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Sci-Fi Media Movies Television

Le Guin Peeved About Earthsea Miniseries 880

Posted by michael
from the hack-job dept.
Several readers have written in with unhappy opinions on the Legend of Earthsea miniseries just aired on the Sci-Fi channel. Ursula Le Guin has also chimed in, with a short but highly critical blurb on her website, and now this dissection on Slate.com.
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Le Guin Peeved About Earthsea Miniseries

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  • Since when (Score:4, Insightful)

    by topham (32406) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:18PM (#11105915) Homepage

    Since when does the Authors opinion count!?

    One of my sisters likes telling the store of how they had discussed a book in class in great detail. The teacher going to great depths about how the story originated, etc. Later the teacher was able to get the author of the story to appear before the class, where she dismissed every 'insight' into the story as being completely wrong and misinformed.
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:31PM (#11106123) Homepage

    I'm not a big Le Guin fan, and I looked at The Legend of Earthsea simply as a diversion.

    The mini-series was not awful, but it certainly wasn't very good, either. The actors were so understated as to be boring; the only reason I cared about Tinar is because she was cute. ;) As for the main character, he was a stereotypical pretty boy; his sidekick Vetch was the traditional pudgy geek. The best character was a dragon, who figures in about three minutes of screen time.

    Le Guin should be upset, but not surprised. Publishers, TV execs, and movie makers have always twisted ideas to their own ends; even examples such as Jackson's LOTR do not prevent "the powers that be" from dumbing down artistic vision for mass audiences.

    So why do creative people let their worlds be perverted by publishers and movie makers? Because you can't make money if your work doesn't get printed and sold. It's a myth that people will pay artists through online contributions; it just doesn't happen.

  • /me raises hand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:36PM (#11106192)
    I know the answer! I know the answer!

    "No."
    Does anyone think that the Sci Fi channel will ever get actual decent Sci Fi authors to do their scripts and come up with series for them?
    No. Because they aren't interested in Science Fiction. They want the tech-fantasy crap.

    The stuff that will be guaranteed to appeal to the 12 - 24 year old male audience.

    This isn't even about "low budget". Look at Red Dwarf's first few seasons. They had no budget, yet they had great characters and amusing plots.

    They haven't realized that going with the status quo will always result in mediocrity.

    In order to produce something memorable, they have to push the envelope.

    Watching their crap, I get the feeling that the actor's salaries, the FX, everything is calculated to the exact penny and matched against the ad revenues. They know exactly how many people will watch another rendition of the same-old same-old and they're not going to break a profitable formula.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:37PM (#11106197)
    Here is an excerpt from an interview http://www.bookslut.com/features/2003_10_000738.ph p [bookslut.com]
    with Augusten Burroughs (author of Running with Scissors) that is relevant here:

    INTERVIEWER: Are you going to write the screenplay?

    BURROUGHS: He is. I'm not going to write the screenplay.

    INTERVIEWER: Are you going to have an advisory role with it?

    BURROUGHS: Yeah, but I'm not writing the screenplay. That's one of those things -- maybe my advertising background makes it easier -- but when you come up with an ad campaign, you come up with this vision, something you think is really smart, yet really entertaining, and then you give it to a director and he takes it to the next level. You learn early on in your career -- if you're going to have a long career -- that you need to let it go. You either need to have complete control over [a film], write the screenplay, choose the director, much the way John Irving did for Cider House Rules, or you need to let it go. But you can't option it, and then whine about it not being good, because the only reason you option it is for money. That's why you do it.
  • Re:Since when (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:44PM (#11106290) Homepage
    We first had this discussion in an English class when reading Huck Finn (if you recall, Mark Twain says in the introduction specifically that you shouldn't read any meaning into the story, blah, blah).

    So of course we all said that we shouldn't be reading into the story, the author specifically said not to!

    Years later, as an artist, I can honestly say that yes, 85% of the stuff people "read into" my work is totally random and stupid (or optimistic on their part). But the other 15% is either outright correct or something that rings very true even though I hadn't intended it.

    So much of the creative process is subconscious that I have to grudgingly agree with my old English teacher that the author doesn't always realize (or even recognize!) all of the things they put into a work.

