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Previous Log Hall of Fire Home Next Log Printable Version

Hall of Fire discussion: 11/07/04
HoF Hosts Anne Petty!

<mallorn> Hello and welcome to The Hall of Fire! There is currently a Live Chat in progress, you will not be able to speak in the room. To ask a question of Anne Petty, PM either Po or Alquawen with your question. The q's will then be forward to her. Thanks! And have fun!
<mallorn> Today, we are honored to have a special guest in Hall of Fire. Author, editor, educator and Tolkien scholar Anne Petty will be sharing her views on Tolkien as a myth-based writer, as well as ideas for those writing their own mythopoeic fiction. She will also be answering our questions on Tolkien, mythology and creative writing, especially creating characters and world-building.
<mallorn> Anne C. Petty received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Florida State University. Her doctoral dissertation was published as One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien's Mythology. She has since written Tolkien in the Land of Heroes: Discovering the Human Spirit and recently published a book that includes a chapter on Tolkien, Dragons of Fantasy. Her first fantasy novel, Thin Line Between, will be published in May 2005, part of a four-bo
<mallorn> In addition to her book writing, Ms Petty has taught English Literature, Creative Writing, and Journalism at both the secondary and university level, and has published in the fields of literary criticism, technical writing and editing, the arts, and multimedia development. Learn more about Anne Petty on her website at www.annepetty.com.
<mallorn> We can start accepting questions now, so just PM to Al or Po
* Rakushun Anne waves to everyone
<jincey> please, no actions in here during the chat : )
<mallorn> Welcome Anne, and a big thank you for joining us today
<Rakushun> Hi
<Alquawen> lol
<mallorn> . Learn more about Anne Petty on her website at www.annepetty.com.
<mallorn> OK, we have a question for Anne
<mallorn> From po: I understand your selection of which fictional dragos you considered for your book, but did you ever think about using the Pern dragons from McCaffrey's Pern series?
<Rakushun> For my own fiction? No
<Alquawen> I think she means for your work on Dragons
<Rakushun> I had more fun figuring out how MCcaffrey came up with her.
<Rakushun> I liked her approach to the dragon as friend rather than foe.
<po> Not for Thin Line Between
<Rakushun> It's an interesting twist on the Western dragon model.
<Rakushun> The four dragons I wrote about from Pern were my favorites, I could probably write a separate book about them
<mallorn> Anne, can you elaborate on the Western dragon model?
<Rakushun> Imagine a dragon in your mind
<Rakushun> What does it look like?
<Rakushun> Most people see a large kind of dinosaurian creature that has bat wings
<Rakushun> and spouts flame, with wicked talons, and large back legs
<mallorn> And very snake-like in scales and sinews
<Rakushun> An Eastern dragon in more elongated,
<Rakushun> sinuous,
<Rakushun> with probably no wings
<Rakushun> not necessarily breathing flames
<Rakushun> and undulating through the air
<Rakushun> The attitude of the Western (Beowulf) dragon is menacing
<Rakushun> while the Eastern dragon is much more benevolent
<Rakushun> Compare Smaug with LeGuin's Kalessin, for example
<Rakushun> Next question.
<mallorn> I would just like to remind people to feel free to ask any questions to Anne
<mallorn> Through the mods
<mallorn> follow up from Elfriend: Why do you think, cultural-wise, the Eastern dragon is more symbolic than the Western dragon?
<Rakushun> They both have specific symbols attached to them.
<Rakushun> In the western literature, we can go back to Christian attachements
<Rakushun> which view the dragon as evil
<Rakushun> or an image of satan,
<Rakushun> whereas in Eastern literature and art,
<Rakushun> the dragon represents life-giving elements of nature
<Rakushun> as well a celestial benevolence.
<Rakushun> The western model has been used much more as a symbol of evil, as in St. George and the dragon stories.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> Are character stereotypes better received in fantasy than original, contemporary characters that a modern reader could relate to? -Heckie
<Rakushun> Good question -
<Rakushun> I've been grappling with that myself as I've been writing my novels
<Rakushun> One of my favorite archetypes is the shapeshifter
<Rakushun> (hence my Nick of Rakushun, a rat shapeshifter)
<Rakushun> I've had to figure out how to use this stereotype ina modern fictional setting
<Rakushun> So it really depends on the setting of the work
<Rakushun> Is is set in modern times, or not?
<Rakushun> We can use archetypes in any setting, but their relevance is different.
<mallorn> I assume that once a character type becomes common, they become more familiar to people, like the shap -shifter.
