Friday, February 22, 2008

Art and my doomedness

I have long been aware (I have only pursued writing for seven years, may I say long ow?) that fantasy is not a serious thing, that romanticism is a silly and trivial pursuit and that no honest and hardworking individual will partake in such things. I find this a troublesome and belittling idea but sadly any attempt to break free of it materialises in a verbal attack on some other form.

My original solution to this problem was to declare that what I did was not art. I did not know what it was, but concluded that it existed (like myself) solely to make people who encountered it happy. The trouble is that existing solely to amuse others is a rather draining activity, and being the caring creator that I am I did not particularly wish it upon what I created. After a thought I did not wish it on myself either. But that is not the problem, the problem is far simplier, it is that in rebelling against the idea of the artist. I tend to characterize artists in a rather unfair light, as a reactionaries and who desires more to make some important and relevant point then to tell a story. The trouble is in claiming not to be an artist I AM reactionary.

The second trouble I have with the idea of fantasy as silly and irreverant it that the recommended opposite is in itself an idea. The honest and hardworking artist may exist, but they are partaking in that ideal. Is it so strange to write in a manner which allows us to give those ideas flesh and form in every way we can?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Balancing reality

I used to roleplay. (The forum-based variety, which is the equivalent to communal story-telling. No unpleasant connotations intended.) When I roleplayed I was always worried about Mary-Sues, about being believable and being proper and making 'real' characters. To tell the truth those characters were rather dull. I roleplayed fantasy, and it just did not work.

Then I did NaNoWriMo. I am tired of psychology. I refuse ever to worry about whether my character is a Mary-Sue again. I let my characters be what they need to be, whether that is depressed, naive, or idealistically heroic.

Some time ago, probably reading those essays I found by Ursula Le Guin, I encountered the idea that fantasy is NOT reality. Odd idea, eh? I thought so too.

There was also something about seeing a characters as pieces of each other, using Lord of the Rings as an example. There was an interpretation as Frodo, Sam, and Golum making one complete character. Only one interpretation of course, but it is an interesting one to consider. This is a critical interpretation, but it can be used by writers as well. I remember reading about how George Lucas cast is characters as a group rather then individuals, and we all know how that turned out.

Elves! Elves are a better example. Elves are perfect. If an authors tells me otherwise I will throw their books across the room. But the perfect sorts of Elves are balanced by darker or more mischievous counterparts - trolls, goblins, and the like.

Making characters realistic and believable is important, but in doing so the characters should not be compromised. Some characters just need to be heroes, and sometimes you need a bit of purity and perfection.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Beauty and the mundane

There are many beautiful things in The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (965). The first is the spring at dawn, the second is the summer night:

“In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red wisps of purplish cloud trail over them.

In summer the nights. Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too, as the fireflies flit to and fro, and even when it rains, how beautiful it is!"

Nine hundred and eighty four years later there was no double meaning. In Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (1949), the trees are beautiful but only in themselves:
"I was driving along, you understand? And I was fine. I was een observing the scenery. You can imagine, me looking at the scenery, on the road every week of my life. But it's so beautiful up there, Linda, the trees are so thick, and the sun is warm. I opened the windshield and just let the warm air bathe over me.”

Sei Shonagon speaks of beauty, but she also sees it. Partly it is in translation, everything is ethereal when it comes from a language so different from our own, but there is something else. What she writes captures something. I suppose what Arthur Miller writes also captures something, but it is something deeply relevant and meaningful, not something beautiful.

I have read some incredibly beautiful things on the internet, in loves that seem mundane. These are the particular moments of being, the things that raise above the mundane and become something else. Beauty does exist in the material, mundane world. But when it appears that world ceases to be as such

There is beauty in the mundane. (Mundane adj. In weakened sense: ordinary, commonplace. Hence: prosaic, dull, humdrum; lacking interest or excitement.) But there is nothing mundane about beauty.

In fact, there is nothing mundane about mundane:

mundane egg n. (in Indian and other cosmogonies) a primordial egg from which the world was hatched.

Anima Mundi n. The soul of the world; a power or spirit supposed to be diffused throughout the material universe, organizing and giving form to the whole and to all its parts, and regularizing the motions and alterations of the parts. [I say it's gravity]

I think I understand why this word holds people so.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Common sense and science

I like to read the bill-boards in front of schools, churches, and so one. It was evening and I was on the bus, reading Utopia. I ran into an interesting idea, though I do not remember what it was, and stopped reading to look at the sign on the church, "faith is believing what common-sense tells you not to believe." I laughed.

In philosophy we discussed qualia, those qualitative experiences within ones mind which cannot be applied to or described by science. We also learned about the self. Both the self and the qualia which serve it are unscientific things. They are common-sense things. Taken a little further such believes lead us to dualism. Dualism is the belief that our selves and our personal experiences relate to something else, another portion of existence apart from the material world. Another step and we have religion.

On the other side is the belief that ourselves are simply constant conjunction and that everything we feel will be 'properly' explaind in future science.

For me, therefore, the sign told me to ignore the deep-rooted commonsense belief in self and accept the harsh but realistic views of science. Silly sign.

Prologues in fantasy

Since I have bashed all 'non-genre' areas of writing I feel like I ought to move on to the genres.

We shall start at the beginning...actually, no. We shall start about five hundred years before the beginning in material so very dull it would put a history major (being one, I know) to sleep.

Once the Gods came, five of two and two of four.

The Gods made the world (out of rice) and a prophecy.

The prophecy said that one would rise to save the world
though it had not fallen yet.

The Gods fought a had a war, and the Gods died,
The Gods fought, and fought, and fought,
and it was harsh, and dark, and sort of sad.

Or maybe the Gods did not die and we
just thought they did because of all the dust.

A man arose, and he was very, very bad.
He did many bad things, and some sad.
He owned a cat, a cape, and an army.
The army worshipped him because they had
no brains. It was harsh, and dark, and sad.