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The Library of Babel: A Book Log

"This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences." -- Jorge Luis Borges


Thursday, December 30, 2004

What You See is What You Get

In the interest of trying to clear out the backlog of books quickly, I'm going to knock off two in one post: Dave Duncan's Impossible Odds, the latest King's Blades novel (in paperback-- I don't buy them in hardcover), and Joel Rosenberg's Not Really the Prisoner of Zenda, the latest Guardians of the Flame book.

Lumping these together actually makes a fair bit of sense, for a number of reasons. For one thing, they share at least one plot element (saying what that is would be a spoiler for both books). They were also both in-transit reading during some of my recent running around, which has caused them to blend together to a small degree.

But mostly, what links these books is that they're each exactly what they appear to be: perfectly competent new entries in continuing series of workmanlike swashbuckling fantasy novels. There's nothing particularly inspired about either, and nothing particularly inspiring, either. They tell straightforward stories in a fairly straightforward manner, and if you liked the previous books in the series, you won't be terribly upset by either.

If pressed, I'd say that the Duncan is the better of the two, because it's a self-contained story with new characters, where the Rosenberg is tying up loose ends in a long and continuing plot. I don't think it's actually true that more time is spent explaining the vast quantities of baggage that the characters have brought in from previous Guardians novels, but it sort of feels that way. It's certainly true that the plot would be nothing without that baggage, so if you haven't read the previous umpteen books, don't even bother. Duncan's book draws on the setting of past Blades novels, but the plot and characters more or less stand on their own after that.

I realize that this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of either of these books, and you might well be asking why I'm still reading these series in the first place. All I can say is that they served admirably in their intended role, namely, they kept me from fretting about whether the tiny little prop planes I took to and from Sudbury were going to crash. And that's worth eight bucks a pop to me.

Posted at 11:12 PM | link |
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Old Man's War

I've got a bunch of books queued up for booklogging (stuff I read on planes and in hotel rooms, mostly), but I said when I re-launched this site that I wasn't going to feel bound by chronological order, so I'll skip ahead a bit to review John Scalzi's Old Man's War. It's John's first published novel, and he's been working hard to promote it, and, well, he deserves to sell a bunch of copies of it. So I'll throw what little power I have behind the book, because it's great fun.

The basic set-up of Old Man's War is sort of obvious from the title: there's a war, and it's fought by old people. Specifically, it's a sort of funhouse-mirror Starship Troopers: the only people who can join the Colonial Defense Forces and battle aliens on distant planets are people who have reached their 75th birthday. In exchange for up to ten years spent in the CDF, they'll receive new bodies, and eventually a spot on a colony world. Of course, they need to survive, first, and the universe is a nasty place...

Knowing a bit about the people involved in the origin of the book adds a little extra twist to reading it. (For those who don't know the story, Scalzi wrote the book a while ago, and posted it on his web site for interested readers to download. Patrick Nielsen Hayden saw it there, and bought it for Tor.) Knowing Patrick a little bit, it's easy to see why the book would appeal to him, and knowing John, well, the dialogue should be readily identifiable to any reader of the Whatever:

"Is this going to hurt?" I asked.

"Not so much," he said, and tapped his PDA screen. 20,000 microsensors slammed themselves into my skull like four axe handles simultaneously whacking my skull.

"God damn it!" I grabbed my head, banging my hands against the crèche door as I did so. "You son of a bitch," I yelled at Dr. Russell. "You said it wouldn't hurt!"

"I said 'not so much'," Dr. Russell said.

"Not so much as what? Having your head stepped on by an elephant?"

"Not so much as when the sensors connect to each other," Dr. Russell said. "The good news is that as soon as they're connected, the pain stops. Now hold still, this will only take a minute." He tapped the PDA again. 80,000 needles shot out in every direction in my skull.

I have never wanted to punch a doctor so much in my life.

The book follows an old man named John from Ohio through the usual trajectory of a military story: enlistment, boot camp, first combat and all the rest. The world he moves through is richly detailed, often with a comic twist: The basic training sequence is a hoot, the aliens he faces are very inventive, and the battle scenes are well executed.

