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Robinson L on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 22:15 on 11-02-2016 - link
I can see why a lot of authors stick of medieval England :)
Perhaps so, but I'm really glad to see authors venturing out of the same old tired territory. With so much history and so many fascinating societies and cultures to draw upon ... constantly regurgitating 12th-15th Century Western Europe just seems awfully provincial.
it is a little misleading to say that they are...fantasy Jews, if that doesn't evoke too many ghastly wagnerian stereotypes.
Okay, I apologize for any contribution I may have made to this characterization in my earlier comment.
For myself, I have not read the book, and may or may not at some point in the future. I rarely buy books, since libraries have always kept me more than amply supplied, and I hardly ever feel the need to own what I read (I don't even own a copy of On the Jellicoe Road, for heaven's sake). I also only read books which are available in either hard copy or audio formats.
So I'm coming into this discussion as an interested observer rather than a reader, and my only knowledge comes from the review and what people who have read (or, in your case, written) the book have to say in the comments. So I apologize if I misconstrue at all.
I suppose this is what you meant when you said that it's a bad idea to stick very closely to a historical model, and then sharply diverge from it. I can see what you mean by that, even if I can't say that I'm entirely convinced by it, especially since it strikes me that the argument that 'I have to follow my historical model' have been used for years to try and justify casual sexism in the genre and have been rejected for nearly as long.
You raise a good point here.
I have two thoughts which come to mind, the first of which is that at least some (and perhaps the greater part) of the criticism of sexism in historical fantasy I've seen isn't so much "this story contains sexism" which may (or may not) be accurate to the historical period the story was inspired by as "this story contains sexism which is not criticized or is actively reinforce by the text itself." A story can contain sexism without actively or tacitly endorsing it, and I think it's the endorsing that has a lot of people justifiably angered.
Second thought: but some people want to have stories about cultures which are in many ways closely similar to historical cultures for aesthetic reasons, but with certain of the more despicable aspects of that culture removed. (I'm reminded of Vic's Jazz Bar, a holosuite program from Deep Space Nine. At one point, Sisko points out to his love interest, Kassidy, the historical inaccuracy of a white 1950s Jazz establishment where black people are treated as honored guests no different from white patrons. Kassidy responds by urging him to see Vic's as a depiction of how things should have been.)
I guess an author can handle this situation one of two ways, depending on what tone they're going for. If it's just a light-hearted bit of escapism or a full-blown farce - what Wodehouse termed "a musical comedy without music," then I guess it's a fair play.
If, however, the author intends for the story and the setting to be taken seriously, then they need to have a sit down and think about how this one difference (e.g. more egalitarian gender roles, greater queer positivity) changes the shape of the fantasy culture as a whole. What other institutions, customs, and mores are affected by this difference from the real world culture which inspired it, and how? (The same questions an author must ask for changing or adding any other major element, such as tossing in magic or photographic technology, or taking out the use of ranged weaponry.)
I just don't get the chance to talk about my writing very much.
I hear that, and as long as everyone else is okay with it, I'm happy to welcome you to the discussion.
Arthur B on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 21:42 on 11-02-2016 - link
Did you give up before you reached the same sex marriage bit, and if you got there, what did you think if you don't mind me asking?
If there's an actual wedding, I don't think I reached it.
I did note (and quite liked) passing references to characters being in same-sex marriages.
I take your point about unwavering following of historical precedent leading to rote reiterations of old prejudices and well-worn ground. I guess the issue I had here wasn't so much that there was a mixture of historical and ahistorical features so much as some of the ahistorical bits ended up looking like wobbily-implemented historical bits, if you see what I mean - like the Crimson Rose reminding me inadvertently of the Zealots. I think the problem is that, though they aren't Zealots, they end up fitting into a sort of Zealot-shaped slot left by the historical scaffolding you've drawn on in crafting Corona, but end up fitting it awkwardly.
In particular, I see the point about them rocking up outside the temple trying to get in, rather than being besieged inside it - though actually, before they were besieged by the Romans, the Zealots and Sicarii invaded Jerusalem, seized the Temple by force, and killed anyone who tried to object to their coup. I understand that the Talmud and Rabbinical Judaism in general doesn't hold them in high regard. So I don't think it's entirely off-base to interpret that as Michael knocking his local equivalent of the Zealot revolt off track by his intervention.
