Uncorrelated, Not Uncaused VII

Random thoughts, natch.
  • Do you think a part of the big 19th century Atlantis-stuff boom was because of Heinrich Schliemann discovering the ruins of Troy in 1876? I mean, if that legend was true, mightn't Atlantis have been? Mightn't, therefore, the Mayan lost continent that didn't really exist (Mu being based on a misreading of texts that were actually about astrology)? Of course, leaving to one side that we only have Plato's word on Atlantis being legendary, which it probably wasn't (through no fault of his own—he was actually concerned to talk about political science, and couched it in a framed narrative involving wise sages, by an accepted convention of his society).

    Turns out, by the way, that Lemuria is a real legend, if we accept the 19th-century identification of the Tamil legend of the lost continent of Kumari Kandam with the theorized lost continent whose unsubmerged end is Madagascar (they needed to explain the weird fauna of Madagascar, and lacked continental drift as an idea).
  • I noticed an interesting thing, prompted by a comment by the purveyor of Swords and Space. Namely, it is amusing how George Martin portrays medieval warrior aristocracy (or what he thinks is medieval—he claims to be basing his books on the War of the Roses, which began two years after the Fall of Constantinople, and ended the year Cortes was born, which is to say it was all Renaissance). It's amusing because the person who most resembles the kill-crazed treacherous scum who inhabit his books...is Che Guevara, a man who Martin shares at least 75% of his worldview with, and who certainly can't be called a medieval nobleman. Admittedly, Guevara was an aristocrat, and given, by the bye, to sexually exploiting his servants (also, later, to bumming off older women in exchange for being their boy-toy).

    Amusingly, the main class of people Che Guevara unleashed his "paroxysms of hate" on, were...peasants. The main enemies of the Cuban Revolution were not, of course, wealthy planters or an industrial bourgeoisie, but small farmers—and these, Guevara personally murdered hundreds of, mainly by pistol but also by means of shovels to the skull. When, on the other hand, he was faced by actual soldiers, he rather infamously threw down a fully-loaded rifle and cried out, "I'm Che Guevara! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!" No definitive word on whether he was wetting his pants, but I think it's fairly likely.

    Leftist baby-boomers don't get to talk that particular kind of smack, Martin, especially if they don't even know when the Middle Ages were.
  • They also don't get to call other eras misogynistic, when easily half their plots are dictated by a rape-fetish. Did you think I was kidding when I said A Waste of Ink and Paper was basically a FATAL tie-in novel? The Song of Ice and Fire RPG is the only other tabletop RPG of which I am aware with a canonical game-mechanic for rape.

    I'm sorely tempted to ask people who think these books are realistic if they have actually compared the stats on medieval wars to, e.g., Warring States era Japan. I have. The medievals, I assure you, come out the better in that comparison—as also when compared to the Turks, Persians, most of Indian history (which gets a Peace of God movement in the 18th century), or their own Classical ancestors or Renaissance descendants.
  • Just one example? I was looking up the Armenian genocide, in a different context, and I notice something: its death toll was the same as that of the entire Crusades. And of course, that genocide, like all the other (many) atrocities of the Ottoman Empire, would never have happened if the Crusades had been successful. Leaving to one side that more than half the death-toll in the Crusades were Christians killed by Muslims, all of the deaths were in wartime (admittedly some of them civilians—mostly at the hands of Turks), the Armenian genocide was in peacetime.

    Even had all the deaths from the Crusades been Muslims killed by Christians, which they weren't, they still number roughly 1/10 the number of Hindus killed by the Mughals and other Muslim invaders of India, starting right around the time of the Crusades—12.7 million being the most reasonable estimate I've seen (Hindu nationalism being what it is, the number 80 million is often bandied about—but even over 5 centuries, that would require a degree of control over the Indian populace that the Raj, which far outdid most Muslim rule in that regard, could never dream of).
  • On to happier subjects. Is...uh...anyone else aware how damned hard it is to come up with maps for fantasy? I had been using Jame's Churchward's map of Mu, the one where the Polynesian islands are all mountains (which is awesome), but that was back when I was also using mutated Japanese for Elvish. It's just not going to cut it now.