It's very much a book in the tradition of Robert Heinlein, only, you know, not so annoyingly polemical. A good deal of the exposition is handled by having characters explain things to one another, giving it a bit of a Golden Age feel, but the dialogue is snappy enough that it doesn't get annoying. And while there's obviously been a fair bit of thought put into the way the CDF is organized, we're spared the lectures on how it's the one true way of doing things.

It wouldn't be a Library of Babel post if I didn't find something to quibble about, so I'll mention one thing that bugged me: I'm not sure the concept of the Ghost Brigades makes any real sense. Explaining the exact nature of the problem would be a spoiler, so I'll leave it for the comments if anybody wants to know, but it does undermine the ending a little bit.

That said, it's a really fun read. I tore through it over the weekend, and annoyed Kate by trying to read funny bits out loud to her when she was trying to work. I definitely recommend it to any SF reader, and I'm not just saying that because I'm part of the evil Religious Tolerance Cabal.

Posted at 9:31 PM | link | one comment


Friday, December 10, 2004

The Stupidest Angel

Subtitled "A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror," The Stupidest Angel is a holiday story that only the author of Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story could write. It's also a sequel of sorts to The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, which is itself a sequel of sorts to Practical Demonkeeping. As a bonus, there's an appearance by a couple of characters from Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and the angel of the title previously appeared in Lamb.

So, what I'm saying here is: don't read this book if you haven't read any Christopher Moore before. Of course, that also makes it sort of difficult to review this book: if you've never read Moore, you shouldn't read this first (start with Bloodsucking Fiends, which is self-contained), but if you have read him before, you pretty much know what you're going to get. I will say that this book isn't as preachy as Lamb or Fluke (sometimes), and also that it takes a while to really get going, but it's a good read.

To fill out a booklog post, then, I'll quote the section in which Moore proves that he understands the psychology of the Labrador Retriever better than any other author:

Well, there it was. Tragedy. A thousand trips to the vet, a grass-eating nausea, a flea you will never, ever reach. Bad dog. For the love of Dog! He was a bad dog. Skinner dropped his prize and assumed the tail-tucked posture of absolute humility, shame, remorse, and overt sadness. He whimpered and ventured a look at the Food Guy, a sideways glance, pained but ready, should another BD come his way. But the Food Guy wasn't even looking at him. No one was even looking at him. Everything was fine. He was good. Were those sausages he smelled over by that table? Sausages are good.

Posted at 10:12 PM | link | no comments


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In Praise of the Artful Fade

There's an interesting post and long comment thread (of course) over at Making Light on the idea of slash fanfic as a writing laboratory, and ways in which authors can get beyond the fade-to-black method of dealing with sex between characters. The discussion has introduced the phrase "Id Vortex" as a term for the "massively distracting issues... Sex, power issues, identity issues, physical or emotional violence, revelation, transformation, transcendence, violent catharsis, and whatever else is a high-tension power line for that writer," which is a great image, but I kind of feel left out of a lot of the discussion.

It's not just that I don't much care for fanfic in general, slash or otherwise (I tend to think it's impolite), though that obviously prevents me from recognizing a lot of the examples. It's just that there's a lot of talk about the wonderful literary qualities of sex scenes and their essential role in character development, and I just don't really get it.

I mean, sure, there are sex scenes out there that are very powerful and erotic, and all that, but I have a hard time coming up with any explicit sex scenes (which I'm taking to mean anything that includes a description of the relative positions of Tab A and Slot B (or whatever the appropriate collection of parts is)) that really work for me as an essential part of the story. After a good bit of staring at the book shelves, I came up with one, in Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman. The next best candidate is probably Iain Banks's Complicity, which is an unpleasant little book with some moderately unpleasant sex scenes, which makes them at least thematically appropriate (of course, by that logic, the icky sex stuff in Mother of Storms is just great, so I don't know that we want to go there). A question mark would be Temporary Agency by Rachel Pollack, which I remember as having a good sex scene, but I no longer quite recall the context.

