Re Brust, censorship and Millie

Ven ven at vvcrane.junglelink.co.uk
Tue Jun 20 21:36:43 EDT 2000


Hi everyone,
                 Things come in on this list so thick and fast i'm finding 
it hard to keep up, I feel like a dog with three tails.

As promised to Chris in particular I'll start off by talking about 
Steven Brust. He's a Hungarian American who makes a lot of use 
of the Hungarian language and folklore. There's a series of books 
about a guy called Vlad Taltos. To start with he's definitely an 
antihero, assassin, brothel keeper, owner of gambling dens as well 
as sorcerer, witch (very distinct in these books) excellent cook and 
devoted grandson. The earlier books deal with his rise to power in 
the criminal clan, the Jhereg while also containing a lot of 
backstory about his childhood --  which does a lot to explain why 
he is the way he is. In spite of everything Vlad is an attractive 
character, as are some of his friends tho they are even worse than 
he is. Vlad is one of a racial minority of humans of apparent 
hungarian origin living in a parallel world dominated by the 
Dragaerans, (ie "those Elfs" as Vlad's grandfather, Noish Papa 
calls them). The Dragaerans seem to have been genetically 
manuipulated by a race of superbeings so that each of the clans 
has characteristics of their totem animal. As the series goes on it 
is clear Brust has questioned the morality of writing about a 
character at odds with his own views (in an interview I don't have to 
hand he mentioned a friend of his, an innocent bystander, who died 
in gang warfare). Vlad marries a fellow Easterner and, when she 
becomes involved with revolutionarys, both Easterners and 
Dragaerans from the servant/peasant Teckla clan, things start to 
fall apart for him. In the most recent book in his timeline he has 
become a wanderer, wanted by his former associates and the 
authorities, estranged by his wife and cut off from his friends. 
These books are generally funny in a mordant way. I should 
mention Vlad's familiar, a jhereg (the clan totem) which is a small 
carrion eating dragon who'll do anything (almost ) for a pair of dead 
Teckla -- which I think are mice. Yeah "think" eight books into this 
series and I still haven't worked out all the clan animals let alone 
who the mysterious Jenoine are, what makes Vlad so important to 
the demon goddesss Verra, etc. Brust is really parsimonious with 
this kind of info so you are continually trying to put all the hints and 
suspicions together. I find this fascinating and very conducive to 
rereading in any sort of order since as you gradually find things out 
they often change how you view things in another book. Brust has 
also written a number of stand alone books and then there is 
another series in the world of the Dragaerans, the Khavren books 
which are an very amusing Alexandre Dumas pastiche set at an 
earlier time.     

I used John Clute and John Grant's encyclopedia of fantasy for part 
of the above. ( I originally wrote fantasty which sounds like a 
subject for the list).

Did I say I can go on a bit , I think I've just proved it, hope it 
encourages people to look at Mr Brust. 

 
On Mon, 19 Jun 2000 17:21:31 +0200 (CEST)
Britta Koch wrote 
And I just got a real shock from
> reading that Harry Potter was to be banned, because I could imagine a
> lot worse books that I still would find important for kids to read AND
> discuss. 
and tanaqui (whose date and time are below) said

We should demand that Black Maria  (sorry, _Aunt Maria_ in the 
censoring > States) be taught in the Bible belt!!  DWJ has very little 
respect for the > we-know-best element of society, and is a deal 
more tough-minded than Rowling > in demonstrating it. If the 
fundamentalists have a fit over Harry Potter's > wizardly free spirit, 
then we can expect full-on coronaries over DWJ.  

Whenever people start pointing out things the fundamentalists 
might ban i start worrying that they might be listening -- don't give 
them ideas! I only want to put a farthings worth into this debate. I've 
noticed that while its reflexive to agree that kids should be 
protected from bad stuff this contradicts my own memories of the 
effect of my childhood reading. SPOILER WARNING - GEORGE 
ORWELL. For example Animal farm, which I read at around 9?10?, 
against parental and brotherly advice, because it was "about 
animals" gave me nightmares (Napoleon the pig was buried next to 
our garage and came out of his grave!) yet I greatly value learning 
its lesson about power at such an early age. I never forgot the poor 
animals wondering whether the  inhabitants of the farmhouse were 
the pigs or the humans.

