A&A The Official Matthew Woodring Stover Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Literature' started by The Gatherer, Feb 21, 2002.

  1. Worm5 Jedi Knight

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    Thanks for the advice. I never really knew anything about boxing before, but it definitely sounds like it'd be fun to look into, and I know they offer it at the academy where I'm taking escrima - speaking of, what (if any) is the difference between kali and escrima, in your opinion?

    Change 'any martial art' to 'anything' and that's a philosophy I try to live my live by.
  2. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    In the US, escrima is usually two-weapon stick/sword fighting (sometimes single), whereas kali is small blade, open hand, open hand plus knife, and low-line kicking.

    In the Philippines, the difference lies mainly in whether your guru speaks Spanish or Tagalog (or one of the other languages in that part of the world -- there's a bucketful). Same with arnis. The governing body of the sport applications (really fun -- padded armor and rattan sticks) is WEKAF, which stands for World Arnis Kali Escrima Federation, because for practical purposes they all refer to the same thing, which is the weapon arts of the Philippines.

    And it's worth noting that the techniques extend far beyond the islands; back when I was active in this stuff, the largest stickfighting school in the world was in New Delhi, run by the former South Asia champion.
  3. Worm5 Jedi Knight

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    Makes sense to me. Thanks for the clarification (or viewpoint, I guess; opinions as to the difference between kali/escrima/arnis/whateverthepants seem to be like pants; at least from the little bit of research I've tried to do). And I've read a little (very little*) about WEKAF - I've heard that one of the drawbacks is that in an attempt to create a point/scoring system around kali/escrima, they turned the focus to offense, and landing as many blows as possible, at the expense of protecting yourself . . . but it still sounds like fun, and the criticisms I've read mostly seem fairly general; in the sense that as soon as you try to come up with a way of objectively judging any martial art in a 'friendly' or 'sport-oriented' way, it's going to diverge from the original intent of the art, since by the original intentions (at least of the arts I'm interested in), the winner is whoever's not dead at the end of a 'match'.

    On another completely unrelated note - it seems to me that whether praising something or criticizing it, it's usually best to be as specific as possible. It's easy to say 'The stuff you write is awesome,' but it's often hard to say exactly what it is that makes something so 'awesome.' So, with that in mind, there's something I'd like to get off my chest, that I've been meaning to say for a few years now: Every single time I have read this passage, it pulls me out of the story - 'He felt hollow, but also somehow uncomfortably full, and frighteningly fragile, as though his guts were stuffed with eggshells.' - because every single time I read it some corner of my brain has to stop and think, 'God damn, that is one hell of a metaphor.'

    *Just to clarify my position here - I feel like I'm trapped in a kind of no-man's-land at the moment, because kali/escrima/arnis fascinates me, so I've tried to read as much as I can about it in the last few weeks. Which leaves me with a very thorough knowledge . . . for a layman, if you follow - I've read a fair bit, online and in the library, and therefore know a lot about certain things . . . but nothing at all of others. I haven't actually learned much, in the sense of 'learning to do' as opposed to 'learning about'. But bridging the gap seems to be pretty enjoyable process.
  4. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    When I taught kali, I always shared this motto, which is the only law of blade combat:

    Winners drip. Losers gush.


    I've always been fond of that eggshell image myself -- which is exactly what bugs me about it. I struggle with an unfortunate weakness for a well-turned phrase (one review, I think of Blade of Tyshalle, described me as an "almost insanely quotable writer" or words to that effect), even though my heart is with Dickens, who was always on guard against beautiful phrasing; whenever he found some in his own work, he'd strike it out. Dickens believed--as did Kipling, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Jack London and a whole mess of other authors I unreservedly admire--that any time readers find themselves paying attention to the words instead of the story, it's a failure of craft.

    On the other hand, if you didn't notice the line until the second or third time you read the scene, I take it all back. It's clearly a thunderbolt of genius.

