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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 05:04 am:   

Richard,

I just placed my order for BROKEN ANGELS, but in the meantime, I was wondering: do you have any plans for any Takeshi Kovacs short stories? As I read ALTERED CARBON, it occurred to me that Kovacs's universe is so rich and complex that there are plenty of opportunities for short stories.

Of course, if you do write any, you should send them to F&SF forthwith. :-)
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Lee M
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 05:14 am:   

Go on Richard, be a good sport and write him a short story. Hell, write a couple. :-)

I vote for an update on what Trepp is kicking around doing.

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richard
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 08:16 am:   

Uh, very flattering guys - thanks. My problem is that I'm a pretty poor short story writer - I'm useless at paring down to the required minimum and what I tend to end up with are either virtually plotless mood pieces or horribly compressed mini-novels. In fact Broken Angels started life as one such appallingly compressed and confused short piece.

But you're right, the space is certainly there - and Trepp's a good call, Lee - she's a favourite of mine too. If anything occurs to me, F&SF will hear about it first.

(Actually I have a short piece lying around, but it's revisionist Sword and Sorcery, a vague sketch for the start of a novel - you're welcome to have a look at that if you want, John)
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 07:14 pm:   

Sure, I'd love to take a look at that, Richard. Send it in!

In case you don't have it handy:

Fantasy & Science Fiction
PO Box 3447
Hoboken, NJ 07030
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Lee M
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 02:33 pm:   

Hey Richard, can I ask what you mean by revisionist Sword and Sorcery? You don't have to give away any plot details just a definition of sorts. Obviously it's a new take / angle on the genre in some way.

Only if it doesn't let some big secret out of the bag. :-)

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richard
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 04:58 am:   

Lee - aha, well spotted, lax labelling on my part. By revisionist S&S, I mean sword and sorcery that doesn't attempt to evade the nastier realities of the feudal past or present some form of bucolic idealised pre-industrial world and clashes of absolute good and light with absolute evil and dark. I suppose it's the noir template applied to Tolkeinesque landscapes. It isn't by any means a new idea - check out Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, which, to be honest, no-one has ever written better than in the genre - amoral elves and gods, implacable destiny, incest and patri/fratricide, oafish, brutal peasant life and horribly savage battle scenes. No redemption, no way back. BS was written and published the same year as Fellowship of the Ring and kicks the whole Tolkein ethic into touch with effortless power - it's a great shame it never enjoyed even close to the same success, because it really is the last word in dark fantasy. Also a great shame it'll never be made into a film by Peter Jackson, because he'd know how to do it justice - unfortunately there isn't a studio on the planet that would allow a fantasy movie that bleak and morally relativistic.

John - is it okay if you have a look at an e-mailed submission first, just to see if it's what you're after? I can send out hardcopy after that, if you actually want it for F&SF. Let me know - my e-mail is tarnval@hotmail.com
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steve r
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 09:17 am:   

I have yet to read The Broken Sword - but I doubt if it will be any bleaker (or, indeed, more gripping) than Stephen Donaldson's Covenant Chronicles. True, there was a bit (OK, a bit more than a bit!) of Tolkien-pinching there, but the overall feeling was as if old Tom Hardy had had a particularly bad hair day!

I can't imagine you with S&S, even revisionist: keep us informed!
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richard
Posted on Monday, February 23, 2004 - 01:41 pm:   

Yeah, Donaldson's pretty bleak, it's true, but that's very much on a personal level - Covenant's own internal demons and suffering transposed onto the landscape of the Land. But around him are still the tall and the fair and the Righteous to stand up for All that is Good. And you get the sense that, indisturbed by Foul, village life in the Land would be just, well, bucolic, man!

By contrast, Anderson's bleakness is all encompassing - evil is not an intrusion into an otherwise beautiful world, it's part and parcel of existence as a whole and no-one's particularly interested in stopping it either, unless it conflicts with their own rather obsessive personal agendas. Trust me - it makes Covenant look positively joyous by comparison.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

Richard, you can email it to me. I sent you an email the other day, but I thought I should post here too so people don't think I'm ignoring you. If you didn't receive my email, you can email me at johnjosephadams[at]hotmail.com.
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fur
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 11:39 am:   

Ok, Anderson's bleaker than Donaldson, but that's as much a condition of borrowing heavily from anglo-saxon traditions of and ideas about literature as it is a side effect of his written style. The most obvious comparison is Beowulf, but something like the early insular Arthurian literature can make Broken Sword look upbeat and stuffed with level-headed characters. And having borrowed from that tradition, adding a christian concern-for-fellow-man ethos, or a character with concerns beyond their own agenda would be astoundingly false.
In contrast Donaldson's scheme always points his characters to tidy up evil and contain/destroy it as much as possible, so it can't be all pervasive - and it stems from a culture which claims redemption, salvation and self sacrifice as its cornerstones. Within that structure, however, corruption is part of everything because the landscape itself is tainted and altered, and gets everything in it directly, or more insidiously by inducing them or ignore or suppress it. In some respects it's even bleaker because Donaldson tend to focus the hunt for evil inwards and offer (fairly vile) characters who can't erase it from themselves whatever they do, but still feel a need to.
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red steve
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 01:45 pm:   