    One cool idea I had—which necessarily complicates things—is that, if I'm doing the math right, an Ice Age causes the amount of a planet covered by ocean to shift almost 7%. As in, in our last one, 64% of the surface was ocean, rather than our current 71%. And I thought it'd be cool to show the shift of coastlines, and maybe have the last remnant of the civilization that fell when the Ice Age happened (remember, the elves and dwarves caused it for precisely that reason) be surprised and horrified that what used to be two continents is now linked by a land-bridge.

    Yes, I realize that's going to make it even harder to map the thing. Maybe I'll just bite the bullet, research it, and do it proper-like by hand (I'd been looking for images I could trace, and fooling around with the good ol' fractal world-generator). Now, I have fair-to-middlin' drawing skills at best—here's a picture I did back in 2001, of my Sesheyan Alternity character (back when I was still using the base setting)—and maps have always been something I was bad at. Then again, I used to find it hard to come up with alphabets, and I hammered out both the one for my fantasy book, and this current RPG-setting's elvish and dwarfish alphabets, in an afternoon apiece.
  • Which reminds me, no idea what to do RE: human writing. Might have them use one of the other races' writing, perhaps written by different calligraphic principles—this and this are two alphabets, the former using a combination of European Blackletter and South Asian abugida principles, the latter using roughly the same principles as the Mongolian abugida (which, if it is not in your top 10 favorite scripts, along with its ancestors Tibetan and Phags-pa, there is something wrong with you)...and both based on Germanic runes.

    Hmm. Maybe some adaptation of Dwarfish (with, perhaps,a few Elvish loan-characters, possibly based on the pre-cursive forms of the Elvish letters, for the sounds Elvish and the human language have but Dwarfish doesn't). Maybe I'll study things like Roman cursive (!!), and the Insular, Visigoth, and Carolingian scripts. After all, the Latin letters' basic forms aren't that different from the rune-type writing I did for Dwarfish; you could definitely write the thing in a script that, e.g., writes a rune shaped like H as "h".
  • Just a quick note: when someone says women, or anyone else for that matter, were illiterate in the Middle Ages, stop them and ask if they are aware how many book-orders and private correspondences we have from medieval people of both sexes and virtually all walks of life. Then ask them if they are aware "unlettered" and its equivalents meant "lacking a classical education", not "unable to read or write", in many medieval usages.
  • It occurs to me, I have been slightly imprecise, when I attribute anatomically modern humans' decreasing sexual size-difference to monogamy. It could, of course, be accounted for by promiscuity, as it is among chimpanzees and bonobos.

    However, there is a piece of evidence that militates against the hypothesis that humans' sexes grew closer in size due to promiscuity. Namely, our testicles are only slightly larger than gorillas' (admittedly, relative to our mass, they're quite noticeably larger). But a chimpanzee's testicles are huge, over three times the mass of a gorilla's—even bigger, relatively speaking, considering how much smaller a chimp is than a gorilla—because each male chimp, having so many competitors for each female's time, has to get as much sperm into each mating as he can. Our testicles are far smaller than would be indicated by promiscuity. (Also, even chimpanzees have a size-difference between their sexes that's greater than ours.)
  • Did you know the Inquisitions killed c. 5% of those they convicted? Yep. Another 11% got imprisoned. All the other 84% of those convicted—and please recall the acquittal rate was huge—had to...wear special clothes for a while, or go on pilgrimages.


Playing with Fantasy

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth.
—Carl Jung
Been working on my RPG-setting fantasy stories. If I may be so bold, I think it may actually be safe to say that the distinction between RPG-type and other fantasy is, essentially, nonexistent; RPG-setting fiction, when it's worse, is worse because it's a tie-in, not because of some characteristic of the setting—and Dragonlance is better than roughly half the non-RPG fantasy on the market.

Look at Conan and Lankhmar—there is a reason those two things were Gygax's major inspiration. The gent behind "Empire of the Petal Throne" is the only person who ever undertook something on par with Middle Earth, and he published a game based on it with TSR. Moorcock may talk like a White Wolf LARPer, but his books are pure Munchkin from end to end. Even George R. R. Martin can be compared to a certain RPG.

Yeah, I said it. Say it again if I had to. Seriously, how has the existence of FATAL not put an end to "dark fantasy" once and for all? The phrase "Socratic irony" might be bandied about.

