[LMB] TSK - Echoes

Pat Mathews mathews55 at msn.com
Mon Jul 22 01:13:34 BST 2019

Thanks you, John. That's a wonderful exposition. Yes!
From: lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk <lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk> on behalf of John Lennard <john.c.lennard at gmail.com>
Sent: Sunday, July 21, 2019 4:12 PM
To: lmb-list <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
Subject: [LMB] TSK - Echoes

Howard: So malices aren't evil [?]

John: Correct, and the case comprehends Lois's stated intents as well as
theology and philosophy.

In TSK, Lois is systematically reworking tropes found in Tolkien and later
debased by his less talented imitators, and one such is the Dark Lord, as a
singular source of evil whose destruction means the End of Evil and a
universal Happy Ever After.

One major problem with this is why the Dark Lord is so invertedly wicked
("Evil, be thou my good.", as Shakespeare has it.) Why does Lucifer rebel?
Why is Sauron bad? It's the Origin of Evil question, potent in theology as
the Manichaean Heresy and Boethian orthodoxy. To choose to be bad, that is
"Evil". But who does so choose?

Morgoth, Lucifer, Sauron, yup. Malices, aka blight bogles, um ... well, no.
I know (and have said in print) that few things so discombobulate the List
as the nature of malices, but however you cut it and whatever the vagueness
of backstory, they're as hard-wired as metastasising cancer cells ; they
just do what they do, willy-nilly : and that cannot reasonably be called
evil, unless you are willing to argue that there is volitionless evil ;
which I'm certainly not.

Malices do a wicked little dance with more conventional Dark Lords, utterly
undermining them by being a class of beings, not a singularity, yet sharing
a bunch of conventional behaviours, from the compulsive acquiring of
minions to an urge to build towers without adequate military reason. But
the whole point and purpose of making them a class of beings whose
fundamental behaviour is plainly hardwired is to negate the conventional
trope of choosing and so being evil. Malices are no more so than cells
whose DNA instructions get scrambled, or the wart virus, or sebaceous cysts
that demand regular and odiferous popping.

And, BTW, this also admits the tragedic is a quite distinct way. If the
Dark Lord is Plain Wicked, one mourns his/her/its infliction of casualties
&c., but if there is precisely no malice save hardwired malice, no choice,
no understanding of good- or ill-will, everything is ,much more
complicated. Hence in part Lois's remark (on Tor.com) that while most epics
were about waging war, she'd tried to write one about waging peace.

NB 1: The reciprocal of making the Dark Lord a class of being, not a
singularity, is that the Magic Sword also becomes a class of weapon
(Sharing Knives), not a singular inherited heirloom (Excalibur,
Narsil/Anduril, Sting).

NB 2: I teach the Tragedy Paper in the Cambridge English Tripos, & so am
sensitised to qq. of evil and tragedy. Because of the idiotic
mistranslation (in the later C19) of the Aristotelian "hamartia" as 'tragic
flaw', when the root verb, "hamartano", means 'to miss the mark, as in
archery', many educated in the C20 want to understand tragedy as proceeding
wholly from individual failing = personal evil ; but neither the Greeks nor
Shakespeare would agree. Nor Lois, sez I.

NB 3: "The true tragedy is never the conflict of good with evil, but always
the conflict of good with good."

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member & Director of Studies in English, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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