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Rory
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  02:30:09  Show Profile  Visit Rory's Homepage Send Rory a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I was on a vid game message board many months ago and I suggested that RPG devs go out and hire some fantasy authors. I talked about how the novel Temple Hill would make a great action RPG or adventure game and most of the RPGs that I thought had a great story like Pool of Radiance were originally adventure mods. To my surprise most people disagreed with me. Their impression of FR novels was that they were the B movies of literature. I thought they were nuts I told them that I read a many classics growing up and many FR novels were as good or better.

Iím asking you guys because Iím bias. Ever since PoR and the FRs and AD&D DC comics I have been a FR freak.

Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  05:06:02  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It's all a matter of opinion, I'm afraid... Many of the so-called classics are required reading for high school and college, so people have had a lot more exposure to them. And while fantasy, as a genre, may be doing better than it has done in a long time, it's still a smaller genre and one that's not taken seriously by a lot of people, especially literati...

I somehow lucked out and managed to avoid reading a lot of the classics. Still, most of the ones I read failed to impress me -- some I was even left wondering what the point was. I, for one, like the average FR novel much more than I like the average classic. But I'm not the reading public at large...

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KnightErrantJR
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  05:18:29  Show Profile  Visit KnightErrantJR's Homepage Send KnightErrantJR a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I know I have had many people tell me that the Elric books are fantasy classics, and they have never really done much for me. But then again, go back a few decades, and neither Moorcock nor someone like H P Lovecraft were considered "serious" authors. I have also had a hard time working through Three Hearts and Three Lions, which I bought because I had heard that it inspired many D&D conventions, but I cannot, to this day, get past half the book.

On the other hand, while I'm not sure how he is regarded in greater literary circles, I love Leibers Fafhrd and Mouser books, and a lot of Conan stories by Robert Howard. And Tolkien and C S Lewis are definately favorites of mine.

Part of the issue, I think, is that some literary elitist can't deal with the convention of a shared world, for one thing. While I don't want to get into too much of a debate about Lewis or Tolkien compared to Realms authors, for example, I honestly think that some popular fantasy novelist are definately not above our beloved Realms authors, and I beleive Richard Lee Byers brought up a good point on the Worlds of D&D Boards when he said that writing in a shared world keeps you honest because you have to be more aware of the setting and what other writers have done before you.

Keep in mind, this isn't meant as a shot, but I honestly don't think, for example, that Harry Potter is better than the upper tier FR authors. J K Rowling has done a good job coming up with a setting for her characters, and some charming characters at that, but the literary depth, honestly, I don't think is any greater than some of our authors (but she does command a larger page count . . . thick books impress critics!)

(Disclaimer Time: I do like Harry Potter, and I think J K Rowling is a talented author, I am just making my point that sometimes talent plus oppourtunity yeilds results that talent alone does not, and she definately struck at the right place and time)

"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."--Saint Thomas Aquinas

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Winterfox
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  12:16:45  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Errm, define "classics." What are we talking about -- the literary canon, or fantasy/sci-fi classics as in Tolkien and Asimov? Since Rory's talking about video game message board, I'll guess the latter; game developers are unlikely to hire Booker/Nobel/Pulitzer prize winners any time soon (because, welllll, wrong target audience).

So, okay.

I enjoy FR novels, obviously, but just as obviously, not all of them. I consider them, in general, to be light entertainment, and so? Video games are light entertainment, too, so I fail to see the issue; an author writing for it will have to do the equivalent of writing in a shared world. Someone else's setting and probably characters, too. The stigma cast on shared world authors is somewhat similar to that cast on fanfiction writers, because this is just an officially sanctioned version of it. A lot of people think that, if you can't come up with your own setting and characters, why, you aren't worth reading, are you? (Hilarious, since it completely disregards the fact that many, many works accepted as part of the literary canon are glorified fanfiction. Le Morte d'Arthur, anyone? Wide Sargasso Sea? Chaucer's The Knight's Tale?)

Quality wise? Sturgeon's Law applies: 90% of everything is crud. The percentage works for both non-FR fantasy and FR novels alike. To say that something's automatically worse just because it's got the FR label on the cover is a little idiotic.