Other than that, explicit sex in novels tends to just register as a distraction. Sometimes it's a pleasant diversion, sometimes an excruciatingly awkward digression (Guy Kay, I'm looking at you), and sometimes a shameless side trip into open porn (not that I've read any of those sorts of books), but it's extremely rare for me to hit a detailed sex scene in which I feel that including the detail serves any real literary purpose. The fact that the characters had sex usually serves a purpose, but information about the actual hydraulics, as it were, I could generally do without.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just not reading the right books.

Anyway, given that I generally prefer the "fade to black" method of dealing with sex scenes, I though it would be worth highlighting a few people who do that well.

It tends to be easiest to manage in first-person narratives, particularly in the more conversational first-person styles, where you can essentially have the narrator tell the reader "the rest of this is none of your business." Will Shetterly does this pretty effectively in either Elsewhere or Nevernever (I forget which), and Steven Brust has a couple of good dodges in the Vlad Taltos books ("Love, like murder, shouldn't have witnesses.").

There's also the classic dialogue-only method, of which my favorite is Steven Gould's Jumper ("I read a lot"). Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint also has a pretty good example of a way to skip the actual details, while making it crystal clear what's going on, and what sort of relationship the characters have (in fact, I think you could make a case that foreplay is actually more informative, in terms of character development, than the mechanics of intercourse).

My all-time favorite, which probably sticks in my head because it's so cinematic, is in William Gibson's "Burning Chrome," ending with "it rained all afternoon, raindrops drumming on the steel and soot-stained glass above Bobby's bed." Obviously, there's context missing, but in the story, I think that's an absolutely terrific scene.

Done well, I think the fade-to-black can actually be more effective than an explicit sex scene. And while there are some dreadfully clunky cutaways (usually of the "what happened next, dear reader..." school of cloying narration), even the run-of-the-mill clumsy fade-out is better than an awkward amount of detail.

So, give it up for the tasteful and discreet authors out there, who know when to have the camera pan up to the rain on the glass. Give it up tastefully and discreetly, that is...

Posted at 9:15 PM | link | [ hide comments ]


Meaningful explicit: Ford's Last Hot Time, where it was a big (if semi-inexplicable) characterization thing. (I forget how explicit it actually got, but considering how non-explicit Ford is on essentially every other aspect of his books, the mere fact that I managed to pick up that sex was happening means it's totally on-screen, relatively speaking.)

Also, I'd guess that sex scenes would be critically important in romance novels, where the interpersonal dynamic basically is the story and anything that modifies that is by definition plot-critical.

Mike Kozlowski, 12.07.2004, 11:02pm | permalink


I think, in the Making Light thread, some of the examples were very telling character things; they just weren't sexual; they were about malice or cruelty or ugly things.

I'm a big fade to black person, which is to say, I prefer it for a variety of reasons. But I don't tend to write the type of fantasy/story in general in which that type of personal darkness and damaged individual is prominent; the damage is different, the emotional arc is different. Ummm, too much me here, sorry :/.

Michelle Sagara, 12.07.2004, 11:39pm | permalink


Philip Roth is your man for necessarily explicit sex scenes. Sabbath's Theatre in particular.

The whole Id Vortex thing is one of the reasons why I don't have much time for most fanfic. It seems to be a transparently obvious way of acting out the writer's issues with sex, power, sex, identity, sex, sex, and sex. Its like listening to a group therapy session, featuring the writers and a bunch of hand-puppets dressed up as Star Trek characters. Cathartic for them? Yeah, maybe. Interesting for me? No.

Ray, 12.08.2004, 4:26am | permalink


Mike:
Meaningful explicit: Ford's Last Hot Time, where it was a big (if semi-inexplicable) characterization thing. (I forget how explicit it actually got, but considering how non-explicit Ford is on essentially every other aspect of his books, the mere fact that I managed to pick up that sex was happening means it's totally on-screen, relatively speaking.

I did think of that, but I don't recall it as all that explicit, and it's the part of the book that worked least well for me. I ought to re-read it, and see if it makes more sense when I know that the sex bit is there, but I'm not sure I'll get to it.

