1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Discussion The world through the author's eyes? Or not?

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Aginor, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,969
    Likes Received:
    14,356
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I read this interesting article in the NY times:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/books/review/edith-wharton-house-of-mirth-anti-semitism.html

    And I think it is an interesting one, and also applies to fantasy writing to a certain degree.

    If you look at Robert E. Howard's Conan short stories for example you not only see the fantasy world, you see the world through the eyes of a kinda weird guy who basically never left his home town in Texas, had a relatively racist world view by modern standards (like pretty much everyone in the 1930s so not judging) and was a pen pal of H.P. Lovecraft.


    So, what do y'all think, how did/does your world view shape your stories?

    Would you agree or disagree with the assumption that in fantasy stories the influence might not be as strong, because the world is different and contains societies living by completely different standards, so a reader would be more inclined to accept characters (and thus expressed views) as inherent to the fictional world, instead of judging the story (and/or the author) by our modern, probably more civilized standards?

    I am asking myself that because of course in such a fictional world there are societies that - for example - are extremely racist, support genocide, slavery, and so on,... and they are the good guys.

    I once wrote a D&D adventure in which I wanted to confront the players with two Dwarven factions, of which one (the good guys) were slavers. I never finished writing it, and my D&D group dissolved, but to this day I wonder how they would have reacted. Would they have refused working with them? Maybe even fought them, despite the slaves themselves seeing slavery as normal and even beneficial (the slaves were humans, and living pretty good, just not free. Moral dilemma and so on)? Would they have talked to me about why I displayed slavery in such a positive way?

    Anyway, the article indirectly brought that up again for me.
    So, what are your thoughts? :)
     
  2. Crowsfoot
    Slann

    Crowsfoot Guardian of Paints Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,243
    Likes Received:
    13,802
    Trophy Points:
    113
    An author will always be influenced by their surroundings and that has to come into their stories, the article you linked does cover some valid points about "time travel" and it's a very different world we all live in now compared to 100 years ago, heck 50 years ago.

    We watched something on Netflixs last night called Timeless about time travel, they are chasing a master pod that is going back in history changing key events, last night they went back to early 60's America and the black American said a key phrase "I'm invisible" and just that phrase alone shows how far we have come in such a short period.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  3. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,820
    Likes Received:
    4,726
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Sometimes I am concerned that my writing reveals the wrong impression.

    In High School and to a lesser extant college, I wrote a fair bit of Science fiction stories kind of Star Trek like in that you have a loose alliance of different sentient species. I had about twelve sentient species including humans. My favorite race was always the Appotanians which in hindsight were kind of a Mary Sue race.

    One trait about Appotanians is that they do not have a lot of sexual dimorphism which is to say that males and females were physiologically and culturally similar. When I was on an environmentalist kick, the Appotanians became environmental. Everything I believed in politically became reflected in the Appotanians. In my teens and early twenties I viewed relative androgyny as a good thing for society because it was minimize problems of sexism.

    So I put forth the introduction to a medieval era Appotanian story. The part they read was a bunch of violent bandits destroy a farming community. They kill everyone and take everything. Meanwhile my protagonist was off selling her villages surplus crops at the nearest town. So she comes back, all her friends and family are dead and she has most of the villages money. She vows revenge and uses her unexpected windfall of money to buy military training.

    My mostly female creative writing class liked that my hero was female. They liked that the leader of the bandits, my villain, was also female, but they they didn't like that the bandits killed a lot of Appotanian women. Note, in my mind, I put equal effort to describing both male and female victims of the bandits but the readers fixated on the female victims because that is not something action stories show a lot. I was trying to be egalitarian towards the gender was was accused of being anti-woman.

    That was over 15 years ago. About seven years ago I broke my writing dry spell and mostly write stuff for Lustria-Online. I have often wondered what I show about myself that I don't intend to.

    I wonder if my celebrated tendency to about tragic death and doomed heroes. I've often wondered if that is hinting that I have a real problem. I don't it does. The tragic deaths are usually for the greater good.



