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Green Gogol

On realism, grimdark and childishness

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My opinion of the aristocratic system is that they didn't have to go above and beyond the social norm to be deplorable. My opinion is that the aristocratic system of the time ranging for most of the time it existed to its final collapse was deplorable enough on its own. Japan is probably the best way to discuss this because it's the closest time period we have to the modern age (also 19th and early 20th century Russia). Both of which underscored the opinions of the peasantry about the nobility and their privileges as well as behavior was seething outrage.

There have been many decent nobles in history but I generally enjoy attacking the system and think attempts to treat them well and romanticize them in fantasy is something....well, I don't enjoy in my fantasy.

I think we've wandered far from the point that, "What do we enjoy in our depictions of them?"

As already said by others, most of the late 20th century stuff is far close to the whig history caricatures with underprivileged com

moners rising through the ranks because of their brilliance and hard honest toil against foppish idiots abusing their privileges. 

No, generally the vast majority of fantasy I have read is "knight or aristocrat of uncommon birth fights against evil of some sort."

Edited by C.T. Phipps

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17 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Frederick Douglas famously said that one of the problems with teaching people about plantation life and slave ownership was that people in the North assumed that they would not be naturally vicious. That while hard work for no pay might not be ideal, it wasn't the nightmare that actual former slaves experienced. He believed, instead, that the absolute power that plantation owners in specific (and slave owners in general) warped them so that all of them were some level of crazy.

You couldn't be a good plantation owner because your every whim was satisfied and your power over life and death was supreme.

Another way of expressing this: "No matter how awful [southern USA] slavery was, it was even worse than that."  The American Slave Coast (2015); Ned and Constance Sublette; winner The American Book Award.

The southerners were really crazy.  So much so that even very careful users of words such as Henry Adams, uses 'crazy,' especially in his Education of Henry Adams because there simply was no other way to describe or explain their drive to the War of the Rebellion.  The more of of their writing too, one reads, the more clearly their entire alienation from all reality shows up.

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Why do you keep bringing New world plantations that were a product of the beginning post-feudal age and have nothing to do with the problems or stability of the almost 1000 years of feudality in Europe before that?  Because the Old South is the only thing in history you know more about than whig caricatures?

I don't deny that idealizing the middle ages is any better. But the claim that such medieval romances are a worthwhile target in 2019 is ridiculous. It was a worthwhile target for Cervantes and maybe still for Mark Twain but is a total strawman today.

Quite apart from the fact that nobody wants moral sermons shining through fantasy or fiction stories.

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3 hours ago, Jo498 said:

Chèr Marquis, vous avez raison!

I am socialist enough to deplore that in my country (Germany) the land and riches of the "nobles" were not more thoroughly redistributed in the early 20th century when they lost their other privileges. But when feudalism was a working system (and I am determinist enough to believe that it was at least for some time the "best" working system in the conditions otherwise it would not have been stable for a millenium), this was rather different. First of all, an attractive feature of feudalism is that strictly speaking NOBODY owns any land (which was the most important resource most of this time).

And the aristocrats did  not simply sit on unearned privileges but there were obligations connected with them. Above all, unlike most "grimdark" lets us make believe, before the late 19th century or so, war was not "throw more grunts in the meatgrinder" but rather "aristos bashing each others heads in and the peasants tending their horses".

And obviously there were also strong meritocratic elements in feudalism because people could become nobility (either by war prowess or later by buying their titles). I'd be really interested in the dozens of fantasy/hist fiction books naively glorifying nobility. As already said by others, most of the late 20th century stuff is far close to the whig history caricatures with underprivileged commoners rising through the ranks because of their brilliance and hard honest toil against foppish idiots abusing their privileges.

I'm not sure I'd say "best" as "most viable."  Feudalism enabled European societies to function in the absence of the bureaucrats and town councillors of the Roman Empire, while providing a greater level of sophistication than a war band following their chieftain.

