1218: "Doors of Durin"

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Kit.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Kit. » Thu May 30, 2013 8:56 am UTC

BAReFOOt wrote:Can somebody explain this comic? What are those doors? What does saying “frenemy” do to them? Why is it funny?

No I don’t even plan on watching The Hobbit. Fantasy is to sci-fi what astrology is to astronomy and what religion is to science. Stupid fantasy is stupid. And made for stupid people. (And no, setting it in a futuristic setting doesn’t make it sci-fi. Star Wars and Dune are fantasy too. Not sci-fi.)

You speak as a stupid fantasy-lover. So you are obviously trolling :roll:

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby JustDoug » Thu May 30, 2013 10:52 am UTC

EpicanicusStrikes wrote:
cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:
thanksbastards wrote:I know ppl were complaining about frame rates, but isn't slowing the sequal down this far a bit of an overreaction? :moray:

ah if only. And for the record, give me allllll the fps please.

The controversy was all "HURF DURF higher framerate makes things not blurry enough so it looks like shit" Give me a break.

Please spend a good 100 years perfecting film imagery to match human biology, and then provide detailed technical specs of how digital processing is used to overcome this limitation before either hurfing, durfing or requesting breaks.

Film speed is not choosen by pulling numbers out of hats, asses or thin air.


No, but that was pretty near the approach taken in the beginning. If you research a bit, you'll find that the SOP 24 FPS we've all grown up with was not the original speed chosen. It only came to be preferred when it was shown that it was the minimal frame rate where strobing effects and obvious flicker was at acceptable levels. It was a balance of cost, mechanical properties and even film chemistry that made that rate the Universal one. It was never thought of as the absolute best, but the best of convenience.

I'm sure that, if it had been technically and - very importantly - financially feasible to do so, 'Gone With The Wind' could have been shot at around 60 FPS or better. Not that anybody would have given a damn then, either.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Flumble » Thu May 30, 2013 11:16 am UTC

cream wobbly wrote:There. I made an etymologically correct neologism for "frenemy" in an artificial language.

Ah, love the post. :D

That said, it's not impossible for portmanteaux to be constructed in another language, thereby applying the structures of that language. (Indeed, I can't think of an example, but I'm sure they exist.)

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby KabeDan » Thu May 30, 2013 12:00 pm UTC

BAReFOOt wrote:No I don’t even plan on watching The Hobbit. Fantasy is to sci-fi what astrology is to astronomy and what religion is to science. Stupid fantasy is stupid. And made for stupid people.


Ah well, there's part of the problem. 1) you are assuming this is a film and 2) you are assuming it's the Hobbit.

The quote is from Lord of the Rings, a piece of epic fantasy literature published in the 1950s and written by J R Tolkien, a Professor of English in Oxford. Because of the guy's background the book (which is regarded by many as a classic of English literature) is quite complex and probably not something you would get into, so you are right to avoid it, just as you should avoid Shakespeare, an equally fantastical writer. As for John Milton, forget it .. that's both religion and fantasy so ticks two of your boxes.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Red Hal » Thu May 30, 2013 1:16 pm UTC

dp2 wrote:
markfiend wrote:In-universe, the characters aren't speaking English, it's "Westron" translated (for our benefit by the good Professor Tolkien) into English.

I thought they were speaking Rigelian.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu May 30, 2013 2:51 pm UTC

ps.02 wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
BAReFOOt wrote:(And no, setting it in a futuristic setting doesn’t make it sci-fi. Star Wars and Dune are fantasy too. Not sci-fi.)


Star Wars, I'll grant you; Dune (the book) I'll argue.
Nah, he's right. Dune is fantasy. Maybe you just mean it isn't secondary world fantasy? Sure. But it is chock full of magic, even if Herbert didn't call it that. Guild navigation, cellular memories (the many Duncan Idahos), ancestral memories and telepathis memory transfer (Reverend Mothers), Leto II's transformation ... none of this is even a tiny bit scientifically plausible, nor does Herbert make any effort to explain it except "because Spice".


In 1965, psionic phenomena, ancestral memory, and the collective unconsciousness were much less thoroughly debunked than they are today. The planarian worms experiment that appeared to show the inheritance of memories by worms that had eaten trained worms happened in 1962. At the time Dune was written, cellular memory was not only possible, but had recent experimental results backing it up - the lack of confirmation came later. The research that debunked past-life regression took place in the 1990s - after Frank Herbert's death. The only way it would be reasonable to expect him to have got that right would be if it actually were possible to foresee the future...

My definition of science fiction allows for the fact that, 50 years later, science has moved on - if something was science fiction at the time it was first published, then it's still science fiction today, even if it wouldn't be were it to be first published today.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Rombobjörn » Thu May 30, 2013 3:21 pm UTC

davidhbrown wrote:
Rombobjörn wrote:Sorry, but the water would have to rise more than just a little. There's a staircase of 200 steps leading up from the doors, so it would require quite a dam.

Certainly that was the only way for something hobbit-sized or larger to travel, but it's not inconceivable that there could be little cracks and fissures that water flow through.

