Re: [mythsoc] Re: A new novel about Tolkien
- On 1/13/2011 8:41 AM, davise@... wrote:
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...>
>> I am predisposed to an intense dislike for fiction about real
>> persons. That applies to Vercingetorix, George Washington, Richard
>> the Lionhearted, John F. Kennedy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Among
> I'm not sure I agree. "Ivanhoe" is fun. Thornton Wilder's "The Ides
> of March" is very worth reading. Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" about
> Thomas Cromwell, got rave reviews; I haven't read it yet, but it's on
> my list. Detective novels often do it well; for instance the Steven
> Saylor series about Gordianus, set in the Rome of Caesar, Cicero etc.
> In children's literature, Robert Lawson's "Ben and Me" (about Ben
> Franklin) and "Mr. Revere and I" are great. Of course, there is a lot
> of lousy fiction of this kind; but there is a lot of lousy fiction of
> any kind.
> Certainly a large fraction of the great plays, from Shakespeare on
> down, deal with real historical people.
> -- Ernie
De gustibus non est disputandum. Further, being predisposed doesn't mean
I can't be convinced in some cases. A historical character in fiction,
doing things we think he actually did, is not as big a deal to me as
that same character doing things we think never happened.
My second paragraph, unquoted, was perhaps more to the point. The issue
for me is not the *mixing* of fact and fiction, but the *blurring* of
the difference between the two.
(I might note in passing that the theater leaves me with the impression
that even in historical settings, the realism is right there with, say,
the Asterix comics. But that's me.)
I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior high
English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I thought
Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is not Scott's
fault, but I still resented finding out much later that my views on 12th
Century England were based on literary invention.
"Ben and Me" and its ilk find me on the fence. Even most children are
immune from thinking that Mr. Franklin had intelligent conversations
with a mouse. BUT ... does that create confusion about the historical
parts of the story? Perhaps they are not real either.
The same sorts of questions might be asked about Narnia. I do not know
anyone who is confused enough to think that Aslan is *actually* the
Second Person of the Trinity incarnate in another world. But how much
does the Beast Fable setting suggest, even subtly, that just as the
distinction in Narnia between humans and animals is fundamentally
altered from reality; Lewis also not only adapted, but altered, Narnia's
ethics and philosophy? Perhaps the rules of proper thinking and behavior
there are nice -- for talking animals.
There is a lot of gray between fiction and reality. In part that is
because reality is often less than crystal clear! When an artist does a
particularly good job of putting fiction into a historical setting, the
gray area gets bigger. I am uncomfortable when it becomes possible to
"cross the line" without noticing.
- --- In email@example.com, "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:
> De gustibus non est disputandum.On the contrary, one of the reasons I subscribe to a literary chat group is disputare about gustibus.
> I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior highBut that would apply to any kind of historical fiction whether or not it contains historical persons. After all, your misconceptions about 12th c. England would have been much the same even if the Black Knight had not turned out to be King Richard and even if you had realized that Sir Wilfred was a fictional character.
> English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I thought
> Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is not Scott's
> fault, but I still resented finding out much later that my views on 12th
> Century England were based on literary invention.
I'll agree that it is very annoying if a real person or event whom you care about is portrayed inaccurately in a work of fiction. (And not just real people, as we have certainly discussed on this list!) But, for myself, though that happens occasionally, it doesn't happen very often. It is much more common that I have encountered historical periods, or events, or people, for the first time through historical fiction (or at least for the first time in any depth); and overall the knowledge I have gained is much greater than the misconceptions acquired.
- On 1/13/2011 7:29 PM, davise@... wrote:
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...>
>> De gustibus non est disputandum.
> On the contrary, one of the reasons I subscribe to a literary chat
> group is disputare about gustibus.
OK, then you are wrong [big grin].
>> I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior highYes, and I don't like historical fiction
>> English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I
>> thought Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is
>> not Scott's fault, but I still resented finding out much later that
>> my views on 12th Century England were based on literary invention.
> But that would apply to any kind of historical fiction whether or not
> it contains historical persons.
in general, even about periods in which
I have a strong interest. But when "real
people" show up, it makes it worse -- at
least I think so.
> After all, your misconceptions aboutPerhaps. But the Black Knight *is*
> 12th c. England would have been much the same even if the Black
> Knight had not turned out to be King Richard and even if you had
> realized that Sir Wilfred was a fictional character.
