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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The great poets steal

I remember how disappointed I was when I learned that Harry Turtledove wasn't a wonderfully imaginative writer, but was simply rewriting Byzantine history. I'm a little more relaxed about the fact that Frank Herbert found a fair amount of inspiration from a historical novel about an Islamic jihad in Russia:
Even a casual political observer will recognize the parallels between the universe of Dune and the Middle East of the late 20th century. Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert’s genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus.

Lesley Blanch, the book’s author, has a memorable biography. A British travel writer of some renown, she is perhaps best known for On the Wilder Shores of Love (1954), an account of the romantic adventures of four British women in the Middle East. She was also a seasoned traveler, a keen observer of Middle Eastern politics and culture, and a passionate Russophile. She called The Sabres of Paradise “the book I was meant to do in my life,” and the novel offers the magnificent, overstuffed account of Imam Shamyl, “The Lion of Dagestan,” and his decades-long struggle against Russian encroachment.

Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch’s work. Chakobsa, a Caucasian hunting language, becomes the language of a galactic diaspora in Herbert’s universe. Kanly, from a word for blood feud among the Islamic tribes of the Caucasus, signifies a vendetta between Dune’s great spacefaring dynasties. Kindjal, the personal weapon of the region’s Islamic warriors, becomes a knife favored by Herbert’s techno-aristocrats. As Blanch writes, “No Caucasian man was properly dressed without his kindjal.”
Herbert is ecumenical with his borrowing, lifting terminology and rituals from both sides of this obscure Central Asian conflict. When Paul Atreides, Dune’s youthful protagonist, is adopted by a desert tribe whose rituals and feuds bear a marked resemblance to the warrior culture of the Islamic Caucasus, he lives at the exotically named Sietch Tabr. Sietch and tabr are both words for camp borrowed from the Cossacks, the Czarist warrior caste who would become the great Christian antagonists of Shamyl’s Islamic holy warriors.

Herbert also lifted two of Dune’s most memorable lines directly from Blanch. While describing the Caucasians’ fondness for swordplay, Blanch writes, “To kill with the point lacked artistry.” In Dune, this becomes “[k]illing with the tip lacks artistry,” advice given to a young Paul Atreides by a loquacious weapons instructor. A Caucasian proverb recorded by Blanch transforms into a common desert aphorism. “Polish comes from the city, wisdom from the hills,” an apt saying for a mountain people, becomes “Polish comes from the cities, wisdom from the desert” in Dune.

Dune’s narrative, however, owes more to The Sabres of Paradise than just terminology and customs. The story of a fiercely independent, religiously inspired people resisting an outside power is certainly not unique to the Caucasus, but Blanch’s influence can be found here, too. The name of Herbert’s major villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, is redolent of Russian imperialism. Meanwhile, Imam Shamyl, the charismatic leader of Islamic resistance in the Caucasus, describes the Russian Czar as “Padishah” and his provincial governor as “Siridar,” titles that Herbert would later borrow for Dune’s galactic emperor and his military underlings.
This sort of thing is why I saw absolutely no point in playing superficial "hide the obvious" games and calling elves "snerks" and orcs "grablings" as so many mediocre fantasy writers do. I mean, they're not fooling anyone, are they? Sure, we'd all like to be as wonderfully and comprehensively inventive as JRR Tolkien, but few of us have the depth of knowledge or the patience required to painstakingly construct an entire world from scratch.

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99 Comments:

Blogger S1AL September 19, 2017 12:06 PM  

Agreed. I'm always annoyed with writers who simply rename things without a change of substance. And those who don't borrow from the traditional sources often do a shoddy job, anyways.

Tongue-in-cheek subversion of stereotypes, like Correia does on occasion, is one alternative with merit - when done properly.

Anonymous Looking Glass September 19, 2017 12:09 PM  

"This sort of thing is why I saw absolutely no point in playing superficial "hide the obvious" games and calling elves "snerks" and orcs "grablings" as so many mediocre fantasy writers do. I mean, they're not fooling anyone, are they?"

Randomly, that ends up being the advanced version of "People want to have written a book, not write a book" point. JRR put in a lifetime of work dealing with Middle Earth. Greatest requires a deep reserve of talent and a massive expenditure of it.

So "The Sabres of Paradise" became "Dune" which became "Star Wars". Which has become half of all hack fiction since. Well, credit for Blanch's original work.