Bill on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 21:19 on 11-02-2016 - link
the Jews were quite unique in maintaining armed resistance against Roman rule after occupation
Not unique, there was the Boudicca revolt in Britain.
- https://francessmithsite.wordpress.com/ on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening at 20:29 on 11-02-2016 - link Okay, that's a lot longer than I thought it would be. I haven't come here to pick a fight, honest; I just don't get the chance to talk about my writing very much.
https://francessmithsite.wordpress.com/ on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 20:27 on 11-02-2016 - link
I can see why a lot of authors stick of medieval England :)
I know it's terribly bad form to comment on a review of your own work, but I would justify myself by saying that I'm only commenting on the comments, not the review itself which was well done. Plus who doesn't like to bloviate about their own work, when given the opportunity?
I would say that, although there is clearly a lot about the Coronim and their situation in the Empire that was designed to evoke Jews under Roman rule, it is a little misleading to say that they are...fantasy Jews, if that doesn't evoke too many ghastly wagnerian stereotypes. I'm pretty sure that the Israelites never conscripted the firstborn son of every family into the army, for instance.
As for the Crimson Rose, while I am aware that there were Jewish Revolts, and that the Jews were quite unique in maintaining armed resistance against Roman rule after occupation, I don't know nearly enough about the rebellions themselves to say that anything about them really inspired the Rose. The arguments that the Voice of Corona makes are entirely political, not religious, and his first appearance places him outside the temple, trying to get in and kill everyone, while the doors are defended by Michael, the model of piety within the story. In terms of their behaviour I'd say I was more inspired by the slave revolts of the late republic than anything else, although a lot of detail about what the Crimson Rose is actually offering got cut out of the finished product, which is starting to look a little unfortunate.
I suppose this is what you meant when you said that it's a bad idea to stick very closely to a historical model, and then sharply diverge from it. I can see what you mean by that, even if I can't say that I'm entirely convinced by it, especially since it strikes me that the argument that 'I have to follow my historical model' have been used for years to try and justify casual sexism in the genre and have been rejected for nearly as long. Did you give up before you reached the same sex marriage bit, and if you got there, what did you think if you don't mind me asking?
Robinson L on Not Just "Goin' Through the Motions"
at 18:31 on 11-02-2016 - link
Sorry, poor choice of wording on my part. I meant that given what you've described of him, including his role in the story, and my familiarity with Rowling's characterization from the Harry Potter books (and romance storyline tropes in general), I would be marking the time until *shock, horror* he's revealed to be an outright villain.
Whereas you seem to expect him to turn out to be more an asshole of the Severus Snape variety: unpleasant, but ultimately on the right side, and someone the heroes can collaborate with for the greater good.
Robinson L on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 18:02 on 11-02-2016 - link
Ah, good points from both of you. And actually, from my own forays into Roman history, I do recall that one of the major points of tension for the Jews under Roman rule was that the Romans really wanted their subjects to pay at least perfunctory respect to the Roman pantheon, and the Jews were all like, "Sorry brah, no can do; there's only one God."
I still think it's an interesting historical note that Coronan's monolatry has precedent in their real-world counterpart culture. On the other hand, while I'm less familiar with the Zealots than some other aspects of that period, yeah, it's a bit hard for me to imagine a group like them arising in a context which doesn't have the same strict monotheism / polytheism conflict going on.
- Arthur B on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening at 10:00 on 11-02-2016 - link True, but I think it's a bit trickier to on the one hand have your not-Judea avoid the drift into monotheism but on the other hand throw in a revolt that is clearly drawing heavily on the Zealots, who were a product of the more robustly monotheistic occupation era.
Daniel F on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 03:25 on 11-02-2016 - link
When I brought this up, my dad said that originally, Jewish people weren't monotheistic - they recognized other gods, they were just forbidden from worshiping them or giving them offerings or the like.
This is, as far as I'm aware, probably true. (Theology degree speaking, if it means anything.) It shouldn't be particularly surprising: the sheer amount of vituperating at polytheism in Tanakh suggests that polytheism was a common practice, and that the God of Israel was worshipped alongside other gods. Consider e.g. Deuteronomy 16:21. You would not need to forbid people from putting up a pole sacred to Asherah next to the altar to the God of Israel if people were not already doing it. So it seems likely that the God of Israel (Yah, YHWH, etc.) was once worshipped within polytheistic and henotheistic contexts. A monolatrist cult, blurring the lines between henotheism and monotheism, probably arose in ancient Israel and grew in stature over time.
