QOTD, via Roz Kaveney

There’s this thing I call competence cascades, whereby if a fandom encourages skillsets people acquire those skills and then the whole thing escalates — one of the examples is monster makeups. And he said, “of course, one of those skills is the ability to navigate corpuses of work.” Back in the early eighties I’d invented the concept of the Big Dumb Object, the setting that’s also a plot macguffin and also creates the mood of the story, things like Rama or the Ringworld, so on this train journey he said, “oh, you might as well call them Big Dumb Narrrative Objects, like the DC and Marvel Universes.” And then he said, “of course, I suppose by now the DC and Marvel Universes are the largest narrative constructs of human culture.” “By George,” I said. “I think you’re on to something there. I might write a book about that sometime, unless you regard that idea as totally yours.” He said he’d never be interested in doing that, so he was fine. And Superheroes is the book. You see, what Sturgeon’s Law that 90% of everything is crud fails to pick up on is the fact that the crud, that 90% is what the 10% grows out of, like manure. Good stories are often arguments with bad stories.

From here

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1 Response to QOTD, via Roz Kaveney

  1. Prankster says:

    That’s really interesting. I’ve had thoughts along the same lines, that you needed to have comics as this relentlessly weird, frequently stupid but highly innovative source of stories and ideas and imagery for most of their existence as “topsoil” for more intelligent stories to grow. You needed those decades of material seeping into the cultural consciousness to give you something to be able to subvert and deconstruct and analyze in interesting ways.

    Of course, in that case it’s not so much about the quality of the stories as it is…well, I don’t mean to sound condescending, but a lot of North American comics for much of the 20th century had a certain unselfconsciousness to them. In many cases it was just people banging away for a paycheck, or having fun and not taking the material very seriously. Combined with the fact that the characters tended to pass through multiple authors instead of being confined to a single vision, and you have probably the closest the modern world has come to producing true, collective-unconscious mythology. Later comics make use of that the way the later Greek playwrights used their own myths to tell more sophisticated stories.

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