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In defence of Traditional (Eurocentric Quasi-Medieval) Fantasy: #3 It's the Archetypes, silly!

So I have been defending Traditional Eurocentric Quasi-Medieval Fantasy (Traditional Fantasy for short), and in the process growing a thicker skin.

We've done "Piss off, I enjoy this stuff" and why I think it needs saying. The latter  part of that - OMG the Bad People are Beating on the Pixy Folk -- was perhaps a little controversial. However, it's not everyday one gets compared not just to the "puppies"* but also to the "gators"**!

*Black Gate Magazine, where I blog, of course turned down a puppy nomination. It shouldn't take much empathy to imagine how that felt, and how easy it would have been for us to collectively shrug and plaster our stuff with "Hugo Nominated" - this isn't just about getting a pretty badge, it's about how our hard-won careers shape out.

** As for the "gators" comparison; I'd put in some time meditating on my male self-entitlement except I'm too busy keeping house for my more dynamic wife, facilitating my daughter's interest in science and astronomy, and bringing up my son to, among other things, treat people as people rather than "other" them because they have a different perspective.

My next post, "The walls are high, but the sandbox is lovely", being more about literature, led to an interesting discussion with some bemoaning of the way that Traditional Fantasy still seems so dominant (is it dominant?)

Elderly Cynic made a very perceptive comment:

Actually, the modern stories are NOT built on European history, so
much as the tradition of romantic fables ('Arthurian'), and that is
very much a Western European phenomenon.

As I am sure they'd say in a longer post, the -- call them -- fables are really History's Echoes. For example, the Nibelungenlied is High German, but is the result of shockwaves rippling out from the events of the mid 5th century, the setting for my Shieldwall: Barbarians! And the Song of Roland - which gave me the McGuffin for Marshal versus the Assassins -- is 11th century, but riffs (with wild inaccuracy) off a rearguard action in the 8th century.

Even so, the ultimate historical origin for each fable is less interesting than its propagation through history. We look to Roland to tell us about the 11th century aristocratic mentality, not Carolingian History. King Arthur stories survived the Middle Ages not because Arthur was a real person, but because Kings, Knights, Robber Barons, Damsels in Distress and so on struck a chord.

They still strike a chord.

These tropes may sometimes be clichés, but many of them are also archetypes, by which I mean roughly "story elements that we use to think about our world and our place in it."  (Perhaps a practical definition would be, "Tropes we find in more than one genre". Do you have a better one?)

Unlike most other genres, Traditional Fantasy can directly address our archetypes since it is built from them. This automatically adds strength to even a quite basic story, which perhaps explains why people keep coming back to the genre; it's not just familiar, it's primal.

Certainly mainstream doesn't seem to know that any other kind of Fantasy exists. Remember Doonesbury's Boopsie? When she channelled an ancient spirit, it was that of Hunk-Ra, a 25,000 year old warrior who clearly owed a lot to Conan... probably to the movies in particular. And the Conan movies are pretty much the tip of the mighty-thewed iceberg when it comes to screen; Deathstalker through Xena to Game of Thrones... it's all Traditional Fantasy. Perhaps most people coming to Fantasy from the outside are just looking for new fables.

Marketing aside, being built of archetypes confers literary advantages:

First, we can explore our archetypes. In Tolkien's world, hereditary kingship mattered. In Michael J. Sullivan's Riyria Chronicles a good monarch is the least bad option and almost all nobles are bastards. Similarly Conan and Fafhrd and Grey Mouser lived in grab-a-wench worlds, whereas Paul S Kemp's Egil and Nix books, like Sullivan's, have a grimmer, grittier view on misogyny and prostitution.

Second, we can wheel out new archetypes to express the modern human condition.  Mages, for example, might be archetypal figures of yore, but I think they've shifted towards being uber-nerds. We live in an age when technical knowledge is practical power. Fantasy just takes this one step further and away from the knowledgeable niggles of the real computer folk ("Yes but that's not how you steal a password etc..."). This is how I treated magic in the story I wrote for Frostgrave - Tales of the Frozen City.

Orcs are another example. Goblin-like monsters are not new, but outside apocolypic literature, hordes of them don't really feature in Western fables until the 20th century.

Historically, evil hordes tended to be human (duh) and apparently - reality is always messier, e.g. the Huns were really Huns, other Turkic peoples, various Goths, Gepids, Lombards.... -- identifiable by ethnic composition.

"Human" has the problem that hordes become humanised on close inspection, e.g. we now know that Viking men were traders, husbands and doting fathers when they weren't capturing young monks and selling them to the Eastern eunuch trade. This can make for a great read - go try some Harold Lamb but sometimes its nice to write about people dealing with a horde of "murderous bastards". If you flinched at that epithet, then you can immediately see why I think we have Orcs - the "identifiable by ethnic composition" part of the murderous hordes not only makes us uncomfortable, it is also too specific and too controversial, and thus has an expiry date:

For instance, one of my closest friends is German. I was reading about Zeppelins - as you do - and discovered he shared a surname with a famous Zeppelin captain. I messaged him, "My granny wants you to pay for her mother's shattered windows!" to which he responded, "Sure. Once you've paid for my mother's entire damned childhood neighbourhood." And, though he's the first to not leap to the defence of Germany's wartime record, I'm certainly aware that Britain didn't daub red all over the 19th-century globe without spilling the blood of innocents.

So, had Tolkien, instead of Lord of the Rings, written a book about the evils of the German War machine, the general point - "evil hordes are evil", or something -- would have been quickly lost in the debate over details, and as the century rolled on, he would have looked quaintly racist.

Finally, we can re-imagine these archetypes to support new realities.  Every so often somebody picks up on the othering of orcs, and the way writers treat them as fair game and their land as unoccupied, and has a go at telling their side of the story.

More significantly, there's the changes to the "Knight" archetype. This is no longer really about professional capacity for physical violence (if it ever was). Rather -- it seems to me -- it's about having a code and the practical capacity to go out in the world and live by it, something that men and women both aspire to.

Unfortunately, though women have certainly always fought, active identifiable female knights are thin on the ground in the chronicles. It's up to modern writers to create convincing women who wield sword and lance and espouse chivalry, and for the most part they have. Everybody's familiar with GoT's Brienne of Tarth. Her illustrious predecessors include Mary Gentle's Ash,  Elizabeth Moon's Paksennarion, and CL Moore's Jirel of Joirey. I... ahem... discovered a Valkyrie cult for my War of the Vikings: Berserker King. (Can anybody add more to this list? I have a daughter...) Sure, we can debate the practicalities and specifics -- or at least you can, I haven't made a detailed study of this -- but in this context such considerations are beside the point. Few readers will be cops, soldiers or cage fighters. Violence is a metaphor for other kinds of agency.


I'm not saying that all literature should be about our Western archetypes. Nor am I claiming some moral highground for that which is. I don't even think literature needs to serve a purpose beyond entertainment. However, this constant picking over and reimagining of archetypes can only be  good thing both for individual mental health, and for Western society as a whole.

The other night, my mate said to me: "You know, when I read about the crusades, sometimes I wonder whether we are the Orcs."

Needless to say, you have a lot less wiggle room in Historical fiction. For how I handled the knotty business of ethnicity in the context Dark Age war-bands rampaging through war-torn Gaul, you'll have to wait for my next and final blog entry. Or you could see for yourself and buy Shieldwall: Barbarians! (UK, Amazon-free Epub).



Nice series of pieces, but I am a little shocked you didn't mention Robert Holdstock in this one


Thanks Rex!

It's a big field. I've heard of Holdstock, but not read him. Go on; Tell us how you think he relates to all this.


Well, I will need to take some time to type something smart about Holdstock, but you should absolutely read Mythago Wood
One of the big differences between Europe and the US, is there is a genuine sense of connection with the past in Europe, and in that sense Fantasy connects on a different level I think
If you get a chance just check out the Wikipedia entry on Holdstock on the Mythago Wood books, totally into the sense of archetypes deeply woven into culture in a Jungian way
Fabulous books and probably better explained there than I could do


I have one of his, perhaps Mythago wood, if you can't find it in the library.