  5. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

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    Dickens, of course, being the man responsible for "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," and "decrease the surplus population!":p

    I don't think it's possible to separate craftsmanship from the craft itself. Yes, you don't want the reader so taken with your prose that they lose track of the story, but by the same token an artist's technical prowess is exactly the thing that makes a story compelling enough to follow. Take for example...

    Sure, you could make it less pretty and compress the first three lines to "A pair of Jedi starfighters. Two is enough because the adults are wrong, and their younglings are right." This phrasing is less noticeable, but it's less noticeable because it's less powerful (and/or less powerful because it's less noticeable).

    Or go in the opposite direction and look at someone like Isaac Asimov, who was the first to admit that his writing lacked poetic flourish. But just as there's no such thing as speaking English without an accent, there IS a certain poetry to Asimov's non-poetic style. And it's wonderfully suited to the stories he told.

    And I don't think "insanely quotable" means the words are trumping the story. "It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage," stands out while we're watching in part because it's a well-turned phrase, but it comes back to us afterward because it takes us right back to that moment in the story and makes us want to take the journey all over again.

    Tl;dr version - well-turned phrases may not be for everyone, but in your stories they work and how.
  6. ezekiel22x Chosen One

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    Aug 9, 2002
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    I think the "insanely quotable" came from me earlier in this thread, although I agree with JKH in that I didn't mean Matt's writing is a case of "words trumping story." Although words trumping story might not always be a bad thing--Mervyn Peake is a writer who I consider coming from the "florid prose" vein, and yet I gladly read his writing (and it probably is for the writing more than the story, as might be evidenced by the fact that the character Titus Groan pretty much has no role in the first book of the Titus cycle.)

    But Matt's not the type of writer I'd call a "stylist," although that's not to say that I don't think his writing is amazing (it certainly is). The "pair of starfighters" passage is a perfect example. It's a bunch of short, clipped phrases, and yet it achieves a sense of mythic import and impending end of an era that would've been pretty much lost if it was instead written along the lines of "Infinite lines of moving light turned to quiet dots against a sea of black the moment the two starfighters excited hyperspace. Anakin Skywalker relished the quick taste of peace before turning towards the battle that raged over Coruscant."

    Traitor completely took me by surprise when I first read it for the very reason that the writing seemed to simply come from a different angle than what I'd gotten used to with Star Wars. It was still the story, yet beyond that surface there was also another narrative, one of ideas and urgency and symbolism and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    I guess what I'm saying is that you don't need to necessarily be a "stylist" to have style, while at the same time it's not just that style or the way the words are arranged that leads to lines being quotable, but rather the way in which the style is essential to building the story. "Keep your head down and inch towards daylight" isn't just good because it's quotable, it's good (and quotable) because it is extremely relevant to everything we've seen of Caine.

  7. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    Hey, thanks. Really.

    As readers of my blog and Facebook page will already know, I delivered the final Caine novel, His Father's Fist, last week, because he and I both are still inchin' toward daylight . . .

    I thought "decrease the surplus population" was Swift, though I may be wrong.

    And if you go and read the opening of Tale of Two Cities, you will see it's written in a deceptively simple declarative style . . . and the famous opening sentence is actually an exceedingly long one-liner.
  8. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

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    I'm not sure if "decrease the surplus population" is an original Dickens creation or not, but he uses it for Scrooge's famous retort to a charity worker who notes that many poor people would rather die than go to prisons or workhouses.

  9. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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  10. Worm5 Jedi Knight

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    I like that. After a bit of googling, this brings to mind something else that I kinda knew but never really thought about before - using a knife in a fight is, legally, classified as use of deadly force. Which means, under almost any conceivable circumstances, if you're using a knife in a fight, you're better off killing your opponent than leaving them alive. Which then brings us back to thing's you've (oops, sorry, I mean Caine's -) said: "Being in a fight means you pants up," and "A knife is not a little sword; a knife is a sharp fist."