Blogger VFM #7634 September 19, 2017 12:12 PM  

(((Harry Turtledove)))...

I'm more familiar with three of his other series: about the South winning the Civil War and turning Nazi for WW2 and doing the Holocaust on the blacks, the Derlavai series (WW2 with magic, and blue-eyed blondes getting Holocausted) and the Worldwar series (WW2 with invasion by lizardoid aliens).

WW2 seems almost like a monomania among (((some people))) I must say.

Blogger Ostar September 19, 2017 12:14 PM  

Ecclesiastes 1:9: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

Perhaps not in a strict micro sense, but certainly in a macro one.

Blogger S1AL September 19, 2017 12:19 PM  

"So 'The Sabres of Paradise' became 'Dune' which became 'Star Wars'.

Nah. They're really nothing alike. 'John Carter' is a much bigger inspiration. Even the superficially similar elements were introduced by people who weren't Lucas.

Blogger Jon D. September 19, 2017 12:23 PM  

Agreed. It's irritating to see that in fantasy so much. By the same token, I had a couple critique folk (amateurs) get on me for using words like "window" or "tablet" in my space opera back in the day. They wanted me to come up with different terms to signal sci-fi and I was like... why? a window is a window whether it's glass for real or some compound in space in the future. None of my readers ding me on that stuff so far. The industry and the desperate attempts for appearance of literary creativity are rather silly at the end of the day.

Also appreciate the use of dwarves and elves in Throne of Bones. No need to rename the wheel.

Blogger dc.sunsets September 19, 2017 12:26 PM  

How many truly differentiated stories exist? Seven? Eight?

And they've all been done how many times (each?) Thank heaven people are still writing, bringing fresh faces to each.

Blogger VFM #7634 September 19, 2017 12:27 PM  

"Also appreciate the use of dwarves and elves in Throne of Bones. No need to rename the wheel."

One funny thing about reading Burroughs is that many of his concepts predated the more well-known terms, and so aren't used because of that. The Green Martians are like orcs... and on Venus, there is one city where they practice eugenics, and a small kingdom where most people are zombies/undead, except he never uses those terms.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener September 19, 2017 12:28 PM  

References to elves and dwarves long preceded Tolkien in English and Germanic folklore, so even Tolkien stole to create his masterpiece.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 19, 2017 12:29 PM  

Well, even Tolkien stole elegantly from Beowulf.

Blogger Zaklog the Great September 19, 2017 12:31 PM  

"few of us have the depth of knowledge or the patience required to painstakingly construct an entire world from scratch."

I would say one of those few is Brandon Sanderson, and he keeps doing it over and over and over. It's truly impressive.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 19, 2017 12:35 PM  

I loved those first four books of the misplaced legion. He wrote that it started as Lord of the rings fanfic. It turned into his best work.

I recognized the Byzantine stuff from the start so it didn't bother me as much. When he kept mining history it got old for me. I enjoyed the toxic spell dump better than his history stuff.

A different flesh was good.

If you borrow I guess the trick is to pick something both interesting and obscure.

Blogger Forge the Sky September 19, 2017 12:37 PM  

"Well, even Tolkien stole elegantly from Beowulf."

And, less famously but perhaps more significantly, from the Kalevala. Its story-forms are simpler, and so easier to learn from and overlay with a new setting.

"References to elves and dwarves long preceded Tolkien in English and Germanic folklore, so even Tolkien stole to create his masterpiece."

They existed, but only in very poorly-defined and idiosyncratic forms. 'Elf' and 'goblin' referred to nearly any extra-natural being. George MacDonald gave 'goblin' form, Tolkien gave similar form to elf and dwarf.

In a similar way, there were many varied ideas about bloodsucking monsters in Europe before Bram Stoker created the 'vampire' archetype in Dracula.

Anonymous Nathan September 19, 2017 12:44 PM  

Sanderson does have some unique worldbuilding, but even he steals--alot. He also Campbellizes his magic into men with magical screwdrivers, and misses the Gothic core of Western fantasy.

Blogger Positive Dennis September 19, 2017 12:45 PM  

It always was pretty obvious that Turtledove was channeling Byzantium. Even one of his later trilogies he had the religious group the Messalians as major players.

