(urth) Honor

James Wynn thewynns at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 30 03:15:23 PST 2005

>It's understandable that there wasn't a lot
>of discussion here when KNIGHT came out; we had only half the story, and it
>was anything but straightforward. But it's been about a year since WIZARD
>was released, and there *still* hasn't been a lot of discussion about TWK.
>Why not? There was plenty of discussion as each volume of LONG SUN and
>SHORT SUN came out. What's different about TWK? Is it that people don't
>like it?
>Don't understand it?

"Don't understand it" is a given. Not "don't like it", I think. But it is a
fact that TWK is "more of the same" from Wolfe:
1) An intricate,well written story with lots of intriguing characters
2) A mysterious complex central character that is, for some undefined
reason, destined to conquer all comers and rise to a predetermined glorious
fate (it is unlikely Able would have been beaten in hand-to-hand combat with
anyone at that remote pass even before he went to Skai: "the sea" would have
"risen" within him and he'd have wiped out all comers); when I say
"destined", I mean it much more strongly than would be applied to, say,
Conan the Barbarian.

We've come to expect this from Wolfe.

Secondly, I don't think most people are troubled by Able's "loutish"
behavior because a) they view complex, troubled heroes as EXPECTED from
Wolfe and they don't see him as *as* loutish as Roy does. Why accept the
Rajan's and Latro's actions (let alone Severian) and suddenly have a problem
with Able? All are "heroes."


But I want to return to the problem of Wolfe fighting against his own
esteemed reputation. TWK is far and away better and more original than 99%
of fantasy fiction. Yet...

Imagine if Tolkien were a professional fiction writer and was handed the
plots of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" or "The Sword of Shanara" or
"Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone" to write. The stories would still
be much better than what was actually written, I've no doubt, but they would
still be dwarfed by "The Lord of the Rings" because (among other reasons),
that one came first.

I think Tor Publishing recognized this when they were creating buzz about
the book. They were claiming this was Wolfe's first entry into juvenalia
(and thus something "new" from Wolfe). That was simply not true.This is not
a book "for kids". This book is not going to end up in any Middle School
library, any more than any of the Sun cycle novels are, or the Latro
stories-- much less than FIFTH HEAD.

All this was equally true about SHORT SUN (that it was more of the same from
Wolfe), but, like NEW SUN, the plot was confused enough that there was a lot
more required discussion and debate about what was going on. And it in
reality it was the second half of LONG SUN so people discussed it because
they liked that novel.

Readers THINK they understand (basically) what is going on in TWK, so they
don't get into discussing it. There's that "Mag" mystery and the mystery of
"where" Able's world resides relative to Arthur's world, but not *much*
after that. Also, fewer people know the Norse myths or the "knight" epics,
so they feel incompetent to take on the thematic clues in the novel. And I
think many people have become resigned (which they had not regarding NEW SUN
when this list started) to the fact that some Wolfe mysteries will never be
resolved--so why wrestle with it as much?

Consequently, while Wolfe will likely continue to produce novels that are
read by other fiction writers, I don't think Wolfe *can* break out popularly
with another novel until he produces something like "The Silmarillion of the
New Sun". Having Wolfe EXPLAIN something...that would be new. But that might
*spoil* the books for people who have been crazy about them up 'til now-- 
people cannot possibly like Wolfe's explanation as much as their private
theories of what is going on.

I could be wrong about this. After all, there's not as much discussion of
LATRO as I think it deserves either.


More information about the Urth mailing list