Author Topic: Value of Fiction  (Read 2016 times)

Aen Elderberry

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Value of Fiction
« on: August 31, 2007, 06:17:10 PM »
http://brandonsanderson.com/blog.php?date=1188025200

I was one of the people told by the Israel-book-guy at Brandon's BYU Bookstore signing that  "Mine is the only book worth reading at this table."  I saw him using that line on another person -- as if tearing down others would convince people to buy his book.

I was surprised at his nerve.  Then I felt a little angry at his hubris.  I asked him how he knew.  Had he read any of the books?  "No, but I know about those kinds of books.  They are just Fluff.  A waste of time."

I wish I'd included Brandon's point in my response to him but I did come up with three points all by myself.

First we need recreation.  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."  Even if the stories are only entertainment we  need entertainment.  We need to relax.  Unstring the bow lest it lose its spring.

Second, we learn from stories.  And some things are learned best from a story.  "Did you ever tell your children stories?  The three pigs?  The three bears?"  I don't think this was at all convincing to him.  I realize it just reinforces the stereotype that stories are for little children.  Adults are supposed to be interested in reality, right? 

(Two days later I'm listening to G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy -  ". . . ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. . . . I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms . . . There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast"; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable."  Chapter 4, The Ethics of Elfland, http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/orthodoxy/ch4.html)

Third I believe that the fight between right and wrong goes on at many levels.  We need imaginative literature that appeals to various audiences that inspires the reader to do good, to be heroic.

If I'd felt like he was listening to me at all I'd have given him more detail.  And here I'm getting even more religious.  A good story includes part of the hero myth.  I think the hero myth is part of us and it's healthy for our minds and spirits to "indulge" in the universal story.  Whether contemplating the sacrifices of Frodo, or Aslan, or Kelsier, or Vin, or Harry, or Christ we are really contemplating the example we need to follow.

I did try to affirm the value of what he had written and tried to understand his arguments.  "Yes, the house of Israel is an important topic.  It's mentioned a number of times in the scriptures."   "Yes, our society does spend too much time on Fluff, junk food, american idol entertainment and we, myself included, could be more enthusiastic about learning."  But I don't think he really heard anything else I said.

Later I looked at his book.  I'm no longer sure it is of much interest to me.  I haven't read it so don't rely on my impressions.  But it does smell like an effort to prove the superiority of many early LDS church members and their descendants based on uncertain evidence that they are descendants of the Kimmerians, or Cimmerians.  He repeats an old, very questionable claim that the Kimmerians are the the lost tribes of Israel.  Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Israelism and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimmerians to get a feel for the issue.  You're probably thinking the same thing I thought.  "Who'd have thunk?  Conan was an Israelite.  I'll have to write a book - Conan the Levite."  You skaa, and you mudbloods as well, had better read this book to learn of the superiority of the blood descendants of the Kimmerians.

I whole heartedly agree with Brandon.  What he is doing is "MORE important than a deep and scholarly book about something boring."   I believe that the greatest of all virtues is charity, which is based on kindness and understanding, so it is MORE important than even an exciting scholarly book. 

The Israel-book-guy could learn something from reading Mistborn or Harry Potter.
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Albus Dumbledore

"It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated." - Albus Dumbledore

Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2007, 08:22:40 PM »
Ugh, my ward mission leader of two years ago totally bought into that stuff. He was talking about how there's a cross on the British flag because "Saxon" comes from "Isaac's Sons" and Isaac crossed his hands while blessing his sons. I was like, duh, that was Jacob who did that while blessing the sons of Joseph. Isaac wasn't involved, and folk etymology like the "Saxon" thing is ridiculous. He was also going on about how the royal family of Ireland was founded by one of the daughters of Zedekiah when she was brought there by Jeremiah, who also took her sister to Iberia on the same trip. PROVING WHY "IBERIA" AND "EIRE" SOUND SO SIMILAR TO "HEBREW"!!! He was totally serious, and was explaining this to the mayor of a major Orange County city while we were at a community park fair thing. I hope that mayor did not base his opinion of Mormons solely on that one conversation...
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MatthewM

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2007, 10:59:15 PM »
Why is it, that, although every defense EUOL and AEN gave of fiction is oh-so valid, I still find it difficult not to hide my latest fantasy novel under my arm as I walk around?  Why, when I sit down to read it on campus, do I push the book against my lap and maintain it flat the entire time so that no one walking by can see the cover?  I am ashamed of my shame yet still find myself afraid to boldly walk with Robert Jordan or the like out in easy visibility?  How can I overcome this?  What have you guys done to flaunt instead of flee?  I don't even have the excuse that I am trying to meet girls; my fiance loves SF and we are currently reading Elantris out loud together.  I shouldn't care that people mark me as a nerd.  I should be proud to have such excellent taste.  The weird thing is that on some level, I am.  But not proud enough to stop caring what people think when they see me with a  fantasy novel or hear me talking about Magic the Gathering or WoW.  What can I do?  Wear sunglasses more often??