<Rakushun> There is a shorthand that follows archetypes
<Rakushun> and thus makes it easier for readers to identify with.
<Rakushun> Aragorn is obviously a certain hero type,
<Rakushun> but in Tolkien's hands that archetype is so much more than just a Nordic hero.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> What do you think the main points are that should be considered when trying to make your world and characters seem authentic? - Lloyd
<Rakushun> Okay, this is potentially a longwinded question
<mallorn> Perhaps use Rakushun as an example?
<Rakushun> In worldbuilding
<Rakushun> there are 4 approached you can take
<Rakushun> You can build your mythology (hence your world)
<Rakushun> around an existing mythology and refer to it without changing it
<Rakushun> or you can take an existing mythology and warp it around into something different
<Rakushun> or you can use mythologies to inspire you to create something quite different
<Rakushun> where you don't refer to them by name at all
<Rakushun> or you can not worry about how the world came to be etc.
<Rakushun> For my purpose, I took the Aboriginal Dreamtime and imported it wholesale into the modern world.
<Rakushun> So that it bumps up against what modern people think is real.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> <Greyhame> A question about myths in general: I understand that oftentimes the wisdom/knowledge of a particular culture is solidified into a myth through story symbolism. How much of that is intentional on the storyteller's part, and how much of it happens subconsciously due to it being some kind of universal human truth?
<Rakushun> Hello Campbell and Jung *laughing*
<Rakushun> If we think of my as an organization of symbolic images and narratives,
<Rakushun> that are metaphors of the possibilities of human experience
<Rakushun> and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time,
<Rakushun> that's how myth serves its functions.
<Rakushun> Think of the four functions:
<Rakushun> religious
<Rakushun> interpretive
<Rakushun> social/moral order
<Rakushun> and psychological (self)
<Rakushun> I think this is where the artist as mythmaker comes into play.
<Rakushun> Many think that the artist interprets myths anew for each generation.
<Rakushun> What are our modern myths, and who is interpreting them?
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> from Nerdanel: did Anne get a lot of academic resistance to writing her dissertaion on Tolkien?
<Rakushun> Hehe
<Rakushun> When I first asked if I could write about Tolkien
<Rakushun> the reaction was, um, who exactly?
<Rakushun> When I explained his relevance and output, the idea was better received
<Rakushun> but there was still some skepticism because of the popular
<Rakushun> excitement about his novels.
<Rakushun> I have to broaden the study
<Rakushun> into social/folklore issues
<Rakushun> in order to get approval.
<Rakushun> But that was good
<Rakushun> because it took me into the realm of mythology
<Rakushun> where I've been comfortable ever since.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> Just to reiterate: Anne's book is: One Ring to Bind Them All: Tolkien's Mythology (1979; reprinted with a new introduction and expanded bibliography 2002,)
<mallorn> follow up to ned's question: Even now, after his book has just been named "Book of the Century?"
<Rakushun> To follow up, I think it's interesting that Tolkien was a serious thinker
<Rakushun> who has become embraced by popular culture
<Rakushun> No one (generally speaking) doubts his place anymore
<Rakushun> among the greats of literature.
<po> Thank goodness
<mallorn> Anne, that reminds me of how the genre of photography had to fight to be considered an art medium
<Rakushun> Otherwise, academics like Shippey and Verlyn Flieger and Michael Drout wouldn't have jobs!
<Rakushun> There you go.
<mallorn> Are you ready for the next question Anne?
<Rakushun> Yes
<mallorn> From Angloth Elf: I've noticed that alot of modern writers use more slang and modern language like their characters were present-day people just put in a fantasy world,
<mallorn> whereas Tolkien's characters spoke like they belonged in a fantasy. Do you think slang, etc takes away from the story?"
<Rakushun> It really depends on the setting of the story.
<Rakushun> If your character is from the slums
<Rakushun> you can hardly avoid that type of speech
<Rakushun> but of course, if your setting isn't modern
<Rakushun> then modern slang can seem grating or like an anachromism.
<Rakushun> What counts is whether this distracts
<Rakushun> and pulls readers out of their willing suspension of disbelief.
<Rakushun> Dialogue is very important in the telling of stories
<Rakushun> and a writer with a great "ear"
<Alquawen> Actually, some of Tolkien's characters, like certain orcs and hobbits, did use "slang" or what would have passed for slang in Tolkien's day
<Rakushun> such as Tolkien, is going to do better than someone who writes like your next door neighbor.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> From Alquawen: Did you have any trepidation taking on the subject of such a brilliant writer?