By the time of the Second Temple and the eventual Roman occupation, though, it's pretty safe to say that the shift to monotheism had completed. Jews in the first century AD comfortably asserted that no gods existed beside the Lord, the God of Israel. Here's a short summary; you might also like Bauckham here.
All that said, of course, one can easily imagine Israelite history taking a different course and retaining a henotheistic or monolatrous approach. Nothing about Smith's premise here breaks my suspension of disbelief, and of course the benefit of using a culture vaguely inspired by Judaism, rather than Judaism itself, is that it gives you leeway to make these changes.
- Arthur B on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening at 00:01 on 11-02-2016 - link I know about the ancient Judean drift from henotheism to monotheism, I'm just not sure how far along that drift was when the Roman occupation was still a thing - I was under the impression that it was quite far along, particularly once Judaism reasserted itself after the Maccabean revolt.
- Arthur B on Not Just "Goin' Through the Motions" at 23:30 on 10-02-2016 - link I think Matthew has already demonstrated himself to be an asshole with the deleting text messages thing.
Robinson L on A Sword That Could Do With Sharpening
at 22:30 on 10-02-2016 - link
Coronan names are clearly based on Hebrew names, and the province's history riffs on the history of Roman-occupied Judea here and there, though the Coronans aren't quite monotheistic so much as they practice monolatry - they acknowledge the existence and respect other gods because in this world their existence is an objectively observable fact, but they have a Covenant specifically with Turo, god of the seas, and worship him with sufficient unwavering loyalty that they tend to just think of him as "God".
Major tangent alert, but my sisters and I were over at my dad's apartment for Passover ceder with him and his now-fiance last April. It had been a few years since I attended a ceder, and I was struck by a passage where God mentions something to Moses about how He will give the Egyptian gods what for if they try to make any trouble, implying He acknowledges the existence of other gods.
When I brought this up, my dad said that originally, Jewish people weren't monotheistic - they recognized other gods, they were just forbidden from worshiping them or giving them offerings or the like. I haven't gotten confirmation on that from anywhere else, but if so, perhaps the depiction of the Coronans is closer to the original source material than it first appears.
Ronan: Submitting a self-published novel for the consumption of The Ferret sounds terrifying. Kudos to Smith for doing it
Robinson L on Not Just "Goin' Through the Motions"
at 22:02 on 10-02-2016 - link
Still not having read these books, having Robin marry the Wrong Personsounds like just the sort of boring, melodramatic plot point J.K. Angst-Machine Rowling would go for. The sort of thing which authors of romantic storylines routinely present as big and tragic but just read as dull and irritating.
Really, the fact that you're so optimistic that 1) this plot development will be wrapped up quickly and simply rather than drawn out interminably, and 2) that this Matthew character won't turn out to be a complete asshole speaks volumes about the improvements Robert Galbraith has made upon Rowling's storytelling.
Robinson L on Dragon Warriors? Dynasty Quest?
at 22:02 on 08-02-2016 - link
There's already a Dragon Quest Heroes spin-off series of action RPGs based on the series, after all
Captain, we're caught in a recursive loop!
Arthur B on The Hipster On the Seas of Fate
at 16:38 on 01-02-2016 - link
A little update: for those who want to explore the Cornelius stuff a little deeper than the main four novels, the recent round of reprints has made things a bit easier. The new edition of A Cornelius Calendar includes Firing the Cathedral - the best novella from the version of Lives and Times I reviewed above - plus the new novella Modern Times 2.0.
The new short story collection, entitled Jerry Cornelius: His Lives and His Times, includes all the Moorcock-penned short stories that were excluded from the most recent version of Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius, plus new stories written since then, but doesn't include Firing the Cathedral due to that being moved to Calendar. (This does not include The Enigma Windows, which Moorcock seems to have decided properly belongs in Fabulous Harbours.)
- Sören Heim on The Grey Mane of not at all boring at 19:22 on 31-01-2016 - link Since I don't know her and didn't even know of her, I'll put her on my reading list. Thanks :)
- http://illusionndream.livejournal.com/ on The Grey Mane of not at all boring at 18:05 on 31-01-2016 - link Yeah, I've figured as much, actually)) In one of his articles on NaNoWriMo Dan hinted that he knows her, I think.
