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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why "I" Would Sell Out Like Paolini

Apparently the community of Eragon haters is increasing throughout various avenues of the literary world. I'm sure many of you have already noticed this, and many have jumped on the wagon. Some of you are like me where you just don't care what the rest of the world thinks because you take it as a personal attack on your integrity when people question your ability to like or dislike a book. There are still others that truly battle to the end with people who have apparently spent the ridiculous amount of time to analyze a book that they apparently hate with a passion--a group of folks that continue to baffle me. I'm not a fan of the LOTR books, but I certainly have not taken it upon myself to analyze the living crap out of the novels just to simply get my point across that I don't like the books. It's a personal opinion, nothing more. Generally speaking I consider myself a critic, and like all critics, I have a select cast of people who like books like me. I offer an avenue to perhaps find new books that fit into the mold for such people to peruse, since most of us are not magically connected to the hip of big SF/F publishers and don't have the option of getting advanced reading copies of all the latest releases.
Having rambled sufficiently enough now, I'll get to my point. This all came up on TeenageWriters during a very similar Eragon bash fest as I have seen in various other avenues all over the Internet. Granted, it is not nearly as thorough or hateful as the anti-Eragon websites where people that apparently have nothing better to do with their lives sit down and read the book cover to cover, over and over again, and then resort to actually digging up statistics from ancient times to apply them scientifically to a universe that can't exist in the real world in the first place. If you can't see that as insanely absurd, then you probably shouldn't read further.
Now, one of the things that came up was a discussion of Paolini's success and the overall impression I get is that he basically sold out to the market or some such. It involved plenty of hate for the cliches and such.
I'm here to say that I would gladly sell out in much the same manner if it means that I'm going to be read and admired by fans across the world. If selling out means I get a best selling novel, or two, or three, or hell twenty, and have a following of devoted fans who, while very much as absurd as the haters, spend their lives analyzing and learning every little niche of my world, then by all means I would gladly sell out. If selling out means I get to sell 8 million books and get a magnificent opportunity to see my work put on the big screen, then you better believe I would jump on that opportunity. My dream is to be a published writer and someone who can make a living as a writer. But if selling out means I get to write something I enjoy, that others enjoy, and makes me successful, then I am more than willing to do that.
And for the record, this is not directed at any individual, but something that has been swimming around in my head ever since I saw that anti-eragon site on the net. I've been thinking of writing this rant for some time now, and the TW thread pretty much gave me the spark to do it. A further note, I doubt any of the members on TW actually did the extensive reading as the anti-eragon sites have, but likely took much of their information from such avenues. I don't believe anyone at TW would waste that kind of time because I get the impression that most of them have adequate lives and can leave a book they dislike well enough alone in the end.
Okay, now that is all.

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12 comments:

  1. As someone who has analyzed the living crap out of both Eragon and Eldest (chapter by chapter no less) I can at least tell you why I did it and my thoughts on the subject.

    I did my critique as an exercise. I felt that my essay and analyzing skills were growing rusty from lack of use, so I wanted to tackle something. I had heard about Eragon and how bad it was, and decided, well, why not try that?

    As I worked my way through the book, I discovered that not only was the story a running stack of cliches, the writing was disgustingly bad and completely juvenile. It was something that any intelligent editor should have thrown back and said, "Why don't you try and write some more before submitting to us again."

    As an aspiring writer, I'm sure you can see the importance of writing a good story and good prose to tell your story.

    However, Eragon and its sequel show very little hints of being a good story. The characters are flat and dull and the story contrived.

    This however is besides the point. Most of the people that I have talked to who dislike the books is not that he sold out (which I don't believe he did) but instead that he only got published because his parents happened to own a vanity press. And then happened to meet an editor who happened to be looking for something to fill the gaps between the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

    Basically we're all bitter and jaded writers who hate the fact that something of this low quality is being touted around as the next best thing since sliced bread. Also we don't like the fact that Paolini himself seems to think that his books are the next best thing since Beuwolf (he has said something to that effect).

    Also, while we do admit that Paolini has some potential, we just wished he waited until he had learned his craft before getting published.