MPlease

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2007, 11:14:51 PM »
Perhaps it's my apathy for the rest of society and what they think of me, but I've never considered it flaunting or remotely bold to let other people see that I'm carrying a fantasy book around. Rather, I read what I like and dangit, it's more convenient to read holding the book up rather than getting a crick in my neck. If people judge me to be a geek for reading fantasy, so what? I *like* fantasy and scifi. I don't know these other people, and'll probably never see them again. But then you'll get the people who are curious, who approach and ask what you're reading and if it's good. Maybe they'll still think you're a geek, but maybe they'll go out and buy whatever you're reading and like it too. And since you've already got a fiance, if anyone actually teases you about reading fantasy you can pull the "well *I've* got a fiance, do you even have a girlfriend?" card.  ;)
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Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2007, 12:21:01 AM »
Matthew, maybe if you just do nothing to hide your fandom, you'll discover that there are more like-minded people around you than you thought there were. That's been my experience in the last three years.
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polaris

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2007, 07:42:12 PM »
Not being there to acctualy hear the argument, i can't add much more that could've been said. Well a few jabs about the bitterness of authors who think their books are superior when no one wants to read them come to mind, but i'll be nice.

I read fantasy novels to escape reality. I can enter a fantasy world and watch a story unfold. To me, that's far more fun, insiprational, and creatively stimulating than a book about the real world. If i want to read about reality, i'll pick up a newspaper.

As for fluff, I wouldn't catagorize Mistborn as fluff. Trashy romance novels are fluff. There's lots of lovey- dovey happy scenes punctuated by melodramatic fights/mysteries/ whatever. When you read fluff, you know you're rotting your brain. if you don't feel like you're rotting your brain, it's not fluff.

And anyone who claims fantasy novels are children's stories has never read Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.
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Nathan R

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2007, 04:00:40 AM »

I've never understood the literary elite.  Sure,  I had to read the "classics" while in High School. We tackled Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockinbird" and then moved on to Poe in my Freshman year, then we had the Shakespearian tragedies the next year. My Junior year brought around Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" and more Poe, and my Senior year gave us Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and HG Welles.

It was having to read all those that gave me my love of books. I'm in my junior year of college and I've tackled such things as Chaucer in his original middle-English, Dante, and more Shakespeare than I ever wanted to see in my life. I'm no stranger to "elite literature" as some call it.

But what do I love? Look over my shoulder at the bookcase behind me:

Stephen King
Dean Koontz
David Baldacci
Christopher Priest
China Mieville

And the fantasy?

John Ronald Reul Tolkien
Robert Jordan
George R. R. Martin
Terry Goodkind
Scott Lynch
R. Scott Bakker
Patrick Rothfuss

And the most recent edition, Mr. Sanderson.

Sure, speculative fiction, the larger genre in which fantasy is contained, is looked down upon by the literary elite. Does anyone remember the uproar in 2003 when Stephen King was awarded the Book Awards lifetime achievement award? Why was that? He's a beloved author with a 30 year career. Even if someone hasn't read any of his books they know who he is. They've probably seen the movie adaptations of his works. He entertains us.

I read fantasy books because they're my favorite genre. Reading about the adventures of these characters in their lands, the struggles the face, the things they experience, and the growth they undertake as a result...it lets me experience things I can't in my life.

Take Elantris for example: the city of the fallen gods intrigues me. I'm still early in the book but I'm enjoying spending my time with Raoden and watching him adapt to his new environment and trying to better himself and the others.

As for what Matthew was saying; I accepted myself as a nerd a long time ago. I never had time to read in High School but in my three years of college I've always carried with me whatever book I'm reading at the time. I've lugged 900 page fantasy books around with my and sat around my campus' library or cafe, just reading it. If anyone did sneer or give me a funny stare I didn't notice. Why? Because I was too enthralled with what was happening in my story to care!

The Jade Knight

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2007, 08:26:48 AM »
I'd like to second what Ookla said.  Fantasy is going mainstream for college kids.  I'm teaching English at UNR this year, and when I asked what my students like to read, over 75% said Fantasy or Sci-Fi.
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WriterDan

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2007, 06:40:53 PM »
To Matt:  I'd say stop worrying about the thoughts of people that you don't know and will probably never know.  As for me, I regularly walk around while reading my 900-page fantasy doorstoppers.  I've had a few people comment on this strange behavior, and I think that overall it's something that more people will think is odd than just reading those "geeky" books.  Course, I came to a sense of my geekdom quite some time ago.  Just be yourself, and forget the masses.  The people love Fantasy and Sci-fi.  It rules.  :)
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Soryn

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Re: Value of Fiction
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2007, 10:33:19 PM »
I agree with what has been already said. Don't be ashamed of reading fantasy! I regularly lug around my enormous sci/fi and fantasy books with me on my school campus, and I've actually have had several people ask about the books I'm reading who are interested in them. I've already recruited a few to the Sanderson regime. Huzzah! ;)