Book: The Dragon Waiting - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: The Dragon Waiting
Sunday, 23 January 2005 at 10:15 pm
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Author: John M Ford

Details: (c) 1983 John M Ford; Pub Corgi 1985; ISBN 0-552-12557-1

Verdict: The Dragon Waiting is simultaneously highly enjoyable and very confusing.

Reasons for reading it: rysmiel recommended it.

How it came into my hands: lethargic_man lent it to me, albeit a bit reluctantly since he's not keen on it himself.

It's very difficult to describe The Dragon Waiting at all. It's basically an alternate history account of the accession of Richard III. Except that doesn't really give much of an impression of what sort of book it is. It has wizards and dragons and vampires and stuff, but it doesn't really behave like typical fantasy. It's hard to put my finger on what's so unusual about it. I think in essence it's that tDW doesn't draw attention to the magical elements. Magic and the supernatural are woven into the background absolutely seamlessly, there's almost no exposition or even incluing. The story focuses on the people who live in the world they're in and take magic for granted. It's a bit like reading, say, a nineteenth century Russian novel in translation; you probably pick up bits about Russian social history and politics, but the point of the book isn't to explain these things, because the intended audience would have taken the background for granted.

The background, even though it's never really described directly, is what's really amazing about tDW. Everything fits together absolutely perfectly, the magic, the geopolitical scene, the religion. And it's set across more or less the whole of Europe, but manages to give each country its individual flavour, as well as regions and different social strata fitting into that. And the way that the alternate reality stuff is so closely interwoven with real history. (I don't know as much about 15th century Europe as I probably should, because last time I studied that period was in primary school, meaning that I have very basic general knowledge about English history and a lot of ignorance about the rest of the world.)

Anyway, the two major historical changes are that a civilization which considers itself the continuation of the Roman empire is still strong in the east, and there is no dominant religion, just a lot of local cults without much political influence. The whole setup works incredibly well; I could really believe I was reading the history of a genuine world, a real fork on the timeline. As a small example, when this world's equivalent of Christians are first introduced, my hair was standing on end from how different the situation was from what I was expecting, and from how cleverly everything is fitted together. I also completely adore the way vampirism fits into the picture. Just wow.

The main focus of the actual story is political intrigue, and it's intrigue almost on the scale of Dumas. The trouble is, I've reached the end of the book and I have very little more idea than when I started who was on which side, who was double- and triple-crossing whom, and why anybody acted the way they did. Eventually, I just gave up trying to understand what was going on, and related to the book as a series of scenarios set in a very, very cool background. Like the kind of themed short story collection where the same characters show up in different situations, sometimes as protagonist and sometimes as a minor character.

The weird thing is, despite having very little idea what was going on on a whole book scale, I was completely absorbed in the immediacy of each scene. I think the opening three chapters, introducing Hywel, Dimitrios and Cynthia are the most successful part of the book. Partly because I'm more relaxed about not knowing what's going on when the scene is first being set. I was fascinated by the three of them as characters and the three very different backgrounds they came from. The rest of the novel didn't quite live up to the promise of those openings though, partly because Hywel suddenly jumped from a dangerously curious child to a mysterious old wizard, while Cynthia was thrown straight into the action without any time for character development.

I do understand why lethargic_man dislikes this book. A lot of the time I was left thinking, but why on earth would they do that?! It's as if the narratorial voice is either completely tone deaf to character, or has such an intuitive understanding of how people tick that it doesn't seem worth explaining anything. I kind of suspect the second, because despite being really confused by a lot of the characters' decisions, I did very much believe in them as people and cared a lot about their fate.

In many ways reading tDW felt like watching a film, not because it's particularly visual (it really isn't at all), but because there isn't the sort of background and explanation that I normally expect from novels. As when I watch films, I couldn't keep all the minor characters straight in my head, and I couldn't properly follow the threads of the plot. Now, in films the problem is that the extra information is being provided in the form of images, and I'm just bad at extracting information from images. But with tDW it's more like the information isn't there in the first place. Or knowing what's going on relies on knowing a lot of history that I might recognize if it were stated explicitly but which I'm not familiar enough with to pick up on subtle allusions.

The other thing about tDW is a truly bizarre sense of humour. Things like characters randomly hacking Tolkien, which threw me out of the story as much as an actor winking at the audience. But it did also make me chuckle.


Moooood: confusedconfused
Tuuuuune: Beth Orton: Don't need a reason
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 24th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:29 pm (lethargic_man's time)

"The Dragon Waiting"

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The background, even though it's never really described directly, is what's really amazing about tDW. Everything fits together absolutely perfectly, the magic, the geopolitical scene, the religion.

Yes. The reason the Princes in the Tower have to be killed is just so right it makes you question the plausibility of it in our world. :o)

Anyway, the two major historical changes are that a civilization which considers itself the continuation of the Roman empire is still strong in the east, and there is no dominant religion, just a lot of local cults without much political influence.

Why "considers itself"? It was! I also got the impression (IIRC - it's five year since I read it) there was a dominant religion - Mithraism.

As a small example, when this world's equivalent of Christians are first introduced, my hair was standing on end from how different the situation was from what I was expecting, and from how cleverly everything is fitted together.

Oh, yes!

The rest of the novel didn't quite live up to the promise of those openings though, partly because Hywel suddenly jumped from a dangerously curious child to a mysterious old wizard,

I'm with you there too.

The other thing about tDW is a truly bizarre sense of humour. Things like characters randomly hacking Tolkien

Huh? Remind me?

Oh, and a final linguistic point: Did you get why "Tudor" was spelled "Tydder"?
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livredor: bookies
From:livredor
Date:January 25th, 2005 10:06 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:06 am (livredor's time)

Re: "The Dragon Waiting"

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The reason the Princes in the Tower have to be killed is just so right it makes you question the plausibility of it in our world. :o)
Yay! I really, really liked that bit. I was just stunned by how cleverly that came together.

Why "considers itself"? It was!
Well, because how objectively can you define what constitutes a discrete civilization? It's not the Roman Empire in the sense of the immediate associations I have with the term.

there was a dominant religion - Mithraism.
Not really, the way I read it. I mean, all the major cities had 'Pantheons' (that plural looks wrong to me) with several different religions represented. Mithraism is very ill-suited to being the kind of official state religion that Christianity was at that period in real history, and I didn't get the impression that was the case in the book. The official religion of the Byzantine-Roman Empire was explicit pluralism. And Britain didn't seem to have an official state religion at all; Dimi was surprised to find that Richard was a fellow Mithraian (sp?) and the official ceremonies described were not Mitrhaian in character. I'm not sure what they were, mind you, seemed like bits of Norse, bits of ancient Egyptian and bits of (classical) Roman polytheisms muddled together.

Tolkien hackery, – quote:
Exasperated but blankly amused, Richard said, 'Isn't there a saying about meddling in the affairs of wizards?'


Did you get why "Tudor" was spelled "Tydder"?
Er, because it's meant to be Welsh? Other than that, no idea.
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 25th, 2005 10:42 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:42 am (lethargic_man's time)

Re: "The Dragon Waiting"

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how objectively can you define what constitutes a discrete civilization? It's not the Roman Empire in the sense of the immediate associations I have with the term.

That's because your immediate associations have been shaped by the modern, western attribution of the name "Byzantine" to the Eastern Empire. To non-westerners, the Byzantine Empire was called Roman. What we call Greek Fire was known to the Arabs it was used against as Roman Fire. The Greeks called themselves Roman and to this day their language is called "Romaic". In many modern languages the term for the Byzantine Empire still is "Roman".

