Prejudice is a time saver

Last week I made the trek up to Vroman's in Pasadena for yet another opportunity to see Brandon Sanderson and have some books signed by him. This time, the books were a set of the Mistborn novels that I wanted to get signed and personalized for Megan.

On the drive up, to pass the time and to keep myself from going insane, I listened to an audio book of Eragon, by Christopher Paolini. When the book first came out a few years ago, I found it hard to accept as worth reading. There were plenty of adoring adolescents and younger fry who loved it, but everyone knows that children have no taste. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself - I used to think the old Batman show (POW! Wham!) was absolutely the greatest thing on television - but that's why we have maturity to look forward to. Anyhow, in my mind, Paolini had three strikes against him: 1) I knew from sad experience that there were a lot of crummy fantasoid books out there, and I figured this was just another one added to the morass; 2) I knew that his age (he wrote it when he was like 16 or something) could make the book more of a publicity stunt on the publisher's part than a legitimate venture; and 3) as a substitute Language Arts teacher, I knew that most high school students couldn't string a coherent sentence together, let alone an entire epic novel. To prove to myself that my prejudices were accurate, I read the prologue, which was so full of cliché evil dialogue hissing from the mouth of a cliché evil character that I felt confirmed in my opinion.

In the ensuing years, though, I continued hearing how good the book was, sometimes even from people whose opinions I respect. So I decided to give it another go. And I found that, once you get past the prologue, it's actually a pretty good book. It's much better written than I had been led to believe by the prologue and by some critics. And there's lots of action and some humor. Sure, there are a few rough spots in the writing and some gender stereotypes (when are there not?). But overall I'm quite enjoying it.

There are also archetypes aplenty (which I understand was deliberate on Paolini's part). Some of them do not have exact correspondence with elements of other fantasy novels I've read, and I've read only the first books in The Wheel of Time and The Inheritance Cycle (and who knows how many other connections there are with books I haven't got to yet, in these or other series), but this is how things shaped up into a mental chart while I was driving:

LOTR = Lord of the Rings
EOTW = The Eye of the World, vol 1 of The Wheel of Time
ERA = Eragon, vol 1 of The Inheritance Cycle
WFR = Wizard's First Rule, vol 1 of The Sword of Truth

Young Hero
LOTR - Frodo
EOTW - Rand
ERA -Eragon
WFR - Richard

All-Powerful Evil Enemy
LOTR - Sauron
EOTW - Ba'alzamon
ERA - Galbatorix
WFR - Darken Rahl

High-Level Evil Minions
LOTR - Nazgul
EOTW - Myrddraal
ERA - Shades
WFR - Demmin Nass

Low-Level Evil Minions
LOTR - Orcs
EOTW - Trollocs
ERA - Urgals
WFR - D'Haran Soldiers

Female Authority Figure
LOTR - Galadriel
EOTW - Aes Sedai
ERA - none (yet)
WFR - Confessors

Fatherly Grey- or White-Haired Mentor
LOTR - Gandalf
EOTW - Thom
ERA - Brom
WFR - Zedd

LOTR - Sam
EOTW - Mat/Perrin/Egwene
ERA - Saphira
WFR - Kahlan

Love Interest
LOTR - none
EOTW - Egwene
ERA - Arya
WFR - Kahlan

Supernatural/Mythical Means of Travel
LOTR - Fell Beast/Giant Eagle
EOTW - none (yet)
ERA - Saphira (a dragon)
WFR - Scarlet (a dragon)

LOTR - Sting
EOTW - The Heron Sword
ERA - Za'roc
WFR - The Sword of Truth

Geographical Oddity
LOTR - The Misty Mountains
EOTW - The Spine of the World
ERA - The Spine
WFR - The Boundary

Of course, if it's a really good archetype, you should be able to apply it to just about any book or movie in the genre, and even a few that fall outside it.