Right, Broken Sword on my ever-expanding list of to-be-got (compare anything to Beowulf and I'm hooked...) And both your comments illuminating. Richard's right in that (if I remember right) the Land is essentially good before Foul turns up or that really nasty sun; and Fur (Fur?) in stressing th e american thingie of redemption (excuse my use of abstract post-modern literary terms).
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 04:12 pm:   

fur - very erudite, and spot on, of course. In fact, in a very real sense, Broken Sword isn't even *about* good and evil as such - its themes are love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, and the doom of fate (all good Anglo-saxon/Viking stuff). Good and evil is a kind of sideshow playing while the main peformers are off for costume change - Anderson alludes to it occasionally, but, as you say, it's so far outside the scope of any of the players, it can only ever be peripheral to the action. In a way, that's what I found refreshing (especially after Tolkein). While there is something deeply stirring about Donaldson's epic battles for the soul of Covenant and the Land, I confess at times I found Covenant himself to be a bit of an irritating whinger - and the rest of the ensemble to be a bit po-faced and solemn. I'd rather have gone drinking with the cast of the Broken Sword any day - there's something relentlessly appealing about such self-interested flamboyance and their I'll-get-plenty-of-sleep-when-I'm-dead intensity. Going out with the inhabitants of the Land, I suspect, would be a bit too much like a Christian Union party.
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gary gibson
Posted on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - 12:52 pm:   

Iain Banks' 'Inversions' is another good example of a revisionist approach to epic fantasy, or at least the attempt to imbue a story set in a mediaevel-esque environment with some of the harsher realities of warfare and consequences of same. Also fun when you run across the bit where it turns out to be a Culture novel in disguise.
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richard
Posted on Friday, March 05, 2004 - 06:15 am:   

Yeah, I liked that one too, Gary - the innocuous little dagger that we all instantly recognise....

I think I read somewhere in an interview that Banks set out to write Inversions as a deliberate kicking into touch of some of the softer bucolic peasant and princess fantasy extravaganzas...
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fur
Posted on Saturday, March 06, 2004 - 01:50 am:   

richard - I'm all for revising the S&S cliche into something more interesting - but I'm curious about what you have in mind. Some of the comments you've made suggest producing a nastier world with more shades of grey, and more sophistocation, but keeping the S&S structure, but elsewhere you seem to be talking about a full merge of noir and dark fantasy templates to produce something *new*. The second concept is the more interesting, but 'revision' maybe isn't the right word for it - would the product of that kind of fusion look anything like either of its sources? - but I wasn't sure what/which you were suggesting?
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richard
Posted on Saturday, March 06, 2004 - 07:01 pm:   

fur - yeah, I'm using noir in a pretty loose sense here (but then it has become a pretty loose term anyway). I heard a really cool framing of it at Dead on Deansgate last year - Noir, this guy argued, was the antithesis of Disney. Nice simple (even simplistic) idea, but the more you peer into it, the more attractive it starts to seem. Here's my peering so far:

Currently you've got a dialectic battle for narrative dominance (and how's that for S&S epic duality? :-)) - The Disney genre insists on happy endings, just deserts and moral didacticism, and above all an irritating senseof "worthwhileness" about everything. Noir in contrast stubbornly resists these tendencies and revels in the underbelly of existence, the side of things we'd rather not acknowledge, and offers scant sense of value or purpose (or at least none that is not partial and painfully won).

Of course, these two elements are far from cleanly separated - most narrative art consists of a mix, with a strong lean in one direction or the other. In this sense S&S is no worse off than many other genres - sure, you've got your Tolkein (about seventy/thirty in favour of Disney, I feel) but you've also got Moorcock's Elric stuff which neatly reverses those proportions, the Broken Sword which IMHO is a nifty ninety-five percent noir and the Back Company which is damn near cask strength one hundred percent the same.

More of this later, I have to crawl into bed now - someone's threatened me with climbing a mountain tomorrow morning. Any thoughts from anyone else, meanwhile?
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richard
Posted on Sunday, March 07, 2004 - 02:25 pm:   

ah, and I see I didn't really answer your question at all there, fur. What would this new fusion/revision look like? well, I don't think it's really *new* as such, and it is already with us - the Black Company books, for example, M John Harrison's Storm of Wings, China Mieville's Scar (but not, perhaps, Perdido Street Station, for reasons I'll get to), even some aspects of James Barclay's Raven books. What all of these examples do is to take the tried and tested trope of S&S, and pour noir acid all over it. The corrosive influence of underbelly cynicism creeps in and eats away at the established statues of sword-wielders, wizards and elves.

This is why I wouldn't include Mieville's PSS, because in that book what he did was completely re-work the fantasy landscape into a Dickensian nightmare of city and twisted science - there *were* no traditional swords and wizards to be corroded. With the Scar, on the other hand, he was treading more established S&S ground with Uther Doul and his peculiar blade, the Brucolac, the grindylow and their magus fin. And I think this is why I like the revisionist label - you're not throwing out the whole Tolkeinated lot and starting afresh (which isn't of course to say that's a bad project in itself) - instead you're taking the stock stuff and applying a blow-torch to it. Much though I loved TLOTR in both film and book version (film rather more, I think), there are always points at which you find yourself saying "Oh, come *on*..." You know, aren't there any *bad* elves around? and how come all the bad guys are so damn' ugly? yes, yes, Sauron wants to dominate Middle-earth - but *then* what, what's he want it *for*? And so on. Of course, pure fantasy doesn't need to concern itself with such mundane objections because it's mythic in stature and therefore a law unto itself - but that's exactly why the noirish, revisionist cynic in me wants to tear it all down and see what's behind. (In old JRR's case, of course, what lies beneath is good old English terror of change, dodgy theories of race and heredity and an immense snobbishness). And in many ways I think this tearing down of an edifice is the essence of good noir. It's no accident that the standard noir hero is a lone detective, usually charged with the job of peeling back layers of seeming and lies to reveal the corruption beneath. So I guess that noir S&S is charged with attacking the assumptions of the standard fantasy novel *within its own conventions*, and in so doing trying to reveal something desperately human underneath.