    ~Kippur

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  2. Yes, I can see the importance, but I also don't find it necessary to focus on Eragon for any reason. The fact is that the people who love the book are going to love it just as people who love Harry Potter are always going to love Harry Potter. Look at what has been going on with Rowling lately. She's a horrible, horrible, wretched person, but people will take everything she has done and pretend it's wonderful. So, writing stuff to break down Eragon isn't going to change the fact that it has sold a million books, been turned into a movie, etc.
    For his writing, I don't pay attention to it and I don't intend to write like him because it's not my style. He hasn't taught me anything really. I also don't recognize him as a great writer, because he isn't. And it's irrelevant to me if there are cliches because all fantasy is cliche. It's unavoidable to be cliche in fantasy. Almost everything has already been done. But that's besides the point I guess.

    Anywho, thanks for stopping by and posting.

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  3. Dammit, Shaun, some fantasy is original!

    And also, I worship Harry Potter, and still think Rowling sucks. So there.

    And to Anti-Shwhatsit folks, we'd been arguing about this on another site for hours before he wrote the post, so this is only half the story. He's not a moron really. :p

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  4. You seemed like such an intelligent person up until this point. I mean this in insulting way, but you just made a very big fallacy. It's one that most people who aren't familiar with fantasy make, so I shall try and explain my point.

    Yes, I can see the importance, but I also don't find it necessary to focus on Eragon for any reason. The fact is that the people who love the book are going to love it just as people who love Harry Potter are always going to love Harry Potter.

    Your first point: We focus on Eragon because Eragon is a to put it bluntly a piece of trash and should have never seen the light of day out of Paolini's notebook. The story is a complete and utter insult to all writers. Genre and non.

    I'm curious, have you even read the books? It doesn't sound like you have.

    Also, most of the people who are fans of Eragon are people who aren't familiar with fantasy and books in general. They are tweens and teenagers who spend most of their time playing video games and on the internet. They haven't been exposed to good literature. Any sort and see reading as a chore at most. Eragon is easy and reads like a video game. On the surface it's very familiar because it uses familiar trophes that are found in video games and TV.

    What has been found is that once these kids who have been exposed to Eragon move on to other books, they realize that it's not good and join the Dark Side, if you well.

    He hasn't taught me anything really. I also don't recognize him as a great writer, because he isn't.

    Actually you can learn a lot from Eragon on how NOT to write a book, because he does everything wrong from not listening to his characters to bad continuity.

    And it's irrelevant to me if there are cliches because all fantasy is cliche. It's unavoidable to be cliche in fantasy. Almost everything has already been done. But that's besides the point I guess.

    Finally. All fantasy is NOT cliche. That is the most idiotic and uneducated statement a person can make. That's like the time someone once told me in regards to my work, that they were surprised wizards went to the bathroom.

    Fantasy is no more cliche than the thriller novel. Have you read the DaVinci Code? That's a cliche from start to finish.

    And no it's not unavoidable to be cliche in fantasy any more than it's unavoidable to be cliche in any other sort of writing. What you need to do is be aware of the cliches and work around them or put a new twist on them. I highly recommend Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels to prove this point.

    Writing is really, all about taking a cliche a story people have heard before and putting a new twist on it. All writing. It's just that Fantasy Cliches are easier to spot than others, because they're in the realms of the fantastic. However Fantasy and science fiction is also the most diverse with its possibilities of twisting cliches. After all they can create all new realities while ordinary fiction can only exist in our world.

    I think, before you go and say that all fantasy is cliche, you should read a lot of fantasy. And THEN make your judgments.

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  5. Boy, this is interesting.

    So, you focus on Eragon, which you think is garbage, rather than focusing on works that I would assume you believe deserve more attention. So, by focusing on a work that you think is crap, you're actually legitimizing it. Brilliant position actually. Rather than giving the appropriate attention to the works you believe should be selling and admired by millions of people, you ignore them. Perhaps a good change of scenery would be to instead provide insightful looks into books of value, rather than wasting time on Eragon.

    Yes, I have read the books, and I've already addressed this issue before. I don't see the books to be anything close to literary genius. They're not, and don't deserve to be recognized as such. But they are entertaining and lots of people think the same.

    I don't see why it matters what type of people enjoyed Eragon. The only thing that matters is that they enjoyed it. You can't change that.

