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SRD "Epic Fantasy: Necessary Literature" online
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
one simply can't honestly reject the Necessity of Freedom in regard to his story?


I believe this is what he means...if he meant you had to do it in your real life and as part of your real identity, then he WOULD be a polemicist or something even more extreme/elevated/controlling.

That's part of the problem with some re-imaginings/re-bootings/re-interpretations of many, many works. It is one thing to JUST do those things...but when the claim is made of a "truer" version, things can get messy.
It's one thing to, as a reader/actor/audience/director for MacBeth to analyze/critique whether he woulda/shoulda/mighta reacted differently to the witches, to incorporate that doubt and even build new/different things from those.
But to reject/deny the necessity [internal to the character] for what he did do...and, up a level, deny the necessity for the story that he do such, and up another level, deny the meaning of the play based on those necessities...that's not working with the piece, that is to exit the world.

[[[there are, BTW, some folk around here who firmly believe, and have argued strongly, that SRD DIDN't effectively communicate/execute his intentions/integrate consistently the "necessity of freedom."]]]

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
SRD, in the GI wrote:
In my case, the issue is simple: I've never had a "message" I wanted to communicate (impose on the reader), so rejecting my message should be effortless. (I'm a storyteller, not a polemicist. As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.) In general, however, one might say that the task of any writer is to communicate his/her intentions so clearly that the reader will--as it were spontaneously--arrive at the appropriate interpretation. And if that task has been accomplished, what would be the point of rejecting the author's message?


Is he saying that, for example, a reader "appropriately interpreting" the Necessity of Freedom as a central thematic of his story is irrelevant to as to whether or not that same reader personally affirms the Necessity of Freedom? IOW, whether or not one rejects the Necessity of Freedom in regard to Reality, one simply can't honestly reject the Necessity of Freedom in regard to his story?

You have Vraith's interpretation. I would interpret it as, his only job is to make sure you know what he means, and what he implies, by "The Necessity of Freedom". That you understand it's part in the story.

Yes, he's not affirming that it's real. (In fact, it's clearly a fictional device - there's no such actual thing. In the real world, a smartphone isn't more or less powerful whether you are given it, buy it, or steal it.) Nor is he claiming it's good or bad or useful or idiotic.

However, he also says that the reader gets to decide what they think about it. And every reader gets to think a different thing.

In the Gradual Interview, right before he spoke about "message", SRD wrote:
Reading is an interactive process. Readers have always supplied their own interpretations of what they read.

In a similar vein ...

Quote:
After all, story-telling in print is an interactive process, and the reader's contributions are both necessary and valid.
- - - - -
I look at the issue in a very different way. As I see it, my job is to communicate who my characters are and what they're going through as clearly as possible. It is *not* my job to decide whether what my characters feel and do is "good" or "moral" or "right." That, if I may say so, is a job for the reader.

It's almost as if SRD imagines his story has two realms: what it's about, which is his demesne, and what you think about it, which is yours. He isn't much for either side encroaching on the other.

So you have the beautiful responsibility and horrible freedom of believing what you like about the Necessity. Don't blame SRD, and don't demand that he tell you how to judge it.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hahaha, nice conclusion WF. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:
...I think part of the thing ussi was getting at [could be wrong] is SRD seems to be making a strong and explicit claim: that that sort of thing isn't merely a part of his way, nor just some authors/stories in the genre, but is a present, foundational, existential aspect of ALL the work in the genre...at least a dash of it.

You're right (for a change Laughing) this is what I think he is getting at, and it's the explicitness of the statement that caught my attention.

wayfriend wrote:
And what are angels and demons, U, except magic and monsters that have been conscripted?

I also agree with this, way, and my feeling is that monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.) bring an extra level of intensity to the ideas of 'angels' and 'demons'. For me, Lord Foul is much more like Satan than, say, Grendel. And the Creator is much more like the Judaic/Christian/Islamic deity than, say, the Hindu deities.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ussusimiel wrote:
wayfriend wrote:
And what are angels and demons, U, except magic and monsters that have been conscripted?

