Saturday, March 15, 2008

I feel justified (and ancient.)

A few years back there was a publishing sensation in the Fantasy/SF world: A fantasy novel written by a fifteen year old kid! Awesome!

I read the cover blurb at the bookstore and reckoned I could save myself a few bucks. "Oh, look! Another hackneyed Tolkien ripoff D&D romp! Yawn."

Thanks to the Critical Bookworm, I feel smugly certain that I was righter than I knew.



(...and a totally unrelated PS to budding fantasy authors:
I know making up your own language makes you feel cool and all, can let you pad out your novel with appendices, dictionaries, & alphabet charts, and gives you reason to use the word "verisimilitude" in polite company, but harken to my warning: The Kindly Professor made up a language because he was a professor of linguistics, and then made up some stories to give it a home. Trying to make up a language to fit in your story when the last English course you took was Grammar/Comp 122 is unlikely to be anywhere near as successful...)

22 comments:

Bryan said...

"Derivative" is not always a bad word, but yeah, in the case of Eragon it is. I've seen obviously derivative work that was better than the original work, but Eragon is not among the few titles to manage the feat.

pdb said...

Cue TR's quote about the critic in 3.. 2.. 1...

Marko said...

pdb,

sometimes criticism is entirely appropriate, lest we end up in Fuzzly Liberal World where everyone's efforts are valued the same.

In Eragon's case, I have no problem stating that I've written far better stuff while drunk out of my mind. It's a little better than the stuff I wrote for my brother's storytimes at elementary school when I was ten, but not by much.

Then again, Eragon's author has a lot bigger bank account than I do, so that tells you right there what a critic's word is worth.

pdb said...

I apologize, that was unclear.

I should have said: "Defensive and whiny deployment of TR's quip about critics, which always seems to appear when talentless hacks are appropriately called out on their talentless hackjobs, in 3.. 2.. 1.."

Anonymous said...

It's like publishing a Star Wars fanfiction as a novel.

Oh, wait, I think George Lucas allowed a bunch of authors to do exactly that.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Eragon wasn't just a Tolkien ripoff. He ripped off le Guin and McCaffrey too. But I've honestly read worse. I'd gladly read Eragon again before picking up Weis and Hickman again. Or anything written by Terry Brooks.

Eldest was awful though. Not because it borrowed liberally from other superior writers. I kind of expected that. The whole narrative scheme of the novel was just broken. You can literally skip all the parts about his home town and you'll never miss it. Why did he include them in the first place? Well Jordan did something similar in the Wheel of Time I guess.

I must say that the whole lot of it makes sense once you realize that Paolini's parents are also his original publishers.

Matt G said...

"The Kindly Professor made up a language because he was a professor of linguistics, and then made up some stories to give it a home. Trying to make up a language to fit in your story when the last English course you took was Grammar/Comp 122 is unlikely to be anywhere near as successful...)"

More than that, Tolkien literally defined what English language was. He was a frickin' lexicographer on the staff that put out the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

When the man worked out words and phrases, he had his own reasons (ancient Germanic derivations, middle English terms) for putting them together the way he did. He did not pull them out of his arse.

If, young scribes of the world, you would propose to imply that you are as able as the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien (KBE), please understand the gravity of your statement. For in truth, if you're smart enough to even get most of the man's lexicological allusions, you're brighter than most who style themselves as writers. If you can then move on to coin such things in a logical manner, and still turn out a fascinating book with plot and character development... well. You're just the Next Big Thang, aren't you?

GORDON said...

Ooooo.... a KLF reference.

Well played, sir.

Oldsmoblogger said...

I read Eragon but not Eldest. Having done so, I can state with some confidence that all you say is true, but there's one thing that can be said in defense of Christopher Paolini:

The kid stayed in the chair.

That's no small thing.

ralphe said...

I managed to skip reading the Eragon novel also. Not so much because of the writer’s age, but because hard SF is more to my liking, but age and time entered into it. Still I think there is much to be said for starting early.