    And no, it hasn't been found. The majority of kids who read books like Eragon and Harry Potter, are actually kids who read in the first place. You need to research the demographics of readers. Eragon was marketed to a specific age group, and it worked.

    "Finally. All fantasy is NOT cliche. That is the most idiotic and uneducated statement a person can make. That's like the time someone once told me in regards to my work, that they were surprised wizards went to the bathroom."

    This is actually the idiotic statement, but, we can go with the thought that I'm being stupid here, sure. The fact is that fantasy hasn't been original since Tolkien pioneered the genre. Even Tolkien wasn't original and anyone who actually analyzes literature would have known this, but if you think otherwise clearly you need to read your history more.

    "Fantasy is no more cliche than the thriller novel. Have you read the DaVinci Code? That's a cliche from start to finish."

    It's worse actually. The sooner you can accept that fantasy is cliche the better

    "And no it's not unavoidable to be cliche in fantasy any more than it's unavoidable to be cliche in any other sort of writing. What you need to do is be aware of the cliches and work around them or put a new twist on them. I highly recommend Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels to prove this point."

    You need to read more then. All the major ideas have been done in fantasy. What makes fantasy effective isn't that it is trying to be original, but that it finds different ways to address preconceived ideas. That's called creativity. All fantasy is filled with cliches, barring perhaps select works from the ancient times. Harry Potter, for example, is not some big work of originality. The difference is that HP has managed to tell a story so good that you pretty much could care less what cliches lay within it, which is what good fantasy does.

    "Writing is really, all about taking a cliche a story people have heard before and putting a new twist on it. All writing. It's just that Fantasy Cliches are easier to spot than others, because they're in the realms of the fantastic. However Fantasy and science fiction is also the most diverse with its possibilities of twisting cliches. After all they can create all new realities while ordinary fiction can only exist in our world."

    Wait, so if writing is about putting new twists on old cliches, then how can any writing not have cliches? See, you just contradicted yourself. And here I would agree with you. That's called creativity, and perhaps to some extent originality. But the cliches are still there. It's a matter of how you tell the story, present those cliches, and put twists on them to make the audience unaware that they are reading something that has technically been done before. Harry Potter, again for example, uses a Wizard School, a bearded old man who knows lots of stuff, prophecies, etc., yet you don't pay attention to that because the story itself manages to put the appropriate twists on things.

    "I think, before you go and say that all fantasy is cliche, you should read a lot of fantasy. And THEN make your judgments."

    I would suggest the same of you. I've read enough fantasy and don't read much fantasy these days because a lot of fantasy fails to do what it is supposed to do: be creative.
    But, you and I will never agree on any of the above, so there's no point in arguing it any further.

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  6. So, you focus on Eragon, which you think is garbage, rather than focusing on works that I would assume you believe deserve more attention. So, by focusing on a work that you think is crap, you're actually legitimizing it. Brilliant position actually. Rather than giving the appropriate attention to the works you believe should be selling and admired by millions of people, you ignore them. Perhaps a good change of scenery would be to instead provide insightful looks into books of value, rather than wasting time on Eragon.

    Actually I do that. But, as mentioned earlier I did Eragon for fun. Also sometimes one of the best ways to learn is from other peoples mistakes, so you know what not to do.

    Yes, I have read the books, and I've already addressed this issue before. I don't see the books to be anything close to literary genius. They're not, and don't deserve to be recognized as such. But they are entertaining and lots of people think the same.

    Unfortunately I haven't seen your addressing of these books, so you must forgive my ignorance, I apologize for those statements.


    This is actually the idiotic statement, but, we can go with the thought that I'm being stupid here, sure. The fact is that fantasy hasn't been original since Tolkien pioneered the genre. Even Tolkien wasn't original and anyone who actually analyzes literature would have known this, but if you think otherwise clearly you need to read your history more.


    And here you're wrong again. Tolkien didn't pioneer the genre. People like Edgar Rice Burroughs and even Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare were writing fantasy long before Tolkien was born. What Tolkien did was take fantasy seriously. He didn't do the typical sword and sorcery story like Conan the Barbarian and he turned elves back from the tiny little butterfly wings to the proud and noble, ancient race. Having actually studied and written several papers on Tolkien, I know this.