Don't vote it only encourages them.

  
>On Mon, 19 Jun 2000 18:24:52 +0100 (BST)
Tanaqui  wrote
 
> So Ven =/ Venturus...

> See previous mail for Ven explanation. Naturally I collect SF/
> Fantasy uses of the name. most embarassing so far is Old Venn in
> Delany's Neveryon books. My brother thought that one was funny. 

Hey, field archeologist (the list masked your originating email so the
> rest of the list will have to put up with this) - what do you think of
> the "excavation" of Canopus and Herakleion, off the coast of Alexandria?
> I was especially enthralled when they brought up two more chunks of the
> Naos of the Decans - the extrapolations of the star system on the naos
> fragments we have will be checked against a new chunk of hieroglyphic
> data!

Its terrific, some amazing stuff down there. Explain about the Naos 
fragments please.

 > In private email, the theory-of-state-evolution would be a fun discussion. 

Wouldn't it just, how do we (anyone else who's interested) go about 
organising this? just to summarise some of my ideas I think you 
can make a useful model of social development from Hunter 
Gatherer bands to Tribes (usually simple agriculturalists) through 
more complex Tribes to Early States. Technological and economic 
changes provide the impetus. One of my hobbyhorses is the idea 
that this evolution is still ongoing, the state is not the end of the 
process and (down to my politics) I think we should think very hard 
about coming up with something better I add to this the observation 
that radical change in human culture can happen rapidly, taking 
eveyone by surprise (ie the growth of early states themselves, or 
the fall of the USSR) and you'll see why I think these interesting 
times we are living in are very interesting indeed.  

> I collect odd linguistic quirks, like "kiosk" originally being a word
> (Turkish) for "summerhouse", instead of the British assimilation as a 
> grubby little booth full of stale cigarettes and blooming warm chocolate
> (or possibly a rancid telephone). Or the fact that you have in English
> a generic "limbs", with specifics "arms" or "legs", a generic "digits",
> with specifics "fingers" or "toes" but the specifics "hands" and "feet"
> have no generic for this middle-size descriptor. Some languages (esp.
> East European ones, for some reason), do have a generic there [some of
> my data came from surgical cockups where the specific hadn't been made
> clear].
> 
A nice bit of etymology I came up with recently was a common 
origin for all three meanings of the word "box", a container, a tree 
and a punch. They are all derived from the greek for fist,  which is 
pyx-- now a speciakl religious box.  The connection to punching is 
obvious, a fist can be a container, so metaphorically a box, and the 
box tree has wood that is good for making boxes. Isn't language 
neat?

 
> On Mon, 19 Jun 2000, Deirdre Behan wrote:
> 
>  And why does she go around
> > all the time seeming to be so afraid of Chrestomanci - think of the time
> > when Cat and Jane try and run away?

and Lizzie quoted on  Sun, 11 Jun 2000 16:04:35 
> My love, we were
> needing you, she says when he appears

both referring to Millie in CL. I certainly didn't get the impression 
that millie was afraid of Chrestomanci, worried for him perhaps. I 
think the thing is that most of our impressions are filtered through 
Cat and he's wrong about quite a lot of things. Cat is afraid of 
Chrestomanci so he rather assumes everyone else is too. However 
I also wonder whether Millie is rather backgrounded because she is 
a good mother and thats maybe something that Dwj was.............
I'm on shaky ground here, I was going to say uneasy with, then I 
remembered she's a mother herself and realised that if I'm on to 
something then its more complicated than i thought. Anyone care 
to comment?

By the way I like CL and LOCC equally, As I already said in a 
private e mail to Helen Scott, who helped out when I was trying to 
figure out joining the list, one of my cats, the handsome Alex is a 
dead ringer for Throgmorten. Named for Alexander the Great, due 
to his lordly grandeur, he's a big, slightly siamesy, Ginger. When 
he's not being lordly he has a clownish sense of humour. I was just 
going to mention that his birthday is the summer solstice when I 
realised thats today already! So a big birthday  "Wong" for Alex 
(and chicken for all  three of them tomorrow I mean today after I've 
been to sleep) .

And congrats to Becca for the story, sorry to hear about the dismal 
dinner but at least they didn't give you tinned peas and skinned 
mice! (of course being veggie you would have refused the latter).

--
Ven
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