Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Pretender, as well as Dragons, Wizards, Magic, Elves and the Whole Shebang

Media-rich blog coming up.

...starting with the lyrics from The Pretender, the first song on the Foo Fighters's latest album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. If you want to hear all the music, you'll just have to buy the album.

And now to some ranting about stuff, and continuing with the original subject

Seriously, peoples, aren't you getting pretty sick and tired of the standard fantasy/sci-fi offerings of today? I'm not going to mention names, because authors should be cautious about who they point their fingers at. But, again, isn't it getting terribly tedious to be offered yet another novel about a quest by a misunderstood/mistreated/ overlooked hero or heroine, who must then set out, physically or just metaphorically, to set the wrongs to right and gain his or her rightful status and acclaim, with a suitable dash of a small-carbon footprint of political correctness and self-righteous blather?

I just read synopses of these things nowadays, and maybe a few sample pages on the web, after which I invariably am turned off by the unimaginative, homogenized language, dialog and general style, as well as the subject matter, which has at most two layers, and even that's rare, because everything is usually dished up right on the surface. No digging for more layers of the onion required. The damn things are shells surrounding voids.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Tolerance, man!! Besides, or so I ask myself more often than once, can I rightly claim that I am not inside a glasshouse here and throwing some pretty hefty rocks, some of which might just bounce off the glass panes and hit me in the head, instead of those outside. A modification of the glasshouse metaphor, but do I care? Ha!

Then I think over my work and, forgive me for being sufficiently immodest to say this, my conscience rests. I mean, there's no way around using certain standard devices and tricks and symbols; but there are ways of using them that aren't tedious or stereotyped.

The best example is, quite possibly, the use to which the archetypal 'sword' that causes so many things to happen in the first part of Seladienna is finally put. Definitely is not what anybody should have expected, or so I would think. Least of all, I should add, I! But when I got to a certain point in that novel, I suddenly had this epiphany, and I knew that in truth there was only one thing I could so with the sword. The whole thing then was turned on its head, as it should have.

It wasn't 'deconstruction' of the 'sword' archetype, as some might think; just a perfectly sensible inversion, that revealed not only the character of the protagonist, but also put the last nail into the coffin of what might otherwise have been a, somewhat different maybe, but still fairly predictable heroes' journey.

On the other hand, when I look at something like Tethys, the so-far last novel in the series that started with Keaen, I noticed, only well after I was halfway through writing it, that much of what looks like a perfectly sensible trip from A to B to do something that needs to be done, that it was really a classic, archetypal journey with motifs I hadn't even known were there until I started editing it.

What to make of this? I don't know. But it comforts me, because I think that if a story-teller can surprise himself, surely he has a good chance of doing the same with his audience, who would be expected to be even less prepared for what they'll find once they start digging and thinking about what they've just read.

The impression I get from a lot of the stuff that's 'out there' is that the authors were basically bored with writing it. I bet when you ask them, most will tell you that it's hard work. That they are struggling to get these stories out to the world; battling through the creative process to arrive at their masterpieces or whatever; staring at blank screens, trying to give their visions word-ly life.
Well, I tell you what. They're either (a) telling the truth or (b) trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

If they're telling the truth, I seriously suggest that they go and find some other 'creative' outlet. If this isn't basically a fun-process for them--and I do mean 'fun': enjoyable, delightful, adventurous, thrilling, exciting, stimulating--then why in the world are they doing it? Because of the great mystique adhering to 'writing' or being 'a writer', and 'an author'? A 'person of letters'? A 'literary figure'? What utter piffle. These are the worst reasons possible. Still, more often than once do I get the feeling that this is the 'why' of them doing it, and that includes some whose works are sold widely and occasionally with amazing success, despite being, not to put too fine a point on it, shit.

I know, I know. If I'm so good, as I have a notion that I am, why aren't I a best-selling author? Search me. The world is a mysterious place, though I have a few suggestions to penetrate the mystery. Hint: Jack Vance isn't either. Neither is Steve Perry; not right now anyway. Nor is Stephen Gould exactly a best-seller either, though he has some successes, and Jumper is almost out on the screens of the world--almost unrecognizable from what I've seen of it. I find that comforting, because I consider these people excellent company.

Option (b) is a definite possibility also. Marketing bullshit. Some of these (un-named) novels I was going on about earlier, from the p.o.v. of theme and just excerpts I read, look like they were written with the assistance of some plot-design program, where you whip out an assortment of themes and story-lines and characters and then just fill in the blanks. And the style...ahh, don't get me started on the style. Still, I am--a very obscure in-joke coming up--'unsurprised'. Long story, why that's an in-joke, but it has to do with style and language homogenization. Suffice to say that I didn't mean 'not surprised' but 'unsurprised'.

If it is marketing bullshit though, then that means that the authors are complicit in it; which is demeaning. Damn it, if you enjoy story-telling, why not admit it? Admit that it's more fun than chore; that you like spending time on this; that getting paid for it is just serious icing on an already delicious cake! And if you're actually having 'fun', does that necessarily imply that your stories have less depth than those penned by the DAMNs (Deep And Meaningful Novelists) of the world? Is it a sequitur at all? Some of the most 'fun' novels/movies I've read/seen were very deep indeed. They had LAYERS! I'd really like to see some more damn layers in some of the crap that's out there. Layers. Layers. Layers. Delta Foxtrot Layers!! Allow us all some poking around and a chance to find surprising and possibly wonderful things. But let us find them ourselves! We're not stupid, contrary to what many publishers would have us believe; or at least that's what one would think, looking at the material.

And now dear Reader(s), because you've been so good as to read right on to the end of this rant, here's a teaser for a movie I'm really looking forward to seeing. (For those who are wondering where the first part of the music comes from; it's from the soundtrack to the Children of Dune miniseries. Ahh, the pleasures of being a soundtrack geek!)

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