Rhetoric of fantasy: portal, immersive, invasive.

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by GiovanniDeFeo, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    I had been on the verge of shelling out for a copy but the first review on Goodreads has dissuaded me (well, that and the price point). Admittedly it does end by saying people should read the book anyway, but it picks sufficient holes that I'd rather get the jist of it second hand until I find the book second hand as well. Apparently all Portal Fantasy is inherently imperialist? Hokay then.

    I'm still not particularly up for engaging my brain at the moment but if the review is true and she admits that most books cross the boundaries, that does seem quite obvious. Take LotR - Frodo is in a land of non-human creatures that treats the visit of a wizard as casually as the visit of any celebrity; we are definitely immersed in it being a fantasy. Then the story of the Ring and the Black Riders is definitely invasive. Only after its visited two other of the supposed categories does LotR become portal (and if she can acknowledge that in Harry Potter, why not in LotR?). And a lot of the early Epic Fantasies copy the model lock, stock and barrel.

    How do you qualify SoIaF? The North is more fantastic than the South, by and large. So what is Sansa's story? She's started in a faintly immersive/invasive world, gone out to a less fantastic world (in which her most fantastic element is stripped from her), and now is coming back.

    Is A Wizard of Earthsea Immersion or Portal?

    Oh and apparently in a Portal-Quest Fantasy the protagonist must accept the world as it is explained? That's why Hermione goes around kicking off about House Elves' rights? Can't say I noticed Rand Al'Thor accepting the world as explained to him. Oh, and considering Wheel of Time is an inherently imperialist piece of work, its strange how it casts the only empire in sight as a bad thing, and shows considerable amounts of culture clash, and has Rand actively avoiding being an emperor. Come to think of it, Wheel of Time dodges the idea that all Dark Lords are intruders (which has a certain amount of truth) as The Dark One is inescapably part of the world. Although many of them are arguably corrupted pieces of the world rather than intruders.

    I dunno. I'm on second-hand info here and sure the whole point of it is to make me think. Which its making me do. But... ultimately the arguments smack of hyperbole. I want to shy away from the world of hyperbole and politicisation.

    Oh. The Invisibles would be be Portal/Quest Fantasy by some possible readings. And The Invisibles is about as imperialist as my left bollock with a picture of Gandhi saying "Free Nelson Mandela" drawn on.

    I've done my thinking. There's a usual definition in terms of "You go to the fantasy", "The fantasy's already there", and "The fantasy comes to you". But lets not overgild the lily. And lets not forget that in most books, there's always the revelation of something new, so the tone of the book will shift anyway. Initiation never ends.

    I would like to see an examination of fantasy from an angle of attitude towards the authorities; whether the big bad is an invader that must be forced back with help of the authorities, the big bad is a tyrant that must be rebelled against and replaced with a new authority, or the big bad is something the authorities can't do anything particularly helpful about.
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  2. GiovanniDeFeo

    GiovanniDeFeo Firsthanded the newest Caine adventure

    Hey there!

    Indeed. But the fantastic poses different questions from realism (most of the time: Emile Zola writes realism like he's writing immersive fantasy; or rather, the other way round) as the reader cannot rely on what Eco calls his Encyclopedia. Here there isn't just 'something' new, but all the laws of reality, even logic, can be altered.

    So, let's clear a misunderstanding. That book was not written to put all fantasy in their cosy little boxes.
    What she does is to examine how the unfamiliar is made (or not made) familiar to the reader. As a writer I find this fascinating because it's something I struggle with almost on everyday basis.

    Example. Terry Brooks. We all know he is a terrible writer (we do, right?). I mean, I have a lot of affection for the poor bastard but compare him with the likes of Donaldson or Zelazny (or basically anyone) and he doesn't stand a chance. Anyway. What is hard to pinpoint is where he is bad. Characterization, sure. Plot, ok. But there is more than that, an overall artificiality that is hard to pinpoint.

    Well, she does just that. In one chapter she explains that some of his exposition just don't have any logic to it.
    1. A stranger in his own land: that's when a character is baffled by the same land he lives in: it uses portal fantasy logic into what should be an immersive fantasy (Shea in the Valley)
    2. The reverie: is when a character just 'thinks about he/she came to be the person he/she is now'. That is indeed a very sloppy way to do exposition, unless there is a solid reason for the character to think about that event...