    So even when an author says "I didn't mean to represent X as Y", it doesn't make it any less true that X is represented as Y, or that it tells us something about the story, the author, or the characters. it just means the author didn't intend it consciously (or wants to disavow it after the fact).

    But of course, 85% of the theories are still utter crap.
  • Re:/me raises hand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 87C751 (205250) <`sdot' `at' `rant-central.com'> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:45PM (#11106326) Homepage
    They haven't realized that going with the status quo will always result in mediocrity.
    What gave you the impression that Sci-Fi (or any other non-subscription TV channel) is interested in anything other than mass-appeal, lowest-common-denominator mediocrity? High concept doesn't attract masses of viewers, and masses of viewers are required to keep those ad revenues up.

    Free TV isn't about art. It's an advertising conduit, and nothing more.

  • by emmayche (840980) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:46PM (#11106330)
    Like others, I was more surprised at LeGuin's ignoring the plot changes (including switching use-names and true-names) and focussing on skin color.

    Who gives a flying fsck about skin color, anyway? I'd say "dinosaurs from the 50s," but I was born in the 50s! In the South, yet!

    Besides, Caucasian though I am, leave me out in the sun long enough and I certainly turn "red-brown." In fact, if I had to describe the skin color of "white" people, it'd be pinkish-brown anyway.

    Perhaps she's just trying to see if anyone noticed that.





    ...Naah.
  • by CrosseyedPainless (27978) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:47PM (#11106353) Homepage
    Oh, my God. Those Hollywood grassfuckers *would* do something like that, too. Please, do not repeat that statement anywhere else. Thank you.
  • Re:Authors who... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:50PM (#11106411)

    However one very rarely hears about them returning the money they received when they sold the rights.

    Heh, you've obviously never looked into the publishing industry. 20 years ago it was pretty bad, you could publish your own works, which were never put in book stores, or available to the public and no one would ever read your work. Or you could sign a contract to give up the rights to your work and your next several works, and a publishing house would ship it to all kinds of stores. Most stories were then ignored but some became popular and the authors wrote more stories (already owned by the publisher) for the already negotiated fee. Today things are even worse. You see some authors, like Stephen King, developed a large following and then, were able to make money on their fourth or fifth novel, and dictate terms to publishing houses who wanted to make some profit. Now they pretty much make you sign away the rights to anything you want to write for the next 10 years if you want a shot at a mainstream audience. It is ironic that avoiding this exact situation in Europe was one of the primary concerns of the authors of our copyright law. Ben Franklin predicted this outcome which was why he railed against the passage of our copyright laws.

    Simply the fact that one can make a movie based on and using the title of a copy-written work without consulting the author, is proof that our system is horribly broken. No author wants to give up rights to their creations, but if they want to be published, they have little choice.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:56PM (#11106493)
    In the books, you *NEVER* spoke someone's true name out loud.

    This sort of thing can work in a book, but it is hell on the audience for a film or a video.

  • by fishbowl (7759) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:56PM (#11106496)
    I don't see where she gets off comparing the SciFi channel's treatment to changing the LOTR ending.

    I also don't understand, financial considerations aside, what would posess an artist to relinquish so much artistic control over their material, that such complaints ever need to be raised. With Tolkein or Heinlein, it makes sense that they might not be respected by a screenplay writer -- but this author is alive.

    Does Stephen King have this problem?

    You can't have your cake and eat it too, Ursula.

    If you surrender your rights to control of your work, you pay the price.
  • Race Comments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:10PM (#11106742) Homepage Journal
    It seems as though the author's main complaint is that instead of using native american or other ethnic actors, the producers used almost all white actors. That complaint is fine and good if race plays a role in the story, but her original reason for making diverse characters comes across as pretty shallow ("I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill"). Sure, it would have been nice to have a diverse cast, and it would have been more realistic, but the author comes across as very whiney in her blog. Perhaps it was the use of "honky" when it was completely inappropriate.

    Why does everything have to be about race? :/
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:11PM (#11106753)

    Does Stephen King have this problem?

