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Prequel Problems: Robert Jordan’s “New Spring”

I can't make a direct comment on the Robert Jordan series which I haven't read, but the overall arc of this article reminds me that I have noticed that the phenomenon of 'homage' to or derivation from other sagas in fiction seems to spill over into new series of TV fantasy too. It does annoy me at times, when I think that the writers should have been more confident of their own creative powers to do something different and new. The best writers may well adapt past works and 'reuse' storylines (in a different way from the original), which Shakespeare was famed for doing - he reused and made new twists out of an old British legend in 'King Lear' (in the original, Cordelia doesn't die and she and her allies restore Lear to power at the end). I have done that myself, especially as a teenager where I did a Byzantine storyline that had a few twists derived from 'The Lord of the Rings'. The siege of Constantinople in 1453 rewritten as a homage to Tolkien's siege of Minas Tirith in LOR, with the Ottomans in the attacking role of Mordor and 'Aragorn' and 'Theoden' figures with relief armies coming to the rescue then a restoration of the Empire like the end of LOR and Aragorn/ Elessar's reign. But to succeed you have to do it subtly, so that it takes time for readers to notice the link; it's when it's obvious that it starts to jar, for me anyway.

One of the biggest disappointments for me in this regard was the 2010s BBC series of 'Merlin', where the characters' 'back-stories' , profiles, and actions seemed to have little to do with past Arthurian fiction and more to do with American super-hero fiction and TV series. Imaginative, maybe, but it felt like an 'alien' intrusion of an entirely different genre and rather spoilt the show for me. A talking dragon with who Our Hero exchanges barbed conversation, not seen in any past Arthurian media, seemed a bit too like Bilbo and Smaug in 'The Hobbit' to be comfortable ...
 

Thande

Jabs First Brexit
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I have done that myself, especially as a teenager where I did a Byzantine storyline that had a few twists derived from 'The Lord of the Rings'. The siege of Constantinople in 1453 rewritten as a homage to Tolkien's siege of Minas Tirith in LOR, with the Ottomans in the attacking role of Mordor and 'Aragorn' and 'Theoden' figures with relief armies coming to the rescue then a restoration of the Empire like the end of LOR and Aragorn/ Elessar's reign. But to succeed you have to do it subtly, so that it takes time for readers to notice the link; it's when it's obvious that it starts to jar, for me anyway.
I like how you and Harry Turtledove appear to have a surprisingly similar backstory (his Videssos series began as a teenage fanfiction of a Roman legion appearing in Fourth Age Gondor, then changed the setting to a fantasy world heavily inspired by the Byzantines, i.e. the unspoken irony is that the Romans are seeing a version of their own future yet think it alien).

Of course, Terry Pratchett is an interesting example because his The Carpet People was effectively a teenage retelling of The Lord of the Rings, but he then rewrote it as an adult.

One of the biggest disappointments for me in this regard was the 2010s BBC series of 'Merlin', where the characters' 'back-stories' , profiles, and actions seemed to have little to do with past Arthurian fiction and more to do with American super-hero fiction and TV series. Imaginative, maybe, but it felt like an 'alien' intrusion of an entirely different genre and rather spoilt the show for me. A talking dragon with who Our Hero exchanges barbed conversation, not seen in any past Arthurian media, seemed a bit too like Bilbo and Smaug in 'The Hobbit' to be comfortable ...
There are two separate problems there to my mind; I disliked Merlin yet I could tolerate the very similar Atlantis (again, rather ephemeral connections to Greek mythology) and part of it was a problem I sometimes mention that some writers think simply throwing in vague references to Arthurian mythology is somehow inherently profound or elevates their work (as opposed to writing a work that's explicitly about Arthurian mythology). In fact I mention it in this article as it appears in "The Wheel of Time" but another good example if Jack Campbell's "Lost Stars" series - seems to show up more often from American writers, maybe because the Arthurian setting seems more distant and grand to them. Even Stephen King does it in his Dark Tower series.
 

