melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2017-02-20 09:33 am
Entry tags:

FMK#1: Arthuriana

OK! I should have all the fiction sorted and reshelved by tonight, so WE'RE DOING THIS. If I manage to do this weekly we should be done in only a year!

Here's how it will go: I will post a list of 10-20 unread books that I own. Sometimes it will be themed, sometimes it will just be random. It will be a poll, and you folks will get to vote F, M, or K for each book.

F means "melannen should have a single night of ill-considered passion with it and then decide whether to turn that into a long-term thing or dump it with prejudice."
M means "melannen should commit long-term and continue to keep the book in her bedroom indefinitely."
K means "melannen should dispose of it posthaste."

This may remind people of a certain familiar game. Unfortunately I don't think DW polls have any way to force a three-way choice like in the game, so it's a free vote for each title. (Also I don't think I could agree to give up 1/3 of my books anyway.)

I will read the book with the most F votes, hopefully within the next week, and then post about it here.
I will dispose of the book with the most K votes, *if* there are enough total K votes on all titles to make a quorum (i.e., if only one person votes K in the whole poll, I don't consider myself bound to their vote.)
All other titles, I will think about very hard and take your votes into consideration!

Feel free to vote even if you only have a vague idea about the book or author. Or even if you've never heard of it but think the title is cool. That's why I bought most of these, after all.
Feel free to vote F on terrible books just because you want to make me read them.
Please leave comments with more information on the book or justifying your votes if you do have things to say!

Anon/no account votes and comments are on. Some background on me and my library if you wander here from far away: I am an SF fan and aspiring SF writer (emphasis on "aspiring" rather than "writing" rn). I would like to keep books that are a) good and/or b) important or foundational texts in the genre and/or c) help balance the proportion of books not by/about white dudes in my library.

Got that?

Poll #18011 FMK #1: Arthuriana
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 30


The Eagle and the Sword, A. A. Attanasio (1978)

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F
9 (90.0%)

M
0 (0.0%)

K
1 (10.0%)

The Merlin Effect, T. A. Barron (1994)

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F
10 (76.9%)

M
3 (23.1%)

K
0 (0.0%)

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (1982)

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F
7 (30.4%)

M
4 (17.4%)

K
12 (52.2%)

Ass't'd Prince Valiant Hardcovers, Hal Foster (1978)

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F
6 (46.2%)

M
2 (15.4%)

K
5 (38.5%)

King Arthur and His Knights, Henry Frith (1884)

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F
9 (69.2%)

M
3 (23.1%)

K
1 (7.7%)

The Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones (2003)

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F
10 (47.6%)

M
10 (47.6%)

K
1 (4.8%)

King Arthur and His Knights, Sir James Knowles (1860)

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F
7 (58.3%)

M
4 (33.3%)

K
1 (8.3%)

The Pendragon Cycle, Stephen R. Lawhead (1987-1989)

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F
10 (62.5%)

M
1 (6.2%)

K
5 (31.2%)

Merlin's Godson Trilogy, H. Warner Munn (1974)

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F
6 (66.7%)

M
0 (0.0%)

K
3 (33.3%)

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinbeck (1976)

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F
9 (56.2%)

M
2 (12.5%)

K
5 (31.2%)

The Merlin Trilogy, Mary Stewart (1970-1979)

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F
12 (57.1%)

M
7 (33.3%)

K
2 (9.5%)

The Sunbird, Elizabeth Wein (2004)

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F
13 (72.2%)

M
5 (27.8%)

K
0 (0.0%)

The Book of Merlyn, T. H. White (1977)

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F
10 (47.6%)

M
9 (42.9%)

K
2 (9.5%)

Merlin's Booke, Jane Yolen (1986)

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F
10 (66.7%)

M
4 (26.7%)

K
1 (6.7%)

The Last Defender of Camelot, Roger Zelazny (1980)

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F
9 (52.9%)

M
4 (23.5%)

K
4 (23.5%)



(Books on the topic I have read and am definitely keeping: the Mike Ashley anthologies, Parke Godwin's Firelord, a mysterly Goldsmith "King Arthur" that is hilariously bowdlerized, Sutcliff's Arthur books, Twain's Connecticut Yankee, White's the Once and Future King, lots of pre-1860 retellings and sources, lots of "nonfiction".)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)

[personal profile] alexseanchai 2017-02-20 03:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I am voting "kill" for the only one of those I've read, Mists of Avalon (I did not vote in the other questions, because that wouldn't be fair), because its author was a terrible person. Like, if you want to investigate why, the trigger warnings and the things to insert in the [] in the Google phrase "Marion Zimmer Bradley []" are "child sexual abuse" and "rape".

