How much do you know about fantasy/sf?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Alchemist, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    I understood but was working out why I couldn't be considered a Sage.

    I certainly lean heavily toward the scholar, but I don't believe I've read broadly enough to take on that mantle.

    I disagree. Every discipline has its jargon (think of the PC/laptop you're working on with bytes, bits, megabytes, routers, memory, motherboards, etc, etc), including literary scholarship -- it's the short form for conveying a wealth of information. Sages and masters would have to be familiar with this to discuss issues with one another (Wolfe, in particular, since he is a practicing academic -- sounds vaguely disreputable, doesn't it?) and Clute, in what I've read by him, seems inclined to create his own jargon as he goes along, pulling in esoteric, obscure words to denote what might be more easily understood by his audience in simpler, but probably more extensive, language.

    Fair 'nuff. But most scholars would have started as novices, worked up to apprentices, then journeymen. It's actually pretty easy to find yourself somewhere between such designations.


    Randy M.
     
  2. metalprof

    metalprof I should be working

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    I would put myself in the "Journeyman" category, and happily so. I have no desire to improve my standing. I would worry that I would start "analyzing" the books too much if I tried to be smarter about them or the genre.

    I used to date a girl who found it impossible to listen to music anymore simply for pleasure; she was a music major and found it too hard to turn off the analytical part of her mind that was being trained by all her studies. I would not want that to happen to me when it comes to books.

    Ken
     
  3. Alchemist

    Alchemist Registered User

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    You sound like a Journeyman, to me.

    You sound like me. I was a voracious reader through my teenage years and maybe early 20s, then dwindled down to a trickle for over a decade and now am just getting going again. If you look at lists like the Fantasy Masterworks or major Awards, I've only read a fraction, but I put myself in the Scholar category over the Journeyman because of my orientation to fantasy and sf--as an aspiring writer and student of the field, in addition to a fan. I haven't read all of the classics but I'm familiar with most of them and have a larger generation orientation and in-built dialectic of trying to know more about the genre.

    In my designations I tried to make clear that the "tiers" have less to do with number of books read and more to do with understanding and knowledge of the field as a whole. A Journeyman may have read many more books than a Scholar but not have the interest or investment in understanding the "meta-picture." This isn't a judgment as a Scholar is not "better" than a Journeyman, but the difference is the degree of investment and orientation to the field. To a Scholar it is more than just a favorite past-time or hobby, it is a field of study and, possibly, artistic activity or work.

    That said, while a Scholar need not have read widely, it is not so with a Master--it is a convergence of a wide (and deep) reading and study of the field.

    Agreed re: Clute, but I don't think this jargon is required to be a Scholar or even a Master, just as one doesn't need to know postmodern literary criticism to be a Scholar of literature. Clute's jargon is Clute's jargon--it does not define the field, just provides one lens to view it from. It behooves a Scholar to be familiar with Clute, but one need not study him or his work, and certainly one need not compile a lexicon of his arcana.

    True. One thing I tried to make clear is that the designations beyond Journeyman--Scholar, Master, and Sage--are akin to a specialization, an investment beyond entertainment value, thus my equivalents of graduate school, adjunct, and tenured professor. Most readers of fantasy never become Scholars, while many quickly become Scholars and have read far less than many long-time Journeymen.

    This is a common pitfall that specialists can--but don't always--fall into, sort of like being jaded and missing the forest for the trees. As Ursula K Le Guin said, the most important use of fantasy is to bring wonder and delight. The second most important is to provide meaning. The kind of thing you're talking about has lost sight of the first and even the second and created a third, a kind of masturbatory intellectualism.

    The key is balancing the analytical and aesthetic aspects of the brain so that they don't cancel or drown each other out, but accent each other, unite to form something larger and more wonder-full. Fantasy readers do this all them time when they are both trying to figure out the world and "what is going on" but also enjoying the characters, action, and individual moments.

    But being a Scholar or even Master or Sage has less to do with analyzing books than participating with them in a different way, through one or both of two modalities: studying the history and field as a whole, and/or writing within the field in some form or fashion. Being a Scholar of fantasy only requires an interest in the field as a whole and a desire to learn more.
     
  4. NYCfan

    NYCfan Registered User

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    I'd put myself in the Journeyman category. While I'm at it I thought I'd post my own version of the Gollancz Masterworks list, bolded are read.

