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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) OT: further possible examples of story suites
Date: Wed, 15 May 2002 10:45:51 -0700

Mantis argued with hisself, kinda ...

> Okay, granted the greater degree of pieces altering each 
> other's meaning. Neither one is likely to be a story suite
> . . . but the final word would have to come from Le Guin. :)

Why? She coined a useful term; that doesn't make her the
final authority on it. The word "retcon" (which I didn't,
actually, coin but saved from vanishing) has totally escaped
it's coiner's or my intended meaning, but it's a useful term
of art anyway.  And when you're dealing with a book like 5HC
or ICEHENGE, none of the existing terms really _do_ work.

BTW, I like "mosaic" too, but think it more appropriate for
something made of more, smaller parts -- in fact, TDE might
work here, but (as I said) I don't recall it well enough.

> ... [M]y understanding of THE DYING EARTH is that it is 6
> stories, and only one of them was published in magazine
> form--that was the same year (1950) that the book came out,
> and as such amounts to a publicity release (just as "The
> Tale of the Student and His Son" and "The Armiger's
> Daughter," two tales from TBOTNS, appeared in magazines).  
> Or so it seems to me.

And you could well be right -- it could well be that Vance
conceived TDE as a suite of interconnected stories (are they?)
and not just a series of stories. I read it once, twenty-plus 
years ago; I admit to being sort of blind in one eye where 
Vance is concerned. I deeply admire his style, and would 
cheerfully kill to be able to speak like one of his characters 
-- _nobody_ speaks with that kind of spontaneous elegance! -- 
but most of his stories qua stories just go in one eye and out
the other for me. Only thing that has really stuck is the "Demon
Princes" sequence.

> So fix-up "in the classic sense of van Vogt," well hmmm.  
> Divining Vance's (probable) intentions rather than the
> publishing record (making TDE a "failed" van Vogt fix-up?).
> Ah well, such quibbles!  Look, blattid said "more of a
> fix-up," not "exactly a fix-up," so there's no quibble, even.

Well, yeah. This is more of a matter of degree than a binary
"it is"/"it isn't." It can be a floor wax _and_ a dessert 
topping, for all of me, and a big part of the idea behind 
"story suite" or "mosaic" would posdef be dat ole debbil
auctorial intentionality ... you can draw a sort of spectrum.
Most any "novel" built from parts can be slotted on here 
somewhere... Putting in a few examples to create the sense of

o Far left, or "fixup," end of the spectrum -- example would
  be something like "Space Beagle." Stories clearly written 
  as individual parts, shoved together to make a novel with
  no particular continuity or whole plot.

o Somewhere to the right of this we can slot "Foundation" and
  the rest of the original trilogy, where the stories are linked 
  a bit more thematically (as Delany observes, each story's 
  resolution provides the problem for the next). There's more
  of a shape to it, but the stories are still very much 
  independent; the experience of someone coming across one of
  them in an anthology or an old magazine won't be _that_ radically
  different from that of someone reading it in the omnibus.

o Near the middle, a smidge to the left side, we might find 
  Delany's "Tales of Neveryon" and its sequels. The stories are
  not _quite_ independent; indeed, they follow the pattern SRD
  diagnosed in the "Foundation" stories, but thematically rather
  than in terms of plot. (The re-placement of the first tale in
  the final volume is, in this sense, either problematic or
  a claim that it's been rewritten by the very existence of the
  rest of the stories.)

o Still near the middle, but a little to the right side, I'd put
  something like Mike Resnick's "Birthright," whose story-bits 
  are clearly composed as a whole to create an overall effect, 
  but don't really interact beyond that level. This would be the
  ideal example of a "mosaic," I think.

o Somewhere to the right of the middle I'll place Le Guin's own
  "Tales of Earthsea." The stories can be read independently, but
  together form more than (as first appears) an historical overview
  of Le Guin's imagined world; they are a consistent and balanced
  set of variations on certain themes that play through the whole
  Earthsea series, and more specifically in the "second trilogy"
  of which "Tales" is the centerpiece. Those who read its final
  story, "Dragonfly," in Silverberg's _Legends_ antho, may recall
  that it was surprisingly thudding in that context; in the context
  of Le Guin's collection, it opens up and loses a lot of the

o And, at the far right end, of course, my exempla would be 5HC
  and "Icehenge."

The point here is not to create pigeonholes or whatever, but to 
work out a useful term, going forward, for critical discussion of
these not-quite-novels.

Blatt blatt,



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