    It's worse actually. The sooner you can accept that fantasy is cliche the better


    So tell me which genre does this plot belong to?

    Guy is given a task where he needs to go on a great adventure, learn about himself and eventually save the family he cares about?

    Isn't that a cliche story right there? Haven't you seen it in millions of books all over the place? Tell me, which genre does it belong to.

    You need to read more then. All the major ideas have been done in fantasy. What makes fantasy effective isn't that it is trying to be original, but that it finds different ways to address preconceived ideas. That's called creativity. All fantasy is filled with cliches, barring perhaps select works from the ancient times. Harry Potter, for example, is not some big work of originality. The difference is that HP has managed to tell a story so good that you pretty much could care less what cliches lay within it, which is what good fantasy does.

    I read plenty, thank you, and I spend far too much money on books. (though that's really a lie, you can never spend too much money on books).

    However, I would like to know what major ideas you are talking about in regards having already been done in Fantasy.

    By saying all fanasty is cliche, is rather like saying that all portrait paintings are cliche because the face in all it's different angles have been done before, so why do it?

    Wait, so if writing is about putting new twists on old cliches, then how can any writing not have cliches? See, you just contradicted yourself. And here I would agree with you. That's called creativity, and perhaps to some extent originality. But the cliches are still there. It's a matter of how you tell the story, present those cliches, and put twists on them to make the audience unaware that they are reading something that has technically been done before.

    But this is done in EVERY story and in EVERY genre. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't limit it to JUST fantasy.

    Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal"

    See, you just contradicted yourself.

    Actually, there are different levels of cliches. Different sorts of tropes used in writing. They're like an artist's supplies. They pick and chose what sort of materials they want to use to create the picture they want. They start with the canvas, which is when they decide to write a short story, a novel, a poem, a play, etc. From there they pick what they want to depict. This is picking the story line. And finally they pick what materials they want to use, which is writing their story and maybe instead of using gray to indicate shadows they decide to use green, to make it different.

    I would suggest the same of you. I've read enough fantasy and don't read much fantasy these days because a lot of fantasy fails to do what it is supposed to do: be creative.
    But, you and I will never agree on any of the above, so there's no point in arguing it any further.


    Again, I have. I specialize in it.

    (oh, and I'm having a rather good time with this, so I'll argue with you until the cows come home.)

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  7. You might focus on other works, but groups like the anti-eragon sites don't. They spend far too much time addressing a work they feel is garbage and not enough time on works that deserve attention. That's why I do book reviews. I find the works that i don't enjoy and do enjoy, do my reviews, and move on to the next book. Books of most interest get discussed more in my blog or elsewhere and I constantly refer to authors/books that deserve attention. There was a book a while ago called Tower of Shadows by Drew Bowling that I hated to death because it was horrible, in my opinion. I did one review, had some arguments, and that was that. I find it unnecessary to give it any more attention than simply in passing because it doesn't deserve. Tolkien, on the other hand, I will constantly refer to because, though I will address your argument later, he did pioneer the fantasy genre and set the direction by which all other fantasy strives to follow (well, at least all other high fantasy does).

    "Unfortunately I haven't seen your addressing of these books, so you must forgive my ignorance, I apologize for those statements."

    Generally when I've reviewed the books it is from a standpoint of being entertained. The books entertain me. But I stick by the notion that they aren't brilliant like Tolkien or any other great writer. They're basically like the books you see on the bestseller list that aren't really all that great but captivate the masses.

    "And here you're wrong again. Tolkien didn't pioneer the genre. People like Edgar Rice Burroughs and even Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare were writing fantasy long before Tolkien was born. What Tolkien did was take fantasy seriously. He didn't do the typical sword and sorcery story like Conan the Barbarian and he turned elves back from the tiny little butterfly wings to the proud and noble, ancient race. Having actually studied and written several papers on Tolkien, I know this."

