mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Don't go out tonight, it's bound to take your life...

There's a bathroom on the right. My mental muzak usually has some relation to what's happening in my life at that moment, and I'm currently in a grade-A snit, possibly even hormonally induced, so yeah. Still not sure why last week was all Beggar's Opera, 'Oh Polly you might have toyed and kissed/ By keeping men off you keep them on' but I'm glad it's gone.

Reading The Curse of Chalion, or trying to. Bujold doesn't write as badly as most modern fantasists. Her prose doesn't hurt going down- it's always been workmanlike rather than fine, but space opera asks no more even if fantasy might. What's in her sentences seems to be there for a reason and I'm not aware of padding.

But. But. Her protagonist has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Bujold never uses the term, of course, but by me she might as well have a hundred blinking lights spelling out "PTSD!!!!eleventy-one!" any time the guy appears. You'd think she'd have had the wit to hide it better. While the behaviours involved may be as old as mankind- may be, not necessarily are- associating them together as the symptoms of a classifiable 'disorder' automatically timestamps the thing as early 21st century.

What I want in fantasy is strangeness. The most basic thing to do in writing a not-this-world reality is refrain from this-NAmerican-society language. (Unless the world's givens can be mapped easily on to our world's, as with Brust's Vlad or Cook's Black Company, in which case the language reads to me as simply a translation from that society's masculine vernacular to our society's. And there's still Paarfi as a corrective to too much gumshoe diction.) Most fantasists don't manage the necessary linguistic distance because current English is the only English they seem to know. Thus their characters quite unironically have 'personal agendas' and 'liaise' with other agents and doubtless even 'achieve closure' on occasion.

The next step is to have your characters think differently from us. To do that you have to know how we thought in the past, or how other people think now, or best of all have a totally wonderful imagination that doesn't rely on real-life paradigms at all. I'll argue that if modern psychological interpretations infuse a book's atmosphere then all strangeness is lost. The book reads 20th century mindset even if the guys are wielding swords. The writer needn't say a man is an obsessive compulsive, she need merely show him displaying stock obsessive compulsive behaviour: possibly, she *herself* need only think of him as obsessive compulsive and all innocence is lost. To put it as briefly as possible, if you can look at a character's behaviour and slap a label on it from the APA's handy-dandy list of disorders, then you've written a present-day character, not a somewhere-else one: and not a terribly good character either.

Maybe in some far future charas who are no more than personified psychological disorders will be of as much interest to academics as Renaissance characters who are merely personified humours. 'Western society once believed in something called the neurotic personality, and here's an example of how that personality was thought to behave.' This isn't the far future. I think I'll go back to manga, which is automatically strange by my definitions, even if it's par for the course where it comes from.
Tags: reading, reading_07, writing
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