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Earwa Related babble... posted 03 Feb 2005, 16:02 by Erthaelion, Candidate

I just read a review from a link from this site and wondered what your take on it was Scott. Morgans review is predominatnly positive, but she knda knocks Earwa for often combining elements from different eras of the worlds history. She mentions the Nansurium combining elements of Rome, Byzantium and Egypt. What is your take on this? Do you think that combining cultural elements from different portions of world history can detract from the world when you have readers with acute academic tastes? I know that I, for one, had a hard time pinning down roughly what era of history you were drawing from exactly until the TWP when I read the first battle scenes. When you wrote PoN the second time, after all your academic osmosis, did you picture 10th-11th Century Europe as a guideline? Or was it much more complex then that? view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 19:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I actually liked Morgan's review quite abit. I thought she was a mite unfair, here and there. I remember scratching my head about the comment you mention, as well as another regarding the languages. The resonances that strike her as derivative are actually part of the point, from my perspective. I literally wanted all these association-sets to echo in Earwa, primarily because I think epic fantasy is a powerful way in which we reconnect with our own past. Others, particularly those with an anti-epic bias, take sheer [i:1py204bc]difference[/i:1py204bc] as their yardstick of aesthetic merit, when it seems obvious to me that the issue is a whole lot more involved. It would mean, for instance, that any work that self-consciously adopts generic conventions in the effort to explore them - which is to say, self-consciously tries to be the [i:1py204bc]same[/i:1py204bc] - starts in an aesthetic hole. This strikes me as obviously wrong. I'm actually glad you bring this up Erthaelion, because I've been thinking about reviews quite abit lately. All in all, I'm flabbergasted by how positive they've been - I really thought it would be a love it or hate work, with a lot more haters than lovers! As it stands, the opposite seems to be the case. The thing that has me scratching my head though is the complaint that the book has no 'likeable characters.' It really has me wondering what people mean by 'likeable.' Are they saying that conflicted, ambiguous characters (like the ones that comprise 100% of humanity) are not 'likeable'? Or is it the [i:1py204bc]way[/i:1py204bc] those characters are conflicted that they're referring to? Maybe the problem is that I've always found myself adoring the demented characters... view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 19:02 by Mithfânion, Didact

Hmm, I've seen the complaint at Westeros a couple of times, What is usually meant is that they can't root for any of the characters. Not for Kellhus, because he's so manipulative and in some people's eyes, so [i:zhwrlg9m]alien[/i:zhwrlg9m]. He is an anti-hero in their opinion, because of his ideals/goals. Not for Cnaiur, because of the things he does. Achamian is usually considered alright, but not strong enough a draw to root for (perhaps because he is not the main character in the way that Kellhus comes across as being). view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 20:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I think the schlep thing is probably a factor, but what strikes me most by what you're saying, Mith, is the way that rooting requires a clear delineation of [i:z4b4sqmp]sides[/i:z4b4sqmp]. It strikes me that most all narratives give the reader a clear - if implicit - side to pick. In my books, there's as many sides as their are characters. Maybe the problem has nothing to do with likeability at all, but rather the indeterminacy that underwrites what all of the characters do, making it very difficult to identify with any given set of interests. Hmmm... Very interesting. view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 21:02 by Mithfânion, Didact

Yes. I think that what they complain about is a combination of these things. There are some who genuinely can't identify with the main characters. Then there's the fact that there's a lot of ambiguity, which leads to uncertainty about what people in the story are upto and whether or not they're worthy of the readers's "support". The story also isn't as straightforward as usual, this may confuse readers doubly so. They might normally simply fall back on rooting for the main hero, which in this case some simply can't do. view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 21:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

