Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In an Ode
    Posts
    12,245

    How Asian Fantasy Differs From Europe

    Just thought I'd start a new topic, where we can talk about not only Kevin's work, but other works with non-Europe settings -- Asia, Africa, jungles, etc.

    Although Kevin's world is imaginary and the locales symbolically significant in their cultures, the Asian, particularly Japanese, influences are definitely there. The idea of a spiritual quest following a lantern, the rituals, and the Deishi monks, are all elements that create an atmosphere very different from merry old England or European cities.

    What unusual elements interested you in the Tonogato books, or in some other fantasy work?

  2. #2
    I AM too a mod! Moderator Rocket Sheep's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    LEO aiming for GEO
    Posts
    2,584
    Old Japan was much cleaner and more sophisticated than old Europe.

    Medieval Europe always has to have an element of squallor and perversion in it for me to believe it and too often it doesn't... it's like a romantic idyllic version of something and that's never going to make me suspend disbelief.

    With all the rituals and culture that old Japan possessed I find it easier to believe in the worlds of Tongato despite the magical city, secret powers, etc. As long as there's a bit of mud and a bit of rotting cabbage in the marketplace, the odd grubby old corruptible perverted greedy man, I'm there.

  3. #3
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Bothell, WA USA
    Posts
    2,177
    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Sheep
    As long as there's a bit of mud and a bit of rotting cabbage in the marketplace, the odd grubby old corruptible perverted greedy man, I'm there.
    Excellent point - and I think it's a nuance that, as you say, does sometimes gets lost in fantasy books. Societies of any size tend to have diversity, and it isn't always pretty diversity - social differences can frequently be economic differences as well, and showing how "the other half lives" alongside that of your nobles and your well-to-do can bring additional breadth to one's stories.

  4. #4
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Charter Member, Restore Pluto Initiative
    Posts
    4,696
    Consider:
    Tonogato series - Radical Thorn
    Number Ten Ox series - Barry Hughart
    Initiate Brother series - Sean Russell
    Tales of the Otori - Lian Hearn
    Chaos side of the Recluse series - L.E. Modisett, Jr.

    The common denominator seems to me the ritualized societies, the courtesies rendered and accepted, the feel of the societies described. THere are good guys and and bad guys, ruthlessness and treachery, but it all transpires against a backdrop of manners.
    And the acceptance of magic in the world as right and proper; you just must look for it.

    Probably better argued in good old GW's threads, but these books appeal to my view that there isn't an absolute good and evil to consider, but there is chaos and order, and there must be a balance between them.

  5. #5
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Bothell, WA USA
    Posts
    2,177
    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
    Probably better argued in good old GW's threads, but these books appeal to my view that there isn't an absolute good and evil to consider, but there is chaos and order, and there must be a balance between them.
    Ah! My own philosophy thread!

    I can't speak for the other authors, of course, but it is certainly true that if one is attempting to capture an Asian aspect, the Taoist concepts of yin and yang, and the duality of good and evil, is a rather ever-present influence. It is a difficult concept for many Westerners to deal with, as our own cultural influence tends to paint good and evil as absolutes. The idea that "light" cannot exist unless there is a corresponding "dark" by which to contrast it is a simple thought in theory, but one that opens up a whole Pandora's box of implications.

    For the writer, though, it also creates different vistas upon which to paint your characters. Rather than just the typical "we're all gonna kick the bad guy's butt" you have an opportunity to explore the potentially darker side of your good guys as well. And this doesn't necessarily mean the "deep dark secret" sort of thing, which is too easy to portray as separate and apart from your character's "good" nature; but actually looking at their "good" actions and seeing if there is a dark side to them, or if others perceive them as a dark side. When Shiko confronts the Darkness in The Sands of Sabakushi, that is of course precisely what happens to him - his actions have not changed, but he is presented with a different "view" of those same actions, and must try to step outside himself to determine if what he's done is what he really thinks he's done, or is simply a veneer of rationality that he's used to paint over his deeds.

  6. #6
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In an Ode
    Posts
    12,245
    And Kij Johnson's Japanese novels, which I always bring up when people start whining about how nobody is doing anything different. Caitlin Sweet's world also is more Arab and tribal than West European, and Scott Bakker brings in the Byzantine in his. There's a lot of interest in Arab culture stories, at the moment. (Kevin's stories mix in the Arab, nomadic cultures with the Asian, which I think makes a nice contrast.) What about contemporary fantasy stories -- we've got stories in Tokyo as well as London. Gaiman brought in the African Anasazi stuff, etc.