That said, when I read Mists of Avalon years before finding out about all of that, I liked it well enough to read the whole series. (I'm not sure that means it's good, though. I was a lot younger then.) And I'm pretty sure it has the status of "important text in the genre" of feminist SFF. So you may want to discard my vote. Just. Now you have the context, and also understand why I got rid of every book in my library Bradley ever had anything to do with. (I'm still sad about Tiger Burning Bright, as that cooperation with Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey was phenomenal.)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

[personal profile] rymenhild 2017-02-20 04:16 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree with alexseanchai here because The Mists of Avalon, besides being extremely anachronistic on modern Wicca in sixth-century Britain, is really, really rapey. Contextualizing the book with Bradley's history is beyond unpleasant.

(Anonymous) 2017-02-20 05:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I remember reading it when I was a teen because so many of my friends LOVED it both for the feminist slant and the poly story, and just finding everyone weird and unlikable, and the sex... pretty sketchy.

I also voted kill on it, because it seems like it might be time to dig out this foundation and lay something else down.
muccamukk: Spiral staircase decending multiple levels inside a tower.. (Default)

[personal profile] muccamukk 2017-02-20 05:59 pm (UTC)(link)
That was me.

Dreamwidth still logging me out.

ETA: I voted F on a couple that I've been interested in though haven't read or haven't read recently, but you're already keeping the M ones for me.

My reaction to Darkover was the same as to TMA, incidentally.
Edited 2017-02-20 18:16 (UTC)
egret: Capt. Janeway reading a paid (Default)

[personal profile] egret 2017-02-21 07:24 am (UTC)(link)
I voted F because it is so influential but it does have all the issues discussed above. Also, the poly as I recall is not really that great but I remember thinking it was homophobic. It has been years since I've read it, but I remembered the poly presentation bothered me as unnecessarily negative. So maybe just kill it!
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-02-20 10:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I voted "K" but that's because I dislike the book and have no particular need or interest in grounding myself in modern traditions Arthuriana, as if/when I fuck around with Arthuriana I go back to the mediaeval stuff to start with.

So for me it really comes down to why you'd want to read it? I mean if one's interest is actually modern SF, and modern reinventions of the tradition, etc, it's probably indispensible, and see below: re Horrific People and their Art.
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-02-21 06:03 am (UTC)(link)
I think you could probably serve that end with a good Cliff Notes type read and tagging for an alpha or beta reader who knows it well, too! So.
watersword: Keira Knightley, in Pride and Prejudice (2007), turning her head away from the viewer, the word "elizabeth" written near (Default)

[personal profile] watersword 2017-02-20 04:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my god I had forgotten MZB was involved with Tiger Burning Bright and now I retroactively have to scrub my brain I loved that book when I was a teenager.
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)

[personal profile] alexseanchai 2017-02-20 04:43 pm (UTC)(link)

:(

recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-02-20 10:46 pm (UTC)(link)
FWIW: if we were to actually feel horrible for enjoying all art ever created by Hideously Awful People, we'd be consigning most art in history to the furnaces. (My favourite example being Beethoven, who utilized his position to steal his nephew from said nephew's mother and then drove said nephew to the brink of suicide, and who was basically emotionally abusive to everyone in his life ever, so.)

Horrific people can, in spite of themselves, make good art. The art doesn't justify their horrificness, but their horrificness also doesn't automatically remove their art. *hands*
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-02-21 06:02 am (UTC)(link)
I also think that there's a certain amount of . . . *grasps* like I found MYSELF stamping very hard on a not particularly admirable impulse, post-finding-out, which is that I just don't LIKE MoA and never have, and never liked any of her other stuff, and everyone else did and I always felt Pressured or Judged. So finding out she was a Terrible Person hit this really strong inclination to a more violent rejection and labelling all of her stuff as TAINTED OMG!! (I had the same impulse with Card, mind.)

Which I personally feel is bullshit, and I know a lot of women, especially either older women or women who were raised in particularly repressed backgrounds, where it really was the first thing they came across that gave them a feeling of identification/etc, and that's a shitty way to treat THEM, so I did stamp on that impulse.