Such cracks usually exist in rock, yes. That's why pumps are needed in mines for example. Taking that into account it makes no difference if the Sirannon rises above the threshold or not. Water will trickle in from all directions anyway.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu May 30, 2013 3:44 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:
davidhbrown wrote:
Rombobjörn wrote:Sorry, but the water would have to rise more than just a little. There's a staircase of 200 steps leading up from the doors, so it would require quite a dam.

Certainly that was the only way for something hobbit-sized or larger to travel, but it's not inconceivable that there could be little cracks and fissures that water flow through.

Such cracks usually exist in rock, yes. That's why pumps are needed in mines for example. Taking that into account it makes no difference if the Sirannon rises above the threshold or not. Water will trickle in from all directions anyway.


Apart from anything else, presumably the Watcher came from somewhere - I can't imagine that it was blocking the entrance in the days when that was the main route between Khazad-Dum and Hollin...

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby MadH » Thu May 30, 2013 4:51 pm UTC

So, if all these "sci-fi" epics are, in fact, fantasies, what defines a sci-fi from fantasy?

By the arguments going on here I would actually place sci-fi as a subset of fantasy. All science-fictions are fantasy, but not all fantasies are science-fictions. What was that quote about how if technology is advanced enough, it is indistinguishable from magic (and therefore fantasy)? I feel like that's what happens in a lot of science-fictions.

I'm just a pleb from 2013. How could I be expected to understand technology as far advanced as most sci-fi in any reasonable timeframe? It'd be like trying to explain DNA to someone from 1700AD. The writer would have to practically write a whole other book of terminology, discoveries, methods, and equipment over the course of dozens or hundreds (or thousands!) of years that finally led to "because spice". It just comes across as magic to me. Hence why I feel most people plop sci-fi down inside the fantasy box. I'm OK with that, I'm just discussing why that happens. And I'd rather the writers just get on with the story with some handwaves rather than stop and explain every little thing.

I guess the only way to get a straight sci-fi is to only use science that is one step ahead of bleeding edge. As in, we are pretty sure this will happen and we are able to make a lot of good guesses, but we haven't perfected the technology yet in real life. Then, the sci-fi is believable and explainable enough to not be "fantastical"

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Klear » Thu May 30, 2013 5:14 pm UTC

I don't see how you can classify 1984, for example, as fantasy. Maybe under some very broad definition, but then again, even historical novels are a fantasy in some sense.

The way I view the genres (which is by no means a definite, generally accepted, or comprehensive definition) fantasy is mostly about building a believable world full of magic and telling stories about it. Sci-fi is about positing a hypothetical scenario (usually by altering or making up a law of physics, or some specific application of thereof) and examining the implications. The works that create a futuristic world and then simply tell stories within (as opposed to, for example, examining sociological implications of the world as a whole) fall under "space opera".

This is why I think the best format for sci-fi is the short story, while novels best suit fantasy. There's a lot of exceptions of course.

As for Star Wars, I tend to think about it as something between space opera and fantasy, since it fits the former, but it has knights and princesses and what amounts to magic all over the place.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Lenoxus » Thu May 30, 2013 5:30 pm UTC

What always bugged me about this scene in the film is the way Ian McKellen puts an unusual emphasis on friend, almost as if Gandalf did already know what the enscription was realy saying all along (but stayed up all night brute-forcing the password anyway, just to waste time). I don't hear the comma, as in "Speak, friend, and enter"; I hear "speak-friend and enter", as if "speakfriend" were a single word with the emphasis on the second syllable, like "spelunk."

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby jrogers » Thu May 30, 2013 5:46 pm UTC

Klear wrote:Sci-fi is about positing a hypothetical scenario (usually by altering or making up a law of physics, or some specific application of thereof) and examining the implications.


I fail to see how altering or making up a law of physics is distinct from fantasy, since that could easily encompass any kind of magic. A specific application of laws of physics as we currently understand them OTOH is called science or engineering and is a good basis for hard science fiction. Maybe the lesson from all this is that there's a continuum between stories only containing things known to be possible right now (neither sci-fi nor fantasy) on one extreme and stories that have lots of unexplained magic on the other extreme. Most stories described as either fantasy or sci-fi would fall somewhere between those extremes.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu May 30, 2013 5:54 pm UTC

There's a distinction to be drawn between "fantasy" as a synonym for "fiction" and "fantasy" as a genre, which is "fiction that relies on magic or the supernatural as a primary plot element, theme or setting" (definition paraphrased from Wikipedia). In the latter sense, the original Star Wars trilogy is fantasy (the Force is clearly used as a supernatural element, whether you subscribe to midichlorians or not) - it may also be science fiction, depending on your preferred definition - it's definitely space opera.

jrogers wrote:
Klear wrote:Sci-fi is about positing a hypothetical scenario (usually by altering or making up a law of physics, or some specific application of thereof) and examining the implications.


I fail to see how altering or making up a law of physics is distinct from fantasy, since that could easily encompass any kind of magic. A specific application of laws of physics as we currently understand them OTOH is called science or engineering and is a good basis for hard science fiction. Maybe the lesson from all this is that there's a continuum between stories only containing things known to be possible right now (neither sci-fi nor fantasy) on one extreme and stories that have lots of unexplained magic on the other extreme. Most stories described as either fantasy or sci-fi would fall somewhere between those extremes.