<Rakushun> Do you mean, writing literary commentary about Tolkien?
<Alquawen> yes
<Rakushun> If so, yes, it's a bit intimidating until you get comfortable
<Rakushun> with your own level of scholarship.
<Rakushun> As a mythologist
<Rakushun> that's my area of expertise, and I wouldn't presume to
<Rakushun> give an exegesis of Elvish, for example,
<Rakushun> but as a scholar of myth, I did form
<Rakushun> some opinions that I didn't feel intimidated about applying to my favorite author.
<Rakushun> I actually has just as much fun writing about Terry Pratchett, which also
<Rakushun> required a scholar's knowledge of writing forms, such as
<Rakushun> satire, parody, farce, etc.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> From Frodo Baggins: What advice (apart from apply rear-to-chair and *write*) would you give to writers of fantasy fiction, particularly those working on multi-book series, regarding the mythos development process, the writing itself, and the marketing and (attempts toward) publication end?
<Rakushun> Ah yes, BIC. (butt in chair)
<Rakushun> If you are going to create a complete fantasy world,
<Rakushun> you need to do your homework.
<Rakushun> What kind of world questions are answered
<Rakushun> in your creation?
<Rakushun> Can your world encompass such things as
<Rakushun> how did the world begin
<Rakushun> how does it work (what are its natural laws)
<Rakushun> who are the arbitars of its truths
<Rakushun> and what is death?
<Rakushun> Creating a consistent world over time
<Rakushun> or over many books
<Rakushun> means keeping copious notes and outlines
<Rakushun> so that if your cosmology changes
<Rakushun> as Tolkien's seemed to be doing near the end of his life
<Rakushun> you don't have to go back and try to redo it.
<Rakushun> Or if you do,
<Rakushun> you are willing to attribute the shifts in your paradigm
<Rakushun> to later characters reinterpreting
<Rakushun> things a different way.
<Rakushun> As to marketing and publishing,
<Rakushun> that's often blind luck
<Rakushun> as well as being tenacious and not giving up.
<Rakushun> It also requires having a good solid story with characters you believe in.
<Rakushun> If your product is solid, eventually someone is going to give you the chance.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> from Faer-Edhel: Did you have to get approval to write about Tolkien?
<Rakushun> For my dissertation?
<Alquawen> from his estate
<Rakushun> Okay, here's the way it works.
<Rakushun> If you are going to quote large chunks of material directly,
<Rakushun> you will need approval from the Tolkien Estate.
<Rakushun> If you have quoted an amount considered "fair domain", (around 300-400 words) you do not need approval.
<Rakushun> If you want to use something considered protected by copyright,
<Rakushun> such as names and places, and often situations,
<Rakushun> you will probably need approval if you are using it for your own creative purposes.
<Rakushun> For journal articles,
<Rakushun> this isn't the writer's problem
<Rakushun> because the journal or the publisher of the essay collection will do that for you.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> From <sharkey> Do you recommend talking to an agent during the writing process, or BIC and finish the book first?
<Rakushun> I have done both
<Rakushun> and got better results by having a finished product
<Rakushun> that I could pull pieces from in order to show
<Rakushun> my style and ability to create character, etc.
<Rakushun> But either way can work for you.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> from Nerdanel: Going back to the use of mythology to ground a created world: did JRRT's aim to create a mythology for England set limits on the kinds of female characters he was likely to create?
<Rakushun> Some seem to think it did
<Rakushun> but I tend to not really believe that.
<Rakushun> Eowyn, for example, is a wonderful example
<Rakushun> of Nordic warrior maiden
<Rakushun> I think it was more Tolkien's own personal emotional response to women
<Rakushun> that led him to create them as he did.
<Rakushun> His male-dominated world is certainly something some critics
<Rakushun> have complained about, but it has never bothered me because I
<Rakushun> felt his female characters were strong in their own right.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> from Nerdanel: Are there other archetypes he could have used and did not?
<Rakushun> By archetypes, are you referring to mythologies?
<mallorn> I would guess maybe, yes
<Rakushun> In that sense,
<Alquawen> Perhaps certain types of characters?
<Rakushun> you could say he might have used some plucky heroines from Greek mythology
<Rakushun> more obviously
<po> Nerdanel> Other female types in the relevant mythologies (Nordic?) besides the warrior
<Rakushun> Well, certainly Brynnhilde offers both warrior and wife
<Rakushun> as well as giving the hero the moral compass by which to live his life.
<Rakushun> We have some queens of old who were wise as men.
