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Lit MON MOTHMA IS BACK, Ackbar Approved -- The Lit Forum Ketchup Thread, v3

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Point Given , Sep 12, 2015.

  1. blackmyron

    blackmyron Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 29, 2005
    Honestly, I think a lot of the assumptions made about the fantasy races came from D&D.

    As much as I liked Gary Gygax (whom I was fortunate to meet once), I was always annoyed that he tried to claim that LOTR played 'little to no' role as a source for the game.
     
  2. Vthuil

    Vthuil Force Ghost star 5

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    Jan 3, 2013
    Did he really say that? Wow.

    Though from a certain point of view that's actually true, insofar as the spirit of D&D derives more from the various sword-and-sorcery authors than Tolkienian high fantasy (and even as the influence does go, I've long felt The Hobbit is really more in it than LOTR proper).
     
  3. blackmyron

    blackmyron Force Ghost star 6

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    Oct 29, 2005
    I agree about the 'tone' of Dungeons & Dragons deriving from other sources - certainly Conan and Elric. But pretending that dwarves, elves, and goblins didn't derive directly from Tolkien's works was nonsensical (even moreso in the cases of the treant, halflings, the 'i'm-not-a-balrog' Type VI demon, and the ranger class).

    But he'll always get credit from me for introducing the Cthulhu Mythos to my much-younger self. My original copy of Deities & Demigods with the mythos is one of my most prized possessions.
     
  4. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    The original player character classes are clearly "so what Tolkien character do you want to play"

    Even if the usuall D&D World has more with Elric, Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and whatever swashbuckling movies they had seen that year, then with Tolkien
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  5. Vthuil

    Vthuil Force Ghost star 5

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    Jan 3, 2013
    This and the 'tree-ent' in particular are ones that elicited the 'wow'.
     
  6. cthugha

    cthugha Jedi Master star 3

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    Sep 24, 2010
    Oh wow. I mean, I've been on to Tolkien's casual fantastic racism for a while now (since reading that letter of his in which he literally calls Dwarves "the Jews of Middle-Earth", and then you read the Hobbit and the uber-Jew literally deserves to die because of his greed for gold... and don't get me started on the blood feud between them and the tall fair-haired Elves)... and this fits way too well. Trolls are working-class brutes, that much is obvious, but the equivalent of orcs always eluded me.
     
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  7. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Oct 13, 2003
    Umm, you can read Tolkien's letters where he flat-out eviscerates the Nazis in the 1930s when the German publisher for the Hobbit asks for Tolkien's genealogy. And how Tolkien makes clear that the species-based lines of good and evil in his works are just part of the fantasy setting he created, not an allegory, and later wishes he had done it differently so people didn't think it was an allegory.
     
  8. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    Michael Moorcock has a good critique of the reactionary nature of the entire epic fantasy genre in his essay "Epic Pooh".
     
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  9. blackmyron

    blackmyron Force Ghost star 6

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    Oct 29, 2005
    Tolkien would also get annoyed about how people kept reading an allegory about World War II into it - the guy spent his formative years watching all his friends die on the battlefields of World War One.
     
  10. Vthuil

    Vthuil Force Ghost star 5

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    Jan 3, 2013
    That's always been one of the classic "I sorta agree with what you say, but I hate, hate, HATE the way you say it" literary essays for me (the constant emphasis on complaining about prose seriously makes me want to punch him). I think it's got to be a generational thing in part - Moorcock is from an era where absolutist discussion of fiction was more normalized - but still.
     
  11. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

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    Feb 17, 2004
    Wow, I'm watching this Youtube video about how Star Wars was edited in post production and completely overhauled, and evidently the entire dramatic arc of the climax in which the Death Star was going to destroy Yavin 4 was added in post-production through inserts and voice over, but this wasn't even in the shooting script.

    Edit:
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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  12. cthugha

    cthugha Jedi Master star 3

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    Sep 24, 2010
    I know that one. But it's not news that one's explicit ideology (even if honestly held) can tell a different tale than one's lived practice, let alone one's fantasies. You don't have to consciously endorse racism in order to like reading stories about racial conflict (which is what a good part of Tolkien's stories is about). It's not a coincidence that this kind of fantasy was invented just as Colonialism-era stories about discovering strange lands and exotic cultures and racial and cultural conflict tropes were starting to become stale and increasingly indigestible to intelligent people in the West. You're not a racist; you know better than to write about Africa the way L Rider Haggard does, or about India the way Rudyard Kipling does (though those two are still among the more digestible of their ilk); but you still want to write and read this sort of story, the sort that has weird foreign races with exotic customs and blood feuds between races... so you shift the whole paradigm to Middle-Earth, and there you are.
     