Like I think you're right too - I think there's a lot of stuff contributing to the reactions I've seen. But when it comes down to it, I strongly feel that judging art by the moral failures or successes of the artist is a mug's game. Lots of horrible people make good art, and lots of wonderful people make terrible art, and the art remains, and all we can do is use the art to make US better, regardless of the person who made it. /rambling

Which may be self-justification because my favourite example is actually very germane to me, because on the one hand I find everything he did REPREHENSIBLE and that's just the stuff we have confirmation of (we have no idea what he actually DID to end up with his nephew deciding death was better . . . ), and then on the other you will take the 9th out of my cold dead hands. SO.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-02-20 05:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you; I was unaware of this, and now need to process.
birke: (Default)

[personal profile] birke 2017-02-20 06:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I hit "F" for everything I'd never heard of, which was at least half your list.
I hit "M" for the Mists of Avalon because it's foundational, but I'm not surprised to see all the Ks.
"M" for The Sunbird, even though I haven't read it, because it's a cool premise by the author of Code Name Verity so it cannot possibly be unworthy of your Arthuriana collection.
Diana Wynne Jones is an auto-M.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

[personal profile] rymenhild 2017-02-20 07:19 pm (UTC)(link)
The Sunbird is weird and fantastic. Elizabeth Wein's series argues for deep interconnections between post-Roman Britain and Ethiopia, which is just terrific as far as shaking us all out of our preconceived models of Arthuriana goes.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

[personal profile] rymenhild 2017-02-20 08:23 pm (UTC)(link)
It's part of a larger series, but I think there's enough background built into the book that you can understand what's going on with Medraut even if you haven't read the previous Winter Prince. (Short form: he's traumatized from familial abuse and has an exceedingly complex relationship with his legitimate half-siblings, one of whom is present in the book and the other of whom is lost from page 1.) That's really all you need to know. The other really good thing about The Winter Prince is that it shows how much Britain as a whole is impoverished and living in the ruins of the Roman Empire.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)

[personal profile] rushthatspeaks 2017-02-21 01:32 am (UTC)(link)
Mind you, The Winter Prince is also a very good book. I like the rest of Wein's Arthuriana, but I love that one without reservation.
torachan: (Default)

[personal profile] torachan 2017-02-20 09:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't read many of these and have heard of even fewer, so I only voted for one thing and that was an F for Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle. I loved these books as a young teen, however, do be aware that they are from a Christian publisher and thus have some weird "the good guys are/became Christians and that led the way to victory" type stuff in them. Because it's been like 25 years since I read them, I don't remember much other than loving them at the time, so I don't know how I would feel reading them now. If the Christianism isn't too intrusive, they might still be enjoyable, so I think they at least deserve a try.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)

[personal profile] rushthatspeaks 2017-02-21 01:33 am (UTC)(link)
I voted K on those because they are rapey as fuck and IMO don't do enough that's original to make up for it.
dhampyresa: (Default)

[personal profile] dhampyresa 2017-02-25 09:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I voted against Mists of Avalon for the reasons exposed above and based myself on "help balance the proportion of books not by/about white dudes in my library" for the rest (I voted for books by authors with female names).
ruric: (Default)

[personal profile] ruric 2017-02-20 11:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I voted F for a lot because you;ve kept most of the things I recall my from own Arthurian kick on your retain list.

The exceptions are M for Mists of Avalon - foundational certainly, I read it more or less when it come out and despite jarring in places it is still on my shelves. I've not re-read it in decades though. I stumbled over MZB with The Planet Savers (probably around 1975) and them went on to inhale all the published Darkover novels and buy others as they came out through the 70s and 80s. I adored them and keep meaning to go back and re-read and see with four decades of experience whether they still hold up for me. Heinlein and MZB were my intro into the genre and despite the horrifying revelations about MZB I can just about detach the author from the work (and I bought them all decades ago).

Zelazny would be a definite M for me too - because Amber.
gehayi: (reviewer destroyer of worlds (rex_dart))

Spoilers for Mists of Avalon

[personal profile] gehayi 2017-02-21 12:48 am (UTC)(link)
Voting K for The Mists of Avalon. Yes, it is key in the fantasy genre, but it has the following problems:

1) The arranged rape of both Morgaine and Arthur. The high priestess of Avalon arranges for Morgaine to be the virgin priestess who has sex with King Arthur and therefore mystically marries him to the goddess and the land, not telling her OR Arthur that "hey, this means you're going to be fucking the sibling you haven't seen in seven years." It's also clear from context that neither of them would have gone through with this if they had known in advance.