OwenM

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There are two separate problems there to my mind; I disliked Merlin yet I could tolerate the very similar Atlantis (again, rather ephemeral connections to Greek mythology) and part of it was a problem I sometimes mention that some writers think simply throwing in vague references to Arthurian mythology is somehow inherently profound or elevates their work (as opposed to writing a work that's explicitly about Arthurian mythology). In fact I mention it in this article as it appears in "The Wheel of Time" but another good example if Jack Campbell's "Lost Stars" series - seems to show up more often from American writers, maybe because the Arthurian setting seems more distant and grand to them. Even Stephen King does it in his Dark Tower series.
Is your difference in attitude between those cases perhaps influenced by how I think you've mentioned you're less familiar with Greek mythology so it does seem a bit more obscure and profound to you?
(I never actually watched Atlantis, the only time I can remember it coming up irl was when Dr Greenslade complained in a Further Maths class he'd tried using it as a way of teaching some Maths the Greeks had done to lower school people to be down with the kids only to find none of them had watched it)
 

Thande

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Is your difference in attitude between those cases perhaps influenced by how I think you've mentioned you're less familiar with Greek mythology so it does seem a bit more obscure and profound to you?
(I never actually watched Atlantis, the only time I can remember it coming up irl was when Dr Greenslade complained in a Further Maths class he'd tried using it as a way of teaching some Maths the Greeks had done to lower school people to be down with the kids only to find none of them had watched it)
This is quite possible, I had a similar reaction to Thor getting Norse mythology wrong (or rather, ultimately, Marvel Comics decades earlier doing it).

Well, that and Atlantis had Mark Addy in it.
 

AndyC

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You mention in the article that you never got to experience the frustration the fans did who bought the books as they came out.

I came in at Book Two (because it was in the library, I actually read that one first, something I seemed to have a habit of doing because Colchester Library had an infuriating habit of only having Book Two in any given series).
I liked it, managed to get hold of Book 1 on an inter-library loan. The too-obvious Lord of the Rings parallels would have made me bounce off Book 1 if I hadn't already read Book 2, but with 1 and 2 together, it was good enough to get me to be willing to buy the concluding volume of the trilogy in paperback when it came out.

Boy, was I naive.

75% of the way through The Dragon Reborn, I was thinking to myself, "He's going to have to get a move on to resolve all these plot lines in this book."

Twenty years later, I was still waiting for the plot lines to be resolved.
In the intervening time, I finished University, joined the RAF, completed a full career in the RAF and retired from it, got married, had children, and sent one of them off to University.

The word "frustration" is possibly a bit light for what he did.

And, of course, George RR Martin took a look and thought "Hey, what a brilliant idea."

I got into his series in 1998. We're probably still a decade short of him finishing.
 

Thande

Jabs First Brexit
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You mention in the article that you never got to experience the frustration the fans did who bought the books as they came out.

I came in at Book Two (because it was in the library, I actually read that one first, something I seemed to have a habit of doing because Colchester Library had an infuriating habit of only having Book Two in any given series).
I liked it, managed to get hold of Book 1 on an inter-library loan. The too-obvious Lord of the Rings parallels would have made me bounce off Book 1 if I hadn't already read Book 2, but with 1 and 2 together, it was good enough to get me to be willing to buy the concluding volume of the trilogy in paperback when it came out.

Boy, was I naive.

75% of the way through The Dragon Reborn, I was thinking to myself, "He's going to have to get a move on to resolve all these plot lines in this book."

Twenty years later, I was still waiting for the plot lines to be resolved.
In the intervening time, I finished University, joined the RAF, completed a full career in the RAF and retired from it, got married, had children, and sent one of them off to University.

The word "frustration" is possibly a bit light for what he did.

And, of course, George RR Martin took a look and thought "Hey, what a brilliant idea."

I got into his series in 1998. We're probably still a decade short of him finishing.
This is why, though Brandon Sanderson has his flaws, I'll defend him: someone who sets out from the start to write a ten-book doorstopper fantasy series, and thus far is on book 4 and is writing it faster than I can review it.
 