    I think fantasy always has a lot of the political to it, and non-European-based fantasy gives a whole other set of political situations to deal with. What's fun about Kevin's books, is that the various kingdoms each represent different forms of governance, different choices people can make. That does have a correlation with European issues, and for that matter, modern issues, but also other parts of the world.

    Do we see American-set fantasy as just an extension of European, or is it fundamentally different? Anyone read a South American fantasy, besides the magic realists?

    I also don't think most fantasy stories are as black and white as people assume they are, but that's another topic.

  7. #7
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Charter Member, Restore Pluto Initiative
    Posts
    4,696
    Just shows the memory is going: recently read The Fox Woman and it is one of the better books I've read. How could I forget that one when compiling my list? Not too surprising as I read and critiqued the Tonogato series and now remember it only in bits and pieces. Same is true for Hughart and Russell.

    Maybe most fantasy stories are not digital, as Katherine the Great suggests. However, Tolkien was content to give Sauron a little background at the beginning; after that he is just a malign presence, as are the Nazgul and the Balrog. So, he gets placed squarely in the good vs evil camp.
    I only got through the first of Bakker's and discovered he is not for me so I can't comment further.
    Mieville certainly does not go in for the good vs evil, has more shades than Hades. I think Donaldson's First Chronicles were pretty much good versus evil in framework though Covenant himself represented a stirring conflict of the two. Donaldson's Gap series definitely wasn't.

    My first novel takes one side of a war to present the opening battles. The second book went over to the other side to look at things from their point of view. The third intended to look at the whole mess from a third party's viewpoint. But, then, I wasn't interested so much in telling a grand epic as I was investigating what I think the terms duty, honor, and country mean. Turns out I have a few disagreements with MacArthur.

    And, I'd rewrite them now before attempting to sell them. I've changed my mind again about what I think because of the order and chaos, yin and yang direction my thinking has gone.

  8. #8
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Bothell, WA USA
    Posts
    2,177
    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
    But, then, I wasn't interested so much in telling a grand epic as I was investigating what I think the terms duty, honor, and country mean.... I'd rewrite them now before attempting to sell them. I've changed my mind again about what I think because of the order and chaos, yin and yang direction my thinking has gone.
    Good call. The sort of battles you fight, and your reasons for them, are likely to be quite different depending on which of these two perspectives (one more Western-oriented, the other more Eastern-oriented) you might choose to adopt to tell your tale.

    And, of course, as a mirror to historical reality, it would also be quite fascinating (Note to Rocketsheep: close your browser, mutliple POV statement approaching) to include both of those concepts, using your original thought of showing the POV of each side. However, I think it could potentially be more powerful to not break such POV's into sequential books, but interweave them together; such would give you the opportunity to really explore how simple misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and differing world views can lead to tragic consequences on the larger stage. By bringing the two opposing "world views" together at one time, the reader will be able to see the tragedy approaching, and the simplicity with which it could be solved if only each side could understand the other. But of course, obstinancy would hold sway, just as in the real world...

    You have two weeks to complete this assignment. Pencils up.... begin!

  9. #9
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Charter Member, Restore Pluto Initiative
    Posts
    4,696
    Wrote elsewhere about Lawrence Durell's Alexandria Quartet which looks at the same story from four different character's POV in four different books. I didn't attempt that. First book deals with prelim battles. Second book has different cast at a time parallel to and after first book events. Third book is parallel but on a different stage.

    But, you do have me thinking. I'm not certain the world is ready for that.

    Okay, here is the other side of the coin. It will answer a bit of KatG's questions as well.
    http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/1659p0.html
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; June 20th, 2006 at 02:06 PM.

  10. #10
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Bothell, WA USA
    Posts
    2,177
    Aha! I did wonder a bit about the ending of the first one. It all becomes clear now...

    And the yin and yang aspects of this pair of stories are very clear as well...

  11. #11
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In an Ode
    Posts
    12,245
    You seem to have much more fun with that one, I must say. I liked the make-do and the river and flats stuff. (For those who may be confused, this is the counterpoint off a story piece HE did regarding a picture of Kevin's over in the Computer Art thread.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
    But, you do have me thinking. I'm not certain the world is ready for that.
    Don't be silly. Martin has a quintet war going on and he does pov's from all sides. C.S. Friedman did her first sf novel, "In Conquest Born," with alternating pov's from two characters on either side of a long-running war. Of course, their stuff isn't your stuff. And I like the idea of spreading it by book as well. But if you really wanted to do point and counterpoint from opposing sides in the same book, you've certainly proved that you can.

  12. #12
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Bothell, WA USA
    Posts
    2,177
    I believe he's saying the world may not be ready for him to start thinking...

  13. #13
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In an Ode
    Posts
    12,245
    I know, but occasionally we have to puncture his balloon. It keeps him writing.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •