Every word on Culture Clinic yesterday was a new one. They are, however, much better words than before.
Today, I’m also chasing all new words. I need to change the order of the Problems With Created Cultures, because the first one I have to address is 5) Your culture contains only paladins, clerics, bards, rogues and healers, and maybe the occasional barmaid or whore.
- The literary novel equivalent of this would be Your culture contains only university students, postgrads, professors, and maybe the occasional irritated parent.
- The romance novel variant of this would be Your culture contains only twentysomething women and well-employed thirtysomething men, and maybe the occasional unplanned pregnancy.
- The mystery novel variant of this would be Your culture contains only scumbags, victims, and detectives, and the occasional useful cop.
- The science fiction novel variant of this is Your culture contains only geniuses.
The name of this problem is THINNESS. No good culture is thin. All good cultures are fat. So the goal is FATNESS… but fatness without worldbuilding bloat. Getting how to do that out of my head and onto paper should make this an interesting writing day.
Jim—Ouch. Yes, that too would work.
Jean—Pursuing fatness as a cultural statement is also entirely possible. The current thinness fascination exists only because damn near everyone in the current culture can get food enough food to become fat, and the low-nutrition high-calorie processed foods that make fatness easy are the cheapest things on the market.
In almost every culture in history, fatness represented wealth and power, because without processed foods, fatness can only be achieved by massive intake, and only the rich and powerful could afford massive intake.
When the food police succeed in outlawing all junk food, the pendulum will shift and being fat will take on that glow of status and envy it’s been missing for a while.
Shawna—I probably shouldn’t admit, then, that between the ages of 15 and 20, I read Lord of the Rings thirteen times that I can remember. The possibility exists that I read it even more. The ring wraiths gave me goosebumps, Gollum fascinated me, I was wildly in love with Strider, and the power of the story, with its movement from innocence to horror to heroism to character failure to last-moment triumph, dragged me from first page to last so many times I should have had the thing memorized. I learned the language stuff. I immersed myself in the maps.
Then I had a family, and years later, rebought the long-lost books, and settled in for a wonderful read. And discovered that, while the magnificent epic I’d so passionately loved was still in there, someone had buried it in a thicket of pointy words.
Kids read exclusively for story, and so did I. It’s the way I ended up adoring large slabs of Dickens, too (another writer that does not hold up for me as an adult reader). In spite of the fact that Clifford Simak was formative not just in my storytelling but in my growth as a human being, I can no longer read his work—a fact that pains me.
Adults generally get picky about how the story is written, and if we write, we get a lot picky. We can no longer find the magic of a wonderful story inside creaky writing. We lose a lot, I think. I know I have, and I miss what I’ve lost—the ability to bury myself in story for the sake of story, ignoring craft entirely.
I beg to differ. The science fiction variant of this would be:
Your culture consists only of heroic geniuses, evil geniuses/mad scientists, corrupt generals, inept politicians, homovorous extra-terrestrials, and the occasional superweapon.
(Oh, wait, that’s Dr. Strangelove. 🙂 (OK, Dr. Strangelove with aliens.)
And I was hoping we were pursuing fatness as a cultural statement. Ah well. It would still fit.
Re: commiting Tolkien… a librarian recommended this trilogy one time (can’t remember author at moment, but can find it), said she just loved it… and she’s the SF/F aficionado there, so of course I checked out all three, sure they’d be great. I get home, and discover that they’re Tolkien, with the names and minor details changed, and much less… effective… writing. The whole trilogy, because after I gave up on the first one, I did skim it, and then the other two books, just to see if it was as bad as I thought. I’m still puzzled as to how that got published.
Needless to say, I trust her judgement a lot less these days.
LOL I think it’s so funny because it’s so true! I am looking forward to this one.
#5 is funny. The culture has only elements that can move character from point A to point B, inluding taverns and whores.
I just have to say — this is brilliant stuff. I keep laughing out loud and trying to read bits to my (unappreciative) husband. And I think you’re really hitting the nail on the head. I will definitely be buying this book when it comes out.