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Axolotl
2012-01-12, 06:19 PM
So DC have just announced their second wave of series for the new universe, most of it is standard stuff (including yet another Batman title), however amoung them is an old title (Dial H for Hero) being brought back with China Miéville writing, now just titled Dial H it's coming in May.

Personally I think this is some pretty great news. Miéville is possibly the best Fantasy writers of the modern times, Perdido Street Station is easily one of the most inventive and interesting fantasy books of all time. Now I've never heard of Dial H for Hero before but "talented British author resurrects obscure DC title" has one hell of a good track record.

Source. (http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2012/01/12/dc-comics-in-2012-%e2%80%93-introducing-the-%e2%80%9csecond-wave%e2%80%9d-of-dc-comics-the-new-52/)

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-12, 09:50 PM
Gee DC you tap a bald British writer with an interest in the weird to write for you? Did Grant Morrison's unholy chaos magic ritual to summon an hypertime copy of himself from the Bleed fail..... or succeed?

Also quite aside from forbidden topic on the man from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Mi%C3%A9ville)


Miéville has explicitly attempted to move fantasy away from J. R. R. Tolkien's influence, which he has criticized as stultifying and reactionary (he once described Tolkien as "the wen on the arse of fantasy literature")

I'm so not okay with this.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-12, 11:40 PM
I don't mind. Too many writers merely ape what Tolkien did, rather than actually come up with something truly unique. Tolkien may have effectively started the genre, but that doesn't mean the Lord of the Rings are the Fantasy Series To End All Fantasy Series.

Mr.Bookworm
2012-01-12, 11:46 PM
I don't mind. Too many writers merely ape what Tolkien did, rather than actually come up with something truly unique. Tolkien may have effectively started the genre, but that doesn't mean the Lord of the Rings are the Fantasy Series To End All Fantasy Series.

Mmm. But on the other hand, we wouldn't actually have a recognizable fantasy genre to compare works like Miéville's to if we didn't have Tolkien. It's like criticizing the Epic of Gilgamesh for it's buddy cop dynamic. But anyway, kind of off topic.

This sounds exciting. Don't know much about the comic in question, but I love most of his other stuff, soooooo.

Weezer
2012-01-12, 11:51 PM
In regards to that quote, he has a point. I love my Tolkein, but the genre needs to (and has started to) move beyond what he did. Fantasy can stretch far beyond epic quests to save the world from a ultimate evil, and authors like Mieville do that very well. He is an excellent author.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 12:05 AM
There's a fine line between wanting fantasy to be more then Tolkien clones and actively insulting the man that allows your own fantasy novels to be published. It doesn't impress me with your difference, its says to me you are engaging in terribly boring and generic teenage rebellion.

Weezer
2012-01-13, 12:09 AM
There's a fine line between wanting fantasy to be more then Tolkien clones and actively insulting the man that allows your own fantasy novels to be published. It doesn't impress me with your difference, its says to me you are engaging in terribly boring and generic teenage rebellion.

Yeah, perhaps he was a bit crude about his wording there and was obviously fishing for a reaction, but have you actually read his work? It certainly isn't boring or generic in any way, shape or form.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 12:46 AM
Yeah, perhaps he was a bit crude about his wording there and was obviously fishing for a reaction, but have you actually read his work? It certainly isn't boring or generic in any way, shape or form.

I have not and sadly finding a comment like that makes me unlikely to enjoy them now since it forms a first impression that won't be erased.

Poking around some summary's would I be wrong in suggesting this guy shares more with Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison then Tolkien and Lewis yes?

And while I recognize this as something of a personal preference I find most attempts at being "different" all seem to run to the same place. Let's be darker, edgier, and maybe trippier to establish how tremendously new and awesome we are. Or lets have something everyone expects in a traditional story to be good turn horrible. And of course moral ambiguity and questioning truth, value, etc. In general I find a lot of the ways authors try to be super-modern distasteful.

And I feel like I've been exposed to more subversions of all those nice bright happy stories then... nice bright happy stories. Because those bright happy stories are actually a very very rare breed, even where they are supposedly rampant cliche storms.

Give me a land of magical rainbows and creatures. Where people can lean lessons without it being a satire or massive soul breaking tragedy. Where the good ruler really is as graceful and kind as she seems on the surface. Yeah I consider brightly colored ponies more subversive fantasy then a lot of stuff trying to break with tradition

Xondoure
2012-01-13, 01:25 AM
Oh he's definitely darker edgier and trippier. Still a compelling narrative though.

The Glyphstone
2012-01-13, 07:19 AM
And while I recognize this as something of a personal preference I find most attempts at being "different" all seem to run to the same place. Let's be darker, edgier, and maybe trippier to establish how tremendously new and awesome we are. Or lets have something everyone expects in a traditional story to be good turn horrible. And of course moral ambiguity and questioning truth, value, etc. In general I find a lot of the ways authors try to be super-modern distasteful.