Anonymous 7of9 September 19, 2017 12:48 PM  

To be fair, as I was raised in very white conservative mid-80s rural America? Dune influenced my opinion of the MIddle East far longer than seems rational.

Blogger Polynices September 19, 2017 12:51 PM  

Gotta reference good old TV Tropes:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CallARabbitASmeerp

Blogger Lazarus September 19, 2017 12:51 PM  

Vox,

I see you have Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetralogy in your reading list. Read them in the 70's. Immediately after, read The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima by Henry Scott-Stokes. Thought you might enjoy it. It opens with Mishima sending his last manuscript in the tetralogy to the publisher.

Blogger Zaklog the Great September 19, 2017 1:04 PM  

Sanderson does have some unique worldbuilding, but even he steals--alot. He also Campbellizes his magic into men with magical screwdrivers, and misses the Gothic core of Western fantasy.

I wouldn't entirely disagree with that. I believe he's referred to it as "hard fantasy", where the various magics work according to clearly defined rules. It loses some of the mysticism and moral element to magic. It also gains an amazing degree of plot flexibility. If you've clearly defined exactly what the magic can and can't do, then when you use those rules to create an entirely unexpected situation, your audience can both be surprised and say, "I absolutely should have seen that coming." It has definite advantages.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 19, 2017 1:05 PM  

http://i.4cdn.org/pol/1505837234875.jpg

Blogger Sheila4g September 19, 2017 1:10 PM  

@ Jon D.: "By the same token, I had a couple critique folk (amateurs) get on me for using words like "window" or "tablet" in my space opera back in the day. They wanted me to come up with different terms to signal sci-fi and I was like... why? a window is a window whether it's glass for real or some compound in space in the future."

I have an old paperback I picked up used somewhere called "The Making of Star Trek," by Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry. It recounts how they went out and bought various modern/futuristic-appearing salt and pepper shakers for the starhip's mess, and then realized no one would recognize that's what they were supposed to be! They ended up using them as Dr. McCoy's medical instruments.

I think, barring obvious geniuses like Tolkien, most good authors borrow from all sorts of places, whether deliberately or inadvertant. I have no idea if Guy Gavriel Kay ever read any Dorothy Dunnett, but I maintain Kay's Prince Diarmuid bears more than a passing resemblance to Dunnett's Francis Crawford of Lymond (and I love both characters).

Blogger Tupla-J September 19, 2017 1:32 PM  

Well, even Tolkien stole elegantly from Beowulf.

Not to mention Kalevala and Nordic mythology.

Blogger Zaklog the Great September 19, 2017 1:39 PM  

Speaking of TVTropes, I created pages for 2 Castalia House stories over there, hyperspace Demons and No Gods, Only Daimons. If you're a troper, feel free to swing by and contribute a bit to those yourself.

Blogger RobertT September 19, 2017 1:42 PM  

Good artists copy, great artists steal. First They Ignore You, Then They Laugh at You, Then They Attack You, Then You Win. Everyone is imitating someone else.

Blogger kh123 September 19, 2017 1:42 PM  

Son of Atreus in the Iliad is literally Atreides depending on how it's inflected.

OpenID turk187 September 19, 2017 1:47 PM  

I love Harry Turtledove. Can't recommend Guns of the South, or The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump highly enough.

Blogger Todd Everhart September 19, 2017 1:54 PM  

People keep talking about how Tolkien came up with elves, orcs, and dwarves. They all come from European folklore. The one thing he did was give them language and culture, but to say using those fantasy races is derivative of Tolkien just because they appear in later fantasy works is ignorant of the European folklore those works are based off of. Now if you mimic Tolkien language and the culture of his fantasy races that is another thing. But I encourage authors to revel in the folk tales of yore.

Blogger jamsco September 19, 2017 1:56 PM  

It seems like "Snerks and Grablings" would be a pretty good title.

Anonymous Intelectual powerhouse September 19, 2017 1:56 PM  

Artists dont copy, they have influences and u can see various influences reflected in their work.

Blogger S1AL September 19, 2017 1:58 PM  

"People keep talking about how Tolkien came up with elves, orcs, and dwarves."

Nobody said that.

Blogger Ken Prescott September 19, 2017 2:09 PM  

Tropes are tropes for really good reasons.