 

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1 hour ago, Jo498 said:

Why do you keep bringing New world plantations that were a product of the beginning post-feudal age and have nothing to do with the problems or stability of the almost 1000 years of feudality in Europe before that?  Because the Old South is the only thing in history you know more about than whig caricatures?

I don't deny that idealizing the middle ages is any better. But the claim that such medieval romances are a worthwhile target in 2019 is ridiculous. It was a worthwhile target for Cervantes and maybe still for Mark Twain but is a total strawman today.

Quite apart from the fact that nobody wants moral sermons shining through fantasy or fiction stories.

Storytelling is storytelling.

And the reason to do it is because it's entertaining for audiences like me.

My enjoyment of ASOI&F is hurt dramatically everytime we keep coming to the idea of redeeming the Feudal System in Westeros or a Targaryen Restoration.

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22 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I'm not sure I'd say "best" as "most viable."  Feudalism enabled European societies to function in the absence of the bureaucrats and town councillors of the Roman Empire, while providing a greater level of sophistication than a war band following their chieftain.

I frankly think that saying most viable falls into the historical trap that a system has to be the best of all options. The economic system shifted to the East and became the Byzantine Empire so that the European economy (and culture) fell to crap.

None of which means Feudalism was a better system.

It was just the one that won out.

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14 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I frankly think that saying most viable falls into the historical trap that a system has to be the best of all options. The economic system shifted to the East and became the Byzantine Empire so that the European economy (and culture) fell to crap.

None of which means Feudalism was a better system.

It was just the one that won out.

That's a good counter-example.  In the wake of Arab invasions, the Eastern Emperors seem to have determined that widespread land redistribution to the peasants, in return for military service, was essential for survival.  The Empire became militarised, and more egalitarian.

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19 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Thanks for the incorporation of my article!

 

Thank you for posting the piece here.

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4 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

There have been many decent nobles in history but I generally enjoy attacking the system and think attempts to treat them well and romanticize them in fantasy is something....well, I don't enjoy in my fantasy

So demonizing them is better? You said earlier you want them all to be purely evil, no nuance. Yet you claim you enjoy adult fantasy. I don’t find generalizations like that particularly “adult”. For me, it’s like saying that all the followers of Islam are terrorists, or that all Italians are mafiosi.

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3 hours ago, Jo498 said:

Why do you keep bringing New world plantations that were a product of the beginning post-feudal age and have nothing to do with the problems or stability of the almost 1000 years of feudality in Europe before that?  Because the Old South is the only thing in history you know more about than whig caricatures?

I don't deny that idealizing the middle ages is any better. But the claim that such medieval romances are a worthwhile target in 2019 is ridiculous. It was a worthwhile target for Cervantes and maybe still for Mark Twain but is a total strawman today.

Quite apart from the fact that nobody wants moral sermons shining through fantasy or fiction stories.

First of all, southern slave society was a SLAVE SOCIETY.  Every part of its interlocking systems were about the protection of and the expansion of slavery.  Every part, including that the economic value of it was literally locked into the bodies of the enslaved. Which is why Mississippi, which had more millionaires of any state before the War of the Rebellion, after abolition fell to the poorest state in the union, and has stayed there ever since.  It's not a strawman, in any way because it was so close to our own times, still affects our times, and millions of people living today. It was heavily documented and we can find the answers to questions in this society such as, "How do people who have no legal restrictions on how they may treat other people whom they can buy and sell and kill at their own whim."

Second, despite Mark Twain, the South was NOT feudal system, but purely a slave society, of which there have been very few in the history of the world.  Slavery and possessing slaves, yes, but not a slave society.  Not even classical Rome was a slave society despite the hoards of them in all Roman possessions.  The closest to what was set-up and perpetrated for centuries in the US South would be the Ottoman Empire. 