I think, in a way, that's the essence of Mieville's issue. If I interpreted the statement right, he resents that Tolkein is the universal gold standard of fantasy literature, where traditional fantasy is compared directly to LotR and non-traditional 'subversive' or 'modern' fantasy is described primarily in how it's different than the norm (i.e, Tolkein). It's like if baseball statistics for players were only expressed in how much better or worse they did than Babe Ruth.

Or maybe he just hates Tolkein, I dunno.

Weezer
2012-01-13, 11:33 AM
And I feel like I've been exposed to more subversions of all those nice bright happy stories then... nice bright happy stories. Because those bright happy stories are actually a very very rare breed, even where they are supposedly rampant cliche storms.

Give me a land of magical rainbows and creatures. Where people can lean lessons without it being a satire or massive soul breaking tragedy. Where the good ruler really is as graceful and kind as she seems on the surface. Yeah I consider brightly colored ponies more subversive fantasy then a lot of stuff trying to break with tradition

I never really read any of Tolkien that would fit into a magical rainbow land or a bright and happy world. The books are fillied with the feeling of an almost futile struggle against an evil that overshadows all those who oppose it. The only really good king dies on the battlefield, a once good ruler is subverted and attempts to burn his only remaining son on a pyre before committing suicide himself and that's not to mention the whole Frodo/Sam branch of the story, which is downright depressing at times. And even after Sauron is defeated the Hobbits return to their homes to find them torn apart and essentially destroyed by Saruman.

So yes, a story of pure magic rainbows would also be a subversion of the Tolkein style, because he certainly isn't happy.



I think the Glyphstone's point is perfectly correct, a whole genre should not be compared to the works of one man, no matter how influential he was on the genre. It means everything is stuck in a unneeded binary, new books either support the Tolkein-esque paradigm or they are rebellious and subvert/overturn it. It seems that it would be far better for the genre to get away from that whole idea.

Also I think it might be helpful to have a more complete quote of Mieville's stance on Tolkien, he has some good points.


Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clichés - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

Mewtarthio
2012-01-13, 11:50 AM
I found a more complete version of the quote here (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/279616) (or at least, I assume it's the complete version; it doesn't list its source). A couple of relevant excerpts:


And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clichés - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.


Of course I'm not saying that any fan of Tolkien is no friend of mine - that would cut my social circle considerably. Nor would I claim that it's impossible to write a good fantasy book with elves and dwarfs in it - Michael Swanwick's superb Iron Dragon's Daughter gives the lie to that. But given that the pleasure of fantasy is supposed to be in its limitless creativity, why not try to come up with some different themes, as well as unconventional monsters? Why not use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies?

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 03:20 PM
I never really read any of Tolkien that would fit into a magical rainbow land or a bright and happy world. The books are fillied with the feeling of an almost futile struggle against an evil that overshadows all those who oppose it. The only really good king dies on the battlefield, a once good ruler is subverted and attempts to burn his only remaining son on a pyre before committing suicide himself and that's not to mention the whole Frodo/Sam branch of the story, which is downright depressing at times. And even after Sauron is defeated the Hobbits return to their homes to find them torn apart and essentially destroyed by Saruman.

So yes, a story of pure magic rainbows would also be a subversion of the Tolkein style, because he certainly isn't happy.

I was wandering from just Tolkien there this is well beyond him to my approach to just about all media.

However you touch on my basic point. I don't think Tolkien is nearly as clear cut as he may seem, or for that matter that he's actually utterly standard



I think the Glyphstone's point is perfectly correct, a whole genre should not be compared to the works of one man, no matter how influential he was on the genre. It means everything is stuck in a unneeded binary, new books either support the Tolkein-esque paradigm or they are rebellious and subvert/overturn it. It seems that it would be far better for the genre to get away from that whole idea.

Also I think it might be helpful to have a more complete quote of Mieville's stance on Tolkien, he has some good points.

Here's the thing, how much Tolkien actually define a paradigm? Just looking around fantasy literature I struggle to name big names in fantasy literature that actually use say elves and dwarves.

What would be may the two biggest names in fantasy lit right now, Rowling and maybe maybe Martin thanks to HBO? I think that Harry Potter and ASoFaI would score very low for copying Tolkien's notes, though the latter certainly has some of the scope and style that's simply unavoidable. Honestly the only big name outright clone I can think of is Sword of Shannara (and even Shannara is confined to the first book) though I'm sure there are some more.

Quite frankly I don't the idea of Standard Fantasy can actually be traced to Tolkien, but rather D&D's aping of him. Its D&D that is the true standard setting, and from there directly into video game media. Which is where it is actually most prevalent. And even there there are certainly ample alternatives, albeit more in the JRPGs but there all the same.