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  13. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    You take my post way to serious. And I should probably have written that it's from a miniature painter blog where the blogger just noticed some similarity between the way some midlevel people described the hun (which surprisingly fit with how they are depicted in Mulan) and the orcs and use that as inspiration for how to paint his orc figures.
     
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  14. Vthuil

    Vthuil Force Ghost star 5

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    Jan 3, 2013
    Doesn't mean the discussion isn't worthwhile.
     
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  15. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    And then Edgar Rice Burroughs makes the link explicit - John Carter, the former Confederate slaveowner who transitioned to exploiting and fighting in the fading American western colonial frontier, then just jumps to a more exotic desert with red-skinned natives on Mars. And then in the 1960s, when the Mariner missions finally dashed any hopes of life on Mars, sci-fi then just made pseudo-Marses in other solar systems to keep the trope going. Most famously Arrakis and, yes, Tatooine (even Greedo was called "the Martian" by the production crew, if I remember right).

    And to add to how seductive the trope is - even Michael Moorcock, for all he critiqued epic fantasy (and space opera) himself wrote an explicit homage to John Carter in his Kane of Old Mars trilogy (even under a pseudonym, perhaps an indication he was all too aware that he was giving into it).

    Paradise Discourse and The Lost White Tribe are two good works of historical scholarship that get into this, mainly looking at how they justified colonialism but the latter in particular gets into how colonialist literature morphed into fantasy stuff with lost worlds.

    But speaking about Mars, CNN had a headline today that parts of New England will have temperatures colder than Mars this weekend. It's an obvious clickbait headline and very selective in its temperatures (summit of Mount Washington vs. the warmest temperature on Mars) but I guess it's the closest I'll get to my dream of actually going to Mars.
     
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  16. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    That something I really like with the movie, they take away John Carter being a plantage owning Southern gentleman and just make him a simple farmer
     
  17. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    I liked the movie, but I think that was just part of the wider cultural trope of trying to depict the Civil War as not being about slavery. The AMC show Hell on Wheels came out around the same time and it did something similar with its former Confederate protagonist - turns out he only fought for the Confederacy because he's such a patriot but he's completely non-racist and the only white guy in the camp who likes blacks.

    Admittedly this is veering a bit off topic but even the Free State of Jones movie from a few years ago, which I liked a lot also, fell into this trap - it ignored just how much Newton Knight was linked to slavery before the war (the film completely ignores the fact that he meets his second wife because she was owned by his grandfather since the 1850s) and it similarly ignores that of his company, something like 15% were themselves slaveowners. And also ironically the film ignores that part of the reason his descendants were so invested in the trial was because its outcome would allow them to benefit from segregation laws.
     
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  18. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    Comparing with one of the later comic adaptations* do I prefer the movie and how it shows the price of war even if it does not touch the slavery question

    * which shows John, in his golddigger days, being harassed by some real jerks of bluecoats before being saved by another former southerner which hold up the Confederate Flag and say something that I don't remember, probably something along the line of "southerners need to help each other against nasty northerners"
     
  19. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

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    Oct 13, 2003
    Tolkien was writing about Middle Earth since the 1910's... I think it's more than stretching it to say Tolkien wanted to write stories about foreign exotic races and racial conflict, so invented Middle Earth.

    But that's not saying that makes Dune or Star Wars inherently racist, because Tatooine and Arrakis were based off of old sci-fi ideas of Mars...
     
  20. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    Oh no, like I said, I do like the movie overall, and I think it gets a bad rap. I don't know if you've read it, but Marvel did a comic adaptation of the cancelled Gods of Mars sequel movie. Some of the Dynamite Comics Barsoom comics are enjoyable, too. Funnily enough, when the John Carter movie was in development, Disney tried to sue Dynamite to stop publishing Barsoom due to "brand confusion" but that obviously did not go anywhere.

    Definitely not, although I do think there are a lot of unfortunate racial/colonial subtext in Star Wars that goes unnoticed. The Imaginary Worlds podcast did a good episode on the reception of Dune in the Muslim world (also a good one on Native American views of the sci-fi first contact trope).
     