Thanks Rex - I think I'll take a look. If you enjoy the whole British historic landscape vibe, have you tried Rosemary Sutcliff's historical books, especially Eagle of the Ninth?


Actually, Tolkien's orcs are fairly racist. IIRC, there's something in there about sallow skin, slitted eyes, and curved blades. Thing is, D&D and the movies have ignored that part in favor of playing them as a something other than human, and so we tend to not see the issues with the original. We've probably had more problems with the elves being lily white and carrying straight swords, although Elfquest helped with that a bit.

Now, this isn't an argument that we should abandon LOTR or Lovecraft or any of the others in the pursuit of propriety. Rather, it's an argument that someone can have a lot of fun subverting those tropes, as well as, quite honestly, ignoring the nastiness. It's also an argument that there are a lot of people who may not see themselves in LOTR, and may wonder about those of us who love them so much. And that's something worth thinking about.


Never mind the Orcs, there were plenty of evil & corrupted Men in Tolkien's works who were, yes, all identifiable by being dark-skinned, sallow, squint-eyed, etc. The one exception being the Evil or Dark Numenoreans, who were their colonial overlords.

Not to mention that the West and North stand for Good, whereas when the author calls someone an "Easterner" it is implied that he works for the Enemy, i.e. Sauron, who dominates the East and South lands of the world.


Sorry, that should be "Black Numenoreans". In case you go Googling.


Isn't it at least partly true that all these stories are the *reason* people think in terms of these archetypes? The causation isn't all one way.


> Isn't it at least partly true that all these stories are the
> *reason* people think in terms of these archetypes? The causation isn't all one way.

Interesting line of reasoning. Now I think about it, it's certainly self perpetuating. In LOTR, kings were cool because of Beowulf. Now Beowulf is cool because of LOTR.


Hah. A LONG time since I read LOTR. What you're saying rather proves my general point, but not in relation to JRRT.


Hordes of goblins are a bit pre-twentieth-century. See George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblins and The Princess and Curdie. There is even feedback from it to real world fiction; one of Kipling's stories, "Wee Willie Winkie," has a small boy who's in the company of a young woman who has put herself in danger courageously defying a group of, I think, Afghan bandits in her defense; he thinks of them as goblins.

For that matter, Tolkien himself said he envisioned the orcs as looking rather like Central Asians, as seen through European eyes. That sort of thing is why Tolkien's fiction has not wholly escaped charges of "racism."

On the other hand, there is the scene in The Two Towers with the dead black warrior from the South, with Sam wondering if he really wanted to be there, or would rather have been at home with his family—seeing him as a person like himself, and pitying him. Of course Sam is one of the good guys, and that scene is one that Tolkien uses to establish this.


The thing about Mythago Wood though is it is drawing on pre-christian Britain. Which is far older myth than the medieval period of the Standard Fantasy Setting, though in theory it should cross over with Arthurian myth more.

Charles de Lint does a lot of work similar to that in his urban fantasies - drawing on old myth and celtic roots to seat Newford in a particular feel.

One series I forgot to mention last time though - Michael Scott Rohan's Winter of the World series. Which mixes up our Ice Age world with Medieval Europe, smithcraft, and the Norse and Finish mythological traditions.
And he uses the pre-tolkein version of dwarves, the Duergar of Germanic legends.


Actually, it struck me long ago that the portrayal of the Wolfriders in Elfquest is strikingly similar to what Tolkien says about orcs, particularly in the Silmarillion. Creatures of the twilight, hybridized with beasts, riding on great wolves, fiercely combative, tend to lead short lives and die violently. . . .

Pini was writing after we had come to admire wolves; Tolkien was more influenced by the older folktale tradition where wolves are Bad. (Though Kipling was before Tolkien and Kipling's wolves are fairly noble.)


Re JRRT: This is interesting. Since people tend to read things in Fantasy as an attempt at being archetypal or at least at making a generalisation, it follows that if you are going to do the Mongols in your book, you need to make it damn clear that you really mean 13th Century Mongols (or whatever) and not Asiatic people in general, forever.


One issue with fantasy worlds is that it's an effort to have anything approaching the diversity of human cultures. Tolkien shows us one culture of hobbits, maybe half a dozen of men, three of elves, one of dwarves, and one of ents—and that's more than a typical fantasy world has. So inevitably his races look like stereotypes.

I'm running a fantasy campaign now with seven humanlike races, where I made a point of each race having multiple cultures and indeed culture areas. So, for example, the familiar cultures of trolls are female-dominated, because trollwives are much smarter than trolls; but the adventurers have just encountered a trollish culture that at least outwardly looks male-dominated. But making up all those cultures from scratch would be a lot of work! Instead I've built a typical culture on bits from two to four societies described by ethnographers or cultural historians. Of course one of my themes is precisely cultural diversity, which was not Tolkien's main focus.


I don't have the exact reference handy, but Tolkien said that during WWI he and his colleagues in the trenches were orcs. In context, this was a swipe at modern mechanised warfare, and the brutalising effect it had on the soldiers.

Tolkien had problems with the idea of orcs as born evil for theological/philosophical reasons. He didn't believe sentience was possible without souls, and he found unacceptable the notion of a good god providing souls for beings doomed to be evil.

However, Tolkien was trying to stay consistent with traditional Roman Catholic theology, as he understood it.It was simply the way he believed the world worked.

However, modern writers generally don't share Tolkien's religious views. Even if they're practising Catholics, the church has changed since Tolkien's day, and many writers these days belong to other churches or religions, or to none.

Ideally, they'd design orc-equivalents reflecting their own personal beliefs, not Tolkien's. If, for instance, they don't feel souls are necessary for intelligence, they can make their evil hordes literally soulless. Their differences from humans would then illustrate the nature of souls, and what they contribute that the brain alone doesn't.


Tolkien always portrayed wolves as bad, and mirroring them, dogs as good. So for instance Huan, Hound of the Gods.

In his earliest writings, though, he portrayed cats as the evil counterparts of dogs, rather than wolves. So in the the very first version of the story of Beren & Luthien (published in the Book of Lost Tales vol 2), the antagonist Sauron appears as a giant demon-cat, with all his cat retainers; and Huan aids the heroes and chases Sauron up a tree. (Snerk!)

I think if you want to make it viscerally clear to a modern Internet reader the difference between Tolkien's morals and our own, pointing out that he disliked cats is much more effective than the vague racism of orcs. He even wrote once in a letter that "to me Siamese cats belong to the fauna of Mordor" :-)


"If, for instance, they don't feel souls are necessary for intelligence, they can make their evil hordes literally soulless."

Uh, zombies.


How often are zombies shown as intelligent, particularly in traditional high fantasy?

Tolkien did have some intelligent undead, but they all had souls. The Nazgul still had their original souls, thanks to their rings, and the barrow-wights were animated by the souls of evil elves, according to Tolkien's notes.


"Fantasy just takes this one step further and away from the knowledgeable niggles of the real computer folk ("Yes but that's not how you steal a password etc...")."

As I remember it, Sheila in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was an archetypal hacker. She's all about remote sensing and remote manipulation, with that added feminine touch! The Wikipedia link said she was even "called a mage, or an illusionist" in the Spanish editions.

(I'm also now ready to forgive you your berserker thing, as I've just remembered I went through a phase of wanting to be Tiamat. Uh, mortified!)


Sorry, I misparsed your sentence. (I was too busy trying to dodge the thrust of your Cartesian Dualism. :P)

Supernatural did have a go at showing the effect of a missing soul. IIRC it was a mixture of empathy and morality. But I don't extend my ontological commitments to an independent soul so it's hard to imagine what a soulless monster would be like. (Well, I would expect it to look exactly like me...)


Since I read quite a few of Grimms fairytales, I understand the longing for fables far less. Let me give you an example, courtesy of brothers Grimm, ca. 1819:

"There once was a child that would never listen to his mother. One day he died. After he was buried, his hand stuck out of the grave, until his mother came and beat on the hand with a cane, until the hand finally withdrew. the End."