Phew! Did I answer the question okay that time?

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fur
Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 08:26 am:   

Ah ha!! Yes – ‘attacking genre assumptions within their own conventions’ makes a great manifesto – undermining the mythic with the human and the simplicity with cynicism. I’d guess you’d wind up with something with the same elements as traditional S&S while being radically, strikingly different + a fantasy equivalent of the ambivalence of a character like Takeshi Kovacs sounds pretty interesting . . . And the idea of skewing and twisting the existing genre is *very* appealing!
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James
Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 11:26 am:   

Noir fantasy ...

http://ringil.cis.ksu.edu/Tolkien/Movie/lotr.mov
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james
Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 11:47 am:   

There is a tradition of "noir" fantasy - as well as the books mentioned above, things like Gormenghast, Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, take radically different approaches to fantasy. However the genre has been subsumbed a mass-market appetite for more-of-the-same. There's a few fantasy authors I read, mainly Guy Gavriel Kay and Patricia McKillip, and that's because they evoke a sense of romance and wonder from their worlds and characters, rather than the scale of the battles.

I know talking about romance and wonder in a noir conversation seems quite stupid, but it is actually one of the things that fantasy can be good at it. And it is also where most modern fantasy fails IMHO, because its drowned out by the epic. The strength of attacking fantasy with noir, is the single character ("detective") perspective. Noir can not be about heroic leaders. In WW2 Humphrey Bogart is running a bar in Casablanca, and making deals with corrupt officials, not leading the troops at Iwo Jima.

It's about small, sometimes meaningless, battles in back-alleys and smokey rooms. Its about conflict between small people. You don't save the world. You are lucky if you save yourself. Thieves aren't dashing scoundrels who can become best mates with the King, they are pick-pockets and con artists, who prey on the weak and defenceless.

I'm not quite sure how you fit an anti-hero into that world. The 20th C private eye is a bit of a walk from medieval streets. Who cares (or cared historically) about the dispossessed and is (was) mean enough to do something about it?

The epic battles get drowned out by the noir. Maybe leaving some room for that sense of romance (I refer you back to Casablanca).

-------------------------------------------------

(btw this is touching on why I thought Altered Carbon was a techno-noir novel but Broken Angels probably wasn't).

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richard
Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004 - 12:51 pm:   

>>Noir can not be about heroic leaders. In WW2 Humphrey Bogart is running a bar in Casablanca, and making deals with corrupt officials, not leading the troops at Iwo Jima. It's about small, sometimes meaningless, battles in back-alleys and smokey rooms. Its about conflict between small people. You don't save the world. You are lucky if you save yourself.<<

Couldn't have put it better myself - the second half of that is as good a working definition of noir as I've ever heard.
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fur
Posted on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 05:17 am:   

James: I did agree with you that *The 20th C private eye is a walk from medieval streets* because I was thinking about it in similar terms. Transposing the character into a pre-industrial world doesn't seem to work at all. But I do wonder if some aspect of it might be transferable; if you break the crime noir plot and 20th C detective down into their basic elements, and do the same to the fantasy plot and hero, I think you can fuse the two together (the fusion I was interested in earlier, as opposed to a revision which rethinks fantasy within it's own terms).
In terms of character the result I liked most was of a near 'bad-guy' character: independent, totally self interested and utterly ruthless - but also potentially enormously attractive because the character has the freedom to do a lot of things 'heroes' never do, which is liberating. Asara of The Weavers of Saramyr (which I highly recommend)is a brilliant example of this kind of character. Valmont of Dangerous Liasons and Loveless of Clarissa are two more fabulous anti-heroes. Plus, although a 'typical' fantasy plot might have trouble manipulating these characters without reforming them, a 'noir' world might inject enough realism and grottyness to prevent redemption and give fantasy a bit more integrity. Plus, poaching bits of a 'crime' plot may provide the bits necessary to motivate a self-interested character along fantasy lines without wanting to save-the-world-from-evil.
Then again, it might just create a 'bad-guy' shaped hole in the plot . . .
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James
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 10:35 am:   

Valmont's an interesting one. A member of the aristocracy, he is so self-interested that he doean't play in the affairs of state. He manages to tread that path of noir by having freedom to do what he wants by right of birth, and his independent, self-interest, but because he doesn't use his privilege to try shape anything on a scale that matters, his battles become small, personal, and very noir. Our fantasy-noir hero needs that freedom to move through society as he wants (i.e. he can't be a peasant or locked into a hierarchial structure - though I'd love to see a scene with a bishop handing in his badge and his gun "Here you are Pope Urban, have my crucifix and mitre!").

I wonder if you can write a noir story that isn't urban? Fantasy, because of the Tolkienesque thing, often involves a lot of travel and yomping over dale, through forests, looking at ruins, taking holiday pictures outside the Necromancer's tower and so on. Noir is often set in cities (LA - Bladerunner, Raymond Chandler, San Francisco - Altered Carbon, Lankhmar - Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, New Carabuzon (or whatever the city was from Mieville's Perido Street Station), etc). Is it possible to take that noir element, and incorporate it into a story with a large travel element?