Anonymous Critically Bent September 19, 2017 2:09 PM  

Maybe I should have stolen more for my novel and it wouldn't be stuck in a slush pile somewhere...

I know I stole one element of my magic system from some novel that I can't even remember. I read the first couple pages and put it down cause it sucked. But, I loved the idea of a magic system where different magic users had to cooperate to be really effective because each was so specialized.

And I stole a lot from the Bible. Not sure if that's a sin or not...

Anonymous Lars Porsena September 19, 2017 2:24 PM  

The only mythical race Tolkien actually invented was the hobbits, the rest came from pagan myth. He might also have coined orcs in LOTR, but ironically he was doing a bit of hiding the obvious with that because it was just a re-name for the (pagan myth-based) goblins in The Hobbit.

Anyone who's read Yvgeny Zamyatin's "We" knows the entire storyboard plot of Orwell's 1984 is basically an exact rip-off. Literally the exact same story. Orwell told it much differently and IMO better than Zamyatin though and they end up being totally different books that just happen to have the exact same story with all the same details and the same ending. Orwell's was a brutally soul-crushing dystopia of absolute malevolent power whereas We was more of a farcical, dysfunctional satirical dystopia.

Anonymous Intelectual powerhouse September 19, 2017 2:28 PM  

Re 2:09. If you are a son of God then everything God has is yours so you wouldn't be stealing...however in Revelation John warns not to add or take anything away from the trustworthy and true testimony that is the Bible otherwise you will suffer various plagues.

Blogger LP9 September 19, 2017 2:31 PM  

Wonderful post, it reminded dad and I of Dune a perfume dating back 1991. Anyhow, I like Vox's and the commenters take on this

LIVE; Torba is doing control w/ Alex Jones 2;29 east coast time.

Blogger Tatooine Sharpshooters' Club September 19, 2017 2:41 PM  

"there is nothing new under the sun."

This helps explain the current state of academia: all the important ideas have been covered ad nauseam, so they latch to any absurd idea that slithers into sight, so long as it's "new". Of course, the stupidity they spew is also simply recycled , but it only really needs to appear avant-garde, at least to their fatuous colleagues and their credulous students.

Anonymous BBGKB September 19, 2017 2:45 PM  

no point in playing superficial "hide the obvious" games and calling elves "snerks" and orcs "grablings"

Oddly "grablings" would be a very good description of moslem refusegees.

a window is a window whether it's glass for real or some compound in space in the future

The space diamond window was broken by the McGuffin brick.

References to elves and dwarves long preceded Tolkien in English and Germanic folklore,

There is a ballad of the elf king ]first used by Herder in his ballad "Erlkönigs Tochter" (1778)

. If you've clearly defined exactly what the magic can and can't do, then when you use those rules to create an entirely unexpected

Did Vox ever say if his series uses Vancian magic or mana points?

Blogger Nathan September 19, 2017 2:53 PM  

You can always tell who is the top dog by who the gammas rage against and try to tear down at every opportunity.

Blogger Quadko September 19, 2017 3:04 PM  

If you've got a language guy like Tolkien, every common word will end up with variants in different languages, like the goblin/orc. IIRC he even used the word goblin interchangeably a few times in the book, where the people's languages knew the different word. Very different than "I'll call my computers 'quants' to make it scifi!"

Blogger jdgalt September 19, 2017 3:27 PM  

@BBGKB: I think you're on to something there. Just as Orwell got a big audience (and may have evaded some censorship) by casting the story of Lenin and Stalin as Animal Farm, a story of the Rapefugees in Europe that casts them as Orcs or Ogres and their naïve allies as Elves might become a best seller before the British and French and German governments figure out that they want to suppress it.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr September 19, 2017 3:29 PM  

Of course authors steal ideas! It's damned near impossible NOT to, because any writer worth his salt will read or see something and start asking, "How can I use this?" Good writers are honest enough to admit it...and workmanlike enough to change things around some instead of a brazen copy.

Blogger Atticus September 19, 2017 3:32 PM  

What are kobbers/hoblets?

Anonymous BBGKB September 19, 2017 3:45 PM  

I think you're on to something there. Just as Orwell got a big audience (and may have evaded some censorship) by casting the story of Lenin and Stalin as Animal Farm, a story of the Rapefugees in Europe that casts them as Orcs or Ogres and their naïve allies as Elves might become

Instead of elves their allies would be the 6,000,030 silver coin gnomes.

