Comparatively Fantastic! Our favourite authors

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Postby Straw Walker » Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:23 pm

This is all a bit deep for me :?

But I haven't seen a mention for Isaac Asimov. I know he's more science fiction than fantasy but in my youth I found all of his stories fired my imagination and the robot series, perhaps close to reality now, was such a change from the usual 'horror' image of mechanical monsters. Detective R Daneel Olivaw is so close to human yet retains its essential roboticness, a bit like 'Data' in Star Trek TNG.

The foundation trilogy again was full of hope for the human race and in that time of the cold war, I think many people felt it could all end in an instant.

As for LOTR, I only read it a few years ago and I certainly didn't see many of the deeper meanings but as a fantasy adventure story I was entranced by it. It is the only book I have had to put down because it gave me vertigo!

Others I enjoy are Tom Holt, I've just read 'The Better Mousetrap', Robert Rankin and though I'm not normally a crime novel lover I did recently enjoy reading all of the 'Rebus' books in order. The descriptions of Edinburgh are superb. Though I've never been there, the books left me feeling I know the place intimately.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:17 pm

Jan Van Quirm wrote:.... Same with genres of books - when I was 16 and kicking back at 'set books' I bought my copy of Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann) and I, Robot (Isaac Asimov) whilst on my 1st non-family holiday in Jersey. I'd already developed my fantasy-mythology addiction by then but although I was a major Dr. Who fan and loved stuff like Star Trek and Time Tunnel (to the babes amongst us that's the B&W spiral like in Austin Powers 2...) and I'd never actually read any sci-fi. Asimov's fairly easy to read in a way - not a very subtle writer really although he was fond of using scientific terms, but his concepts! God that man was prophetic if clumsy. I read all the Robot books and the Foundation series too and few others spacey ones, but I never read his detective books for some reason and strange too because I think that's really where his heart was...


There you are Straw Walker :) I knew I'd yacked on about Isaac somewhere (on page 3! :wink: ) Nothing wrong with talking Sci-fi in here as it's more about the writers so feel free to wander away and back again into Fantasy genres :D I think my favourite non-robot Asimov was a short story (gotta love shorts I think as they're so hard-hitting at times) was one called 'Nightfall' which was about a planet that never had darkness/night because it had several suns - the concept here was the effects of astronomical disasters on social development, but instead of comets or meteors colliding with this planet, it was simply a multiple eclipse of the majority of the local stars, which led to a Nightfall where the people saw distant stars for the first time - and they were bang in amongst a more congested sector of the Milky Way... When the eclipse 'hit' it was doomsday and I won't spoil it by saying anymore if you've never read it, but it was possibly the first time I ever felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention - he was a truly amazing writer.
The Foundation series were also good - I think Psychohistory is something that it would be fascinating to study although I suppose these days it probably is in a way, with a dash of chaos theory - though maybe the mathematical side would defeat that! :wink: Did you read the two follow ups - One was Foundation and Earth (I think) but I can't remember the title of the other one - those were more like prequels and went back to when Hari Seldon was very young and sort of tied in with one of the Robot stories too.

Writers who can get you feeling so dizzy or scared, or take you with them into the pages so they come alive are maybe not so rare, but in the fantasy/sci-fi genres they are especially talented as they take their readers beyond our experience in this reality and I'm convinced this is why a fair proportion of people don't get into Pterry's sort of books :lol:

Tony - I think you're more or less right. Tolkien was always changing his mind and he never said 'what' Bombadil was. Common opinion is that he's something like Gandalf (or Saruman and Sauron) but more amoral and non-aligned, though benevolent enough. He's some kind of immortal spirit for sure but what he definitely isn't (and this Tolkien was definite about) is the Creator deity of Arda (Eru Illivatar) or one of his leading angelic helpers the Valar and Valier (7 guys - including the first Dark Lord Morgoth - and 7 gals). What we are told, and Tolks never deviated from, was that he was the first being on Arda, but quite what his purpose was is never really made plain. Maybe Tolks invented him after he'd been on the magic mushrooms and forgot what it was he was supposed to be there for? :twisted:
Maybe the answer's somewhere in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil but that's one of Tolkien's books I'm never going to read - he's too bloody annoying and his songs are tripe :lol:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:48 pm

:lol: Jan! That made me laugh. :lol:

A sci fi writer who I've enjoyed a lot is Arthur C Clarke. I think the first book I read by him was 2001, but I've read a lot more since and think he's a very good writer. He's not satisfied with saying that (for example) you could in theory build an elevator into space, he goes into how it could actually be done and the scientific theory behind it - without bogging the reader down with gobbldygook.