The original was longer, maybe two pargraphs, but you get the idea. The thing is, fables were told for a reason, part of ot disciplining and education. The archetypical knight errant was made up to give knights an ideal to strive that pillaged less. And it's cool to play with these archetypes, but if you take them at face value you loose a lot.

To go one step further, maybe we are routinly bad at understanding the world around us is that we are raised on stories built around archetypes: Archetypical good, aarchetypical bad, archetypical stupid, etc. This is a dangerous worldview to have.

This is not to say that this problematic tendency is unique to classical fantasy, or that all fantasy shares this, or that archetypes cannot be used in interesting ways.

But I disagree with "archetypes are great because they allow us to make sense of the world". I'd put maybe like this: "Archetypes implify making sense of the world & this makes them a powerful storytelling tool, that can easily transport a whole baggage train that might be a tad unpleasant."


Archetypes... At some point we're going realize that, like Freud, Jung has a lot to answer for too. To me at least, seems that mainstream literature has had a toxic romance with Freud, while SFF has had a toxic romance with Jung and with Campbell's Hero's Journey Monomyth. I'm not sure why modern psychology or all the craziness coming out of the brain scan world hasn't penetrated into fantasy so far, but perhaps someday it will, and when it does, it will electrify the place once it's done right.


How often are zombies shown as intelligent, particularly in traditional high fantasy?

Hmm. Undead are frequently shown as intelligent, but the lack of souls is an interesting one. Zombies, Vampires, Death Knights are generally soulless. Liches store theirs outside their body, as might high level Necromancers.
Vampires are almost always highly intelligent as are Liches. Skeletons are usually mindless and soulless minions.

So off the top of my head ... Lord Soth from Dragonlance, Sethra Lavode from Dragaera, the Demondim of Thomas Covenant. Frankenstein's Monster - intelligence, but the question of a soul is one of the key points of the tale. The Others and Catelyn in ASoIaF. Voldemort, technically speaking. The Dresden files - Ghouls, Black Court Vampires. Discworld has Reg Shoe and Mr Slant. Shadow's wife Laura in American Gods. The T'lan Imass of Malazan.

Relatively frequently I think is the answer you are looking for - dumb zombies are in the movies and in SF, but not so much in Fantasy, particularly not today.


I think that the "exploration of archetypes" argument is probably the best reason that I've seen so far why Traditional Fantasy's "dominance"* is at least neutral instead of actively bad. More archetypes can make things more interesting, but they also take time to become archetypal enough to be really explored. If someone in Western Europe/America, today, decided to write a book that subverted/explored the traditional archetypes in Yoruba mythology, in a way that hadn't been done before, it's unlikely that it would be as interesting to the general public as something that subverted/explored the traditional archetypes in Western mythology in a way that hadn't been done before. This might be an argument for getting more archetypes into the Western mythology (although that's easier said than done), but until that happens, Traditional Fantasy will probably hold a large chunk of the popular imagination.

*As I said previously, it's at least dominant in the general imagination, which is where the archetypes reside.


Can anybody add more to this list? I have a daughter...

Joe Abercrombie's "Half the World" is YA; and of course, there's PTerry's "Tiffany Aching" books (she wields a frying pan, not a sword...). You could argue "Monstrous Regiment"

Jessica Amanda Salmonson's "Tomoe Gozen" series is a bit more adult; but apparently based on a real female samurai.

Oh, and Miles Cameron's "Red Knight" has a female knight as a supporting character.


Seconding Tiffany Aching. Great books by a great author. Tamora Pierce is another good author for that sort of thing.


> think that the "exploration of archetypes" argument is probably the best reason that I've seen so far why Traditional Fantasy's "dominance"* is at least neutral instead of actively bad.

In a lot of the books I've read recently, the archetypes get a thorough kicking. Guns of Dawn, e.g., is not exactly pro divine-right monarchy.


Diversity in fantasy creatures: That Osprey Orc book I reviewed actually had all sorts of Orc sub cultures.


You also have to remember that, traditionally, science fiction and
fantasy were used as vehicles for satire, parody and social
commentary. Pratchett may have been a humourist, but he was also
a satirist, as is a certain Stross - paper clip audits, q.v. :-)
This can make it a little difficult to tell whether someone is
following an archetype, satirising or parodying it, or creating
a new variation.


It's our job to ask the awkward questions, not to answer them! You're not always supposed to know, because often we don't either.

Me I always suspected there was a good practical reason behind the paperclip audit... but you'd have to ask Charlie about that.


I think it takes a lot of cultural backdrop (exposure) to latch on to an archetype. Thinking back to when I first read LOTR, if it hadn't been for the wizard (essentially a human with extraordinary abilities), dragons, elves and dwarves which were already familiar storybook creatures/races, not sure how enthused I'd have been about orcs, ents and hobbits.

Not too long ago I tried reading a fantasy novel grounded on Aztec mythos. This was much harder to read/process because I couldn't supply as much of a back story as compared to reading something riffing off Egyptian, Greek or Roman mythology.


Yeah, that was my point. If you don't have an archetype, you can't subvert/explore it. Someone who knows a little bit about an archetype from another culture can write a book that adheres to it fairly well, but to subvert it? Not a chance.


Also subverting an archetype from another culture might be seen as... rude.


It depends on what archetype, but yes, in some cases it would.


If someone wants a *different* look at Orcs (and halflings and whatnot), I strongly recommend Mary Gentle's GRUNTS. A rabid subversion of tropes with lots of explosions--what's not to like?


Yesterday I read through Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is an unusual take on the Western myth of 'Angels vrs Demons'. It's badly paced towards the end, but suitable for a YA daughter's mind. Lots of good emotional content.

Then I just picked up Chris Evans' Of Bone and Thunder which is, not even subtly, a fantasy re-imagining of the Vietnam war. It's not well written, but I think it signifies the point where America has well and truly globalized its shame to all corners of culture. (If anyone else can find an earlier representation of Vietnam in fantasy, I'm all ears).

Also subverting an archetype from another culture might be seen as... rude.

Depends on whether or not that culture still survives, doesn't it?


@Harold Page

If you're looking for women who were also "badasses", I'm fairly shocked you missed Boudicca or Jeanne d'Arc, but you could also look to Siberia and the cultures there:

Died at 25 from breast cancer

Her tattoos

Or, a little bit more modern, look to one of the few Caucasian women who were lynched on the American frontier: Ellen Watson.

Here's one for the fires within: why did Hollywood nonsense (looking at you John Wayne) remove the women?


Cultural Archetypes: depends on who is spinning the wheel and threading the spindle.


For another Vietnam based fantasy, check out Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Healer's War, the 1989 Nebula winner. I believe one story line in the Wild Cards series also involved a Vietnam vet, which may or may not count.


Ah, no, not in that manner.

Of Bones and Thunder explicitly puts Vietnam into fantasy tropes:

Dragons = Helicopters / Aircraft with napalm
Crossbowmen = Infantry
Thaumaturgs = ? (most likely CIA etc)

There's also explicit references to other things.


Tomoe Gozen was very much a real person. You should be able to find the actual history floating around the Net. :-)


I'm not much for traditional fantasy. Perhaps that's because I've simply read poor examples of the genre. Of course, one likes what they like and that's (IMO) an unassailable position. Matter of taste and all.

But some common things tend to come up in "high fantasy" that often bug me. The first is that societies often show a... somewhat unrealistic level of technological development for the history involved. For instance, there's almost never guns or explosive siege engines or the like that aren't rooted in "magic." One could very effectively argue that magic tends to supplant technological development in such cases, but it seems like (and this is a second point that often bugs me) that magic is underpowered in those worlds compared to what would be equivalent technology. Fireballs are great but Greek Fire was still better, especially in a world where maybe one in a thousand (or fewer) people are competent magic users

Now of course there's a bit of bias on my part there, and as I say, perhaps I've simply read the poorest popular examples of the genre, but it's been enough to put me off the whole deal. Our host here has probably given the best implementation of magic in fiction I've ever seen (and I dig it) but good examples seem to be fairly few and far between.