    Stephen King is the very very very rare exception. He wrote a number of books, under contract for very little money and whose rights he did not retain and became so popular that he had real bargaining power for the rest of his works (and was thus able to retain the rights to them). Most authors are not so fortunate. And most publishers now require even more lengthy contracts just to prevent this from happening again.

    If you surrender your rights to control of your work, you pay the price.

    You seem very unsympathetic to some screwed over by our intellectual property system. She never claimed to have any control, and in fact refrained from making any comments about the film at all until the producers made a bunch of wrongheaded comments about "what Miss Le Guin really meant" in her book and tried to draw some parallels with the middle east fighting those horrible unbelievers. I think she showed remarkable restrain to not comment on the butchering of her work by pseudo-intellectual asshats until they tried to speak on her behalf, expressing opinions that were shallow and ignorant.

  • by nlper (638076) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:11PM (#11106764)
    So why do creative people let their worlds be perverted by publishers and movie makers?

    Funny thing. Le Guin writes this Slate piece and spends far more time complaining about the producers not sharing her political agenda than she does addressing any narrative changes. She ends it, however, with the admonishment that freedom includes responsibility. In other words, the producers should have made a miniseries closer to her work and wishes. It doesn't describe her efforts, if any, to retain control of derived works.

    Meanwhile, J.K. Rowling -- who wrote her first book on the dole and had no leverage when she signed her first contracts -- was vociferous in protecting how her book was adapted to the screen.

    Le Guin might be a better wordsmith, but when it comes to the artistic integrity of protecting one's vision Rowling is miles ahead.

    Tyler

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:15PM (#11106837)
    What gave you the impression that Sci-Fi (or any other non-subscription TV channel) is interested in anything other than mass-appeal, lowest-common-denominator mediocrity? High concept doesn't attract masses of viewers, and masses of viewers are required to keep those ad revenues up.
    Compare The Matrix's revenues and popularity to any other Sci Fi channel's "original" movie.

    When you aim for mediocrity, you hit mediocrity. Low popularity, etc. The sort of movie that is forgotten as soon as you finish watching it.

    To get mass appeal, you have to aim above mediocrity.

    They didn't buy the rights to some mediocre novel. They wanted the rights to a series with a big time name recognition and a big fan-base.

    She didn't get those by writing mediocre novels about "safe" subjects with stereotypical characters and plots.

    You will turn a profit on a mediocre movie if you can keep the hype up and the costs down.

    Like I've said, they don't want to break a profitable formula.

    But they'll never see mass appeal or profits like The Matrix or The Lord of the Rings.

    Mediocre is what people will choose when they don't have anything better. Welcome to the Sci Fi channel.
  • by Pxtl (151020) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:19PM (#11106890) Homepage
    I feel so special. I just Slashdotted my childhood goddess! w00t!

    Hmm - couldn't help but notice that 90% of her complaints were about the fact that they changed the story into all white people. I didn't get the impression that race was a huge issue in the novels - it was just part of the *colour* of the setting, if you'll pardon the pun. While it certainly isn't nice to lose that part of the story, it seems kinda odd to obsess over it. On the other hand, the scuttlebutt is that Ender's Game is being made with a less international cast, which really hurts the story.

    At any rate - after reading her comments, I suddenly don't feel so bad that I missed it.
  • Re:Since when (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amerinese (685318) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:21PM (#11106921)
    Good point. But let's be specific in this case.

    Le Guin wrote a sci-fi series that was intended to complexify and breakdown the super-whiteness of sci-fi and fantasy, i.e. LOTRs, Vampires, etc. Look, I liked LOTRs but it got a little creepy how white everyone was, and how the only slightly non-white, Arab/African looking guys are bad guys. Le Guin knows she achieved her intended effect because people write to her telling her it did.

    So big media wants to turn this written work into a widely viewed video work. Because they believe in the racism of the general public, they commit a racist act themselves (of course they may claim so only to deflect the accusations of racism to others). The theoretical discussion about authorial intent versus thematics is interesting but besides the point--what "unrealized" or "unintended" insights were brought into the film by white-washing it? That's the point.