A standard invention in many works usually classified as science fiction is that of some form of faster-than-light travel - often via some form of "hyperspace". A major difference between this sort of invention and the sort of thing that gets a work classed as fantasy is that it aims to be a possible scientific law, rather than magic which tends to casually ignore known physical laws during its application (though the products of magic are then generally subject to the laws of physics)

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby goofy » Thu May 30, 2013 5:59 pm UTC

cream wobbly wrote:Mellogoth is how an English speaker might conjure a portmanteau of mellon and the kot- component of Morgoth. Firstly, the agental suffix -on would not be absorbed into a neologism, but would be pushed to the end: it's a suffix. Second, there are two clearly documented roots here: MEL and KOT (pp. 372 and 365 respectively in my copy of Lost Road). These would combine in Sindarin as melgoth-, (the -k- turning to -g- because it follows -l-, just as in Morgoth the -k- harmonizes with -r-). Adding the agental suffix back produces *melgothon.

There. I made an etymologically correct neologism for "frenemy" in an artificial language.

In fact, mellogoth would be more likely derived from MEL plus LOK plus OS, which would mean something like "friendly dragon neighbourhood". (And you're welcome to use this as your passphrase now that "correct horse battery staple" is being used by everyone.)

Still, I bet this didn't annoy me as much as it would Randall to be told 1 is a prime and he's just being silly.

[Edit: Crap. I just realized the suffix probably nullifies the aspiration: *melgotton.]


Vey interesting. Why do you use an asterisk?

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby ps.02 » Thu May 30, 2013 6:03 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
ps.02 wrote:But it is chock full of magic, even if Herbert didn't call it that. Guild navigation, cellular memories (the many Duncan Idahos), ancestral memories and telepathis memory transfer (Reverend Mothers), Leto II's transformation ... none of this is even a tiny bit scientifically plausible, nor does Herbert make any effort to explain it except "because Spice".

In 1965, psionic phenomena, ancestral memory, and the collective unconsciousness were much less thoroughly debunked than they are today.

Thanks - did not know that. I assumed that, whatever assorted LSD users might have thought, in the scientific community, the various mental effects of the Spice would have been seen as ridiculous in the 60s as well.

My definition of science fiction allows for the fact that, 50 years later, science has moved on - if something was science fiction at the time it was first published, then it's still science fiction today, even if it wouldn't be were it to be first published today.

Agreed.

MadH wrote:So, if all these "sci-fi" epics are, in fact, fantasies, what defines a sci-fi from fantasy?

By the arguments going on here I would actually place sci-fi as a subset of fantasy. All science-fictions are fantasy, but not all fantasies are science-fictions. What was that quote about how if technology is advanced enough, it is indistinguishable from magic (and therefore fantasy)? I feel like that's what happens in a lot of science-fictions.

Obviously it's a matter of definitions and perspective. To me, a SF setting is one that, in the mind of the author (and the reader, if the author has done her job well enough), could occur in the future in our own universe, with non-negligible probability. In fantasy, no pretense is made that we could ever get there from here, as it were. Either the setting includes supernatural elements we believe are flat out impossible, or the world is so clearly not our own, yet the humans so clearly human (and likewise with flora and fauna), that it's completely implausible that they evolved there as opposed to sharing a colonial ancestry with us. Often both.

(Quick aside: the plausibility of "this setting could be in our own universe" is not at all related to a story's internal consistency, i.e., lack of plot holes. Plot holes can occur equally in fantasy and SF; neither genre really excuses them. SF and fantasy differ somewhat in the scope of the "rules" you're allowed to make up about your universe, but either way, you're not supposed to keep making them up as you go along.)

And yes, that leaves plenty of room for argument. E.g., if you firmly believe that time travel is impossible and could never be invented no matter what scentific paradigm shifts might ever occur, then any time travel story is fantasy. Likewise with the other SF mainstay, faster-than-light travel and communication. Conversely, some fantasies (e.g., LOTR or the Wheel of Time) build a pretense that they are set in our own world in the very distant past or future, but there's a pretty clear suspension of disbelief with covert or overt supernatural elements.

I guess the big takeaway is that given the fluidity of the categories, it's more than a bit absurd for fans of one genre to sneer at the other.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 30, 2013 9:27 pm UTC

Science fiction and fantasy are both subgenres of speculative fiction. Both of them are defined by their employment of "what if" questions, i.e. speculation. The difference I see between them is epistemological: science fiction speculates about things which as far as we know might actually be possible, and fantasy speculates about things which as far as we know are not possible, or at least not "naturally" possible, i.e. for mere mortals like us (if one wrongly upholds the distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" to be more substantial than merely "things we understand" and "things we don't (yet) understand").