Jared

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The word "frustration" is possibly a bit light for what he did.

And, of course, George RR Martin took a look and thought "Hey, what a brilliant idea."

I got into his series in 1998. We're probably still a decade short of him finishing.
The one good aspect of Robert Jordan dragging things out was that he inoculated me against buying any other doorstopper series until the author had actually finished.

I started reading the Wheel of Time around when Book 5 came out, or it may have been Book 4 - it's been long enough I don't really remember - and watched it really drag on and on and get worse with every passing book. I did keep reading each new one - perhaps foolishly - but being kept hanging on one series was enough to warn me off others. So I refused to pick up any part of Martin's stuff - among some other authors - until he'd actually finished the damn series. I'm still waiting for that conclusion, 22 years after I first heard of the series, and I think I made the right choice.
 

Charles EP M.

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Is Pratchett the only fantasy author with a series in the 80s/90s who didn't go for forever-serialised doorstoppers?
 

Redolegna

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Is your difference in attitude between those cases perhaps influenced by how I think you've mentioned you're less familiar with Greek mythology so it does seem a bit more obscure and profound to you?
You have no idea how annoyed I am when I'm talking to Max and I mention Roman history or Greek mythology in an offhand manner and then I find myself having to explain for half an hour. To prevent Max being all apologetic about it, this is mostly annoyance at myself for assuming this is taught as a matter of course at multiple times in a school curriculum, and a bit at Sweden's system for considering the Greek and Roman antiquity do not have the same relevance to them as they did parts of Europe actually under the Empire.
 

Thande

Jabs First Brexit
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You have no idea how annoyed I am when I'm talking to Max and I mention Roman history or Greek mythology in an offhand manner and then I find myself having to explain for half an hour. To prevent Max being all apologetic about it, this is mostly annoyance at myself for assuming this is taught as a matter of course at multiple times in a school curriculum, and a bit at Sweden's system for considering the Greek and Roman antiquity do not have the same relevance to them as they did parts of Europe actually under the Empire.
Like I've told you before - in the UK "you support teaching Greek and Roman mythology in school" = "you must like old-fashioned education and thus be really really right wing". Heck, Boris Johnson's first shadow cabinet position basically revived that argument.

My dad likes the Percy Jackson films, Clash of the Titans, etc. because he understands all the references from going to grammar school (even though I know those are hardly a purist's delight) whereas I have to pause and look up who Perseus was.
 

Charles EP M.

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Roman & Greek mythology being "This Is Right Wing" is weird for me to hear because we did that in primary school when I was in Years 2 to 4, so I know it just as That Topic That Wasn't Dinosaurs Or Egyptians.
 

Gary Oswald

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Roman & Greek mythology being "This Is Right Wing" is weird for me to hear because we did that in primary school when I was in Years 2 to 4, so I know it just as That Topic That Wasn't Dinosaurs Or Egyptians.
I mean my dad learned latin and he very much did not go to a posh school.

The stereotype of right wing views on education is what we taught in 1910 is correct and can't be changed whereas the left are the ones going but isn't mandarin more useful than latin and islam more useful than Greek mythology?
 

Charles EP M.

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I've seen the mandarin argument before but the Islam one's new to me (also Islam's still part of the RE curriculum, surely)
 

Alex Richards

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You have no idea how annoyed I am when I'm talking to Max and I mention Roman history or Greek mythology in an offhand manner and then I find myself having to explain for half an hour. To prevent Max being all apologetic about it, this is mostly annoyance at myself for assuming this is taught as a matter of course at multiple times in a school curriculum, and a bit at Sweden's system for considering the Greek and Roman antiquity do not have the same relevance to them as they did parts of Europe actually under the Empire.
I had to take the dust cover off my mum's old book of Greek myths I took to school because of the nude statue on it.

Not that the teachers had any issues you understand.
 

SpanishSpy

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I had to take the dust cover off my mum's old book of Greek myths I took to school because of the nude statue on it.

Not that the teachers had any issues you understand.
I remember being called gay in elementary school by classmates because I was reading a book about ancient Greece with aforementioned nude statues.