Of course, one likes what they like and that's that, but for my reading hour, "high fantasy" tends to give me a poor return.

Black Gate Magazine, where I blog, of course turned down a puppy nomination. It shouldn't take much empathy to imagine how that felt, and how easy it would have been for us to collectively shrug and plaster our stuff with "Hugo Nominated" - this isn't just about getting a pretty badge, it's about how our hard-won careers shape out.

"Of course" you turned down a puppy nomination? Because you didn't like the fans doing the nominating?

It was for the Hugo award, not the Nazi Home Journal Best Reads!

If you're a money-grubbing capitalist, Hugo Nominated means more cash.

If you want to showcase emerging talent, Hugo Nominated means more people taking a look at said emerging talent.

If you want to bring attention to overlooked topics or issues, Hugo Nominated means more attention.

Etc. But no, "we don't want our precious magazine read by those sort of people."

Just checking, you are the one who was complaining about other people's snobbery a couple of blog posts back?


Yes... The first Google link is the wikipedia article about her.

Holy Shit if this counts to hidden knowledge these days, then...

Google: Google "worker placement: Yellow - Red - Blue - Green - White". [Demarcations of worker's value and so on]. Google has done a great job of culling actual knowledge of how they color code their workers. I expect you all know what that means, and how it ties into EU / UN data. (*cough* of course you don't).

Now, that's something a little bit harder to find. ;.;

Hint: Google: "German. Finance. Turkey. Prostitutes. Colored. Armbands". Amazing what you find being done.

Archetype: if you missed it, these days they like to color code humans.

Ride the Snake

I've seen a rainbow serpent in the sky, and you didn't know what it meant.

But, sure. Archetypes are like totally only about SF/F.

Be Seeing You.


Archetypes, huh?
Well, for both this thread, the previous & the next: required reading.
"the Language of the Night" by U K le Guin.
It's the set of essays I mentioned earlier - just remembered the name.

Oh, yes, P.S. Catina Diamond
PLEASE DON'T just post YouTube links - as several people have already said life's too short & the information-content rate is too low.


I can't speak for neither M Harodl Page nor Black Gate magazine.


Slates for nominating for the Hugos are appalling. The way the Hugo nominations work, a small and concerted slate-voting group can have an extremely disproportionate effect on the outcome (specifically, it's relatively easy to dominate the nomination stage, giving almost full control of the finalists, where the nominees are ranked).

If nothing else, declining a nomination based on slates is taking the moral high ground, no matter what group initiated the slate.


> But no, "we don't want our precious magazine read by those sort of people."

LOL -- actually there ought to be an emoticon for "Typing Through My Tears -- it was actually more ironic and depressing than that. is very much about old school heroic fantasy, the kind of stuff the pups like.

BG is a community of writers, not a movement, so other than "Heroic Fantasy is cool" you won't find much unanimity. There was even some sympathy for the broad argument of the original puppies:

The final call was that of our editor:

However, I think the general vibe in the ranks was (a) discomfort with getting a nomination via the *angry* puppy slate -- the best possible reading of that would have been, "Oh good, Mussolini is taking on the mafia", and (b) a feeling that "let's you and him have a fight" is not an attractive proposition. They knew what the result would be and they never bloody asked us.

As for myself, I think awards are relevant to the extent that they serve the constituency they represent. The Worldcon community can give their awards as they like, it's their damn award.

I do think that we perhaps need some new awards to serve other reading communities, broadly:

The Jim Baen Memorial "Blowing Shit Up In Space" Award


The Lin Carter Memorial "It's Only Swords and Sorcery But I Like It" Award.

I'm also very glad it was last year's Worldcon for which my wife and I rearranged our entire damned lives, parked the kids on grandparents, and blew savings to attend. Just because a puppy needs a pee, doesn't means it's right for the owner to let it piddle on your holiday luggage.


"It's our job to ask the awkward questions, ..."

Yes. A lot of the best radical fiction raises some extremely
tricky questions, where is isn't clear that there IS an answer:
e.g. Brave New World. And that's a major part of its attraction
to many of us.

"... practical reason for a paperclip audit ..."

Oh, yes - it's in his books. But the reason that so many of us
appreciated it as satire was described in some comments on one of
his blogs. Several of us had suffered from corporate nitpicking
bureaucracy very little better than counting paperclips. My best
example was having to hand in a spent (disposable) biro in order
to be issued with a new one! The concept of a paperclip audit
distills that sort of lunacy into two words, and my impression
is that it may be establishing itself as an English phrase
meaning a futile bureaucratic ritual. Time will tell.

The trouble about identifying new archetypes, memes etc. is that
you can do so reliably only with a century or more of hindsight.
But I am very certain that the non-realistic fiction revival of
the last century or so is going to establish some new ones; what
I don't have a clue of is exactly what, and won't be around to
know. And, of course, many will be developments of old ones.


PLEASE DON'T just post YouTube links - as several people have already said life's too short & the information-content rate is too low.

I feel like that's mostly harmless.

My wife tells me that in real life 80% of what people communicate is just "I'm friendly, I like you, I'm no threat". People who don't do enough of that don't get listened to, except as threats. Why shouldn't we try to communicate emotional feelings here too?

There was a short fad for that on websites. You click on the site and it starts playing music or something. I think they mostly quit because people found it annoying. I remember one site that had a political slant I didn't like at all, which had some great music I really liked that it didn't identify at all, and back then my skills weren't up to collecting the music without coming back to the website. It seems like now it's mostly websites that don't mind being annoying, which do that.

But if it's all voluntary, why not? I'd like it if CT labeled those. He might put an E for emotion or a T for tone beside those, so it would be easier to ignore them if you aren't into that. Sometimes the Youtube links are people presenting an audio argument with graphs and things instead. I prefer stuff that's just laid out visually, but I'd still like a label so I can tell it from the music.


The female knight I first think of is Alanna the Lioness from the books by Tamora Pierce, who also wrote in the same setting the Protector of the Small Quartet about (Lady Knight) Keladry. There's also The Company of Glass by Valery Leith, First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain and Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain.


CJ Cherryh's the Paladin should get a mention for a female, knight protagonist.


Tolkien took the view that the tradition of western epics developed over generations like an irish stew. Add ingredients and stir, and add, and stir, and add, etc etc ...

The most interesting works find something original to bring to the pot, although some of the 20th/21st century efforts are more like pot noodles.


And while we are on this vibe there is also the Morgaine stuff by CJ Cherryh too. I really need to get round to re-reading that soon.


Surprised no one mentioned Best Served Cold for the Badass Women leads - not that I'd let a child read it.


Since no-one else has mentioned this point, as soon as you say "Arthurian legend" my immediate reaction is Which Arthur?:-
1) The Celtic (Scottish or Welsh) Dark Ages warlord or
2) Mallory's chivalric knight (if you're now saying "Huh? What?" you've probably only read/seen Mallory or stuff based on Mallory, including pretty much anything from the USian film industry).


Archetypes simplify making sense of the world & this makes them a powerful storytelling tool

True, but there's also the inverse.

Psychologists have noted that a person's ability to retain information varies according to how that information was presented. The specific example was that of using parables as a teaching vehicle, rather than a list of bullet points / salient facts. ISTR something like "twice as likely to remember if..."

I'd certainly vouch for this, both having tried it as a trainer and as a recipient of training. The "lessons" that stick with you are the ones told as stories; the more powerful ones can last decades.

One example would be "the boy who cried wolf". Far more powerful than "now children, don't make stuff up to get attention".


I wonder how well workshop horror stories (of which everyone who's spent any time near power tools, particularly professionally, seems to have a surfeit) map to Grimm's tales of bloody retribution from the World Beyond for straying from the straight path...


Well, I can't think of anything in Grimm that involves a lathe chuck key embedded in a wall. ;-)


Clearly it passed right through the gingerbread.


One of the things that struck me while reading these - it helps your books sell. I read a couple of books in a long series by a fairly successful author who I won't name.