Clarke's Third Law and its corollaries imply pretty much this: whether something is called "magic" or "technology" depends on whether the person calling it thus understands it (or holds it to be, in principle at least, understandable). Fantasy deals with magic and science fiction deals with technology, so the distinction between them is subjective in that it depends on whose viewpoint the phenomenon in question is seen through. I would argue that the definitive viewpoint should be that from which the work is written. If the viewpoint conveyed to the reader is "the phenomena depicted here are possible natural phenomena, even if you or I (or the characters) don't understand how they work", then it is science fiction. If the viewpoint conveyed to the reader is "the phenomena depicted here are supernatural or otherwise not naturally possible, and cannot ever be understood by mere mortals like you or I (or some of the characters)", then it is fantasy. Even if it's the same phenomenon in question.

So, Star Trek has time travel. Some viewers, even some writers, may know for a fact (or as close to a fact as any science can be known) that time travel is contrary to the laws of nature. But nevertheless the story presents it to us as though it were a possible natural phenomenon: most of the characters on the show treat it as an actual natural phenomenon, including the viewpoint characters, and we aren't otherwise shown them to be mistaken through the eyes of some characters who know better than them, so the story Star Trek is telling us is "time travel is possible, and here are some events that could occur involving it". It may be wrong, but that's what it's saying to us. On the other hand, something like Harry Potter also features time travel, but presents it as "time travel is not actually possible, but here are some events that could occur if there was magic that could do things that are not actually possible". If it turned out that time travel was actually possible in real life, it wouldn't make Harry Potter suddenly science fiction, because it presents time travel as a supernatural phenomenon that cannot possibly be understood by mundane science.

Some works can mix both. If people are shown traveling between stars using machines built by mere mortals who used science to understand their world, and that world is presented as supposedly alike to ours in that way as though we could possibly do the same, then it has science fiction elements. If on the other hand there are abilities which are simply beyond the ken of even the characters in that world to thoroughly understand, phenomena which occur in the story but could not possibly be explained in any other terms beyond "it's magic", then it has fantasy elements. Until the introduction of midichlorians, I would say Star Wars fell into this category; with the introduction of midichlorians, the "magic" has been presented as explainable (though not thoroughly explained), so it's all presented as science fiction now, even if the things depicted are still not actually possible according to the science we know.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Kit. » Thu May 30, 2013 10:25 pm UTC

What about Solaris by Lem then? Is it SF or fantasy?

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby webgiant » Fri May 31, 2013 12:10 am UTC

side wrote:Surely the password is in dwarvish, not elvish, as it's a dwarf city!

Ironically, the culture which used the written Elvish language the most was the Dwarves. Most Elves are illiterate in their own tongue, which is why Legolas was unable to help Gandalf with the Doors of Durin. The Dwarves liked the written Elvish runes so much they used them more than anyone.

This actually makes sense, as Elves are essentially immortal (until they choose not to be): an oral tradition among people who never forget and never age or die of age-related conditions is rather like writing everything down, but with less effort.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 31, 2013 2:44 am UTC

webgiant wrote:Elves are essentially immortal (until they choose not to be)

And most don't get that choice, only those of half-elven lineage or some special bond to a mortal that convinces Eru to make an exception for them. Which has happened all of three times, as of Arwen, and that's only if we count Elros as having been Elven before choosing the human side of his heritage. If we don't, then it had only happened once before the events of LotR, when Luthien followed Beren out of this world into whatever mystery awaits the race of Men.

Unless you're talking about the ones who just retire to the halls of Mandos, which is not really death, it's more like an old folks' home for folks who don't get old.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Flumble » Fri May 31, 2013 9:05 am UTC

goofy wrote:Vey interesting. Why do you use an asterisk?

The asterisk is commonly used in linguistics to note the word probably doesn't exist in practice but that it's a reconstruction (and would've been that word if it were used). (src) You can often see it in proto-Germanic or proto-Whatever etymology of words.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby J L » Fri May 31, 2013 9:11 am UTC

As for the discussion of what is F, what is SF: what Pfhorrest said is pretty much exactly the distinction The Encyclopedia of Fantasy resp. Science Fiction makes. I believe most academics would agree to that, although there are of course many more specialized definitions or catchphrases (like Darko Suvin calling for the existence of a novum in Science Fiction, or L. Sprague de Camp describing Fantasy as set in a world "as it ought to have been to make a good story").

The most important distinction is whether a story believes in its own realizability: whether it says, "what I'm telling you might very much be possible, if not yet", or whether it says, "I'm telling you this despite both of us knowing that it's not possible, and never will be." The question of possibility might affect the plot, the characters, or the setting, so LOTR is fantasy for the simple reason that we know that Middle-earth never existed. We don't know about Dune, however, and I would argue that Herbert's Dune, despite its mysticism, displays more properties of SF than of F, for example his concern for ecological and social mechanisms.

Star Wars, on the other hand, combines a classic fairy-tale structure (deliberately copied from Joseph Campbell's monomyth) with no scientific concern for the inner workings of the Force or a light sabre at all. The Science Fiction elements serve only as décor, just like some Steampunk settings employ a fantasy-laden décor to tell a story which at its heart is scientific. It's important to remember that it plays no role whether SF turned out to be "right" or not, since SF isn't about predicting the future, but more about extrapolating the present. Of course it's getting rather complicated when it deliberately employs devices already superseded at the time of writing (e.g. Jules-Verne-like air- oder ether-ships).