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fur
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 02:10 am:   

Absolutely. Valmont's got some fabulous attributes and I agree with your analysis of his character - in particular his social freedoms, which I'd not thought of. Given that he employs a lot of detective skills that border and spying and theft he may be a good bridge-character between fantasy and the 20th c detective. Likewise being machiavellian through boredom is great, but it's also a part he plays rather than his genuine character - and Valmont lacks the self-knowledge to realise it. If it was genuine he would be unable to fall in love, wouldn't become so destructive, and the novel would lose much of it's noir conclusion. He's semi-redeemed (redemption seems to be tough to avoid) - so can it be noir if the character deserves everything they get?

Why is noir primarily urban? I wonder if it lends itself to big-city corporate corruption theory, or if there's something about being isolated among that many people, none of whom care, that noir likes? Lots of opportunity to be watched and for intrigue that's difficult to arrange across wider areas? *shrug*. I've no idea. You could certainly combine the fantasy landscape with the noir city - ruined cities like Osgiliath, but with the war in the past, maybe, or cities where the buildings and occupants are constantly at war with woodland not just around it, but also inside it and pulling the stonework apart. Equally that might combine the noir concept of a dangerous uncaring city with the fantasy trope that danger is located in the landscape (typically woodland or water) beyond civilisation. Although that's cheating - rather than make noir travel I've put the landscape inside the city. I think a travel element can be incorporated, but making the locations stand out from each other if they're all interpreted through noir-spectacles might be difficult: so does fantasy have to roam that widely?
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James
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 04:31 am:   

I think noir is primarily urban because the characters lack the vision to get up and leave. They aren't the heroes of the western (or Star Trek) who are seeking a new life. They are the Deckard's of the world, ignoring "a new life on the offworld colonies".

The only way I have imagined, in the last forty-eight hours or so, to combine travel and noir in a fantasy setting, is to put the city on giant steam-powered wheels, or on carts pulled by the bison of the gods, or something. But that's kind of cheating, because you are travelling and taking your city with you. Though I still might use it as a setting as some point.
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Jörn
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 10:31 am:   

Or you made the whole world a city, so wherever you travel, it's urban.
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richard
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 07:31 pm:   

Hi guys, I'm back, and jetlagged into wide-awakeness at 3 am. Wherefore:

I think you *can* probably have noir outside the urban context, tho' it's not common. The example that comes to mind is the movie Prime Cut which takes place mostly in cornfields in the midwest (tho' of course Lee Marvin and his henchmen are city mafiosos, out of their depth in the rural landscape, and they do start their journey from a city base). You could also argue that Miss Smilla's feeling for Snow has a noir aesthetic, but manages to slip the leash and take off first aboard a ship and then across Arctic ice (then again some would argue that by that point we've also slipped the genre leash, so maybe it's a self-excluding example).

What seems clear is that for noir to function, (a) you need human population density, for all the reasons you both came up with above, and (b) the plot dynamics need to be relatively small scale, to fit James's back alley definition of the trope. There's no reason why that can't be done in a fantasy setting of course, it just isn't very often. Both Robert E Howard's Conan and Michael Moorcock's Elric managed at times to be engaged in squalid little tavern-brawl-sized plots and counterplots and what travel they do is often a bit of hasty skulking *between* cities (tho' of course both ultimately get seduced into the fantasy stock in trade - Conan becomes a King, and Elric ends up fighting it out with the Lords of Chaos with the totality of existence as a prize. This is also what happens in Perdido Street Station - small scale urban character interaction and intrigue eventually gives way to mighty beasts and epic struggle. I wonder why this is - it's interesting, because it's also the stock reponse of Hollywood to SF - witness how the back alley cool of Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic got steroided up to an epic fight to save the world from a terrifying plague (yawn).

So - I think there's a whole niche lying around out there (wow, that's a fucked up metaphor, if I ever saw one - a niche lying around. Must go to bed) just waiting to be filled. Fantasy novels about embittered swordsmen who *don't* set out on Epic Quests or fight Battles to Save the Known World, but who engage in small scale, scummy little intrigues and pay heavy prices for very limited victories. Question is, will anyone pay to read this stuff - I have a feeling the hardcore fantasy crowd won't like it, and it's questionable if you'd be able to get more enlightened readers to take the work seriously, cloaked as it is in the genre envelope (right, that's it, cloaked in an envelope - enough. bed.)

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 11:06 pm:   

Glenn Cook's Garret series is an obvious example of hard-boiled-meets-fantasy cross-pollination. Not exactly Noir... but close, though the genre combination is done to create a humorous fission, rather then a dramatic one.

Explicitly noir FILMS that take place in small urban areas include Blood Simple, and Red Rock West, though there are many others. Less explicitly noir films that take place in a rural setting include "A simple plan" (based on the novel of the same name).

I also remember a film (who's title is totally escaping me) that used a small town desert setting, and bright, washed out, jarring lighting (instead shadows) in such a way as to be reminiscent/suggestive of the lighting of classic noir films of the 30’s.

One thing that strikes me is that if you want a completely noir fantasy… a fantasy that encompasses the moral ambiguities, and the kinds of social realism, and the “modern”, naturalistic writing style that is usually associated with Noir, you are essentially getting Sword and Sorcery… Last months Realms of Fantasy had a good article on Sword and Sorcery fiction… highly recommended.

Richard and others touched on this… Elric, fafhr and the Gray Mouser, Kane, even Conan… these are hard men, living in hard times, and placed in morally ambiguous settings. In this sense, Cornell Wooolrich and Robert Howard are really the flip sides of the same coin… one urban, one rural.

