My website stats have really been exploding these past few days. Yesterday was the busiest day since the revamp/return of this blog in October 2010 with 103 visitors according to the WordPress stats plug-in. Most people seem to have come for the fantasy discussions, but I also got some hits on the Guttenberg posts and relevant search terms.
Returning to those popular subjects, there have been new developments in the zu Guttenberg plagiarism case: Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg permanently renounces his doctorate (even though only the issuing university can withdraw the title, not the title bearer), but he does not resign from office. And according to the latest opinion polls, three quarter of all Germans still back zu Guttenberg, including supporters and even members of opposing parties. No link for that – I saw a report on TV, but it’s not yet on the station’s website.
I still find it depressing that so few people care about educational and academic honesty – and that’s the issue here, not party affiliation. I can only speak for myself, but I would not feel any differently about this case if the alleged plagiarist were from the SPD, FDP, Green Party or Left Party. Plagiarism is wrong, regardless of the plagiarist’s political affiliations. Never mind that German politicians have resigned from office for much lesser offenses.
Here is a great interview on the Guttenberg case with plagiarism expert Stefan Weber (in German). The New York Times also has a write-up of the case so far. Though the assertion that the results of the Hamburg election are connected to the Guttenberg affair is wrong. The Hamburg election was decided by local issues not federal issues. And zu Guttenberg, who hails from Bavaria, i.e. the other side of Germany, has absolutely nothing to do with the Hamburg elections.
As for the steadily popular nihilism in fantasy topic, I have found two more posts which have eluded me so far:
At the Black Gate blog Matthew David Surridge argues that there has always been fantasy with clear-cut morals and fantasy with very shady morals. A very good post which echoes one thing that tripped me up in the original post, namely that Robert E. Howard is a very different writer than Tolkien and that Conan frequently neither is very heroic nor is he trying to be. And Conan is not the only hero of that sort in pre-WWII pulp fantasy in general and Weird Tales in particular. Jirel of Joiry, Northwest Smith, Eric John Stark, the various characters of Clark Ashton Smith, Howard’s other characters – they were all like that. Even the very heroic Doc Savage had no issues with operating on the brains of captured villains to turn them into productive members of society. And let’s not even start on The Spider. If anything, Tolkien was the exception not the rule.
Grasping for the Wind has a post from Phil Athans, who finds himself somewhat on the fence regarding this whole issue. All in all, this is a nice measured post, though I have some problems with it:
First of all, he quotes an ex-nun and religious scholar whose observations – while interesting – have very little to do with this whole discussion. This quote also happens to hit on one of my pet peeves, namely religious scholars and clergy of whatever persuasion trying to push writers and artists into the role of purveyors of divine messages.
Then there is a quote by Donald Maas about writers in a mid career slump turning to writing dark and depressing books with unlikable characters. This may well be true, but first of all it does not apply in the case of Joe Abercrombie, because he has never written anything else than “nihilist fantasy”. The First Law trilogy Leo Grin feels so strongly about was his debut. Besides, there is an odd undercurrent against writers wanting to stretch their wings and do something different in the Maas quote. Finally, their is no universal concept of an unlikable and repellent character. One of my all-time favourite fictional characters was so disliked by the majority of the audience for the work in question that the character was unceremoniously killed off. Yes, I’m still bitter about that.
I’m also not sure whether Leo Grin would consider roleplaying tie-ins like the Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance books a replacement for Tolkien or Howard. After all, he explicitly compares the Wheel of Time series to a soap opera in the original post and Wheel of Time is usually considered a pretty good Tolkien substitute, though it never worked for me.
On a somewhat related note, urban fantasy writer Harry Connolly, guestblogging at Charles Stross’ site, likens the high versus low fantasy dichotomy to the distinction between high and low thrillers. One cannot help noting parallels to the current epic fantasy discussion.
And now for something completely different, Lynn Viehl offers a humorous take on certain stylistic quirks of literary fiction. I particularly giggled at the bit about characters named after foreign language terms which mean something unpleasant in English, because John Irving does just that in Hotel New Hampshire where two characters are named after the German words for “abortion” and “miscarriage”. It makes for a very odd reading experience, if you happen to be German.
The New York Times wonders whether blogs are on the wane, while particularly younger users defect to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are fine for short status updates, keeping in touch with friends and posting the occasional photo. If you want more, you still need a blog.
On a related note, Theodora Goss explains what blogging means to her.