Solaris by Lem is most certainly Science Fiction, and one of the finest novels of the genre. It raises fundamental questions about the possibility of contacting and communicating with 'the other' (SF doesn't have to be about 'hard sciences'; in fact there have been many important shifts since the 60s and 70s), plus it also serves as a meta-commentary on the state of science and humanity in general. In parts it reads like a bitter and deadly serious parody, and there are few other writers who combine that better than Lem.

edit, & something completey different:
rmsgrey wrote:Morgoth is the Sindarin name for the Great Enemy (the guy Sauron was a sidekick of), so Mellogoth is an attempted portmanteau of Mellon and Morgoth.
Now I'm thinking about the origin of the Mellotron.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby JTL » Fri May 31, 2013 10:07 am UTC

Did anyone else misread the title as Doors of Turin?
I had images of scores of holy artifacts created when Jesus went door-to-door, and had his visage imprinted on to doors as they were slammed in his face.
"Have you heard the good word of Me? *SLAM* Ow!"
"Hey! I hope you're going to clean that off"

Then I blinked the error away.
So tired...

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby goofy » Fri May 31, 2013 11:17 am UTC

Flumble wrote:
goofy wrote:Vey interesting. Why do you use an asterisk?

The asterisk is commonly used in linguistics to note the word probably doesn't exist in practice but that it's a reconstruction (and would've been that word if it were used). (src) You can often see it in proto-Germanic or proto-Whatever etymology of words.


I know that, but I thought it was a weird thing to do for a constructed language. You didn't use an asterisk for melgoth-, does that mean that melgoth- is attested?
Last edited by goofy on Fri May 31, 2013 11:55 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby markfiend » Fri May 31, 2013 11:38 am UTC

JTL wrote:Did anyone else misread the title as Doors of Turin?

And now I'm thinking in-universe again and misunderstood you to mean Túrin Turambar
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby mathmannix » Fri May 31, 2013 2:46 pm UTC

dtilque wrote:What would the door have done if they'd said "O M G BFF LOL" in Sindarin?


probably said "IDTS"
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Kit. » Fri May 31, 2013 3:14 pm UTC

J L wrote:The most important distinction is whether a story believes in its own realizability: whether it says, "what I'm telling you might very much be possible, if not yet", or whether it says, "I'm telling you this despite both of us knowing that it's not possible, and never will be."

So, it's not the possibility of our understanding of the phenomena (as Pfhorrest was saying), but the possibility of the phenomena themselves?

Is Nine Princes in Amber not fantasy then?
And what's the difference with HHGTTG in regard to this distinction?
Or is HHTTG fantasy too? (well, by Pfhorrest's definition, it would be. 42)

J L wrote:Solaris by Lem is most certainly Science Fiction, and one of the finest novels of the genre. It raises fundamental questions about the possibility of contacting and communicating with 'the other' (SF doesn't have to be about 'hard sciences'; in fact there have been many important shifts since the 60s and 70s), plus it also serves as a meta-commentary on the state of science and humanity in general. In parts it reads like a bitter and deadly serious parody, and there are few other writers who combine that better than Lem.

Now, is The Cyberiad fantasy?

And we haven't even started about Philip K. Dick...

---
I'd say that there is no objective criteria of what SF and what F is. Instead, some sub-genres were historically labelled as SF or as F, and then we try to find the subjectively "closest" sub-genre to a new work in question and assign the SF or F label based on that sub-genre.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby J L » Fri May 31, 2013 3:56 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:So, it's not the possibility of our understanding of the phenomena (as Pfhorrest was saying), but the possibility of the phenomena themselves?

I didn't really make that distinction, and if I understand Pfhorrest correctly, he only wanted to make room for the possibility that what we think to be impossible today might one day, thanks to better understanding, turn out to be possible.

But as I said, it's not about whether history proves you right or wrong. If a story tells about things or happenings that at the time of writing are "known" or "understood" to be "impossbile", but tells about them nonetheless, it's Fantasy. The important part is that slightly defiant "I don't care it's impossible" part, which ideally is shared by both author and reader. If there are different assumptions about the concept of "possible" on either side, it gets tricky, of course. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether a story "believes" in its own realizability, or whether it makes a point of being impossible, but worth telling in spite of it.

Hitchiker is another difficult example because it's comedy. Satires, Fables, Parables etc. are all very hard to classify because you're not really expected to "believe" anything, at least not at face value. That's basically why Tolkien loathed them: It destroys the proverbial "sense of wonder" that can only be created when you take something serious, even if it's impossible.

As for PKD, since he was highly motivated to explore the concept of "reality" itself, I feel it would be unfair to classify him as Fantasy. His epistemological mind-fucks (at least the "earlier" ones) only pay out when there's a basic agreement that they start out in our shared world, or at least a possible variety of it.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri May 31, 2013 4:01 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:I'd say that there is no objective criteria of what SF and what F is. Instead, some sub-genres were historically labelled as SF or as F, and then we try to find the subjectively "closest" sub-genre to a new work in the question and assign the SF or F label based on that sub-genre.