And prophetic! There's a book by him called The Songs of Distant Earth that has one of the characters playing his favourite music from a small box he carries in his pocket through earphones. When I first read this I thought he had predicted the Walkman - years later I realised that he'd actually predicted the iPod. :lol:

I think my favourite book by him is Childhood's End. It's about the next step in human evolution and well worth reading.
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Postby cols » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:09 pm

Am a fan of Mr. C Clarke myself. I read 2001 to the little woman many years ago when she was still in the womb!
I seem to remember in an interview many years ago he said that our early astronauts had found many things in space( moons and such) which were almost exactly how they were in the book. They said they were half expecting to see the monolith up there!!
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Postby Straw Walker » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:01 am

Jan Sorry I missed your first mention of Asimov. I do agree that, having re-read his books as an adult, they can be a bit simplistic at times but he was as much a mathematician and scientist as a fiction writer. I still think that the Foundation series is among the best science fiction ever and the way later books, Foundations Edge, Foundation and Earth and Prelude to Foundation link with his other works is brilliant. I must try again to read some of his non fiction and I think there is at least one more Foundation book around. Something to read while waiting for Pterry's next :D

Tony & Cols I've enjoyed some of Clarke's books but have found him a bit pompous at times. To be fair, I'm not sure if it's his writing or if I'm being influenced by my perception of his public persona. I would agree that his foresight and technical ideas are very good and obviously based on a good understanding of science.
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Postby cols » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:16 am

Straw Walker wrote:

Tony & Cols I've enjoyed some of Clarke's books but have found him a bit pompous at times. To be fair, I'm not sure if it's his writing or if I'm being influenced by my perception of his public persona..


Well I can appreciate that Straw Walker.One of the reasons I've never read JK Rowling is I saw her in a couple of interviews and I just found her very irritating. I'm sure that's not a good enough reason not to read one of her books but that's me!
I used to read Stephen King all the time and then he became openly arrogant ( maybe I just hadn't noticed before but the man has changed in the last ten years no doubt)and it put me right off adn I haven't read him since
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Postby Straw Walker » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:45 am

Thanks Cols, I'm glad I'm not the only one to be affected by personal appearances in that way. That's just another reason why Pterry is so popular, he's always been such a nice honest 'what you see is what you get' kind of man. :)
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:37 pm

Straw Walker - :D when I said Asimov was simple and little clumsy I think I meant this more as a compliment because keeping things plain only highlights the 'visionary' elements in his work? Arthur C. Clarke as Tony and Cols say was also a seminal sci-fi writer, but Asimov I'd say was just as influential if not more so and all the better for being accessible and clear too :lol:

Jan Van Quirm wrote:Argh! and I meant to comment on Mr [Stephen] King too... :roll:
So this is an edit :P He is too prolific, too varied and so in some cases (most possibly) - too trite. I've enjoyed some of the early horror stuff and Stand By Me is another of my all time fave films (I adored River Phoenix) and I now find most of his books far to glib and almost formulaic? It's like - ooo yeah - we haven't had a decent shocker for about - shall we say 30 pages... get another one in and then we'll cosy again for another 2 - hell maybe 5 as I just excelled myself I think. That how I feel sometimes with his stuff anyway, just too mechanical in a way maybe.


Couldn't agree more Cols! :wink: I don't know about looks putting you off someone (although of course it does) but with writers I would say 'attitude' would certainly be something that would make me think 'urgh' if they came across as too pleased with themselves. I'd never read much Stephen King TBH as horror's not something I'm in to particularly, but I did read his first 'fantasy' book (it was so stinky my brain has wiped all memory of the title :twisted: ) and found it childish in the extreme, but I persevered, finished it and was left, for the 1st time when reading fantasy feeling like I'd been talked down to throughout. There were some nice touches - like wolves following a scent as a trail of colour and the closer the prey/target the more intense the colour - but the dialogue was wholly false bordering insulting to the intelligence and I never read another SK again :x

