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Wed Sep 30th, 2015

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10:50 pm - Oh, and--
This entry, in which a number of people who are more intelligent than I admit they too cannot make head nor tail of John M Ford..

And when they can, they lose me again.
From: Graydon Saunders
I continue to find claims that The Dragon Waiting isn't straightforward really baffling.

It's a dense text, sure, but the plot couldn't be simpler if it tried, especially once one sorts out the Arthurian correspondences. And the idea that there are Arthurian correspondences is one that the reader is clubbed with from several directions.

What am I missing?

From: redbird
Date: September 30th, 2015 04:06 pm (local)

What I found startling, and will probably lose some people, was the jump from the locked-room mystery in the Alps to completely different characters and events.

From: Graydon Saunders
Date: September 30th, 2015 04:40 pm (local)

I thought that was a very clever transition because it's (literally!) the Fall of Rome, the Fall of Rome's position in the Arthurian legendarium as establishing circumstance, and the shift of those characters out of prosaic into legendary tone. ("Between you, and me, and the wizard, and the woman...")

That tension between the legendary and the prosaic informs the whole book; "I was always a boor like Sir Cai" is this throwaway remark except that it's not.
Did *I* get clubbed with the idea of Arthurian resonances? No, I did not. Do I recall anything about the Fall of Rome in the Arthurian corpus? No, I do not. One may know the story, but Malory is not the place I got it from. "I realize you have to know the story to get the mappings, but still. I wouldn't have thought "has read Mallory" was a wildly high bar." Sorry, Graydon- it is.

(7 comments | post comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2015 04:54 am (UTC)
Who is Malory?
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2015 12:26 pm (UTC)
15th century author/compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur, a collection of "traditional tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Malory interprets existing French and English stories about these figures and adds original material (the Gareth story)." The Arthur stories exist in three or four languages from a variety of periods and are, by my standards, a mess. Malory is as close to a text for the English version as one is likely to come, and is the source for a lot of the later Arthur-worshipping literature.

Then there's the Welsh Mabinogion, which "portray a King Arthur very different from the later popular versions" and a lot closer to the Celtic Arthur of Roman British time.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2015 01:42 am (UTC)
Ohh! I had no idea. I was a total fan girl for he Arthurian legends as a child, but I have no idea whose versions I was reading. Not sure I want to revisit those, I fear they will all look like idiots from this vantage point.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
You were probably reading something based off of Malory, possibly filtered through the Victorian sanitization of same. Malory reads pretty weird at the best of times, but even his weirdness can't disguise what utter sexist dorks and dweebs medieval Arthur and his knights are.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2015 02:49 am (UTC)
Hahaha! As I feared!
[User Picture]
Date:October 8th, 2015 04:31 am (UTC)
I thought I'd commented on that thread, but I think I was remembering a conversation with my husband instead.

IIRC what I said was that I respect more than enjoy most of John M Ford's work (I did think How Much For Just the Planet? was a hoot, but I didn't LOVE it). I really really really wanted to love The Dragon Waiting, because 15th Century Ricardian AU? Bring it on! And then I read through pretty much the whole thing, thinking "Huh?" Any Arthurian correspondences whooshed over my head.

That said, I do know of people online who LOVE Ford's work, and more power to them.
[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2015 12:36 am (UTC)
Pretty much my reaction to The Dragon Waiting. He could have had so much fun with it, and instead he insisted on being Ford. Though I'm not sure he knew he was being Ford; probably his mind just worked that way naturally. And if your mind works the same way- if you're on his wavelength- I'm sure he's fascinating. (Read one of his ST novels, and even there I found lacuna in the action that were never explained.)

I'm reminded of Elizabeth Bear once explaining the way her mind works, using the example of the events that happen in a certain story of hers. Her mind presents the action all out of order in a way that makes perfect sense to her, but that requires vast rewriting to be comprehensible to others. All the bits that Ford leaves out (by me) were obviously there for him.

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