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World-Building and Christopher Tolkien


        So I got this J.R.R. Tolkien boxed collection for my birthday last summer, and finally got around to reading some of it. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize Tolkien wrote more than LOTR and Hobbit, well other than the Silmarilion which everyone hates. Yet here I sat with Book of Lost Tales V1 and V2, Unfinished Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, The shaping of Middle-Earth, and The Lost Road and Other Writings.

       Anyway, what I realized very quickly is that Tolkien didn’t write any other books save LOTR and Hobbit, but what he did do was spend a lifetime world-building. Much like the ill-fated Silmarillion, these are all books comprised of Tolkien’s notes, scribbles, thoughts, concepts, blurbs, etc.   Unlike ‘us’, however, Tolkien only wrote one thing for his entire life, so while we might world-build for a single book, or even a series of books, we DO NOT do what Tolkien did, not in any way, shape, or form. 

        Well, on to my greatest revelation in all this… but first let me set the ‘mood’. I was always taken with the ‘age’ of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, and the fact that everything was so ancient, that the elves were gawd-awful old, and that Tolkien somehow made it all palpable in age. Nothing I’ve ever read since has felt like Tolkien’s work in the standpoint of historic girth and scope, and today Christopher Tolkien connected something that I’ve felt but never understood before.

        Chris quoted his father thus from a letter he wrote to him on 20 September 1963: ‘I am doubtful myself about the undertaking [to write the Silmarillion]. Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new un-attainable vistas are again revealed.’

        Like Chris, I go back to the ‘to go there is to destroy the magic’, and when the Silmarilion takes us to the beginning, it steals the very magic that makes LOTR wonderful, because we’ve hit the bottom of the well. Of course Tolkien died before he was halfway through a comprehensive rewrite of The Silmarillion, and this work too ends up being a jumble of stories and notes that don’t flow like a novel, yet if we look at it for what it is, perhaps we might come to appreciate the creation of it in the first place. I mean, think of your own children plumbing your study for all your notes and writings on the novels that made you a worldwide name.  How many pages of notes, pictures, timelines, Word docs, etc would you have? How many tidbits of cool little twists and plot ties?

        Well, along those lines I was drawn to another intriguing correlation, that being Star Wars and the prequels. Star Wars is everything LOTR is, and the ‘towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist’ are the Jedi, the Old Republic, and a dozen other awesome things which make our imaginations go wild. However, Lucas [along with writing three horrible screenplays] destroys that magic, showing us once again the bottom of a well, or at least this is what I now believe.

        Ok, enough on that, but it was on my mind…


There are better places for infodumps

So I'm doing this whole Show v Tell thing and in at least 50% of my Tells I'm using an infodump, be it large or small.  Anyway, I've been struggling with how to remove infodumps and still get what I think the reader should know to them.  I've sat staring at infodumps and thinking, how can I rewrite this to make it a Show, which usually is impossible.  However, I have noted that if I just remove it entirely during the edit, place in in a note, and then move on, there is almost always another place for it elsewhere that does work as a Show, as in a well turned conversation, and I'm not talking about a 'so Bob, can you tell me about the Desparsian War' kind of conversation, but just bits and pieces added into dialog that end up telling the story just as well as a huge infodump would, because really, who am I trying to fool, infodumps are usually about me wanting to force my reader to know as many awesome things as I do about me awesome world, right?

Doing Battle...

 

        You know that scene in Dune [the original movie] where Paul captures the Emperor and is at odds with Feyd-Rautha [played by Sting]? Yeah, that scene, we’ll, I feel like I’m Paul and I represent ‘Show’ who has just entered my writerly brain’s world, captured my creative mind, and Feyd is ‘Tell’, a firm believer that they way things were is the only way things should be.

        My Mind: “If Feyd wishes to meet you with my dagger, he may.”

        Feyd [stepping forward]: “I wish it!”

        So the battle begins, and has continued over the past seventy-two hours, always in the back of my mind [bogwitch, ala] my Gurney Halleck, whispering, “The slow blade penetrates the shield”.

        Anyway, I’m in it deep over here with Show v Tell. Anyone else ever have this battle?



   Hmmmmm, is it just me or does Sting somehow look better now than 30 years ago?


Cat in my window

There's a cat in my window.  He/She just jumped up into the open frame and proceeded to snoop until it saw through the blinds, smelled my fingers, and then hissed at me.  He/She is a very pretty and thin feral, big green eyes, and now its sitting just outside the window as I didn't like its manners. 

It does sadden me, however.  I lost two cats at the end of last year, my girls, Samantha and Jasmine, both aged 15 years.  They died within a month of each other.  Sad, and when I had to move I was forced to give my litte tomcat, Keaton, aged 14 years, to my mother for safe keeping.  I miss him, and this cat suddenly reminded me of just how much. 

Its amazing how animals take a piece of you.  The hardest part about them, IMO, is how long they are with you.  Fifteen years is a long time...  I was in college when I got them, and when they died I was moving toward 40...  You don't realize when you take them in just how much your life will change before they pass on, and sometimes the negative impact of all your life changes/progressions causes them to suffer.  I think children are the biggest negative, but I waited 12 years to have mine so I did all I could for my girls.  Anyway, after suffering through what I like to call 'the hospice years' with my girls I hope to never have a pet again, even if they provide some fantastic unconditional love.

