Some thoughts on Escapism
I would like to speak about escapism, the bugbear of all SF&F-haters. Tolkien has answered them for all times: Why, it is the duty of a prisoner of war to do his best to escape, to rejoin the battle against his captors.
Perhaps some of my readers have wondered, why does this intolerable besserwisser speak only of novels. The reason is escapism. I read only for escapistic purposes. Therefore I want the books to be thick, preferably parts of series, so that I can escape into them for days, preferably for weeks.
The second layer of escape is to read in English. I am proud that I can do it relatively fluently, and that I have self-taught myself to do so. (My spoken English is rusty and hideously barbaric, and, to be understood, one should use Kings English and speak very slowly and clearly, preferably avoiding such shortenings as IMO, IMWY etc. so loved in fan speech. Also in written text I would prefer such anti-Websterian forms as colour, harbour etc.)
The most important factor is the personality of the author. It must be lovable, witty and ironic (without being bitter). We have a perfect example here in Finland, in Mika Waltari. Please, never, never, try to read American so called “translations” of his novels! Same warning goes to Frans G. Bengtsson’s Swedish masterpiece Röde Orm and its unspeakably bad English translation The Longships. Read in French or in German if you can, or, better still: demand new, proper and unabridged translations by professionals!
Happily, there are plenty of eminently re-readable authors in English literature like Barbara Tuchman, Mark Twain, and, most of all, Anthony Powell, whose magnificent series of twelve (short) novels, A Dance to the Music of Time, is comparable only, in wit and irony, to our own Jack Vance.
And of course, for us lovers of SF&F, there is nobody comparable to him, in re-readibility or anything else, as our Webmaster has shown in his excellent essay on Vance!
But I have great hopes that a crown prince is developing, novel by novel, to inherit his mantle, perhaps in a novel already under development. I mean -- you have guessed it -- Walter Jon Williams and his promised sequel to the Praxis series about Lady Sula on Earth