review ("supreme commander talks like a supreme commander, how boring!") is frown upon by another leftist because the tone of the review isn't lefty enough (too much talking, not enough snarks).

Anonymous Morgan September 04, 2017 9:34 PM  

From John Clute's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASY (1997): "There is a smell of greasepaint to the MM oeuvre; even the bondage of the Eternal Champion himself is peculiarly and deliberately arbitrary – most of the Avatars are in any case granted frequent paroles, and manifest themselves in various worlds, under various names. The avatar masks they wear can, almost always, be shed. And, just as the Commedic instability of the Multiverse worlds constitutes a Thinning of the autonomous venue that most fantasy novels inhabit, so the Eternal Champion parodies the hero of the Monomyth, subjecting his generic model to a similarly constant thinning. Robert E Howard's Conan, though an immensely less sophisticated creation, is far more real to most readers than Elric, who is a deliberate Parody of Conan."

Anonymous MrNiceguy September 05, 2017 4:10 PM  

Amorr is also Roma backwards and with an extra r

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