Fantasy Books and Their Mythologies. Re: Greg

So Pratchet gets better, does he? I read the first discworld book and half of the second. It didn’t really take. I think I’m discovering that the meandering plot is only part of my concern.

The thing about so many authors is that they don’t just tell a story. They create a world with elaborate mythologies and histories. How many universes can a reader immerse himself in at the same time? Can I be in these worlds—at the edge of discworld, riding the plains of middle earth, moisture farming on Tattoine, in the mountain dwarves home of Thorbardin, on board the Heart of Gold, learning wizardry from Dumbledore, watching Ender save the last of the Buggers and the Pequinos—all at the same time without becoming mentally divergent?

When it comes to fantasy reading, I think readers pick and choose which worlds they will immerse themselves in. People choose, say, middle earth and read LOTR, its appendices, the Silmarillion, the forgetten lore, and everything else, specializing in that world. Having to learn whole new sets of mythologies is tiresome.

I think that’s why my reading of fantasy has waned while my reading of novels (a novel being a story that could actually happen)and non-fiction has increased. There are plenty of great stories to read that don’t require being immersed in another world but allow you to more fully understand your own.

I have a whole shelf of books that I am just aching to read from this genre: books like the Catcher in the Rye, Dubiners, Sherlock Holmes, Moby Dick, Bravo-Two-Zero (British SAS non-fiction), the Sound and the Fury, and a Farewell to Arms. I guess most of these sound like they are from some reading list for a Master of English course, but damn it, there is a reason that these books would be on that list. There is a reason they haven’t been forgotten in the last hundred years.

I’m not trying to be a literary snob here. I still read my Ender books. But I think that his is the only fantasy universe that I am going to continue to brave for the next few years. I have to be selective in the worlds I live in, so I can manage my time and my sanity.

P.S. This “Once and Future King” book sounds intriguing. I always like a good telling of the Arthur legend. Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur was really cool.

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Posted in Books. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Fantasy Books and Their Mythologies. Re: Greg”

  1. Cornelius Says:

    I think you’re right about having to pick a universe and go with it. Kind of like when someone build millions of zerglings. He has to be totally comitted to the idea or it won’t go well. Or maybe even better is like in Diablo when you play the sorceress and you have to put all of your points into one tree or you can’t kill anything when you reach level 60.

  2. anah Says:

    I can keep my universes sorted out. I usually have at least 4 books going at the same time. I think it’s a gift that my brain automatically takes the truth it finds and applies it to every situation, even the non-fiction. Not that every “truth” would work in every book. Someone pointing a stick and shouting “Alohamora!” on any of the Ender planets would certainly not open any doors. And if lots of people went around shouting at doors I think Demosthenes would have a thing or two to say about it. On second thought, however, I realize that Cornelius is right. You have to be totally committed to building zerglings. (Sorry, don’t know the reference.) Usually if I start another series, then the first one is put on the shelf until I’m done, or bored, with the second. So even though I may be in the middle of 4 books, that doesn’t mean that I’m activly reading them. Just that I’ve started and not finished them.
    Right. Well. That was a roundabout way of discovering that you’re both right. And I am too. But only about Demosthenes.

    Anah

  3. Greg Says:

    You know, for some reason I can never really get into those classics, like moby dick, dumas’ stuff, or even heart of darkness and the great gatsby. I just never seem to have the sheer willpower to make it through them.

    Maybe this is a sign of my own immaturity.

    I find that I’ve also been reading a lot more regular fiction instead of fantasy / sci-fi. Of these the one I’ve enjoyed the most is “Carter Beats the Devil” which was based on the real events of a real person. It was so good, in fact, that It’s now in my top 3 favorite books of all time. Another great fiction was “Life of Pi” which was so well done that you find yourself wondering if it’s a creative non-fiction.

  4. Cornelius Says:

    Just because something is a “classic” doesn’t make it any good. I think that books these days are better in general than books from the era of “classics”. Probably for the same reason that medicine, science, and technology in general are better. The “classics were the best there was back when they were written, but they aren’t so relevant and therefore we don’t care. Would you rather read Moby Dick or watch First Contact? Is this because of a short attention span, or because the story of a man getting vengeance on a whale is less interresting than a man getting vengeance on the Borg?

  5. Benski Says:

    The interesting thing is that it’s the same story. So maybe the whales aren’t a collective cyborg race bent on universal assimilation (we think). But does that mean one can discover more about hatred and vengeance from Cap’n Picard and the Borg than Cap’n Ahab and a killer whale? USA made a TV version of Moby Dick a few years ago, and I much more often reflect upon it than I reflect upon First Contact (both star Patrick Stewart). That’s actually part of the reason why Moby Dick is waiting on my shelf for a few weeks respite.

    Consider another example. There is no longer any such science as Natural Philosophy. I don’t live in Geneva. And the possibility of reanimating dead tissue is ridiculous (except in the eternal sense). But Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is still vastly instructive in the responsibilites of a creator/father and the pain of xenophobia and otherness.

    What makes a classic a classic is that it is timeless. Even though we don’t live in the times these books were written, many of them contain important insights into the human condition that are universally applicable.

    About Dumas, I actually think that the film “Count of Monte Cristo” spoils us. It gives you all the action and story in two hours. Dumas makes you work for it in the book. He’s pretty wordy.

  6. Cornelius Says:

    You’re right about the principles that you can pull from the books being applicable to any era, but things like setting and wordiness turn me off. I like the sci-fi setting more than the whale-hunting setting. I read Franklenstein and it was well worth my time to do so, but I don’t think I will read it again. The first 80 or so pages were pretty dry.


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