Friday, April 11, 2008

Some Interesting Things... Elsewhere

First of all, for those of you still interested in continuing the discussion about fantasy vs. science fiction, Ninja Writer (aka "CV Rick") calls bullsh*t on the meme that science fiction is "too dark and depressing." Sounds like there's a fight brewing. Anyone willing to take on The Ninja??!!

For those of you ready to go on to the next thing, there's a really long (but interesting) post by James Alan Gardner called "What Makes Me Stop Reading" over at SF Novelists.

5 comments:

Sean M. Murphy said...

How the hell are we supposed to argue intelligently about something that everyone admits no one here has actual facts about, only individuals' personal, anecdotal definitions of A) what constitutes SF and/or F, B) what constitutes "dark & depressing", and C) whether Fantasy is relying of overdone tropes or tapping into mythic themes by using fairy tale imagery? (And try Bettelheim's "The Use of Enchantment", Cashdan's "The Witch Must Die", or Campbell's "Hero of a Thousand Faces" for analysis of the value of mythic imagery in modern storytelling before you dismiss it so lightly, CV.) This is like shooting pigeons in a dark barn wearing sunglasses after sunset--we're likely to spend a lot of ammunition and still come home hungry.

Have a great weekend, though!

CV Rick said...

Sean, what exactly did I dismiss unfairly? I often use archetypal analysis to examine modern storytelling. Just this week I wrote a review of the television show, The Wire. In it I used Campbell's monomythic structure to demonstrate that the show's following not one, but three hero journeys.

Just because I think nitwits riding around the countryside on a quest to defeat the ultimate evil is over-used and cliche doesn't mean I'm unfamiliar with traditional story structures and enjoy experiencing them in modern, original fiction. It also doesn't mean that I'm lightly dismissing any particular genre, but I am dismissing an entire boring and lazy trope within a genre - and rightly so.

If you'd like to expound upon Bettelheim, Cashdan, and Campbell, please do. Conversely, if you're attempting a boast, make sure that the object of your boast hasn't studied the works in question.

Since you brought it up, I find little of value in Bettelheim's work. He argued for exposing children to fairy tales - who has ever argued against that? Cashdan's book was interested and a fun read, but did it offer anything more than what Campbell already introduced? I don't think so.

Sean M. Murphy said...

Well, Ninja, since you asked...

You said:
Fantasy to me is lazier in general because it uses this idyllic setting we've all been brought up to believe in since the Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Dangerous woods, magnificent castles, towering snow-capped mountains. It's unimaginative to rely on this same setting for every story, yet comfortable for writers and readers who want their stories wrapped up in the trappings from those stories they loved as children.

It's quite one thing to say some fantasy that relies on these tropes--but, for instance, doesn't explore or tap into the imagery involved in a vigorous or meaningful way--is being lazy. It's quite another to make a sweeping generalization that--and I quote--"Fantasy... is lazier in general [than SF]". That seems a bit broad for a dismissal of imagery as used by an entire genre. So yes, unfair dismissal.

Secondly, I'm not going to chase down everything someone has written on the internets to verify whether or not they have an active grasp of the source material available on a given topic. If they want it to be considered as active in a conversation, they will have to reference it (as per the Campbell, Bettelheim, and Cashdan reference, above). I cannot possibly know what you have or haven't studied, and suggesting that I somehow should have gleaned that in advance is facetious, glib--just as no one can assume anyone they talk to is conversant in any given field of study simply because it happens to be the topic of conversation. The glosses you gave on the referenced books hardly qualify as in depth analyses, as for some reason you suggest I should have given in a short form debate such as this. I shouldn't think this was quite the proper forum for a long-winded essay on the relative merits of the psychological and sociological value of fairy tale and mythic imagery when described by the three above authors as it relates to modern fantasy, hmm? No. I brought them up because they are--despite your easy rejections of Bettelheim's and Cashdan's works--valuable points of reference for opening conversation.

In order to be effective, settings in Fantasy need to speak to the core of who we are as people, and to the goals, hopes, and fears that we have in life. Identifying ways of doing that, given that it the process is akin to sneaking up on a crab unawares--nigh impossible without sending it scuttling off into hiding--it's worth exploring what has worked in the past, and why. Forgive authors if their format for trying to understand that is trying to use it to see what it does--not everyone meta-processes their craft; indeed, some find meta-processing to be detrimental.

Now, if you are interested in conversation, I'm happy to parlay--though I'll still hold that lacking actual data about our topic, we're merely farting in the wind. If, however, you simply want to flash the edge of the sword about, I'm unimpressed and uninterested in the extreme.

CV Rick said...

Okay, I'll grant you the unfair dismissal . . . I should have said Fantasy that relies on the Ubiquitous Fantasy Setting, which is most high fantasy and nearly everything that contains elves. I've read a lot of it, and it's tired.

You're also right that you don't have to search out someone's credits on the vast internets, but before you throw out something as patronizing as what you said, Sean, perhaps you should step back and ask yourself if the condescension would annoy you were it reversed.

Sean M. Murphy said...

It did bother me, which is why I countered in the first place. My riposte was so pointed because I read significant condescension in what you'd written, not because I tend toward condescension. In fact, you make some good points in what you said, throughout. I took more issue with how you'd said it than anything you actually said.

Plus--and give me this one--Lyda did sort of throw down the gauntlet there, and I had to defend the home turf and all.

And you have got a sharp edge, there, CV.

[salute]