    I - Dune - Frank Herbert
    II - The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
    III - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
    IV - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
    V - A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
    VI - Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
    VII - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
    VIII - Ringworld - Larry Niven
    IX - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman

    X - The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

    1 - The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
    2 - I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
    3 - Cities in Flight - James Blish
    4 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

    5 - The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
    6 - Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delany
    7 - Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
    8 - The Fifth Head of Cerberus - Gene Wolfe
    9 - Gateway - Frederik Pohl
    10 - The Rediscovery of Man - Cordwainer Smith

    11 - Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon

    12 - Earth Abides - George R. Stewart
    13 - Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick
    14 - The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
    15 - Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
    16 - The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

    17 - The Drowned World - J. G. Ballard
    18 - The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
    19 - Emphyrio - Jack Vance
    20 - A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

    21 - Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon
    22 - Behold the Man - Michael Moorcock

    23 - The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg
    24 - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
    25 - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

    26 - Ubik - Philip K. Dick
    27 - Timescape - Gregory Benford
    28 - More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
    29 - Man Plus - Frederik Pohl

    30 - A Case of Conscience - James Blish

    31 - The Centauri Device - M. John Harrison
    32 - Dr. Bloodmoney - Philip K. Dick
    33 - Non-Stop - Brian Aldiss
    34 - The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
    35 - Pavane - Keith Roberts

    36 - Now Wait for Last Year - Philip K. Dick
    37 - Nova - Samuel R. Delany
    38 - The First Men in the Moon - H. G. Wells
    39 - The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clarke
    40 - Blood Music - Greg Bear


    41 - Jem - Frederik Pohl
    42 - Bring the Jubilee - Ward Moore
    43 - VALIS - Philip K. Dick
    44 - The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
    45 - The Complete Roderick - John Sladek
    46 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said - Philip K. Dick
    47 - The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells
    48 - Grass - Sheri S. Tepper
    49 - A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke
    50 - Eon - Greg Bear


    51 - The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson
    52 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
    53 - The Dancers at the End of Time - Michael Moorcock
    54 - The Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth

    55 - Time Out of Joint - Philip K. Dick
    56 - Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg
    57 - The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
    58 - The Penultimate Truth - Philip K. Dick
    59 - Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg
    60 - Ringworld - Larry Niven


    61 - The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
    62 - Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement
    63 - A Maze of Death - Philip K. Dick
    64 - Tau Zero - Poul Anderson
    65 - Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
    66 - Life During Wartime - Lucius Shepard
    67 - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm
    68 - Roadside Picnic - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
    69 - Dark Benediction - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
    70 - Mockingbird - Walter Tevis

    71 - Dune - Frank Herbert
    72 - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
    73 - The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick

    74 - Inverted World - Christopher Priest
    75 - Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
    76 - The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells
    77 - Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
    78 - The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
    79 - Dhalgren - Samuel Delany (July 2010)
    80 - Helliconia - Brian Aldiss (August 2010)


    81 - Food of the Gods - H.G. Wells (Sept. 2010)
    82 - The Body Snatchers - Jack Finney (Oct. 2010)
    83 - The Female Man - Joanna Russ (Nov. 2010)
    84 - Arslan - M.J. Engh (Dec. 2010)

    I guess I need to read more Phillip K. Dick.
     
  5. Jeroen

    Jeroen Registered User

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    I....... dunno.

    I have an interest in SF&F at the level of Scholar, a knowledge somewhere between Journeyman and Scholar, and the number of books I have read would place me between Apprentice and Journeyman. :D
     
  6. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    :)

    I agree with Alchemist that there is a mind-set that can lead a reader to be scholarly even when s/he hasn't read that much. Conversely, minus that mind-set (intellectual bent? point of view?), someone who reads omnivorously in the field may never go beyond journeyman.


    Randy M.
     
  7. Dyloot

    Dyloot Registered User

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    Hah, what fun! I'm a journeyman and will never be anything but a journeyman. I read fantasy all the time and love what I enjoy, but I lack the attention to detail and memory to ever approach scholar.

    I appreciate the never-ending recommendations by all of those in the upper tiers on this forum. :)
     
  8. imryel

    imryel New Member

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    Hi guys. Say I am around or close to a Journeyman... What sources would you recommend for me to start my way to gathering the knowledge to become a Scholar and beyond? If someone could suggest either good web sites or books, that would be appreciated.