(Also I have a very fundamental philosophical difference with Mieville. Absolute morality is the only basis by which moral complexity can exist)

Weezer
2012-01-13, 04:28 PM
I was wandering from just Tolkien there this is well beyond him to my approach to just about all media.

However you touch on my basic point. I don't think Tolkien is nearly as clear cut as he may seem, or for that matter that he's actually utterly standard

Of course he isn't incredibly clear cut, any piece of actually good writing can't be boiled down to an essential, clear cut core.



Here's the thing, how much Tolkien actually define a paradigm? Just looking around fantasy literature I struggle to name big names in fantasy literature that actually use say elves and dwarves.

What would be may the two biggest names in fantasy lit right now, Rowling and maybe maybe Martin thanks to HBO? I think that Harry Potter and ASoFaI would score very low for copying Tolkien's notes, though the latter certainly has some of the scope and style that's simply unavoidable. Honestly the only big name outright clone I can think of is Sword of Shannara (and even Shannara is confined to the first book) though I'm sure there are some more.

Quite frankly I don't the idea of Standard Fantasy can actually be traced to Tolkien, but rather D&D's aping of him. Its D&D that is the true standard setting, and from there directly into video game media. Which is where it is actually most prevalent. And even there there are certainly ample alternatives, albeit more in the JRPGs but there all the same.

(Also I have a very fundamental philosophical difference with Mieville. Absolute morality is the only basis by which moral complexity can exist)

In my eyes his paradigm (despite what people tend to say) is not elves and dwarves and walking trees, but the good hero embarking on an epic quest to defeat some ultimate evil, complete with a very black and white morality. Other examples of th include Jordan's Wheel of Time, Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy, a bunch of Fritz Leiber's Fafir and the Grey Mouser novels, Moorcock, Feist's Riftwar the list goes on and on. Sure none of these are exact copies, and many of them go out of their way to subvert parts of Tolkein's ideas (Moorcock introduces moral greyness, Wheel of Time is politically complex, things like that), but it's all in that mold.

Rowling belongs to another paradigm, that of the young kid discovering his magical talent and going to wizard school which is influenced more by LeGuin than Tolkien.

And certainly D&D has had a lot of influence, but where do you think it's ideas come from? It comes back again to Tolkein, perhaps a distorted idea of Tolkein, but still him.


Apparently we too have that fundamental difference, absolute morality in my eyes is an arbitrary limitation that usually, if not always, reduces moral complexity rather than provides it.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-13, 05:07 PM
What he says about TOlkien actually sounds more like his imitators than his actual work.
Tolkien has indeed had a huge influence on fantasy, and yes, it would do well to stop simply creating inferior copies of the same ideas.
But so many people copy him, however inexpertly, not because Tolkien is bad but because it's just so inspiring.
It is a world, both grand and intimate, with a great depth and a feeling of living beyond the pages, full of little questions details that feel they have answers and explanations, even if they don't.
Though knowing Tolkien, they probably do.
Harry Potter never made me feel that. Harry Dresden never made me feel that.
It is a rare and beautiful thing and while not suited for all works, we are better off having it exist.

Mr.Silver
2012-01-13, 06:51 PM
Personally, if any author is actively trying to move fantasy away from the realm of Tolkein wannabes/rip-offs I honestly don't care what they have to say about the man's works or how much blame they assign to him for what happened to the genre. Because much as I like Lord of the Rings I can't ignore that the idolisation of it and it's tropes has led to a lot of the fantastic being pushed out of the fantasy genre to make way for more elves, orcs, dwarfs etc. in worlds that are basically medieval Europe with the names changed, told in trilogies/epics.

Whether Mieville's right to blame this solely on Tolkein seems fairly immaterial. I'd place more blame on the first wave of the imitators, and cast more than a few pointed looks in D&D's direction while I was at it, but that's really beside the point. It's more important that fantasy does actually need to start branch out into new pastures.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 07:02 PM
In my eyes his paradigm (despite what people tend to say) is not elves and dwarves and walking trees, but the good hero embarking on an epic quest to defeat some ultimate evil, complete with a very black and white morality.

Well I'd agree this is marginally more accurate here, though getting away from Mieville's comments, however once to this level were even getting away from Tolkien in particular and into the The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Now Tolkien by design is certainly not as far from the fundamental cores of story telling as he could have been, but then Tolkien was never about trying to blaze actually new territory.

And even here I think you are forgetting a key subversion. Frodo is not a hero. Now yes he's brave enough, and certainly a good person, but at the end of the day he is just not up to the task that fell to him. And when its all said and done Frodo is less then he was for having finished the quest, in direct contrast to his friends who all grow into more then they were as a result. And certainly there are genuine heroes (and fallen ones) around LotR, but its an important point that they are ultimately the side shows. If there are heroes of the entire series its Sam for carrying Frodo, and Bilbo years before the books.

