Archive for the ‘science fiction or fantasy’ Category

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“No accent”

February 28, 2008

In the previous post I mentioned some inane commentary from one of the people who were part of the staff on Buffy. I won’t mention any names because this thing is Googlable, but it was one of the creators of the show, not one of the actors. And yes, she did say some really stupid things. Such as the line “James Marsters isn’t British… in fact he has no accent!” James Marsters, for those who don’t know Buffy at all, is an actor who plays a vampire with a “British” accent. (In fact, once you know he’s American, you can hear the non-Britishisms from time to time, although I do think he does a good British accent – but then, I’m foreign.) However, he as I just said he is American, you can hear him in this clip from an interview, and would you say he had no accent? He has a normal, not particularly broad American accent, that’s what. And claiming that somebody – anybody – has no accent is just an ignorant thing to say.

And that’s quite enough of that.

After, I watched another episode commented by Joss Whedon, and that was great fun. He says the oddest thing with a completely deadpan intonation, it’s excellent. Yay Joss.

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Robert Jordan and face strategies

February 11, 2008

This is something I have surely mentioned before, but for me, there are three main components to a book that can make me like it or not: style, plot, and characters. Of these, style is probably the most central. There are books I know are really good that I just really dislike because of the style.

At the moment, I am reading Dorothy Dunnett and, for some reason, Robert Jordan. Yes, I am indeed reading the Time Wheel series, skipping as much as possible of the dialogue and the descriptions of people, not to mention inner monologues; some chapters I avoid entirely. Jordan could really plot a story, and I am curious to see what will happen. I have read the first six books before, as a matter of fact, and even rather liked the first four of them, then. Not so much this time.

There are some rules about how people in Jordan’s books behave. All people, without exception. Most important of these rules is that if a man is talking to a woman or a woman to a man, the main purpose of the conversation is to score a point of some kind. This is usually also true when women are talking to each other, and occasionally when men converse with each other. However, many men are able to carry on a conversation that is at least reminiscent of something two real people could have. Never, ever so in discourse between people of different genders. Of course there are people like that in real life, but in Jordan’s world it is true of everybody. My theory is that Jordan was overly obsessed with the strategies that sociolinguists refer to as positive and negative face, strategies that people use quite unconsciously to negotiate communications (at least this is true for English, and also for Swedish and many other Indo-European languages. It is always dangerous to assume that a feature of language is universal.) But Jordan’s characters don’t do it unconsciously, they think about the negotiating strategies all the time, the same way we do when we meet people from a very different culture, for instance, or our new boyfriend’s parents, or some other situation where we are very anxious not to offend and to say the right thing. Or, on the other hand, there could be situations where we consciously use these strategies with an aim to say the wrong thing; my point is that the normal case is not to pay this much conscious attention. Even people like me who often feel quite awkward around other people including people I know well, don’t think about the face strategies that much. Jordan’s people do, though. All the time.

They also sometimes ignore the basic face strateies in a rather unrealistic way in order to score points. Communicating is a game played to win. Again, yes, there are peple like that, but there are also people – the majority – who are not like that, in the real world.

And that is the heart of why his characters are so unrealistic, unlovable and all-out annoying, I think. It’s not primarily that no men can ever understand a woman, and no woman ever understand a man (although all women understand one another perfectly even when they are from radically different cultures. The men are again somewhat closer to real people, but only somewhat.) It is not primarily that every single person acts and thinks like an extreme stereotype of a moody teenager, and that none of them develops or matures – they are still very young 13-year-olds, mentally, by the end of book 6. It is not primarily that values and morals are American conservative values and morals, everywhere on the supposedly very huge continent and outside it. All these things are annoying, but the obsession with face, and the underlying premise that communication is a game where you win or lose, that’s what makes the dialogue and characterisations jar so much that I have to skim rather than read them.

And yet I do read these books, for the story. And I read Dunnett at the same time, as a balm for the soul.

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Mythaxis Magazine

February 5, 2008

Mythaxis is a new online short story magazine, which publishes fantastic fiction (that is, science fiction and fantasy) in English. There is one issue, just published, available at the moment; I have read two of the stories and enjoyed them, so have no compunction about linking to the site. Good quality writing by people I’d like to read more from; mostly previously unknown names but also one story by HG Wells. They welcome submissions of sf/fantasy stories and artwork, btw.

I know the editor of Mythaxis, he is gil of MCiOS fame. I knew he was into sf related activities, and his writing is on par with his widdershins strile. Read Mythaxis Magazine.