I have made that comment myself a number of times Scott. So I will try to explain what it is that I mean by it. Your right that it is about having some one to root for, but that doesn't mean that charecters can't be multidimensional or on different sides. Tyrion Lannister is likeable charecter to most people despite being on the wrong side in ASOIAF. Its hard to pin down what exactly makes a charecter likeable but I think it boils down to creating some sort of emotional/pyschological connection with the reader which forces an emotional envolvement in the story and makes the story feel more real. If charecter seems like someone you could be freinds with, or perhaps reminds you of struggles you yourself have it creates connection. It gives them another dimension. While ever charecter having a side creates an admirable complexity if nothing draws a reader to a particular side then the conflicts factions have less emotional resonance. I will continue to use Martin as an example because he is the only author I enjoy more right now. I think Cnaiur and Sandor are an interesting comparision. They seem like quite similar charecters even down to their description(big burly, dark haired, scarred), they are both Brutal men who reject the values of "Civilization," they are both morally ambigious and deeply conflicted and both show signs of more senstive inner personality that is reacting to a harsh world. However I find myself rooting for sandor, able to get into his head somehow. His intereactions with Sansa, the story of his scarring, his reaction to the fire during the riots in kings landing all give him a vulnerability that seems to reveal a "good" heart underneath the twisted exterior. Many people root for his redemption. At times I found myself wanting to root for Cnauir as well especially compared with the complete alieness of Kellhuss, but then he beat Serwe or consider raping somebody. He is to maliciously cruel and alien to truly understand for me. Now what a person finds likeable depends on who they are and what charecteristics the admire in them selves. I try to be as compassioante and kind a person as I can, I am vain of my intelligence and physical charecteristics, and am very strong willed. Robb stark was one of the most likable charecters for me because I felt a connection with him he reminded me of myself and my older brother as well. This made his death very powerfull for me. With all that said I think your charecters are something at least as important as likable, their fascinating. I can think of many more likable charecters who where much less complusively readable because they were not nearly as interesting. Kelhuss, and Cnaiur are among the most engrossing charecters I have read because they are both incredibley alien and at the same time multidimensional. view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 22:02 by lfex, Peralogue

[quote:3k3sup2z]I will continue to use Martin as an example because he is the only author I enjoy more right now[/quote:3k3sup2z] And yet, many people have the same complaint about Martin. I have heard it voiced many times on different boards that Martin has no likeable characters. It is obviously relative, but it seems obvious that for some people likeable means clear-cut good, period. I tend to disagree, but who am I to say they are wrong? view post

posted 03 Feb 2005, 22:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

Personally I like all the characters, even the inherently unlikable Consult characters. I don't pull for them by any means but I still like them AS characters. As for the more main characters...I love them. I love the fact that they are human, or in the case of remarkably different yet still human. I like the fact that they have flaws, shortcomings, and are ambigous in some regards. There is something about this series that just seems smarter to me. That and it seems darker, more real than other fantasy series. Scott I'd love for you to come to my university and do a reading for one of the weekly readings that happens here lol. The look that would be on the faces of all those english lit. majors.... view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 00:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

[quote:24n11xhq]When you wrote PoN the second time, after all your academic osmosis, did you picture 10th-11th Century Europe as a guideline? Or was it much more complex then that?[/quote:24n11xhq] Just realized I completely missed the second leg of your question, Erthaelion. It was actually a strange hybrid that grew of it's own volition. For me anyway, it has more the feel of the 4th century Mediterranean, with the historical depth of the 12th century. More generally, I've been thinking about Martin with regards to this question as well. The difference between his characters and mine, I think, is that he [i:24n11xhq]tries[/i:24n11xhq] to make his characters - even the brutes like Sandor - likeable. Mine all end up being these crazy inversions, where I give the [i:24n11xhq]form[/i:24n11xhq] of a favourite fantastic archetype - like Cnaiur - and I fill it with very flawed and distorted contents. I want my characters to be out and out [i:24n11xhq]troubling[/i:24n11xhq], whereas - and I in no mean this as a criticism - Martin wants his characters to be 'gritty.' I think it's just a function of our differing goals. Mine are either far deeper or far more pretentious! But Martin does have a clear moral centre with the Starks, and I think this has an overall impact on the way people identify with his characters. The only difference between his work and the rest of the mainstream in this respect is that he's actually willing to use this identification to wring his readers' hearts. It's a much different kind of 'reading buzz' he's aiming for with his works than I'm aiming for in mine - and I think much more accessible. I don't so much want to strain my readers' moral muscles as to interrogate them. Does that sound like a good/fair characterization? Too flattering, maybe? It's always a temptation to try to reason away what might just be a flaw in your work... view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 06:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

I wouldn't really call it flaw in your work but I wouldn't say one work is deeper or less deep the then other. Personally, martin is more of emotional experience and this makes it feel more real, while PON is profoundly cerebral it fascinates my mind. What you are doing with your charecter is very bold and fascinating and clearly rooted in philsophical issues I wish I understood. I would say that I might enjoy the novel better if their were more likeable charecters people to connect with. While I appreciate moral ambiguity I beleive that most people are actually good at heart, and if given the right upbringing(and sometimes without it) will try to live by the golden rule. I think that that element of compassion and empathy is an inate charectertistic of most people and one celebrated by most cultures to some degree. For me personally the relative lack of this element among the main players in PON makes it less accesible. As I said before In some way they feel less real. That is just my personal perception and I would not encourage you to change your style because it might be more accesible to me and other people. You have to right what feels true to you. view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 09:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