    So, that's that, and I do think it is interesting, especially for writers.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  3. GiovanniDeFeo

    GiovanniDeFeo Firsthanded the newest Caine adventure


    Ah! I missed that. No no, the Invisibles is without any doubt immersive: Morrison's exposition is all about 'show first, tell later' (and the giddines of NOT understanding what's going on).

    You are interpreting the book based on criticism on Goodread, thinking is about content (the quest= portal); it's not. Though it talks a lot about content and imperialism and 'the one discourse' etc, which yes, it reeks of PhD, the main focus of the book is how exposition is handled.

    Maybe a tad too technical for most readers, but in the end it's about beauty, so not such a trifle after all.
  4. Matticus Primal

    Matticus Primal Journeyed there and back again

    For a while I classified all villains as either agents of order/ authority or agents of chaos. They either existed to maintain the oppressive status quo (Vader, any evil king/ queen from a fairy tale) or disrupt the current status quo (Hannibal, The Joker, the shark from Jaws). But then I decided it was too binary in that I was basically saying "all villains are either living or dead."

    Plus you had some that disrupt one status quo so as to inject their new order/ authority such as Sauron or Voldemort.

    Glad we all agree that The Invisibles is not only awesome, but unclassifiable. Last time I went to a comic con I searched for a blank pin and was quite upset when I couldn't find one.
  5. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    No, I'm not interpreting it based solely on GR reviews (I'm just merely not buying it based on GR reviews). I'm basing it on a number of reviews on a number of different platforms, your own statements and the bits I found on Project Muse.

    If the book's argument is not intended to rest to some extent on the classification of most of fantasy into the four categories she gives, then structuring it into chapters based on the categories seems quite misleading. If the categories are not meant to rest to some extent on the content they feature rather than the rhetorical devices they employ, then again the work has been quite misleading. And this isn't going on reviews, this is staring at the excerpts right in front of me. It seems eminently fair to point out this problem when discussing the book. Either the book and its argument are resting on a classification system that isn't fully up to the rigours of the job, or the author is putting it in the way of their argument where it doesn't belong.

    Either way, all the more reason to let other people mine it for interesting bits and not bother with the book itself.
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  6. GiovanniDeFeo

    GiovanniDeFeo Firsthanded the newest Caine adventure

    Basically: you disliked the book based on reviews/excerpts alone because: it was too much about content and too categorizing.
    I tell you it's not so much about content, but about rhetorics (a kind of 'form') and you say, a-ha! then the book is even less interesting because it is not really about content and categories!

    Right, I think I can see when someone argues in bad faith. Also, call me old fashion but I think that, unless otherwise stated by the author, one should pay for reading something someone has put time and effort to create. Finally, I also think that about criticism we have two ways to go: one, I'm not interested enough to bother to even criticize it. Or two, I read the whole work, and then I criticize it, because I earned my entrance ticket.

    I know I'm being naively retrĂ² and counter snobbish on many accounts, but hey, this is a fantasy Forum after all.
  7. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    *shrugs* if you'd rather insult the person who was actually interested enough to go out and find more about the book than have a conversation, then cool. No skin off of my nose. Thank you for doing nothing to counter my criticisms or to encourage me to buy the book, I'll peace out now.
  8. GiovanniDeFeo

    GiovanniDeFeo Firsthanded the newest Caine adventure

    Sorry if you felt insulted. I just said that you argued in bad faith simply because your argument is self-contradictory (and yes, exposing the self-defying logic of your argument was countering your criticism, but whatever).

    The 'paying for what people worked hard to build' is a quirk of mine, not very popular in this digital age, but then again it's my hard earned opinion.
    Likewise goes for criticizing something you haven't fully read, also a quirk of mine.

    Of course you can think what you want about the book (there are several things I don't like myself) it's just that reading the summary of a book, and snippets of book, and random criticism of a book, is not equivalent to read the whole book. I understand perfectly why based on what you read you decided to pass. I don't understand however why you think you are entitled to discuss something you don't really know.
    I wouldn't, and that's where our conversation ends.

    Peace e buon cammino.

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