Blogger Scott Birch September 19, 2017 3:54 PM  

Oh well, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were good. As were the rest. Also I enjoyed The Dosadi Project. Nice one Mr Herbert. Shame your son made such an pig's ear of the franchise.

Blogger VD September 19, 2017 3:57 PM  

What are kobbers/hoblets?

Hobbits, more or less.

Anonymous Clay September 19, 2017 3:59 PM  

As usual, I don't get it.

I also liked Turtledove's Guns Of The South.

He went a bit silly after that success.

What does Byzantine have to do with that?

Blogger CCubed September 19, 2017 4:25 PM  

"If I have seen a little farther, it's because I've stood on the shoulders of giants"

OpenID turk187 September 19, 2017 4:37 PM  

Clay wrote:As usual, I don't get it.

I also liked Turtledove's Guns Of The South.

He went a bit silly after that success.

What does Byzantine have to do with that?


With that? nothing. I think Its referring to another series the Videssos cycle. But HT is a historian and all his stuff is based on his historical scholarship. Doesn't mean it isn't good stuff.

Blogger Brandon September 19, 2017 4:38 PM  

"few of us have the depth of knowledge or the patience required to painstakingly construct an entire world from scratch."

i would suggest everyone has that ability God-given, and we are each living that construct.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 19, 2017 4:41 PM  

"Did Vox ever say if his series uses Vancian magic or mana points?"

Seems like a combination of hermetic magic (arcane and geometric symbols and/or languages) and "mana", brain-strain variety, though there would also appear to be some enchanted items thrown in there too, Tolkien-style, though apparently (also Tolkien-style) people capable of enchanting are very (nigh-astronomically) rare. The exceptions to "rare enchanters" would, as with Tolkien, be the Elves.

...There's definitely also some evil-aligned magic in there (assuming it isn't all) that uses various fluids.


As for Tolkien stealing races... obviously Elves and Dwarves. Orcs are less obvious, but as others have noted, are probably a lore-revamp carried over from the Hobbit's Goblins.

Hobbits? Brownies or Gnomes, I'd say almost certainly, or one of numerous other fae creatures like them.

Trolls? Trolls.

Ents? Possibly Dryads or Nymphs, though they became male and much more tree-like. Could also be something like the jolly green giant or man-o-the-woods. Really, mythology has a LOT of crazy creatures, although Tolkien put in a LOT of time giving building and specifying and varying their cultures (and giving them complete languages). Interestingly, he also had a darker, grimmer setting than a lot of fantasy since, including what I've seen of AoDAL so far.

He was also good at killing off characters (SAY WHAT?!?), he didn't just do it to mess with the readers or because he was constitutionally incapable of writing believable heroes(like everyone knows Rape-Rape does). His characters REALLY got themselves killed, to be fair, as opposed to being thrown under the bus.

Anonymous Thranite September 19, 2017 5:12 PM  

*Adds Sabres of Paradise to the reading list*

Once again, this blog shows its worth. Oman, Pirenne, Bury, Peterson, all found as either a direct recommendation or by someone from the comments. I am thankful.

Blogger weka September 19, 2017 5:23 PM  

The Eddas and Finnish sagas. Beowulf he translated

Blogger Lovekraft September 19, 2017 5:28 PM  

o/t:

Trump at UN throwing down the gauntlet:

"The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has faithfully implemented."

Expect military action within a year.

Also note the word 'faithfully', which takes a subtle yet powerful position that marxism is akin to a religion.

Blogger Karl September 19, 2017 5:34 PM  

Everyone borrows and reuses poetry. For example, I learned via Twitter today that "Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' goes to the tune of '99 Luftballons'

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

https://twitter.com/Cloxdale/status/909723584351883265


Blogger VFM #7634 September 19, 2017 5:53 PM  

a story of the Rapefugees in Europe that casts them as Orcs or Ogres and their naïve allies as Elves might become a best seller before the British and French and German governments figure out that they want to suppress it.

@jdgalt
Ironically enough, Tolkien's Elves absolutely refused to grant humans asylum in Valinor. Ringbearers like Frodo Baggins were an extremely rare exception.

And even more ironically, in one of Christopher Tolkien's various add-on books, the reasons given for this refusal were essentially that humans would behave in an entitled, envious, and ungrateful manner... just like the brown people in Europe.