Also, I'd guess that sex scenes would be critically important in romance novels, where the interpersonal dynamic basically is the story and anything that modifies that is by definition plot-critical.

True, and I don't generally read romance novels, which would help explain the lack of examples in my book collection.

Michelle:
I think, in the Making Light thread, some of the examples were very telling character things; they just weren't sexual; they were about malice or cruelty or ugly things.

That may be. I didn't recognize any of the examples I saw cited (though I may have missed some-- I've been busy at work), so I really have no idea what people are talking about.

Of course, this also means I may be being a little too strict in my definition of "explicit," as I'm not really sure of the level of detail in the works that are being praised. But what's the point of a weblog if you don't spout off about things you don't understand?

Chad Orzel, 12.08.2004, 7:49am | permalink


(Split off into a separate post because it's a flamewar of a different color)

The whole Id Vortex thing is one of the reasons why I don't have much time for most fanfic. It seems to be a transparently obvious way of acting out the writer's issues with sex, power, sex, identity, sex, sex, and sex.

As I said, I don't really read the stuff, but this aspect doesn't particularly bother me. I mean, there are plenty of professionally published books out there that strike me as little more than acting out in a "Look at me! I'm Transgressive!" fashion (this one, for example), so why shouldn't the amateurs get to play?

I just tend to feel that the entire fanfic enterprise is sort of in poor taste. The characters and stories belong to someone else, and they're not yours to tell. I realize that this is not an opinion that is generally shared, which is why you won't find me cheering cease-and-desist letters, but at the same time, I think the works are fundamentally sort of impolite, and don't really have any interest in supporting that.

There's also the fact that a great deal of fan fiction seems to involve works that I really don't think bear thinking about that much (Star Trek, Harry Potter), which I Just Don't Get. But I think that may be just a small-sample error, given the huge range of things people have (apparently) written fanfic about.

Chad Orzel, 12.08.2004, 8:04am | permalink


Oh sure, there are _some_ published books like that, but not so much, and not so many. And if that's all a book has to say, I'm going to avoid it, just like I avoid fanfic. I've nothing against people acting out through fiction if that's what they want to do, be they amateurs or professionals. But reading the results of a self-administered therapy session is likely to be about as interesting as hearing someone describe their dreams...

I'm sure there is fanfic about just about everything, but the common ones seem to be Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Harry Potter. Desexualised, safe and cosy worlds*, where the fanfic author gets to add sex. Which again, looks like art therapy using blunt crayons rather than pointy pencils.

*LotR fanfic seems to be inspired by the films, not the books

Ray, 12.08.2004, 10:25am | permalink


Ray: I only want to add two words to this discussion:

Sturgeon's Law.

Kate Nepveu, 12.08.2004, 10:35am | permalink


Mike: it is more important in the romance genre, which is not to say that most of the genre is any good at it--too many of the scenes are still entirely replacable by "and then they had sex."

Those links at the bottom of TNH's post had good analysis on this.

But yes, explicit (or even moderately-on-screen) sex isn't often present in the sf and fantasy that I've been reading lately.

Kate Nepveu, 12.08.2004, 10:38am | permalink


The mechanics of sex would not be particularly productive to the progress of a story unless it revealed something about the story or the characters. Sex for the sake of sex is titillation. Titillation is fine, of course, if that's what you're reading for and that's what the writer is writing for, but if it's titillation I want, I prefer it to be visual if not in person. Why would I want to read about the bodily mechanics if not for one of the above reaaons? It would be like describing eating a meal: "Slowly he lifted the spoon to his pursed lips. He blew on the soup, noticed the little ripples that formed. He smiled and then touched his tongue to the edge of the spoon. There was a slight metallic taste, then heat and salt, then a pea hit his lip."

Mark Paris, 12.08.2004, 10:59am | permalink


I don't think Sturgeon's Law applies. I'm saying that the reasons people have for writing fanfic work against the possibility of that fic being successful as art.

Working the therapy analogy into the ground - if you collected together all the paintings created in art therapy classes around the world, you might find a few that were interesting artistically. But you'll find a much higher percentage (say 10%) of interesting works in a collection of paintings produced by art school graduates, or paintings exhibited in galleries.

