(urth) Gaiman, Mieville, Pullman, etc.

Alice K. Turner aturner6 at nyc.rr.com
Tue Nov 30 20:29:43 PST 2004

I've been off this list for quite a long time, just rejoined, and feel I 
should add some <g> support to Hmpf (though that is a distinctly non-vegetal 
name). Wow, pretty busy on this list. First, I have not read "The Problem of 
Susan" (is that actually the name of the story?), though I would very much 
like to as I have never, never forgiven Lewis (and we are going back to my 
early teens here) for what he did to Susan. Where can I find it?

Second, for Lexicon Urthus, try siriusfiction.com. Technically it is out of 
print, but you never know.

Third, I believe the Poughkeepsie ref goes back to Harlan Ellison who once 
replied sarcastically to the eternal fan question at a convention, "Where do 
you get your ideas?" "Poughkeepsie." It's an old factory town in upstate New 
York. If it wasn't Ellison, it was someone else; perhaps someone more 
conversant with SF history can set the record straight.

Fourth, I agree with the person who said that of Gaiman, Mieville and 
Pullman, Pullman is far the most important writer. Gaiman is a charmer, and 
a sort of god to the graphics-novel-manga crowd, and has done some really 
good straight-prose work too, off and on. Mieville, I have to agree, is a 
hack, and a clumsy writer too, though I will hand him the Armada, a 
wonderfully visual idea--also I sort of liked his B-movie mosquito women. 
But his soul is in pulp horror and doesn't extend much beyond it--certainly 
not to decent characterization or plots that make sense. I own his third 
book, but I'll have to have run out of everything else to read before I 
tackle it beyond the first three tedious chapters.

But Pullman has acheived a classic, which people will be reading many 
decades from now. Like a number of other people, including someone on this 
list (forgive me, I've been catching up with a bunch of digests and can't 
follow who-said-what), I have tended to scorn the third book as unworthy, 
and I still think the mulefa sequence was a mistake (the London theatrical 
verson left it out, and if I were scripting the movie(s), I'd do the same). 
But I found myself recently passionately defending the "world of the dead" 
sequence, and I'd do the same again. It is so right and so inclusive in its 
descriptions (I'm speaking historically, and can make a case; I particularly 
like the use of the harpies) and so beautiful in its fervent Buddhist(ic) 
conclusion. Also, I found myself defending the sex-as-redemption ending, 
though I have sneered at the concept in other books, particularly a dreadful 
one of Sephen King's that I have thankfully forgotten the title of. (Mind 
you, I think King has written a few pretty good books too.) But here--oh, I 
don't know. "Spyglass" is a lumpy book, but I'll take those lumps and defend 
them. Or so it seems. The first book of the trilogy is simply perfect. Or so 
think I.

Fifth (as an aside), it seems to me that Tolkien presents a perfectly 
workable agrarian-feudal society. It may be a little mysterious how the 
dwarves and orcs and elves arrange for dinner (other than pillaging), but 
not in the case of the men or hobbits. If anyone gets seriously exercised 
about that aspect of the novels, I'd suggest half an hour's jogging followed 
by a shower.


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