What about Achamian and Esmenet? More generally, I wish I could share your optimism regarding human nature, Faelcind. I'm not saying the goodness you refer to doesn't exist, only that it's a luxury of relative stability and material well-being. The more trying the circumstances become, the more rare it becomes - as things like the original First Crusade demonstrate. There's a growing body of evidence to the effect that we humans, males in particular, have evolved to be violent. Studies of preliterate societies have shown death-by-violence rates for males running between 15-65%. view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 10:02 by lfex, Peralogue

I agree with cerebral vs emotional distinction. Most of your characters read as very cold and intellectual - typical rather of Hard SF novel of, say, Greg Egan, than of fantasy. I don't mind it , especially that I like both Achamian and Esmenet and I keep rooting for them - but for some fantasy readers Achamian and Esmenet are simply too unheroic. Those characters also add welcome whiff of the shadier aspects of life which are conspicuously absent in abovementioned kind of books. I also share your pessimism about human nature (in fact it is considered default opinion in our culture), so I have no problem with it. view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 13:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I just want to say that discussing this has helped gain some important perspective - on my craft and on my characters. When I was workshopping the book before publication, the 'too cerebral' complaint came up several times regarding the characters. They are all, with the exception of Serwe, highly intelligent, self-conscious individuals. Could this be a factor? We actually have a pretty deep cultural bias against reflective intelligence in our society. Think of how many movies you've seen were the jock-hero with 'common-sense smarts' confronts the hyper-analytical bad guy. Hell, even [i:1vmdjlp5]The Lion-King[/i:1vmdjlp5] fits this model. Add to this a cerebral [i:1vmdjlp5]treatment[/i:1vmdjlp5] of cerebral characters, against a backdrop of indeterminacy that makes 'picking sides' impossible - it's amazing anybody can even stand the book! :wink: view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 15:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

Except for us reflective cerebral types! :D view post

posted 04 Feb 2005, 16:02 by Mithfânion, Didact

[i:757k52av]. I want my characters to be out and out troubling, whereas - and I in no mean this as a criticism - Martin wants his characters to be 'gritty.'[/i:757k52av] This seems right to me. It's the fact that they are so troubling that makes them so intriguing to me. For what it's worth, Kellhus is one of the best characters I've ever read about, he's fascinating and I really do root for him. [i:757k52av]More generally, I've been thinking about Martin with regards to this question as well. The difference between his characters and mine, I think, is that he tries to make his characters - even the brutes like Sandor - likeable[/i:757k52av] There are some exceptions to this (think Gregor, Amory Lorch, Ramsay, Roose, The Goat and some others) but mostly it's true. He wants to have a story behind the bad guy, show a different perspective, making things ambiguous. Sandor is an example, so is Jaime. First we see him murdering a child and see him overall portrayed as a vicious villain and enemy of the Starks, and then suddenly we get his POV. Personally he's nowhere near redemption for me, but some fans have done a complete turnaround where Jaime is concerned. view post