    My most up voted Short Story ever was "Watching Things Burn." in April-May 2016. The initial idea came from an RPG book I read where a man sacrificed his brother to God because that was "what he loved most." In the RPG story, the character loved and hated his brother and he loved and hated God. In my story this 90% out of love, 10% out of ambition.

    I was still mourning my father's death when I wrote this piece. I had an excellent relationship with my father. I certainly didn't want him to die. But I thought about him a lot while writing this. I guess the emotions came through because I seemed to move a lot of people through that piece.


    October-November 2016, I wrote "In Pursuit of Freedom." It was well-received but it was not my greatest work. I have less pouring out of my deepest thoughts on this. I came up with this piece while day dreaming at work. I had a very lousy stretch of days at work. While I was disliking my job, I wrote a piece about a doomed warrior trying to escape the chains of his slavery and failing.

    Doesn't take a genius psychoanalyst to figure that one out.


    To my understanding, those are the only two things I wrote for Lustria-Online where I can really consciously say. "I was feeling x, so I wrote y."

    I'm sure a deep read of my works might reveal more hints about Scalenex's pysche. I'm sure @spawning of Bob knows all my deepest darkest secrets from beta reading all my unfinished WIP pieces at least before he stopped. You never responded to my messages about "The Golden Mountain." Grrr.
     
  4. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,969
    Likes Received:
    14,356
    Trophy Points:
    113
    About the Mary Sue:
    IMO the term is a lot overused. It almost seems like you cannot have anything good happen to the hero without being accused of building a Mary Sue. I don't like that.


    About my own writing:
    I rarely wrote anything (at least not that I know of) that was based on my real life. Quite the opposite in fact.
    But then... my writing probably isn't good to begin with. I asked @spawning of Bob for a review of my first Lizardmen story and he never even answered, probably to not hurt my feelings...
     
    Paradoxical Pacifism likes this.
  5. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,820
    Likes Received:
    4,726
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I guess I misused the Mary Sue term. In this case I'm thinking of Tolkien's Elves with my old Appotanians. They are stronger, faster, more beautiful, wiser, more moral, healthier, more magical, and longer lived.

    But superhuman races is a discussion for another thread...
     
    Paradoxical Pacifism and Aginor like this.
  6. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,969
    Likes Received:
    14,356
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Paradoxical Pacifism likes this.
  7. Paradoxical Pacifism
    Salamander

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    895
    Likes Received:
    1,122
    Trophy Points:
    93
    In my opinion, I like stories that have the least amount of author influence, so that the reader can have many chances where he/she can form their own beliefs on what's happening in the story.

    For this reason, i also really like it when stories draw gray shades of morality over their villains and protagonists, where it's not easily apparent for the reader who's right or wrong, and the reader has to decide for themselves who to trust.

    But despite all that, author influences will still persist no matter what anyway
     
    ChapterAquila92, Aginor and Crowsfoot like this.
  8. Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl
    Skink Priest

    Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,179
    Likes Received:
    4,632
    Trophy Points:
    113
    This is a really fascinating question, and I’ll give my tuppence.

    As you probably know from my comments on Star Wars and from my Short Story Contest entries, I like stories that involve one or more of the heroes getting killed off, and am much less keen on ones where the heroes romp around, wreck the villains and get home just in time for tea (like Flash Gordon or the Star Wars Original Trilogy). This is most likely because I feel that the former is darker and so much more realistic - heroes aren’t immortal or invincible, at least not if they’re human. They need to have some sort of mortality to them and some weaknesses, both in combat and in their personality, because in this world, nobody is flawless, and the world is a grim place. Heroes can, and do, die just as easily as villains can - they have no supernatural fate-oriented force field protecting them from destruction like they seemingly do in stories like the Star Wars OT. Humanity may think it has advanced, but the same bugbears still trouble us as they did our ancestors - there is still disease, war, cruelty and greed, they have just evolved as we have. We may have all these new technological marvels, but we have still failed to eliminate these evils. Indeed in some ways they have got worse because of it. Darker stories therefore are essentially parodying the real world, and in some cases warning us of what might just happen if we continue down our dark path.

