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Matters arising

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
A few thoughts on things completely unrelated to Alaska before I launch into that...

First off, a friend sent me a link to a discussion concerning Tolkieniana - movies vs. the books. This is a piece of analysis which kind of encapsulates my own feelings about the movies, which, if you know me, you will have heard me growl and sputter on the subject of on many an occasion.

Don't all yell at me at once. It was a beautiful visual image. It might have been a cool fantasy story. But it was not Tolkien. Period. I know and love the book, and the movies, for me, shredded everything about it except the special effects. The stupid and unnecessary shifting of lines from places they clearly belonged to places where they sounded awful and stilted and out of place, the transformation of Aragorn from the man who knows he is born to be king into a Sensitive New Age Hand Wringing Guy going "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!", the idiotic pandering to PC by shoving Arwen into a story into which she clearly does not belong, the complete misunderstanding of Elves and their history and their culture and their sorrows and their diginity (exemplified by that execrable CGI fiasco of Galadriel in the Pool of Galadriel scene with Frodo) - all of this was bad. And it hurts me to think that there are people out there for whom this was the first, perhaps the only, encounter with LOTR and who will never know any different. I did NOT, please note, say that I wished for a film version where every blessed word would be preserved verbatim - I am the first to applaud the sensible omission of characters like Bombadil - I fully realise that transforming a book into a movie is not a straightforward task. But Jackson did not ADAPT this book. He REIMAGINED it. Badly.

I wish I'd had the chance to write the script. I would have done what needed to be done to prserve the spirit of the book, not bowed to commercial concerns.

Feel free to discuss with whateve degree of heat is required in comments.

The other thing is that I was made aware of a comment concerning "Embers of Heaven" on a blog, out there in the blogosphere, whose author I will not quote verbatim and to whose blog I will not point a URL to protect the innocent, but that particular reader's feelings were as follows:

1) when you write fantasy you have to completely invent fantasy. Period. ANything else does not qualify.

As you all may know, I wrote the story of "Embers" as based on the Chinese Cultural Revolution phenomenon - I could certainly not be accused of INVENTING any of this stuff. But the difference is that I wrote a HISTORICAL fantasy, with roots deep in some sort of reality and a real history and the way "real" people, in the form of my characters, would have dealt with it. Mileage may vary, of course, but there are different kinds of fantasy and I have written both - but I refuse to be tramelled by what "constitutes fantasy" when I am telling a story. The world I write of is my own, one I have imagined and created. It may possess certain parallels which the readers may recognise. But it is palpably not a "historical" document, it is clearly fantasy-based.

Question for discussion, if so inclined: How is fantasy defined? When is fantasy fantasy and when is it not?

2) Okay, and these comments really did both astonish and aggravate me. There are two - the first is that the reader complains that there cannot, from the context of the book, be an inference drawn on whether the author (i.e. myself) is "pro communism or anti communism"; the second is that the reader in question states categorically that (s)he (protecting identity here) firmly believes that nobody who has not lived under communism can be allowed to have an opinion about it anyway (although I am given dispensation, apparently, because I originally came from an Eastern European country). And the questions I will ask here are these:

- Is it the AUTHOR'S job to proselytise on any ideology or idea? No, you can't tell whether I am pro or anti from the cotnext of "Embers" and nor was it the point of the book that you should be able to. The point of the book was to tell a story in such a way as to allow a reader to glimpse motivations leading to this or that course of action, altering history, entrenching dogma and faith and ideas. If I had made my authorial opinion known, it would not only have been intensely intrusive, it would have turned the novel into the worst sort of propaganda of one sort or another, and this was not what I had set out to do.

- And what is this crap about not being allowed to have an educated opinion about something that you have researched thoroughly? Yes, I grew up in Eastern Europe and I have had, as a child, some experience with the real thing - but I don't see how my existence in that time and place as my seven-year-old self could have possibly qualified me to be a judge of that ideology in any way shape or form - what opinions I have I have arrived at through living my life, being open to learning experiences, reading, making certain that I both talk to and lsiten to people and understand what they believe in and why (without necessarily being converted by any given faith or creed or political propaganda in the process). I am an intelligent human being, and I can be trusted to listen, learn, understand. I do not require - in fact, I deeply resent - being force-fed by any proselytizer on any subject. If you are able, tell me something interesting about what you believe in and then let me make up my own mind. Push me, and you'll push me right away. This is precisely the same kind of idiocy that holds that nobody may have any opinion other than what teh Nightly Gospel According To Fox News has to say about something like 9/11 - dissent, have ANY kind of question or conflicting thought, and you're automatically a traitor. I've heard commments like "shut up, you aren't even American" levelled at participants in an international newsgroup straight after the events of 9/11, as though only Americans were entitled to an opinion about something that graphic, that visceral. Please - we ALL live in this world. As far as I am concerned, people are entitled to believe what they want to believe so long as they do not insist that I have to believe it too. As it happens I do have my opinion on various political ideologies - but that has nothing to do about whether or not I have ever lived under any of them. I have an opinion about dictatorhips or a government brought about by a military coup, without EVER having experienced either of those things. I am entitled to those opinions - so, of course, is my blogger, except that her opinion seems to be that nobody is entitled to an opinion.

Discuss, while I deal with my accumulated mail (just how many bills can a person get within ten days of absence...? sigh) and I will be back anon.

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