And as for the fact the civilisation changed and evolved, so what? You don't have any difficulties accepting the word "English" as describing both the society of Chaucer -- or even Alfred the Great -- and today, and they're pretty different too. No one's claiming that the Empire at the time of its conquest was the same as it was in the days of Constantine.
there was a dominant religion - Mithraism.
Not really, the way I read it. I mean, all the major cities had 'Pantheons' (that plural looks wrong to me) with several different religions represented. Mithraism is very ill-suited to being the kind of official state religion that Christianity was at that period in real history, and I didn't get the impression that was the case in the book.

Okay, possibly I'm misremembering it.
Did you get why "Tudor" was spelled "Tydder"?
Er, because it's meant to be Welsh? Other than that, no idea.

Precisely. We think of Henry VII as king of England, but really his family had been established in Wales for a long time, and his surname would have been pronounced accordingly. It makes you think about it.
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livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:January 25th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 08:15 pm (livredor's time)

continuity of civilizations

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To non-westerners, the Byzantine Empire was called Roman.
That's semantic quibbling which has nothing to do with anything. I am completely happy that what I call the Byzantine civilization was called Roman. Doesn't mean it was (any more than the Holy Roman Empire, or Romania, or the Romany, or the Third Reich, for that matter).

I take your point about "English", but "England" does at least refer to a geographical as well as a political / cultural entity. I'm not really denying that the Empire portrayed in The Dragon Waiting is the continuation of what I think of as the Roman Empire, I'm just saying that there's no objective way of determining whether it is or it isn't. And it's very incidental in the book so we have barely any information to go on regarding what sort of culture it was, whether it was Rome-like or not.
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 25th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 08:52 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Re: continuity of civilizations

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That's semantic quibbling which has nothing to do with anything. I am completely happy that what I call the Byzantine civilization was called Roman. Doesn't mean it was (any more than the Holy Roman Empire, or Romania, or the Romany, or the Third Reich, for that matter).

I take your point about "English", but "England" does at least refer to a geographical as well as a political / cultural entity.


Huh? The Byzantine Empire em</em> continuous with the Eastern Roman Empire! The Empire was divided into eastern and western halves; the western half fell a century or two later, the eastern half remained for the next thousand years. At the time of the division of the Empire, it was no less Roman than Gaul or Spain. And its heartland was Roman through and through for a millennium and a half.

Justinian's often taken as the dividing point between "Roman" and "Byzantine"; he recodified the laws, reconquered many of the territories lost in the west, and was the last emperor to speak Latin. But that wasn't until a century and a half after the division of the single Roman Empire!

The Holy Roman Empire, by contrast, really did have no continuity with the Roman Empire. And the "roma" in Romany is completely etymologically unconnected with the city of Roma; it's pronounced differently, and is derived from the Sanskrit domba.

I'm not really denying that the Empire portrayed in The Dragon Waiting is the continuation of what I think of as the Roman Empire, I'm just saying that there's no objective way of determining whether it is or it isn't. And it's very incidental in the book so we have barely any information to go on regarding what sort of culture it was, whether it was Rome-like or not.

We're told explicitly in the afterword it's derived from the Byzantine Empire in our own world, the divergence points being the Emperors Justinian and Julian getting to live longer!
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livredor: default
From:livredor
Date:January 25th, 2005 09:33 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 10:33 pm (livredor's time)

Re: continuity of civilizations

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The Byzantine Empire was continuous with the Eastern Roman Empire!
You know, you're much more knowledgeable on this topic than I am, and I think you're pretty much convincing me. I was only using a slightly vague phrase to imply that I didn't really know what the situation was.

And the "roma" in Romany is completely etymologically unconnected with the city of Roma
Cool. I thought for some reason the name was connected with Romania and therefore indirectly with Rome. Bad example, I agree.
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rysmiel: words words words
From:rysmiel
Date:January 25th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 03:54 pm (rysmiel's time)

Re: "The Dragon Waiting"

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Mithraism's no dominant religion in The Dragon Waiting, what it is is a cult that happens to be in favour among the powerful at the time. It certainly makes up all that is important in Getting On In Life religiously from the POV of the young Dimi, but POVs are limited.