  • True names (Score:3, Insightful)

    by speck (29023) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:33PM (#11107112)
    Just to be a little nitpicky, this could work fine in a movie. The people in Earthsea all have their true names which they rarely reveal to anyone else (and which give other people power over them, a trope that LeGuin popularized and Vernor Vinge later adapted into his early cyberpunk story "True Names"), but they go by monikers that other people refer to them by. For instance the main character's true name is Ged, but he goes by Sparrowhawk, so most of the dialog in the book has people calling him that.

    So you wouldn't really have to sit through a whole movie with all the characters refering to "that guy who we met earlier" or "hey, you."
  • Re:Since when (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phanatic1a (413374) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:50PM (#11107378)
    But that's *supposed* to happen. A hallmark of truly great art is that the reader can take things away from it that the author never put *into* it, apply it to situations which the author never even considered, and so forth.

    Shakespeare almost certainly never put the consideration into almost every one of his lines that modern students study them with, but that's just an indication of the far-reaching and timeless nature of his work. "How should we stretch our eye when capital crimes, chewed swallowed and digested appear before us" was certainly not written with, say, lethal injection in mind, as a discourse of the death penalty as applied in modern societies, but the greatness of that scene in Henry V is that we can *use* it to gain insights into situations unenvisioned by the author.

    What an artist intends is pretty much secondary to what audiences perceive. If the artist doesn't like it, he can go screw himself.
  • by hymie3 (187934) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:53PM (#11107422)
    I didn't get the impression that race was a huge issue in the novels

    I can understand someone not seeing that. The more subtle the message, the more powerful the art, I guess.

    LeGuin is not happy about the whitey cast because of two things.

    1) Race is a big deal in her work because it wasn't a big deal.
    2) Race is (sometimes) a big deal in her work because it's really (or also) referring to gender. (or visa versa)

    The thing that (at least in the sixties and even seventies) that was important was that her portrayl of race wasn't a big smelly trout moral issue; LeGuin just presented the characters as people.

    Sometimes, though, in her work she talks about gender issues (Left Hand of Darkness of course springs to mind) and the subtext is clearly "i'm also talking about race here, white sci-fi reading America!". And versa visa.

    Although her stories are fun stories, she is above all a *social* science fiction author, so there *is* also a subtext present, whether or not one chooses to pay attention to commentary on social discourse.
  • by nlper (638076) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#11107472)

    Curious. So you think because Le Guin was more original she has less of an obligation to protect her work? Le Guin is the one who raised the issue of responsibility to the work in the first place. So far as I can tell, when it came to actions she was happy to cash the check and snipe afterwards.

    Tyler
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @03:20PM (#11107905)
    Danny Glover had a central part not just a supporting role.

    In terms of screen time, he had a more minor role than the characters whose race was changed.

    I don't think it was at all "racist". I think it had more to do with popular actors and "looks".

    If anything, it seems like it went the other way. The most prominent actors that they managed to recruit were Danny Glover and Kristin Kreuk. Is it coincidence that they are also the only characters permitted to deviate from the otherwise lily-white color scheme?

    Race was obviously important to the author. But I don't think the suits even read her novels, they just went with what they thought they could package and sell to a predominately white audience (US & Canadian SciFi channel viewers). People use the racist label too easily.

    It seems to me that eliminating mixed race characters in hopes of appealing to a "predominately white audience" is inherently a racist decision, even if the racism is driven by economics rather than bigotry. There is also a disturbing circularity in justifying such a decision based on the fact that the viewership is predominately white, when the systematic elimination of people of color from major roles helps to drive off nonwhite viewers.
  • What seems pretty shallow and superficial to me are quotes like this from her post on slate:

    My color scheme was conscious and deliberate from the start. I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill

    ... That's funny, when reading "Out of the Silent Planet", "Martian Chronicles", "Dune", "Stranger in a Strange Land", etc.. I don't ever recall thinking "Damn, I'm glad these guys are ... Lets ask Bradbury if he deliberately made his characters white/black/red/green...

    and...

