Jo498

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    Johannes

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  1. Sticking to the classification for now, it is interesting that the "pessimist cynics" are a fairly recent phenomenon whereas the pre-Tolkien fantasy (or those like Vance who are quite close to their style) is often "optimistically cynical", a stance that seems to have become rare. Pratchett fits to some extent but he has quite a bit of idealism as well. Many of his characters are "fundamentally decent" and one could maybe blame him that he sometimes seems too naive (or optimistic) to realize that if people are basically decent and compassionate or not is dependent on conditions often not in their power. Some of the older fantasy (e.g Howard and Rucker Eddison) seem to me even more "neutral" than the classification suggests. Theirs is a "static" world like the one of the Homeric heroes without transcendental hope but without any fall from grace either and no great developments towards damnation or salvation (I'd guess that some them get this stance via the Nietzschean view of archaic/heroic ideals). Maybe "optimist fatalist" could fit them. A "pessimist fatalist" book is Anderson's "The broken sword" which I find darker and better than any so-called grimdark I read. I think the "grimdark" and many of the pessimist cynics tend to overegg the pudding and often fail to produce real tragedy because they are so cynical and either don't take themselves and their characters seriously (Abercrombie) or too seriously (Bakker). Like a splatter movie that is not really terrifying but becomes ridiculous.
  2. If the Tolkien Elves are one introduction of that trope into modern fantasy they have very little to do with animist hunter/gatherer or folklore flower fairies. And if there were foklore "high elves" they were more like idealized superhumans. The tree-hugging pseudo-native hippie elves seem a later development hooking onto some features present in Tolkien, so I guess it stems from 1960s/70s reception of Tolkien. I completely agree with your last point. Of course there is the other trap of making up some sillie merrie olde medieval jargon, forsooth, but even pretty good contemporary fantasy very often sucks at distinguishing characters by the language they use, and the character's language is overall too close to modern (often juvenile) words. I guess that it is a mix of laziness, fear to fall into the "merrie aulde" stuff and partly unawareness. Modern Western culture and especially the US is more primitive and uniform in language than most other societies before or elsewhere (although one can look to Britain to still see some of such distinctions in place). The often stilted prose of Howard or Lovecraft is not particularly great but they usually strove for some distinctive tone whereas with many modern authors I get the impression that they are not even aware of the fact how important language is for mood and atmosphere.
  3. I should have been more precise: In German these names are retained but don't work so well as puns because the words or expressions (idée fixe) are so technical and rare that schoolchildren (or most other people) would not even be aware of them. In fact I had not realized Obelisk/x until now because this is never used in German for a menhir, only for a Egyptian style "straight" obelisk.
  4. I don't want to nitpick but what I highlighted is obviously wrong in practice. (A simple example: It is totally wrong wrt distribution of economic power in western democracies, individual rights to get rich clearly trump any claim for equality. They even often trump the invidual right not to be harmed, e.g. by pollution) One should rather say that the principle of equality and individual rights limit each other and different countries find different, often precarious balances between those two. The same goes for the balance between freedom of expression and what shold be legally forbidden (not societally ostracised) as "hate speech". Because the main point of the "friends of freedom" are not banning the books of obvious Nazis or nutcases but that once restriction is accepted and broadly practised a lot of speech that is mainly "outside the Overton window" can be treated as "hate speech" and people get into trouble for uttering it.
  5. This shows that you don't know what you are talking about and seem content bashing a straw man, so I doubt that I will want to continue this but I will give a few clarifications. - Probably nobody ever beyond the age of 9 seriously believed in Santa Claus, but almost everybody in the history of mankind believed in God or gods. That is a historical/sociological difference and it shows that atheism is not a default position (as is often claimed). - God is very different from gods. God is not another thing in the universe with a few uncommon features (like St. Claus or an angel would be). God in the tradition of monotheism common to pagan philosophers like Plato or Plotinus, the abrahamitic religions, at least some schools of Vedic religion (and probably a whole bunch more religions like Zoroastrism I don't know a lot about) is the Ground of everything that not only made the world but keeps the world in existence in every moment (that's why Big Bang or eternal universe is largely irrelevant for theistic cosmological arguments). While one can of course debate all of these points, God explains why there is anything at all, why the (natural) world is lawfully ordered, not chaotic, why humans are capable of rational thought and can to some extent know the order of the natural world (note that these last two points are not results but presuppositions of doing science), why humans are moral beings and can know what is right and wrong and why they should act accordingly (again, this is not the claim for a particular revealed set of moral rules but for the existence and foundation of any sphere of moral evaluation at all) etc. All this is mostly independent from any particulars of these religions or revelations. - The point here is not that God is the best way to get explanations or foundations for all these things (although for materialism they are all mysterious, therefore many simply try to explain them away or claim that one should simply accept them as brute facts) but that he has a role in some such explanations for fundamental features we have to presuppose to do any epistemology or science. (That's why "magic" is also a silly strawman here.) This is not only a clear difference to St. Claus but also to the Germanic or Olympian Gods who don't provide such a kind of explanative closure. They are just magical superhumans. God is neither, but totally different from anything created. (I am completely aware and accept that this strangeness can be the basis of an argument that God is not a coherent notion at all. But the strawman-similarity to St. Claus is not the beginning of an argument, just a misunderstanding, to put it charitably.)