posted 05 Feb 2005, 09:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

I hate to come on your board and criticize you Scott I honestly think your work is likely to end up among the five or so greatest fantasy series of all time. Still I am really glad you find it constructive criticism. I know that’s something I always want with my writing. Anyways my two cents for what it's worth is that I don't find Acha very likable because he seems morally week, he generally has the right desires, but does not follow with the right actions, he has good reasons for his inability to commit to right action but his self pitying personality makes him hard for me to identify with. He seems indecisive and week, I also found his obsession with his students to be slightly disturbing. Esmenet is the most likeable character in the story for me. Yes she makes mistakes but in general seems to deal with them in way I can identify with. As for human nature I am actually an anthropology student formerly cultural now biological so this is right up my alley. I think you have it inverted. I think the our basic human nature is that of kindness and compassion its what we all want and what cultures with the least stress tend to act like (the Mbuti pygmy are great example of this I love Colin Turnbulls ethnography of them “the Forest people”). While I agree with you in that I think Violence is very much a part of our heritage and especially for men I think we still retain much of our better nature even when we turn to violence Even in the most violent of times people still retain a degree of their innate compassion. History is full not just of brutal episodes but also people who responded to those brutal episodes with compassion, look at all the stories of Europeans putting their necks on the line to protect jewish freinds or even strangers during the nazi period. It's funny that you mention the statistic on pre literate societies. I have used that in arguments myself but I think it is slightly misleading because of the information we have. Basically by the time we encounter most pre-literate societies well enough to have good information on them they are usually stressed by competition with more developed societies. Still I have read many ethnographies in my studies, and for the most part I have been struck by the commonality of human nature across cultures. Even in the most violent societies I have read about I always saw glimpses of that common compassion except perhaps among the Ik who Colin Turnbull wrote about in mountain people which is stunning book to read BTW. We have a natural capacity perhaps even a desire for violence as well (what are sports really), but I don't think that the expression of violence prevents people from wanting to express compassion and kindness, and to desire these expressions towards themselves. History shows that in times of stress, among soldiers for instance as well as developing the capacity for extreme violence people would also reach out for connection and develop powerful bonds. I think Tolkien for instance was very much inspired by the friendships he formed and saw in the trenches of world war I in his writing, take the friendship between Frodo and Sam for instance. Furthermore I think that giving into that extreme capacity for violence carries heavy psychological burdens. I have noticed for instance that in the warrior societies I have studied the belief in ghosts is very prominent and many rituals are enacted to escape their influence and cleanse warriors of the deaths they have caused. In my own writing this is something I am very interested in exploring, how good men(and women) can not only be violent but enjoy it and the affects it has on them. I think the Unforgiven was great movie exploring this issue. William money was an amazing character showing the ability of people to carry that dichotomy and the affects it had on his pysche. That is the element that doesn't quite feel real to me. That the characters seem to lack some of that common human kindness I perceive, and don't totally seem to carry the costs of their actions. It’s an unfair criticism in some ways because I think all the human elements I mentioned above are there to some degree. Acha clearly wants to be kind and needs connection, Esmenet, Xin, and even Proyas too. Cnaiur is clearly unhinged, though how much of that is the effect of life of violence is hard to tell. I suppose that part of that perception on my part is because the story revolves so much around Kellhus and Cnaiur. Its funny because I think Kellhus is one of the best-written and most terrifying characters in fantasy and yet in some ways he makes it hard for me to buy into the world of Earwa. I was amazed when I found myself liking Kellhus when seen from someone else’s perspective in TWP, and thought that showed incredible skill in writing. On the other hand though I find Kellhus’s complete inhumanity hard to believe, for me it seems like you have to accept the blank slate model of human nature to accept his complete conditioning, which is not consistent with my studies of human biology or my own beleifs. view post

posted 05 Feb 2005, 12:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

The [i:1epd81x7]last[/i:1epd81x7] thing I would want on this board is groupthink, Faelcind! I enjoy this stuff, since it forces me to think about things that have been implicit for some time. You're initial complaint was that the characters were unrealistic to the extent that none displayed any compassion, and you think compassion is more fundamental to human nature. When I asked about Akka and Esmi, you told me why you found it difficult to like them - you answered a different question. As for their flaws, the rule of thumb I followed is: "What does not kill makes one [i:1epd81x7]stranger[/i:1epd81x7]." We humans tend to develop pathological responses to sustained stress - even when suffered at far lower levels than that suffered by Akka and Esmi. Despite all these, they remain deeply compassionate characters. The thematic focus of the book, which is the war between instrumental and religious reason (a war I take no sides on, btw) does lead me to focus on the 'users and abusers' more than most novels, and as you yourself mention, I think that might have coloured your overall impression of the characterization. The type of group solidarity you mention, and the ways that instrumental thinking short-circuit it, is actually an important part of the story. Especially with regard to Cnaiur. Otherwise, I'm definitely no believer in the blank slate. Kellhus, remember, is the product of a two thousand year breeding project. view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 01:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

Glad to help Scott I love this sort of discussion to. Anyways I don't think I said your charecters completely lacked compassion just that I felt it was an element that was under devoloped in your world. I enjoyed TWP signifantly more then TDCB partly because Acha, Esmenet, Xin etc gave it a more human feel, and I liked the possible cracks I saw in Kellhus's inhumanity too though I suspect those you will use those in different direction most of us will expect. I think the way the book focuses on the holy war without allowing us to root for oneside is brillant As for Kellhus as a student of evolutionary biology two thousand years doesn't seem that long to me, but I have give you a pass there, a reader has to excercise some suspension of disbeleif, and Kellhus is way to interesting to let something like that bother me. If I let me self be too critical I would be to irratated by Martin's Eight foot tall agile warriors, Hobb's beleif in the positive ecological effects of completely invincible rapacious predators, and numerous other issues to read fantasy at all. view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 03:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

