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Roleplaying versus Fiction, and Incestual Myths

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  • Roleplaying versus Fiction, and Incestual Myths

    I've just finished The Eternal Champion omnibus, which is back in print at long last, which means I'm almost finished with the original UK series of 14 (still need to read Count Brass, and Sailing to Utopia is out of print and damn near impossible to find).

    When I was reading the 2nd Corum trilogy, I enjoyed it a great deal (well, OK, I hated the ending, but I can see why you wrote it that way), but I did notice that my enjoyment was lessened slightly by overfamiliarity with roleplaying games.

    These books were written in the mid-70s, before Dungeons and Dragons, and before Legend of Zelda. But I'm only getting to them now. And I can't help but view the plots of the books (as well as, to a lesser extend, The Dragon in the Sword) as "Go on quest, find item, item leads you to other item. As you gather items you fight greater and greater enemies till you get the one big item that allows you to defeat the 'boss' enemy."

    This is, of course, the difficulty with reading older works after a cliche has become common. You can't really wrap your head around the fact that at the time, this wasn't as predictable as it seems. I wonder if 20 years from now, people will be playing their computer games that have the players use Chaos Theory and Post-Modernism to defeat the enemy, and regard works like The War Against the Angels as a cliched roleplaying plot?

    Secondly, I noticed while reading Dragon in the Sword another Brother/Sister who are destined to be lovers subplot. This does seem to feature a great deal in your work. Jerry and Catherine are the most obvious examples, but Elric, the End of Time books, etc. all have aspects of it.

    I admit I am not as familair with ancient myths and legends as I should be. How prevalent is incest in our ancient tales? And is it always as 'squicky' a taboo as it is today?

    Lastly, I finished Firing the Cathedral, and was greatly relieved to see Jerry back in 'The English Assassin' mode. I enjoy all the Jerry stories, but I admit that I prefer him as an active, involved character. Seeing him in the 80s and 90s as a rather sick, passive, and desperate person was simply not as fun to read. I didn't really want to root for him (as much as one can root for someone as ambiguous as Jerry).

    Yet Firing the Cathedral almost seemed a Phoenix Rising type of thing, showing Jerry returning to prominence, and also managing to exist with Catherine without them seeming like balanced scales (one must always be weak when the other is strong, etc.). I found that inspiring.

    Sorry to ramble on. I should be reading Count Brass next, which remains in print.

  • #2
    Didn't know Sailing to Utopia was out of print but I suspect you could easily get a second hand copy via the net. It's not one of the best in the series,
    certainly not one of the most popular, so that could be the reason, though VG have been pretty good about keeping the books in print. Now that my relations with Orion are likely to improve, with the departure of Cheetham from the help, I suspect I'll be able to get clearer information about the state of the books and will try to keep readers up to date. If you have any trouble tracking it down, let us know. We are, as I think I said somewhere else, thinking of putting up a sort of online shop where we will sell O/P titles for reasonable prices. I'm pretty sure Sailing will be available.
    No stock taking's been done at this end, yet, though.
    Yes, it's strange, as I've remarked, how you feel 'swamped' by the success of a formula you helped create. It's probably why The White Wolf's Son, the last Elric book in the current sequence, will be the last fantasy of that kind I do. But it's fun to think that War Amongst the Angels could become a formula of its own! I was baffled by people referring to Gloriana aas an 'alternate world' story. That wasn't the idea behind it, though of course I can see why someone would call it that. Similarly, alternate world stories with giant airships in them have become pretty familiar since I wrote The Warlord of the Air. In my experience, however, there's always some sort of freshness about the early examples of a form before it becomes set as a genre -- I like very early detective stories before the 'rules' were established and I like Westerns which came out before the likes of Zane Grey started turning them into formulaic tales. Similarly I like early Gothics.
    Tolkien has lent itself to imitation in a way that Peake has not, of course,
    and people are still hard put to find things to compare Peake with -- they tend to fall back on the comparisons originally made, like Thomas Love Peacock and Dickens. Even writers who like me admire Peake considerably, such as China Mieville or M.John Harrison, have not tried to imitate his forms because essentially the secret of Peake is in his language and visual invention.
    Mythology tends to have quite a few 'mistaken identity' themes, which in turn tends to have siblings making sometimes unfortunate unions, depending on the nature of the morality practised by that particular culture at that particular time, though generally brothers and sisters marrying isn't thought to be all that good an idea (genetic reasons, of course).
    My main influences for the fantasy stories were I suppose primarily myths and legends and the Peninsula romances -- Amadis of Gaul and so on -- which I read via the likes of Southey. These are all quest stories and the form had played out by the time Marlowe started doing something a bit different towards the end of the 16th century. Mallory, of course, capitalised on the form's popularity by giving Caxton Le Morte D'Arthur, which has proven such a gold mine for so many in the last couple of decades. One part of a formula which seems to have overrun me, too, is the 'revenge' theme, which was reinvented by spaghetti westerns and became almost de rigeur for fantasy films from the Conan movies onward.
    So it goes...

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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