I love the sense of humour in it, even if if it does go for blatant excess on occasion. Stella Martis, yet. OTOH, Gregory just gets funnier and funnier as I reread. In a dreadful morbid deadpan sort of way.
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 24th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:29 pm (lethargic_man's time)

The Dragon Waiting

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I'm going to respond to this with my own comments on first reading this:

I was rather disoriented for quite a while. I knew Constantinople fell in the mid-fifteenth century, but I couldn't remember exactly when, and I was performing byanztine mental contortions (sorry, couldn't resist) to try and reconcile what I knew of that period with what the story was saying. It took me quite a while to realise this was an alternate history. Even the fact that many of the main characters were Mithraists (about which I knew a little due to having read the Encyclopaedia Britannica's article on Zoroastrianism a short while beforehand) didn't make me twig; since Mithraism is a mystery cult, I read it as existing in the interstices of a predominantly Christian society.

Even the first Dimitrios section didn't make this completely clear for me. The Byzantines evidently still thought there was an empire of sorts. But then, the Ostrogoths and whoever else were crowning themselves Western Roman Empire at the time still thought there was a Western Roman Empire long after it ceased to be.

The mention of the Portuguese discovering land across the Atlantic was most disconcerting, given that I knew (by then) that this was long before the time of Columbus, until I worked out that he was referring to the Azores. (You won't have got that, because it involves geography. ;^b)

I knew absolutely nothing of Richard III or Lorenzo de' Medici, other than the facts of their existance, before reading the book, so anything I ought to have picked up regarding the portrayal of them versus, for instance, Shakespeare's, went over my head. [Though of course, as you know due to having lent it to me, I've now read The Daughter of Time on the subject.]

At the time I read the book I thought the alternate history to be a whole slew of changes across the spectrum; it wasn't until I read the afterword that I realised there really were only a small number of them. It never occurred to me that Constantine the Great's legalisation of Christianity had happened, but had then been reversed.) I'm not sure that history would have been at all similar to our own this long after the departure points, actually. Even if the states would have been the same, the historical personages would not.

I found the structure of the book rather strange. Presumably it was intended to be a character portrayal of Dimitrios, Hywel and Cynthia rather than a historical narrative, which is why it wanders all over Europe then appears to settle in England and Wales, but I still found it strange.

And there was insufficient cluing of what the characters were thinking and feeling. Presumably the reader was supposed to be able to work it out for themselves, but I largely couldn't, which meant that especially near the start I hadn't the foggiest what was going on a lot of the time, and didn't understand what the characters' motivations were, and as a result that marred the entire book for me. I know, though, that this was not the case for rysmiel (or, I would imagine, Graydon Saunders, who has an even more alien mind to mine than rysmiel's, either).

I found King Hereafter similar in this respect, though not confusing; given rysmiel enjoying the level of subtlety in The Dragon Waiting, this is why I think rysmiel may enjoy King Hereafter too.
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livredor: bookies
From:livredor
Date:January 25th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 08:32 pm (livredor's time)

Re: The Dragon Waiting

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I'm not surprised you didn't get on with The Dragon Waiting if you were trying to use it as a textbook on early Renaissance Europe. It's really ill-suited to that sort of reading, precisely because of the way it so cleverly weaves the alternate history stuff with real historical detail.

I worked out that he was referring to the Azores. (You won't have got that, because it involves geography. ;^b)
You are quite right, that went right over my head. I just kind of assumed that the Columbus-equivalent stuff had happened a bit earlier in this timeline. Tell me about the Azores, because even with your pointing it out, this means nothing to me.