  6. What people should always keep in mind is that despite the title Plato's Republic is not mainly about political philosophy. It may look like that on the surface but the real focus is the ordered state of one's soul (for which the city is only an analogy) and its enlightenment. As for the US being "rightwing", I think it is very difficult to compare with European right wing parties or groups, apart from the fact that "rightwing" is not very precise. To me many dominant ideological points where the US differs from Europe are neither left nor right in the common sense. E.g. the demand for a "weak" non-interfering state it clearly the opposite of European rw traditions. And to some extent the avoidance of censorship even of crazy and dangerous ideas is one aspect of non-interfering state power. Another very different point: For many European states the idea that a state usually is a fairly homogeneous ethno-state is not really right-wing but used to be "normal" (and it was operative in some progressive movements in the 19th century). The US never was an ethno-state so anything going in that direction looks like white supremacy in the US in a way Polish nationalism does not. So I tend to agree with dmc515 that in the US there are simply so many things different from most European countries that it is not very informative to compare two features, freedom of speech and "rightwing government" and claim a connection.
  7. But it obviously is not the same thing. It completely puzzles me how an intelligent person who got beyond the most childish conceptions of god and only tried a little to understand what is meant with God in the monotheist traditions could think for a second that Santa Claus or leprechauns or so and a Theist God (or corresponding notions like Brahman/Absolute/One/Good) could be even remotely similar. My other main puzzzlement (although I admit that I had phases where I tended similarly) is how widespread "apatheism" is. How can it be not of supreme importance if there is a right way to live and a wrong way and that there will be some kind of judgement/reincarnation/whatever or if it does not matter at all in the long run? FWIW I am nominally protestant but not really practising atm. I grew up religious, was tending skeptic/agnostic in my twenties (or maybe sometimes apatheist) but never really convinced by materialism. By now I am certain that the contemporary materialism is inconsistent. Probably "philosophical theist" and "aristotelian dualist" fits best. I have huge respect for the theological-philosophical traditions both of the Abrahamitic religions as well as Vedanta and Buddhism (although I either do not understand the latter or it really is incoherent/paradoxical) I am still skeptical about revealed and even more about most organized religion although I cannot and do not want to escape "cultural christianity" (even Dawkins still likes Xmas and Evensong) and I think that I underestimated the societal and cultural value of organised religion.
  8. Same for the German versions. I never read a French original, though. But in German almost all names, except Asterix, Obelix, Idefix, Caesar and Cleopatra etc., have puns or silly (or sometimes sensible) meanings. The other obvious point is of course that very few people read more than one or even one foreign language well enough to become immersed and appreciate language and style to the extent that they naturally do in in their mother tongue. (Of course, occasionally the slightly less automatic processing of a foreign language can sometimes also lead to more sensitivity for style.)
  9. Most genre literature is not "quality prose" but very far from it. Although it can and will usually get even worse in translation, I would not completely rule out that occasionally the prose and style of genre fiction can actually improve by translation. I don't have an example I can vouch for, though. I recall that some people claimed that the humourous prose of Israeli writer Ephraim Kishon who was very popular in German translation in the 60-80s had been considerably improved in the translations by Friedrich Torberg.
  10. I would not go as far as "destroy" but GRRM managed (without rushing) one poor and one middling book after three very good ones and he might still manage to never finish the series so these possibilities are not mutually exclusive.
  11. Completely agree. This is a huge difference. Conan Doyle had achieved pretty good closure by having Holmes falling down the waterfall but was persuaded to continue. As it was a loose series that did not really need any closure, it did not matter much. In such a series readers might have reasonable expectations that they continue but it is not at all like buying "half a book", so they cannot really complain. Whereas there is a reasonable argument that buying the first book of an n-logy is at least similar to buying 1/n of a book with the promise to eventually get the rest. Again, one can make reasonable distinctions depending on how open-ended the first volume is.
  12. Correia seems to largely ignore the point that many people would never buy a book with a sticker "first installment of a trilogy, probability of continuation 50%" on the cover and all the subtleties about a reasonable expectation for continuation and closure that come with it. Mark Lawrence has a very good point about the translations. This shows the dilemma/vicious circle that if people cannot be reasonable sure they will get the whole series, many will not buy the first book at all thus lowering the chances of the subsequent volumes to be translated. But the same holds to some extent with the original. The main difference to translations being that the silent default expectation is that one will get continuation and closure and therefore buys the first book.
  13. McKiernan basically did that and got into some trouble, so supposedly changed a few bits. But his "Iron Tower" books are derivative and suck anyway. It may be a prejudice but I do not think that it speaks well of an author's creativity if he wants to use a pre-made universe, especially the one of the most famous fantasy book of the last 100 years. And one that is in many respects (history, languages etc.) more elaborate than anything else in the field.
  14. The farseeing is one problem, the other might be that the beginning is somewhat close in setting (and the importance of the wolves) to Winterfell.
  15. The Shattered Sea would be an even shorter and more straightforward narrative than First Law. No larger battles for almost two books (If I remember correctly), hardly any magic or special creatures needing computer-generated effects. Actually, it might almost be too plain for TV. But it is good story and the "elf ruins" of a 20th/21st century civilisation would make for cool sets.