That's not just how genre-labeling works, but also how all human language works except when it's being forced to work as jargon - the natural state of a word is as a list of examples, in the context of other words with their own lists of examples - take a 4-wheeled self-powered vehicle - is it a car? a van? a pickup? an SUV? a mini? Some of those terms overlap; others have grey areas between them where a future vehicle might force a decision that currently isn't needed, so hasn't been made.

There have been a couple of different approaches to trying to define SF in this thread - what you might call the "boundary" and "core" methods - the "boundary" tries to put a fence around the concept - anything that falls within is SF; anything outside isn't. The "core" method focuses on the heart of what it means to be SF and defines the central archetype, leaving a wide grey area where things don't live up to the full ideals of the core, but may be close enough to count.

Dune is a novel based on the science of the day; Star Wars Episode IV is a movie that uses typical SF trappings to decorate its setting, but doesn't understand them...

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby orthogon » Fri May 31, 2013 4:34 pm UTC

Lenoxus wrote:What always bugged me about this scene in the film is the way Ian McKellen puts an unusual emphasis on friend, almost as if Gandalf did already know what the enscription was realy saying all along (but stayed up all night brute-forcing the password anyway, just to waste time). I don't hear the comma, as in "Speak, friend, and enter"; I hear "speak-friend and enter", as if "speakfriend" were a single word with the emphasis on the second syllable, like "spelunk."

I always felt that the riddle itself didn't really work in English anyway, since "speak" can't really be followed by the literal words spoken. But it might work ok in Dwarvish, or Elvish (I've totally lost the plot as to which language the inscription and the password are in). According to the OED, it would have worked in Old English and possibly as recently as Shakespeare's time, too. So perhaps I was wrong.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri May 31, 2013 4:44 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Lenoxus wrote:What always bugged me about this scene in the film is the way Ian McKellen puts an unusual emphasis on friend, almost as if Gandalf did already know what the enscription was realy saying all along (but stayed up all night brute-forcing the password anyway, just to waste time). I don't hear the comma, as in "Speak, friend, and enter"; I hear "speak-friend and enter", as if "speakfriend" were a single word with the emphasis on the second syllable, like "spelunk."

I always felt that the riddle itself didn't really work in English anyway, since "speak" can't really be followed by the literal words spoken. But it might work ok in Dwarvish, or Elvish (I've totally lost the plot as to which language the inscription and the password are in). According to the OED, it would have worked in Old English and possibly as recently as Shakespeare's time, too. So perhaps I was wrong.


It's not really a riddle - it's a translation issue. If Gandalf had just read the runes aloud in the original language, the doors would have opened partway through - instead he translated them into Westron before speaking the message, and translated the word "pedo" as "Speak" rather than "Say"

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Klear » Fri May 31, 2013 4:58 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
orthogon wrote:
Lenoxus wrote:What always bugged me about this scene in the film is the way Ian McKellen puts an unusual emphasis on friend, almost as if Gandalf did already know what the enscription was realy saying all along (but stayed up all night brute-forcing the password anyway, just to waste time). I don't hear the comma, as in "Speak, friend, and enter"; I hear "speak-friend and enter", as if "speakfriend" were a single word with the emphasis on the second syllable, like "spelunk."

I always felt that the riddle itself didn't really work in English anyway, since "speak" can't really be followed by the literal words spoken. But it might work ok in Dwarvish, or Elvish (I've totally lost the plot as to which language the inscription and the password are in). According to the OED, it would have worked in Old English and possibly as recently as Shakespeare's time, too. So perhaps I was wrong.


It's not really a riddle - it's a translation issue. If Gandalf had just read the runes aloud in the original language, the doors would have opened partway through - instead he translated them into Westron before speaking the message, and translated the word "pedo" as "Speak" rather than "Say"


Oh, that makes sense. I was wondering why they magically sealed the door and then wrote a hint on it. This way it simply allows anybody who can read elven.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Kit. » Fri May 31, 2013 5:18 pm UTC

J L wrote:If a story tells about things or happenings that at the time of writing are "known" or "understood" to be "impossbile", but tells about them nonetheless, it's Fantasy. The important part is that slightly defiant "I don't care it's impossible" part, which ideally is shared by both author and reader. If there are different assumptions about the concept of "possible" on either side, it gets tricky, of course. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether a story "believes" in its own realizability, or whether it makes a point of being impossible, but worth telling in spite of it.

So, basically, every attempt at SF written by a scientist ends up as fantasy - the authors know where they are putting the loose ends - to say - under the carpet.

J L wrote:Hitchiker is another difficult example because it's comedy. Satires, Fables, Parables etc. are all very hard to classify because you're not really expected to "believe" anything, at least not at face value. That's basically why Tolkien loathed them: It destroys the proverbial "sense of wonder" that can only be created when you take something serious, even if it's impossible.

Then his (or your) "sense of wonder" is different from mine. It's not like you cannot enjoy the "eye-openingness" of the author's fantasy itself, being that SF, F, satire or even a good book of science proper (like Dirac's Principles...).