Said author quite deliberately took a non-standard setting for the world. I quite like these - I like particularly Chinese myth for example and lap up Chinese settings. I liked a lot of the characters and the plot in this author's books that I read. But the world simply didn't work for me. That isn't any sort of absolute judgement on the author and the world, they completed a long series and have recently started a new series in a different setting. They count as a successful author so it's an issue I have with the setting, not the world in general and that's OK.

But if said author had translated the plot (as much as possible and tweaked where necessary) and the characters (which probably could have worked with a lot less tweaking) to a standard Western fantasy setting would I have read all 8 or 10 or whatever it was books? It's not guaranteed of course, but given I liked the characters and the plots and only objected to the world building it's pretty likely.

That said there are some decidedly non-standard fantasy books on my real and virtual bookshelves and I treasure them too. If you get your weird world working well it can be absolutely brilliant. But I suspect it's a risk.


No-one's mentioned Scott Lynch yet. Totally equal-opportunities approach to women in a mediaeval-ish setting. There are some invented cultural things to make it that way - women are seen as lucky to have on a ship, and hence more likely to be officers - but just in general they're equally likely to be armed and dangerous. Which really makes sense in a city setting where rapiers and other lightweight weapons are more about speed and skill than brute strength.

I'd recommend a minimum age of about 13-14 though. Definitely more GoT than LotR.


For an interesting document from the period, check out

Probably some plot ideas in there.

Although much later, google books has "Sir Francis Drake, His Voyage, 1595...." also a primary work and good read.


For a somewhat more humorous take on "convincing women who wield sword and lance", you could try the Chicks in Chainmail anthology series by Esther Friesner, described at:

There are four volumes to date from a variety of well-known authors. Note: not all stories are humorous or appropriate for pre-teens. YMMV.


Actually, that's not right. The original legend of Arthur was
probably Brythonic, and probably not a warlord as such. The
Goedelic legends were far more about warlords. While Welsh is
Brythonic, its legends seem (to me, no expert) to be intermediate,
which is not surprising given its location. Scottish Gaelic is

The Dark Ages warlord legend got attached to the Arthurian one,
and was completely rewritten by Geoffrey of Monmouth. See
peteratjet's comment :-)


> "Of course" you turned down a puppy nomination?
> Because you didn't like the fans doing the nominating?


There were no "fans" doing the nominating -- there was just one fan. Black Gate was included in Vox Day's Rabid Puppy slate (not the Sad Puppy Slate). Vox instructed his horde to follow his slate to the letter. As far as we know, most of those who obeyed have never visited Black Gate, and are completely unaware of what we do.

This is the same slate in which Vox nominated himself for two Hugos, and nominated virtually the entire publishing output of his tiny Castalia House for nine Hugo Awards.

There are folks who think there's nothing wrong with this. I'm not one of them. I think it tarnishes the Hugo awards. In fact, I feel strongly enough about that, that I declined a Hugo nomination, rather than receive one tied to this slate.

I know that when Mr. Page expresses an opinion contrary to how Vox has instructed to you feel and think, it baffles and enrages you. I understand that. I hope you understand that we're not particularly swayed by Vox's opinions (as dutifully expressed by you in obeyance with instructions). Vox is capable of expressing himself in the Black Gate comments, and has already done so.

Thank you.

John O'Neill


No generalisation is entirely true, not even this one.

In any event, my point was that the Scottish/Welsh Arthur owes nothing whatsoever to Mallory, but most later depictions of Arthur are pure Mallory and owe littler nothing to anything earlier beyond the names.

I don't see how you feel that peterajet's #52 contradicts that?


Marion Zimmer Bradley often had women as central characters - not necessarily to play the feminist card, but because there are two sexes (at least) and it'd be foolish to ignore this.

Bradley's Darkover spawned quite a lot of fan-fic with several SF/F authors getting their start playing with her world.


Also, I've read a fair bit about the Hugo kerfuffle, and a lot of people in the book business have been saying that being Hugo award nominated doesn't mean you get much more sales now. 30 years ago, yes, it did, but not nowadays.
So that's one of your points gone.

As for emerging talent, that is firstly not necessarily connected with being any good. Plenty of authors take 2 or 3 books to get good or great or well liked. Secondly, there is no evidence that the puppy slates actually covered emerging talen; heck, the rabid puppies slate contained a great deal by some bloke called Wright who has been published for decades.

Finally, "those sorts of people", can you be more precise about which ones you mean? You mean the ones voting for the slate, many of whom admitted not reading the stuff that they voted for?


There WAS no Scottish Arthur legend, it is dubious whether there
was even a Welsh one, and it is unlikely the original legend was
about a warlord! It is your "Celtic (Scottish or Welsh) Dark Ages
warlord" statement that I was correcting.

Actually, it's Geoffrey of Monmouth and others, long before Malory,
but that's a detail. I was merely pointing out that peterajet's
reference to Tolkein's view was entirely apt.


Why should fantasy tropes have a corner on the archetype market? It seems perfectly reasonable that various forms of speculative fiction could explore archetypes perfectly well. However, the ostensible works of science fiction that trade in archetypes are generally fantasy with a handful of sci-fi semiotics, sword-and-planet-style -- Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who. The one example of speculative fiction that trades in archetypes without clearly being derivative of high fantasy is Grant Morrison's stuff (not his straight superhero stuff, but The Invisibles, The Filth, Flex Mentallo, and the stranger bits of his run on Doom Patrol), and that's really not science fiction either.

Maybe it's what you mentioned in part 2 -- archetypes are realized in the form of single characters, and in a world where individual figures don't wield enormous power, the archetypes lack punch as well. Individuals wielding enormous power and being able to direct it is unlikely enough to break suspension of disbelief in a science fiction context, except when the constraints on that power are very clear.

Personally, I stay away from high fantasy. I have a hard time with individual-super-empowerment narratives because when individual super-empowerment is presented as clearly positive it strikes me as fascistic, particularly when combined with the standard high-fantasy stuff about noble bloodlines relating to the genius loci & less specific fantasy-racism stuff. But, I have similar problems with a variety of sci-fi subgenres.


For years, in advertising testing, one of the things that has been quite stable is that it is easier for female viewers to identify with a male character in an ad than for male viewers to identify with a female character. This is probably also true in books, movies, etc. Why this is so - probably a mix of social history/reinforcement, plus oxytocin spikes.

Anyways this is to say that perhaps you should have a chat with your daughter about how important/unimportant the sex (race, species, etc.) of the main character is (to her) versus other attributes. If she can picture herself as a boy (Tom Sawyer), Indian (The Jungle Book), rabbit (Watership Down), then any good book will do. If she needs her character to be a human girl, then you've a shorter list of titles to choose from. Regardless, suggest you put it into perspective for her: it's been only an eye blink in publishing history terms that girls/women are being published and written about, that's why there aren't that many books with female central characters (yet).


MZB's on my "Don't ever read" list, after recent and credible allegations against her and her husband.


Romance, detective and spy novels all have really strong archetypes, it's not just fantasy novels.

They're not necessarily as pervasive as in Western fantasy, although I'm not really a fan of the detective novel I can think of at least three detective archetypes (Sherlock Holmes style (which also covers all of Agatha Christie's detectives), the "hard drinking PI" and the overworked cop)and they don't tend to get mixed together, on the other hand, there are probably only say 5 or 6 detective types so that's a pretty strong formula.

Romance novels, certainly the bodice ripper, always, always have the well-chiselled alpha male and the dreaming, usually inexperienced woman looking for him. Historical romance adds in costumes to the mix and so on. 50 Shades of Grey did that and added bad kink to the mix.

Spy novels I always divide into the Le Carré-alike and the Bond-alike. That's probably unfairly abbreviated, but you tend to either have grim and depressive and not knowing whose side anyone is on, or high-tech and optimistic and flashy. They then have "good" and "bad" (so much as the Le Carré-alikes have clear good and bad can) defined from there.

I'm sure there are other genres with strong archetypes too. They're just the ones that spring instantly to mind.


I think you're spending more effort than you need to to justify your fantastic ways, here. Some people like fantasy, some don't, there's no accounting for taste. Personally I like it, if only because I have enough scientific training that I find almost all science fiction unreadable.