    However, this does not mean I am not adverse to utopia civilisations and utopia settings, far from it. I would say, though, that my ideas of utopia societies and environments are considerably different to those of others. Certainly the Federation in Star Trek is not my idea of a complete utopia. Yes, humanity is united, yes we have and attempt to bring peace, but the way it has formed and the way it behaves is not my idea of a glorious and benevolent civilisation. For example, notice how all its military power is based in America and most of the humans in its service are American? This makes me see it in quite a lot of ways as an American Empire that seems to implicitly allow American citizens vastly more privileges than those of other countries. Indeed in all of humanity seen so far we have seen:
    1 Frenchman (Captain Picard)
    1 definite Briton (Malcom Reed) and possibly another (Dr. Bashir, although his dad’s British and his mum’s French so I’m unsure if Julian was born and raised in Britain or France)
    1 Irishman (Chief O’Brien)
    2 Japanese women (Hoshi Sato and Keiko - Sulu was born in America despite having a Japanese name so he is technically American rather than Japanese)
    Compare this to the sheer number of American characters and do you see what I mean? While I don’t mind this particularly, it’s still not my idea of heaven, especially if it starts off with America as it is now invading all the other countries and subjecting them to its rule. Indeed this might have been part of the supposed World War III in Star Trek lore.

    Also, where are the wild animals? The Earth in the 24th century seems to be even more devoid of wildlife than the Earth we’re living on now, which upsets me, as it pretty much shows that humanity will still persecute wildlife even when they’ve stopped persecuting each other. Notice how the Earth still has vast built-up areas that exclude habitats for wildlife, perhaps even more so than we have now. Also humanity still seems to look down upon other animals in the 24th Century which again winds me up. In 300 years the full human race still hasn’t got the intelligence to look at animals as being more like us than we know. The only decent thing I’ve seen is the use of replicators which of course saves the killing of animals for meat - in that department at least it seems that we have advanced above the position of being a simple predator. However, humanity still doesn’t behave sustainably and allow the resources they have taken to be replaced, and they’ve also spread this desire to strip resources like a Tyranid swarm to other planets they’ve colonised as far as I can see.

    This leads nicely onto what I would see as a utopia civilisation, which is far more based on the lifestyles of ancient peoples like the Plains Indians and the Celts, who respected the wildlife around them far more than the unified civilisations who destroyed them (the United States and the Roman Empire respectively) - even today the Bible still arrogantly proclaims that man was created by the Christian God to rule over all the animals - and also used resources with sustainability in mind, something we’re having problems with today. This couldn’t be any more embodied than through the film Dances with Wolves - specifically the scene where the Sioux tribe who have befriended Colonel Dunbar go hunting for buffalo and come across a whole herd of them massacred by American colonists that hunted them purely for their skins with their skinless corpses left behind to be wasted, and the Indians are quite rightly mortified by this. For centuries the Native Americans practiced far more sustainable hunting purely by taking only the animals they needed - usually around 2 or 3 - and leaving the rest of the herd in peace to have more young and gradually regrow. They also used absolutely everything from every animal they killed, with the meat being eaten, the skins used to make clothes and tepees, bones used to make tools and I think they even used the sinews to make strings for all sorts of things. The Celts were very much the same, and both civilisations had so much knowledge that was lost when they were destroyed by the invaders, predominantly because both races merely wanted to be left alone and had little desire to expand and take over other peoples (albeit the various tribes of both factions were prone to fighting amongst themselves, but neither race had the sheer desire to explicitly conquer and enslave other civilisations on the scale of the US and Roman armies). Indeed history has repeated itself many times with the same story of a more aggressive, unified people dividing and conquering a less-unified, more sustainable one, with history being written by the victors, to use Napoleon’s phrasing.

    Essentially my idea of a Utopia civilisation would be based on if a culture like the Celts or Native Americans had had the chance to gradually unify and expand yet still retained the sustainable yet ingenious lifestyle of the tribes, with a faith revolving around the sanctity of both human and animal life and the aim of blossoming cultural masterworks and traditions over the desire to kill and subjugate all others, which you may have noticed I have included in the current setting of Scum and Villainy and is being featured as one of the main protagonist factions in the novel I am writing.