One contemporary writer that is working in a fantastic/noir style, IMO is Mathew Stover(Heroes Die, Blade of Tyshell)… while his parallel universe worlds are reminiscent of a Zelazny, or Farmer, he very seamlessly combines a nourish Cyberpunk future setting with a morally ambiguous Sword and Sorcery setting… Definitely worth checking out by anybody who is intrigued by this thread. (His protagonist, Cain, definitely stands beside the ones mentioned above as a classic of morally ambiguous fantasy, however you choose to label it.)

BTW, I’m glad to hear you made it home safely, Richard. It was a pleasure meeting you. Hope you enjoy that book of Noir-fantasy I gave you. :-) Looking forwad to seeing that story we discussed.

-Jeremy Lassen
jlassen@nightshadebooks.com
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Jörn
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:01 am:   

Glen Cook's Garret series is only humorous because we see the world through Garretts eyes and he has not yet lost his ability to see the funny side of things, but the world itself is very dark and hard. An example for noir yet not urban is the story where he hunts for the woman who is in the vampires lair. Many of the nine books are in the end small scale, scummy little intrigues and most of the characters
pay heavy prices in the end.

Does anyone now, if there are any new Cook Books in the pipeline?
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richard
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:59 am:   

Jeremy - yeah, the Kane is great. Thanks again. I used to own a copy of Nightwinds, but sold it along with all my other paperbacks to pay my student bar bill. I'd forgotten how good KEW was - stylistically a bit overwrought in places, but the storytelling and the imagination is superb - and again, the focus tends toward the small scale and grubby. Anyone looking to fill that niche I mentioned could do far worse than start by looking at Kane.

Red Rock West! I'd forgotten what a gem that was. Come to that, so were all the other John Dahl movies - wonder what happened to him. Last Seduction and Kill Me Again also made pretty solid use of rural/small town settings.

Is the other movie you're thinking of that Oliver Stone thing with Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte? Diversion, or something similar - had a plot that bore an uncanny resemblance to Red Rock West in parts. Or there's The Hot Spot with Don Johnson and Rebecca de Mornay. There's also a James Foley movie of Jim Thompson's After Dark My Sweet which uses small town/desert highways footage a lot. Hey, now I'm awake they're coming thick and fast!
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:06 am:   

Ah, Cook. I remember the Black Company. Good stuff. I also had a lot of fun with the Myth: The Fallen Lords video games, which were based on them.

And I second the recommendation of Matt Stover's HEROES DIE and BLADE OF TYSHALLE.
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:07 am:   

And I still need to pick up THE BROKEN SWORD. I think it's oop here in the US.
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Neddal
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:50 am:   

Where would George R.R. Martin's SONG OF FIRE AND ICE series fit into this? There are characters who want to save the world, there are characters whose main concern is just to survive, there are characters who don't care what happens to them as long as they take a bunch of people with them, friend or foe.

I'm also curious if Richard Calder's MALIGNOS or LORD SOHO (neither of which I've read, but have read about) would be 'noir fantasique'?

As for rural noir, what about Flannery O' Conner's
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND?

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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 11:04 am:   

I want to read MALIGNOS. Ordered it from Amazon.uk, but it went oop so they cancelled my order. :-(
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James
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:21 pm:   

I've read one of the Lord Soho short stories - it's touching on the noir. I'd forgotten about that. The story is buried in a back issue of Interzone that I have kicking about.

"Oliver Stone thing with Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte? Diversion, or something similar" - The film is U-Turn. Not seen it, so I have no idea if it is any good.

As the thread is moving on to western's - when is a western "noir" and when is it epic? (And no, you can't say if it stars Clint it's noir, and if it stars the Duke, it's a western). Is a Fistful of Dollars a noir film? Is The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly?

Or should e just hold our hands up in despair, and stop trying to define every bit of literature and music by some kind of cross-genre-fusion-hybrid pigeonhole?
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Neddal
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 04:05 pm:   

U-Turn - I saw that when it first came to video. I recall it being ok, but it was no Memento or Fight Club.

Westerns - Unforgiven.

A really good site on noir and noir-literature can be found here:
http://www.crime-culture.com

Back to "straight-up" noir - has anyone read any of Derek Raymond's (aka Robin Cook) "Factory" series of novels. I read one of those stuff-I-dig type articles by Warren Ellis a while ago and he had some high praise for them. I have a recording of Rayomnd/Cook reading from I WAS DORA SUAREZ, and it's absolutely brutal stuff. I'm curious as to what the novels are like. Apparently Mr. Cook was a bag-man for the Krays at one point.
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richard
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 12:54 pm:   

Noir westerns - the dollars movies, obviously and yes, by extension, Unforgiven which is almost like a postscript for that whole cycle. Small victories at huge cost, confused anti-heroes, an overall sense of moral decay - Leone could have been laying down a template for western noir.