Would Tolkien have approved of the rapefugees? H*ll no!

Blogger Lovekraft September 19, 2017 5:54 PM  

Heads up. (sorry, for some reason I can't copy links today, so you'll have to find the video yourself).

Youtuber and gabber Styxenhammer666 (under "Gab Attacked by their Australian Domain Provider") is pushing a false narrative of the current situation. Doesn't mention VD himself, but is completely hiding the recent infiltration/dragging into the sewer by the Anglin-ites, as well as Torba's actions).

I called SHammer out for it, and also did some damage control in the comments thread.

Man, these SJWs (who at this point I am 100% certain are doing this) are vile.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 19, 2017 6:01 PM  

I think Tolkien made his position on Easterlings and Wainriders pretty clear

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 19, 2017 6:16 PM  

well, Hexxenhammer is a Satanist ( or a witch ), so i'm not really expecting a whole lot of integrity there.

Blogger Lovekraft September 19, 2017 6:32 PM  

@ Mr Mando:

I recognize he is a follower of the Lord of Lies, but he has influence, and can corrupt the innocent with his tongue. So calling him out is necessary.

We'll see whether his intelligence is able to discern the difference between open discussion and 14-yr olds shitposting.

Blogger roughcoat September 19, 2017 6:34 PM  

Styx lost me when he said it was a critical error to put any emphasis on morality, because the young people the right needs to capture would reject that. Very silly.

You don't have to play the frowning spinster schoolmarm while advocating a bit more in the way of moral behavior than is the norm in contemporary pop culture.

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 19, 2017 6:43 PM  

'morality' is the means by which people demonstrate their self constraint and integrity. disposing of morality is, of course, exactly what a Satanist would advocate.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/morality

which raises the question, "how do you know that Styx wouldn't lie to you?"

he has, after all, disposed of the morality which would have constrained him from doing so.

Blogger S1AL September 19, 2017 6:53 PM  

"I think Tolkien made his position on Easterlings and Wainriders pretty clear"

Yeah... Aragorn's judgment sounded a lot like "you gotta go back".

Blogger Wolfman at Large September 19, 2017 7:12 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Dexter September 19, 2017 7:23 PM  

What I'm tired of with HT is every book uses the "cast of thousands of POV characters" idea he stole from Winds Of War.

Blogger stevo September 19, 2017 7:50 PM  

I would think one of the hardest parts of writing fantasy is thinking up names that don't sound lame

Anonymous Avalanche September 19, 2017 8:07 PM  

The space diamond window was broken by the McGuffin brick.

And all the crew were sucked out into space. Freed of its parasitical burden, the ship raced for the future and the company of other clean ships, singing ballads of metal gods.

Anonymous Avalanche September 19, 2017 8:08 PM  

What are kobbers/hoblets?

Uh. Breakfast cereals?

Blogger Chris McCullough September 19, 2017 8:10 PM  

Naming conventions are easy, just use the Toriyama method of changing the names of food.

Flank
Risket
Pittri
Risilon

There. Halfway to writing the next game of thrones.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 19, 2017 8:54 PM  

"Also note the word 'faithfully', which takes a subtle yet powerful position that (((marxism))) is akin to a religion."

It's the Religion of Envy.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine September 19, 2017 9:01 PM  

"I would think one of the hardest parts of writing fantasy is thinking up names that don't sound lame"

Bilbo Baggins.


If it's the hardest, apparently it's the least important.

Anonymous Clay September 19, 2017 9:54 PM  

turk187 wrote:Clay wrote:As usual, I don't get it.

I also liked Turtledove's Guns Of The South.

He went a bit silly after that success.

What does Byzantine have to do with that?


With that? nothing. I think Its referring to another series the Videssos cycle. But HT is a historian and all his stuff is based on his historical scholarship. Doesn't mean it isn't good stuff.


I guess I'm just a dumbass.

Blogger Steve Mackelprang September 19, 2017 10:31 PM  

The main event is that the reader understands and enjoys.. won't be back otherwise. Off beat or beaten track...the magic is with the story.

Anonymous Jessica Sandton September 19, 2017 11:28 PM  

They're definitely not fooling anyone.