Anyway. So, I'm working up my writing systems—helps that you can make truetype fonts with Inkscape—and, dude, I'm a better linguist than Tolkien. Okay, not really (if I have occasionally seen further than him it is by standing on his shoulders), but now that I have your attention, I will say that I'll put the realism of my method up against Tengwar and Cirth any day of the week.

Tengwar and Cirth basically work like hangeul—due to, like hangeul, having been created by a linguist. They add features—loops, arms, lines, etc.—based on sounds being related to one another. E.g., in Cirth (the "rune"-looking one, as opposed to Tengwar, which is more like Arabic or Devanagari), "P" looks like the letter P, while "B" looks like R. "M" looks like our B, and "F" and "V" are backwards versions of "P" and "B" (possibly they're ɸ and β rather than F and V, since those are the fricative versions of P and B, while F and V are labio-dental rather than purely labial).

My fantasy alphabets, on the other hand, like all known real writing, are derived from pictographs. You can't tell what their pictographic origin is, but then, I defy you to see the Egyptian hieroglyph-origins of any Roman letters except M (it comes from mw, "water", and depicted a little wavy line).

I first pored over tables of the development of several of the world's scripts (Phoenician prominently), found letters whose look I liked, then found words in my Elvish language for the things they derived from. Then I assigned the letters to sounds based on which sounds the relevant words started or ended with. I had to fudge a few times, e.g. for the one deriving from a hawk (it kinda looks like a 3), I used "hunt", symbolized by a bird of prey.

Of course, an elvish generation in my stories is c. 75 years—the civilization humans call "the Ancients", that fell a thousand years previous, is only as remote from the elves in the story as the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years War of which it was the New World theater) is to people nowadays...except nobody who saw those wars is still alive, and still-living elves saw the Ancients fall. But the point is, the elvish alphabet would have to develop rather slower than, e.g., the 700 years from Proto-Sinaitic to the earliest forms of Canaanite writing, or the 1500 years from Egyptian hieroglyphs to Proto-Sinaitic (all told, 2200 years). I think 12,000 years isn't too long of a time for that development to occur, given it'd be 8250 just based on the length of their generations. Of course, most of that development happened before they ever met a human, but then again, most development of our alphabet happened before any Egyptian or Canaanite ever met a Greek.

Another thing I do different from Tolkien is that the dwarves have their own writing, rather than using an elvish one (Cirth, the rune-looking Tolkien script, was the writing used by Sindar and Moriquendi before the Noldor brought the Feänorian Tengwar back from Valinor—the Khazâd like it because it's easy to carve into things). Of course it'll be more angular and rune-like than the cursive elvish script (remember, shoulders of giants), but I'll use the same method to create it—the earliest phases of the Canaanite script were quite angular, and South Arabian (ancestor of modern Ethiopian writing) has actually been compared to runes, much like Hungarian rovás (literally "notching, scoring") has.

PS. If you look at that chart of Hungarian "runes", you'll notice a lot of the consonants use different letters depending on the preceding vowel, e.g. there's a different letter for "ek" and "ak". That's because Hungarian has "vowel harmony"—the feature is also seen in the Old Turkish "runes" they derived rovás from, since the Turkic languages also have vowel harmony (we're still not sure if Hungarian and Turkish are—albeit distantly—related, or if vowel harmony is just what's known as an "areal feature", where unrelated languages—e.g., Tibetan and Sanskrit, or Finnish and Swedish—start doing things similarly because their speakers interact).


More than Meets the Eye

Hoo, felt good to get that last one off my chest. On to happier subjects.

Recently, I watched Transformers Prime. To be scrupulously precise I watched all 44 episodes that were out at the time, in a sitting. And, uh, holy crap.

Now, I never watched the first show, so I don't have the "the original work is always the best" imbecility of those who claim, for example, that the Ninja Turtles comics are better than the 1987 show (those people are responsible for the 2003 show, which I feel is a sufficient refutation of their argument—and their claim to human rights). But I have a working knowledge of portions of the mythos. And this is, far and away, the most uniformly pleasing iteration it has yet had.

I wouldn't say, as I often do, "kids get everything", because no way in hell is this a kids' show. E.g., Arcee having PTSD flashbacks to being tortured by Airachnid, Bulkhead vomiting blood after exposure to Megatron's chemical weapons (the full effects of which are explicitly shown in a flashback), Airachnid telling Jack she's going to make him decide how she kills his mother. You know, for kids!