Also Lawman, starring Burt Lancaster, which does a nice line in moral shades of grey. There's some of the same flavour in Tombstone, tho' it gets lost in the latter stages (still, they were constrained a bit by historical circumstance)

All of which points quite neatly to the feasibility of doing noir across a whole range of genres

Haven't read the Factory books, but they sound tempting. The Krays?? So is Cook British?
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Neddal
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 05:11 pm:   

re: Cook/Raymond
Yeah, he was:
http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200202/0452.html
The books are way out of print (if they were ever available) in North America and seem to be mostly out of print in the U.K.:
http://tinyurl.com/yvpdr

Tombstone - You mean the one where Val Kilmer played Doc Holliday?
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Neddal
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 05:22 pm:   

Oops, the Factory books were published in N. America. The link above is to amazon.com, for some reason I thought it was amazon.co.uk
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richard
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 04:24 am:   

Yes, the Kilmer one. Has to be one of his finest performances ever, that. Shame the movie fell apart on them in the last half....
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Neddal
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 09:10 am:   

Have you seen The Salton Sea? I'm not a huge fan of Kilmer's stuff + the story was a bit overwrought but it was one of the few movies I really enjoyed last year. There was an Australian noir...the names escapes me, about an insurance adjuster, that was really good as well but am not sure if I saw it last year or towards the end of 2002. (My Fav. movie of last year was probably Dog Soldiers, am hoping they don't screw up the sequel.)

Tombstone - Again, I haven't seen it in years, but I remember it being Citizen Kane compared to Costner's Wyatt Earp movie.

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richard
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 10:32 am:   

Salton Sea, yeah - kind of wore its arthouse credentials on its sleeve a bit too much, and I never really believed in the central character's dual artist/scumbag existence (that's usually a sign of the work of a writer with delusions of streethood). Still, it unfolded interestingly enough and made me think rather more than the average Blockbuster fare...

There's a Dog Soldiers 2?
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Neddal
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 06:54 pm:   

Dog Soldiers 2: They're working on it and possibly a prequel:

<http://www.creature-corner.com/news3/may20dogsoldiers2.php3>
---
http://www.dark-universe.com/archives/december/newsdog2.htm
---

My apologies for thread-jacking...
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Semetaire.
Posted on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 05:11 am:   

Richard, study such books as "Born Fi Dead" for a crass and desperate inspiration in these days of false pretense. And listen to such artists as Vybz Kartel or Bounty Killer.

Big ups for the books, hope they dont mess up the movie.

/Probably your only dancehall-orientated reader
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richard
Posted on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 03:22 pm:   

Er - right. Thank you.
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fur
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 08:57 am:   

Does anyone out there have any ideas about the differences between sf and fantasy/potted definitions of either genre/ideas about what either is trying to do?
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 12:15 pm:   

THis is shooting from the hip, but:

SF appeals too the intellectual side of the brain, while fantasy appeals to the emotional side of the brain.

The intellectual side of the genre takes pride in being realistic, or at least plasible. The emotional side of the genre takes pleasure in being unplausible, or unrealistic.

I don't think you can tie authorial intent, or other aesthetic measurements to the genres: IE one is inherently reactionary/conservative, while one inherentlly progressive or revolutionary. The forms can be used for any purpose, and have a wide range of sociological implications, across whatever spectrum you care to measure...

For example: New Wave Vs. Golden Age ... They are both SF, so you can't formulate your definations around something that doesn't encompass both of them.

Likewise: Middle Earth or Gormanghast... Definitions have to encompass both of these. A valid, working definition of "Fantasy" has the added problem of having to encompass a signficant portion of the "horror" genre if it is to be usefull, or applicable beyond a very narrow subset of the genre.


Given that, I think reffering to the type of covanent between the writer and reader is more usefull in differentiationg the genres. Logos, vs. Effusio works for me. Of course, with any definition, there are exceptions.
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Luís
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 05:07 pm:   

Even that plausible vs unplausible definition doesn't convince me: assuming it's useful, it'd only be so for our present time and it certainly wouldn't be always valid. For example, I can easily argue that all fantasy, no matter how weird, can be recreated in a VR environment (assuming we had the technology) and would therefore be plausible. Those stories could conceivably take place, even if the world wasn't physical. Indeed, many have written fiction that at first glace appears to be fantasy, but is later explained in science fictional terms (using VR, nanobots, etc.), so who's to say which types of fantasy are unrealistic? Like Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Alternatively, one could easily claim that all sf describing what isn't known to exist is fantasy on account of this element of unreality (no matter how minute). It's all fiction, anyway, so the unreality is there, even if it happens to be quite mundane.

"Given that, I think reffering to the type of covanent between the writer and reader is more usefull in differentiationg the genres."

That's closer to how I see it. Not just between writer and reader, but also between the two and everything else -- other readers, other writers (via their books and/or through social contact), and of course their times.

Best,
Luís
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richard
Posted on Saturday, April 24, 2004 - 02:12 pm:   

Hmm - I think the Clarke quote is only valid to a point, and that point doesn't encompass genre convention and intent - the point about SF as opposed to fantasy is that it *assumes* a rational explanation is out there, even if we (the primitive beholders) don't have it yet. That's to say, apparent magic will be "explained" or a latent assumption will be made that it can be. Take Banks' Culture novels, in which the capacities of the Culture Minds approach what most of us would understand by godhead - but these entities are never passed off as anything other than superendowed Artificial Intelligences.

Fantasy, by contrast, will set you up with some gods/demons and you're expected to take them at exactly that face value - no-one (well maybe Saberhagen in Empire of the East) tries to explain them away scientifically. Gandalf is a wizard - end of story, he just *is*. Fantasy, like myth and legend, doesn't *have* to make sense - in many ways, in fact, that's the whole point of it. It liberates you from the strictures that rationality imposes. It's values are pre-Enlightenment, SF's are post-.

Which maybe is the potting you were looking for, fur?