I think I must have read Arthur C. Clarke some time but for the life of me I can't recall having done so. With Space Odyssey so integral to the baby boomer life experience I think he's somehow ingrained in people of a certain age heads and I agree he was a very remarkable and influential author and scientist - wasn't he an adviser for NASA at some stage? I just remembered where I'd read him :lol: ROFLMAO - when I was 9 in school. We had a rather avant garde newly-qualified teacher and he brought Space Odyssey and had us reading passages aloud - the word phenomenon was ever-present and without fail we all stumbled over it because we'd never really come across a word that starts with FUH being written with a PH *laughs hysterically*
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby chris.ph » Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:48 pm

i love the robot series by asimov and one of my all time favourite books is islands in thge sky by arthur c clarke which my parents bought me in junior school in the 70s :)
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:37 pm

Jan Van Quirm wrote:...Tolkien is a b*gger on descriptions, but he can do them really well no trouble - the Eye of Sauron is fully depicted in that scene [the Mirror of Galadriel] and Peter Jackson had the best template possible for the CGI guys to interpret :) I have to agree with you (and be thankful) that both Pterry and Tolks more often get on with the story and let the reader be a part of internal visualising, however as a sometime illustrator, there is quite a lot of descriptive writing in there on locations more than character to be sure that is a tribute to PJ's faithfullness (mostly anyway) to the books because for the most part the scenery was spot on - the Argonath in particular, but many more, including Rivendell were so perfectly brought to life.

Silverstreak - I used to do that too! :D Do you remember there was a LotR album as well - by Bo Hansen a Swede I think? He was a friend of Jimi Hendrix and there were some ace synthesiser stuff on the LP. Happy days indeed! :P
:oops: that's Bo Hansson!

Just to come back on Tolkien's descriptive talents (or lack of them) for ME some quick examples of making much of very little :lol:

OK so mostly landscapes as I was saying and from the Hobbit a 'night' scene in Mirkwood which was based on a section where Bilbo keeps watch whilst the Dwarves sleep

Image

A digital-collage from an idea for a fantasy view from Lothlorien to Rauros (the great waterfall that Boromir's body was consigned to)

Image

and re-worked using my own photostock a couple of years later...

Image

And finally a portrait of Glorfindel (outrageously missing from the Fellowship of the Ring where he was replaced by Liv Tyler as Elrond's daughter Arwen :evil: )

Image

With the films as a stock source for portraits I find it v. hard now to independently 'visualise' the major characters now as it was so well cast, but with Glorfindel not being 'in it' our imaginations can run more freely as it were. I did this for a friend and co-mod from her collection of photographic castings and so Glo's a composite of a very handsome male model with another 'glamour' models hair (yes a male one - not Jordan :twisted: )

Those are all my own work (except where stated in the 1st Lothlorien pic) using sketches or manipulations of my own photos using Photoshop and/or Terragen

And as Howard Shore's beautiful soundtrack has eclipsed poor ole Bo's handiwork here's a link to a YouTube rendition of his interpretation of A Journey in the Dark (Moria/Khazad-dum) to take all us older Ringers back to the heady days of the late 60s when the paperback appeared for the 1st time - HERE

Several more of my LotR fanart pieces can be found HERE if I haven't already bored the pants off you! :P I've never done any Discworld pieces - I guess I'm too much in awe of Josh and Paul...
Last edited by Jan Van Quirm on Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby Tonyblack » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:33 pm

Jan I'm impressed! :D

Actually, I've just watched the Fellowship of the Ring DVD, so I'm even more impressed! New Zealand had some great landscapes for the movies.

I was interested when reading the books just how little a part Arwen actually plays. But then there aren't a great many really good parts for women in the books with the exception of Eowen and Galadrial. Do orcs have mummys?

Giving Arwen more of a role sort of balanced things up a bit and Princess Aerosmith did a pretty good job. :lol:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:06 am

The art direction and location selection in all 3 films but Fellowship in particular is simply stunnning Tony - when I first saw it on the big screen I was in tears of wonder and breathless with amazement just looking at the landscapes let alone the sad bits in the storyline... The Oscars they won for the production-oriented awards were all fully deserved as WETA and the other behind the scenes artists and technicians did an incredible job on all the films.

NZ has done v. nicely tourism-wise out of the films too even though the landscaping and building that was put in for the filming were all removed and it's all gone back to normal. It's certainly one of the few places that would tempt me to travel long-haul to visit these days.