(Though one could write considerably on Frodo as a spiritual hero, he's definitively Job not David and/or Jesus. A demonstration of faith as submission, which is fairly rare and need not occupy us further because even here Frodo ultimately meets with failure.)

If one is looking for a better example of this archetype we should look to Luke Skywalker just to start. Though supposedly this is a conscious thing on Lucas' part.

As for moral black and whites. Well Tolkien is not ignoring everything out there, he's disagreeing actively. The moral ambiguity is embodied in Boromir ideas, where the consequences are the tragedy of Denethor and the corruption of Saruman. Though certainly not dealt with in detail I think Tolkien would espouse, that yes there are situations of moral ambiguity but that doesn't mean that True Evil does not exist ever. And that the One Ring is. So Boromir's flaw is really not in his goals or even proposed methods but a failure to recognize the particulars of what he is messing with.

Outside of LotR and the Hobbit Tolkien shows deals with plenty of ambiguous heroes. (Hi there Feanor!)



And certainly D&D has had a lot of influence, but where do you think it's ideas come from? It comes back again to Tolkein, perhaps a distorted idea of Tolkein, but still him.

This is where that subtle line between legit points and being an insulting prig comes in. If you are going to hurl insults you had best be absolutely spot on.

Changing gears a touch it makes him guilty of something I'd almost call it a strawman fallacy. Whether unconscious or willfully ignorant.



Apparently we too have that fundamental difference, absolute morality in my eyes is an arbitrary limitation that usually, if not always, reduces moral complexity rather than provides it.

Without going into too much detail I would say that to even have a discussion of good and evil you have to have those concepts exist. That's an absolute morality.

Put another way "gray" does not exist, it is the mixture of black and white in smaller quantities. Like pixels viewed from a distance, zoom in sufficiciently and one can see the black and white elements. That within mortal powers it is most often impossible to separate the two... does not change the underlying basis of them existing to begin with.

As for arguing about its all blue and orange, I would respond those are of course components parts of white and thus ultimately the opposite of black. Though in application that breaks down and many cases of blue and orange as alien should be dark dark dark dark shades rather then actually vibrant colors. Thus all still within the conceptual construct of absolute morality.

Lacking the conceptual basis of black and white (absolute morality) entirely isn't equivalent to blue and orange, but to being blind and having no colors at all. Because when you abandon all sources of value, how can anything be valued.

Which IS actually rare, so most stories are dealing with different shades of tone and brightness within the greater spectrum.

I find authors that claim they discard absolute morality are fundamentally limiting themselves to smaller conflicts and concepts. Tolkien considered briefly a sequel to the LotR along the lines of a Sauron Cult, but discarded it because of this limit. It was just men doing good and bad things, lacking the true existential depth.

Which isn't to say such stories are entirely without merit either.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-13, 07:26 PM
\
And even here I think you are forgetting a key subversion. Frodo is not a hero. Now yes he's brave enough, and certainly a good person, but at the end of the day he is just not up to the task that fell to him. And when its all said and done Frodo is less then he was for having finished the quest, in direct contrast to his friends who all grow into more then they were as a result. And certainly there are genuine heroes (and fallen ones) around LotR, but its an important point that they are ultimately the side shows. If there are heroes of the entire series its Sam for carrying Frodo, and Bilbo years before the books.

I'd disagree here. Frodo, at the end, is a reflection of Tolkien's own war experience. Not all war heroes follow the traditional trajectory. Many of the friends he once had either never came back, died meaningless deaths, and got painted glorious deaths (Boromir), and yet others return and are never the same again. Basically, Frodo was severely mentally disturbed by his time in the trenches/in Mordor. I consider him a hero.

Weezer
2012-01-13, 07:58 PM
Well I'd agree this is marginally more accurate here, though getting away from Mieville's comments, however once to this level were even getting away from Tolkien in particular and into the The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Now Tolkien by design is certainly not as far from the fundamental cores of story telling as he could have been, but then Tolkien was never about trying to blaze actually new territory.

And even here I think you are forgetting a key subversion. Frodo is not a hero. Now yes he's brave enough, and certainly a good person, but at the end of the day he is just not up to the task that fell to him. And when its all said and done Frodo is less then he was for having finished the quest, in direct contrast to his friends who all grow into more then they were as a result. And certainly there are genuine heroes (and fallen ones) around LotR, but its an important point that they are ultimately the side shows. If there are heroes of the entire series its Sam for carrying Frodo, and Bilbo years before the books.

(Though one could write considerably on Frodo as a spiritual hero, he's definitively Job not David and/or Jesus. A demonstration of faith as submission, which is fairly rare and need not occupy us further because even here Frodo ultimately meets with failure.)