I also agree with this, way, and my feeling is that monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.) bring an extra level of intensity to the ideas of 'angels' and 'demons'. For me, Lord Foul is much more like Satan than, say, Grendel. And the Creator is much more like the Judaic/Christian/Islamic deity than, say, the Hindu deities.

Yes, but I don't think that the Chronicles can be representative in this issue. It's sort of a special category, due to it's unapologetic use of archetypal characters.

I think you need to look at Donaldson's other fantasy, like Mordant's Need or Daughter of Regals or Ser Visal's Tale. I think then, if you can see the religious, or the at-least-spiritual, in his story - if you can find the angels and the demons - you would have a stronger line on what Donaldson is saying. Or even Malazan.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+
ussusimiel wrote:
Vraith wrote:
...I think part of the thing ussi was getting at [could be wrong] is SRD seems to be making a strong and explicit claim: that that sort of thing isn't merely a part of his way, nor just some authors/stories in the genre, but is a present, foundational, existential aspect of ALL the work in the genre...at least a dash of it.

You're right (for a change Laughing) this is what I think he is getting at, and it's the explicitness of the statement that caught my attention.

Is this something that many writers are reticent discuss publicly? I thought that this was generally known and accepted. The heart of the Epic's domain is the metaphysical foundations of Reality (i.e. fundamental philosophy, the Sanatana Dharma, what Catholics would call the semina Verbi, etc.)
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
The heart of the Epic's domain is the metaphysical foundations of Reality

Try saying that to a non-fan, though, and they'll likely tell you you are full of crap, it's just fairy-tales. [or teaching witchcraft to children].
Unless they happen to be educated in Lit---in which case 99% of them will tell you it's not artful or meaningful. Unless it is ancient, OR non-western and called "magical realism."
[[[Trust me...you can make a room full of bored Lit majors wake up and howl by saying Hundred...Solitude and Satanic Verses are basically philosophical fantasy]]]
Though it has become somewhat---but only somewhat---more respectable recently.

SRD's claim may not be new...but it is a broad one, one that goes against the current received wisdom.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
ussusimiel wrote:
wayfriend wrote:
And what are angels and demons, U, except magic and monsters that have been conscripted?

I also agree with this, way, and my feeling is that monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.) bring an extra level of intensity to the ideas of 'angels' and 'demons'. For me, Lord Foul is much more like Satan than, say, Grendel. And the Creator is much more like the Judaic/Christian/Islamic deity than, say, the Hindu deities.

Yes, but I don't think that the Chronicles can be representative in this issue. It's sort of a special category, due to it's unapologetic use of archetypal characters.

I think you need to look at Donaldson's other fantasy, like Mordant's Need or Daughter of Regals or Ser Visal's Tale. I think then, if you can see the religious, or the at-least-spiritual, in his story - if you can find the angels and the demons - you would have a stronger line on what Donaldson is saying. Or even Malazan.

I agree that the Chronicles are exceptional to what SRD is saying about fantasy in general; what I find interesting is that (maybe for that very reason) they are clearly the most powerful of his own fantasy works.

In Mordant's Need, for example, I would have to start stretching to find the archetypes and the metaphysics. In fact it feels to me like a crossover, sci-fi, materially based world/universe.

u.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ussusimiel wrote:

In Mordant's Need, for example, I would have to start stretching to find the archetypes and the metaphysics. In fact it feels to me like a crossover, sci-fi, materially based world/universe.

u.

Yes, perhaps. But why would you have to do that?
Any number of legitimate reasons---but the first and most obvious is that it isn't built as "Epic."
That doesn't mean the moral/ethical/aesthetic isn't there...it sure as hell is...but it's a different mode/voice/mood.
"The Gap" is more TC like, and more "Epic"...while being almost entirely sci-fi/material based.