Nevertheless, top-notch. I can't think of a character I don't like, other than that Miko is a psychopath with no conception of "consequences", but she gets called out on it by everyone else (I especially liked Starscream: "You like playing with the big robots, don't you, little girl?"—said as he's swatting at her with the 3-foot jointed scythe-blades he uses for fingers).

The Autobots, if you think about it, are basically the High Elves from Tolkien, except not tainted at the source by a Kinslaying (though they regard the destruction of Cybertron in a similar light). Meanwhile the Decepticons are, pretty much, vampires (I'm actually thinking of having a character in my vampire book compare one of the vampires to Starscream)—immortal, motivated purely by greed, ambition, and/or fear, and perpetually trying to one-up each other.

Interesting worldbuilding, especially RE: the Primus/Unicron titanomachy, which is the thing I think all Transformers continuities share in some form. Though I'm surprised that, between the fact the Autobots' leader (in all continuities) is a divinely-appointed holy-warrior whose title is basically (given what Primus is to them) "the godly Optimus", and that the Prime-continuity Cybertronians subsist solely on the blood of their god (that's what Energon is this time around), there hasn't been some outcry by the militant atheists or the Pat Pulling types.

And I'm seriously impressed by the writers' restraint, having Jeffrey Combs and not having a single Re-Animator reference. Well, aside from that the synthetic Energon resembles Herbert West's re-agent. But really, still, kudos on your self-control, that you don't have a single Re-Animator joke despite having Jeffrey Combs and a zombie apocalypse (though, I mean, "giant robot zombie apocalypse" is really an embarrassment of riches, guys).

So, supposedly, the people who wrote this are also the writers from the movies. Only, what went wrong? I mean, just one example, Optimus Prime could no more utter the words "my bad" than Aragorn Elessar could call someone "homeslice". I'm assuming this is one of those instances where we really do have to blame the director; writers have a lot less control over films than people think.


Up Until Now I've Been Polite

Don't say another Goddamn word. Up until now, I've been polite. If you say anything else—word one—I will kill myself. And when my tainted spirit finds its destination, I will topple the master of that dark place. From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bone and blood, and fueled by my hatred for you this fear engine will bore a hole between this world and that one. When it begins, you will hear the sound of children screaming - as though from a great distance. A smoking orb of nothing will grow above your bed, and from it will emerge a thousand starving crows. As I slip through the widening maw in my new form, you will catch only a glimpse of my radiance before you are incinerated. Then, as tears of bubbling pitch stream down my face, my dark work will begin. I will open one of my six mouths, and I will sing the song that ends the Earth.
Tycho Brahe, on the subject of Warhammer being a ripoff of Warcraft
Reality check rant-fest.
  • You know those people who think that we'd totally have free energy or cars that run on water, except the big evil companies are totally keeping the technology a secret?

    Well they are people who didn't understand that the Candlemakers' petition is a satire on protectionism, by Bastiat. The whole point of the device there employed, the reductio ad absurdum, is that nobody would actually do such things—yet the opinions the target of the satire have expressed would seem to lead to that.
  • On a similar "doesn't know rhetoric from logic" front—a symptom of psychosis, you know—the next time someone, debating me, treats obvious rhetorical wordplay as if it were actually the agreed-upon definition of the word, I can't be held accountable for my actions.

    For instance, a half-educated unserious dilletante, who knows no more social science than the beasts of the field and is also suspiciously similar to a Men's Rights weenie, thinks he can cite Twilight, in a discussion over whether women consume more porn than men. Based on a Jonah Goldberg column. Which, aside from the fact I doubt even Goldberg really meant that literally, Goldberg is not the language-Pope.

    And the Superversive guy, who thinks, on the basis of another opinion column, that all literature that can be shown to be in any way influenced by another work, including spinoffs, new treatments of legendary material, or new installments in franchises, is fanfiction. Yes, that's right, he can't see a difference between Deep Space Nine and a KirkXSpock lemon.

    Do you want me to actually analyze the corpus of English for you? That's how linguists decide what a word's definition is. It's the way that dictionaries get written. And I will bet your life—penny-ante wager though that is—that actual usage bears out my definition, not yours.

