Directing You Elsewhere

by wjw on October 23, 2010

I’m hunkered down trying to finish the novel, so instead of posting something structured, intelligent, and thought-provoking, I thought I’d just point you at structured, intelligent, and thought-provoking discussions going on elsewhere.

Over on Daniel Abraham’s site, we have an extended discussion of genre, featuring MLN Hanover trying to define urban fantasy, Ty Frank on horror film, and Daniel his ownself on what genre is, and what we can learn from genres that have died.

I think that the successful genres of a particular period are reflections of the needs and thoughts and social struggles of that time.  When you see a bunch of similar projects meeting with success, you’ve found a place in the social landscape where a particular story (or moral or scenario) speaks to readers.  You’ve found a place where the things that stories offer are most needed.

And since the thing that stories most often offer is comfort, you’ve found someplace rich with anxiety and uncertainty.

But what we’re anxious about changes over time, and it doesn’t always change back.  If I’m right, then I’d expect to see new genres being born as books struggle to address the landscape of the time.  And also dead genres whose stories spoke to a moment that has in some way passed.  And that’s exactly what I see.

Meanwhile, over on Kit Whitfield’s blog, we find her viewing of the David Lynch version of Dune.

I was vaguely aware that the movie was not a critical success, to put it mildly, and indeed as I watched it I could completely understand why. Characters stride from scene to scene declaiming gibberish with a sense of mythic urgency; most of what I could hear in the dialogue seemed to be cries of ‘I am the fantiple wekazork!’ or ‘I shall teach you the ways of the nafbargese momtuggers!’ or something similarly incomprehensible; having read the book many years ago I had a vague idea of what they were talking about, but the fact remained that in two hours I seemed to be watching about ten years pass in which the zimfrangers fought the mafnabbis over the crucial issue of penwalladddding, and they all took it really, really seriously, for reasons that nobody was going to explain.

Which prompted a couple of thoughtful, amusing essays on the sorts of language employed by fantastic fiction, the first on the Gizz Principle, the second on gibberish as employed by people who employ gibberish for a living.  (And no, we don’t mean politicians, we mean writers.)

Enjoy.  I’ll be back one of these days.

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