Tuesday, November 15, 2016


 If there is a living man who can be said to be the intellectual heart of the various counter-reformations of today's science fiction and fantasy, it is Tom Simon.  His reflections on writing and SFF inspired the Superversive movement and Human Wave science fiction.  While he prefers Tolkeinesque epic fantasy, his criticism of fantasy, both in what works and what does not, even inform the Pulp Reformation. 

One of his more recent ideas is legosity:
Legosity, then, is the quality that makes an idea go easily into stories. Things that have legosity tend to connect together easily, like Lego bricks. They are adaptable and reusable; their play-value is not exhausted in one telling. There are thousands of stories about Robin Hood, and tens of thousands about vampires. Kings and queens, heroes and villains, monsters, perils, and things of nameless dread: these are some of the simple bricks that have gone into stories from time immemorial. They are conceptual Lego, and they are free for anybody to use.

Because they are free, they are taken for granted; because they are not original, they are not striking. They don’t contribute to any story’s ozamatazThe Wheel of Time contains barrels of conceptual Lego, swiped or stolen or recycled from every great story-cycle known to Western man: which, I believe, was the author’s intention. But it has precious little originality. When you take it apart to play with the pieces, you find that all the pieces are somebody else’s. From Dune, you have the secret magic sisterhood that controls the fates of families and nations, the Bene Gesserit (renamed Aes Sedai); and the shockingly male creature that sets the world on its ear by having access to the magic and ignoring the sisterhood, the Kwisatz Haderach (renamed Dragon Reborn); and the wild desert-dwelling people who have a hard-won lore of their own, with whom nobody can tangle and not regret it – the Fremen (renamed Aiel). From Tolkien – well, the very first page of Jordan’s interminable saga mentions ‘the Third Age’ and ‘the Mountains of Mist’, and if that isn’t straight-up theft with the serial numbers left in blatant sight, I don’t know what it is. Nobody writes Wheel of Time fan fiction – at least none worth speaking of – for The Wheel of Time is itself fan fiction, in which all the fandoms collide together.

The works or franchises that I mentioned earlier, the ones that have long-lived and fruitful fandoms – the ones, as I put it, with ozamataz – all have this in common: they have original toys. They contribute new conceptual Lego to the barrel. ‘Who can invent a new leaf, or a new story?’ Tolkien asked – and then answered his own question, by inventing a whole botanical garden of new leaves, and resurrecting old ones that had been forgotten since the Middle Ages. It is this quality of primary invention – the new ideas, the new toys – that I shall refer to as ‘legosity’ hereafter.
 Many a literary movement has died out for lack of legosity.  New Wave and Mundane SF both died out for the same reason: no one wanted to pick up their toys and play.  Or, to be fair to the couple of writers in the Pulp Reformation inspired by New Wave, not enough did to sustain popular interest in the ideas.  The challenge for the Pulp Reformation is to find enough legosity to inspires people to not only want to read more but to tell their own stories in the same vein.

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