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Re: [mythsoc] RotK Theory

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  • SusanPal@aol.com
    In a message dated 4/13/2003 11:44:16 AM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Well, it s one of the more *glaring* examples of Providence, let us say; and Tolkien s
    Message 1 of 63 , Apr 13, 2003
      In a message dated 4/13/2003 11:44:16 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
      dbratman@... writes:

      > You speak of the sunbreak as a "providential coincidence" as if that were a
      > criticism. But how is that so? "Providential" is exactly what it is, and
      > you don't need me to tell you the role of Providence in Tolkien, and what
      > it meant for him, and what he thought Providence actually was. (Why do you
      > think Roger Williams used that word as the name of his city?) The
      > difference between Tolkien and lesser writers is that they don't believe,
      > or don't really believe, in Providence, and use the term as excuse to sail
      > over plot difficulties; whereas Tolkien does really believe, and part of
      > the story's moral purpose is to illustrate the role that Providence pays in
      > human affairs: this is hardly the only instance.

      Well, it's one of the more *glaring* examples of Providence, let us say; and
      Tolkien's Providential worldview, in my experience, is one of the things that
      people who don't like the book tend not to like about it. If you don't
      believe in such things in the world, they merely seem hokey in fiction,
      rather than wonderful. And if you do believe in them in the world, sometimes
      they *still* seem hokey in fiction: "Signs" is a good example of this. I
      have as Providential a worldview as anyone I know, and I detested that movie
      because so much of it was cheap string-pulling; one of my parish priests felt
      exactly the same way.

      Usually I find Tolkien's view of Providence moving and compelling. Sometimes
      his symbolism strains my credibility, though, as when Aragorn finds the beryl
      in the middle of the bridge: the elves have evidently been flinging
      gemstones around just in case he passes that way, and the thing hasn't gotten
      covered in mud, and none of the bad guys have found it first and picked it
      up. I suppose that scene could be compared to the later one when the three
      hunters find the broach of Lothlorien, but I have far less trouble with the
      second, for some reason.

      Thanks for the thorough gloss on the passages I mentioned!


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • David S. Bratman
      ... Yes. ... Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn t make it
      Message 63 of 63 , May 18, 2003
        At 07:09 PM 5/16/2003 , Ernest wrote:

        >It hardly matters anyway, because the plot of _Forbidden Planet_,
        >although obviously derivative from _The Tempest_, is not the same as that
        >of _The Tempest_ except in its broadest outlines.


        >Yes, E. E. Smith's prose was preciously purple, but is it really _bad_?
        >I think it's quite enjoyable, in truth.

        Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly
        because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn't make it any
        less bad.

        >I honestly prefer Doc Smith's heavily stylized but exciting pulp style
        >to the styles that are in vogue today. I think I might have actually
        >finished (say) _Moving Mars_ if Doc Smith had written it.

        That might be in large part because it would be shorter and punchier if Doc
        Smith wrote it. Not for the quality of the prose. SF prose today may well
        be, as you say, largely mediocre: but mediocre is still much better than bad.

        >If you want bad writing, try rereading _Foundation_ or its successors
        >again. Oy! Asimov at his best was top-notch--I'll put "The Dead Past"
        >on the list of best short stories I've read, SF or no--but he was rarely
        >at his best.

        I've re-read the Foundation books, and I've re-read SF from the 30s. The
        Foundation books' prose, while still pulpish, is a significant advance over
        the typical 30s product. I agree that it's hardly worth holding up to
        praise, either, and Asimov himself in later life would not have done so.

        How to identify Asimov's better fictional prose: 1) he wrote it after 1950
        [that eliminates the original Foundation books, which despite their
        copyright dates were written & published in the 1940s]; 2) he did not write
        it at the behest of his publishers [that eliminates the dreadful late
        novels, which were all written because the publishers wanted new novels
        from him, as well as various lame series fiction]. His best fiction was
        some (not all) of his 1950s novels, and much of his stand-alone short
        fiction from circa 1950 onwards.

        The Niven piece on teleportion is "The Theory and Practice of
        Teleportation", in his 1971 paperback collection _All the Myriad Ways_, but
        probably not elsewhere. The ideas he discusses in this essay he put to use
        in a story a couple years later titled "Flash Crowd" (in his 1973 pb
        collection _The Flight of the Horse_, and probably elsewhere). This story
        is now considered somewhat prescient, as "flash crowd" is now an
        established term for crowds of people who form on extremely short notice,
        through word of mouth (spread not by teleporter but cell phone) where
        something interesting is happening.

        - David Bratman
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