- Hal Duncan writes about Battlestar Galactica, and, as on most topics, does so intelligently, forcefully, and at great length. Lots of interesting ideas here: some more exploration of what it means that the show's premise maps more accurately to the Holocaust than to 9/11 (I hadn't, for example, thought of Gaeta as embodying the cliché of the victim made monstrous by his victimhood, mainly because I was too busy being aggravated by the fact that the show's one and only acknowledged homosexual character was being depicted as a villain who kept seeking out powerful, charismatic men to follow), some provocative meditations on just how telling it is that its writers have favored the 9/11 parallel, and mainly a lot of insights into the kind of story the writers produced as opposed to the one they thought they were telling.
- Dan Hartland is rereading the Sherlock Holmes stories in order of publication. I read these stories, and the Holmes novels, in junior high, and for years I assumed that this was a rite of passage for people growing up in Western countries. Again and again, however, I've met people who knew Holmes as a character and cultural icon but had never read a single one of Conan Doyle's works, and eventually I realized that they were the vast majority. Dan's series is a great opportunity to disentangle the iconic image of Holmes we all (including those of us who read the stories and novels) suck down from the aether from the actual fiction in which he appeared, and reevaluate them as works of fiction (thus far, to no great acclaim).
- Richard Morgan writes about The Lord of the Rings, and argues that the only emotionally honest moment in the whole gargantuan work comes during a conversation between two orcs. I'm beginning to wonder if there's a clause written into the contract of every author who sells a potentially paradigm-shifting work of epic fantasy obliging them to publicly excoriate Tolkien, because it happens quite often. Moorcock did it. China Miéville did it (sadly, the essay is no longer online. There's an excerpt here, but all you really need to know is that he calls Tolkien "a wen on the arse of fantasy literature"). Now it's Morgan's turn. What always gets to me about these essays is their blistering certainty that they're saying something new as opposed to something that the community of fantasy readers has been debating for decades (OK, "Epic Pooh" was first published in 1978, but I find it hard to believe that Moorcock was the first person to express those specific reservations more than a decade after The Lord of the Rings' popularity exploded).
Most fantasy readers go through a phase where they realize that The Lord of the Rings is conservative, reactionary and, by certain very real yardsticks such as, to take Morgan's example, realistic characterization, not very good. It's like figuring out that Narnia is a Christian allegory. You take a deep breath, pick your jaw up from the floor, and decide if you can go on liking the book in spite of these flaws--because it has other qualities that you value, and because a genuinely good work of fiction is one that you can enjoy even if you disagree with the attitudes it expresses. I really don't know who it is that Morgan and the other writers like him think is going to be blown away by their regurgitated criticisms, and I have an unpleasant suspicion that essays like this one are actually written for people who have already decided that they don't like Tolkien, and are looking for ammunition to lob at his fans.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Three Links Make a Post
Some of my recent online reading.