    I figured some white kids (the books were published for "young adults") might not identify straight off with a brown kid, so I kind of eased the information about skin color in by degrees--hoping that the reader would get "into Ged's skin" and only then discover it wasn't a white one.

    White, or any other color-kids won't relate to or "get into the skin" of a character if the character development isn't very good. The author's responsibility to the reader is not to pre-determine if they are able to 'deal' with a character's skin color, but to make them interested in the character regardless and the story as a whole. or...

    I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

    ...uh, how exactly do whites have the privilege of being colorblind ? Its not a privilege, its your duty to your fellow man to be colorblind. So far, the only 'honky' (as she so nobley puts it) that doesn't have the privilege of being colorblind is the Her.

    As an anthropologist's daughter, I am intensely conscious of the risk of cultural or ethnic imperialism--a white writer speaking for nonwhite people, co-opting their voice, an act of extreme arrogance.

    Isn't is also extreme arrogance to call ethnic imperialism the act of a white author speaking for a non-white people.? The word "ethnic" is a generic term, yet she uses it specifically to target white writers in her statement. Ethnicity is defined as a group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.

    She should spend some time pulling the plank out of her own eye before removing the splinter of others.
  • Re:another missive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aWalrus (239802) <`ten.detanieffacrevo' `ta' `oigres'> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @04:00PM (#11108393) Homepage Journal
    I can't find any sympathy for someone who sells the rights to their work, then complains about what happens to it.

    You should read the entire article then. She's a pro. She didn't complain or attack the miniseries until the director decided to put words in her mouth and say what "she had intended by..."

    A very understandable reaction, I believe.
  • by itwerx (165526) <itwerx@gmail.com> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @04:13PM (#11108543) Homepage
    Yes, the rest of us read the Slate article

    My bad! :)
    I figured the Slate article was a rehash included for bandwidth purposes and went straight for the "true word".
    Of course now I've read the Slate article and see that she wrote it as well and it is indeed all about color (funny she didn't mention that at all in the post on her site).
    However, many people who see a movie will read the book just to see what got left out. This could be a good thing! I'm sure there's a segment of the population that would either be turned off by the presence of color or read negative reviews because of it.
    This way some of them will see the movie, read the books and, as she put it "get into Ged's skin" before discovering that he's not a "lily". (She does have a way with words, I've always loved that series).
  • by Gilmoure (18428) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @04:29PM (#11108715) Journal
    Hell, they had John Wayne play Temujin Khan in "The Conquerer". Hollywood sucks ass!
  • by hastings14 (646760) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#11109215)
    I agree with your point, and you should point it out to her.

    However, you are forgetting the well known exception to the racist term rule that allows one to use it on one's own race. Le Guin is herself white, and therefore can slur white people. Just like blacks use the "n" word, gays can use the "f" word, and, well, everyone else can use whatever they are using against their own kind. Don't ask me why this is so - in college I believe I heard something about reclaiming the term for yourself, self empowerment, etc.

    Perhaps on the same vein, if someone on the schoolyard growing up called me a nerd, I got all offended. If someone on slashdot called me a nerd, I would take it as a compliment.

    Again, I don't make the rules. Its a strange world, eh?

    It does seem tacky for her to use it in print, though. Definitely borderline...

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) * on Thursday December 16, 2004 @05:12PM (#11109236) Journal
    Hmm. I understand your argument, but I'm not sure it's correct. I mean, I simply don't remember any outrage at all about this. The protagonist of Starship Troopers was Puerto Rican, but I don't remember anyone getting bent out of shape about that, either.

    In any case, my feelings about LeGuin's Slate piece remain. One would have expected her to be outraged by the way they butchered the books' plot and meaning -- instead, she focuses on the races of the actors in a rant made baffling by the fact that the books have nothing to do with race, even as an allegory.

    Also, she loses a lot of sympathy I would otherwise have, due to the fact that she sold the rights of her own free will, without insisting on some sort of creative control. It reminds of Krusty the Clown's anguished line: "What was I supposed to do? They rolled up a giant dump truck full of money! I'm not made of stone, you know!!"

    - AJ
  • Re:Authors who... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) * <stonecypher&gmail,com> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @05:28PM (#11109396) Homepage Journal
    It is ironic

    Whereas I agree with the sentiment, that's not what irony means [tri-bit.com].