King Richard, and Prince John *is*
Prince John, and I noticed that. The
misconceptions may very well have
occurred anyway, I agree. But maybe
Ivanhoe is probably not the best book
to use as an example. It is one that
you tossed in my direction, and it
struck a chord in me (dissonant).
> I'll agree that it is very annoying if a real person or event whomI know my Mom agrees with you. She
> you care about is portrayed inaccurately in a work of fiction. (And
> not just real people, as we have certainly discussed on this list!)
> But, for myself, though that happens occasionally, it doesn't happen
> very often. It is much more common that I have encountered historical
> periods, or events, or people, for the first time through historical
> fiction (or at least for the first time in any depth); and overall
> the knowledge I have gained is much greater than the misconceptions
> -- Ernie
likes stuff about Colonial New
England especially (our ancestors
landed, or were unceremoniously
dumped, there beginning in the
1630s). My mileage varies a LOT
from hers, and yours.
- The publishing houses serve a real function: they decide whether they're willing to undertake the expense of typesetting, cover art, publicity, etc., on a particular project.
If they don't think they can make $$ on the project, they don't do it. THAT doesn't mean the book isn't worthy - it may be the wrong genre for this particular publisher. Or they already have an author who "does that." Or they just don't quite see how to sell it, don't have the vision for it.
But it may also mean the book is inferior.
So, imho, the value of a 'real publisher' is the indication that SOMEONE was willing to invest several thousand dollars up front to make it happen.
-- Lynn --
--- In email@example.com, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:
> Ah, this takes me back to the self-publishing panel at Mythcon last year! Thank
> you for chiming in, Alana. I wanted to makeÂ some similar points.
> I am not especially impressed with the description of this novel either, but the
> fact that it is self-published should be beside the point. I think we the
> reading public should make a real effort not to pre-judge books on that basis.
> "This book is self-published? Well, it must be terrible! Read it? No, I'm good,
> thanks", and that sort of thing. David, I know your comment was not solely based
> on the fact the book was self-published; it just gives me an opportunity to
> comment on that general kind of judgment.
> Yes, having a "real" publisher means that some disinterested party or parties
> have read a book and deemed it likely to make enough money to defray the costs
> of publishing it, but of course, that doesn't automatically make a book good,
> any more than self-publishing makes a book is bad. I see a lot of publishers'
> catalogs and, to me as a reader, 99% of the genre fiction being published by
> established brick-and-mortar publishers looks terrible, but there is still
> obviously an audience -- and a big one. (Either that, or the costs of
> traditional publishing have gone down enough to have altered their risk calculus
> The same (i.e., there is an audience) must be true for self-published books. I
> think we have a tendency to assume that self-published implies rejected by a
> publisher, but that is no more than an assumption on our part. In fact, there
> could be many reasons this author published the book himself. He may have never
> even approached a traditional publisher. And conversely, a book's having been
> published by a traditional publisher does not mean it wasn't rejected by ten or
> twenty other publishers first. Lots of people love Dune, and a large, maybe
> equal, number think it's a terrible book; the fact is, it was rejected by more
> than twenty publishers before it made it to print. Having a traditional
> publisher is often assumed to be a stamp of quality, but this is hardly a given.
> I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of bad books being
> self-published (and even more bad-looking books), but the same is true of
> traditional publishing. We just give traditional publishing more benefit of the
> doubt, largely because it's establishment, and we therefore assume it has better
> quality control (it may, but again: an assumption). I think we have to give
> alternative models a chance. If we don't, we're just buoying up a lot of
> traditional publishers who are not really trying very hard anymore.
> My two cents. Others' welcome!
> From: Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...>
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Sent: Thu, January 13, 2011 7:20:39 AM
> Subject: Re: [mythsoc] A new novel about Tolkien
> I don't think being self-published is always a kiss of death. It doesn't
> surprise me that a book of this description and content would be difficult to
> convince a traditional house to publish. That's no comment on whether or not I
> think it will *succeed* as a self-published title, of course! (But there are
> those rare success stories...)
> The web site for the book looks pretty professionally done, and the sample is
> better than I expected. (I acknowledge I went in pretty low, based on the press
> release. *g*)
> On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
> >I see from the Amazon listing that it's self-published.Â That's comment enough,
> >I think.
> Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor
> Author of "Nomi's Wish"
> (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in
> Coyote Wild Magazine
> Contributor to Origins Award winner, Serenity Adventures:
> For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at