Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Inter-Cosmic Moralities

Harry Turtledove, "The Man Who Came Late," see here.

Holger, discoursing about our world, is asked whether the Red lord did not serve Chaos as much as the Nazi chief. He replies that the Red served Chaos but less than the Nazi and adds:

"'Things aren't always as black-and-white in that world as they are here.'" (p. 49)

In other words, that world is real whereas this one is mythical. There is some metafiction here: when a fictional text covertly acknowledges its own fictional status.

In Arnold Schwarzenneger's Last Action Hero, the characters travel to an Earth where:

the actor, Arnold Scwarzenneger, and his wife are attending a film premiere;
a villain learns to his delight that this is a world where the bad guys can win.

Imagine living in a world where, as a cop, you did not need to worry even when a gangster pointed a gun at you and began to squeeze the trigger because your faithful sidekick could always be relied upon to creep up behind the gangster and knock him out just in the nick of time. Holger's Carolingian universe is one where there is only one clear-cut cosmic conflict between Good and Evil, in this case called Law and Chaos, and, where, when a single hero wields his magic sword, he singlehandedly routs the hosts of Chaos which do not even need to be described. Their foregone defeat occurs off-stage.

8 comments:

  1. Paul:
    Curiously, comic-book (and now webcomic) author Phil Foglio used this contrast between a nuanced universe and one of black-and-white a few decades ago. He portrayed two heroes known as "the Heterodyne Boys" accidentally showing up in the city of Cynosure, in the comic book *Grimjack*.

    Cynosure is similar to Tanelorn in being linked to all realities. The city's Lord Protector (not ruler, but more or less chief of police) had a mystic awareness of the Heterodyne Boys ... and that the "laws of reality" guaranteed they ALWAYS won. In ANY world.

    "In their home dimension, there is only Good and Evil, without the shades of grey that color our behavior. These two are avatars, destroyers of Evil in any form. They cannot lose, whatever the odds."

    The Lord Protector politely declined their offer of "help cleaning the place up," and used his magic to send them back to their own world immediately. The Heterodyne Boys would've invincibly destroyed ALL of Cynosure "in order to save it."

    The epilogue featured the statement, "Heroes come in many forms. Some are more frightening than others."

    Years later, Mr. Foglio reworked the "Heterodyne Boys" into the backstory of his webcomic *Girl Genius*.

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    Replies
    1. David,
      And grittiness is imported into fantastic fiction:
      the Ultimates (Avengers under a different name) are a controversial defense initiative;
      when Superman meets Obama, they are watched by a sniper with a Kryptonite bullet in his rifle...
      Paul.

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  2. Kaor, Paul!

    I'm not sure I can agree with what Holger said about the Red Lord in "The Man Who Came Late" (I assume Stalin is meant). If anything, a very good case could be made that Stalin was vastly worse than Hitler. If only because that monster survived Adolf!

    Sean

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    Replies
    1. David and Sean,
      Apparently, Moorcock has Lords of Law, Chaos and BALANCE.
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      I assume in Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone books. I tried to read the Elric books but they never really "grabbed" me.

      Sean

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    3. Sean,
      Elric and the whole Multiverse. I have not read much of it either.
      Paul.

      Delete
    4. Kaor, Paul!

      Other commentators have found the Elric books bleak and grim. Even, perhaps, nihilistic.

      Sean

      Delete
  3. Paul and Sean:
    "Your Chaos gods are gone," said Kwll. "With my brother's help I slew them all.... For good measure we slew the Lords of Law as well. Now you mortals are free of gods on these planes.... Now you can make your own destiny."
    -- Excerpts from the last words, bar the epilogue, of Moorcock's *Swords Trilogy*, featuring Elric's fellow Eternal Champion Corum Jhaelen Irsei ... and an utterly Neutral god named Kwll, so powerful that "I do not obey the Cosmic Balance, however," said Kwll reasonably.

    ReplyDelete