    I’d say that all of this comes from the sadness I feel as to what’s happening to this world - more and more houses are springing up all over the place and forcing wildlife out, the world is being stripped of its resources like biomass being stripped by Tyranids and the cultural intelligence of humanity has gone down the drain - no more John Constable, JMW Turner, ballroom dancing, H.G. Wells or Gustav Holst, now all we have is Damien Hirst and his dead flies, breakdancing, the nargle-fodder that’s comes from David Walliams and the racket that is Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and friends. How the mighty have fallen :(.
     
  9. ChapterAquila92
    Terradon

    ChapterAquila92 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    582
    Likes Received:
    1,352
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Writing what you know is a common enough trope among fiction writers that it's worth the self-reflection on occasion.

    The vast majority of the fiction I've written over the years has a strong militaristic leaning, not merely because I'm a military member from a military family but also because of the works I've read, watched and played over the years (Warhammer included). I'm also something of an optimist when it comes to transhumanism in general, but cautious nonetheless - my experiences in dealing with singularitarians and immortalists within the ideology has largely been antagonistic due to cult-like behaviour on their part, which didn't sit well for this secular Catholic humanist who's more interested in the ethical dilemmas and technical challenges rather than a utopian worldview.

    A common theme in my writing however has more to do with belonging, or at least the struggle to find where one fits in. A long-running story setting I've had in the works since high school, currently under the working title Immortal Trinity Chronicles, opens up centering on twelve young Canadians who struggle to regain some semblance of normality in their lives after a life-altering event that effectively turned them into posthumans against their will, with several third parties taking a keen interest in what the titular alien nanotech in their bodies can do and how they could be used. Similarly, a Pokémon military fanfic titled Forgotten Army revolves around a rogue experimental military uplift program fighting to gain citizenship rights after being abandoned by the Unovan government, along with a former child soldier from Orre who took them under his wing when the program was scrapped.

    As I've alluded to before, I have no love for utopia. Every time I hear the word, what immediately comes to mind are the myopic and self-aggrandizing ideals of an individual who is so utterly convinced that they are morally right and want the rest of the world to follow suit that they don't see the dystopia they're inadvertently trying to create for themselves. For that matter, dystopia is indistinguishable from utopia.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2019
  10. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,820
    Likes Received:
    4,726
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I'm not sure about the Star Trek pre-Federation era lore. I figured the predominance of Americans is a result of the studio having a predominance of American actors. Or alternatively, they really are ethnically diverse but the universal translators give everyone an American accent, much like how all the aliens in Dr. Who have British accents. It's a limitation of how TV shows are made.

    I would point out that the original Star Trek series added a supposedly Russian character to kind of show the Cold War is over. The actor was really bad at pretending to have a Russian accent though. According to the creators, the creators of Firefly had a ton of cultural motiffs for China to show that China and the United States had made peace in the past. This is undercut by none of their cast was made up of Asian actors even though Simon, River, and Innara all had a Chinese last name, they were clearly Caucasian. Again a limitation from making a modest budget American TV show.

    I would argue that the 24th century humans were pretty environmentally conscious. At least in the Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager. Even the original series had an entire movie built around saving the whales. Maybe they only became environmentally conscious because Earth was wrecked but at least they seemed to learn from their mistakes.

    I would argue that the main dystopia of Star Trek is the argument that Cracked.com used. Replicators, holodecks, and world peace means there is nothing to struggle for. What do people experience on the holodeck. The Wild West, Sherlock Holmes, the French Revolution, 1940s noir detectives, the Viking era. Nothing between 1970 and the 2400 because nothing of interest happened. The Enterprise, made up of the Federation's most brilliant minds is going out to explore and find new civilizations and new worlds because the 24th century desperately craves novelty in their perfect, boring, sterile, supposedly utopian lives.

    Probably should go to the General Chat where there are multiple Star Trek threads if want to debate Star Trek specifically.

    I took two Politics of Film classes in college years ago. This was one of the core thesis my professor gave us. Is that utopia's turn into dystopias.