    Simply the fact that one can make a movie based on and using the title of a copy-written work without consulting the author

    That's not frequently true of well-known authors, or in fact of most book contracts with little-known authors. Pretty much the only publishing subindustries with that sort of conjoinder in their contracts standard-issue are science fiction and horror; if you try to run that sort of clause in a fiction contract you will be summarily laughed off of the phone by any typical book agent.

    Furthermore, in science fiction and in horror, movies and miniseries are rarely made from the work of little-known authors. So, whereas it is an issue for those two genres, it's less of an issue IMOALE than you suggest.

    No author wants to give up rights to their creations, but if they want to be published, they have little choice.

    If this is spoken from experience rather than guesses and prejudice, then my friend, you need a better agent. This is a bit like hearing "no programmer wants to use Microsoft tools, but if they want SQL, they have little choice." Well yes, they do, given a simple familiarity with what's available to them.
  • by buffy (8100) * <buffy@para[ ].net ['pet' in gap]> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @05:57PM (#11109685) Homepage
    I agree...original poster was overboard IMHO.

    The way I get past the dunes and other modestly executed sfx shots is to think of it as a theatrical production--makes it much more palatable. Backdrops are AOK in theater! ;)

    Now, as for the follow up mini-series, The Children of Dune (Actually an adaptation of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune books), I thought was far superior..and parts borderline fantastic. The only teeth grinding were at some of the Leto II scenes.

    Please, even if you were turned off by the Dune mini-series, give the CoD a chance!

    -db
  • Re:Since when (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EatAtJoes (102729) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @06:07PM (#11109767) Homepage
    I've just read a lot of replies to this message saying "interpretation is very subjective" and "it doesn't matter what the author intended". Bullshit. Think of the work of art as a "person" trying to communicate. Now, would you say that in a conversation with a person that your interpretation is very subjective or that it doesn't matter what the author was trying to say? Only if you're a solipsist.

    What's hilarious here is that you disprove your own argument with your response to other comments. There are a number of responses here that do indicate that the author's intention is not *necessarily* important. Yet you parrot their viewpoints with a ridiculous oversimplification. "Interpretation is very subjective" is proven by your misinterpreting.

    Your analogy of art to a person is hopeless. A person has subjectivity. An artwork does not. You can ask a person to clarify or restate. You cannot with artwork. What's more, you're not a very sophisticated communicator if you think a conversation is so easy to interpret. People misunderstand each other constantly.

    It's not true always that only through "a lot of hard work" can we arrive at the author's intention. It can come easily -- or be utterly impossible (Pynchon and Koons come to mind). It's fine to laud the efforts of academics, critics and historians. But the paradigm shifts of time continually prove "rock-solid" interpretations wrong. This is true for the "hard" disciplines like history and science, so therefore even more so for art criticism.

    Works that are so ambiguous and so slapdash that they are utterly ambiguous

    oh, my. Who's the "pseudo-intellectual" here?

  • Re:Okay (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @06:09PM (#11109784)
    Let me 'splain...

    > Funny joke
    > -- Joke Comeback
    > -- -- Joke Comeback pointing out movie origin
    > -- -- -- Joke Comeback pointing out I know the origin
    > -- -- -- -- Joke Comeback originating from the same movie
    > -- -- -- -- -- Angry Comback misinterpretting the previous joke

    No... is too much. Let me sum up.

    > This could go on forever :)

  • by Londovir (705740) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @06:14PM (#11109833)
    What I find more interesting in this whole article is not how Le Guin is upset about the producers taking the mini-series away from her visions. I can understand and appreciate that. Although I'm not an author, I have done some writing on my own that I'm proud of (even if it likely is of horrible quality), and I can only imagine what my reaction would be if someone were to take creative control over it, using my name to promote it, and then take it in a different direction.

    Still, though, what I find more interesting is Le Guin's attitude towards Caucasians. Just reading through the article I see phrases such as "petulant white kid", "honky", "lily-like", "whites...have the privilege of not caring". It's almost as though Le Guin is defensive about her own ethnicity.