Fear


I’m here; I’ve got a dozen crazy ideas bouncing around in my head, but as always nothing to show for it. I realized tonight that Fear stopped me from writing on LJ, stopped me coming here. I didn’t want to be the last one picked, ya know? I could say I chose my friends wisely, less than 10 of them, probably 8 that mattered, and I didn’t want to be the last of them that got published. It became excruciating to click on LJ and wonder, is today the day that so-in-so got accepted? Did so-in-so get an agent or a book deal? I could only smile and cheer so long before I broke, before I just slunk away.

It also became a practice in wtf… as in wtf am I doing here because I’ve nothing to contribute, nothing real writers want to read and certainly nothing any person not looking to be bored to death would care about. I’m nobody, less than nobody really, so why do I need a blog?

My wife read something a couple days ago… the quote went something like this, ‘there are imaginative people and there are creative people, and they aren’t the same’.

I chewed on that a long while as I read another book during the evening where the author talked about what you were really good at. He stated that people were only truly good at a few choice things, and that everything else they pretty much sucked at. He said concentrate on your strengths, because those you can multiply with practice and effort to greatness, while the weaknesses you can simply increment up slowly until by the end you achieve mediocrity instead of suckiness. 

I combined the two theories into this, I’m an imaginative person. I’m a damn good idea man, but my talent doesn’t rest in the creative, which is to say the words. Imagination is mental, it’s dreaming, it’s the plot, the story, but the creative is the writer, the person who gives it all form. That isn’t my strength, thus I’ve been out of work and writing full time, full f-ing time, for eight years and never even gotten a written rejection, just forms, because my work is so sucktastic, and now, after all this time I’ve only incremented up to mediocre. 

What does this mean? Well, that I’m a guy who likes to write, but I’m not an author and in all likelihood never will be.  

But I miss Ladywolf and Abby and Justin and Kara and Jon and even J the ‘success-bunny’. You are all great people and I hope you are well. Good cheer and tidings to you in the New Year, and even though I’m still waiting to be picked, it’s good to see you in the game.


Help out a friend in need?

Hey all,
   As I slowly lose my mind with the loss of my house, my stay at home lifestyle, and the facing of various financial problems that grind my creative spirit and ability to write anything other than my name, I have found one solace to pass a few moments of my day.  I would, however, love to have help in my little bit of joy.  If anyone has three minutes to spare to help an old insane writing friend, please use this link:

http://serfron-lucky.mybrute.com

Look at the left of the screen, type a name, then select an appearance below left, then color below right, and then go to the lower middle to accept a battle.  You don't have to do anything else, the computer does it all, but it would help me out endlessly, so thanks if you take the time to do it.  If you just do this one thing there is no need for a password, and you can move on with life having known that you made me smile when it is very hard to do so any given day.

Thanks,
Archon

The lesser half

You know one of my favorite things in the world?  When you are reading a book and you place your bookmark in the pages and see that there are more pages 'behind' the bookmark than 'after' it.  That magical time when you are over halfway done with the book, which usually means it is a downhill run the end because if you made it that far you should be 'into' it enough that you just blaze through the finish. 

Anyway, just something in my head this morning.

Cheers!

Which Fantasy Writer Are You?


Your result for Which fantasy writer are you? ...

Michael Moorcock (b. 1939)

3 High-Brow, 11 Violent, -39 Experimental and 3 Cynical!

Michael Moorcock (b. 1939)

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

LOVIN' IT!!!!!!  Now all I need is a black sword!

What Mythological Creature Are You?

You Are a Centaur
In general, you are a very cautious and reserved person.
However, you are also warm hearted, and you enjoy helping others in practical ways.
You are a great teacher, and you are really good at helping people get their lives in order.
You are very intuitive, and you go with your gut. You make good decisions easily.

Interesting.  I don't mind this too much.

Wizards stupid rule!


Ok, I know there is a great deal involved in Fantasy writing where magic is concerned, and the bulk of that probably has to do with magic-users [I.E. sorcerers, wizards, witches, etc.]. Magic, in its very essence, denotes some type of ‘greater power’. That being said, it really chaps my ass when I read anything about ‘ancient’ wizards who refuse to use their power.

 

I mean come on, I get it that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, but there is a point of stupidity in withholding your power. The current book I am reading has a seven-thousand year old wizard who learned his trade from a God, and for all intents and purpose was the 1st wizard in the world. However, he is posing as a petty trader as he searches for someone who has stolen something, all the while worried about agents of another nation discovering him. Seriously? Am I supposed to believe someone with 7K years of magical experience couldn’t just summon this person to him, roast his ass, and then destroy the ‘bad’ nation wholesale? It’s the ‘Gandolfian’ syndrome, the ‘I am unreasonably powerful and immortal, but I can’t really help you other than vex you with riddles’. Give me a break.

 

I really just want to see a wizard of unlimited power BE a wizard of unlimited power. Sure, a story might not be all that interesting if the boy king was escorted right up to the gates of the evil villain, armies laid low in the wake of magical power, and then allowed to slip his destined magic blade into the subdued villain who just got mind blasted by the arch-magi of good, but that seems to make much more sense to me.

 

Maybe this is the reason markets change, because tales like this no longer hold water with ‘educated’ readers of Fantasy. *shrug*