Or - since sex was the starting point for this debate - compare the standard of writing in erotica with the standard in other fiction. Sure, you'll get some erotica that has literary value now and again, but its not really selected for.

Ray, 12.08.2004, 11:26am | permalink


Arrgh, arrgh, arrgh. I have neither the time nor the energy to do this, so two more words and then you're to kick me if you see me responding to Ray again:

I disagree.

Kate Nepveu, 12.08.2004, 12:16pm | permalink


I feel compelled to point out that not all fanfic is about slash (M/M pairings) or even sex. The ID Vortex, while an interesting take on things, is speaking about a small percentage of what some of the fanfic writers for some of the series are interested in; it's by no means all that's out there. I didn't even know fanfic existed in any quantity until I hit LJ, but it's become clear in discussions there that it really is a small genre of its own -- mimetic fiction writ large, with all of the issues and themes that you might find elsewhere.

It guess it would depend on your take on art, fwiw.

I personally like to read/watch in cannon, so for that reason, it doesn't interest me; otoh, I can see how one could write something good within the structure set out. The Final Reflection is a damn good book, and it could have been fanfic.

Michelle Sagara, 12.08.2004, 12:27pm | permalink


I tend to align in a general way with Chad's take on this (and parenthetically, I would agree that the scene in The Fox Women is a well-chosen example of an exception to the general "fade-to-black" rule), not just the fade-to-black stuff, but fanfic in general. In fact, I'll confess upfront that I have a definite bias against fanfic--it's a bias that's only somewhat alleviated by the support and respectful attention that fanfic is given by thoughtful, intelligent people I know and respect (vide Kate)--so I'm not sure how much useful I have to contribute to the discussion, either.

Trent, 12.08.2004, 1:08pm | permalink


My take: it's not rude if the author doesn't care. Courtesy demands that if the author has problems with fanfic, one should probably not pub it widely (or at all), but arguments are made against this constantly.

Most fanfic is media based -- the difference in media does make a difference, imho.

I'm not interested in fanfic not because it's discourteous or even badly written (see Sturgeon's Law), but because I want the cannon.

Otoh, I think Jo Walton is being pilloried because she's being up front and honest about her own feelings on fanfic, and I think that's discourteous.

Michelle Sagara, 12.08.2004, 1:17pm | permalink


Michelle: where is Jo being pilloried?

(Also, I'm sorry, but I have to say this. It's "canon", not "cannon".)

Kate Nepveu, 12.08.2004, 1:41pm | permalink


Kate:
Michelle: where is Jo being pilloried?

Jo was the originator of the hypothetical about cease-and-desist letters from fictional characters, and that hypothetical has drawn some serious flack. I'm not sure I'd say that Jo's being pilloried, as most of the pissiness stems from comments a few layers removed from her original statement, but it hasn't gone over well.

Michelle:
My take: it's not rude if the author doesn't care.

I'd say that it's a lesser offense if the author doesn't mind, but it's still impolite. It's sort of like crashing a party, or showing up unannounced at a relative's house and spending the weekend. Whether they're offended or not, it's kind of a tacky thing to do.

Courtesy demands that if the author has problems with fanfic, one should probably not pub it widely (or at all), but arguments are made against this constantly.

Yes, and I don't have a high opinion of those arguments.

Mark:
The mechanics of sex would not be particularly productive to the progress of a story unless it revealed something about the story or the characters. Sex for the sake of sex is titillation. Titillation is fine, of course, if that's what you're reading for and that's what the writer is writing for, but if it's titillation I want, I prefer it to be visual if not in person. Why would I want to read about the bodily mechanics if not for one of the above reaaons?

I'd pretty much agree with that. It's not inconceivable that information about the mechanics could provide useful insight into a character or relationship, but it doesn't happen all that often.

As for the hidden purposes and origins of fanfic, I'm really just not that interested in having that particular conversation.

Chad Orzel, 12.08.2004, 3:26pm | permalink


(Also, I'm sorry, but I have to say this. It's "canon", not "cannon".)