Harry Turtledove is good though

OpenID Sidehill Dodger September 19, 2017 11:34 PM  

If anyone wrote a totally original story, nobody would understand it. The success of a story depends partially on how well it resonates with the archetypical themes with which we, who share the same culture, are all familiar. Thus, cultural literacy is an absolute requirement for a successful author. Another necessary ingredient of a successful story is that the familiar elements must be presented in a new light. That's where creativity comes in.

It's hard to describe, but I know when I am starting to read a really good story: the sense that "I have read this before" and "This is completely new!" are present simultaneously. Alas that such stories have always been rare, and in these degraded time almost impossible to find.

Blogger kh123 September 19, 2017 11:54 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger VFM #7634 September 20, 2017 12:17 AM  

"I would think one of the hardest parts of writing fantasy is thinking up names that don't sound lame"

Bilbo Baggins.

If it's the hardest, apparently it's the least important.


Actually, Baggins is a real surname of Irish origin (Ó Beagáin), although more commonly spelled Beggin(s). Literally means "little/small".

Anonymous Mr. Rational September 20, 2017 12:18 AM  

I can't believe that the admins here took away the remnant comment-numbering Javascript.

It was useful.

It was not usable by the trolls.

There was nothing to be gained by removing it.

THEY REMOVED IT ANYWAY.  UTTER GRATUITOUS NONSENSE.

This was a fucking asshole move.  Only total dicks would have done it.  You did it.  You own it.  Worthless goddamn fuckheads, messing with things that work instead of just leaving them alone.

Anonymous Mr. Rational September 20, 2017 12:27 AM  

And the arrows and quoting JS... those are gone too.  For no good reason.

Total fucking gratuitous bullshit.

You dare to insult Gab?  Worse has been done to the usefulness of this blog in the last 24 hours, for no discernable reason.  If this was the action of the blog admins, they have given cause for everyone of intellect to abandon ship.

Anonymous Mr. Rational September 20, 2017 12:58 AM  

Pardon.

Temporary JS permissions were deleted due to a FF crash.  Things work after restoration.

I plead guilty to not paying suffiently close attention.

Anonymous Jack Amok September 20, 2017 1:02 AM  

I can't believe that the admins here took away the remnant comment-numbering Javascript.

We all have to make sacrifices to reduce our carbon footprint.

Blogger lowercaseb September 20, 2017 1:10 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger lowercaseb September 20, 2017 1:14 AM  

Mr. Rational wrote:Pardon.

Temporary JS permissions were deleted due to a FF crash.  Things work after restoration.

I plead guilty to not paying sufficiently close attention.


That is perfectly OK...righteous indignation is the BEST indignation!

Blogger Kristophr September 20, 2017 1:26 AM  

Off topic, but glorious:

http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2017/09/i-felt-great-disturbance-in-force.html

Blogger Kristophr September 20, 2017 1:28 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Kristophr September 20, 2017 1:29 AM  

So, I can permanently attach a suppressor can on my old .45 muzzleloader target pistol without NFA paperwork. Interesting.

Blogger Kristophr September 20, 2017 1:32 AM  

Mr. Rational wrote:Pardon.

Temporary JS permissions were deleted due to a FF crash.  Things work after restoration.

I plead guilty to not paying suffiently close attention.


My condolences. Towering rightious rants are fun, but I have always been embarrassed horribly after I have done so, and discovered the roast crow on my plate afterwards.

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit September 20, 2017 2:30 AM  

Pace C.S. Lewis, (IIRC) what does God give us? Year after year the same seasons follow each other, but each one is different. Every spring is a new spring. Repetition with variation is baked into the structure of the universe.

Why would the virtue in our stories be any different?

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit September 20, 2017 2:33 AM  

It seems like "Snerks and Grablings" would be a pretty good title.

For tiresome hipster fairies.

Anonymous 7of9 September 20, 2017 2:34 AM  

I like this.

Blogger bruce September 20, 2017 3:17 AM  

Clearly VD should steal his pigs from Dean Ing. Make the pigs smarter than the orcs, the secret illuminati masters of the orcs if you will, druid spells of course, preferably truffle-based. Then, those giant corkscrew peckers on a hog- what would Milo do? The odd elf princess no better than she should be, the entire orc female population for those times male orcs turn up their noses, orc captives- no one can say that's not a fertile ground for bad taste. Finally, an anti-hero like that dark elf with the scimitars, only twin curved tusks, on a quest for the Holy Truffle. Lose the armor- 'equipment should be sturdy, but armor is wasted weight' was good enough for Musashi and can be expected to outlast the fads of our day. I look forward to Drizzt do Bacon awakening just before the spit is inserted at the wardog pig picking, like Flashman waking up strapped to a cannon muzzle. It just logically follows.