    I guess I take offense at being lumped into the generalizations that Le Guin makes. For example, when I read novels I do indeed tend to overlook the ethnicity of the protagonists, unless it is considered a major pushing point of the novel. When I enjoy well written novels, I enjoy the plot and the development of the character's personalities, and the motivations for their actions. I could care less whether the main characters are Caucasian, African-American, Native-American, Asianiac, and so forth. I was taught as a child by my family that a person's ethnicity should not give or take away from their value as a person - it is the quality of their character that is the important element in their person.

    That's why I bristled a little when I read her reaction. I came away thinking that she put too much emphasis in the ethnicity of her characters. It's her prerogative, of course, and by her own admission it is a basis for her novels. In that sense, I imagine, she should be upset by how the story was changed. Of course, I seem to recall someone in a class I took once in creative writing telling the class that a sign of good writing was when you could take the characters and change their race, gender, ethnicity, etc, and the story would still be compelling and engaging. The point then was that you should focus on writing a strong story first, and use your characters to drive the story, not the other way around.

    In any case, I'm more disturbed by how Le Guin "gets away" with using the term "honky", which is a derogatory term. (Ironically, it is a derogatory term that is likely derived from the African Wolof term honq) Although I haven't read every single response here on /., I don't notice anyone taking offense to her language. I guess I'm personally irritated by the double standard in society where a person of one ethnicity can be punished for using an ethnic slur against another race, but you can get away with saying a slur against your own race. (IE, it's alright for African-Americans to say "n****r", but not okay for anyone else, and it's alright for Le Guin to say "honky")

    Oh, and in case anyone feels this is too off-topic, let me make one final observation. By Le Guin's own admission, one of the key factors in her decision to sell the group the option to the film rights was knowing Philippa Boyens was onboard as primary script writer. If that were true, she should have had it written into the contract that the rights were contingent upon Boyens' participation in the project. I've seen that happen many times, where an author won't let anyone but a certain script writer handle their stories. If you care about your stories that much, you will take that sort of care.

  • Re:Since when (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Feanturi (99866) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @07:46PM (#11110734)
    When I was in high school, I had a theory. If I could build a time-machine, I would try to write a really great literary work and send it back say 50 years, so as to ensure it would have time to work its way into the school curriculum of my native time. The theory went that, if given the novel as an assignment for study and dissection, I would surely fail that unit. Almost guaranteed.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @11:57PM (#11112753)
    There are obviously circumstances in which caucasians are in the minority. They are nevertheless the exception rather than the rule.

    As we're about 10% of the world's population, it's actually the rule outside your enclave. (I live in Hong Kong, so I'm disabused of any idea that we're a majority of the population.) That was something UKL expanded on in her Slate piece; that it's absurd to think in the future most people in every place will be Caucasian, as they are in every single SF movie and TV series (please correct me if you can think of one; I can't). It makes one wonder what happened back on Earth; is there still a rich white First World and a dirt-poor Third in the 23rd century? Was there a global ethnic cleansing? The implications are creepy and never explained.)

    Of course, it's the same reason most aliens look like humans down to their fingernails (with some latex on their forehead or ears); because that's what Hollywood has available.

    However, I was a bit surprised that was the thing UKL focused on; the general opinion (looking at the forum on the Sci-Fi Channels's site) is very negative with regard to the story, script and acting; everyone who read the books hated it, few who came to it without knowing the books liked it either.

  • Re:/me raises hand (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Minna Kirai (624281) on Friday December 17, 2004 @01:08AM (#11113164)
    and even the "villains" are entirely human.

    That's the reason why complaints about the removal of the correct ending from the Return Of The King movie are actually valid, and not just rantings of disgruntled nerds.

    In the book, the black-robed master of incarnated evil was defeated just halfway through, but the "Scouring of the Shire" chapters served as a reminder that violence springs eternal. Wherever there is life, there will be animals (men or hobbits) competing for food and doing "evil" to each other.

    The book's ending respected the continuance of non-supernatural evil, while the film went more towards the comforting idea that evil comes from outsider forces, not ourselves.

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