2) Viviane (aforementioned high priestess and Morgaine's maternal aunt) sets this up because "You are of the royal line of Avalon; so too is he. Could I have given you to a commoner? Or, could the High King to come be so given?"

So yeah. It comes down to purity of bloodlines. I really, REALLY dislike that concept these days.

3) The spelling of Guinevere. Or, as Bradley puts it, Gwenhwyfar. I hate that spelling so much. It rasps on my brain.

4) The way that Bradley treats Gwenhwyfar. Gwen is a shy, agoraphobic, devout Christian who was raised in a convent. She wanted to be a nun, and until her marriage was not familiar with any pagans. She also marries Arthur because she's part of a deal her father made to provide Arthur with horses, and Lancelot (or, as Bradley would have it, Lancelet) is the first man she sees that she's attracted to. She's really not a bad person.

But Bradley hates her.

Morgaine, who is Bradley's mouthpiece, is constantly impatient with Gwen's Christian piety, belief in sin, and reluctance to have sex with Lancelet. The narration more often than not portrays her as a prude, a fool, and fundamentally useless. She is basically the embodiment of every emotion and belief system that Bradley does not like. You've heard of straw feminists? Gwen is a straw queen.

5) And then there is this part, which, in view of her husband's pedophilia and her own incestuous rape of her daughter, is VERY uncomfortable:

Every man she had desired had been too close kin to her-Lancelet, who was the son of her foster-mother; Arthur, her own mother's son; now the son of her husband ...

But they are too close kin to me only by the laws made by the Christians who seek to rule this land ... to rule it in a new tyranny; not alone to make the laws but to rule the mind and heart and soul. Am I living out in my own life all the tyranny of that law, so I as priestess may know why it must be overthrown?


In other words, incest isn't wrong; it's just illegal by the laws of those tyrannical Christians!

I didn't like that even before I found out about the sexual abuse of her daughter. Now it just reads as an Authorial Tract.

6) There's a great deal of ableism. Gwen is regarded with contempt for her agoraphobia (the narration treats her mental illness as something that she could overcome if she just tried), Kevin (one of the Merlins) is often seen as repellent because he limps and he's a hunchback, and so on.

7) People who are small and dark of hair, eye and skin are seen as kin to the Fae, i.e., not quite human. Again, I'm not very comfortable with dark-skinned people being dehumanized these days.

It's better written than many books. But it also has some poisonous ideas and attitudes. I didn't enjoy the mix.
blueswan: girl reading book (book reading)

[personal profile] blueswan 2017-02-21 01:14 am (UTC)(link)
I read Mists of Avalon so long ago, I only recall that I read it. It wasn't something I loved enough to keep. I had the entire run of the Darkover series up until last year, when I gave them a last read and sent them on their way. (Mostly space issues.)

I voted F for Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. I read the series as each book was published. I still own The Crystal Cave. I'd give that one a M, and a F to the second. Unless you are a completist, I'd skip the third.
blueswan: (Default)

[personal profile] blueswan 2017-02-21 12:33 pm (UTC)(link)
That must be a bruiser of a book!
rushthatspeaks: (Default)

[personal profile] rushthatspeaks 2017-02-21 01:34 am (UTC)(link)
Voted F on Diana Wynne Jones because you should read The Merlin Conspiracy ASAP, but then you should keep it. Also, despite the title, it's really debatable whether that one is Arthuriana. There is a (different) DWJ that is, but it's kind of majorly spoilery to describe it as such.
Edited (clarity) 2017-02-21 01:35 (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-02-21 05:55 am (UTC)(link)
The Merlin Effect is Merlin-y. In that it's all about the Merlin-and-his-crap end of the spectrum, not really to do with Arthur and his crap.

I read it a lot as a kid and have some lasting fondness for it. <3
snickfic: (Default)

[personal profile] snickfic 2017-02-28 05:12 am (UTC)(link)
I missed this poll the first time, but would like to chime in and say that Zelazny's collection Last Defender of Camelot is probably my single favorite Zelazny short story collection, and that is saying a lot, because I adore Zelazny's short work. A ton of my very favorite of his stories are in that collection.