It's a rather silly thing to object to.
 

Thande

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I mean my dad learned latin and he very much did not go to a posh school.

The stereotype of right wing views on education is what we taught in 1910 is correct and can't be changed whereas the left are the ones going but isn't mandarin more useful than latin and islam more useful than Greek mythology?
I've mentioned before that my secondary school managed to feel like the left-wing stereotype, while actually insisting you could only do French and never teaching Islam in RE (we did Hinduism twice, Buddhism and Sikhism as well as Christianity - I think this was caused by the curriculum changing while I was doing it so Islam moved around and we never did it).

My primary school, by contrast, taught Norse mythology very well.
 
Continuing off-topic:

I don't remember ever being taught Norse myths or Greek/Roman mythology (or, in fact, any mythology) in school, but my parents were/are avid readers so I'd read loads of them by the end of primary school anyway (e.g. Tanglewood Tales) - along with 'fairy tales' from around the world, most of which would struggle to get a PG or even 12 or 15 certificate from the BBFC if they were filmed!

On languages, being from a country area, I was at a fairly small high school (though it seemed huge and busy to me, since my village primary school was very small) but we still had the option to do Latin (sub arbore sedet puer. puer nomine sextus. - the start of the Ecce Romani series - for some reason I've never forgotten that, though the rest of my O-grade Latin has now succumbed to my bad memory).

The last person who told me that he thought Mandarin should be taught in schools instead of European languages then admitted that he'd dropped languages as soon as he was allowed to and didn't now speak or read a second language at all, nor did he himself have any interest in doing so. Kind of shot his own argument in the foot there...
(Not that the argument itself isn't valid in some ways, but some of those who espouse it don't do so very logically.)
 
We were taught basic Classical mythology plus a summary of early Roman history at my English state Church of E primary school (Hampshire) when I was aged eight, I think because it was a passion of our formteacher who was also the History master. (No rigid Ministry-set curriculum or regular exams in the late 1960s!) That was what started off my interest in the Roman period.

Basic classical history was also a - smaller- part of the History curriculum at my next, small 'day' private school (Sussex), but was not on the menu at my state Secondary, Grammar school ( 900 plus pupils, Sussex) unless you were in the top one of the four academic 'grades' in each year, which were determined by exams at the end of your first year, ie when you were aged 12. If you were in the top grade, which I was, you had to learn Latin as your second 'foreign' language (the first FL was French), and that was mixed up with Classical History; if you were in the second level grade, you did German; if in the third or fourth, I think you did more 'physical' subjects like extra carpentry/ cookery. (No cookery for boys , no carpentry for girls; this was the 1970s rule.) History was all post-1066; Classical History as a subject of its own only came in as an option when you were aged 15 or 16 and had done 'O'Levels (the predecessor of GCSE). Incidentlly, the way the curriculum was laid out in timetables made it difficult to do more than one language without dropping a 'core' subject, and impossible to do three - in the 'Sixth Form' (age 16-18) I had to choose between Latin and French and had to do Latin as it was needed at 'A' Level to get onto my chosen History course at university. I suspect that this sort of curriculum layout problem is a major, secret reason for the poor performance of UK pupils at learning languages for decades.

Non-Classical mythology was non-existent at schools as far as I am aware; I picked my knowledge , including that of non-English British Isles mythology (Welsh, Scots, Irish) from books and childrens magazines, eg 'Look and Learn'. This started with the retelling of some of these myths in ?Puffin Books editions of stories by Barbara Leonie Picard ('Hero Tales of the British Isles') and Roger Lancelyn Green. Certainly English schools were very Anglocentric and hardly noticed the existence or history, let alone culture, of the 'Celtic' nations , which is probably a major reason for the long-running Anglocentric attitude of the English/ London governing elites. We did not do any early English history or mythology, eg King Arthur, until an 'optional' course aged 15/ 16 after doing History 'O' Level. But the pre-secondary school curriculum in Wales, where my parents grew up, did reflect the local culture and myths better.
 
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