    I see what you mean. To be honest, my first reading of that book is so far behind me, I can't remember if I noticed that line or not on my first read. However, in addition to the excellent points that have been made by Kieran Halcyon and ezekial22x, I'd like to say that I think it doesn't much matter. Because when I read that scene, and appreciate that line, I still appreciate it not as a well-crafted line by Matthew Stover, but as a clever turn-of-phrase by Hari Michaelson; same as in a group of friends, I might be "pulled out of the story" by my appreciation of a clever bon-mot.

    Basically, as you've said, "Fiction is a slippery concept."

    Your stories are real to me.
  11. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    Thanks.

    They're real to me too, which is worse because I was there when I made them up. It's a disease.

    I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you, but sane people don't think this way.

    On the other hand, it makes a pretty good running trope in His Father's Fist. The real part, I mean. Not the crazy part.

    Okay, well, fine. The crazy part too.


  12. Worm5 Jedi Knight

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    Dec 21, 2004
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    And who's the authority on the definition of 'sane'? ;)

    And for someone who hates spoilers as much as you do, you certainly do love to tease your fans . . . or maybe it just feels like teasing *because* I'm a fan . . .
  13. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

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    The DSM.
  14. PadmeA_Panties Jedi Youngling

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    Matt - how was it writing for the Magic universe?

    What was it like writing for the Magic universe compared to writing for the SW universe?
  15. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    Well . . .

    The fundamental problem in any fantasy narrative is "Why can't a wizard fix it?"

    In Star Wars, the powers of wizards are at least generally defined. This helps.

    M:TG wizard powers are more broadly defined when they're defined at all, which makes a fair amount of the suspension-of-disbelief pretense of verisimilitude a bit more complex to explicate. It's not just why the hero can't fix things, but why none of the hero's friends or potential allies can fix it either, and why the villain can't just crush the hero at will, but instead gives the hero a chance to fight back and possibly triumph . . .

    Frankly, it's all kind of a pain in the crack.

    Regular stupid non-SF-non-Fantasy cheeseball crap is way easier.
  16. IlyaP Jedi Padawan

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    Mar 4, 2009
    Harder and weird though it may have been, you've done a good job with M:TG. Am about a quarter of the way through the text, and I must say, thus far, I am really digging this book, Matt. It's good stuff. Quality prose, quality storyline, vivid imagery, and crackling, snappy dialogue. Love the snappy dialogue. Two words: dental floss. In the words of Borat, I like!
  17. Kyp_Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

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    Nov 7, 2008
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    Wow didnt realise the SWEU GOAT was on these forums.

    Great work on every novel so far Matthew, In particular the ROTS novelisation, which has to be the best SW novel ever written.

    Keep up the good work, and a Kyp Durron novel would be great! lol
  18. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    Ilya --

    Thanks, Shevvie. As always. Hope you like the rest of the book too.


    Kyp S --

    I'd do a Kyp novel in a heartbeat. Somebody call Del Rey.
  19. Kyp_Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

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    Im dialing now hahaha

    KOTOR had yet to be novelised, is that a project that would interest you?

    Writing the story of Revan would be amazing.
  20. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    I think I'm done with novelizing video games. I'd be open to writing Revan's character in a side story or Further Adventures Of . . . though he wouldn't be as much fun as Kyp.

    What does SWEU GOAT mean?
  21. KirKanosForever Jedi Padawan

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    GOAT = Greatest of all time
  22. Kyp_Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

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  23. MWStover - Traitor - Shatterpoint - ROTS - LSatSoM

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    Awwww . . . shucks.


    You folks kin come 'round enny tyme.
  24. Kyp_Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

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    But if you dont make this Kyp Durron novel/trilogy/19 book series happen we will strip you of that title and give it to Sean Stewart.

    You've been warned! hahaha!
  25. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

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    May 11, 2009
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    Hey, Matt, I read Shadows of Mindor, and I'm wondering if you were going for comedy or horror?