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Roger E. Eichorn's Blog: Fantasy, Philosophy, and whatever else I feel like writing about
Over the last few months here at the University of Chicago, I ran an informal introductory course on The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer. The course consists of seven two-hour, rather freewheeling lectures. I thought I’d make available recordings of the lectures, along with accompanying handouts, for whoever might be interested.
We used this edition of the text. The course covers only the first chapter (“The Concept of Enlightenment”) and the first Excursus (“Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment”).
Caveat Emptor (1): By no means am I an expert on Adorno, Horkheimer, or Dialectic of Enlightenment. I often use my informal courses as opportunities to explore texts I’d like to understand better. This is most definitely one of those cases.
Caveat Emptor (2): The first lecture, unfortunately, cuts off after only 20 or so minutes. It is, however, introductory. It contained important introductory material, I think, but still, we don’t start talking about Dialectic itself until the second lecture.
The files can be accessed here. Any and all questions/comments are most welcome!
I’ve finished a draft of my dissertation and am ready to get back to work on Three Roses. The near-future is a bit uncertain for me at the moment, but I hope to start making decent progress on the novel pretty soon. You can check out the first chapter of my dissertation here, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’ve updated the Sample Chapter. It now includes the Prologue along with the first chapter. Let me know what you think!
I hope to start posting actual, substantive blog posts pretty soon as well. The stacks in the Kosmos Biblioth are sadly barren…
“Here, as in all democratic states, those who complain the loudest when they are insulted have the greatest power, even if they have the least reason for their complaints.”
– Descartes, “Letter to Princess Elizabeth” (10 May 1647)
I’ve decided to record my progress as I work to finish a draft of Book 1: The Anarchy.
I begin with 23,321 words completed (first 4+ chapters). I’m aiming for the book to come in around 125k-150k (which probably means it’ll be 150k-175k), and I hope to have it done by the end of the year. Can I do it? Check back to find out!
Update (2016.09.18): Alas, the answer is no. I’m not going to finish the book by the end of the year. I’ve decided that I need to finish my dissertation first, this fall. So I’m putting the book aside until I have a complete draft of that other big, looming project, which should be in January. Then I’ll come back to Three Roses, ready to crank it out. Getting the dissertation done should, I hope, be a real load off my mind.
The numbers: from 7.11-9.12, I added 20,801 words to the ms., for a grand total of 44,122. I’ve completed Part 1 out of 5 parts and have begun on Part 2. Each part should be similar in length, so it’s looking like the book will come in around 200k words (rounding to 40k/part). So I have roughly 150k words left to write. That’s not quite where I wanted to be at this point, but Part 1 proved much more difficult to write than I had expected. The rest of the book should come more easily, now that I have a solid foundation to work off of.
I’ve spent much of the past several weeks on world-building. I was working off a foundation (of histories and maps) compiled about six years ago. Aspects of both have gradually changed over the years, but I’d not gone to the trouble of recording and consolidating the changes.
I’m particularly pleased with my new maps. (I still have two more to make: one of the Continent and the Big One, which covers an area 6k miles by 4k miles.) Also, it took me way too long, but I finally figured out how to post both the maps and my genealogy in a way that allows viewers to click on the smaller images inserted on the Pages in order to access the full-size images. You’d think this would be easy to do, but it’s stupidly confusing.
Long story short: The ground is firming up under my feet. I’m ready to fucking go…
(Originally appeared in 2002 here.)
A reviewer might wield any number of tools in the process of reducing your writing to Swiss cheese. Some critiques follow a predefined method; others are loose and free. Some discuss only broad narrative elements (the “Macro”), while others leave the Macro to others and focus on immediate grammatical or stylistic elements (the “Micro”).
Regardless of the manner in which your work has been reviewed, however, you should first run the review through a series of questions before you change your writing—a review of the review, so to speak. It’s especially important to ask yourself these questions when you’ve received a review of an isolated chapter of a much longer—and most likely uncompleted—work. Writing is, of course, an attempt to communicate, which is why following basic rules of grammar and punctuation is always advisable; if readers can’t understand what you mean, or if they have to consciously recast your sentences in their minds in order to follow your story, then it’s time you revisited the basics. But when Joe Q. Reviewer jumps in at Chapter 41 of your latest pseudo-medieval fantasy novel, he doesn’t know what occurred in the first forty chapters, he doesn’t know your characters or your world, and he doesn’t know where your story is heading. In all likelihood, he has little sense of you as an author. So when should you heed his advice, and when should you ignore it?
Sometimes good, solid advice will seem terrible at first blush; other times advice that won’t help at all—and may even hurt your writing—will seem spot on. My advice is that no matter how reasonable (or unreasonable) a reviewer’s suggestions may seem, always ask the following questions before either implementing or dismissing his or her suggestions (and these are good general questions to ask no matter what’s been reviewed, even a completed short story about to be sent to Asimov’s):
1) How much do I know about the reviewer?
a: Is the reviewer representative of my audience?
b: Do the reviewer and I share similar tastes?