    1984 was a Communist utopia which turned into a dystopia.

    Minority Report
    is a surveillance state dystopia

    Shadow Run
    is a Libertarian dystopia.

    I have only watched the trailers but that weird movie where the moving cities eat smaller cities seems to be a nationalism dystopia.

    Star Trek tries to make a post-scarcity utopia but hints at dystopia of spiritual decay. Within Star Trek, the Klingon Empire, Romulan Empire, Ferenghi Alliance, and the Cardassian Union are all sorts of dystopia formed out overly rigid ideologies: warriors honor surveillance state, laissez faire capitalism, and hyper nationalism respectively.

    i would argue that the writers consciously WANT to poke holes i the flawed ideologies of the alien empires and they are at least subconsciously trying to make the Federation the good guys.

    I could even cover @Lord Agragax of Lunaxoatl 's "one with nature utopia." There was an episode of DS9 where a Federation scientist deliberately stranded a bunch of humans on a rustic world with a technology dampener. The humans went back to their ancient roots and lived off the land BUT the scientist that barred them from technology knowingly let her own people die from preventable diseases by keeping them from their medical technology and the head scientist had a sort of god complex where she controlled every aspect of her followers' lives like a cult leader. That could be considered a dystopia though they did show the upside of this society too. But even being one with nature can turn into a dystopia.

    My professor really stressed the difference between a dystopia and a cacatopia. Most people assume any terrible society is a dystopia. A dystopia is a flawed attempt at a perfect society. A cacatopia literally translates into a poopy society. There was no attempt to make a perfect society, everything is crap.

    The Shawshank Redemption qualifies. You could argue that the Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy realms are cacatopia. Sure they have oppressive states which could qualify as fascist or monarchist dystopias but I would argue that the universes are so nasty and bad that you cannot even try to make a utopia.

    On the topic of writers showing you their hopes and fears. Stories set in cacatopias usually stem from one of three author mindsets (or a combination thereof).

    1) Dark and gritty is sexy and will sell sell sell!

    2) Cacatopias only arrive when the previous society messes up. The backstory to the Hunger Games was varied but widespread enviornmental degradation. The backstory to the Judge Dredd comic books was nuclear war. Water World's backstory was global warming. In other words the author revealed their fear of wasting nonrenewable resources, nuclear war, and global warming respectively.

    3) The author wants to show that a desire for freedom, the strength of the human spirit, or some other feel good thing can transform a cacatopia into a regular-topia. My professor called these purgatory stories. Shawshank Redemption has a purgatory story for the protagonist at least. The Hunger Games has a sort of purgatory story for the human race.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
  11. Aginor
    Slann

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,969
    Likes Received:
    14,356
    Trophy Points:
    113
    TVtropes uses the term "crapsack world" and they (and I ) agree that 40k belongs into that category.
     
  12. Y'ttar Scaletail
    Razordon

    Y'ttar Scaletail Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    950
    Trophy Points:
    93
    I enjoy making references.

    A lot of my older/main characters have been loveletters to a person or genre that I think a lot of. For example Green Seer Ratty Gnawtail is (very) loosely inspired by the water rat from Wind in the Willows, the mad defacto Scottish engineer Jekro Tkull is a mish mash of the agriculturalist Jethro Tull as well as the prog rock band Jethro tull, Tekris Malthkus is a Moulder version of the Rev Thomas Malthus, Warlord Pekrone is a fun play on Giovanni Guareschi's Mayor Peppone, Mizzreek has a lot of Joseph Heller's Catch 22's comedy in him, Parson Nithaneek is a reference to Parson Nathanial from the musical version of War of the Worlds (and his study of the disease 'breeder's knee' is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Jerome K Jerome's comedy of self-diagnosing oneself), Herkter G. Underwells is a loveletter to Herbert George Wells, Felrix Brightfur has many Western genre parts poured into her. In short, the things I value and take inspiration from do often find their way into my writing.

    Also, those familiar with my stuff will note that I can put my characters through absolute hell...but I never kill them. Not sure how that relates with the real me, but eh. :p
     

Share This Page