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On Thud and Blunder Written by Poul Anderson [This essay was published some years ago and is very difficult to find now, which is why I asked Poul to let me publish it on the Web. He points out that a few things have changed since he wrote it — the essay mentions the Soviet Union, for example, but does not mention navigation satellites — and that he has had some arguments from a few readers about one detail or essay writers world conference.
It seems to me that most of the points made are still valid. It flew through the air, still sneering, while Gnorts clove two royal guardsmen from vizor through breasplate to steel jockstrap.
As he whirled to escape, an arrow glanced off his own chainmail. Then he was gone from the room, into the midnight city. Easily outrunning pursuit, he took a few sentries at the gate by surprise.
For a moment, arms and legs hailed around him through showers of blood; then he had opened the gate and was free. A caravan of merchants, waiting to enter at dawn, was camped nearby. Seeing a magnificent stallion tethered, Gnorts released it, twisted the rope into a bridle, and rode it off bareback.
After galloping several miles, he encountered a mounted patrol that challenged him. Immediately he plunged into the thick of the cavalrymen, swinging his blade right and left with deadly effect, rearing up his steed to bring its forefeet against one knight who dared to confront him directly.
Then it was only to gallop onward. Winter winds lashed his body, attired in nothing more than a bearskin kilt, but he ignored the cold. Sunrise revealed the shore and his waiting longship. He knew the swift-sailing craft could bring him across five hundred leagues of monster-infested ocean in time for him to snatch the maiden princess Elamef away from evil Baron Rehcel while she remained a maiden — not that he intended to leave her in that condition ….
But, unfortunately, not much, where some stories are concerned. Probably this is part of a larger movement back toward old-fashioned storytelling, with colorful backgrounds, events, and characters, tales wherein people do take arms against a sea of troubles and usually win.
Such literature is not inherently superior to the introspective or symbolic kinds, but neither is it inherently inferior; Homer and James Joyce were both great artists. Yet every kind of writing is prone to special faults.
For example, while no one expects heroic fantasy hf to be of ultimate psychological profundity, it is often simple to the point of being simplistic.
This is not necessary, as such fine practitioners as de Camp, Leiber, and Tolkien have proven. Worse, because it is still more obvious and still less excusable, is a frequent lack of elementary knowledge or plain common sense on the part of an author.
A small minority of hf stories are set in real historical milieus, where the facts provide a degree of control — though howling errors remain all too easy to make. Most members of the genre, however, take place in an imaginary world.
Given that freedom, far too many writers nowadays have supposed that anything whatsoever goes, that practical day-to-day details are of no importance and hence they, the writers, have no homework to do before they start spinning their yarns. The consequence of making that assumption is, inevitably, a sleazy product.
It may be bought by an editor hard up for material, but it will carry none of the conviction, the illusion of reality, which helps make the work of the people mentioned above, and other good writers, memorable.
At best, it will drop into oblivion; at worst, it will stand as an awful example. If our field becomes swamped with this kind of garbage, readers are going to go elsewhere for entertainment and there will be no more hf. Beneath the magic, derring-do, and other glamour, an imaginary world has to work right.
In particular, a pre-industrial society, which is what virtually all hf uses for a setting, differs from ours today in countless ways. A writer need not be a walking encyclopedia to get most of these straight.
A reasonable amount of research, or sometimes merely a reasonable amount of logical thinking, will do it for him.
A proper discussion would require a book, but we can make a start. First, some remarks on those societies. Most cultures in hf are based on the European, often as a mishmash of Roman Empire, Dark Ages, and high Middle Ages with a bit of Pharaonic Egypt, Asian nomadism, and so forth on the fringes.
This is not bad in itself. Howard succeeded with it. And indeed, the western end of the Eurasian continent was a rather similar potpourri during the Volkerwanderung period if you regard the Byzantine Empire as the civilized core of Christendom.We are currently assembling the Conference; here is information on the Conference to give you a sense of what to expect.
LeBron James explains to SI's Lee Jenkins why he's returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four seasons with the Miami Heat. 22 thoughts on “ 5 Story Mistakes Even Good Writers Make ” Elanesse June 2, at pm “If readers are tempted to skip over part of your story to get to a .
Online Course: World-Building in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing In this original workshop, The New York Times best-selling author and veteran editor Philip Athans, author of The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction (Adams Media ), gets into some detailed techniques for creating worlds for fantasy and science fiction stories, novels, screenplays, and games, and how those elements.
The twenty-second annual ALSCW Conference will take place Thursday to Sunday, November 1st through the 4th at Vanderbilt University. From its proud history spanning more than two centuries, Middlebury College has emerged as one of a handful of the most highly regarded liberal arts colleges.