However, the Lords Proprietor of South Carolina, still the most racist, bigoted state in the union, which is saying quite a bit, self consciously and with utter seriousness, set out to model their perfect society upon what they thought was feudalism, including titles of rank and nobility, dividing the territory into kingdoms.  However! instead of actual serfs that in classical feudalism could not be alienated from the land where they were born, they imported Africans as slaves, who could be alienated at any time.  This, by the way, was a real problem for the US when it took possession of Louisiana, because by French and Catholic law, slaves were property classified as real estate, not chattel, as in the rest of the US English and protestant legal heritage. Thus people were not to be sold away from where they were born.  Of course the influx of upper southern aristocrats taking over the Louisiana plantation system, soon put a stop to that.  But court cases filled up the dockets, and that there was no alienation from the original Louisiana French and Spanish plantations created yet another level of black culture, different from that of the other two primary threads of African American culture, the upper south's protestant, English speaking and tradition people, and the Lowland primarily Kongo, straight from Africa, culture.

Eventually, all three of these primary cultural strands met and mixed in the slave markets, along with some other, more minor heritages.  And nowhere do we see the results of these cultural forces that basically made anything that we can point at and say, "This is USA" whether jazz or many other expressions, than in New Orleans, where Spain, France and England met and clashed.

 

 

Edited by Zorral

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24 minutes ago, Green Gogol said:

So demonizing them is better? You said earlier you want them all to be purely evil, no nuance. Yet you claim you enjoy adult fantasy. I don’t find generalizations like that particularly “adult”. For me, it’s like saying that all the followers of Islam are terrorists, or that all Italians are mafiosi.

Yes.

You're asking me whether I like chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

How do you like YOUR fiction?

Because it's none of my business.

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

That's a good counter-example.  In the wake of Arab invasions, the Eastern Emperors seem to have determined that widespread land redistribution to the peasants, in return for military service, was essential for survival.  The Empire became militarised, and more egalitarian.

I can't say I know that much about Byzantine history, and I am sure that the political and economic systems changed quite a bit throughout the centuries. However, I do remember sitting in on a lecture where an archaeology professor claimed that the Empire for at least some of the time period prior to 1000 AD actually appears to have functioned more like a planned economy, where the ruler in Constantinople had absolute power over the entire society. 

So more like Kim Jong-Un than FDR in other words. 

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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On 2/10/2019 at 3:55 PM, C.T. Phipps said:

*humor mode* Now are grimdark readers inherently more intelligent and sexually attractive than non-grimdark readers? Obviously. Is everything not grimdark trash and should be ignored? Of course! Clearly grimdark is the only thing worth reading and I think we can all agree that only infantalized toddlers would read something with a HAPPY ENDING. *humor mode off* However, be that as it may, the fact is that grimdark is a very useful thing both from financial terms as well as artistic terms. As a reactionary movement against more lighthearted mass consumed fair (I blame you D&D/WoW), it provides indepenedent authors with an audience that allows them to succeed in a competitive market. It also provides a good way of attracting an audience that wants darker more mature fair to their stories.

This presupposes the automatic commercial success of grimdark, which is not a given. The most grimdark series of them all, The Second Apocalypse, has sold under a million copies in 16 years with seven books, and is considered a moderate failure.

The most successful grimdark author is arguably Joe Abercrombie, whose sales are a very respectable 5 million, but he is a long, long way behind the biggest epic fantasy success stories of the last decade, the decidedly non-grimdark Brandon Sanderson (26 million and rising rapidly) and Patrick Rothfuss (c. 15 million - of just 2 books! - and rising). It's also notable that Abercrombie is also not at the hardcore end of the grimdark range with Bakker (or between the two, with Lawrence).

Other authors who write what might be called grimdark - Matt Stover and Paul Kearney - are also notable for having very low sales, and having to support their grimdark writing with more commercial fiction.

Edited by Werthead

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When it comes to the fantasy aristo hero, perhaps the top 'o the heap is the Scarlet Pimpernel?  Aristo foppish and sottish parasitism is his social disguise, but he's an English aristo of exquisite taste, wealth, intelligence and martial skill who by night swashes and buckles his way through France to save French aristos from the rage of the proletariat madness of Marat and Robespierre proving how splendid and necessary aristocrats are.