Edited by - Winterfox on 22 Jan 2006 12:24:51
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KnightErrantJR
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  14:27:20  Show Profile  Visit KnightErrantJR's Homepage Send KnightErrantJR a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Winterfox . . . brilliant point about different Arthurian tales essentially being a shared world. Its one of those things that many people don't see since no one owned the "Arthur brand" and licenced it to anyone. Damn Mallory and White, those hacks, why couldn't they create their own folktalkes . . .

"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."--Saint Thomas Aquinas

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wwwwwww
Learned Scribe

116 Posts

Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  20:47:54  Show Profile  Visit wwwwwww's Homepage Send wwwwwww a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'll probably get fried for this, but I think in most instances (not all, mind you) mainstream fantasy classics (and by that, I mean mostly modern classics) are higher quality than FR novels. I don't think you can really compare George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, J.V. Jones' A Cavern of Black Ice, or Sean Russell's The One Kingdom to most FR books. They're simply far superior (in writing and storyline).

I have always kind of thought of FR novels as B level fantasy ("hack" fantasy, if you will). They're usually combat and monster reliant. But that doesn't make them poor or unreadable. Far from it. FR books can be very entertaining. Personally, I'd love to write one. They just typically don't have the depth or grand feel of other fantasy masters. At least in my opinion . . .
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  20:59:06  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by wwwwwww

At least in my opinion . . .



And that's the rub: it all comes down to opinion. I don't think there's really all that much to say beyond that...

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KnightErrantJR
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  21:12:37  Show Profile  Visit KnightErrantJR's Homepage Send KnightErrantJR a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You know, I really don't think its a matter of the skill of the author, so much as a difference between what constitutes a good "shared world" book. A good shared world book has to not only have interesting characters, a good plot, and be well written and paced, but it has to pay attention to what has come before (how many Realms authors do you suppose would love to ignore things that have become canon because they have a better idea for a given story element?), and they have to be mindful of how the setting looks after they leave it. In some ways, it takes more creativity to do this.

I might agree with the B level fantasy thing for some of FR fiction, but I don't think its 100% that simple. I think among critics and itellectual slobs almost ANYONE that writes "their own" fantasy books is automatically ranked above "shared world" writers, even if, say, they career took off from marginally rewriting a famous fantasy series that was indeed legitimately considered great. Not that I can think of any examples, mind you.

Heck, some of the "greats" of various genres never did anything after they put out their one big book. I read Dracula, and enjoyed it, but from what I have heard nothing else Bram Stoker ever wrote was really of note.

Winterfox was really onto something here. Maybe 1% of everything "fantasy" that comes out is really a matter of "wow, this is really amazing stuff, truly timeless and worth recommending to almost anyone." Then you have the rest of the stuff, that is at varying levels.

I think, in all honesty, the best, most conclusive thing that can be said about anything to do with this topic is to say that:

A. Not all Forgotten Realms novels are great books.

B. Not all fantasy authors that work outside of shared worlds deserve the credit they get.

C. Shared world authors don't get the respect they should from most "literary elitists."




"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."--Saint Thomas Aquinas

http://knighterrantjr.blogspot.com/

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Winterfox
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895 Posts

Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  21:24:21  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by wwwwwww

I have always kind of thought of FR novels as B level fantasy ("hack" fantasy, if you will).


Funnily enough, both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens were in their respective days what we would consider "hacks" today. (Not saying that FR novels will enter the literary canon any time soon, just making a point.)
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wwwwwww
Learned Scribe

116 Posts

Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  21:47:40  Show Profile  Visit wwwwwww's Homepage Send wwwwwww a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KnightErrantJR

A. Not all Forgotten Realms novels are great books.
B. Not all fantasy authors that work outside of shared worlds deserve the credit they get.
C. Shared world authors don't get the respect they should from most "literary elitists."
Excellent post, KnightErrantJR. Very diplomatic and well-stated. I wholehartedly agree with all three of those points.

I do have one disagreement and an additional point. First off, I do think skill of the author plays a large factor in the quality of a book. Look at Lady of Poison. The premise of that book was soooo cool, and there was all kinds of potential. However, Cordell's writing is that book was really bad (disclaimer: he's an excellent designer). I know, I know, you could say that's a matter of opinion . . . but not really. Have you read it? It was almost to the point of silliness. One the other hand, a skillful writer (and there are several) has all sorts of tools at his disposal to make the novel interesting or better.