    When people think fantasy, they think Tolkien, or perhaps Rowling, though that would be unfortunate. He is revered as the icon of fantasy for good reason, because he took fantasy to levels it hadn't gone before and gave argument for legitimizing it as something valuable and serious. Poe wrote fantasy, sure, but is he recognized for that? No, he's not. The same is for Shakespeare. He was a playwright. As for Burroughs, his works didn't spawn an entire genre. His words certainly were influential, but when you look at how fantasy has developed it wasn't from following Burroughs, it was from following Tolkien. Tolkien, therefore, pioneered the genre. I'm aware of what Tolkien did since I too have studied Tolkien, but his influence is by far unavoidably more pronounced than Burroughs.

    "Guy is given a task where he needs to go on a great adventure, learn about himself and eventually save the family he cares about?"

    Why does this have to belong to a specific genre? If it's a cliche across the board, so be it. The story is cliche, but if you take that story and do things to it that make it more than just a cliched idea then it doesn't matter if it was cliche to begin with.

    "By saying all fanasty is cliche, is rather like saying that all portrait paintings are cliche because the face in all it's different angles have been done before, so why do it?"

    (I agree, you can't spend enough money on books...I have so many as it is)
    This is a great example I can actually use towards my argument. Yes, it's exactly like saying that. But what sets crappy painters apart from great painters is that the great painters can take the cliches and paint wonderful portraits. This is why there are so many wonderful paintings--good painters continuously paint, even though it's been done before, in such a way that we no longer care that it's just another face turned to the left...it's a brilliant painting. Good fantasy separates itself from bad fantasy by taking ideas that have been done and writing them in a new, creative fashion. The cliche is still there, but the reader doesn't see it. The reader sees a fantastic story.

    "But this is done in EVERY story and in EVERY genre. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't limit it to JUST fantasy. "

    Well, I don't read anything but SF and Fantasy, and non-fiction, so really I can't make an objective assessment on any other form of fiction. That and people constantly tell me that fantasy can be 100% original and uncliche, when it can't because it falls pray to all those who did that before. I would argue at least that the familiar sorts of stories, or archetypes at least, are definitely present in all forms of literature.

    But my question at the end of this is, if we agree that cliches exist and are present in all literature, and that good literature takes those cliches and spins them so you don't notice anymore, what the hell are we arguing about?

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  8. Anonymous4:05 AM

    Allow me to add a completely out of conversation comment.

    Books are made to entertain. If people want to critisize the book, sure. As long as they don't spoil it for others who do like it, then it's all fine. As long as people like the book!

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  9. I shorten down my argument.

    I think what really bothered me about your statement "All Fantasy is Cliche" is that it's a nonsense statement. All writing is cliched, it's just that in fantasy it's easier to pick out the cliches than other sorts of writing, because they're more pronounced.

    hey spend far too much time addressing a work they feel is garbage and not enough time on works that deserve attention.

    I think they do it for fun, really. It's a hobby.


    He is revered as the icon of fantasy for good reason, because he took fantasy to levels it hadn't gone before and gave argument for legitimizing it as something valuable and serious.


    Legitimizing isn't the same as creating. If you had said created modern fantasy that would have been different that creating fantasy itself. And often times even if you're not known for it, doesn't mean you aren't one.

    But my question at the end of this is, if we agree that cliches exist and are present in all literature, and that good literature takes those cliches and spins them so you don't notice anymore, what the hell are we arguing about?

    *shrugs* I think by this point we're just nitpicking. =D

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  10. Regardless of whether or not it is a nonsensical statement, it is true. So, again, we're in agreement.

    I said that Tolkien pioneered the genre, not created it. Nobody really created fantasy...it just sort existed...fantasy sort of started out as truth that was discounted and became fantasy accidentally...

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  11. "all fantasy is cliche."

    Ohohoho, you did NOT just say that. Wrong, wrong, WRONG!

    "The sooner you can accept that fantasy is cliche the better."

    Thanks, Shaun. Stuff like this inspires me to write good original fantasy even more.

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  12. I'm sure that will go handy with your ability to appropriately read too. But since you didn't read all that has been said here in the debate with kippur (a good one, that is) I won't bother repeating myself except to say that my statement stands and if you can come up with any legitimate instance in which some aspect of cliche fantasy does not exist in a single work, then I will eat my works. As that has not, and will not become a reality, I'll stick by my works as truth.

    Prove me wrong.

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