tad williams (was Re: : fantasy monarchies)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Feb 6 22:57:42 EST 2003


On Wed, 05 Feb 2003 23:46:07 +0000, christian nutt wrote:

>>From: Melissa Proffitt I have to disagree with you very strenuously.  The 
>>fact that you prefer
>>brevity does not equate to Williams' writing being overdone or bad.
>
>note: i'm just talking about MS&T. i haven't really tried otherland and 
>won't.

You do see the absurdity in taking your reactions to one book and applying
them to the author in general, and then saying you aren't talking about
another book by the same author?  If it's authorial weakness then it applies
across the board.

>sure, my personal taste is for brevity but i believe that williams is a bad 
>writer all the same. he can't write dialogue and covers it up with endless 
>flowery prose. MS&T, imo, is full of redundancy and crappy metaphor. weak 
>writing, gussied-up.

I just don't even know where to begin with this.  You're not making the
distinction between what you like and what is genuinely bad writing.  You're
making assertions without backing them up with examples.  If you're going to
cite, for example, an author who writes "endless flowery prose," then you'll
have to be specific about what constitutes endless flowery prose.  I'm
willing to grant you your opinion, but start making general and unsupported
assertions and we have a problem.  As far as I'm concerned, the reader's
right to an opinion doesn't go much further than "I liked it."  Anything
more than that, and the opinion had better have textual evidence behind it.
This is, of course, my own opinion.  :)  But it was formed after many years
of hearing sweet, well-meaning women saying that Book X was Bad because they
Hated It.

Having read far too much bad fantasy for my own good, I can state
unequivocally that Tad Williams doesn't do any of the things you name above.
And if necessary, I will point out at length any number of writers who are,
indeed, terrible at dialogue (faster to point out the ones who are *good* at
it), redundant, overly verbose, unable to plot their way out of a paper bag,
and whose characters move as woodenly as puppets manipulated by a week-old
zombie muskrat, along with detailed explanations about what makes these
examples bad.  

>honestly, i do believe that length is a weakness.

I think you're wrong.  Different kinds of fiction, different styles, require
different lengths.  There are some stories that are padded, yes, and others
that are too slender to support the weight of the plot.  But length in and
of itself cannot be a weakness, because that assumes that the only good
books are the ones Papa Hemingway would approve of--lean of prose, tight of
description, and terse of speech.  Again, I think this reflects your
preferences rather than a reasonable expectation of all fiction.

What's more, I'm even prepared to defend the length of epic fantasy series
(which I don't even read).  My theory is that the people who love those
books enjoy the total immersion in another world, and the longer that
immersion goes on, the happier they are.  So we have five million volumes in
the L.E. Modesitt "Recluce" saga (and let me tell you, if you want to see
*real* bad writing in action, take a look at that puppy) and the fans are
happy because every word means they get to live there a little longer.  It
doesn't mean everyone has to like it; it just means that those books are
exactly what they have to be to please the intended audience.

>>And in reference to your other post about listening to us about fantasy:
>>Aren't you here because you like DWJ?  Doesn't that qualify as fantasy?
>
>well, i'm aware. i am saying that i got bored of the "fantasy" section of 
>the book store, i guess. stopped being able to be interested in these quest 
>fantasy novels with their cliches. that's all.

So did I.  I had to hunt for a gift for the Christmas book exchange in my
reading group, and it was depressing to see how similar all those quest
fantasies were.  It was like all the new books were exactly the same, and
everything else was stuff I'd read before.  I ended up in the YA section
looking for _Hexwood_.  But then, I don't depend on browsing in bookstores
for new fantasy any more; there's online recommendations and word-of-mouth,
not to mention that most of what I'm searching for is older books that I
never discovered until recently.

>>We can all just *tell* you what to
>>read and then most of the hard work will be done.  :)
>
>please do.
>
Well, DUH, I have been talking about nothing else for the past hour!

(That's a plug for the Phoenix Guards series, which is also a prime example
of necessary and enjoyable verbosity.)

I will have to put that list together one of these days....

Melissa Proffitt

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