2000 years might not be much on the evolutionary time scale I agree, but 2000 years of a sustained eugenics experiment in order to breed for physical and mental rigor within a sustained population. I think the results would be pretty impressive. :) view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 06:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

Selection can only work on the variation that exists with in population, you won't for instance be able to breed dogs with bones made of gold because there is no variation in that direction there to begin with. I think you could breed some incredible intelligent and atheletic human beings its the lack of emotionality that I find unlikely. I beleive their pretty deeply rooted in the chemisty of the brain, but then Kellhus shows signs that his lack of emotionality is a cultural learned fascade. I am very curious to see how you that line plays out in the story. view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 06:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

I got to add I love this forum, that we can have these kinds of discussions and these books because they inspire conversations like this. view post

weird... posted 06 Feb 2005, 09:02 by ilana richardson, Candidate

strangely enough i had no trouble choosing my heroes in the Prince of Nothing series. The Consult rock!@ Wipe out humanity and start over, and this time build it like '1984'. No independence = no violence = no competition = peace. view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 14:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

[quote:2th1j5j1]I think you could breed some incredible intelligent and atheletic human beings its the lack of emotionality that I find unlikely. I beleive their pretty deeply rooted in the chemisty of the brain, but then Kellhus shows signs that his lack of emotionality is a cultural learned fascade. I am very curious to see how you that line plays out in the story. [/quote:2th1j5j1] The bottom line is that no one knows. Think of how fast the modern human brain evolved without artificial selection. All it would take is one fortuitous mutation. Since so many 'emotion-circuits' seem to be routed through the amygdala, it really could be the case that suppression of emotions through breeding (think of the temperment differences between dogs) is far more plausible than their physical abilities. All you would need is one sociopath, for instance, and you could eradicate things like guilt and shame from the entire population. But you're right, is it is [i:2th1j5j1]fantasy[/i:2th1j5j1]! Gives an author a pretty big fig-leaf to hide behind, I'd say :wink: view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 21:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

I was actually thinking about dogs as I read that posts wolves and canids in genereal are specially interest to me and I think its amazing how much less variable there personalities are compared to their physiques looking at their skeleton you would think you had several species but while you have different personality profiles for different breeds their all variations on the same template. I considered the sociopath argument to but its not that they don't have emotions its that the can't project them or empathize. I think breeding sociopaths would be enormously difficult because they would be impossible to unite to one purpose, and damn likely to kill each other. But yes it is a Fantasy novell, and I don't think you abusing that fig leaf and all I am just a very critical person :P view post

posted 06 Feb 2005, 22:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

I agree Fael (My major is Molecular Biology so I love this stuff too), being trained from birth to suppress emotion would also play a large role. You wouldn't even necessarily have to have much of a genetic effect for that. The physique and intellect would definitly happen, you can probably start seeing some effects of that within a few generations if you were meticulous enough, plus upbringing negates non-genetic causes. And yea the leaf is good Scott :) view post

posted 07 Feb 2005, 13:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Anyone feel a breeze? :wink: view post

posted 07 Feb 2005, 23:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

No there is absolutely no breeze Scott, no one wants to see what's under the fig leaf, back away from the fan!, and for gods sakes puts some clothes on man :P . view post

posted 07 Feb 2005, 23:02 by Faelcind Il Danach, Peralogue

Entropic Existence(great name BTW) I think you would have to have a pretty exceptional genetic make up to train someone to be as emotionless as Kellhus but I agree that especially with systematic training system devolped for 2000 years you could defineatly devolop some pretty twisted humans. view post

posted 08 Feb 2005, 02:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

Yea, probably. Although I am frequently amazed both at how fragile, malleable, and resilient the human psyche can be in various situations. Plus being raised from birth in that sort of environment makes you wonder what would be possible. And thanks for the compliments on the name, I think it speaks both to my scientific geekdom and my outlook on society heh. BTW everyone should go see Hotel Rwanda for a fabulous view of humans at their worst. view post

posted 08 Feb 2005, 12:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

The bottomline, though, is that we really don't know how much it would take to suppress emotions. Sociopaths, for instance, don't seem to experience the 'social emotions' the way normal people do. If this does have something to do with an underdeveloped amygdala, and other emotions share similar neurological convergence zones that act as choke points, then it could simply be the result of a single happy mutation. And don't forget the ancient art of neuropuncture... :lol: view post

posted 08 Feb 2005, 17:02 by Entropic_existence, Moderator

or frontal lobatomies :) view post

yes posted 12 Feb 2005, 09:02 by ilana richardson, Candidate

have ice pick.... will travel view post


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