As for FR books, there are some elements to the RPG side that are simply considered absurd to mainstream fantasy readers. When I came across the were-crocodiles from Maiden of Pain I just shook my head in embarrassment. Yeah, I realize it's fantasy, but some things can just be juvenile. Now, that's not saying mainstream fantasy novels don't have similar components, but there are typically more instances of this kind of thing in RPG related books.

quote:
Originally posted by KnightErrantJR

A good shared world book has to not only have interesting characters, a good plot, and be well written and paced, but it has to pay attention to what has come before (how many Realms authors do you suppose would love to ignore things that have become canon because they have a better idea for a given story element?), and they have to be mindful of how the setting looks after they leave it. In some ways, it takes more creativity to do this.
To counter this argument, you could say that an author writing a book about his own world has the tough task of being the only source of visual description. There are no sourcebooks to lean on . . .

Edited by - wwwwwww on 22 Jan 2006 21:48:59
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Jhoebryn
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Posted - 22 Jan 2006 :  23:17:21  Show Profile  Visit Jhoebryn's Homepage Send Jhoebryn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Let us not forget that ultimate control of the novel remains with Wizards. Most of these novels have a page limit or word limit (if I understand correctly) and a restriction to a PG or PG-13 rating. This does limit the author in some ways. It also makes it hard to create an opus like "A Song of Fire and Ice" or "Malazan Empire" with those restrictions. Also, an author may produce a cool character (Ghostwalker for instance) and not have the ability to explore the character to the level they would like, unless Wizards approves and commissions the new stories to be written.

That said, I find I like the shorter, faster paced adventure novel to the larger works. While many of them are very good (George RR Martin in particular), you need to find alot of time to make your way though thousands of pages. I don't always find the time or attention span for that. Give me a set of familiar characters in a familiar world and I can jump right in.

Again, it's all a matter of opinion...

Edited by - Jhoebryn on 22 Jan 2006 23:18:45
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Rory
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  02:28:24  Show Profile  Visit Rory's Homepage Send Rory a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox

Errm, define "classics." What are we talking about -- the literary canon, or fantasy/sci-fi classics as in Tolkien and Asimov? Since Rory's talking about video game message board, I'll guess the latter; game developers are unlikely to hire Booker/Nobel/Pulitzer prize winners any time soon (because, welllll, wrong target audience).





I should have clarified but I really was coming from a mixed perspective. I was talking about literary cannon but I figured the emphasis would lean Fantasy.

The negative reaction on the message board were as much about contemporary cynicism as they were about the setting. Matter of fact these were some of the same people who almost had to apologize for enjoying the Halo books.


Its been so long since I read classic literature its hard for me to sound off. The last classic I read was Watership Down and I enjoyed it more then the majority of what they fed me in class. So I donít know if it was my mindset back then or if the FR novels are getting a bad rap.





Edited by - Rory on 23 Jan 2006 02:34:46
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Richard Lee Byers
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  03:33:30  Show Profile  Visit Richard Lee Byers's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Just as a point of information, the publisher wanting a particular writer doing a particular kind of book to aim for a certain word length and exclude certain types of content is by no means a phenomenon limited to shared-world books.
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Dremvek
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  17:03:51  Show Profile  Visit Dremvek's Homepage Send Dremvek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I guess when I think of "classic", it's a novel that stands the test of time. For every Charles Dickens or Mark Twain, there are hundreds of other authors that had works that were also popular at the time that are virtual unknowns today.

What makes these books great? Well, that's mostly been covered above - great characters, great plot, great setting, etc.

Have I read contemporary books that I've enjoyed more than "classics"? Yes. Several. I guess a lot of this depends on why a book is considered a classic. Does it make a huge social statement like Huck Finn, Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Jungle? Does it tell a story with strong universal themes like Romeo and Juliet? Does it contain characters that have jumped out of the pages and become folk icons of their own such as Sherlock Holmes? Or does it have such strong characterization that it captures real human emotion in the pages, as in a book such as Wuthering Heights?

The question becomes what factors would make FR novels stand up against novels with these characteristics. Some contain great settings - the FR themselves are great settings. Some contain great, fairly well known characters such as Drizzt, Elminster, Cale, etc. There are great epic battles, on par with books such as the Illiad.