    Hell, while we're at it? If we just redefine things like "holy sites" and "authority to define Christian doctrine" as "economic resources", the Marxist theory of human conflict becomes 100% correct. That's no less scurrilous than these guys' approach to words.
  • On an actually lighter note, no work—unless authored on a typewriter with a doppelsigrune key—is more blatantly bigot-propaganda than the Song of Ice and Fire books, or the Assassin's Creed games.

    No, not even Birth of a Nation; that actually has a closer relation to the historical events it purports to involve than those things do. It is a more accurate portrayal of Reconstruction than A Waste of Ink and Paper is of the Middle Ages, or than Assassin Screed is of anything that ever happened, ever.


Late Addenda

Had some more random thoughts after the previous.
  • In British English, they either call, or used to call, a straitjacket, a strait-waistcoat. Only, uh, the waistcoat is that component of the three-piece suit known in American English as a vest. So, by definition, it has no sleeves. But a straitjacket is defined by its unusually long sleeves. That just makes no sense.
  • Ishikawa Goemon XIII, in Lupin III, has a sword named Zantekken, the Iron Cutting Sword. What's interesting is, Beren, in the Silmarillion, has a sword named Angrist. It's the same Ang(c) as in Orthanc, the Iron Tower, and the same Rist as in Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver. So Beren's sword is named Iron Cutter.

    How do you say "Once again, I cut a trifling object" in Elvish?
  • The longer one debates drug-legalization, the probability of one's interlocutor saying "I don't need laws to keep me from becoming a junkie, do you?" approaches 1. It's like Godwin's Law without the dignity or logical validity. Basically their tiny halfwit Anglo-Liberaltarian minds are incapable of arguing without the ad hominem.

    Only, what's amusing is, the automatic response, which you may be assured I always make—because it is one giant middle finger to the kind of halfwit liber(al)tarian who makes that argument—is "Okay, but the same argument goes for abolishing the Constitution. I don't need a piece of paper by a bunch of wooden-toothed slave-owning Freemasons to keep from being a tyrant. Do you?"

    And, of course, we spend more on Constitutional law—have you looked into the cost of a Supreme Court hearing?—than we do on drug-enforcement, certainly on a case-by-case basis if not in gross.


Rannm Thawts

Random, that is to say, thoughts.
  • I was noticing that three of my favorite protagonists have unsuspected aspects. E.g., Bertie Wooster, though a bit of an airhead, is a genuinely good guy. And am I the only one who's noticed that his code, vis-à-vis his friends' love affairs, is basically a genteel Edwardian version of the Bro Code?

    Katsuragi Keima, similarly, is deceptively macho. Doesn't like sweets (that's a macho thing in that neck of the woods)—but'll eat an entire birthday cake made of ingredients literally from Hell, if a girl makes it for him. He's got a genuinely chivalrous side to him, our Keima, though he conceals it in layers of complete-dickhead-ness.

    Finally, Kull. If you ever need to, say, settle a bar-bet, "Kull of Atlantis" is the answer to "name a he-man action-hero who's a virgin".
  • Has, uh, anyone noticed how much weird Buddhistical stuff is in the Kull stories, by the bye? Admittedly some of it—the Skull of Silence being the big example—makes a mistake no Buddhist would, hypostasizing a negation, but still, the sages of Valusia talked remarkably solid nonsense for '30s-era pulp fantasy. Sorta shows Lovecraft up for the chucklepate he was, by comparison.

    Between Scorpion and a few of the other Valusian gods, in Kull, and Asura, in "The Hour of the Dragon" (CLAMP would be pleased), another big difference between Lovecraft and Howard is not all the supernaturalism in Howard is evil. But then, Howard was going more Buddhist-existentialist than Nietzschean-nihilist. E.g., "Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content." That's existentialist, it's not nihilist.
  • Which (this is shaping up to be quite stream of consciousness), by the way, is part of why they need to teach literature proper-like. Seriously, in an English class, which would you rather read, for existentialist themes: a Samuel Beckett snooze-fest, or Conan the Barbarian?

    And hey, I know they don't teach Nietzsche outside philosophy courses—and there, they don't like to mention his main idea ("if you are an atheist who believes in morals you're an idiot")—but you could get a lot of headway into introducing his ideas, by teaching a couple of Lovecraft books.
  • Someone needs to explain to conservatives that "nasty, brutish, and short" is no less an oversimplification than "noble savage"—well, except as a description of the history of England, anyway.