J L wrote:As for PKD, since he was highly motivated to explore the concept of "reality" itself, I feel it would be unfair to classify him as Fantasy.

Here we got another problem: every book that is based, at least in part, on the fact of our limited ability to perceive and/or comprehend our Universe becomes hard (if not impossible) to classify.

Besides - and partly thus - I find the "science fiction" a misnomer. The SF is not about fictional science (that, ironically, would most probably be classified as "fantasy"). At "best" (not in terms of quality of work, but in terms of closeness to the literal meaning of the term), it is about fictional tech.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 31, 2013 5:20 pm UTC

To clarify my talk of understanding and possibility:

Any phenomenon which occurs in a story is obviously possible in that story. It happened in the story, and thus it could happen in the story. There is no question about it.

Whether any phenomenon is possible in the real world or not is an open question the answer to which will depend on a person's present scientific understanding.

So discussing the possibility of a phenomenon depicted in a story is either trivial or futile.

So instead I focus on whether the viewpoint of the story (which may not be the viewpoint of the author or the reader mind you) treats the phenomena depicted in the story as something that could be possible in the real world.

Compounding this, and where "understanding" comes into the picture, is whether the story treats "supernatural" as a meaningful concept. Clark's Third Law and its corollaries are a nice succinct dismissal of supernaturalism: the world isn't divided into "natural stuff that happens in an orderly fashion that can be understood and controlled by ordinary mortals" and "stuff that happens because of forces forever beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals, which can maybe be directed or supplicated but are nevertheless suspensions of the ordinary way the world works". There just "stuff that happens", with subsets "stuff that we understand how and why it happens", and "stuff that we don't understand how or why it happens yet".

A speculative story told from the latter perspective and purporting to be set in some variant of our own world can't help but be sci-fi, because every phenomena depicted will be depicted as something which, even if the author or reader or characters don't know or say how it works, can be understood and is an ordinary, orderly part of the way that the world works. This is why midichlorians dispel the "magic" of the Force: it's no longer just a mysterious ineffable power that some people have without further possible explanation, it's depicted as there being some explanation for it, even though we aren't told what that is and the author and audience all know as well as can be known that no explanation would really suffice; it doesn't matter, the story tells us that there is a sufficient explanation for it, so it's no longer magic, it's just advanced technology (or biology in this case).

Conversely a speculative story told from a perspective in which "supernatural" is a coherent concept can't help but be fantasy, because it's saying "here are some phenomena that you couldn't do science to if they occurred". A fantasy story doesn't have to allow for supernaturalism, however. It can merely be explicitly set in a universe which is not depicted as some possible variant of ours, which operates by laws which are not depicted as possible laws of our universe. For example, in Ea, the world of Lord of the Rings, the Elves and Ainur do not really have a concept of magic the way that mortals races do, they just understand the subtle workings of their world on a level that the mortals don't. There's a scene discussing this briefly when the Fellowship receive their cloaks in Lothlorien; someone asks if they are magic cloaks, and the elf being asked doesn't understand the question, and offers an explanation that they are made by Elven craftsmanship and thus have this that and the other (what we would call "magical") effects, if that's what is meant. But their world is depicted as a different one than our own, and it's not suggested that our world might have the same subtle workings by which the Elves work their "magic".

The distinction is between whether or not the phenomenon is depicted as something which could happen and which you could do science to. If it's depicted as something which couldn't happen (but let's pretend anyway), or something which, if it did happen, you couldn't possibly do science to it, then it's fantasy. If it's depicted as something which could happen and have science done to it, it's sci-fi. Whether those depictions are correct or not is immaterial: a depiction of something which is in fact impossible in the real world barring some kind of suspension of natural laws, as though it were possible in the real world and an ordinary natural phenomenon, is science fiction (like Star Trek's warp drive); while a depiction of something which is in fact possible in the real world and an ordinary natural phenomenon achievable with technology, but depicted as something impossible in our world without suspension of the natural laws, is fantasy (like a wand that shoots lightning; hello arc welders).

(And yes, agreed on the point that we generate our categorical concepts usually from lists of examples of what is or isn't in a category, but nevertheless we still distill from those examples what is common to them or not. I am just offering here an explanation of what I see as common or not to examples of sci-fi and fantasy).
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Kit. » Fri May 31, 2013 6:05 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:The distinction is between whether or not the phenomenon is depicted as something which could happen and which you could do science to. If it's depicted as something which couldn't happen (but let's pretend anyway), or something which, if it did happen, you couldn't possibly do science to it, then it's fantasy. If it's depicted as something which could happen and have science done to it, it's sci-fi.

Does it mean that the authors need to explicitly state if it's possible to do our world's science to their world or not, otherwise their work cannot be classified as SF or F?

What if the author doesn't care (like Lem in The Cyberiad)?

Or even intentionally creates an ambiguity.

As an example, this is a short story by PKD that I personally consider the best of his work. Is it fantasy?