So, with all of those examples, why wouldn't FR books stand out as classics? In my opinion, the reason is the motivation as to WHY someone reads these books. When people pick up a classic, they expect to be challenged. They expect to have their views of the world altered by the story that is told. They expect the book to teach them something. People pick up a FR novel to be entertained. They don't EXPECT to learn something. They don't EXPECT their lives to be changed by them. I'm not saying this can't happen, but it's not the motivation for reading these books.

Eventually, some of these novels might stand the test of time and be considered on par with other classics, but in the meantime, I'm very happy to read them as great stories by great authors, and let the literary enthusiasts 30 or more years from now determine what their final place will be in history.
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Winterfox
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  17:34:56  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dremvek

Does it tell a story with strong universal themes like Romeo and Juliet?


"Teenagers are hormonal, idiotic and self-centered," right?
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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  17:55:45  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox

quote:
Originally posted by Dremvek

Does it tell a story with strong universal themes like Romeo and Juliet?


"Teenagers are hormonal, idiotic and self-centered," right?



Yeah, I've always hated that story, too.

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KnightErrantJR
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  17:58:55  Show Profile  Visit KnightErrantJR's Homepage Send KnightErrantJR a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Much bigger fan of MacBeth myself . . .

"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."--Saint Thomas Aquinas

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Dremvek
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  21:01:28  Show Profile  Visit Dremvek's Homepage Send Dremvek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Not quite the themes I was thinking of, but eh
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Winterfox
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  21:29:34  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dremvek

Not quite the themes I was thinking of, but eh



Well, okay. Juliet, being thirteen, is technically prepubescent, which makes the fact that she sleeps with Romeo all the more questionable. Oh, hey, was the theme you were thinking of "Statuory rape leads to everyone killing themselves in a hysteria of delusional, self-indulgent circle-jerking PITYMEPITYUS fest"?
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Jhoebryn
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Posted - 23 Jan 2006 :  23:01:57  Show Profile  Visit Jhoebryn's Homepage Send Jhoebryn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Richard Lee Byers

Just as a point of information, the publisher wanting a particular writer doing a particular kind of book to aim for a certain word length and exclude certain types of content is by no means a phenomenon limited to shared-world books.


A valid point. Is it fair to say that, in a shared world environment, there are certain restrictions a writer may have that he/she would not have if they were working in their own created world?
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Richard Lee Byers
Forgotten Realms Author

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Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  15:03:18  Show Profile  Visit Richard Lee Byers's Homepage  Reply with Quote
The restrictions specific to shared-world fiction are:
1. You must maintain consistency with what has already been established about the world.
2. You can't destroy portions of the world that somebody else may want to use later. For example, someone might be able to do a great trilogy about the eradication of the Shadow Thieves. But if the honchos at WotC think they might want to use the ST in other products down the line, you aren't going to see that story.
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Dremvek
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Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  15:38:49  Show Profile  Visit Dremvek's Homepage Send Dremvek a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Winterfox

Well, okay. Juliet, being thirteen, is technically prepubescent, which makes the fact that she sleeps with Romeo all the more questionable.



Well what can you say? In fair Verona they like 'em young.

Or perhaps Romeo is only 14.
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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  17:16:06  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Let's steer this one back on topic, folks.

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Blueblade
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Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  20:50:47  Show Profile  Visit Blueblade's Homepage Send Blueblade a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, very off-topic. Wasn't rape in that time or society.
It was usual for noble families to marry off sons and daughters (even if no consummation took place) at VERY young ages, for family ties/inheritance reasons. Many women were mothers at 13. Remember, lifespans were shorter (many deaths in childhood or youth), and children were regarded as "little adults" when they could walk and talk.
Boy, university degrees DO come in useful. Heh.
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Winterfox
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Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  21:33:52  Show Profile  Visit Winterfox's Homepage Send Winterfox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Er, a fact of which I'm well aware, thanks. :P (If you couldn't tell that I was facetious from the "teenagers are idiotic and hormonal" bit on, well...)

To bring it marginally back on-topic: if you want to compare FR novels to literary canon classics, then uh... don't. There's little point; it's not even apple and orange and more like, oh, orange and asparagus.
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Richard Lee Byers
Forgotten Realms Author

USA
1791 Posts

Posted - 24 Jan 2006 :  22:31:28  Show Profile  Visit Richard Lee Byers's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Is stuff like mine the oranges or the asparaguses (asparagi?)?
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