Can you separate archetypes from mythology?
Because if you can't, there is a huge mess of modern mythology in the making since the Net arrived. New World Order, UFOs, Aliens, Illuminati, Nazis... Just mix and match. No combination is so ludicrous that it does not have it's own set of True Believers.
Some pre-existing archetypes fit in nicely with the above eclectic mess, but some seem to be emerging as relatively new.


Just googled allegations re: MZB. You're right, this is horrific and if I had known this earlier, would not have recommended her books. Still reeling ...


Regarding the gender of characters not being important, I was blown away recently by Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch books. Also relevant is Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Why aren't there (many) more books like this? Sci fi (unlike fantasy) plays with many cultural and gender norms, but not usually the existence and binary nature of genders.


One problem with Fantasy is it tends to be deeply conservative - most major Fantasy series tend to have a semi permanent status quo, or feature the return of the rightful group to being in charge.

Playing with cultural and gender norms is trickier in that setting, what we tend to see is playing with racial, species or social norms instead. You also need to have an in-universe justification for changes to what is expected - magic might permit sex change operations for example, but if magic is hard to do, then it would be extremely rare.
I'm also seeing a lot more inversions, from the POV of the Dark Lord or their minions. And Pratchett as an example went out of his way to promote tolerance and prevent Black and White ganging up on Green.

I wonder if we just go "oh, that's just how elves are, humans are still patriarchal bastards" a little too often.


How much of that was Bradley herself being "silenced" by Breen, I wonder?
I met her, once at a long-ago Worldcon (Brighton).
Sorry folks, even if she was herself guilty, we cannot ignore her work.
Richard Wagner was a shit & anti-semitic, with it.
Yet "The Ring" is a truly great work - & we were talking about archetypes, were we not?
Siegfried is a truly tragic, misled & slaughtered hero, if ever there was one.

What do you see?
Night & Fog!


She's also got a few other storylines. It's been a while since I read most of them, but I believe she has a series set in a different world. "Circle of Magic" is the name of the series, IIRC


Archetypes in science fiction: See much (most?) of Gordon R. Dickson; Keith Laumer's A Trace of Memory, in which one character turns out to have been the original of King Arthur; the Honor Harrington series, any number of sf detective stories....


The "lessons" that stick with you are the ones told as stories; the more powerful ones can last decades.

True. But a story is a process. An archetpye is a thing or person with (archetypical) attributes. A story is about aperson reacting this way in this situation, and that way in that situation. A hero is a hero. Sorry I can't put it into better words now, maybe later.


(Apologies: slight tangent. I just realized that people can still browse without links showing a preview for the destination. If you surf with NoScript, Adblock, UBlock, Ghostery etc, one of the benefits is you'll always see the destination to where a link goes to, usually at the bottom of the screen, meaning you're forewarned.

Apologies, I understand the ire, forgot that this wasn't standard. All links will be labelled in future).

Archtype: forgetful sorceress.

Or not: wizards get to be forgetful (or pretend to, a la Disney's Merlin or any number of mentor figures), I can't think of a case where a sorceress gets to have significant failings (unless they're emotional and/or evil).



John ONeil, current publisher & editor of Black Gate wrote about BlackGate turning down a Hugo nomination:
There are folks who think there's nothing wrong with this. I'm not one of them. I think it tarnishes the Hugo awards. In fact, I feel strongly enough about that, that I declined a Hugo nomination, rather than receive one tied to this slate.

My opinion is that published writers don't get to select their readers, so complaining about who nominates you for an award is silly and futile.

The Hugos are a well known, well established award and not associated with any particular ideology or politics. (The puppies are mistaken about this, right?) This year's trophies aren't going to have "Puppy" engraved on them.

As for declining a Hugo nomination, I don't believe it's the right thing to do. You, and the others who have done likewise, are giving Vox Day the power to veto future awards. You're making him more important and influential, at least in perception.

I won't respond to your accusation that I myself am a Vox Day follower because here only Charlie is allowed to use the kind of language i would need.


If you've not realized by now that C Stross allowing M.H.Page a multi-post bonanza is a very generous and kind way of purging some of the residual filth attached to his name...

Well then, you really don't get Archetypes (or Aztec Goddesses).

J. Tarr. I love her a lot though, and only a single post :(


Translation for you whitefellas.

Rainbow Serpent in which Man survives (YouTube - Video)

(That's a Western friendly version)

Dreamtime, with female voice (YouTube - Video)

Now, contrast and compare the color coding of humans done by Google, the U.N. and all multinationals.

Archetypes. I'm still waiting for one of you to make some magic or spill the beans.


And, yes, you get points for noting that:

the Yellow Star of David

Now means:

Yellow is the lowest class, the class that does menial jobs and has no way out of servitude

If you want to play with Archetypes, little man, I'd expect a little bit of respect.

Hint: PKD was correct when he wrote The Man in the High Castle. You were just too naive to grokk it.

But yeah. We're not allowed to tell them this, and so on and so forth.

Music is our Muse [Youtube - Music]


CatinaDiamond: I think Galadriel has a lot of failings, but you mainly see them in off-hand comments and appendix material. (She sacrifices her people and some of her relatives to appease her gods. Her husband basically decides to "take a break" from the marriage and her grandsons aren't going with her to Thanksgiving in the West.) It's strongly implied that she and Saruman bickered personally before Saruman turned evil. Did she perceive his inner nature or did she just get lucky?

Frankly, I always thought Cirdan should have pushed Isildur off the cliff and that would have solved everyone's problems.

Professor McGonagle is not above tipping the odds for the House Cup.

The sorceress in the old I. Burt Gordon movie "The Magic Sword" is certainly crotchety.

Weatherwax' way of not having failings comes close to being failings.


Barbara Hambly's wonderful Dragonbane series has a female wizard who is extremely self involved and not a particularly good mother. On the one hand, we see how difficult being a better person would be for her; on the other hand, we see very real consequences for her neglect. It's a good balance: women don't have to be perfect people, but like all imperfect people, particularly people with power, they are going to fuck up royally sometimes.


there are probably only say 5 or 6 detective types so that's a pretty strong formula

Ahhh, then you probably want to read Jasper Fforde's "The Big Over Easy", and "The Fourth Bear". Doesn't so much subvert the tropes as drag them down an alleyway for some wall-to-wall counselling...

Which reminds of YA Female Protagonists in Fantasy - Jasper Fforde's "The Last Dragonslayer" series. Bought it for firstborn, rather enjoyed it myself :)


Why should his daughter not expect what every Western boy can - to see someone like oneself as the hero in stories? Larger: why is everyone else expected to be able to identify with the WEIRD male and never the other way round? Why should "WEIRD dude" being the only unmarked identity not be challenged?


If you want to play with Archetypes, little man, I'd expect a little bit of respect.

Yellow card.

Here's a hint: referring to another commenter as "little man" betrays exactly the same lack of respect you're complaining about. Less with the abuse, please, and more with the reasoned argument.


[ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE]: I've been away for most of a week at a book festival in France, then recovering from travel. I'll be back in a day or two with something new to talk about. Meanwhile, don't expect me to be around here much until the weekend.


Since we are doing cards and playing by FIFA rules, can I pay you to take any yellow/red cards I might generate for comments I make and lay them on the sucker of my choice?


FIFA rules?

You want to ask for some free kicks?


I think you'll find that referees holding up coloured penalty cards predate the existence of FIFA by a few decades ...


I don't know if I'd classify those as archetypes, personally, although there's a case to be made for it. If we don't buy Jung's perspective that archetypes are essentially permanent parts of human nature and we just treat them as characterizations that resonate strongly with people, then I'd say that Sherlock Holmes and James Bond are just on the cusp of representing archetypes -- but the difference between an archetype and a TvTropes entry is one of scale, and I'm not sure if 50 years or 150 years is enough to justify calling something archetypal without lots of people getting very angry at you. (Mostly Jungians, but still.)