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  21. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    Like how it can be interpreted that the reason Chewie, who are supposed to be this person that know Leia, Luke and Han, gets to play second fiddle to Rey when it comes to interacting with them is because he is not an english speaking human? He could easily be seen as the non anglo-saxon character that only speak his home language and because of that gets treated like something less important than he should be by the story.

    But maybe I'm over analyzing :p
     
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  22. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    Trust me, you're in good company with me over-analyzing the political undertones of sci-fi works ;)

    Not even just that, but stuff like straight-up using a Kenyan dialect as an alien language, or Jabba's palace being an orientalist fantasy straight out of Edward Said's nightmares, or how primitive aliens and planets tend to use architecture and outfits from the Third World.
     
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  23. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    Personally I would love if SW or somthing similar sci-fi work used Swedish as an Alien language.

    Also don't get me started on how Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe use of pre-WWI mainland European uniforms for the badguys! :mad::p
     
  24. CaptainPeabody

    CaptainPeabody Jedi Master star 3

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    Jul 15, 2008
    The Tolkien thing is pretty complicated tbh.

    What Tolkien initially set out to do was to create a body of mythology, modeled on the Norse Sagas and other pre-modern folktales, specifically about and from the perspective of the English people. The basic portrayal of people groups is based on pre-modern models, but of course not uninfluenced by the 19th Romanticism that had unearthed and popularized a lot of these tales. Tolkien himself was an anti-Imperialist who hated the modern militaristic nationalism and supposed "racial science" and race hatred of his day with a burning passion, but of course he could hardly avoid being influenced by it to some degree--though I tend to think such influence is almost purely external and cosmetic, and not nearly as widespread as people tend to think reading it today.

    So especially in the earlier stages, lots of what is portrayed is based, consciously or unconsciously, on legends and events from English history. With the Orcs and the Enemy in general, the root influence comes of course from Norse mythology. Some aspects, too, of their appearance are almost certainly derived from the Huns (as the prototypical "barbarians")...but more broadly, the "Enemy in the East" and the roving, marauding Orcs are also clearly derived from the other examples of Eastern invaders in British history (of which there were a lot). This is something I didn't clearly pick up on until I heard Tolkien's unfinished Fall of Arthur, where "the East" and "the enemy in the East" are used a lot in a basically identical way...referring not to Huns, but to Anglo-Saxons coming out of Germany (i.e. to the descendants of the English themselves). Likewise, a big influence on Tolkien was G.K. Chesterton's epic poem "The Ballad of the White Horse," which is about Alfred the Great and his war with Scandinavian invaders coming out of, once again, the East.

    Of course, while these pre-modern things were a big influence, Tolkien couldn't help but be influenced by his own day and age as well. Politically, Tolkien was deeply influenced by his scarring experience of industrialized warfare and mass politics in WW1. As some of his letters make clear, in writing LotR itself, the Orcs became pretty much just a twisted version of English soldiers from WW1 ("we were all Orcs in the Great War")--and conceptually, they morphed into a prototypical idea of human beings twisted and warped by an fundamentally wicked, industrialized, and militarized society. As this idea of the Orcs emerged more clearly, Tolkien became more and more unhappy with his earlier ideas of the Orcs' nature and origins, and decided eventually (logically) that they should be nothing other than warped humans, not magical creatures or twisted Elves or slime monsters. He was in the process of adjusting his mythology to make this change when he died.

    But basically, Tolkien never imagined his work becoming what it has become--a global mythology. His insular and very personal vision is not going to perfectly fit with that role in all aspects, and adjusting him in externals to fit a broader and more diverse audience doesn't particularly bother me, and I don't imagine it would have bothered Tolkien all that much either. Certainly nothing would have caused him more distress than seeing his work abused by White Nationalists or the other degenerate progeny of the racists he opposed in his own day.

    Actually, though, based as it is mostly on pre-modern models, Tolkien's universe is in most ways far less racially troubling than modern sci-fi, which emerges directly out of the explicitly racist literature of Colonialism and Imperialism in the modern period. If you think about it for too long, Star Trek and Star Wars can get pretty disturbing pretty fast.
     
  25. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

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    Dec 16, 2012
    Why is the orc being warped humans so different from being twisted elves?