Ven ven at vvcrane.junglelink.co.uk
Mon Aug 28 18:37:59 EDT 2000

> ate: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 04:18:38 +0100 (BST)
> From: Tanaqui <tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie>
> Subject: Re: Godshatter
> Ven:
> + > + However as soon as I decided I was using a planet as my setting 
> + > +everything changed and it became undeniably science fiction.
> I still can't split stuff into SF and fantasy, so it's not fair to question
> the "planet-setting means it's SF" decision you made (though the high-tech e.g.
> satellite surveys and supporting literature provide further support).
> You say high fantasy doesn't happen on planets. Can it happen on Flat Earths
> (thinking Narnia here), or other planes we haven't yet seen through a 
> telescope? Does it not happen on a feasible infrastructure?
I think Flat Earths and other planes are fine for High Fantasy. John 
Clute uses the word "polder" for the kind of fantasy setting that is 
an enclave existing with another kind of reality. The word is actually 
the  Dutch term for reclaimed land protected by dykes from the 
sea. Clute is using it for places like Tom Bombadil's realm in 
LOTR, or edifices like the House Absolute in Wolfe's Book of the 
New Sun or even a place which coexists and intertwines with 
another reality like Toontown in Roger Rabbit. Polders are very 
useful settings for all kinds of fantasy. The Discworld is a 
particularly fine example.  The infrastructure  has to be feasible on 
its own terms, just not on ours. 

Actually I think High Fantasy can be set on planets so long as the 
inhabitants don't apprehend the full significance of this and don't 
have complete maps. (Of course this goes for any number of works 
of SF too, especially the ones like Marian Zimmer Bradley's and 
Anne MacCaffery's, written before there was supposed to be a 
market for fantasy. Then there is their complement, the ones where 
people think they're on a world and its actually a spaceship). 

I'm following Robin Hobb's work with interest at the moment. The 
Assassin series seemed definitely to be  fantasy and the setting to 
be fantasyland (albeit a nicely defined bit). However in the 
subsequent Ships of Magic series (set in a more advanced bit of 
the world) its becoming more clear that what they think of as magic 
is some sort of very high technology that they are, in fact, grossly 
misunderstanding and misusing.

> + > + Fantasies may be set on planets, obviously, its something to do 
> + > + with what the people in the world know of that world. Once there's 
> + > + the idea of spinning through space around a sun the world is finite 
> + > + and knowable. 
> I'm not sure this is true, although it's so general it would be hard to
> disprove. Is a Ringworld finite and knowable, even to someone with a 
> Protector's lifespan? Or does the background have to be a vague realm studded
> with nunneries for the sacking, the looming fortress of the Dark Lord, and
> sanctified glens to be High Fantasy? More the sort of alternate world that
> those attempting time-travel find as their past in Niven's fantasy stories?
> Or the Fantasyland so thoroughly delineated by DWJ?

I think I was writing rather carelessly here. Actually I doubt if 
anything is entirely finite and knowable, in fact as I understand the 
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, to say nothing of Goedel's 
theorem, nothing ever is!  I think I mean rather that there exists, or 
exists in potential a body of works that explain the world in 
rational/scientific terms and which are more or less accepted as 
part of consensus reality, at least on the macro level. So in our 
world  although people argue about evolution and struggle with 
theoretical physics we pretty much agree about the shape of the 
thing and how it moves and what its made of.

In High  Fantasy knowledge of the world depends far more on 
legends and stories than verifiable facts, and most people seem 
content not to understand. Even where the people with the 
knowledge are not actively concealing it they tend to make it hard 
to come by, its something to be won, not given. 
> + I have a couple of books of criticism by Ursula Leguin, I'll have to 
> + see what she has to say.
> And, just as interestingly, what she retracts or changes. I think that going
> back to change the pronouns in one of your articles because of a feminist
> change of heart is a bit bizarre. Without time-travel, you're never going to
> be able to make the change fully effective: add a note, and leave it. Thus 
> _Tehanu_, a fine novel and an interesting coda to _Earthsea_, rather than
> New Improved versions of the trilogy without wizardly misogyny.

This comes round to the Heinlein discussion, as I remember he 
had Lazarus Long et al time travelling around rescuing all the 
characters in previous books who had died.
> She seems to join TS Eliot in thinking that people should be protected from
> a critic's early and flawed apprehensions rather than rolling with paradigm
> shifts or complete reversals like Wittgenstein's.
 I hadn't thought of it like that but so long as she tells ius when 
she's doen it and doesn't demand we burn the earlier works I'll put 
up with it.
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