    For example, in the description for Scholar, it states "You find yourself buying books on genre history and criticism." What would some of these be?

    Thanks :)
     
  9. kcf

    kcf Nobody in Particular

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    Scholar in fantasy.

    In SF, I'm probably closer to apprentice than journyman.

    As for Clute. yeah, I'm familiar with him. And he may be quite brilliant, but he doesn't speak to me at all.
     
  10. beniowa

    beniowa Registered User

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    I'd say I'm a Journeyman heading towards Scholar.
     
  11. Bastard

    Bastard Jack Bauer

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  12. quajack

    quajack Registered User

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    "You read for pleasure and only what suits your interest. "



    Is there anyone out there who reads for something besides pleasure? Or who reads books that don't interest them?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2010
  13. kurzon

    kurzon Reader

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    Somewhere between Journeyman and Scholar.

    I feel really out of touch with the past decade, though. There's so much of it, and I've only read the smallest percentage. There was a time when I had either read, or chosen not to read, every fantasy/sf novel I could get my hands on.
     
  14. Alchemist

    Alchemist Registered User

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    Probably the best place to start is with Farrah Mendelsohn and Edward James' A Short History of Fantasy. John Clute and John Grant's Encyclopedia of Fantasy is THE classic, although it is more of a reference than a continuous narrative, plus it is about fifteen years old. The SF version is also excellent with an online version due at some point.

    Wikipedia is also your friend. Beyond the two above you start getting more arcane, but some good ones are Michael Moorcock's Wizardry and Wild Romance, Farrah Mendelsohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy, and for fun, Diana Wynn Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Unless you want to get into heavy fantasy lit theory, I'd avoid Rhetorics. There are some others, but that should get you started.
     
  15. Alchemist

    Alchemist Registered User

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    Sure, writers and scholars do this all the time. A scholar of a given field will read stuff for educational purposes. Personally speaking I don't finish books that I'm not really enjoying, but I will pick up books that are outside of my areas of interest just to get a taste of what they're about. This also has to do with being a writer and wanting to expose myself to different things.
     
  16. Michigan

    Michigan Registered User

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    students...
     
  17. NYCfan

    NYCfan Registered User

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    Academics keeping up with the lit in their field or starting out on a research topic. Though you do read those rather differently than normal stuff. Historians will slip over most of the events narrative on something that's very familiar to them to see what's new about this interpretation. They may well also start out by going over the footnotes, especially if it's related to their own current research topic.
     
  18. imryel

    imryel New Member

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    Thank you for that. I will keep my eyes open for cheaper copies of the first two, although I am a little bit intimidated by the idea of an encyclopedia that is 15 years out of date, especially with how much fantasy has changed in those years. Also will look out for the other ones. :D
     
  19. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    Journeyman 4 LIFE!
     
  20. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    On a publishing level probably a lot has changed -- epic fantasy no longer the main source of fantasy on bookshelfs, bookshelves no longer the sole source of books of fantasy, the proliferation of smaller presses, the resurgence of contemporary fantasy, the onslaught of romance into urban fantasy, and so on. But the intent of fantasy to evoke wonder if not awe, to obliquely comment on the world we live in, to entertain through feats of imagination and invention, all should still be in place,

    Perhaps more relevant, Clute's encyclopedia covers the root sources of most any fantasy you read. Like Vandermeer and Mieville? Well, maybe you'd find something of interest in reading about Lovecraft, C.A. Smith, C. L. Moore, Mervyn Peake, M. John Harrison, Michael Moorcock, etc. An epic fantasy fantatic? Well, maybe you'd like to know more about the sagas that inspired Tolkien, or about E. R. Eddison or William Morris. Think Catherine Valente's orphan's tales are the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas? Maybe entries on Orientalist fantasy and the influence of the 1001 Nights will further spark your interest, maybe even lead you to work by William Beckford and Lafcadio Hearn.

    And so on and so on. Great book to dip into randomly and read a few entries.

    Two other fine books, if you can dig up copies,
    The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin (collection of essays)
    Fantasists on Fantasy ed. by Kenneth Boyer and Kenneth Zahorski (anthology of essays; includes essays by C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Moorcock and others)


    Randy M.