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The Importance Of Diversity And Representation In The Hobby

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Pat:

--- Quote from: SHARK on October 12, 2021, 06:57:32 PM ---Excellent observations, Steve. I agree. I always thought that Feist, Edddings, Salvatore, Brust--were all pretty decent authors. I never quite understood the ocean of hate and derision for them as writers.

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I think we've shifted from stories as entertainment to stories as art and more lately stories as performance outrage.

They're reasonably competent stories. I haven't read Feist, but Eddings' characters are all likeable stereotypes with just enough twists or subversions (i.e. not a lot) to make them memorable, while retaining the degree of warm comfort that comes from familiarity. Salvatore hit the sense of being an outcast but somehow cooler than thou that all 14 year old boys except the chads aspire to. Drizzt has that mix of "just like me!" except with twin scimitars and all the challenges are overcome. Brust has a bit of that too cool for thou, mixed in with some earthy touches and being accepted and respected by a higher caste. None of these are deep or wildly original, but they're tropes for a reason: They appeal to people.

I think we need to find a balance between criticism and popcorn entertainment. They're not high art; they might not break any ground or be a superlative exemplar, and they may do many things awkwardly or even poorly. But excessive prosody, symbolism, and even characterization can be exhausting, or just not fun. And easy fun has value, too.

Steven Mitchell:

--- Quote from: SHARK on October 12, 2021, 06:57:32 PM --- I always thought that Feist, Edddings, Salvatore, Brust--were all pretty decent authors. I never quite understood the ocean of hate and derision for them as writers.

However, I must have read the first three or four books from each of them. ;D

I can't really explain why I didn't keep up with reading further books written by them--I somehow just got involved in reading other stuff. I probably got even more into reading Non-Fiction History books, and kind of left off from reading Fantasy Fiction.

I always enjoyed David Gemmel, Harry Turtledove, Bernard Cornwell, and Jack Whyte, as well. As you may know from such authors, they definitely have a more historical style than the earlier group--more history, war, religion, politics, and drama, and less fantasy and magic for sure. ;D


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Well, it's relative. Compared to some of the things that are selling now, all of those guys are excellent.  But I'm a person that reads very fast and widely.   Sometimes you just want a quick read. For example,  I've read all the first four Eddings series too many times to count, because they are easy, and I do like the characters.  It's not literature, but I'd rather read that than watch most TV shows. I've read them when not feeling well because I know how they come out, and I know I'm not going to stumble on some nuance that I've missed before.  You can't do that with Pratchett or Tolkien or let alone someone like E.R.R. Eddison, where every turn of phrase has a meaning.  I like Cornwell, too.  There's real depth there.  Gemmel I'm not sure about yet, but I do know he sits in my mind in some middle ground where I have to pay attention when I read him.  Barbara Hamby and Patrician Wrede are in that some boat.

Turtledove is an interesting case.  He's a formulaic author that writes fantastical narrative history, as if he was Shelby Foote telling you about true events after the fact.  I like real narrative history and I like fantasy, so those are kind of interesting.  However, almost invariably his best stories are his shortest.  I suspect some judicious padding to pay the bills. I know that's the case with S.M. Stirling, who isn't even pretending to care anymore.

Another interesting case is the various Flint books, starting with 1632.  They are communist fantasy masturbation with a host of writers so varied in talent and skill that it is simply breathtaking.  Some of them are clever yarns if you can look past the silliness, but others are practically unreadable for anyone with any sense of story telling and phrasing. 

Of course, for those of us weaned on the pulp writers, the 90's were a difficult shift.  Leiber, Vance, and even Harry Harrison and the like wrote vividly and with care to get accepted into a magazine and thus have money to eat.  When they wrote longer, the habits stuck.   Others wrote novels that happened to have a fantastical theme but hearkened back to what came before.   In contrast, 90's writers got verbose to sell big hardbacks--even when they didn't have much to say.

Not sure I'm explaining my point very well.  There's a difference between a pulp story expanded into a longer yarn, a novel or epic that happens to be fantastical, and some of what we have now that is the "long form fantasy story".  Much like people talk about early D&D pulls from myth, but later D&D is derivative of itself.  This is what makes Neil Gaiman stand out positively compared to most recent writers:  Not only can he write, he also avoids the derivative trap.

Steven Mitchell:

--- Quote from: Pat on October 12, 2021, 07:34:17 PM ---I think we've shifted from stories as entertainment to stories as art and more lately stories as performance outrage.

They're reasonably competent stories. I haven't read Feist, but Eddings' characters are all likeable stereotypes with just enough twists or subversions (i.e. not a lot) to make them memorable, while retaining the degree of warm comfort that comes from familiarity. Salvatore hit the sense of being an outcast but somehow cooler than thou that all 14 year old boys except the chads aspire to. Drizzt has that mix of "just like me!" except with twin scimitars and all the challenges are overcome. Brust has a bit of that too cool for thou, mixed in with some earthy touches and being accepted and respected by a higher caste. None of these are deep or wildly original, but they're tropes for a reason: They appeal to people.

I think we need to find a balance between criticism and popcorn entertainment. They're not high art; they might not break any ground or be a superlative exemplar, and they may do many things awkwardly or even poorly. But excessive prosody, symbolism, and even characterization can be exhausting, or just not fun. And easy fun has value, too.

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I would say that Eddings writes good dialog, Feist crafts his stories fairly well, and Salvatore writes good action scenes.  That's not all they have going for them, but it is their only real standout strengths.  This is what keeps the reader going when their other abilities lag. 

Brust is a little different.  He's better than average at plotting, dialog, and characterization, and has obviously worked at his craft.  If the synthesis appeals, that is what keeps the reader coming back.

It's when you compare them to Pratchett that they fall short.  Pratchett is sitting in the same spot to English literature that Dickens inhabited a century before.  You can read the same Pratchett story 5 times and still find nuance that was missed before.

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