Bonsai!!!!
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Luís
Posted on Saturday, April 24, 2004 - 04:57 pm:   

"Hmm - I think the Clarke quote is only valid to a point, and that point doesn't encompass genre convention and intent"

Yes, I'm aware of it. I was referring to that school of thought that draws the line at "SF is about the improbable-but-possible while Fantasy deals with the impossible", which I don't find at all useful.

Your definition is an interesting one, but like every other, it fails to deal with borderline cases, and there are so many of them that we can't (or shouldn't) simply ignore them. More importantly, your definition seems to be exclusive (fantasy as opposed to sf), however stories can be sf and fantasy simultaneously. Many are. What happens when you systematise magic and treat it like science, as in China Miéville, etc . . . Where does it stop being fantasy and becomes science fiction? True that rationality can help distinguish between genres, but it's far from being the only determining factor.

Also, assumptions raised by one book may very well "contaminate" others. You could write a sequel to Lord of the Rings (and somehow dodge the lawsuits :-)) that explained everything in scientific terms, and it would change how the original books were perceived. I know it's an unlikely example, but my point is that genres are dynamic in nature, and authorial intent is not alone in determining where each book belongs.

Best,
Luís
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fur
Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2004 - 01:19 am:   

Thanks Richard - that's precisely the kind of potting I'm hunting for. On the basis of it, would you say it's fair to suggest that (very broadly speaking) fantasy concentrates on individuals with remarkable, inexplicable, abilities, while science fiction offers technology as a tool anyone can use?

I was wondering about a model (which is perhaps an extension of this and the covenant/logic-emotion divide Jeremy was talking about?) where the prime fantasy society stands for the remarkable individual - which would promote a tendency to epic battles and civil war. In contrast, perhaps, science fiction creates a society and throws out an individual which represents it. any thoughts?
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Luís
Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2004 - 01:55 am:   

"On the basis of it, would you say it's fair to suggest that (very broadly speaking) fantasy concentrates on individuals with remarkable, inexplicable, abilities, while science fiction offers technology as a tool anyone can use?"

A lot of sf (the finest examples coming from the pulps and Golden Age sf) actually offers both. To name one, Lazarus L--er, I mean Robert Heinlein certainly makes sure his protagonists are all impossibly gifted. ;) Jingoism is all over the place too. I believe this is more closely tied to how reactionary/progressive a book is, and like Jeremy said, that doesn't have much to do with genre. At least not any genres we know today . . . anything's possible . . .

Best,
Luís
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richard
Posted on Monday, April 26, 2004 - 03:44 am:   

"Your definition is an interesting one, but like every other, it fails to deal with borderline cases"

Yes, agreed, but I don't see this as a failure of my or any other genre definition - borderline cases by their very nature resist incorporation. That doesn't invalidate the process of genre cataloguing. By homophonic analogy, we all feel quite comfortable with the two genders male and female, and use them quite casually on a day to day basis. There are many transgendered human beings who don't fit into that two pot system, but this doesn't mean we have to invent a new sex type (more than one in fact)to "pot" them. In fact, the pots are an artificial construct so that our discontinuous way of thinking can cope with a seamless universe. Genre definitions are not real, they're just a shorthand for keeping the garden tidy. Transgenre writing can remain exactly that, transgenre, but that doesn't invalidate the genres themselves.

Btw - I'd put China Mieville firmly in the fantasy camp, along with Moorcock's Runestaff cycle. Pseudoscience appears in these books, sure, but it's really just thinly disguised sorcery - and it rubs shoulders with forms of magic for which no rational explanation is either offered or intended. The Weaver just *is*, the embassy of hell with its delightful ambassador just *is*. We're never expected to fit these things into a rational scheme of things - we just enjoy them for what they are. Similarly, I'd be immensely surprised if you could make any kind of rational sense out of Tolkein no matter how you re-wrote it.
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Luís
Posted on Monday, April 26, 2004 - 05:42 am:   

"That doesn't invalidate the process of genre cataloguing."

It doesn't, and I don't doubt genres are quite useful, they do help keep the garden tidy. I'm just having fun juggling the pots around, see if they break when I drop them. :-) It's just that the more I read about genre theory, the more I'm averse to rigid and oversimplified classifications.

"Similarly, I'd be immensely surprised if you could make any kind of rational sense out of Tolkein no matter how you re-wrote it."

Like I said, it's unlikely. But certain books have changed genres with time, and so, for the reasons I gave above, I'm wary of putting most books in a camp with more than a little firmness.

Speaking of making sense of Tolkien, this reminds me of something I read years ago in Wil McCarthy's column for SF Weekly:

http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue243/labnotes.html

Cheers,
Luís
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Luis
Posted on Monday, April 26, 2004 - 10:23 am:   

Sorry, I somehow deleted this from my last reply:

"The Weaver just *is*, the embassy of hell with its delightful ambassador just *is*."

A lot of sf can't say to be innocent of the same crime. Most of the times, humanoid aliens just are, jaunting in TIGER! TIGER! just is, etc, etc. . . . Somehow that hasn't prevented these books from being considered sf. Otherwise, perhaps they should be packing up and changing camps right now.

Except in the hardest sf, you usually come to a point where things just are, anyway (that's why I say most sf is also fantasy -- to a point, of course.)

Best,
Luís
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fur
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 12:56 am:   

'most sf is also fantasy'

I see what you mean, and I've taken your point about genre catagorisation, which I agree with (from my perspective, once you know what something consists of/is, it's far easier to see how to shake it up and make it different, within and beyond the bounds of genre. It also makes me appreciate how very, very clever a lot of authors are with genre conventions) - but how do you recognise, in broad strokes, a fantasy or science fiction novel when you come across one and when do you argue that it's some other kind of novel containing elements of the genre?