Here is a fun thing to think on, maybe, since you used the Satan/Grendel, since there is a whole thread on Christian comparison:
Why is that "Biblical" connection thing even part of the "Epic" definition...especially in/about/for the works we're talking about?
Because honestly how much of the Bible is "Epic?"
Really, hardly any of it is.
Epic is older, broader, and more widespread.
There is a reason [I think] that he says that the writer/epic story USES the language of religion AND other languages, and NOT that Epic DEPENDS UPON or DERIVES FROM the language of religion.
Epic isn't a sub-set of the religious that borrows its language...
Religion is a sub-set of Epic, and religious language just one of Epic's ways of speaking.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I wouldn't call MN epic. Hell, he says it right there in the first couple of pages...it's a fairy tale for adults.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, but if we take him at his word, then a story about magic and monsters - and Mordant has both - necessarily "expresses important aspects of every identity". You just have to be willing to look for it.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is easy. When you have a character like Lord Foul, it's easy to spot the metaphor on the human condition. And if you can't spot it, the characters will tell you soon enough anyway. You hardly have to work for it.

But you can't let this make you lazy.

In his earlier essay, Donaldson wrote

In Epic Fantasy in the Modern World, Stephen R Donaldson wrote:
In her Riddle-Master trilogy, the protagonist, Morgon, faces an enemy who has the power to take his mind away, to empty him of everything that makes a human being until he is nothing more than a hollow skull - until the void is all that remains of his identity. And this loss of identity is described in such powerful and convincing terms that the reader is hard-pressed not to be terrified. Yet McKillip goes beyond the void to observe that nothing is ever truly empty. In the most profound chasms, the wind still blows. On that oasis, wind becomes a metaphor for Morgon's transcendent and unquenchable spirit: because he can never be truly empty, he can never be truly futile.

A lot of people read (and loved) the Riddle-Master trilogy, but who picked up on that metaphor?!?! I know I didn't. But I never really looked, either.

Which brings me back to Mordant's Need. In it, magic comes in the form of mirrors, and they are used to summon monsters. The main character, Terisa, begins as the epitome of futility - she doesn't even believe she herself exists, because she has no perceivable effect on anything around her. So: can anyone think that Donaldson isn't thinking about the essential conundrums of being human?

I'm not saying that not looking is any kind of failure. The power of fantasy, of magic and monsters, is that the "insights into what being human means" pervade the story in a subliminal way. It affects you, and it changes you, but you don't notice it happening in any overt way. You just know the story resonates with you. That's enough.

It's just not fair, I don't think, to rule out the language of religion in a fantasy story without first checking under all the rocks and opening all the doors. It hides. Or, better: it's like the air, pervasive and critical but escaping notice.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:


It's just not fair, I don't think, to rule out the language of religion in a fantasy story without first checking under all the rocks and opening all the doors. It hides. Or, better: it's like the air, pervasive and critical but escaping notice.


Don't disagree with that at all, really. Just that in some fantasy the language IS like the air, as you note, but in Epics it isn't under the rocks---it IS the rocks, the pillars.
As you said, that makes it "easier" to see/spot.

In badly done epics, the mistake is usually that the resolution is as simplistic and easy to spot as the question/subject.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, Vraith, you are distinguishing between fantasy and epic fantasy. And, IIUC, you're saying that in epic fantasy, the religiosity is more overt. Yes?

That's apparently what Donaldson also says in the Necessary Literature essay.

Quote:
Until comparatively recently, a work was only considered “epic” when the scale of meaning was commensurate with the quantity of words. The longest stories could only sustain or justify their length by addressing the highest and most vital themes.

So, maybe by that standard, Donaldson's other fantasies are not epic, and so not "addressing the highest and most vital themes".

But they are fantasies. So they will speak about identity and universal truths and the human condition. Just for starters:

In the Gradual Interview was wrote:
I cannot help but notice that the Mordant's Need series is a bit more "spicey" than your other works that I have read. Poor Terisa seems to have frequent trouble with torn or missing clothing, her breasts are mentioned in almost every chapter, etc.

Not that I didn't find it enjoyable! But this inquiring mind wants to know: what were the details behind this choice?
    "Mordant's Need" is more explicitly *about* gender roles and stereotypes than my other stories. Terisa Morgan begins the story with such a frail sense of her own identity that she makes Linden Avery at the beginning of "The Wounded Land" look fully self-actualized. And Mordant itself is gripped by rigid gender stereotypes: the kind of male-dominated quasi-medieval society that we so often find in mediocre fantasy novel. Well, the subsequent story describes how Terisa discovers her own reality as both a person and a woman *while* the culture of Mordant undergoes a profound redefinition of gender roles, predominently as that pertains to the permissable/available roles for women. King Joyse (get it?) sets in motion events which eventually enable his daughters, his wife, and Terisa herself to assume unexpected roles which transform their society.