Sadly, I do this all the time :/. There are a couple of others that are my spelling burrs.

Michelle: where is Jo being pilloried?

Better now -- there's a link further down on Making Light, which goes back to an LJ discussion, and I was reading that while posting this, which I Should Not Do. My version of "Kick me if I..."

Michelle Sagara, 12.08.2004, 3:51pm | permalink


Better now -- there's a link further down on Making Light, which goes back to an LJ discussion, and I was reading that while posting this, which I Should Not Do. My version of "Kick me if I..."

The discussion in question is here, and it's a doozy. Not only do I not have a high opinion of those arguments, the way they're presented is lowering my opinion of those making them.

Chad Orzel, 12.08.2004, 5:54pm | permalink


Michelle: Ah. I've been avoiding discussions outside of areas I know for fear of something like this (and I haven't read that discussion)--I can just *feel* fandom_wank lurking around the corner, and as-you-know-Bob, that is a Bad Thing.

Kate, 12.08.2004, 6:33pm | permalink


Actually, it's not a f_w discussion -- made that mistake once, and once was enough for a lifetime. It's sort of like being a teenager; been there, done that, even survived it, but wouldn't really like to repeat that.

The LJ discussion the link points to is representative of the general consensus I've seen across most of the LJ haunts I've visited that discuss fanfic; that the work is seperate from the author, and that fanfic is a dialogue between the readers and the fans; that the author doesn't own, and can't control, that shared experience.

I was probably more intemperate than I normally am (sorry, Chad :/) in that thread, but it's not, in tone, a flamefest, and it has, oh, multi-syllable words and correct spelling (well, maybe not all of mine ), so it's probably safe to read.

Michelle Sagara, 12.08.2004, 6:56pm | permalink


Okay, I've read the discussion in question, and once again, I agree with Chad.

And for what it's worth Michelle, I don't think you were intemperate at all. Maybe the kiddie porn analogy raised the heat a bit more than necessary, but it also carried what I think is a pretty good insight into an author's feelings--at least, how I imagine an author might reasonably feel, not having been in that position myself.

What bugs me, I guess, is what seems to me to be a certain sense of entitlement I get from reading some of the posts: not only can we write stories using our favorite characters (well, duh...if you have pen and paper, or keyboard and monitor, nothing's stopping you), we in fact possess a sort of a priori moral right to do so, and the author who is disturbed or upset that someone else is doing new/different/non-canonical things with what is, in an important sense, uniquely a product of his or her mind and creative spirit is somehow the bad guy.

Trent, 12.08.2004, 8:26pm | permalink


I was probably more intemperate than I normally am (sorry, Chad :/) in that thread, but it's not, in tone, a flamefest, and it has, oh, multi-syllable words and correct spelling (well, maybe not all of mine ), so it's probably safe to read.

I didn't think you were out of line. The thing that I found disturbing was the sense of entitlement that Trent mentions-- the idea that by voicing her very strong objections, Jo was somehow engaged in blackmail. That just strikes me as an amazingly childish attitude, like equating a nine o'clock bedtime with fascism.

A more interesting point that someone brought up on Making Light is the example of things like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which appropriate well-known characters for other purposes. Somehow, that doesn't strike me as objectionable in the same way that most fanfic does, but I can't really put my finger on why. It's not just that the authors are dead, and thus unlikely to express their disapproval-- I think it has to do with the playful nature of the work, but I'm not sure how to nail it down.

Chad Orzel, 12.08.2004, 9:16pm | permalink


League's characters are part of cultural background, and divorced from the context of a particular work. I bet neither you nor I have even read a majority of the works League pulls from, but it still works, so.

As for fanfic-writers' sense of entitlement: I think people in every little hobby that's pilloried by outside people get all super-defensive and hyper-rationalizing about it. A NAMBLA or NRA meeting probably has the same aggrieved and self-justifying tone as a gathering of fanfickers.

Mike Kozlowski, 12.08.2004, 10:04pm | permalink


In the case of League, it's metafictional. But many of the fanfic writers argue -- and intelligently -- that the use of existing characters from existing canon is an establishsed literary tradition; that recycling fairy tales (any iteration of Beauty and the Beast, Tam Lin, etc.,) or myths, or other novels -- Wicked comes to mind -- are all relevant legal examples of a similar phenomenon.

