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A rose by any other name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Shakespeare's famous line refers to the fact that something is what it is, regardless of what we name it. In the play in question, Romeo is Romeo, whether his last name is Montague, Capulet, or Johnson.

Recently, Tiger Woods got some terrible press when a marital fight resulted in his SUV running over a fire hydrant and hitting a tree. He said his wife was trying to "rescue" him when she smashed his back window with a golf club (how ironic that she used his own golf club). The thing is, it's pretty clear that Tiger wasn't going out for a late-night pack of smokes. But trying to smooth things over by naming something bad as something good just makes people snicker.

But what about when it's the other way around? Recently maryrobinette had a post on FaceBook about this 2003 interview with Terry Goodkind in which he says at least twice that he doesn't write fantasy, he writes books that have "important human themes" and are "about important human beings."

That statement is so wrong it's hard to know where to start. First off, how are these books not fantasies? Wizard's First Rule? The Booklist review starts: "In a classic fantasy world, young Richard Cypher must go on a perilous quest with the Sword of Truth . . ."

Second, the implication is that if these books can't be fantasies because they have important human themes and are about important human beings, then fantasies must have unimportant, or possibly nonhuman themes and unimportant characters. Excuse me?

Finally, what's really annoying is he doesn't seem to have any sense that by insisting books that are clearly fantasies can't be fantasies, he is implying that a book being a fantasy is a really terrible thing! He even calls "most fantasies" one dimensional.

According to Goodkind's Wikipedia entry he acknowledges he writes fantasy, but the entry then describes his latest series, The Law of Nines, as mainstream, even though it's set in a near-future version of the real world in which people from the world of The Sword of Truth can somehow pass through to it. Oh, yeah, real mainstream. Practically Hemingway (For Whom the Sword of Truth Tolls?).

The thing is, this kind of snarky insistence on not being this terrible thing called a fantasy writer means he's not only dissing other fantasy writers, he's dissing the same fantasy fans who put him on the best seller list.

Hey, if he doesn't want the name, I'll take it!

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2009 05:07 am (UTC)
There are all sorts of special snowflakes. There are the non-famous variety who believe art (aka, their beautiful prose) should never be edited, and the famous kind who come to believe their brand of writing is so far above all the rest that no one truly understands. Yeah...snowflakes melt no matter how special.
You said it all, lovey. Nicely done.
Dec. 3rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I guess we can say he's flaky, then?
Dec. 3rd, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Ha! Yes! And if you want another dose of special snowflake syndrome, check out my post of the day. Sigh...
Dec. 3rd, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)
Interesting stuff, though am I only one surprised that this six-year-old interview has suddenly become a big deal?
Dec. 3rd, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
I only saw it because maryrobinette posted about it herself. What annoyed me was that his books are now on TV as Legend of the Seeker (got to be earning big bucks for that!), and yet his Wikipedia entry STILL had that "mainstream" crap in it. I know he didn't post it himself but if he wanted it changed, he could.
Dec. 3rd, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
It shows that cyberworld is quite small indeed.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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