That said, yeah -- there are modern mythologies (urban legends, faxlore, UFO mythos, conspiracy theories) that trade strongly in archetypes of the variety that even Jungians would be happy with (Jung himself wrote a book about UFO mythos from an archetypal perspective). But, the more archetypal they get, the closer they get to high fantasy tropes, or at least horror -- conspiracy theories about JFK being associated with the mafia aren't terribly archetypal, but once you bring moon nazis and hypoborean nordic vril-casters you have a recipe for a kind of dieselpunk sword-and-planet stuff; likewise, it's one thing to talk about bug-eyed monsters in physical rocket ships (or bearded yankees in airships, if we're talking about the 1897 UFO flap), but once we get to greys and reptillians we're also talking about ancient wars and telepathic warnings about climate change -- we stumble along the boundary between science fiction and fantasy as we walk in the general direction of gnosis.


In which case that'll be an independent invention, one carefully not mentioned in FIFA's version of the history of penalty cards.

(FIFA's story is that it came out of the particular problems of international football matches where there might not be a common language.)


Well, Penalty Flags in American Football apparently date to 1941.


That is, the idea had been around for a while.


> Why should his daughter not expect what every Western boy can - to see someone like oneself as the hero in stories?

Well exactly. Fortunately, there are already lots of good middle grade and YA stories with active female protagonists.

My main issue with these books is the dearth of actual genre ones. The kids both watch, e.g. Clone Wars and play Halo. There ought to be some proper YA space opera books.

As for unmarked thing - sounds intriguing. Can you give us a tldr?


> Anyways this is to say that perhaps you should have a chat with your daughter about how important/unimportant the sex (race, species, etc.) of the main character is (to her) versus other attributes.

Hahahahahahahah. Good luck with that. I can't even get her to read Harry Potter.

There's this thing about the current cohort of geek-raised little girls with mothers who are strong role models. This approach is just not going to work out.

(Wipes eyes)

Fortunately, she's about to grow into a lot of early YA books that do offer proper adventure with female protagonists. The market has moved on.


> r bearded yankees in airships, if we're talking about the 1897 UFO flap),

THAT was the reference I was looking for. Thanks.


Can I suggest that Wagner is now public domain, and no longer benefitting from sales of his works?


Hmm yes, that's sufficiently in the same ball park that it could be considered as relevant, even though it doesn't appear to include the concept of the colour indicating a severity level.

Are there cases where different colours mean different things (and predating 1970)?


It's a linguistic concept - the definition & examples from the linked article are better than I'd do, so I'm just going to yank a couple of quotes:

THE TERM "MARKED" IS a staple of linguistic theory. It refers to the way language alters the base meaning of a word by adding a linguistic particle that has no meaning on its own. The unmarked form of a word carries the meaning that goes without saying -- what you think of when you're not thinking anything special.
The unmarked tense of verbs in English is the present -- for example, visit. To indicate past, you mark the verb by adding ed to yield visited. For future, you add a word: will visit. Nouns are presumed to be singular until marked for plural, typically by adding s or es, so visit becomes visits and dish becomes dishes.

An example applying this concept to identity and presentation:
There is no woman's hair style that can be called standard, that says nothing about her.

The point is that there is no presentation open to women, Black people, or other visible Others that won't be read as communicating something about them - they are always 'marked'. Which is pretty strange, considering the 'unmarked' are the minority.

That's a TL;DR about 1/10 as long as the original article, so if there's any confusion please do read the original.


Since you asked, and I'm a little more awake...
Perhaps Racing flags are relevant? The wikipedia article says that the checkered flag dates to at least 1906, but doesn't really say when caution flags were first used (and I'm not quite awake enough to look it up), it also mentions flags in Horse racing, but the article on that doesn't mention them. Shrug.


I don't believe in inborn archetypes beyond maybe familial rôles. Beyond those, I would hold all of them to be literary (including orally-transmitted) creations, and as such I think limiting oneself to the extant ones, which is what most authors have and will do, cleave to Our Temporary and Esteemed Host's programme of expansion and transvaluation though he will, is limiting our stories.

Very good and great authors can breathe life into familiar archetypes...but most authors are at best good. For my part, and perhaps because I dislike aristocracy, royalty, powerful religion, and the worship of violence mystified by a fancily-named code, I don't want to read another merely good author's use of these, at least in their familiar forms---any random author would better serve me by using unfamiliar archetypes, and a great one might give me something classic.


Shorter: Sure, but reverse-snobbery is no better-looking or less shallowly facile than snibbery.

Speaking as a product of the lower-middle class, State schools up until my university (where Kultur was definitely not privileged over Geek Culture), and a near-lifetime of S.F. reading, the snobs do have a point due simply to the filtering effect of time: hundreds of authors have been forgot, most of them for good reason at the time, and because the human natures are not infinitely malleable many of those same reasons still often apply.

Just as a good anarchist might do and avoid all sorts of things despite Arbitrary Authority's forbidding and mandating (respectively) same, even as you reject High Culture's dismissal of all F.&S.F.*, as opposed to the mere 98% that give the 2% a bad name, please also take a look at the Canon. For one thing, you may often see the zeroth-generation version of that which you might have seen only fifth-generation analogue-lossy Xeroxen....

*(Incorporating the Worlds of If)


"Fnord" - That's a Robert Anton Wilson call-out, isn't it?

There's nothing wrong with liking creative world building over plot. Not my cup of tea, unless the world building is... no, actually not even then. If the unfolding world is the plot, then I will give it a go.

My experience of schooling was similar to yours -- so much more the sense of betrayal by the English teachers: we were reading - hurrah - but the wrong books - boo.

Regarding canon.

Good popular writing is economical, but that embeds it in its time. Longevity is a test of longevity, not quality.


From the article:

In his book, Fasold notes "a wide range of facts which demonstrates that female is the unmarked sex." For example, he observes that there are a few species that produce only females, like the whiptail lizard. Thanks to parthenogenesis, they have no trouble having as many daughters as they like. There are no species, however, that produce only males.

Actually, animals not using the XY chromosome system are capable of producing males; it depends on the specific system and the chromosomes of the mother.

Re verbs, the unmarked verb is the present indicative, but also the bare infinitive, the subjunctive and the imperative. And we have a separate present participle, which sometimes indicates the present. English is heavily compressed.

And Wikipedia says the first person to recommend "generic-he" over singular-they was a woman. Apparently it was an aesthetic decision to make the pronoun agree in number rather than gender.

In principle, we could all get together and agree a single unmarked style for women. (Jeans, a T-shirt or sweatshirt, trainers and no make-up is pretty unmarked.) And for the record, I am a natural grey: I don't dye my hair that colour.

(Ooh, that "grey" and "colour" may have marked me as non-American. Or are they the unmarked forms and "gray" and "color" the ones that marks you as odd?)


I'm afraid somebody is going to have to um womsplane this too me?

However, I will say that "they" is fine for "he/she" and was used by Jane Austen.


In principle, we could all get together and agree a single unmarked style for women. (Jeans, a T-shirt or sweatshirt, trainers and no make-up is pretty unmarked.)

Yes! When I saw that "unmarked" thing I immediately thought it was a great marketing idea for somebody. Unfortunately, not for me.

You'd have the "Standard" trademark, and advertise that women who wear Standard brands are not saying anything special about themselves. They're just there.

Unfortunately, that trademark has been taken.

They can probably find something just as good.


However, the FIFA fiasco, now degenerating into everybody trying to race each other to turn (the equivsalent of) "Queen's Evidence" to keep themselevs out of chokey is highly amusing.
Given my lifelong contempt of & disgust & fear of football & it's protagoniosts ...
It couldn't possibly happen to a bigger bunch of shits.
And, if I'm not careful I might wet myself laughing.


MZB is also some years dead ...
I assume that her daughter (or someone) is profiting from any on-going sales?
Anyway, that argument is irrelevant.
Consider also the cases of Caravaggio & Gesualdo ( Note* ) - painter & composer respectively. Neither of whose exploits were like the home life of our own dear Queen, as they say.

Note: Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, was an Italian nobleman, lutenist, composer and murderer.


Ok, I'm not sure what the question is/was, but most racing flags are at least somewhat standardised.