They consider it part of a similar ongoing dialogue.

The converse argument would be that the dialogue in that case is one that's based on cultural knowledge, rather than emotional compulsion; that these takes, or retakes, are an examination and a turning over of an older myth or belief, rather than a simple use of similar characters; that it's the act of turning the story over, of examining what's known and rooted in a new way also sheds light on what we "know".

All of which is interesting.

Michelle Sagara, 12.08.2004, 10:26pm | permalink


Now I'm not sure which is more inflammatory, Mike: the rhetorical association of FF with NAMBLA, or the assoc. or FF with the NRA...

Nathan Lundblad, 12.09.2004, 3:32am | permalink


As for fanfic-writers' sense of entitlement: I think people in every little hobby that's pilloried by outside people get all super-defensive and hyper-rationalizing about it. A NAMBLA or NRA meeting probably has the same aggrieved and self-justifying tone as a gathering of fanfickers.

Here I am, trying to be all dignified and respectful, and take the high road, and all. And you've just got to come in here and start comparing people to the NRA...

Have you no shame, sir?

Chad Orzel, 12.09.2004, 9:01am | permalink


The converse argument would be that the dialogue in that case is one that's based on cultural knowledge, rather than emotional compulsion; that these takes, or retakes, are an examination and a turning over of an older myth or belief, rather than a simple use of similar characters; that it's the act of turning the story over, of examining what's known and rooted in a new way also sheds light on what we "know".

I would also say that, in the case of retellings of myths and fairy tales, what's being copied is the plots, and not so much the characters. (Largely because traditional stories don't have a great deal of character development, in most cases.)

I think that may be where the distinction comes in. The problematic stories are the ones where the author seems to be saying "this is what these characters are really like," where the more playful metafictional stuff tends to be more along the lines of "wouldn't it be cool if..." Pulling the characters out of their normal setting and using them in an entirely different sort of plot does less violence to the idea of them as characters than keeping them in more or less the same setting, and re-scripting their emotional lives.

I need to think about this a little more before I go throwing it out on Making Light, but I think that may be the heart of it.

Chad Orzel, 12.09.2004, 9:11am | permalink


"As for the hidden purposes and origins of fanfic, I'm really just not that interested in having that particular conversation."

You're never going to rival the Making Light comment threads with that kind of attitude...

Ray, 12.09.2004, 11:55am | permalink


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orzelc@steelypips.org

Z 674.2-674.5

Syndication
Main Library Page

Z 693-695.83

Archived Posts (Aug. 2004-present)

Older Archive (2001-2004)
Title Index
Author Index
Non-Blog Reviews

CT 3990

About the Author
Japan Stories

QC 1-999

Uncertain Principles

PN 80-99

Arts and Letters Daily
BlogCritics
Book Slut
The Humblest Blog on the Net
Pam Korda
Lundblog
Metacritic: Books
Outside of a Dog
Reading Notes
Seven Things Lately
The Tufted Shoot
Virtual Marginalia
Weasel Words
Woodge's Book Report

PN 101-245

Steven Brust
Neil Gaiman
Making Light
Papersky
Sartorias
Westerblog
Whatever

ML 159-3799

75 or Less Album Reviews
Metacritic: Music
Musical Perceptions
The Onion A.V. Club
The Rest is Noise

PN 1993-1999

Roger Ebert
Flick Filosopher
Metacritic: Film
Rotten Tomatoes

PN 6147-6231

Daily Dinosaur Comics
Fafblog!
Izzle Pfaff
The Poor Man
The Onion
Piled Higher and Deeper
Sluggy Freelance
Something Positive

QA75.5-76.95

Blogtracker
Web Design Group
Weblogs.com


Begun: 7 August, 2001
Re-launched: 21 August, 2004

Weblog posts are copyright 2004 by Chad Orzel, but may be copied and distributed (and linked to) freely, with the correct attribution. But you knew that already.

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