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 31, 2013 6:48 pm UTC

I wouldn't say that they need to explicitly state it, but the "evidence", as it were, for whether a work is scifi or fantasy is in the apparent viewpoint the story is presented from. (Which may not be that of the viewpoint characters, if the audience is supposed to have an ironic distance from the viewpoint characters; e.g. a story told from the viewpoint of a primitive tribesman finding himself in the modern world may discuss the many "magical" wonders he sees, from his perspective, but which it is expected the audience will recognize as ordinary technologies of the modern world).

If it is unclear what viewpoint the story is being presented from, then it is unclear how to categorize the work, yes. For example, if more of Tolkein's early thoughts on the works set in Middle-Earth being a prehistory of our Earth had snuck their way into the story, and it was possible (but dubious) to interpret the Elves as a technologically advanced race predating mankind, the Ainur as alien energy beings, etc... if that was a plausible interpretation of the story, but also a deniable one, and it were unclear if that's how we were supposed to read it or not... then it would be unclear whether those stories were sci-fi or still just fantasy. We could, even now, intentionally read them as sci-fi by giving them that interpretation, but because it's such an untenable one given the original text and is only supported by unimplemented notes about outdated authorial intent, that would be an extremely contentious way to classify them. The more plausible that interpretation becomes, the vaguer the classification becomes, and if it was clear that that absolutely was how it was meant to be read, then it would be clearly sci-fi, even with exactly the same events depicted.

In my own (very slowly in progress) fictional universe, the stories to be told often play on this twist of genre depending on perspective. Many of my fantasy stories are followed up by sequels and prequels which gradually place them in the wider context of a science-fiction universe. Two apparently secondary worlds turn out to be actually connected to our world, one of them an alien planet and another a simulation; and in our world it turns out that most myths about gods and such are loosely based on true-in-universe science-fictiony events.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby AlexTheSeal » Fri May 31, 2013 6:49 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:As an example, this is a short story by PKD that I personally consider the best of his work. Is it fantasy?


No, it's psychological fiction that plays with fantasy tropes. The protagonist is clearly schizophrenic. Cf. Donnie Darko.

Code: Select all

10 REM WORLD'S SMALLEST ADVENTURE GAME
20 PRINT "YOU ARE IN A CAVE (N, S, E, W)? ";
30 INPUT A$
40 GOTO 10

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby AlexTheSeal » Fri May 31, 2013 6:55 pm UTC

ps.02 wrote:
AlexTheSeal wrote:Frank Herbert was educated in biology and took pains to make the ecology of the planet Arrakis seem internally consistent and plausible.
I guess you are saying ecological realism is characteristic of hard SF, but not of fantasy? I have to wonder what fantasy books you're thinking of. The ones I can think of at least aim for internally consistent world-building, including ecology.


I guess I could have been clearer, but you missed the "plausible" part. As has been said later in the thread, Herbert's work was firmly grounded in the science of the time (the mid-1950s).

You and I must have wildly different libraries; the only presentation of ecological consistency in a fictional fantasy world I can think of is the explanation of how the dragons in the Pern books breathe fire.

Code: Select all

10 REM WORLD'S SMALLEST ADVENTURE GAME
20 PRINT "YOU ARE IN A CAVE (N, S, E, W)? ";
30 INPUT A$
40 GOTO 10

Lulled to sleep by the one-hertz chuckle of Linux logfile writes since 1997.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby speising » Fri May 31, 2013 7:07 pm UTC

i would make the distinction between sf and f on the mindset the story is written in. if a phenomenon is treated in a scientific way, it is fictional science. if it is treated in a mystical way, it is fantasy.
telekinesis can be a psionic effekt, or a magical power.
there are stories that subvert this distinction intentionally, eg. starting out as fantasy, but then it is revealed that it plays on a colony planet that tell into barbarism. the difference is that it is implied the magic *can* be explained scientifically.

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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 31, 2013 7:11 pm UTC

speising wrote:i would make the distinction between sf and f on the mindset the story is written in. if a phenomenon is treated in a scientific way, it is fictional science. if it is treated in a mystical way, it is fantasy.
telekinesis can be a psionic effekt, or a magical power.
there are stories that subvert this distinction intentionally, eg. starting out as fantasy, but then it is revealed that it plays on a colony planet that tell into barbarism. the difference is that it is implied the magic *can* be explained scientifically.

This is exactly what I've been trying to get across. Thanks. Science vs mysticism, technology vs magic, the distinction being a difference in how a phenomenon is viewed, not a difference in kinds of phenomena.
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Re: 1218: "Doors of Durin"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri May 31, 2013 7:38 pm UTC

speising wrote:i would make the distinction between sf and f on the mindset the story is written in. if a phenomenon is treated in a scientific way, it is fictional science. if it is treated in a mystical way, it is fantasy.
telekinesis can be a psionic effekt, or a magical power.
there are stories that subvert this distinction intentionally, eg. starting out as fantasy, but then it is revealed that it plays on a colony planet that tell into barbarism. the difference is that it is implied the magic *can* be explained scientifically.


The Pern stories were clearly fantasy when the early ones were first written; by the time Dragonflight was assembled into a single novel, they'd had the SF backstory added.


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