- Arthur B on The Grey Mane of not at all boring at 16:58 on 31-01-2016 - link Confession: we've veered away from reviewing her stuff after Verdigris Deep because Kyra, Dan and I know her in real life and found it potentially difficult to get sufficient critical distance.
http://illusionndream.livejournal.com/ on Nano Redux: So Near and Yet So Far
at 12:59 on 31-01-2016 - link
I have a friend from my university days who has, in fact, gone on to be an extremely successful children's author (although I suspect that this is what Mr Carey would consider writing at a “low level”). She has a tendency to be extremely self-effacing about her work, so much so that she only made it to print at all because a friend of hers stole the first three chapters of her book and showed them to her publisher. If she hadn't show nher friends “stuff she feared may not be right” she'd never have had anything published at all, and the world would have been denied some genuinely excellent novels.
I'm so sorry for the necroposting, but... I think I know who you are talking about.
- http://illusionndream.livejournal.com/ on The Grey Mane of not at all boring at 12:53 on 31-01-2016 - link If anyone of you is searching for unorthodox fantasy, anything by Frances Hardinge is your best pick. I've seen one book of hers, Verdigris Deep, reviewed here favourably, but I've no idea why her other books are overlooked. They are absolutely excellent, very unusual and besides, people concerned about the lack of strong female characters, explorations of social issues or ethnicity (Gullstruck Island - oh, what a book!) will find them right up their alley.
- Ichneumon on Games Are Not Art at 07:54 on 29-01-2016 - link And mind you, I'm not trying to say, "You're an idiot whose wrong and bad and shut up!" I just really think that some of these arguments against the notion are really weak tea for you guys. Wardog was absolutely right that most "games are art" people don't really know what they're talking about, but at the end of the day, the logic here feels only a little less shallow and sophistic, which is disheartening.
Ichneumon on Games Are Not Art
at 07:49 on 29-01-2016 - link
I am so very late to this one, but I really do find many of the arguments made here against games as an artistic medium to be remarkably fatuous and poorly considered.
For one, the assertion that an object with an express artistic purpose in mind cannot be considered as an artwork if it is self-evidently functional in what is not an immediately apparent "artistic" capacity is something that I think any post-Barnes art museum would have a very immediate problem with. Ritual masks, ornate weaponry, elaborate commercial signs—all of these are innately functional objects, yet all of them may also be considered on a purely aesthetic level, and in many cases, the aesthetic aspect and the functional aspect are inextricably intertwined.
Which is not to say that art and games are the same thing; and depending on the sort of game or artwork one is crafting, the qualities intrinsic to making either succeed may indeed be at cross purposes. But to assert that a game cannot be art seems to me to deny that the creator of a game might design the very mechanics of interaction, play and progress to convey a particular aesthetic or narrative point that a more conventional work of art may be unable to convey. Deeming such narrative or aesthetic architecture to not be art in itself, whether or not one considers games as a category to be art—or, specifically, video games as a category to be art, seeing as we are focusing on those—is really terribly intellectually dishonest to me, or at least indicative of some unfortunate cognitive dissonance.
That I am making this particular argument is a touch ironic, seeing as while I see great potential in the use of interactive, game-shaped media for storytelling purposes, I'm really not all that into video games. I have certainly enjoyed a few, but I'm very picky, and I'm just not that good at them to begin with.
Ichneumon on The Dreamer in the Citadel by Esther Rochon
at 08:31 on 27-01-2016 - link
It's a great anthology, really insanely wide-ranging and all around huge—we're talking phonebook-sized here—with something for, well, not *every* taste, but every taste within the realm of "the weird." The New Weird is only a small part of that, although if you're like a more diverse, concise education in that school, the Leviathan anthologies from the Ministry of Whimsy Press are always a good place to start. While there is certainly some pretentious chaff, the majority is just strange and delightful.
Also, Michael Cisco. Just, always, Michael Cisco. I don't always love or even understand what the man is doing but he's never a dull read and, unlike Carlton Mellick and his ilk, he never seems like he's going out of his way to shock you, but he just does sometimes and it's lovely.
Sören Heim on The Dreamer in the Citadel by Esther Rochon
at 08:49 on 26-01-2016 - link
Haven't read Tainaron yet, but what I find with a quick research sounds very interesting, I'll add that to my reading list.
I wasnt too convinced by my up to now only New Weird read, Perdido Street Station, which started out interesting and then fell completely apart... Going through the anthology might actually help sorting out what to read and what not, thanks.