If one is looking for a better example of this archetype we should look to Luke Skywalker just to start. Though supposedly this is a conscious thing on Lucas' part.

As for moral black and whites. Well Tolkien is not ignoring everything out there, he's disagreeing actively. The moral ambiguity is embodied in Boromir ideas, where the consequences are the tragedy of Denethor and the corruption of Saruman. Though certainly not dealt with in detail I think Tolkien would espouse, that yes there are situations of moral ambiguity but that doesn't mean that True Evil does not exist ever. And that the One Ring is. So Boromir's flaw is really not in his goals or even proposed methods but a failure to recognize the particulars of what he is messing with.

Outside of LotR and the Hobbit Tolkien shows deals with plenty of ambiguous heroes. (Hi there Feanor!)


I certainly agree that Tolkien wasn't trying to pave new ground, in many ways he was more reviving the Norse epic than doing anything truly new. And he definitely brings in more ambiguity in later works (Turin is another good example of that), but the Silmarillion had almost no influence on later writers, especially when compared to the influence of LoTR and the Hobbit.

However I would argue that Frodo is a hero, he is certainly a flawed hero who stumbled at the end, but the whole way leading up to Mt. Doom and every scene afterwards pegs him as the hero. One moment of being overcome by the ultimate evil doesn't invalidate three whole books worth of heroism. In many ways this is again a display of his black/white world, even the most humble yet heroic individual is eventually corrupted after using an evil means.



This is where that subtle line between legit points and being an insulting prig comes in. If you are going to hurl insults you had best be absolutely spot on.

Changing gears a touch it makes him guilty of something I'd almost call it a strawman fallacy. Whether unconscious or willfully ignorant.

Yup, he was insulting, but does that change anything about the substance of his quote? I don't think it was a strawman, everything he said can be found in Tolkien's work and in later books from people drawing on Tolkien.



Without going into too much detail I would say that to even have a discussion of good and evil you have to have those concepts exist. That's an absolute morality.

Put another way "gray" does not exist, it is the mixture of black and white in smaller quantities. Like pixels viewed from a distance, zoom in sufficiciently and one can see the black and white elements. That within mortal powers it is most often impossible to separate the two... does not change the underlying basis of them existing to begin with.

As for arguing about its all blue and orange, I would respond those are of course components parts of white and thus ultimately the opposite of black. Though in application that breaks down and many cases of blue and orange as alien should be dark dark dark dark shades rather then actually vibrant colors. Thus all still within the conceptual construct of absolute morality.

Lacking the conceptual basis of black and white (absolute morality) entirely isn't equivalent to blue and orange, but to being blind and having no colors at all. Because when you abandon all sources of value, how can anything be valued.

Which IS actually rare, so most stories are dealing with different shades of tone and brightness within the greater spectrum.

I find authors that claim they discard absolute morality are fundamentally limiting themselves to smaller conflicts and concepts. Tolkien considered briefly a sequel to the LotR along the lines of a Sauron Cult, but discarded it because of this limit. It was just men doing good and bad things, lacking the true existential depth.

Which isn't to say such stories are entirely without merit either.

Things can exist without being absolute, without having there be a binary or objective scale. I would even argue that black and white morality doesn't actually exist, too much is based on perspective and subjective judgements for such an objective stance to hold up.

And you can determine value without some external structure of morality, that's how philosophy builds up moral systems as opposed to the theological method. I don't know how much more in detail I can go without stepping into real world topics, so I'll stop here. I'm guessing you will disagree with my points and I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Shadow of the Sun
2012-01-13, 08:14 PM
Mieville's comments are no different and, in fact, even less insulting, than those of Michael Moorcock, who wrote an entire essay on why Lord of the Rings is horrible fantasy called Epic Pooh.

China Mieville is my favourite author these days. His work is certainly dark - the Bas-Lag cycle in particular - but his other works are very hopeful; Unlundun, Kraken, and Embassytown all have hopeful, idealistic endings.

I love Lord of the Rings- I reread it every year. But at this point, I feel that much of what can be done with the style it originated has been done. I welcome fiction with women who have scarabs for heads, giant schizophrenic spiders and the like because it is interesting, and new (not to say that my love of Mieville is due to novelty).

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 09:39 PM
I certainly agree that Tolkien wasn't trying to pave new ground, in many ways he was more reviving the Norse epic than doing anything truly new. And he definitely brings in more ambiguity in later works (Turin is another good example of that), but the Silmarillion had almost no influence on later writers, especially when compared to the influence of LoTR and the Hobbit.

However I would argue that Frodo is a hero, he is certainly a flawed hero who stumbled at the end, but the whole way leading up to Mt. Doom and every scene afterwards pegs him as the hero. One moment of being overcome by the ultimate evil doesn't invalidate three whole books worth of heroism. In many ways this is again a display of his black/white world, even the most humble yet heroic individual is eventually corrupted after using an evil means.