2) Have I already given thought to the points the reviewer has raised?
a: Has the reviewer considered my intentions before criticizing my execution?
b: Is the reviewer attempting to hijack my story?
c: Is the reviewer pedantic?
3) I don’t agree with a reviewer, but am I just being stubborn?
Let’s explore these question further.
Scheduled for release in the United States on July 12, R. Scott Bakker’s The Great Ordeal is the third installment in The Aspect-Emperor series, which is a continuation, set nineteen years later, of Bakker’s earlier Prince of Nothing trilogy. Bakker, as well as his fans, refer to the story as a whole as The Second Apocalypse, though the title is (as of now) unofficial.
The Prince of Nothing
- Book 1: The Darkness That Comes Before
- Book 2: The Warrior-Prophet
- Book 3: The Thousandfold Thought
- Book 1: The Judging Eye
- Book 2: The White-Luck Warrior
- Book 3: The Great Ordeal
It is important to bear in mind that the two series are indeed a single monumental narrative. Readers would be nearly as ill-advised to begin with the first book of The Aspect-Emperor as to begin with The Great Ordeal. Too much has already happened—a fact underscored, perhaps to excess, in the laborious “previously on…” section that opens the book. This recap, entitled “What has come before,” clocks in at over 11,000 words. It is, to put it mildly, exhaustive—as well as potentially exhausting. Still, even readers coming directly to The Great Ordeal from its lead-in, The White-Luck Warrior, are likely to benefit from the recap’s distillation of the many-faceted story, though perhaps not enough to justify its length.
Each of Bakker’s fantasy novels (after the first one) begins with a similarly extensive recap, but the practice is especially needful now, given that five years have passed since the appearance of The White-Luck Warrior. (Compare that to the two-year gap between The White-Luck Warrior and the previous volume, The Judging Eye, or the three-year gap between that book and the final volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Remarkably, however, even given the five-year wait for The Great Ordeal, Bakker has managed to produce his entire series so far in the time it took George R.R. Martin to follow up with Tyrion Lannister after the events of A Storm of Swords! ) From what I understand, the delay was due partly to artistic considerations (that is, Bakker’s determination to get the story right) and partly to complications with his publishers.
Thankfully, none of that matters now, since The Great Ordeal has at last arrived.
The blog was down for about six months or so, partly because I just wasn’t producing posts (I still haven’t even finished my “Compositional History”!), but also because, to my great consternation, I ended up scrapping what I’d written and starting over again.
The goal of the opening chapters has got to be accessibility, and the way I’d started the book was simply too demanding: it virtually required that readers get through the first hundred pages in one sitting! I think the new version is far superior — not only in terms of accessibility, but also in terms of quality.
Interestingly, everything started coming together when I revisited some of the stand-out chapters from the original version of Three Roses, which was finished in 2001-02. That version of the book (whose story corresponds with Book Six of the series as currently envisioned) as a whole was a mess, but certain parts of it were (if I do say so myself) astonishingly good. I hadn’t read, and had hardly even thought about, any of that old-old material in over a dozen years. Revisiting it proved to be something of a revelation.
How awesome is it when you find great writing from which you can steal with utter impunity? After all, I’m only stealing from myself!
More on this when I finally write the final entry in my “Compositional History,” which will be soon.
On another topic, I’ve had the great good fortune to read the latest volume of Scott Bakker‘s series, The Great Ordeal. It’s set to be released soon. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve got to say: Chapters 12 and 13 left me breathless, both of them. They’re deep, harrowing, and thrilling, all at once. The book is a monumental achievement, and yet I have the feeling it’s only beginning, that the real shit’s gonna go down in the next book, The Unholy Consult.
Check out the trailer for Bakker’s series.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensees 205
(For R. Scott Bakker…)
Artistic conventions. — Three-fourths of Homer is convention; and the same holds true for all the Greek artists, who had no reason to adopt the modern rage for originality. They were completely lacking in any fear of convention; this was precisely what held them together with their public. Conventions, namely, are the aesthetic means that have been conquered for the sake of the audience’s understanding, the laboriously acquired common language with which the artist really can communicate himself. If he, like the Greek poets and musicians, sometimes wants to triumph immediately with each of his works of art—because he is used to contending publicly with one or two competitors—the first condition is that he also be understood immediately: which is, however, possible only by means of convention. What the artist invents beyond the conventions, he voluntarily attaches importance to and wagers himself upon, succeeding in the best of cases in creating a new convention. Originality is ordinarily seen with astonishment, sometimes even worshipped, but rarely understood; stubbornly diverting from convention means: wanting not to be understood. Toward what, then, does the modern rage for originality point?
– Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, §122