The earliest reference I've found suggests 1899 as the first use of yellow and red flags, but offers no direct evidence.

OTOH Juan Manuel Fangio told a story from the 1950s about leading the Monaco GP (F1) and slowing approaching the Station Hairpin (other, later, names for this corner are available) because he realised that he could only see the backs of the spectators' heads and the only thing he could think of that would be more interesting than the approach of the race leader would be a major accident. That tends to suggest that he did not see a yellow flag.

Also (personal account) marshalling in the 1980s the rules were that, if a race was being stopped, a red flag was displayed at the start/finish line and black flags at all other marshalls' posts.


My point was that Wagner (and his estate) are not benefitting from his works, so unless his politics etc colour those works then his views etc should not prevent us enjoying same.

Ok I only implied this, but MZB's estate will still be benefitting from her works even if she isn't personally.


"Ok I only implied this, but MZB's estate will still be benefitting from her works even if she isn't personally."

So? Is her "estate" automatically evil?
And on another minor point of mud-slinging irrelevance, she looks like Rose West:

The haircut and glasses being conclusive and final proof. A bit like Myra Hindley had an evil haircut and was therefore doomed.


Is MZB's "estate" automatically evil?

I did not say that, and do not believe that I even implied it.

However it is more likely that someone whom you would regard as "ebil" is a beneficiary of her estate than that someone ebil is benefitting from Wagner's!


If I recall, MZB's estate went to her girlfriend; it's not as if the money is even going to her children / victims. Jim Hines did a good roundup of posts and links about this on his blog. Me, I don't want to put money in the pocket of someone who colluded with child abusers.


Returning you to the actual subject of this thread (!)

Obligatory XKCD reference to Archetypes.


Me, I don't want to put money in the pocket of someone who colluded with child abusers.

And my point was that I could be certain that I'm not doing so by listening to Wagner, but could not be certain I wasn't doing so by buying MZB. OK?


Clearly the ethical solution here is to pirate her books and donate the official price of them to a charity dealing with child abuse.



From Wikipedia:

In response to these allegations, on July 2, 2014 Victor Gollancz Ltd, the publisher of Bradley's digital backlist, announced that it will donate all income from the sales of Bradley's e-books to the charity Save the Children.

So it looks like e-books are a charity donation.


Tolkien shows us one culture of hobbits, maybe half a dozen of men, three of elves, one of dwarves, and one of ents—and that's more than a typical fantasy world has. So inevitably his races look like stereotypes.

One of the most face-palming posts I had ever seen on the Internet; specifically on Usenet, as it happened shortly after the first LOTR movie (Fellowship of the Ring) came out:

"Why is everyone so crazy about this movie? All characters are complete stereotypes -- they could have come straight out of the Players Handbook!"


Picture an "everyman". You've probably imagined someone who's fit without being a gym bunny. Someone who's educated and intelligent without being a specialist. Someone who's sensitive and has no strong opinions but has enough charisma that those around him turn to him as a leader. While, I think, he's only sporadically apparent in golden-age SF, he's pretty much every human protagonist Philip K Dick, Greg Bear or Greg Egon wrote. He's harder to spot in fantasy. But at his most extreme he becomes the trickster-hero so his imprint is in Odyseus, Corwin, Peter Parker and Philip Marlowe. In short he is you. Or you as you image you might be if dropped into that situation. He's someone bland enough that you can foist yourself into them without suffering cognitive dissonance.

Now imagine an every woman. Is she wearing heels? Men always wear sensible shoes but sooner or later a woman's shoes will cause plot issues and that will divide your audience. Does she wear skirts? Has she had kids? And the menopause means the everywoman's age can't be ignored like it can for the everyman.

I guess there probably once was a standard female identity. But feminists spent a century destroying it. So I found the article slightly disingenuous; it read a bit like, "Wah! We're being oppressed by the burden of choice forced on us by the patriarchy!" To which my reaction was, "Hang on, wasn't destroying the uniform female identity the point?!"

But, as with all feminist arguments, there's a grain of truth there. Were I to write an everyman-style protagonist without disclosing their gender, would you just presume they were a man? I might. There was a person here who I'd presumed to be a man and was then surprised to discover was a woman. So to an extent, I think it's true that masculinity has taken over the "neutral space". And I think that was what the article was trying to get at. But it had to do some cherry picking, and then conflated issues to create a conspiracy rather than an argument.

I haven't got time to go into "singular-they". But, yeah, it has a long and noble history and I think its entirely proper. However that's because I rate gender neutrality as more important that grammatical beauty.


Erm... you realise I wasn't actually arguing with you? Just giving a little additional information that actually confirmed your point?


"These tropes may sometimes be clichés"

No, really?

Satires of stereotyped fantasy tropes (like Pratchett) is possibly the oldest genre of novel existing.

Don Quixote, a parody of the cliched tropes about knights-errant, chivalrous quests, etc was written in 1605. They call it the "first modern novel".

Meanwhile "Journey to the West" (often called "Monkey" in its English translation) is a chinese novel from 1592 that sits on the boundary between retelling Chinese mythic stories and satire.

I guess there probably once was a standard female identity. But feminists spent a century destroying it. So I found the article slightly disingenuous; it read a bit like, "Wah! We're being oppressed by the burden of choice forced on us by the patriarchy!" To which my reaction was, "Hang on, wasn't destroying the uniform female identity the point?!"
A "uniform female identity" is exactly what that article doesn't want. It's pointing out how difficult it is for women (and other "marked" minorities) to partake of the identity "person" without it being qualified.

Is a choice with the "none of the above" option denied to you but allowed to others a free choice?


So glad to have read this! I first came across Eagle of the Ninth in elementary school but didn't take note of the author or title and could never find her books again. I had high hopes that my latin teacher in high school would be able to help me out, but that turned out to be a sad dead end as well.

Who could have guessed that thirty years later I'd be able to rediscover a boys' own adventure series on an SF writer's blog. God bless Al Gore and his invention, the Internet!


A "uniform female identity" is exactly what that article doesn't want. It's pointing out how difficult it is for women (and other "marked" minorities) to partake of the identity "person" without it being qualified.

Interesting! What would it take to write a story people want to read, where the main character is a person whose gender doesn't matter?

I think you should do it.

It might possibly start out something like this:

You're on the job. You are replacing a failed circuit board deep in a crawlspace. All around you are other circuit boards that you mustn't touch. You hold very still while it clicks in place. Power on. Test. It's OK. Good. Every other board here tests OK too. You carefully crawl backward and out. One final run of tests, all pass. Good. You close the cover and mark your slate ready for the next job.

The job doesn't show up on your slate. Judson wants you to meet him at his station. Damn. It will take you 10 minutes to get there, why can't he just put it on the slate? You've been sensing something odd about Judson.

Well, a little exercise won't hurt. You move fast and arrive at Judson's bivouac in seven and a quarter minutes. Judson is short and pudgy, he always seems sort of -- moist. He has a brown caterpillar of a moustache. He looks at you and grins. "Hellooooo!" Oh shit.

"Hey, Judson, I'm behind schedule. Could I get the job ticket?"

"Uh. Uh. Has anybody told you, you look good when you're breathing deep?"

Take a deep breath and relax. You have to get jobs through Judson, you don't want to be the one who isn't a team player. "I'm behind schedule. I need my job ticket."

"No. You aren't. The job is real close to here, You'd have had to come practically this way irregardless. So uh. Uh. Which team do you root for, the Reds or the Blues?"

You're getting a sinking feeling in your stomach. "I don't follow sports much. I guess the Reds, but I don't care much."

"How can you not care? The Reds--"

"I'm on the clock. I need my job ticket."

"Oh, right. We can talk on break. Here it is."

You look at the slate. You know how to get there from here. You turn to go.

"Oh, uh, some of the boys are getting together at the bar after work. You want to be part of the team, right?"




About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by M Harold Page published on June 1, 2015 3:09 PM.

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Shieldwall: Barbarians! Writing and self-publishing an old school boy's young officer story set in Attila's invasion is the next entry in this blog.

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