My phrasing put words in Tolkien's mouth. Frodo is a hero the way every fireman is a hero anyone or who puts on a uniform in war is a hero. There's even a medal in the US for that that you would see on a recruit fresh out of boot camp.

I would prefer to use hero a touch more exclusively. Not to actively insult those who its used for, but I feel we have diluted it a touch too much in modern parlance.

And its still a marked contrast to all his fellow Hobbits in the tale, never mind Aragorn and Gandalf. So help me its been awhile since I read Scouring of the Shire, but even there I don't recall Frodo doing much of the lifting. Yet he's the protagonist. Compare Frodo to almost any protagonist from another series, probably the most direct contrast being Luke Skywalker types.

(Also Frodo's ultimate inability to completely resist evil is a reflection of Christianity, that in the end no one can is a central tenet and all. Only Tolkien preferred to keep Christianity simply a major influence in his works, not a direct allegory so here Frodo's own earlier mercy saved him. And one could go on long enough on this to write a doctorate on this, which I suspect someone has at least once. Me I won't)



Yup, he was insulting, but does that change anything about the substance of his quote? I don't think it was a strawman, everything he said can be found in Tolkien's work and in later books from people drawing on Tolkien.

At the risk of being very American here, under all the very British syntax I didn't see anything of substance beyond political disagreements we won't discuss and "elves'n'dwarves" so only the most superficial elements.

Hence attacking a flanderized target, hence strawman.


Things can exist without being absolute, without having there be a binary or objective scale. I would even argue that black and white morality doesn't actually exist, too much is based on perspective and subjective judgements for such an objective stance to hold up.

And you can determine value without some external structure of morality, that's how philosophy builds up moral systems as opposed to the theological method. I don't know how much more in detail I can go without stepping into real world topics, so I'll stop here. I'm guessing you will disagree with my points and I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Yep about what I expected too. No more to go on this route.

Except with the small note that at no place did I actually connect it to my theological worldview. (They are related but this is a loose thing)

Liffguard
2012-01-15, 09:35 AM
Mieville is an author I find endlessly frustrating. When he's on form he can right some really fascinating stuff. I got chills reading about his description of Torque in Perdido Street Station. But too much of his writing comes across as smug, self-indulgent and nowhere near as clever as he thinks it is.

This is basically what a lot of Mieville's writing comes across as to me. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdO9orWQ-Nk)

Weezer
2012-01-15, 11:16 AM
My phrasing put words in Tolkien's mouth. Frodo is a hero the way every fireman is a hero anyone or who puts on a uniform in war is a hero. There's even a medal in the US for that that you would see on a recruit fresh out of boot camp.

I would prefer to use hero a touch more exclusively. Not to actively insult those who its used for, but I feel we have diluted it a touch too much in modern parlance.

And its still a marked contrast to all his fellow Hobbits in the tale, never mind Aragorn and Gandalf. So help me its been awhile since I read Scouring of the Shire, but even there I don't recall Frodo doing much of the lifting. Yet he's the protagonist. Compare Frodo to almost any protagonist from another series, probably the most direct contrast being Luke Skywalker types.

(Also Frodo's ultimate inability to completely resist evil is a reflection of Christianity, that in the end no one can is a central tenet and all. Only Tolkien preferred to keep Christianity simply a major influence in his works, not a direct allegory so here Frodo's own earlier mercy saved him. And one could go on long enough on this to write a doctorate on this, which I suspect someone has at least once. Me I won't)


I think he's more the hero in the way that Gwyn mentions, Frodo is a war hero, through and through. He is pretty much the definition of the country gentleman who goes off to war and returns mentally broken and forever changed. The other members of the fellowship certainly fit different heroic molds, you have Merry and Pippin who overcome their original fear and smallness to defeat great odds, Sam, the embodiment of simple country wisdom whose wholesomeness and honesty allow him to overcome temptation etc, etc. There are different kinds of heroes and Frodo is certainly firmly in the role of the hero. You seem to be using a very restrictive definition. Even if you just map his quest on the map of the "Heroes Journy" he fits it to a 't'.


At the risk of being very American here, under all the very British syntax I didn't see anything of substance beyond political disagreements we won't discuss and "elves'n'dwarves" so only the most superficial elements.

Hence attacking a flanderized target, hence strawman.


Nothing wrong with being American, I'm American too, we just need to be sure not to let it get the better of us :smalltongue:

But I'll lay out the points he makes and see whether or not they seem to be substantiated:

"his cod-Wagnerian pomposity"
I don't take this as much of a negative, I tend to be a fan of pomposity, but Tolkien can certainly be pompous at times.