Ms. Tyler's role profile of course had to be raised and the scriptwriters did a good job with integrating one of the Appendices - The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen - into the main movies quite nicely (except the absolutely dreadful and unnecessary excursion where Aragorn's wounded before Helms Deep). For dyed-in-the-wool fans however her substitution for Glorfindel in the movie (as the Hobbits and Aragorn try to evade the Black Riders coming into Rivendell) is not only taking liberties with the story but actually impossible in terms of canon :lol: Quite simply the Ringwraiths would have easily squished Arwen as she was a 'dark' elf because, unlike Glorfindel, she had not lived in Valinor so wouldn't have been that much more of a threat to them than Frodo. In fact the wraiths had met Glorfindel in a series of battles 1000 years earlier and basically had pooped their pants 'cos he was so scary - which is why Gandalf sent him out on his own to help Aragorn bring the Hobbits in safely... But that isn't all at apparent in LotR - that story's in the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales :evil:

Galadriel too doesn't get much of a show in the books, but in earlier eras she and her husband Celeborn were big hitters in ME politics and Tolkien had her rated with Feanor as the greatest elf to ever live - so a power role there at least even if not an action one. The Eowyn role is of course the only female worth a lick in the books, and in the academic works there are a few other empowered female warriors, but oddly mostly human rather than elves. Tolkien as an Edwardian was fairly disposed to having 'strong' female roles, but of course his sources were very inclined to the damsel in distress genres, which I'm told by my more sensible male forum friends is the reason why they really like the roleplay for ME as they can all be Robin Hood or Ivanhoe types :lol:
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby Tonyblack » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:59 am

I understand that Eowyn was inspired by Aethelflaed, King Alfred's daughter. Now there was a lady who kicked arse. :lol:
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Postby silverstreak » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:29 am

Jan,I've never heard of that album.I have had the experiance of seeing
Hendrix in the flesh -unforgetable.
I also agree about Stephan King,I used to really enjoy his work until I
saw an interview he gave.His arrogance was unbelievable and totally put
me off him and have not read any book of his since.
Dark in here isn't it.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:57 am

Rounding up replies on Tolkien then I promise to 'rest' it *uncrosses fingers*

Orc Females/Mothers - they certainly had them because 'they bred like Elves and Men'. This is probably THE most contentious piece of canon 'fact' and it's a fascinating area of lore as Tolkien kept on changing his mind about the rise of the orc. Most hard evidence in the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales lean towards the 1st Dark Lord, Morgoth (Sauron's evil Vala boss) having 'created' them - however another 'hard' creation myth for Arda is that all Morgoth's little dabbles could not reproduce and the orcs could - so he had to corrupt the nature of a 'proper' race by mutilation, brainwashing (in effect) and necromancy and so Elves and Men come into the frame.

I think he (or more likely Sauron) used both, but they used Elves first as Men didn't come along until much later when there were already a ton of orcs fighting the dark Elves. Elves however have a supremely strong life force and would not be corrupted too easily so there's all kinds of problems with how it was done and there are some off the cuff refs to 'evil spirits' being part of the breeding plan... Nasty bloke was Morgoth :evil:

Where they kept the females - the brood mothers - is even more questionable (I'm actually 2/3rds of the way into writing a piece of fanfic on this subject with a bio-genetic basis on the origins using the Elf theory :lol: ) My best guess as to the Third Age orcs (LotR era) is that female orcs looked and behaved like the males and were there all the time! :twisted: The Uruk Hai of Isengard were rumoured to have been bred on human women, but they are a much later 'strain' and more physically developed (mentally too as they were more 'stable' and disciplined) but not as large a population base as the 'classic' Misty Mountain orc.

Eowyn - a very feisty lady and yes based on a number of warrior women in the Dark Ages or even before. In fact female fighters were not a rarity in the Celtic tribes in all parts of the modern UK and in continental Europe but particularly in Ireland (Queen Maeve/Mabh) and of course in Essex where Boedicea/Budicca led the Iceni in an serious uprising against the Romans, flattening Londinium in the process - and she definitely was a hand's on general, though she most likely didn't have great scythes on her chariot... :lol: I think that Tolkien based Eowyn more on the Celtic model rather than the Saxon (like Alfred's daughter of course) as they were definitely into horses with a vengeance and so leaned towards cavalry style warfare (there is good cause to connect the myth of centaurs to the early Celtic tribal incursion to the east of their original homelands in the alps and central Europe) - so as she says she's a 'shieldmaiden' and not that unusual... :D
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