    In other words, "Mordant's Need" is about sex. Specifically it's about how the treatment of women as mere sexual objects breaks down in a society which is in danger of breaking down itself under pressures both external and internal; and about how the breaking down of the treatment of women as mere sexual objects actually enables their society to be both transformed and saved. So naturally the evidence that women are being treated as mere sexual objects is fairly overt.

    In addition, these issues also touch on the "rape" theme which is so prevalent in my writing. But "Mordant's Need" is--as I intended it to be--a *gentler* story than my usual work; and so "the evidence that women are being treated as mere sexual objects," while overt, is seldom violent. Hence your observation that the story is more "spicey" than others I've written

    (10/10/2004)

Alas, I don't "get it", and wish I did. I am sure that the name "Joyse" is significant in some way. But I am sure that, whatever that way is, it demonstrates how profound this "adult fairy tale" actually is.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I may be missing something more subtle, but isn't the King's name a homonym for "Joyce", a once-common woman's name?

Might that ambiguity be what SRD was playing with?
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Savor Dam wrote:
I may be missing something more subtle, but isn't the King's name a homonym for "Joyce", a once-common woman's name?

Might that ambiguity be what SRD was playing with?

I actually don't know if Joyse is pronouced monosyllabically, joys, or disyllabically, joy-see. I don't know if the s is voiced or unvoiced. I don't know if the e is silent, or long, or short, or a schwa, or as a long a. Heck, the y may or may not affect the pronounciation of the o.

This is why your comment never occurred to me. I pronounce it Joy-zee, like the state next to Lawn Guyland.

So I looked it up, and found this:

ThinkBabyNames.com wrote:
Joyse \jo(y)-se\ as a girl's name is of Latin origin, and the meaning of Joyse is "lord".

If that's right, then it's not only a woman's name, it's one with a connotation of rule. Which not only fits your theory, SD, but strengthens it.

(And if that's right, it's pronounced like JAH-see. heh.)

Then again, other sites say the name means happy or merry. So who knows.

With Donaldson, it could be a reference to James Joyce even.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
So, Vraith, you are distinguishing between fantasy and epic fantasy. And, IIUC, you're saying that in epic fantasy, the religiosity is more overt. Yes?

That's apparently what Donaldson also says in the Necessary Literature essay.


Yep, I think you understand me correctly, that's exactly what I'm doing, and saying. [at least trying to]
And I think and hope that is one of the things SRD is saying.
And there is a reason it is more overt in epic...because whatever else fantasy does, how it talks, etc, when we're dealing with Epic, we're talking about foundations, load-bearing beams, architecture/bones of humanity.
[[[and, in reality/execution almost all of it overlaps to an extent. Aesop's fables or the "Twilight" series has a pinch of Epicness, Homer and Donaldson a dash of "who smelt it, dealt it."

SD: Joyce is mostly female name NOW [when it exists at all]...but roots are not female. [I have an...what? Aunt-in-law, I guess?? She's named Joyce, common in her tree with men and women, from the Saint who was definitely not female judging by the beard]

Which doesn't mean he's not playing with perceptions of the name.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So if you guys are correct, it could just as easily have been King Francis? Or even King Pat? Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
So if you guys are correct, it could just as easily have been King Francis? Or even King Pat? Smile


What? You don't think Cary or Robin are worthy?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I pronounce it "joice," like "choice" with a j.

--A
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
I pronounce it "joice," like "choice" with a j.

--A

And you are correct to do so.
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the difference between evidence and sources: whether they come from the horse's mouth or a horse's ass.
-------------------------------------------------------
"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
-------------------------------------------------------
the hyperbole is a beauty...for we are then allowed to say a little more than the truth...and language is more efficient when it goes beyond reality than when it stops short of it.
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