I'm not sure that history would have been at all similar to our own this long after the departure points, actually. Even if the states would have been the same, the historical personages would not.
Yes, but if you're going to be that pedantic then writing any kind of alternate history at all would be completely impossible. The whole point of the genre is to make references to things the reader knows about the history of our timeline. It's not supposed to be a serious thought-experiment about what would have been the outcome of making such-and-such a historical change. (If you were going to do that, you'd have to stick to very short-range effects.)

it wanders all over Europe then appears to settle in England and Wales, but I still found it strange
I actually quite liked that, because it set England (and Wales and Scotland, but most of the action in the later part of the book is in England) in the context of the whole of Europe. I would have liked to know more about how the crisis in Italy played out, and what exactly was going on with the Byzantines, but I wasn't too bothered by that.

didn't understand what the characters' motivations were
Yeah, I had that problem a lot too.

I found King Hereafter similar in this respect, though not confusing
In what respect, that of having a very detailed historical background and understanding of the interplay between all kinds of different forces across Europe? I can see the connection, if that's what you mean. Mind you, Ash does that kind of thing too, and rysmiel hates Ash.

IMO King Hereafter may be less confusing but I don't think it's quite as subtle, and I found it rather less exciting.
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rysmiel: death to vermin!
From:rysmiel
Date:January 25th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 04:03 pm (rysmiel's time)

Re: The Dragon Waiting

(Link)
Mind you, Ash does that kind of thing too, and rysmiel hates Ash.

I hate Ash on the grounds that:
1) I really dislike the way Mary Gentle chose to render the conversational English of her historical characters, it totally destroys suspension of disbelief.
2) There's enough substance in the central cool idea, I think, for a moderately good Greg Egan-type short story, so it's about two orders of magnitude too long.
3) I have a very special and pronounced distaste for the political POV presented - that feudalism cannot by its nature be other than brutish, misogynist and kleptocratic; I think this represents a fiercely slanted misinterpretation of functional feudalism.
4) the ending doesn't make any sense.

Also, wrt contexting England in the rest of Europe, and the closing in of the scale of the story, I think that is arguably a feature of the type of epic Ford is telling; it's a pattern followed by The Odyssey, Paradise Lost and so on, and... dang, this gets too close to the spoilery mail I sent livredor the other day.
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livredor: bookies
From:livredor
Date:January 25th, 2005 10:09 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:09 pm (livredor's time)

hating 'Ash'

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Oh goodie, I've been trying for ages to discover why you hate Ash so much. So I'm very pleased with this comment.

I agree with you entirely about 4. But I still rate Ash as a good book with a terrible ending.

I really dislike the way Mary Gentle chose to render the conversational English of her historical characters
That I found kind of cute. It made sense with the way the story is framed, and I can't tell you how much I prefer it over the standard practice of throwing in some 'thee's and 'thou's to make the speech sound vaguely 'old'.

a moderately good Greg Egan-type short story
Ugh, the idea of Egan doing Ash is just frightening. What I like about the novel relies so much on interactions between the characters; the supposedly SF background is the weakest part, and that's why the ending is so awful. And the trope about quantum 'many worlds' feeding into alternative history on the macro scale has been done lots of times, there's nothing original there for Egan to work with.

feudalism cannot by its nature be other than brutish, misogynist and kleptocratic;
I don't really have a strong opinion about that. I didn't get the impression that feudalism had to be thus, simply that it was, in the case of this particular story. And I don't think I could take against a book simply because it portrayed feudalism in an unfairly negative light, because I have no particular attachment to that social structure.
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rysmiel: vacant and in pensive mood
From:rysmiel
Date:January 26th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 11:54 am (rysmiel's time)

Re: hating 'Ash'

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Oh goodie, I've been trying for ages to discover why you hate Ash so much.

You know, you could have just asked.

I really dislike the way Mary Gentle chose to render the conversational English of her historical characters.
That I found kind of cute. It made sense with the way the story is framed, and I can't tell you how much I prefer it over the standard practice of throwing in some 'thee's and 'thou's to make the speech sound vaguely 'old'.