    Can you tell I've been debating people on the Internet again? Yes.
  • Remember how I said I was thinking the other paladin-society in my D&D setting (and stories set in same) would be Eagle-totem? Decided, scratch that. Going with Owl-totem. He's their god of death, and his paladins (who gestalt with clerics) are undead-slayers.

    Also, pro-tip. If you need a way to do cosmogony-infodumping in a fantasy story: murals in temples. Yep. It works for Lovecraft and I seem to recall Howard and Leiber (who've also used the much less elegant device of the inspired dream), and it can work for you, too.
  • An example of how translation is full of pitfalls would be, my brother was showing me the new Triad-themed weapon pack for TF2, and the Scout has a big ol' cleaver with "死肉" written on it. Presumably, they were going for "dead meat".

    Only, "死肉" (pronounced "sǐròu" in Mandarin and "séiyuhk" in Cantonese—yet the Chinese government pretends these are two dialects of the same language), means "damn meat"—putting 死/sǐ/séi before a noun means you are wishing death upon it, e.g. séigwáilóu "damn white people". "Dead meat" is 死肉, the middle hanzi being an adjectivizer; it can be omitted after a single-hanzi adjective, especially in set phrases, but I'm pretty sure "dead meat" isn't an expression in Chinese the way it is in English. Especially since 死+noun already means "damn noun".


Sur les contes des fées

Thoughts on fantasy. Title is "On Fairy Stories" (see below) in French, which language Tolkien did not like—but then again anyone who prefers Welsh to Irish can be assumed to suffer from a form of aesthetic aphasia.
  • The dude what writes Superversive once complained about participating in a D&D campaign where, because the DM was former military, the PCs' liege-lord treated them much as an officer treats enlisted men, rather than—as he would—guests in his home, from whom he was asking a favor. And, I mean, fair enough, DM's an idjit. We all been there (actually, come to think of it, have you, ane-ue?—I mean, of the two people I know who've DMed for you, neither of us was an idjit, that one thing with the beholder notwithstanding).

    But Mr. Simon then goes on to act like that's something inherent to D&D as an enterprise. And there I must object. Much like Lothlorien, only those who bring some evil with them need fear D&D. Sure, RPGs tend to gloss over how gift-economy and liege-courtesy work, because they're intended for a general audience, not, well, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. But it's not like "how the lords treat adventurers" is a key game mechanic, if you want it more realistic nobody's stopping you.

    Few are the fantasy works in general that I've seen actually capture a society prior to the early 18th century; most are content with the late 19th (think of the nobles—decidedly more Bertie Wooster than Bayard sans peure et sans reproche, and Bayard was hardly a medieval man, born 20 years after the Fall of Constantinople). Melanie Rawn doesn't seem to be trying even for pre-Baby Boom.
  • That's actually something I was impressed with Skyrim on, overall. The Jarls (to say nothing of the einherjar in Sovngarde) can talk like Theoden son of Thengel when the need strikes them, and they give you gifts when they make you a thane (though the gift-giving seems an after-thought—it actually is the act itself—and you sure as hell couldn't sell an axe from your liege-lord down at the smith for some extra jink). Also you wouldn't have guards, because all freemen would be expected to take up arms against malefactors—remember how Theoden's only guards are in his own hall? Housecarl and guard wouldn't be two separate things.
  • Read "On Fairy-Stories" recently, all the way through (I'd dabbled, of course, as we all have), and you should too, if you haven't. The thing is the answer to a plenitude of asininities. Though Tolkien, as usual, doesn't give the fairies credit for what they are, which is yokai; he's trying to cram them into a Christian cosmology that has completely ignored them (mostly because they're irrelevant to it).