"his boys-own-adventure glorying in war"
I don't really see the glorification, though it does go out of its way to attach nobility to warfare, from how important people are described (almost always in military terms) to how Merry/Pippin are transformed from small, silly hobbits to imposing, noble warriors upon their return to the Shire. Though it certainly fits into the "boys-own-adventure" paradigm in pretty much every way.

"his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos"
LotR was undeniably reactionary, so much of it can be read as a tract opposing the rise of technology and industry and fiercly attempting to romanticize and grab a hold of the "traditional" British country way of life. Frodo and Sam both embody the two stereotypes of the country. Frodo the kind, slightly scholarly country gentleman who spends his days wandering the countryside and his evenings idly writing books and studying. While Sam is the down to earth, common wisdom farmer who exemplifies the "common" virtues of. Also the master/servant relationship that the two "naturally" fall into smacks of the way country lords and their manservants interact. These all support the hierarchical status quo of rural Britain. He also very clearly was demonizing change and glorifying the "good old ways", everyone who introduced anything new, any change was evil (the prime example is Saruman, though is is seen other places) and anyone who called back to older days was automatically noble (Aragorn and all the elves are great examples). This is one objection that I feel Mieville is right on the money with.

"his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity"
We've already been over this, so no need to mention it anymore




Mieville is an author I find endlessly frustrating. When he's on form he can right some really fascinating stuff. I got chills reading about his description of Torque in Perdido Street Station. But too much of his writing comes across as smug, self-indulgent and nowhere near as clever as he thinks it is.

This is basically what a lot of Mieville's writing comes across as to me. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdO9orWQ-Nk)

Urgh, I *hate* this characterization of post-modernism, it isn't actually complete nonsense and has some academic and literary value. Sure, some people have gone a bit overboard with it, but when you take any idea to it's extreme it becomes ridiculous.

Liffguard
2012-01-15, 04:14 PM
Urgh, I *hate* this characterization of post-modernism, it isn't actually complete nonsense and has some academic and literary value. Sure, some people have gone a bit overboard with it, but when you take any idea to it's extreme it becomes ridiculous.

Sorry, in my flippancy I didn't really make myself clear. My point was that Mieville specifically very often comes across as "weird for the sake of weird."


"his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos"
LotR was undeniably reactionary, so much of it can be read as a tract opposing the rise of technology and industry and fiercly attempting to romanticize and grab a hold of the "traditional" British country way of life. Frodo and Sam both embody the two stereotypes of the country. Frodo the kind, slightly scholarly country gentleman who spends his days wandering the countryside and his evenings idly writing books and studying. While Sam is the down to earth, common wisdom farmer who exemplifies the "common" virtues of. Also the master/servant relationship that the two "naturally" fall into smacks of the way country lords and their manservants interact. These all support the hierarchical status quo of rural Britain. He also very clearly was demonizing change and glorifying the "good old ways", everyone who introduced anything new, any change was evil (the prime example is Saruman, though is is seen other places) and anyone who called back to older days was automatically noble (Aragorn and all the elves are great examples). This is one objection that I feel Mieville is right on the money with.

Aspects of this are true, but overall I think Tolkien was less reactionary than many people accuse him of being. Much of the change that overcomes Middle-Earth is portrayed as somewhat melancholy, but also as the natural way of things. The changes that are demonised are those that come about by force and performed in the pursuit of power. And ultimately, the primary quest of LOTR is to bring about change. In destroying the ring the last of the great magic leaves Middle Earth (symbolised by the elves returning to the west). In some ways this is sad, and other ways hopeful. Mankind is left free to forge its own destiny and own its triumphs and mistakes.

Closet_Skeleton
2012-01-15, 06:26 PM
Aspects of this are true, but overall I think Tolkien was less reactionary than many people accuse him of being.

Nah, he was totally a anti-industrialisation reactionary.

Which to be honest in the post DDT scandal world of climate change doesn't make him a loony.

I don't want to talk politics due to the board rules but the way some people use objective political opinions to criticise the work of others is a bit annoying.

China Mieville criticising a war veteran for 'glorifying war' when he's never been to war himself if pretty rich. He could at least give the old man the benefit of the doubt if he thought Lord of the Rings was missing nuance on the subject. Just because Tolkien appreciated the art forms of ancient warrior cultures doesn't mean that he politically supported such inherently bloodthirsty societies.

According to his wikipedia article, China Mieville claims not to right intentionally political fiction. Tolkien claims pretty much the same thing in his often quoted statement about how he despises allegory. So China Mieville reading things into Tolkien's work and then accusing him of being reactionary and glorifying war seems pretty hypocritical.

He's pretty much just repeating Michael Moorecock's criticisms of Tolkien. He claims Moorecock as a influence according to that wikipedia article.