I may perhaps have unreasonable standards here. If I were to send you a copy of The Worm Ouroboros, which is a magnificent, though flawed, fantasy novel from the early part of the twentieth century written for the most part in a solid and beautiful facsimile of Jacobean English, is that comething you would be likely to enjoy ?

a moderately good Greg Egan-type short story
Ugh, the idea of Egan doing Ash is just frightening. What I like about the novel relies so much on interactions between the characters; the supposedly SF background is the weakest part, and that's why the ending is so awful.

De gustis non est disputandum
: I could not find a character in it to like or indentify with.

feudalism cannot by its nature be other than brutish, misogynist and kleptocratic;
I don't really have a strong opinion about that. I didn't get the impression that feudalism had to be thus, simply that it was, in the case of this particular story. And I don't think I could take against a book simply because it portrayed feudalism in an unfairly negative light, because I have no particular attachment to that social structure.


I suspect I may be more twitchy on this than many people in for want of a better word Western civilisation because of being closer to a quasi-feudal setting than most [ in that my father was brought up on, and his father was in service in, one of the last great Anglo-Irish estates ], but I feel the way in which Gentle failed to indicate anything of the bidirectional nature of feudal obligations and royalties and the forms of appeal one had within the system in the event of injustice is inaccurate to the point of mendacity.
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livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:January 26th, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 05:20 pm (livredor's time)

Re: hating 'Ash'

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You know, you could have just asked.
Course I could, but that doesn't take into account that there's 500 other things I want to ask you about. And just as many things that I have got round to asking you about and you've answered so interestingly that we're in the middle of lots of convoluted discussions anyway.

a magnificent, though flawed, fantasy novel from the early part of the twentieth century written for the most part in a solid and beautiful facsimile of Jacobean English
Done well I could definitely get excited about something like that, yes. It just really gets under my skin when it's done badly, and it's also the case that anything much older than that I'd have a hard time reading, if it were at all authentic.

Also, I have Ideas about translation, even translation of fictional stuff that doesn't actually exist in the original. Ash and her crowd were not in fact speaking English anyway, and to me it makes a lot more sense to translate their conversation into modern English than into English of the period contemporary with her life. (Apart from the practical consideration that the latter approach would have made the book incomprehensible.) The more so since the story is explicitly presented as a modern translation of a manuscript found in the framing story.

being closer to a quasi-feudal setting than most
*blink* I definitely wasn't expecting that to be the reasoning behind your opinion. Most definitely fair enough.

Gentle failed to indicate anything of the bidirectional nature of feudal obligations and royalties
I hadn't really thought about that very much; I was prepared to go along with the assumption that the powerful people were the bad guys. Which generally makes for good story telling though it's far from a sound general political principle.
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rysmiel: words words words
From:rysmiel
Date:January 26th, 2005 05:09 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 01:09 pm (rysmiel's time)

Re: hating 'Ash'

(Link)
you could have just asked.
Course I could, but that doesn't take into account that there's 500 other things I want to ask you about. And just as many things that I have got round to asking you about and you've answered so interestingly that we're in the middle of lots of convoluted discussions anyway.


Oh dear. I hope that didn't come across as snarkier than I meant it, it was just intended as gentle teasing. *hug* You know how much I value all that discussion, didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

a magnificent, though flawed, fantasy novel from the early part of the twentieth century written for the most part in a solid and beautiful facsimile of Jacobean English
Done well I could definitely get excited about something like that, yes.


I thought it was done extremely well, it's one of two things I stayed up all night reading as a teenager; will send you that copy I have spare, so.

Also, I have Ideas about translation, even translation of fictional stuff that doesn't actually exist in the original. Ash and her crowd were not in fact speaking English anyway, and to me it makes a lot more sense to translate their conversation into modern English than into English of the period contemporary with her life.

Fair enough to an extent; even so, there are a whole set of assumptions going in the flavour of contemprary English used, and I think it particularly did not work for me to a large extent because it did not suggest actual modern soldiers so much as Vietnam War movie soldiers.

being closer to a quasi-feudal setting than most
*blink* I definitely wasn't expecting that to be the reasoning behind your opinion. Most definitely fair enough.


