Sunday, 20 February 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Orbit: have posted a response to blogger Leo Grin’s derisive prejudgement of Joe Abercrombie’s new title The Heroes. Grin is tired of modern fantasy and its ‘writers clearly bored with the classic mythic undertones of the genre, and who try to shake things up with what can best be described as postmodern blasphemies against our mythic heritage.’ He then goes on to use Abercrombie as an example of this, likening his First Law trilogy to:

Think of a Lord of the Rings where, after stringing you along for thousands of pages, all of the hobbits end up dying of cancer contracted by their proximity to the Ring, Aragorn is revealed to be a buffoonish puppet-king of no honor and false might, and Gandalf no sooner celebrates the defeat of Sauron than he executes a long-held plot to become the new Dark Lord of Middle-earth, and you have some idea of what to expect should you descend into Abercrombie’s jaded literary sewer.

Maybe it’s because I (whisper it) didn’t actually enjoy Tolkien’s meandering epic – ‘stringing you along for thousands of pages’ is about right - that alternative ending sounds bloody brilliant to me. He doesn’t stop there. Modern fantasy can also be comparable to: ‘artists taking a crucifix and dipping it in urine, covering it in ants, or smearing it with feces’. I bet Tolkien never expected to be in the same group as fecal blasphemy.

Abercrombie’s response is understandably confused and irate. He hasn’t superseded Tolkien and Howard, Grin’s faves (‘I’m reasonably sure Lord of the Rings is still in print’). As Abercrombie aptly puts it in that nihilistic way of his:

In the words of Mr. Pink, “fuck sides, man, what we need is a little solidarity here.” To me, it’s not really about politics, and it’s got nothing to do with sides, just various writers coming at a genre with their own set of unique concerns, influences, interests. Why must it be steak OR chicken? Can I not enjoy both?

Well met. I’ll meet you in the jaded literary sewer.

Angry Robot Books: Editor Lee Harris has been in discussion about the worth of eBooks, which is a worthy topic when a lot of people seem to think that they should be free. The vast majority of people place a helluva lot of worth in the physical copy. Is a book not its content? Would you love a blank page? To sum Harris’ points: Production cost differences between an eBook and a hardback is minimal; it does not spell the death of the publisher (have you read Harry Potter fan fiction?); an eBook (like any book) represents the publisher; it’s the culmination of a shed-load of work between editor/copyeditor/production/designer/marketer etc; it’s the product of investment; it’s priced to make a profit; and it’s worth blood, sweat, profanities and tears to an author.

So, reader, what it’s worth to you, you know, in your heart?

Gollancz: quick one this week – Ben Aaronovitch’s most excellent mash up of ghosts and waterways Rivers of London is in the Sunday Times top ten bestselling hardbacks list. I would link if I could but unfortunately it’s subscription only – a flaw in an otherwise foolproof digital content plan.

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