    But the section on Escape is, to a T, the answer to all the Martins, Moorcocks, and Miévilles in the world—that they are merely cowering away from the charge of escapism, rather than rationally considering its purpose. "Look, masters," they simper at the literary establishment that has so often kicked fantasy, "we included ugly class-consciousness, master, just as you said all real books should! There's no escape to be found here, masters!" And the literary establishment rewarded them with (seldom not condescending) good reviews, all the time fingering the nine rings they had from their true lord.
  • Tolkien's distinction between fairy-stories and stories about fairies, by the way, is just one more example of how it would've been nice if he'd had more contact with Japanese literature. Because the distinction he makes—between fairy tales, as such, and accounts of the actual doings of the fairies—is precisely captured by the difference in Japanese between otogizoshi and kaidan, that is, between a fabulous exercise in literary fantasy, and a story not unmixed with horror (literary sense), about the yokai. (It would also have been nice if a Japanese person could've been involved with the movies of LotR, namely with the music—Japanese people have some little experience making songs in moraic languages, like their own...and Sindarin.)
  • It is irksome to hear people opine on magic in fantasy stories, claiming there shouldn't be much, and it should be hard, like that in Tolkien and Howard/Leiber. Only, know what? Apparently I'm the only one who actually read Tolkien, because Numenoreans and elves and dwarves are pretty much all running around with swords +2, orcbane (also, Merry's sword from the barrow is presumably holy, since it can overcome the witch-king's damage reduction). No, nobody's casting fireballs (although that thing Gandalf used on some wargs was basically fire seeds), but pretty much every culture in Middle Earth that can find Mordor on a map goes around recreating the posters for The Expendables with magic swords. Did you know Tolkien's other name was Monty Haul?

    It's similarly ludicrous to say there's no wizards in Howard or Leiber (in Tolkien, admittedly, they're angels). Mouser is one, and is probably single-handedly the reason rogues in D&D have the ability to use magic items they don't understand. That Persian gent they fought on Earth was one. There's several good ones as well as evil ones in the Kull stories, one of whom trapped silence itself in a pit if you'll recall, and Conan's been known to work with them as well as against them. Sure, they're more often antagonists, but that's because scribing conjuration circles is boring to read about—see also, James Bond fights guys who sit in chairs petting cats while directing hundreds of minions, not the other way around.
  • That thing, though, about how you can't work decent fantasy in an RPG setting, said so often by people who should know better (as in, they've played D&D, thus any flaws in the execution are their own damn fault), has pissed me off so much I'm starting work on a series of stories set in my current D&D world, trying to do decent fantasy therein.

    Since sound-swapped Japanese, Chinese, and Korean are hardly worthy of such a project (and not at all because the Secret Vice is a filthy addiction, I can quit anytime I want), I've redone my elvish and common-tongue, and will soon redo my dwarfish. My Elvish and Common have the same sounds as Sindarin and Westron, respectively—those are just what elves and fantasy-humans sound like to us. But my Elvish has a grammar based on Tibetan (only inflected rather than agglutinating, and with fewer cases, because seriously, ablative is redundant with oblique—what are you, Russian, with its instrumental-dative-locative?). Dammit, I just like elves to have ergative grammar. I know it's weird.
  • Note I said Westron—not the English it's ciphered into, the real common tongue of the West of Middle Earth in the end of the Third Age. As in, it's not Bilbo and Frodo Baggins of the Shire, it's Bilba and Froda Baghîn of Sûza; their race is not Hobbits but kuduk, and the Rohirrim don't have legends of holbytla, but of kûd-dûkan. The gardener who bears the One Ring briefly and later has a whole passle of children isn't named Samwise Gamgee, he's named Banazir Galpsi (which sounds like a Pakistani film star, doesn't it?); the guy who hamstrung the witch-lord of Angband isn't Meriadoc Brandybuck, but Kalimac Brandagamba.

    What, am I the only one who read the appendices to Return of the King?
  • Thought it'd be cool to have the elf subraces, though known to their own people by completely different names (that actually describe something very important about them), called high, wood, and dark elves by humans. The first two are geographic names, since they live on mountains and in forests (though the former are reclusive and proud, so "high" does have a connotation of haughtiness, in human minds though not, particularly, in actual fact). The latter is a moral descriptor (they don't look markedly different from the other two, unlike drow—whose name, by the way, is actually a variant of troll, as "orc" is of ogre).

    I decided to go with "high elf" having its Elder Scrolls/Forgotten Realms connotation, rather than calling those people "gray elves" like in standard D&D settings, because "gray" only makes sense in the context of the light of Valinor—the gray elves are those who saw it but stayed in Middle Earth, while the high elves actually went; those who didn't see it are the dark elves, see? (Anyone who thinks Tolkien's stories are morally simplistic: do you know why there are high elves in Middle Earth in the Third Age?)