I'm also curious about the statement 'most sf is also fantasy': it implies that the reverse isn't the case, or at least not to the same extent - which is interesting.

On Tolkein: he does make rational sense, eventually, but LOTR makes far more as an epic than it does as fantasy.
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Neal Asher
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 03:07 am:   

Science fiction is really a subgenre of fantasy, SF being more specific than fantasy, which covers all bets (e.g. where's the science in LotR?). As to genre cataloguing, we'll that's so that when I walk into a bookshop I know I'll find what I'm looking for in the SF & Fantasy section and won't have to trull around checking Slipstream, Interstitial, New Weird, Old Weird, New Wave, or Partly Interstitial with a cherry on top, or whatever the flavour happens to be that month.
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 03:53 am:   

Hey!!! There are some *really* great authors writing Partly Interstitial with A Cherry on Top - it deserves its own section in bookstores and certainly an extensive thread row about it somewhere. (tho' it's high time fair weight was also given to the cutting edge of Partly Interstitial with Cherry Floating Beside and the few brave souls who are prepared to go out on a limb with Fractionally Interstitial, Santo Domingo Banana Attached - when will the reading public sit up and learn to appreciate the genius in our midst???)
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 04:37 am:   

Luis - "A lot of sf can't say to be innocent of the same crime." This is an interesting way of phrasing it - suggests that Frankly Incredible, No Decent Rationale is a failing in SF. Which I think it probably is - future science needs to *seem* credible, however you achieve that. It was one of the reasons I couldn't get on with a lot of the Steampunk stuff (and why Steampunk is maybe really fantasy in disguise) - I just wasn't buying into it at the same willing suspension of disbelief level that dense textured SF like cyberpunk engendered. In fact, many of pre-cyberpunk SFs failings in this area, especially the dodgy humanoid alien variety, are really just a case of older writing that hasn't aged well - levels of genre sophistication have moved on. It's also why I can't watch Star Trek, Star Gate, Babylon 5 etc with a straight face.

By contrast, I don't think this kind of unbelievability presents a problem for fantasy writers, and therefore doesn't clang out as a crime. In fact, I confess to being totally turned off by the there-are-complex-rules-to-magic-you-know, everything-makes-coherent-sense type of fantasy writing. Most of the fantasy I've really enjoyed is thrown together out of the purer depths of the imagination, without the drab braking effect of what I suppose you could call colonisation by taxonomy. I don't *care* that Tolkein's world doesn't make rational sense - that isn't the point. You don't have to worry about the architectural logistics of Peake's Gormenghast - that isn't the point either. I don't need to join the dots between China Mieville's jarring fragments of magic and pseudoscience, or work out how it is exactly that something the size of a garuda can get off the ground - each of these is a gem in itself, worthwhile for itself. Jeff Vandermeer's Veniss Underground is so stunning precisely *because* his world obeys no laws other than those of nightmare. This is the blood and guts of fantasy.

Where we get let down, then, is where badly imagined (and low budget) SF fails to even halfway convince at the necessary level, and conversely where pedestrian fantasy works far *too* hard trying to convince us at a level we don't need to worry about. And I'd argue that in both cases what you're looking at is the same basic crime - a simple lack of Quality in Art.
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Luís
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 04:56 am:   

Fur: ". . . a fantasy or science fiction novel when you come across one and when do you argue that it's some other kind of novel containing elements of the genre?"

Similarity with other books generally agreed to be in the genre usually works for many people, but there are many variables involved, and not everybody considers the same factors, so you can end up with a book that, though it has elements science fiction, could belong primarily in a different genre.

Fur: "I'm also curious about the statement 'most sf is also fantasy': it implies that the reverse isn't the case"

The reverse isn't the case at present. Admittedly, books moving from fantasy to sf is a highly improbable event, but I wouldn't rule out that possibility entirely. Stranger things have happened . . .

Neal: What I'd really like to see in libraries is a section with all the good books, with or without the cherries. Now there's a time saver. By the way, congrats on getting COWL published in Portugal! Well, not yet, but soon. A friend of mine (writer João Barreiros, there are some stories by him online, if you care to read them) is working on the translation, I already helped him revise a few pages and he's doing a great job, so you're in good hands.

Best,
Luís
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Luís
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

"In fact, I confess to being totally turned off by the there-are-complex-rules-to-magic-you-know, everything-makes-coherent-sense type of fantasy writing. Most of the fantasy I've really enjoyed is thrown together out of the purer depths of the imagination, without the drab braking effect of what I suppose you could call colonisation by taxonomy."

I'm of two minds about it. I thoroughly agree there's nothing like the product of an unfettered imagination (as much as that is possible), but I also believe that constraints can stimulate creativity, so anything in between could potentially also work.

Best,
Luís
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fur
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 12:25 am:   

Neal: sf as a sub-genre of fantasy (on the subject of which, what do you call members of the New Weird? Weirdees? Weirdos? Or are they an undivisable collective of weirdness?) makes a lot of sense - I say, throwing in the critical-theory towel and opting for "Big Sticky Mess" theory, with "Because it *is*" as an optional extra.


"constraints can stimulate creativity" - absolutely. And if you take them away entirely you end up with T.S.Eliot and his 'Can you guess what it is yet?' approach to lit.
*shudder*

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