Anonymous TS September 20, 2017 4:04 AM  

"Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.”– Jorge Luis Borges

Anonymous Athor Pel September 20, 2017 6:00 AM  

"➤ Blogger stevo September 19, 2017 7:50 PM
I would think one of the hardest parts of writing fantasy is thinking up names that don't sound lame
"


How many people do you know in real life that have lame names? A few maybe.
Therefore a lame name in your fiction is mostly no big deal.

Now, how many people in real life have really great names.
Not that many.

How about merely serviceable names. This is everybody else.

If you like a name you remember it.
If you like a name as an author you write it down.

If you need a name right now you perform an algorithmic trick. You think of the thing, object, emotion, animal, color, sound ..., that fits the character. Then translate that word into another language. If the first language doesn't work try another. Pretty soon you will hit on something you like.

But yeah, getting a name that feels right, that's not easy all the time.

Blogger William Meisheid September 20, 2017 7:38 AM  

I disagree with the idea of authors "stealing" as a general idea, while sometimes it is true in the specifics. We all build on what we know and the knowledge that came before in EVERYTHING we do. It is a given. We all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors.

The real test is what do you do with it. Do you advance the art, science, and understanding or just remix and pretend it is unique. Writers know there are only 7 basic plot lines that can sliced and diced as necessary, either expertly or poorly depending on your talent and artistry.

You either write a good story or you don't. Who cares if you use ideas from your predecessors; it is a necessity or there is no story to tell. It has already all been said. The only important focus is on how well authors tell their particular stories and whether they avoid the current crop of cliches and worn out phrasings. The rest is pompous grandstanding.

OpenID het1 September 20, 2017 8:18 AM  

> blanch...passionate Russophile

if she was Russophile, I'd like to know: who is Russophobe?
Muslimphile, better to say

Blogger flyingtiger September 20, 2017 10:29 AM  

Authors are inspired by others. The old saying is that if you steal from at least three different sources, it is original!

Blogger SteelPalm September 20, 2017 11:22 AM  

Interesting article, but the author is limited by a poor understanding of Russia and Russian history.

For instance, "kindjal" is a normal Russian word that means "dagger". There is absolutely nothing Muslim or exotic about it, nor does it refer to some special aristocratic weapon.

Anonymous Robert September 20, 2017 11:51 AM  

While it is 100% true that Tolkien took the concepts of "elfs" and "dwarfs" from pre-existing Nordic and Germanic mythologies, it's worth pointing out how he transformed both. Before Tolkien elfs and dwarfs were interchangeable and often treated the same as "sprites" or "faeries." Being mysterious and magical (and often small) were the only constant characteristics.

Apart from making his elves human-sized, Tolkien gave them an unearthly, yet tragic demeanor. He made them a race of heavenly exiles wandering on earth. Dwarves likewise he transformed into hard-laboring children of the soil with clannish ties.

Certainly, elements of these characterizations could be seen in earlier tales, but Tolkien really reshaped and redefined them to their present form.

Put another way, yes creatures called elves and dwarves existed in stories long before Tolkien. However, virtually every fantasy writer who writes about elves and dwarves today is using the new characterization that Tolkien gave these very old terms. Tolkien didn't create things out of nothing (no human can), but he drastically reshaped much of what he appropriated.

Blogger Aaron Kulkis September 20, 2017 1:12 PM  

"Good artists borrow. The greatest artists commit grand larceny"

Anonymous Lars Porsena September 20, 2017 2:16 PM  

I have to disagree with people commenting about dwarves being just a generic term for vague pixie creatures. I can't say about elves or goblins, but dwarves were already quite fleshed out in Norse myth including the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. They were short ugly people with beards that lived underground and in mines under mountains, they were legendary smiths and metalworkers as well as enchanters who created magic items for the Aesir gods, they were smart, deceitful, greedy, womanizing, drunk, exploitative and materialistic and they hoarded precious metals. They had that much form going back to the 13th century.

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