Weezer
2012-01-15, 06:28 PM
Sorry, in my flippancy I didn't really make myself clear. My point was that Mieville specifically very often comes across as "weird for the sake of weird."



Aspects of this are true, but overall I think Tolkien was less reactionary than many people accuse him of being. Much of the change that overcomes Middle-Earth is portrayed as somewhat melancholy, but also as the natural way of things. The changes that are demonised are those that come about by force and performed in the pursuit of power. And ultimately, the primary quest of LOTR is to bring about change. In destroying the ring the last of the great magic leaves Middle Earth (symbolised by the elves returning to the west). In some ways this is sad, and other ways hopeful. Mankind is left free to forge its own destiny and own its triumphs and mistakes.

I would more characterize Mieville as being weird for the sake of promoting a feeling of weirdness. His goal is weirdness and alienation, and accusing him of that is the same as criticizing a thriller for being thrilling, a drama for being dramatic, or fantasy for being fantastical. You don't have to appreciate his goal, but your very words demonstrate that he suceeded at reaching it.

As for your second point I think it is all about how you interpret his focus. When reading his work it seems to me that it's focused far more on newness and change corresponding with loss rather than man being freed from the shackles of their predecessors and being left to pursue their destiny. That is certainly there, but I think it is overshadowed by his reactionary themes. Don't forget that man is only shown to be good or noble when imitating the past, when bringing their lives and society as much as mortals can into line with elvish life. I think it's that theme that really undermines the strength of your last point. In the movies the nobility of man is shown far more than in the books, some of the dialogue/the elves appearing at Helms Deep and Aragorn's speech at the black gate spring to mind as exampls of this.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-15, 09:38 PM
I think he's more the hero in the way that Gwyn mentions, Frodo is a war hero, through and through. He is pretty much the definition of the country gentleman who goes off to war and returns mentally broken and forever changed. The other members of the fellowship certainly fit different heroic molds, you have Merry and Pippin who overcome their original fear and smallness to defeat great odds, Sam, the embodiment of simple country wisdom whose wholesomeness and honesty allow him to overcome temptation etc, etc. There are different kinds of heroes and Frodo is certainly firmly in the role of the hero. You seem to be using a very restrictive definition. Even if you just map his quest on the map of the "Heroes Journy" he fits it to a 't'.

Were mostly talking about semantics here, the bigger point is that Frodo is a contrast to the sort of protagonist one 'expects' or in fact sees terribly often.


"his boys-own-adventure glorying in war"
I don't really see the glorification, though it does go out of its way to attach nobility to warfare, from how important people are described (almost always in military terms) to how Merry/Pippin are transformed from small, silly hobbits to imposing, noble warriors upon their return to the Shire. Though it certainly fits into the "boys-own-adventure" paradigm in pretty much every way.

Yeah I don't think the glorying in war is anything next to the glorying in a hobbit birthday or a good smoke just to start.

And presuming he's talking about the lack of women, well Galadriel and Eowyn would probably protest. And he certainly lacks for example, fair damsels to be heroically rescued. Given when Tolkien was born and writing he anything to be said should probably be for society in general.


"his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos"
LotR was undeniably reactionary, so much of it can be read as a tract opposing the rise of technology and industry and fiercly attempting to romanticize and grab a hold of the "traditional" British country way of life. Frodo and Sam both embody the two stereotypes of the country. Frodo the kind, slightly scholarly country gentleman who spends his days wandering the countryside and his evenings idly writing books and studying. While Sam is the down to earth, common wisdom farmer who exemplifies the "common" virtues of. Also the master/servant relationship that the two "naturally" fall into smacks of the way country lords and their manservants interact. These all support the hierarchical status quo of rural Britain. He also very clearly was demonizing change and glorifying the "good old ways", everyone who introduced anything new, any change was evil (the prime example is Saruman, though is is seen other places) and anyone who called back to older days was automatically noble (Aragorn and all the elves are great examples). This is one objection that I feel Mieville is right on the money with.


If you have some more context you are working from for this maybe..... but put simply I do not agree with your interpretation of the comment and what its referring to.

Namely I'm reading it as accussing something a bit more right of center here, coming y'know from an open Marxist I think his objections go in a different direction. Yeah and not going further there.

I still don't see anything to make me forgive Mieville's comments. Ultimately the point of serious criticism is that you avoid making insults as its showing you are adult enough to make your point without comparing someone to a skin condition on the fundament.

turkishproverb
2012-01-16, 02:30 AM
You know, I'll say this. China Mieville's comment, and Moorecock's comment, both do one good thing. They get people Talking about Tolkien in detail.

Greenish
2012-01-17, 08:02 AM
You know, I'll say this. China Mieville's comment, and Moorecock's comment, both do one good thing. They get people Talking about Tolkien in detail.Even if it does completely derail threads. :smallamused:

The City and the City was great.