I began writing on the internet late, in part due to this site here! I made my first ever internet comment two years ago as a reply to a ‘Little Willie’ poem post Tam put up. A couple days later I saw Jeff Soyer at Alphecca was looking to start a SF Blog-Novel. I used the Willie post as an example of my writing. For some strange reason I got in on the Blog-novel.

Colony Alchibah, - (http://alchibah.com) - 2 years and 450,000 words later is getting retooled for a second book, and I am using the time to start a combination writing and blog site. It’s never too early to start and I sure wish I had done it sooner.

John Stephens said...

Nick Lowe said all that needs to be said about this sort of thing, over twenty years ago:

http://www.ansible.co.uk/Ansible/plotdev.html

Don Gwinn said...

You may hate it, I may not have read it, but my son is obsessed with it. He likes Star Wars and Tolkien, too, and for kids, the similarities are more comforting than anything else.

I know a lot more than I would ever want to know about Eragon. But I can't really judge; I've never read the book and I've had to watch the movie about twenty times, which would sour anyone. The movie is not great, not terrible, just one of those forgettable things. The only really watchable guy in it is Jeremy Irons as the old dragonrider who helps Eragon. That guy's fun to watch.
John Malkovich is in it, too, as Galbatorix the evil king, but they could have used a cardboard cutout. I'm guessing he knew what he was going to spend the money on when he took the role.

Tam said...

Like I said, I did not read the book, other than the blurbage and some randomly selected pages, but ex pede Hercules.

LabRat said...

Dear god, Don, I am so sorry.

Then again, I thought the movie was, while not the worst I've ever seen, only not the worst because it was so mockable I was able to sit through the whole thing instead of turning it off once the headache became too intense.

I'll watch Jeremy Irons paint his living room- I'm one of the few people that liked the Dungeons and Dragons movie, purely because it looked like he was having so much fun- but... this time, it wasn't near enough to make up for the sheer level of stupidity. (Plus, instead of having fun he just looked embarrassed to be there.)

Christina LMT said...

I forced myself to read Eragon because of my kids. Eldest was, in my opinion, a great improvement. But both are definitely forgettable.

Ninth Stage said...

You may feel justified (and ancient) but are you bound for mu-mu land, that is the question.

ColtCCO said...

Hey, I haven't read it all, either. Could beat page 4, and I TRIED. As Bean, mind-pronegy of an author retreading his own ground into mud by now, would say: "You don't have to eat the entire turd to know it's not a crabcake."

Don, I feel for you. With any luck, the taste for 'fan-fiction' versions of great works like LOTR(and to a lesser degree Star Wars), will vanish with the onset of age, wisdom and taste.

Also, the horrendously shitty book made for a horrendously shitty movie, extensivly documented by The Agony Booth:

http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Eragon.aspx

Whodathunkit?

Thomas Smith said...

Never read it, never saw it. Think it would make a good Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode?

Jeff the Baptist said...

John Malkovich is in it, too, as Galbatorix the evil king, but they could have used a cardboard cutout.

Probably because he didn't have anything to work with. Galbatorix doesn't appear in the first two books, only his minions do. It's pretty hard to give a great performance when you're just set dressing.

bumper sticker philosopher said...

Sometimes Tolkien and the Inklings, the informal literary group both he and C.S. Lewis were members of, would hold their meetings in Anglo-Saxon to break up the monotony...

Anonymous said...

That Agony Booth recap was wrong on one point: Kings can be Emperors. Though, usually they are Emperor first and King second. After all, Kaiser Wilhelm was also King of Prussia.

Gun Blobber said...

I just read Eragon and Eldest about a month ago. To put it succinctly, Eragon is Star Wars with Dragons. I honestly think that must have been Paolini's goal at the outset: to rewrite the Star Wars story using Dragon Riders instead of Jedi. If only he would admit to it, I think a lot of the criticism would stop, because it's really not a bad read, although I admit to being new to the genre (having only read LOTR a couple of times, the most recent being several years ago). Yes, there are times when you realize that the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Yes, the plot is very derivative. However, I still enjoyed reading it.