<Rakushun> And you can find them in Snorri Sturlusson's Prose Edda, as well.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> From Luthien Sirfalas: What was the first book you read that was written by Tolkien? Also, what book of Tolkien's is your favorite?
<Rakushun> The first book I read was The Hobbit, which I read back as a teenager
<Rakushun> but I have to say that The Sillmarillion is my favorite.
<Rakushun> The language in it is so beautiful and elegant
<Rakushun> that it moves me like nothing else he wrote.
<Rakushun> I love the sense of reading "lost documents"
<Rakushun> that it gives, like unearthing the history of Middle-earth for yourself.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> Daniel Gauthier: What I wonder is how much Sindarin and/or Quenya does Frodo know?
<Rakushun> Well, when Frodo encounters Gildor
<Rakushun> remember that he speaks to them in the high-elven tongue
<Rakushun> which we may assume to be Quenya.
<Rakushun> But Frodo converses with the Elves later in this passage
<Rakushun> for long into the night, so we might guess they'd be speaking Sindarin.
<Rakushun> I think Frodo's skills
<Rakushun> may have been more than he admits.
<Rakushun> Tolkien himself tended to do this,
<Rakushun> saying that his Finnish, for example, was barely elementary,
<Rakushun> yet one suspects he was much better at it
<Rakushun> than that, if he did read the Kalevala in the original.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> <Greyhame> How does a civilaztion's natural surroundings (land, etc.) affect its people's style of storytelling? The sound of their language? And how dis this sort of thing come into play (if at all) in Tolkien's works?
<Rakushun> Great question!
<Rakushun> I love the sounds of the various languages Tolkien
<Rakushun> incorporated into his epic.
<Rakushun> For example, so much of the Finnish-inspired
<Rakushun> Elvish sounds like rolling waters
<Rakushun> with its repeated l's and r's
<Rakushun> and swallowed vowels.
<Rakushun> By contrast, the harshness
<Rakushun> of the Dwarvish and Black Speech sounds
<Rakushun> convey stark surroundings - ice, rock, winds.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> From JPB - “In reading the Lord of the Rings - at what point in your first reading of Fellowship of the Ring did you personally get the feeling that "this is good myth; this is more than the typical SF/fantasy story?"
<Rakushun> Oh, from about two pages in...
<Rakushun> Actually, when I read
<Rakushun> the concerning Hobbits intro, I was hooked.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> from Faer-Edhel: Does Anne think there is anything unique about Tolkien's authorship?
<Rakushun> I think the way in which Tolkien combined an academic's interest in language
<Rakushun> and history of ancient forms of writing
<Rakushun> with an artist's ability to
<Rakushun> draw readers totally into an invented landscape populated by
<Rakushun> living breathing characters and amazing non-human creatures
<Rakushun> is pretty unique.
<Rakushun> He essentially had the best of both worlds.
<Rakushun> I can take another one or two questions, then must depart.
<mallorn> From Greyhame - Tolkien's presentation of ancient mythos seems to speak to modern readers more than the original sources he drew off of... The Kalevala, or the Tain Bo Culinge haven't exactly worked their way into popular modern culture! What makes his writing/characters more accessible to people?
<Rakushun> Again, Language!
<mallorn> OK Anne, since we're nearing the end, can you talk a bit about your new book?
<Rakushun> His ability to mold those old sources of inspiration into wonderful descriptive passages,
<Rakushun> Okay.
<Rakushun> In May 2005,
<Rakushun> the first book of my 4-series set
<Rakushun> will be published by Cold Spring Press.
<Rakushun> The first book is called Thin Line Between.
<Rakushun> It uses a modern setting
<Rakushun> but brings the Australian Dreamtime mythology
<Rakushun> into the current world of my characters.
<Rakushun> I treat that mythology as real
<Rakushun> and my main character comes to that conclusion as well.
<Rakushun> Next?
<mallorn> Anne, one final question for Floridians
<mallorn> <po> Who would you like to see replace Zook?
<Rakushun> Good grief!
<Rakushun> I have no idea... (shielding eyes)
<mallorn> LOL
<po> sorry, Anne, i couldn't resist. (Stetson Hatter here)
<Rakushun> You score points.
<mallorn> Anne, is there anything you would like to conclude with saying?
<Rakushun> Just that I hope everyone has had fun
<Rakushun> and I hope to do it again sometime.
<Rakushun> Thanks to everyone for stopping by.
<mallorn> Anne, we're going to open the floor quickly for a brief time
<Balin> leave when you need to
<Alquawen> We hope you will return to discuss your book with us after it is published
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