It's not by any means the only reason why I dislike this, but it's the source of the emotional realities which I feel she is doing bad things to.

Gentle failed to indicate anything of the bidirectional nature of feudal obligations and loyalties
I hadn't really thought about that very much; I was prepared to go along with the assumption that the powerful people were the bad guys. Which generally makes for good story telling though it's far from a sound general political principle.


*nod* and I am unduly twitchy on fictional portrayals in which the powerful people are of course the bad guiys because it just reinforces stereotypes. Come to think of it, The Dragon Waiting does a very nice - though understated - protrayal of the relationship between Richard and Dimi in terms of mutual loyalties and sureties.
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livredor: portrait
From:livredor
Date:January 26th, 2005 10:50 pm (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 11:50 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Oh dear. I hope that didn't come across as snarkier than I meant it, it was just intended as gentle teasing.
Oh heavens, not at all. That was entirely my fault, because I read your comment as gentle teasing and meant to reply in a similar tone. Sometimes I can make tone happen in text, and sometimes the knack just deserts me. I didn't at all mean to sound defensive, my plan was joyfully affectionate.

You know how much I value all that discussion, didn't mean to suggest otherwise.
You didn't, not in the least. Having too many interesting things to talk about is a bit like having too much money. Only better because I might be inclined to feel guilty if I had too much money. *hug*
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:January 25th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 09:09 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Re: The Dragon Waiting

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I'm not surprised you didn't get on with The Dragon Waiting if you were trying to use it as a textbook on early Renaissance Europe.

Where did I say I was doing that?

Tell me about the Azores, because even with your pointing it out, this means nothing to me.

They're islands in the Atlantic Ocean. They got discovered by the Portuguese in 1425. :o)
I'm not sure that history would have been at all similar to our own this long after the departure points, actually. Even if the states would have been the same, the historical personages would not.
Yes, but if you're going to be that pedantic then writing any kind of alternate history at all would be completely impossible.

Disagree. Look at my own "A Meddling In The Affairs of Wizards", where we have a King Henry that doesn't really match up to any of the real ones, in a Europe that's roughly like the real late-mediaeval one but doesn't match up to it in any of the details.

The whole point of the genre is to make references to things the reader knows about the history of our timeline. It's not supposed to be a serious thought-experiment about what would have been the outcome of making such-and-such a historical change. (If you were going to do that, you'd have to stick to very short-range effects.)

That's one of the things you can do with alternate history. rysmiel has a book on the to-write pile with a background - not the point of the story - based on an extremely detailed, and equally impressive, extrapolation of the consequences, a century and more later, or a single, and even quite slight, divergence point.
I found King Hereafter similar in this respect, though not confusing
In what respect, that of having a very detailed historical background and understanding of the interplay between all kinds of different forces across Europe?

Of the characters doing things for reasons which are largely opaque to me, but presumably obvious to the likes of rysmiel or Graydon. (Cyteen's another example.)
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livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:January 26th, 2005 04:28 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 05:28 pm (livredor's time)

Re: The Dragon Waiting

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trying to use it as a textbook on early Renaissance Europe.
Where did I say I was doing that?
Ok, you didn't really say that. I admit I was exaggerating for rhetorical effect. But it's true that most of your comments seem to centre on the historical accuracy or otherwise of the novel.

They're islands in the Atlantic Ocean. They got discovered by the Portuguese in 1425. :o)
Cool. Very cool. I like that you know that and I like that the mention of it is slipped into The Dragon Waiting so cleverly.

That's one of the things you can do with alternate history.
Again, I was overstating my view because I was feeling in an argumentative mood. I take your point that there are other possible approaches, but I still think it's silly to quibble about whether you can use real historical characters in an alternative history setting.

Of the characters doing things for reasons which are largely opaque to me,
Mm, I can actually see that. But it's a lot less pronounced than in The Dragon Waiting, I think.
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