Jolly tale, but total bs, all in glorification of the people who oppress and pillage and extract their wealth from the lesser sorts.

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

When it comes to the fantasy aristo hero, perhaps the top 'o the heap is the Scarlet Pimpernel?  Aristo foppish and sottish parasitism is his social disguise, but he's an English aristo of exquisite taste, wealth, intelligence and martial skill who by night swashes and buckles his way through France to save French aristos from the rage of the proletariat madness of Marat and Robespierre proving how splendid and necessary aristocrats are.

Jolly tale, but total bs, all in glorification of the people who oppress and pillage and extract their wealth from the lesser sorts.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is not fantasy..., more an adventure story in a historical setting. He has more in common with Zorro and Batman than Frodo and Fitz Chivalry.

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

Jolly tale, but total bs, all in glorification of the people who oppress and pillage and extract their wealth from the lesser sorts.

To be fair, it was written by a noble woman, so I expect no less from someone like her. However, she also ended up fleeing a revolution herself. heheh.

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58 minutes ago, Green Gogol said:

The Scarlet Pimpernel is not fantasy..., more an adventure story in a historical setting. He has more in common with Zorro and Batman than Frodo and Fitz Chivalry.

It may have an historical adventure setting, but it is pure fantasy, i.e. no realism here folks, so let's just move on. This is a dream -- a fantasia, if you will, about aristos saving their own.  "Fantasy" contains many more meanings that are also far older than this generic publishing definition -- which, face it, genre has drawn on always as well.

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3 hours ago, Khaleesi did nothing wrong said:

I can't say I know that much about Byzantine history, and I am sure that the political and economic systems changed quite a bit throughout the centuries. However, I do remember sitting in on a lecture where an archaeology professor claimed that the Empire for at least some of the time period prior to 1000 AD actually appears to have functioned more like a planned economy, where the ruler in Constantinople had absolute power over the entire society. 

So more like Kim Jong-Un than FDR in other words. 

My History degree was in Medieval History and one of the things I was fascinated about was the Crusades as well as how completely insane the whole of the Eastern Roman Empire and Arabic world was to the Franks. Everything from glass windows to plumbing. The wealth on display was beyond their comprehension and the trade routes that made it all possible were simply things no one had access to. Feudalism had made cultural development stagnate and even effectively stop while it had thrived beyond. There's a good arguement that the Crsuades also essentially re-established the routes and helped lead to the Renaissance.

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9 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

 The wealth on display was beyond their comprehension and the trade routes that made it all possible were simply things no one had access to. Feudalism had made cultural development stagnate and even effectively stop while it had thrived beyond. 

Feudalism did not create stagnation, but was rather the product of stagnation. The cities of the Western Roman Empire - in contrast to the East - were basically unsustainable, to the point where at least one historian has suggested that the real mystery is how the hell the Western Empire lasted as long as it did. So, over the centuries, the elites relocated from urban to rural, because that was where the wealth was. Ergo, you ended up with Feudalism. It wasn't as if a bunch of moustache-twirling nobleman sat down and planned the thing out.

Also - one aspect of real-world medieval/early modern society that does not get anything like the focus of nobility in fantasy fiction: the Church. Every bit as hated as the aristocracy, to the point where the French and Spanish Lefts still have an instinctual anti-clerical streak, but much less likely to get blasted in your average fantasy novel, except when there's some faux nature-loving pagans getting oppressed.

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54 minutes ago, Zorral said:

It may have an historical adventure setting, but it is pure fantasy, i.e. no realism here folks, so let's just move on. This is a dream -- a fantasia, if you will, about aristos saving their own.  "Fantasy" contains many more meanings that are also far older than this generic publishing definition -- which, face it, genre has drawn on always as well.

So, fantasy is everything that isn’t realistic, and grimdark is whenever you have a flawed protagonist. Wow. You guys are really trying to include everything and the kitchen sink into grimdark fantasy.

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