Star Wars = STAR
The Matrix = MAT
Nancy Drew = DREW

Young Hero
STAR - Luke
MAT - Neo
DREW - Nancy Drew

All-Powerful Evil Enemy
STAR - The Emperor
MAT - The Machines or Computer or whatever it is
DREW - Some Criminal Mastermind or Other

High-Level Evil Minions
STAR - Darth Vader
MAT - Agent Smith
DREW - Crooks

Low-Level Evil Minions
STAR - Imperial Stormtroopers
MAT - Cypher/Sentinels
DREW - Thugs

Female Authority Figure
STAR - Princess Leia
MAT - The Oracle
DREW - Hannah Gruen

Fatherly Grey- or White-Haired Mentor
STAR - Obi-wan Kenobi
MAT - Morpheus (only he has no hair and even if he did it wouldn't be grey or white )
DREW - Carson Drew

MAT - Trinity and Morpheus
DREW - Bess and George

Love Interest
STAR - none
MAT - Trinity
DREW - Ned Nickerson

Supernatural/Mythical Means of Travel
STAR - X-Wing? Tauntaun?
MAT - Telephone Lines
DREW - Blue Convertible

STAR - Light Saber
MAT - Neo's Mind
DREW - Flashlight/Revolver

Geographical Oddity
STAR - Tatooine Desert
MAT - The Matrix
DREW - Hidden Staircase/Hollow Oak/Moss-Covered Mansion, etc

Anyway, it was a fun way to occupy my time on the way to Vroman's. I got there almost two hours early, so I saved a place for myself (I was third in line) and then went to browse the books for a bit. About 5:30 I went to sit down because more people were showing up, and for the next hour and a half I read for a while and listened to the conversations around me. There were signs posted saying we were in a No Spoiler Zone, and some of the diehard fans were outraged. "I came here to geek out!" said the guy next to me. There was a bit of spoilage anyway, which I didn't mind, but a young woman behind me kept putting her hands over her ears and humming loudly whenever the discussion ventured past The Eye of the World.

At 7:00 pm, Brandon arrived. He gave his account of how he was chosen to finished The Wheel of Time books, and explained why the last book was being split into three, an explanation I'd already read on his website. He was, as his fans know, very funny and very personable. He's quite enjoyable to listen to.

There was also a Q&A, and a raffle (I didn't win anything; I never do), and then we lined up for the signing. After signing my books, Brandon said, "Do you have any questions for me?" Naturally, my mind immediately went blank and all I could say was, "My mind just went blank."

Of course, on the drive home, I thought of an excellent question. I'm saving it up for the next time I see him. And in the meantime, I think it would be interesting to see how the Mistborn books fit into that archetypal pattern.


Jared and Megan said...

how is a blue convertible super natural? your list made me laugh.

Is your blog title from anything or something you just said?

Thanks for going up there and getting my books signed!

There was something else I wanted to say, but my mind just went blank. ;)

Incidentally, I think that emoticon is weird... cause how many people wink, really?

eric and adrien said...

haha, i like the list. it's true. also, i read eragon, and it wasn't bad, but not great either. but i'm not really into fantasy as much as others so maybe that's why? no se

do you think brandon sanderson knows you by now? or at least recognizes you?

Shannon said...

I was starting to wonder about whether or not he'd recognize you by now, but there's probably a lot of "regulars" or whatever, so maybe he doesn't. Plus he sees like a million people every day. Maybe if you started wearing or doing something memorable...like a cat in the hat hat or doing the click-whistle thing fantastic mr fox does in the movie.
Haha. Um, as for your list, it made me laugh too :) and I still think eragon (pronounced Ee-rag-in) is silly, but I should probably start reading the books I think are silly so I actually have ground to stand on. That goes for twilight too. Fa.

Janeite42 said...

Answers to one and all:

The title is a quote from something.

A blue convertible isn't supernatural; it's a super car and it's natural that Nancy owns it. Nancy Drew herself is a bit supernatural: young, rich, talented, smart, friendly, fearless, able to go wherever in the world she wants unsupervised by parental figures, good at all manner of sports and card games, good at sewing and cooking, honest, brave, trustworthy, loyal, etc. (I'm talking about the original Nancy of the books [not the late-1930s films with Bonita Granville], before she got eviscerated in the 1950s rewrites.)

I don't think Brandon recognizes me; nevertheless, I'm on a first name basis with him now.

I like the idea of wearing something distinctive, like a hat or maybe a sarong.